Easter, Year A John 20:1-18
Magdalene wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t
afraid when she walked alone to the tomb in the dark…not when she realized that
the stone had been rolled away, not when the two angels appeared out of nowhere…not
even when a mysterious man approached her who she thought might just be the
person who stole the body of Jesus. She
wasn’t afraid. Now you might be thinking, but how could you possibly know if
she was scared since her emotions aren’t detailed in the text? That’s
true. But if you compare the 4 Gospels,
you will see an interesting juxtaposition.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all have multiple women going to the tomb. John
is unique in that it mentions only Mary Magdalene. All 4 Gospels describe either angels or
someone robed in white appearing to the women.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that the women were afraid or record the
angels telling them not to be afraid.
phrase (Do not be afraid) might be familiar to you, not just because of the
Easter story, but because of the Christmas story. When the angels appeared to share good news,
they were always telling people not to be afraid. This is a theme throughout the Bible, the
appearance of an angel scares people.
Yet in John, it never says that Mary is afraid and the angels never tell
her not to be afraid. Then when she sees the man who she doesn’t recognize, she
doesn’t cower in fear, she demands an answer from him. “Tell me where you have laid him.” A woman alone with a strange man, even in
this day would be intimidating. But in
Jesus’ time, it was downright terrifying for any number of reasons.
was a fierce courage to Mary of Magdela.
There have been a lot of misconceptions about Mary over the years. Dan Brown made it significantly worse with
the DaVinci Code. She was not a
prostitute nor was she a woman caught in adultery. At some point, someone just conflated all the
unnamed women in the Gospels to one woman and all of their gifts and sins got
attributed to Mary of Magdela. The only
thing we know about her was that she was an early follower of Jesus. She started following him after he cured her. She was at the crucifixion, at the tomb and she
was the first person to see the risen Christ.
So here is what I want to know, what gave her the courage to sit at the
foot of cross and watch him die, then visit the tomb alone and then eventually
spread the rather unbelievable news that he had risen? I want to know because I want that courage.
order to find the source of that courage, we need to go back to the first time
we hear about her, which was a very brief mention. She started travelling with
Jesus and the disciples after Jesus cured her of seven demons. At the time, people assumed someone who was
possessed by demons was evil in some way. But more likely, the individual was
tormented, not evil. It could have any
emotional illness that we now have terminology for. It could have been extraordinary grief. It
might have been a physical illness. Anyone who lives with that kind of
affliction has to have some courage.
about it— think about the time in your life that was the most difficult, the darkest
time. I bet it was hard just to get out of bed.
And maybe you didn’t get out of bed that day, but you eventually
did. That required courage and
faith. This woman had that courage in
spades, even before she was healed. Yet
once she was healed, she also had what seem like an unshakable faith, the faith
that comes from living through hell and coming out the other side, the faith
that comes from a personal encounter with Jesus.
was that faith and that courage that allowed to her to stay and watch her Lord
and Savior die. It was that faith and
courage that propelled her to the tomb on that dark and lonely morning. Now I am
not saying that her faith was absolute.
I almost started this sermon saying she was fearless. I don’t think she was. I believe she was resilient because she had to
fight over the course of her life.
During her times of greatest pain and anguish, she was probably alone
quite a bit, which meant going to a tomb alone didn’t scare her. And once you’ve been the home of 7 demons, a
couple of angels aren’t going to scare you either. Facing those immense challenges in her life
and then being healed by Jesus equipped her with the courageous faith that she
would need to be a disciple and then an evangelist.
don’t typically talk about demons, so this might be a leap, but I want you to
think about your own demons. Maybe change
the word to affliction or burden. It
could be depression, anxiety, chronic pain, a disease, addiction….anything that
inhibits you and keeps you from being the person that God has called you to be. Some of these afflictions are with us a
lifetime and some are temporary, but they all leave their mark in some
way. Usually we assume those marks make
us less than, not good enough, not strong enough. But if someone with 7 demons could become a
disciple and an evangelist, why not you?
might think, well yeah, but she was cured by Jesus. She was free.
That’s true. No doubt getting
cured by Jesus gave her a bit of a head start.
Yet…I bet those demons—even exorcized demons— left their mark. She never forgot them. She could either let that
hold her back, or propel her forward.
Remember, even Jesus’ resurrected body still had scars. We are all wounded in some way. We are all tormented by something. What
matters is how we let those afflictions and wounds change us. Do we try to hide them? Are we ashamed of them? Or do we give them
over to God’s power and let them transform us into a more complete and
beautiful version of ourselves? Do we
let them transform us into a beloved child of God?
once said that courage is telling the story of who you are with your whole
heart. Being a disciple of Jesus, watching him die,
and going to the tomb….all required courage. But I wonder, if the thing that
really required courage was Mary telling the other disciples, “I have seen the
Lord.” Because her story used to be that she was the woman possessed, that
there was something wrong with her. That
she was broken. But now…now she was the
woman who had seen the Lord.
Our faith gives us this
gift. It provides each one of us with
the ability to change our story, transform our afflictions and wounds into
something new and beautiful. That gift is freely given. Yet it is on us, to accept that gift and
allow it to transform us—to live into the Easter message, that God can make all
things new, even you and me.