In the Louvre Museum in Paris there is a painting depicting Jesus on the cross. The world is engulfed in darkness. The stars are dim. And in the shadows there is the form of a woman kneeling. Her hands are caressing and her lips are pressing against the bloody, mangled feet of Jesus.
That woman is Mary Magdalene.
Scripture doesn’t record whether she did that. But she could have. She was there. Along with Jesus’ mother, Mary. Her sister. Mary, the wife of Clopas. And other women who followed Jesus.
The combined Gospel accounts tell us that Mary Magdalene first observed from a distance. She witnessed the frenzied mob as they clamored for Jesus’ death. The cruel beating that tore his flesh into ribbons. The laborious journey to Calvary. Her weakened Master whose knees buckled under the weight of the beams. She saw it all.
Then she came to the foot of the cross. She heard the taunts. The ridicule. The insults. She saw the derisive looks. The crown of thorns on His brow. The bloodied body of Jesus as He writhed in agony. This grotesque scene of this horrifying execution must have sickened her.
Yet she stayed until he breathed his last breath and said, “It is finished.” Then she watched Joseph claim his body. She observed the tomb where they laid him.
As this fatal Friday turned into Saturday, I wonder what thoughts were going through Mary’s mind? What emotions was she feeling? I can imagine she reflected on when she first met Jesus. Luke says she was one of several demon possessed women that Jesus healed. In fact, Mary had seven demons! (Lk. 8:1-2)
From what bondage did Jesus free Mary? Was it mental illness? Physical illness? Sexual sin? We’re not told. But Mary was restored to health. Given a new life. And free from her past burdens. So, from then on she followed Jesus. Ministered to Jesus. And committed her life to Jesus. It’s clear that she loved him deeply.
Now He is dead. The disciples are scattered. The apostles in hiding. And everyone’s hopes are shattered. But now Mary and two other women decide to take spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Not Peter, not John and not James. But Mary Magdalene! She came to minister once more.
It was very early on Sunday morning. When she arrived the stone was rolled away! The tomb was empty! And Mary begin to weep. Now insult has been added to injury, she thought. Someone has stolen the body of Jesus. But as she peered into the tomb she saw two angels, who asked, “Why are you crying?” After telling them, she turned and there stood Jesus!
Through her tear filled eyes, she didn’t recognize him. She thought he was the gardener. But when he gently said, “Mary.” She instantly knew. “Teacher!” She exclaimed. Suddenly Friday’s agony has turned into Sunday’s ecstacy! Sadness has become gladness! And sorrow has given birth to joy! What a moment! What an incredible Sunday!
Like Mary Magdalene we all need liberating. We all have our demons that need exorcised. We all need healing. And Jesus is the One who can do it. Oh, we may experience our Fridays of heartache. Pain. Sorrow. And suffering.
There may be Fridays when it seems like all is lost. Fridays where we feel like Jesus is….well, dead. Unresponsive to our needs. When we wonder if we’ve followed in vain. When we’re not sure where to turn. In times like that, Mary Magdalene is our example. Our inspiration.
She says, “Go minister.” “Take a look in the tomb.” And guess what? Jesus will show up. In unexpected places and in amazing ways. He can turn sorrow into joy. Frowns into smiles. Tears into laughter. Despair into hope. And abandonment into purpose.
It may be Friday. But just remember….Sunday’s coming!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman