Matthew 28:9-12; Mark 16:9-11; Luke 24:9-12; John 20:1-18
The Heart of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was a lover, the best kind of lover. No, not the “lover” we think of in our day, be it husband and wife caressing in their chaste bed, or conversely two other people wallowing in their filthy sty. Mary Magdalene was a lover of, was deeply in love with, her Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say that he cast seven demons out of her (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), and some traditions identify her with the “sinful woman” who “wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head,” kissing and anointing them – the one whom Jesus said, “loved much.” And though we have no word from Scripture that identifies her as such, nor any other source that would verify the tradition, yet it seems to fit her, for she was obviously a woman who loved Jesus very much.
With the other women who went to the tomb early that morning, she too saw the angels and heard their proclamation that Jesus had risen. She as well as the others was told to deliver this news to the disciples, which they did. But Mary was still not satisfied. She ran back to the tomb with Peter and John while the other women departed another way. She could have stayed and tried to convince the men who thought her words were an idle tale or she could have followed the other women to wherever they went rejoicing and praising God. But no, she had to run back to the tomb, and when she did not find his body, the floodgates opened. Angels notwithstanding, Mary had to see her Lord, and nothing else would suit her – such was her love for him.
It seems by that time, she was practically beside herself. She took no notice of two angels sitting in, of all places, the tomb, asking her why she was weeping. She did not recognize Jesus the first time he spoke to her. The idea that she could carry off the body of Jesus if someone would only tell her where it was strikes us as improbable. But none of that mattered: Mary was sick with love: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave,” describes Mary perfectly as that love concerned her Lord (Song of Solomon 2:5; 5:8; 8:6).
Compare this with the chief priests and the Roman soldiers who fabricate their cover-up. To them, Mary was just a pathetic grief-stricken woman. How sad it is to live such lives – lives saturated with fear and self-preservation. There was no room in their hardened hearts for love. In short, they were consumed with themselves; Mary was consumed with him.
Each of the four gospels tells its own story about what happened that first Easter morning. As I have said before, the fact that they diverge in some details only speaks to their integrity and authenticity. They each speak of angel(s), who tell the women the good news, and then tell them to inform the disciples. On these most important details, they agree. As to where the angels were sitting or standing, there are some differences but then perhaps the angels did not stay in one place while they delivered the wonderful news.
However, there is one detail that merits attention and that is the women who came to the tomb – not the number or their names, but what happened after they left the tomb. The verses which pose the “problem” are in Matthew 28:9-10 where we are led to believe that Jesus met the women leaving the tomb while on their way to tell the disciples. However, Luke and John seem to indicate that the women went directly to the disciples without meeting Jesus; indeed, John records that Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb with Peter and John, and remained at the tomb after they had left weeping bitterly that she did not know where the Lord’s body was. Surely she would not have done this had she met the Lord along the way to tell the disciples of his resurrection. The best reconstruction seems to be: 1) The women left the tomb to tell the disciples of the resurrection per the angels’ instructions; 2) They arrived where the disciples were hiding and told them the news; 3) Peter and John then ran to the tomb to verify what the women had said while Mary Magdalene ran behind; 4) The other women did not accompany Mary Magdalene on this, her second visit to the tomb; 5) Mary weeps at the tomb because even though the angels had told her the news of Jesus’ rising from the dead, she still could not fully understand what that meant, for they had run to tell the disciples with fear and trembling, and yes, with “great joy,” but perhaps that description fit the other women better than Mary who felt his loss more keenly; 6) While Mary had run with Peter and John to the tomb, the other women left the house going someplace else and met Jesus along the way (as described in Matthew 28:9-10), but without Mary Magdalene; 7) Finally, though Matthew employs language that seems to indicate that the women met Jesus leaving the tomb on their way to tell the disciples, it is not uncommon for the Bible to “collapse” time, meaning that it sometimes does not include a passage of time between events, an example being Luke 24:50-51 in which Luke seems to suggest that Jesus ascended into heaven shortly after rising, but who then tells us in his Acts of the Apostles that there was a forty-day interval between Jesus’ rising from the dead and his ascension into heaven (Acts 1:3). In other words, the very same author of two different books of the Bible illustrates for us this collapsing of time in those books. Perhaps this is not a big deal to you, but if it is, here is a possible solution.