It’s hard to believe, but we have reached the final part of our Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. This book will be published TOMORROW! I feel like the woman in our Bible story for today…..happy! But, of course, Mary Magdalene had so much more to sing about than a new book release… Jesus, the King of the world, and the Lord of her life had just been released from the grave. Let’s tiptoe to that quiet hillside with Mary and see what she sees…
Read: John 20:1-18
Who was Mary Magdalene? What was so special about this woman that Jesus, the risen Christ, would choose to appear to her first?
Luke tells us that Mary, from the town of Magdala, was, first and foremost, a disciple of Jesus. Traveling with the Twelve, she was one from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. No wonder, then, that she helped support Jesus and his followers out of her own means, trying to give back to the One who had rescued her.
This faithful disciple followed Jesus wherever he went, and when his journey took him to Calvary, she didn’t turn away. She went along too. We find her at the foot of the cross, alongside Mary, the mother of Jesus.
At Calvary, Mary Magdalene would have heard Jesus cry out, It is finished! She would have seen the blood running from his feet, witnessed the sky turn black, heard the sound of Jesus’ last breath, and the ear-splitting noise of the temple curtain being torn in two.
You can imagine that she stayed there until the bitter end, and watched, weeping, as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the body of her Lord away.
But three days later,
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb… John 20:1
While the eleven disciples were probably still sleeping, Mary was not only awake, she was up and dressed and on her way to the grave before the sun was out.
Jesus was DEAD, but this faithful disciple would not give up. She was still following him. She went to anoint his body, but would end up announcing his victory. Her hard journey to the tomb would end in triumph. The one who bravely tiptoed to that quiet cave on the hillside was rewarded with the biggest surprise the world has ever known.
And perhaps this is the reason that Jesus chose to appear to Mary Magdalene first… because she put herself in that place. Instead of turning away, instead of sleeping, Mary Magdalene went to the place of grief, and suffering, and great loss, and found the unimaginable: the unbelievable truth of the resurrection and the hope of heaven.
As a result, Mary was the first to proclaim the unbelievable news to an astonished world:
I have seen the Lord! John 20:18
Two thousand years after Mary Magdalene stepped into that quiet tomb, my sister and I, following in her footsteps, did the same. I’ll never forget my sister’s words, as she turned to me, smiled, and said:
This is a happy place.
And it was. We stepped out of The Garden Tomb to be greeted by sunshine and butterflies and spring flowers, and I remembered what the angels had said on that miraculous, hope-filled morning, so long ago:
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24: 6
Friends, this is what you and I prepare to celebrate this Easter… a living Savior, a resurrected Lord, One who stepped out from the grave to prove that heaven is real, One who loves you and I just as much as he loved Mary Magdalene.
Can we follow him, to the end?
Jesus, the One who went to the cross on our behalf, fill us with your peace as we approach Holy Week. Give us the courage to follow you as Mary Magdalene did, to stay by your side, even if we’re in a place we don’t want to be. And then lead us, through, to glory. Amen.
Questions for Reflection:
- Close your eyes and picture Mary Magdalene’s last sight of Jesus’ dead body. Look at it. Now picture the risen Jesus stepping from the tomb, completely healed except for the scars on his hands and feet. How does that make you feel?
- When have you set out on a hard journey, and found astonishing hope at the end of it?
- What is your favorite part of this story?
- What is God revealing to you through this story?
Look back on the women of the New Testament who we have met in this seven-week study… The Young Girl; The Thirsty Girl; The Forgiven Girl; The Busy Girl; The Generous Girl; and The Grateful Girl. What common themes do you find?