Text: Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:1-18
The first time we are introduced to Mary Magdalene in the gospel of Luke, we are informed that she was once possessed by seven demons but is now a devoted follower of Jesus. It is stunning that a woman once full of evil spirits was now one of Jesus' closest followers. The reality is that once you have proof of Jesus' mercy, His grace, and His love, where else can you go? And so Mary followed Jesus everywhere, ministering to His needs and trying to be as close as she could be to the man who changed her life. Mary's whole life had been totally transformed. Nobody loved her like Jesus did.
But now her teacher, the only one who loved her, was dead on a cross. Where was she going to go? What was going to happen with her life? Perhaps that is why she was the first one to run to the tomb. She had to see His lifeless body one last time, before saying goodbye forever. What a surprise it must have been when she saw the stone that covered the tomb rolled away. When she, and the other women, tried to make sense of what had happened, the angel asks her: "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" And yet, Mary Magdalene still does not comprehend; she remains in the garden weeping, until Jesus Himself appears before her.
I don't know where your hope died or when you first buried your dream, but today I want to remind you that the One who loves you no matter your situation, He still lives. He has risen so we can have life -- deep, rich, abundant life. So, like the angel asked Mary, "why are you looking for the living among the dead?"
A few years ago, while sitting in a mud-hut in northern Uganda, this story hit me in a fresh way. For the first time, I read the story of Mary Magdalene as a response to the story of Eve. In Genesis, we find the first woman (ish-shah) created to bear the image of her warrior-helper God by being an “ezer” who brings much needed help and hope in times of trouble. Sadly, she soon turns away from her God and her calling, and buys into the lies of the Serpent. Instead of being a protective aid to Adam, she walks him straight into danger. Eve and Adam sin and are separated from God, hiding themselves in shame and fear from the Good Gardener who is walking through the garden in search of them. The story ends with the first woman (ishshah) in tears and God promising that one day her Seed will crush the head of the Serpent (Gen 3:15).
With this in mind, we can now read the story of Mary with fresh eyes. Here we find a woman who has spent most of her life enslaved by Satan (the Serpent), until one day she meets Jesus (the promised Seed) who frees her from the seven demons who have been controlling her. Mary rejoices in her new found freedom, and follows Jesus all across the countryside, caring for His needs and soaking up His teachings. But suddenly her Teacher, the one who has freed her, is captured, tortured, and killed in front of her. And when she goes to mourn over His body, she finds His body gone. Mary is overcome with grief. Another woman crying in a garden, believing all hope to be lost.
“Woman (Ishshah), why are you weeping?” asks the Gardener.
And suddenly, the story has been flipped on its head. For here is the Seed victorious, having crushed the Serpent and defeated Death. Here is the Gardener fulfilling his promise to Eve. Here is Jesus welcoming Mary into the best and freest life she could have ever imagined, for He has redeemed her from everything that ever enslaved her and has won for her eternal life with Him! And here is Mary, now sent as the redeemed Ezer to carry the message of victorious Hope to her brothers.
I have seen the Lord! He is alive! (John 20:18) He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord God has wiped away tears from all faces! (Is 25:8) O Death where are your plagues? O Sheol where is your sting? (Hosea 13:14) The Seed has crushed the Serpent!
**For more on Mary Magdalene, listen to Diane Langberg’s 2014 Hope Gathering talk or Suzy Silk’s 2015 Hope Gathering talk on our website.