Mary Magdalene

John 19:25-30; 20:1-18

I probably have more reasons than anyone to respond with fierce loyalty to our Lord. He lifted me out of wretched conditions, conditions so desperate they are hard to describe. I lived in terrifying darkness, plagued with despair and depression. Often I didn’t know who I was, where I was — I had lost complete control over my life. My family was ashamed and embarrassed.

In our culture, those suffering from madness are social outcasts. People would move aside and look disgusted or scared whenever I came near them. I became accustomed to the degrading name-calling and finger-pointing, believing it was all I deserved.

But one glorious day, a man named Jesus saw me and took pity. He walked right over to me, not at all put off by my wretchedness. I backed away terrified, stumbling to the ground. He knelt down and spoke calmly to me. He smoothed my dirty hair off my face with his big carpenter hands. I had no memory of the last time anyone had shown me any compassion. Then, in one split second, he healed my mind and filled my heart and soul with light and wonder and blessed peace!

So it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why I began to follow him everywhere. I supported him financially out of my own means. I became a part of his traveling team, sharing countless miles and meals. I knew him so well. I knew what made him laugh, what made him exasperated, what made his heart heavy.

And at the end, no matter how frightening or gruesome things got, I could not leave him. I was there when they nailed him to the cross. I was there when he cried out "It is finished!" and died. I watched as they took him down from the cross and followed as they carried him to the tomb. Only then did I go home, determined to come back and properly prepare his body for burial.

I returned as soon as I could, while it was still dark. I was astonished to find the tomb empty. It angered me that anyone would steal his body after all that had already been done to him. I ran to get help. Peter and John rushed back with me, then left, confused.

Desolate and miserable, I began to sob uncontrollably. I looked into the tomb again and saw two angels, who spoke to me. Bewildered, I turned around and someone standing behind me said, "Why are you weeping?" It was still twilight and my eyes were flooded with tears, so I didn’t recognize who it was at first. But when he spoke my name, I knew it was Jesus! I fell at his feet and hung onto him with all my might. We were laughing and crying at the same time. My master was alive!

Jesus finally had to tell me to let go because he hadn’t yet ascended to his Father. He had delayed his ascent to heaven so he could comfort a weeping woman — amazing, yet so typical of my Lord.

The sun popped up over the horizon and cast a brilliant glow over everything. What a contrast to the darkness of the last few days. I don’t think my feet even touched the ground as I ran to tell everyone the good news! I had seen the risen Lord!

By Joyce Catherwood

Copyright 2006

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