THE SHOCKED MAGDALENE
Throughout history, angels have appeared to bring a message from God. Often they have a dazzling appearance that inspires fear. Other times they appear to be human-like. If there are extra-terrestrial life forms, it should not surprise us.
Our spiritual history is filled with examples of angels, visions and paranormal experiences. We call these events miracles because they point to a reality greater than our own.
Mary Magdalene is one of the women who went to an empty tomb, saw angels, and encountered Jesus come back from the dead.
I’m intrigued by the fact that the women who followed Jesus were present through the crucifixion and the first to visit the tomb. While the men were afraid of being found and persecuted, the women took the greater risk by getting close to His suffering and death.
This Mary was a woman who had suffered in many ways. Luke referred to her as a sinful woman. When she met Jesus, he had cleansed her of seven evil spirits. Pope Gregory the Great went so far as to suggest that she was a prostitute, though the Scriptures do not implicitly say that.
Maybe her own history of suffering and deliverance gave her a greater sense of loyalty to the Suffering Jesus. She and two other women were the first visitors to the empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene encounters two angels inside the tomb. The stone had been rolled back exposing the place the body had been laid. Instead of finding Jesus’ body, she meets two beings from just outside normal experience. They ask her why she is crying. While her view is focused on angels, Jesus stands by her and speaks.
Mary was crying because the most loving person in her life had been killed. He died a horrific and shameful death. This was the only reality she knew at that moment. She came to the Garden expecting to mourn outside a sealed tomb. Instead she was greeted by angels and disturbed by a missing corpse. Many of our tears are based on what we have concluded to be true.
Turning to a man who must certainly be the gardener, she wants to bring the body back to the tomb. Grief requires a fixed point. The headstone, the urn or the sealed tomb remind us that the person really existed and is now gone.
One word from the gardener changed everything. Jesus called her by name and suddenly the past few days did not make sense. How could a man so clearly dead be standing with her? Was this a ghost or the wishful fantasy of a grief-stricken friend?