10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her._
Everyone else had gone home. The funeral was over, tears had been shed, hugs had been given, words of comfort had been spoken. It was over. But Mary stood weeping at the gravesite. She was left behind to mourn alone. Mary was left behind to cry as she reflected on this momentous occasion, the death of her beloved Jesus. And cry she did, all alone. Or so it seemed.
Her grief was severe for Jesus had meant so much to her.
Jesus, you remember had broken every chain that held her bound. Chains caused by being possessed by seven demonic spirits. And while they saw no hope for her future, Jesus in one moment totally changed her life. She fell in love with the man Jesus. Fell in love with him because he freed her from the criticism of men, the cold stares of women less beautiful and less desirable than she. Freed her from the taunt of the religious community that looked down upon women in her condition. Freed her I say from a community that would berate her and hold her as someone to be shunned and ignored.
Yes, her relationship with Jesus while he was on earth was special. Special because it was Jesus who protected her from those who would see her live a depressed, despondent, and deflated life. Special because her entire life changed when she met Jesus and so she spent the rest of her life following him and caring for him. But now that relationship was over; she sits weeping at the gravesite, alone, or so it seems.
Countless women know Mary of Magdala. Women are familiar with her plight. For they too have been left to exist on the fringes of society because they too have been used by men and accosted by women. They too have been ridiculed while being taken advantage of. They too have been visited in the night and then shunned in the daylight. Whispers have been heard in the malls and marketplaces as they have walked by to shop and people have slid down in the pews when they took a seat. Yes, you know Mary. You understand her tears; you too have been left alone. You too have been left at the gravesite to cry all by yourself. People have left you to grieve your aloneness, alone. Or so it seems.
The testimony of the text is that while Mary was crying, God was present. While Mary was weeping angels showed up to question her, and to comfort her. I stop by to tell you, you are not alone. Once you have known Jesus as a friend and brother, you are never alone. Beloved, you are not alone. God sees your tears and is catching them with his heart. Just imagine for a moment your tears being captured not by God’s eyes, yes he can see them. Captured not by his ears, yes he can hear them. Captured not by his hands, yes, he could wipe them. But rather captured by his heart, where he can feel them. That’s an awesome image. Beloved, remember, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.”
The angels confronted her, “Mary, why are you crying?” “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him,” she responded. In other words, Mary was weeping because her relationship with Jesus had been abruptly ended. He died too soon, she was not ready to let him go. Her world as she knew it had been shattered; her only defender gone, killed by an unjust justice system, killed as many of our young men and women are today while doing nothing wrong.
I imagine she would ask, “Who is going to protect me now?” “How will I once again walk through the marketplace without shame?” “Who will comfort me now?” “Who can I tell all my stories to?” “Who will I laugh with, dance with, cry with?” I imagine Mary thought, even now I can’t visit his tomb because someone has taken his body, the last vestige of my memory of our relationship has been stolen from me.
Families are weeping today. They have the same questions, the same concerns as this Mary of Magdala. But there is good news at the grave. For at the grave Jesus, the resurrected Jesus is standing there. In her grief she does not recognize him; to her he’s only another man who may know the whereabouts of the remains of her beloved Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him because her former relationship has been severed. She doesn’t recognize him because he has come to her in his resurrected body, in a way she has never seen him before.
He asks here, “Dear woman, why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?” She looked at him hoping he had been the man who moved the body of Jesus and that he would certainly tell her where the new gravesite was because she had no idea that Jesus had resurrected from the grave. She wanted to continue mourning her loss, but standing before her was good news at the grave.
He called her name in a way that only he had called it before, “Mary” he said with love and boldness. Immediately, she recognized his voice. “Teacher,” she responded as her heart leaped with joy! She hugged him so tight he thought she would never let him go. “Wait, don’t cling to me like this,” he cautioned. “I’ve still got to ascend into heaven; I’ve not been to see my our heavenly Father yet.” Yes, there was good news at the grave.
Jesus wanted Mary to know that the old relationship they had was over. That relationship had limitations; this new relationship was eternal. Everything had changed at the grave. Life had conquered death. Jesus had been buried, but the Christ had arisen. Weakness had been put in the tomb; but strength had arisen. A man had been buried; but God had arisen. The shackles of sin and death had been forever broken, forever demolished, forever loosed and the power taken away.
Jesus told Mary, “Go find the others and tell them I’m going to see my God and your God. Remind them Mary, that I said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”_
Yes, the good news on that day and this day is that Jesus is at every gravesite. The Bible declares, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”_ Death lurks in the shadows looking for an occasion to strike as if death had the last word. Death does not. For the day is coming and now is where we will rejoice “
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”_ Yes, death lurks in the shadows but the light of Jesus obliterates the sting of death. There is power in Jesus to brighten every midnight hour and every dawn of each new day. In Jesus there is comfort for your grief and comfort for your tomorrow.
Mary discovered Jesus was there at the gravesite. Mary discovered that Jesus had power over death. You too can discover the same thing today. You like Mary can refuse to allow death to consume you in grief. You can respond because you have hope.
For truly the bible declares, “14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”_