When all the twelve had given up hope, when the twelve had abandoned, betrayed, and denied Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other women held onto the words of Jesus, held onto the teachings of Jesus .
August 01, 2021
Mark 16: 1 – 11
Pastor Heather McColl
Mark 16 : 1-11
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid
And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
Faces of Our Faith worship series continues this morning with a look at Mary Magdalene Mark 16: 1-11.
I have often wondered why Mary Magdalene felt the need to go to the tomb on that morning. We are told that she and two other women go to anoint the body but I wonder if there was something more. She didn’t have to go to the tomb. The other women could have easily completed the task without Mary. For some reason, Mary felt compelled to go to the tomb. Some have said that she needed to see the tomb with her own eyes. But Mary was there. She saw Jesus hung on the cross. She saw when Jesus died. Mark even tells us that Mary Magdalene saw where the body was laid.
So I’ll argue with tradition a bit on this and say Mary didn’t feel compelled to go to the tomb because she needed to see it with her own two eyes. She was there. She had seen it all, even where the body lay. So why did Mary Magdalene feel compelled to go to the tomb?
As I have lived with this model of faith this past week, I have wondered if the answer to this question is that there is something more going on in that moment, something which we miss, something we choose to ignore because we cannot see Mary in any other context. Something we cannot see because we refuse to experience Mary in any other context than the Easter morning context which Mark describes for us this morning. It is almost as if we try to contain Mary to this one incident, as if her ministry and faith can only be defined by this one moment. But what I have discovered is that moment at the empty tomb is not all that there is to Mary’s ministry and mission. Rather, it is a culmination of Mary Magdalene’s faith.
Here’s what I mean by that…. I have often imagined the conversations which the disciples held in that predawn moment, before the women made their way to the tomb. My guess is that someone, probably Peter, said, “I wish things would go back to the way they used to be, go back to the way things were before everything changed. I wish everything would go back to the way things used to be before our worlds were systemically shaken and torn apart. My guess is that another disciple, probably James or John, take your pick, that one of them kept repeating over and over that this wasn’t what was supposed to happen, that Jesus was supposed to go into Jerusalem, kick out those Romans, and give them positions of power. Jesus was supposed to put them in charge so that they could run everything their way, the correct way. My guess is another disciple, probably Andrew, kept asking the question, “What do we do now, looking for somebody, anybody to have all the answers, only to experience blank stares from everyone gathered there because no one had any ideas on what to do next.
No one had experienced anything like this before. None of their former ways of doing things worked anymore because everything had been changed fundamentally. My guess is that another disciple, probably Philip, would have been blaming everyone else for not doing what they were supposed to, that if they had only listened to him, none of this would have ever happened, that if they had done what they were supposed to do, they could have prevented everything from getting out of control and life would have been able to continue on as if nothing had ever happened.
In studying Mary Magdalene Mark 16: 1-11, I often imagine the conversations the disciples held during that predawn moment, before the women went to the tomb, because my guess is that their conversations would have been so similar to the conversations which we are having right now, conversations which center around trying to figure out what it means for us as a community of faith to live, to be, to do ministry in this new reality, this new reality which has shaken our world, the new reality which has brought about so much change that we are still spinning and we do not have any idea on when this crazy ride will stop. I often imagine the conversations the disciples may have held during that predawn moment before the women went to the tomb, knowing that they were probably similar to the conversations we are having right now in this new reality where we find ourselves constantly asking “What are we supposed to do now and no one has any answers.
I realized while reading Mary Magdalene’ story, while imagining these conversations which the disciples may have had during this predawn moment, I realized that I was always focusing on the men. I was forgetting that the women were probably there as well.
After all, they too were disciples of Jesus. They had been with him almost since the beginning of his ministry. In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 8, just four chapters after Jesus starts his public ministry, we are told that “Soon afterwards Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.”
You know what that last line means, right? The women had the money. They funded Jesus’ ministry. Think of them as the Biblical form of our “Disciples Women Group”. They paid for special missions. They paid for special projects. They knew how to get things done.
Like the other disciples, the women, including Mary Magdalene had been with Jesus since the beginning. Mary Magdalene had heard him preach. She had heard him teach. She had experienced her own healing through him. She had also heard him say over and over again that he would be turned over, and beaten, that he would be killed, and then after three days, would rise again.”
So if I was making an educated guess, I would say Mary Magdalene went to the tomb that morning because she knew that death and darkness would not be the last word. Jesus had told her that. When all the twelve had given up hope, when the twelve had abandoned, betrayed and denied Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other women held on to the words of Jesus, held onto the teachings of Jesus. They held onto the promise of Jesus which told them, which told Mary Magdalene that what the world perceives as an end is in reality a new beginning, that what the world perceives as change is really transformation of becoming the people God created and called them to be. In that moment when Mary sees the empty tomb, when she encounters the risen Lord, she never questions what she sees.
She never wonders if she was dreaming. She never waivers even though everyone she tells does not believe her. In that moment, she knows. She knows that what Jesus had promised all along was true. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb that morning because she knew that, no matter what…death and darkness would never and will never be the end of the story. And because of that, she was able to recognize, to encounter the Risen Lord. For Mary, “seeing was not believing.” That is what the world holds to be true, the world which would rather cling to a false narrative, the world which would rather hold onto systems which keep others out, the world which would rather ignore the gaps in its narrative and pretend that everything is ok.
For Mary, she knew that Jesus was in fact who she had always believed him to be”, the Son of the Living God, the one who brings about new life, the one who opens eyes to the possibilities of hope and grace in our midst. Now, I wish I could stand up here and tell you that I am always able to follow Mary Magdalene’s example but that would not be true. I will be the first to admit that cynicism and disbelief are often my response to situations where I’m asked to trust without knowing all the details. But what I can tell you is that I am grateful for the people in my life who are like Mary, who push me, who challenge me, who encourage me in my faith, who keep telling me over and over again, that darkness and death will not have the last word.
Because I need, we need these people to help us find the risen Lord in our midst, to find where God is at work in this world, to help us find hope, to keep telling us over and over again that what the world may perceive as an end is actually a new beginning, that we are being transformed into the people that God created and calls us to be.
Like Mary, it is my hope and prayer that we have the courage and the faith to hold to the promises given to us by our God, promises which sustain us, promises which strengthen us, promises which remind us time and time again that love and light will always have the last word. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, August 1 – Mary Magdalene Mark 16: 1-11.