When I was thinking about how to present the story of the Resurrection this year, I wanted to do so in a way that opened our eyes to parts of the story that may be missed if we are not careful in our reading. I believe it is very possible with this story (and many others in the Word) to kind of rush through reading it because we have heard it before. Sometimes when we get so familiar with something it can lose its rightful place in our hearts and almost become mundane. What a misfortune it would be if we allowed for it to be “just another Easter” where we hear the same story and allow it to have no impact. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to cover our sins – that is always always worth celebrating! Please do not miss this fact! It is the foundation of our faith, without the Resurrection story we have no faith, there would be no Christian religion.
If asked to name the people involved in the story of Easter, other than of course Jesus, who comes to mind? Perhaps we think of Peter or the thief on the cross who accepted Jesus and was welcomed into heaven. Maybe even Judas. There is Pontius Pilate and his wife. Each taking a role in this story. Today, I want to look into the women of Easter, all ironically enough named Mary.
Note – I have taken some creative liberty in writing this post. If you have questions or would like to know where I got an idea from (I did try to stay as close to Scripture as possible) please feel free to contact me I would love to have this discussion with you!
I want for us to imagine that we are sitting around a table having a conversation with these ladies. What do you think they would tell us? How would their stories come to life and add depth and dimension to our understanding of the Easter story? It can be so easy to gloss over narrative shared in the Word and not think about how these accounts were of real people, with thoughts and feelings of their own, people who had families and who had relationships with the Lord. People, more or less like us.
Mary of Bethany
Luke &:36-50 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This is the same Mary who is the sister to Martha and Lazarus. We have read of her before, when Martha complained to Jesus that she had to do all of the work because her sister sat at the feet of Jesus and now this story, where she pours expensive perfume out on the feet of Jesus, and friends this wasn’t just one or two drops she poured all she had out at his feet. If we could talk to Mary today I wonder if our conversation might not go something like this –
What compelled you to pour your most precious perfume at the feet of our Lord?
Love. I can’t really explain it. I was drawn to the house of the Pharisee, drawn to where I knew my Lord was. Devoted to Him. I was always getting into trouble with my sister for relaxing, you see she didn’t understand. She loved Jesus, but her heart was not in the right place. She thought to serve Jesus meant to be busy about the work of physically serving, of working until she was bone weary and had nothing left to give. But from the start, I had a different draw to the Lord. I understood He wasn’t interested in my works, He wanted my heart. So, that day standing their behind Jesus it was the least I could do to pour my all out in preparation of His burial. They had plans to kill my Lord, all that was precious to me in this life. It was really the least I felt I could do. It did not feel like a waste to me, it was an offering, a tiny way I could thank Jesus for all He had done.
What was your response to the disciples reaction?
I wasn’t expecting anyone to even notice, I was so wrapped up in the very act of anointing Jesus’ feet. At first, it surprised me, that anyone would notice and then I felt sad. These are men who followed Jesus and saw His miracles, men who were specifically chosen for the ministry and they were upset with me for giving Him my all. Of course, at that point no one really understood the events that would happen in the coming days, no one fully knew what Jesus meant when He prophesied His death. How could I blame these men? Next thing I knew Jesus was coming to my defense and saying that my simple act of service will always be remembered, wherever the gospel is preached. I hadn’t any plans of recognition, I was simply doing what my heart lead me to do.
John 20:11-18 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. esus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
We know from works that have been done commemorating her life that this Mary is one of the most controversial women found in the Bible. What we know to be true (from Scripture) is that Jesus had previously cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene and that once set free, Mary of Magdalene became a follower of His. She was the woman who stayed closest to Jesus throughout His death and resurrection.
Why when the others left, did you stay near the Lord throughout the events of His death and resurrection?
I was compelled by love. How could I leave when the very man who set me free was persecuted and later laid dying on a cross? I have never taken the freedom He gifted me with lightly. Love drew me near, freedom made me stay. I didn’t even realize the others had left, I was so wrapped up in my own grief. “How could they do this to my Lord?” I thought. I didn’t understand what was happening. I questioned why He didn’t come off the cross, why He didn’t use the same power that set me free to set Himself free. Surely He could have, but He too was compelled by love. For God so loved the world. He set me free, and offers the same redeeming grace to anyone who might accept Him. The next days were quiet…sad. The world thought it was over. Hope seemed to have disappeared. Three days later I went to the garden, to the tomb where they laid my Lord simply because I needed to be near Him. When I arrived I noticed that the stone that covered the tomb had been rolled away. My heart felt as if it dropped to my feet. I ran as fast as I could not knowing what to expect, thinking someone had taken Him but not understanding why or where they would have moved Him. I ran as fast as I could to Peter, and John telling them that Jesus was missing. They sprinted back to the tomb with me, to see for themselves what they had done with Jesus. Peter went into the tomb and then John followed him, to see what had happened and when they saw His burial clothes laying there, they understood. He had been resurrected. The men turned for home. I stayed, crying, still at a loss what could have happened? I peeked into the tomb and was greeted by the presence of two angels. As I was stumbling backwards, I heard the angels ask me why I was crying. I was dumbfounded, had these angels not known? They took my Lord I said almost indignantly they took my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him. And then I turned and saw who I thought was the gardener, I asked him if he had moved Jesus to tell me where he had put Him. I simply needed to be near Him, needed to feel His presence. And then as only He can, He said my name. Mary. I can’t explain how my heart quickened. My Jesus, My Lord!! I was told not to embrace Him as He had not ascended back into heaven yet. I ran as fast as my feet would carry me back to the disciples to tell them – our Lord lives!!! Oh death where is your sting?
Mary, The Mother of Jesus
John 19:25-27but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
In the Christian tradition, Mary is not a Holy mother, she is simply a woman who was chosen by God to carry out a very special and sacred calling. I can only imagine on this day, God gave Mary an extra measure of grace. I love that in the above scripture, even as Jesus is dying on the cross He spoke into His mother’s life by telling her that John would take her in. What a precious picture!
As the mother of Jesus, what was it like to see Him on the cross?
I was taken back to the very day the angel came to me as a teen and told me the good news, that I was chosen and set apart, I would be the mother of the Savior of the world. What a splendid and terrifying day that was! I understood that Jesus wasn’t just any Son, that the Father had plans for Him that went far beyond anything I could have ever hoped for, but as a mother I still bonded to Him as only a mother can do. He was my Son. I recalled the time we lost Him and found Him teaching scholars in the temple when He was 12, the time He preformed His first miracle by turning water into wine, the times He taught me of the Fathers love for me and of the truths of God’s kingdom. I am no one special, simply a handmaiden of the Lord who agreed to carry out His will. But oh, what a blessing it has been to be His mother. When He lay there on the cross my heart broke and simultaneously rejoiced. I knew it had to be done, that sin had to weigh on Him so that He could overcome it, I knew God’s plan for my Son was good and Holy but my human nature wanted to protect Him, wanted Him to use His power to take Himself down. I stayed there, silent, waiting for it to be finished and what seemed like hours later I heard Him cry “it is finished” as He bowed His head and died. A piece of me went with Him. That’s what happens when your child dies. I can’t explain it, but the person I was days before His death was no longer. Then, just as all hope seemed lost, Sunday came. Oh what a glorious day of rejoicing it was! My Son…My Lord alive again! All glory and praise be to the Father God who gave me such a front row seat to the life of my Jesus.
It is my hope that this Easter, the three Mary’s we have looked at today will bring the story alive for you. Though not center stage characters of the story per say, these women had beautiful encounters with the Lord which teach us precious truths of the story we would not otherwise know. I pray that their stories will deepen your faith in the Lord this Easter!