Mary of Magdala by Scarlett Stough. Artwork by Magdalena Schotten.



 

Foreword: The essay that follows is a dramatization of the events following the death of Jesus of Nazareth based on the four gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The authors of these accounts did not emphasize or clarify the exact chronology of events regarding how many trips were made to the tomb that Sunday morning or exactly who was present at each event. Each of the gospel writers used a different perspective and emphasis in recording this historical event and supernatural miracle. There may be other plausible chronologies besides the one proposed in this commentary. 

They all recorded the fact that they saw Jesus die. They knew he was dead. His body was hurriedly prepared for burial and placed in a tomb. The tomb entrance was closed with a stone rolled into place. The authorities placed a seal on the stone and assigned guards to make sure the body stayed put. The disciples of Jesus saw the tomb was open and Jesus was no longer in it. They knew they did not remove his body and hide it as was falsely reported. Jesus appeared to them individually and in groups over a period of forty days. They knew he was alive. Jesus commissioned them to take this witness of his death, burial, resurrection and the reason for it to the whole world beginning in Jerusalem.

This writer believes that all the accounts are true, but none of the accounts are complete in all details. Each gospel account is a condensed retelling of these events with the emphasis on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Some of the problems with correlating the four gospels can be resolved by understanding (as this writer believes) that there were two Sabbaths (one a Holy Day, the first day of Unleavened Bread and the second a weekly Sabbath) between the death of Jesus and his resurrection three days later. (Matthew 12:40; Luke 24:46)

He was buried barely before sunset beginning the annual Sabbath (Passover, the first day of Unleavened Bread.) Counting backwards three days from the first day of the week (Sunday), this would have to be  Wednesday evening .  The women could not buy or prepare burial spices on this annual Sabbath (Thursday.) They rested. Then on the sixth day of the week, they bought and prepared the burial spices and then rested on the weekly Sabbath, Saturday. Early on the first day of the week, Sunday at dawn, they arrived at the tomb to tend to the body of Jesus only to discover he had risen. None of them were concerned with giving us an exact itinerary. They wanted the world to know that Jesus was and is the living Savior of the world. 

When we get too concerned about technical details we tend to lose sight of the miracle. God became a man; lived among us; experienced life as a human being; laid down his life in place of every guilty person; and then took up his life again to serve those who would accept his gift to us, reconciliation with God and eternal life. May we all be in awe of God and his wondrous love for his creation. I hope the following dramatization will renew your own sense of wonder at the mercy and power of God.

Scarlett Stough
 

Mary Magdalene heard Jesus say his last words: “It is finished.” (John 19:28); heard him release his last breath as he suffocated to death; and saw his blood gush out when the spear plunged into his side. Jesus was dead. There could be no doubt. But how could this be?

Jesus had brought others back to life: the widow’s son, a little girl, and Lazarus---who could forget Lazarus? He had lain dead for four days (John 11:17), yet when Jesus commanded him to come out of his tomb, Lazarus obeyed.

Mary herself was sane, a whole person now, only because Jesus had commanded seven spirits to leave her. She had been in a dark, scary, confusing place mentally and emotionally. Jesus had changed that. She was a new person. He can’t be dead. Yet, she knew he was. She watched him die.

She stayed below the cross and watched as Joseph, a rich man from the Judean town of Arimathea showed the guards an order from Pilate allowing him to take Jesus’ body. He and Nicodemus released him from the execution stake and hurriedly placed spices between the layers of burial wrappings of clean linen.

Barely aware anyone else was with her, Mary followed the two men as they carried Jesus to a nearby tomb. Previously, Joseph had it carved out of a rocky hillside intending to use it for his own burial. Now Jesus would be the first to use it. 

While Jesus was alive, both Joseph and Nicodemus had kept secret their belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah out of fear of losing their influence with the prominent Jewish leaders. But now that he was dead, they were making a public display of their respect for Jesus.  They would rather be associated with this good man, now dead, than remain members of a Council that plotted an innocent man’s death. 

Mary Magdalene sat with the other Mary in the garden opposite the tomb as the men laid Jesus on the rock shelf within. She watched Joseph roll the stone down the slight incline to close the entrance. How could such goodness and power be dead? How could it all be over so quickly?

The sun was setting. There was nothing more to be done except to go home and rest on the annual Sabbath and grieve, at least until the sixth day, Friday.

On the sixth day of the week, the women went to the market to buy spices and perfumes. Then they prepared them. This took so much of the day, they once again interrupted their plan to tend to his body by resting on the seventh day according to the commandment.

Early on the first day of the week, as soon as it was barely light enough to see, Mary and her companions approached the tomb wondering how they would roll the stone away from the entrance. Even pooling their combined strength they would not be strong enough. But what was this? The stone  had already been moved and an angel as bright as lightning was sitting on it. 

He spoke. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:2-7)

The entrance was open. The women peered inside. No body lay on the shelf. An angel sitting on the right side said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ’He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:5-7)

Two more angels in glowing clothing appeared and stood beside them . “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” (Luke 24:4-8)

Afraid to believe what they had just seen and heard, they ran away. (Mark 16:8) But on their way, Jesus himself appeared to them and greeted them. They fell to his feet and held onto him. They touched him. He was real, not a phantom! Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10)

When they told all of this to the disciples, they just shook their heads in pity thinking the women were out of their minds with grief. What was this about an empty tomb and bright angels and even seeing and touching Jesus? Maybe the men were right. Maybe this was all a fantastic illusion. Maybe that awful darkness of mental confusion had returned since Jesus had died.

But Peter and John had to see for themselves. They ran to the tomb with John getting there first, but hesitating. When Peter gets there, he goes in. Only the burial wrappings lie on the shelf, no body in them. What could this mean? How could somebody take the body while leaving the cloth strips undisturbed?

Perplexed and unable to believe, the two went back to their homes, but Mary remained behind weeping. She looked inside again. Where did these two men come from? She hadn’t seen them earlier. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:13)

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” (John 20:13)

She turned to see another man who said, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15)

Her eyes swollen and unable to see clearly through her emotions, she assumed he was the gardener and replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:15)

“Mary.” 

She looked up and recognized him. (John 20:16) “Rabboni.” (John 20:16) How can this be? Jesus. Standing before her. Jesus, alive! She saw him die, but there could be no mistaking---Jesus is risen.

“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ’I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) Jesus gave her a job to do; she couldn’t stay with him and he had things to do as well.

Obediently, joyfully, Mary carried this news to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord!” She was convinced now that she was not crazy. She was not seeing things. Soon, her brothers in Christ would also see and believe. Jesus is risen! (John 20:18)

SEE: Matthew 27 and 28; Mark 15 and 16; Luke 24; John 19 and 20.

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: I Have Seen The Lord

Editor's Note: The beautiful artwork was provided by Magdalena Schotten. More of her artwork can be seen at www.hausgemeindetreff.de/

 
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