When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
On the first day of the week, in that space that stretches dewy and glistening between night and morning, dark and light, like sunrise on a spider’s web, she came through the dwindling night. She came laden with spices and oils, to offer one final act of care for him. She came laden with her grief, bruised with mourning for the man who had been first her healer, then her teacher, then her friend. Her friend. She was on her way to prepare his dead body for proper burial, as was the custom. But it was not to be.
Why Are You Weeping?
It has always fascinated me that in every Gospel account when Jesus first appears back from the dead Mary Magdalene is there. Other women are named, but Mary is always among them and in John’s Gospel is the powerful story of her face-to-face solitary encounter with the Risen Christ:
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She was looking for the shell, the earthly remains that she knew were bruised and bloody, she had seen the torture, watched her teacher be battered by the brutes of the empire. She had stood in her own agony as she witnessed his on the cross. But now, blinded by her sorrow she did not even know who he was until he spoke her name:
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
Five More Minutes
What must it have been like to be Mary of Magdala that Easter morning? I think of the people I’ve lost, particularly those whose last days or moments were filled with violence or suffering—a friend who was murdered, an uncle who died after months of pain from a disease that went misdiagnosed until it was too late, a friend who’s lost sanity cost him his life—yes, I can identify with Mary Magdalene. I know what it feels like to have the searing pain of loss doubled up and twisted over by the frustration of great injustice. What I wouldn’t give for five more minutes with any one of them.
Why did he choose her? He could have chosen anyone else, the apostle Peter, his mother Mary, or the beloved disciple. Maybe it was because he knew that while everyone else longed for “five more minutes” she was the one who would believe it. She the one who had already encountered the power of his healing love, the one whom he’d brought back from the grip of evil, seven demons held her, the scriptures say. Whether the demons were mental, physical or spiritual no one knows. But that transformation she encountered through him was perhaps not so unlike his own. That snatching back of life from the jaws of death made Mary Magdalene ready to see, to know something no one had ever known before.
And when she hears her name on his lips she cries out to him immediately, names him without hesitation. In Hebrew she calls to him “Teacher!” and falls at his feet embracing him. “Go to my brothers and tell them,” he sends her
Mary went and announced to the disciples,”I have seen the Lord,”