Once again I find myself thinking about a well-known Bible story from a new perspective. Not new to me – just new to the telling. I often think about Christmas from a mother’s perspective but this year I have a newborn here at the zenith of the Easter season and I am drawn to Mary’s side.
She was at the foot of the cross as He died. We know because Jesus spoke to her and to John. John 19:25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
When she heard these words, I’m sure Mary knew He was preparing to leave her. She knew this was the end. Her son – the baby she wrapped in rags and placed in a manger – was dying. The infant who was lauded by kings and professed by shepherds and serenaded by angels was now hanging on a cross bloody and shredded and beaten. There He was between two thieves in what the world thought to be a place of ultimate shame.
But Mary knew. She had known all along I think. She knew this was His destiny. This is what she bore Him for. Was she at peace with it? I don’t think any mother can be at peace with their child’s death. But I think she had more peace than the others. Beneath the heavy veil of grief and sorrow and heartbreak, Mary had something in that treasure box in her heart that let her know the story wasn’t over.
Mary Magdalene was there. All four gospels make note of her presence and in Mark (16:9)she is noted as the one “out of whom he had driven seven demons.” Somehow I feel like Mary Magdalene was seething. She knew His saving power firsthand and in a profound radically life changing way. Something tells me the other women were holding her back. “Stay calm for his mother’s sake Mary.” “You can’t change it Mary.” “You will only get more of us in trouble.” “What would He want you to do Mary?”
Can’t you picture her there? So angry with the Romans acting it out. Raging at the priests for their stupidity and arrogance and total lack of understanding. Out of her head with ire for the disciples who were where? In hiding? How could they have let the soldiers take Him in the first place? Why weren’t they here? They should be here! And Judas?! If she could get her hands on him!!
The other Mary was probably so confused. Sad, confused, trying so hard to figure out how she should feel. Should she be at peace like Mary? Should she be furious like Magdalene? Perhaps she should just fall apart and cry that ugly cry that no one can control? That could be one of her sons there. After all they had been with Jesus all the way. They could have been arrested and killed as well. It’s good that they are in hiding with the others. They are safe there. And that thought would bring the guilt. Why are my sons safe while Jesus dies?
None of the gospels mention Martha, but I think I can imagine what she did the moment she found out Jesus was being crucified. She turned her fear and anger and grief into casseroles. Tons of them. She cooked and cleaned and prepared. When this is all over the disciples will need somewhere to stay and Mary will need someone to help take care of her. She went to work because work made sense. She would process it later but now she needed to be strong for everyone else.
Is anyone really that surprised that the women were the ones who found the empty tomb? And which women? Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Magdalene wasn’t going to be anywhere else. They would not steal her Lord! It was bad enough that they had taken His life – they weren’t going to take the body she had left! The other Mary was probably still in a state of disbelief. She was along because someone needed to go along to help dress the body. She didn’t have anything else to do that was helpful and she didn’t know what to do with her hands.
The body was gone! They ran back to the disciples who were still in hiding and those buffoons wouldn’t believe them. Even Peter and John ran back to the tomb and saw it was empty but they wouldn’t believe. I love in John’s account that Magdalene went to the tomb, ran back to the disciples, and returned to the garden. The disciples saw the empty tomb and retreated again but Mary stayed. She stayed to finally let her grief out. She was crying when He found her. And her tears were turned to rejoicing!
Which brings me to a heart moment. Mary Magdalene stayed. She stayed at the foot of the cross. She helped Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury Him in the tomb (Matthew 27:61 – “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb”). She went home just long enough to observe a painful Sabbath. And she was back at the tomb as soon as Sabbath was over.
Mary Magdalene – who knew all too well what being away from Jesus side could bring – stayed. When others were grieving, she was there. When the men – the big strong rough fishermen – were in hiding, she was there. When the soldiers were knocked to the ground, she showed up. When all hope was lost, she found the feet of her Savior because she stayed!
And Mary’s tears were turned to rejoicing.
Oh to be overwhelmed with the courage, love and passion to stay so that our tears will be turned to rejoicing.