Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)
Friday was the darkest day anyone had ever lived through. As he cried, “It is finished!” there was darkness at noonday, earthquakes, and tremblings. All hope seemed lost as even though he saved others, Himself He did not save. They hadn’t yet realized that the real message was in that very fact – because He did not save Himself He could save them. Saturday passed in a haze of despair and despondency. What were they to do? Where were they to go? The disciples were scattered. The sick He had healed probably wondered if their illnesses would return. Saturday is the longest day. He was in the tomb and it appeared nothing was happening. If they only knew…
For Mary Magdalene her hope was gone. He had cast seven demons from her, freeing her from indescribable torment and terror. He had given her life back to her. He had accepted her into the circle of followers. He had given her a place in His kingdom. He had restored not just her joy, but her hope. As one writer put it, “Now that hope lies at the bottom of her heart, flat and lifeless.”
There was something else though that was stronger than all the rest. Mary’s love for Jesus Christ was more resilient than any blow that life could deal her. It brought her all the way to the cross with Him. On Sunday morning it brought her to his grave.
Can you imagine for just a moment all of the emotions that must have crowded her mind when she looked – and looked again – and realized the stone was moved from His grave? The tomb had been violated – perhaps robbed – or worse, desecrated. She was probably angry that anyone would do such a thing. She ran to tell the disciples her suppositions…It had to be the scribes and Pharisees. Who else?
Peter and John race to the tomb. Peter gets there first and pauses. He might have been a brave fisherman but there’s still something a little unnerving about an open grave. He looks in and realizes – the grave clothes are there. The body is not. Mary was right. Someone had stolen him away in the night. The men return to their homes. It’s just one more blow against their already broken hearts.
Ken Gire put it this way:
“Mary is left behind; tears, her only companions. She takes those tears with her as she enters the tomb to take a look for herself. And suddenly, the woman who was once possessed with demons finds herself in the presence of angels. One sits at the head of the stone slab; the other, at the foot. Like the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle – cherubim on either end. For this, too, is a most holy place.”
After standing for centuries guarding the Mercy Seat , their work is finally done. Mercy is freed for all the world to access. The guardians can now rest.
It’s the story of resurrection. It’s the message that it’s not really over yet. Jesus could have burst forth from the grave triumphant and victorious and proclaiming Himself in the streets of the city and from the high places of the palace. Instead, he chose for his first appearance to come to a tearful woman whose hope is gone. His question to her is simple, “Why are you crying?” “In his hour of greatest triumph …he comes quietly to a woman who grieves…who desperately needs to hear his voice…see his face…and feel his embrace.”
So it is today as we celebrate the Resurrected Christ. He still doesn’t come amidst pomp and circumstance, flair and fanfare. Instead, He comes to the Ones who need Him most. He appears in unlikely places to ordinary people and says, “Why are you crying?” Hope is restored. Tears are wiped away. Mercy has been loosed. Friday is tragic; Saturday is almost unbearable; but Sunday in all its glory is coming!
The message of the resurrected Christ is two-fold. If you’re in a situation than needs resurrection – hang on! – Sunday’s coming. Don’t let the tragedy of Saturday, or the numbness of Saturday rob you of Sunday’s glorious resurrection! Don’t forget, too, the words of the angels who proclaimed, “…This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Sunday’s coming!