Happy Easter! Jesus is Alive! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
John 19:25 – NIV
Have you ever found yourself living in a nightmare? Your situation seems surreal, like you stepped from this world into another dimension, a dimension where everything seems wrong. You stand there, watching others come and go, leading normal lives, and you want to scream, “stop! You can’t go on like that! Do you know what just happened to me?”
In the blink of an eye, your well ordered world is turned upside down. It’s unfair, unforgiveable, unimaginable. You stare into space, asking, “How can this be? This can’t be real. This can’t be happening. Why, Lord, Why?”
The joy that was there just yesterday has vanished, replaced by a gut-wrenching sorrow. You couldn’t have imagined this set of circumstances when you arose yesterday. The world had looked so bright, so shiny, so full of promise. But now, everything is different, and nothing seems right.
Was that what Mary Magdalene felt like in that last week of Jesus’ life? In the preceding months, Mary’s life had been all about Jesus. She was a faithful follower, traveling from village to village with Jesus, listening to His teachings, watching Him perform miracle after miracle. Although scripture does not offer specifics on Mary’s activities,it is likely that she prepared meals with the other women and served Jesus His supper, perhaps even joining Him for a fireside chat. Mary knew Jesus, really knew Him. Mary knew the comforting timbre of His voice. She felt the kindness in His tender gaze, the warmth in His gentle smile.
Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I envision Mary Magdalene standing on the side of that cloak covered street, palm branch waving, glowing with pride as her Jesus passed by on that borrowed colt. I can hear the ”Hosannas” being lifted from her lips. Her joy must have been palpable, so immersed in the exhilaration of that moment, completely unaware of how much her life would change in the coming days. She had no inkling that her world would soon be turned upside down.
Where was she during the Last Supper? Had she helped prepare that meal? When the disciples left the Upper Room, did one of them pull her aside to tell her about the events of the evening? Was she concerned when Jesus departed for the Garden of Gethsemanee? Did she think something was amiss, or did she just assume Jesus wanted some private time in prayer?
When did she learn that Jesus, her beloved Jesus, had been taken away, arrested like a common criminal? Her joy, so prevalent at the beginning of the week now turned to shock and alarm. Her nightmare was just beginning.
Was she waiting in the crowd when she heard the cry, “Crucify!”? Could she hear Pilate’s words? what was it like to watch Jesus be led away, to listen to the jibes and catcalls, to anticipate the coming strikes of the whip upon His flesh?
Her nightmare only worsened as she trudged up the hill to Golgotha. Hidden in the crowd, Mary watched as Jesus struggled under the weight of the cross, the sweat from His brow mingling with the bloody pinpricks from His crown of thorns. She shuddered at the sight of crimson seeping from the wounds on His back.
Standing on that hilltop,Mary saw the nails, heard the hammer strike. Her body cringed in terror with each reverberating blow. Her gasp must have been audible as the soldiers lifted the cross into place. Did she cry out when she saw Him hanging there, body wracked by excruciating pain?
She waited there with His mother Mary, consoling her, keeping up her vigil even when others departed. Sorrow surely gripped her soul; so did confusion. She couldn’t believe this was really happening. “How can this be?”
Mary watched as the sky grew dark, felt the air grow heavy just like her heart. She listened as Jesus spoke to John, and heard the words He whwhispered to the criminal hanging on the nearby cross. she heard His final plea, ”My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
She stayed to the end. She couldn’t bear to leave. This couldn’t be real. Surely she would wake up soon and find this was all a horrible dream.
The sun rose on that Saturday morning, but her nightmare didn’t fade away with the dawning light. Her head still pounded, reeling from the blows of the hammer fall. She couldn’t stop the parade of images, couldn’t squelch the incessant cries of “Crucify, Crucify!” She was slipping, sliding, sinking down into that deep dark pit of despair. Hope had vanished. All was lost.
But then came Sunday Morning. She rose early, intent on going with the other women to prepare the body. As she trudged up the hill to the garden, her feet felt laden by lead, her heart drenched in a downpour of dread. Imagine her shock at the sight of the stone rolled away. The darkness of an empty tomb loomed before her. Certain that the body had been stolen, panic gripped her soul, her mind reeling at this final injustice, this heartbreaking defilement.
She raced away to tell Peter and John, following them back to the garden,cowering at a distance,heartsick over what they would find. When they departed, she drew near to the tomb,her eyes flooded with tears.
“Woman, why are you crying?”
She heard the words, but she couldn’t sort them, her mind and body too consumed by despair. Beneath her sobs, she could barely form the words, “They have taken my Lord away…”
A word. Just one single word. Her name softly spoken. But it was enough. It was all she needed.
She knew the voice. She knew the speaker. It was the voice of her friend, her Savior, her Lord. He had risen! He was alive! Her heart thudded with indescribable joy, ”Jesus is alive!”
Joy rose from the ashes of despair. Sorrow was now eclipsed by ecstasy; horror transformed into hope. Mary saw it. Mary felt it. Mary knew it to the depths of her soul. Joy resurrected from sorrow. Jesus resurrected from the grave.
Her nightmare was over. Ours too. Jesus is risen! He is alive! Nothing is the same. Everything is made new, for He is, and always will be, our Living Hope!
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20:18 – NIV
O Lord Jesus, You are alive! You defied the grave, conquered sin and death. You are victorious, setting the captives free, once and for all. You suffered the indignity of the cross so that we might live forever free. You endured the pain, bore the blame, suffered the shame, all for me, all for us. O Lord Jesus, we owe You everything. Our joy is complete, our hope secure. You are risen, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be the same again!
In the Victorious Name of Jesus, we give our thanks and praise,