Mary Magdalene was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. The Lord had cast seven demons from her (Luke 8:1-3), so you can imagine the gratitude she felt toward him. Luke describes how Mary and some other women traveled with Jesus and his apostles, “helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3). Mark simply says they cared for Jesus’ needs (Mark 15:41). Considering Mary’s tormented past, the days she spent caring for the Lord must have been delightful.
But the delightful days soon dissipated in the heart-rending scene of a crucifixion where three men were left to die on cruel crosses. While all three evoked pity, the middle victim suffered the most. His hands and feet weren’t tied to the cross beams like the others. They were nailed there. His blood-matted head had been pierced by a crown of thorns. Repeated beatings marred his face and figure. Jesus Christ the Son of God hung limp and bleeding, dying on a cross, stripped of all human dignity. He spoke. He took a final breath. He died.
Mary Magdalene was an eyewitness to the whole horrid event (Mark 15:40). The one she had loved and cared for, the one who had done so much for her, was dead. She and her companions watched the lifeless body of Jesus taken from the cross. They waited as Joseph of Arimathea petitioned Pilate for custody of the corpse. They “followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how [Jesus’] body was laid in it” (Luke 23:55). Mary lingered near the tomb even after it was sealed (Matthew 27:59-61).
Can you imagine the loneliness and deep grief Mary must have felt? How she and her friends languished through the long, sorrowful, Sabbath that followed?
But then the third day began to dawn. Mary and her companions rose before daylight to gather up their spices and make their way to the tomb. Their hushed tones broke through the early morning stillness. “How will we get to the body? Who will roll the stone away?” They arrived to find the tomb open—and the Lord’s body gone.
In her distress, Mary ran to tell Peter and John (John 20: 1, 2). The two raced to the tomb, verified the report, and returned home. Mary went back to the garden, weeping and mourning her loss. Looking again into the tomb, she saw two angels. Then she turned to see Jesus standing beside her—but she didn’t recognize him. Mistaking him for the gardener she asked about Jesus’ body.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’” (v. 16).
That must have been a tender reunion. Assured that Jesus was alive, Mary carried the good news back to the disciples with a simple but powerful statement: “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).
What a difference a day makes. Every doubt, every fear, every moment of despair must have vanished in that resurrection encounter. Mary had the privilege of being the first person to see the risen Lord (Mark 16:9). Can you imagine the joy she felt? The renewed hope? The confidence?
Mary was a changed person when Jesus delivered her from demonic oppression. But the change that took place in her at the garden tomb was far greater.
The resurrection has that effect.