The late Dr. W. A Criswell once related an occasion on an airplane when he was seated beside a well-known theologian whose son had recently died.
The man told the story of how the child had come home from school with a fever. They didn’t think it was serious. However, it was a very fatal form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your little boy.
The professor related to Dr. Criswell how he sat by his son’s bedside while he died.
As the little boy’s vision began to get cloudy he said, “Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?”
“Yes, son it’s getting dark, very dark.”
“Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?”
“Yes, son,” he said, “it’s time for you to go to sleep.”
The professor said his son had a certain way of fixing his pillow, and putting his head on his hands when he slept. So, he fixed his pillow, laid his head on his hands and said, “Good night, Daddy. I will see you in the morning.”
The little fella closed his eyes. And passed over into eternity.
Criswell said the man stopped and just looked at the window of the plane for a long time. Then he turned, looked at him with tears streaming down his cheeks and said: “Dr. Criswell, I can hardly wait till the morning.”
John’s gospel tells us about a woman also standing in the specter of death with tears flooding down her face. It was Mary Magdalene.
Mary was at the cross and watched Jesus die. 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 Friday turned into Saturday, you 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 ailments? 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 and ministered to Him. It’s clear that she loved him deeply.
Now He’s dead. The disciples are scattered. The apostles are hiding. And everyone’s hopes are shattered. But Mary and two other women decide to take spices to anoint the body of Jesus.
It was very early on Sunday morning. When she arrived the stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. And Mary began 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 softly said, “Mary.” She instantly knew. “Teacher!” She exclaimed. Suddenly her agony turned into ecstasy. Sadness became become gladness. And sorrow gave birth to joy. What an incredible moment.
Like Mary Magdalene we all need liberating. We all have our demons that need exorcizing. We all need healing. And Jesus is the One who can do it.
We may experience days of heartache. Pain. Sorrow. And suffering. There may be times when it seems like all is lost. When we feel like Jesus is 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.
She says, “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.
Mary’s early morning encounter with Christ reminds us that death is not final. We are not finished. There is life beyond the grave.
When we face the harsh reality of death, Jesus gently says, “I will see you in the morning.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman