March 7, 2023

I love each of the gospel stories that tell of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  However, my favorite might be found in the Gospel of John: Jesus has been taken down from the cross, and placed in a borrowed grave. Mary and the disciples returned to the tomb, early that morning, expecting to find the body of Jesus; only to discover an empty tomb. Make no mistake about it, the women and disciples were disappointed; they were afraid; they trembled in fear wondering what had gone wrong; what would happen now to them. Peter and the other disciples left the tomb, heartbroken and confused, wondering how things could have gone so wrong.

But Mary Magdalene remained: devastated, weeping, wondering how people could be so cruel? Mary had seen and been through a lot of tough times, but never anything as heart-wrenching as what she witnessed on what we call “Good Friday.” For the One who was the first to treat her like a human being; the One who had touched and changed her life, the One she had watched do so many wondrous things, the One on whom she had pinned such hopes… was dead!  Crucified!

In the midst of her grief, Jesus calls to Mary twice: The first time we hear Jesus say, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” At first, Mary didn’t recognize Him; she didn’t understand. What happens next is significant.  Jesus calls her by name! Mary! While we don’t know the intonations of Jesus’ voice, I can only imagine it to be full of tenderness and love for this woman who loved Him so deeply, who had followed Him as faithfully as any of the disciples. Mary, I’m here. So many things must have rushed through her mind at that moment: Am I dreaming? Is it true? Are you really alive?

As she reaches for Him, Jesus tells her, “don’t hold on to me.” Perhaps Mary’s thoughts quickly turned to the things she remembered He had said or done; “I will not leave you alone. I will not abandon you.” Evil will not have the last word… ever. New life is possible. Love is better than hate. Love wins!

I don’t understand, nor can I explain what happened next; all I can say is that when Jesus called her by name, Easter became personal, real, genuine, powerful, authentic, and life-changing for Mary. As it does for us. Mary leaves the tomb, and her grief, and goes forth to tell anyone and everyone who will listen, “I have seen the Lord!”

We don’t really know if the first disciples believed her or not, but we do know that one by one, the disciples began to believe, not because they could explain it, but because they had experienced it. So have I! Jesus Lives! Love Wins!

Rev. Linda Harker, Online Campus Pastor