Mary, who the Risen Jesus Knew By Name
– By Ron Simkins
We don’t know much about this particular Mary, and much of what most people think they know isn’t true (there is no real evidence, for instance, that she was a prostitute). One out of every four first century AD Jewish women is named Mary, so it helps that we know this particular one as Mary Magdalene which most scholars think probably means Mary from Magdela.
What we do know prior to the last week before Jesus was executed is from Luke 8:1-3:
1) She was one of several women (many of them fairly well off and others members of Jesus’ family) who helped make Jesus’ ministry possible by giving of their time, money, resources, etc, and traveling with the apostolic band that Jesus had gathered.
2) At some point earlier, Jesus had freed her from a life that was being ravaged by the spiritual darkness that sometimes overwhelms human lives. Both Luke and Mark identify her as a person whom Jesus had freed from the power of seven demonic forces. I do not pretend to know all of what that means, but I certainly have known people who just could not escape the self-hatred, self-destruction, on the edge mental and emotional fragility, and overwhelming depression and hopelessness of the dark forces. She had no doubt that Jesus loved her, and she was busy showing her love for him and all that he was about.
If we take the four Gospels as various eye witness accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection—with all the seemingly irreconcilable discrepancies that eye witness accounts always seem to present us with—we can piece together a narrative about Mary that looks something like this:
– Mary is one of the women who came with him from to that last Passover in order to “care for Jesus’ needs.”
– She is one of several women who follow him out to the crucifixion and stays until the bitter end. And, she seems to have been one of the few who even drew in nearer to the dying Jesus along with Jesus’ mother, aunt, and “the disciple who Jesus loved.”
– Mary is one of the two women who then follow Joseph of Arimathea to his family tomb as he buries Jesus body quickly prior to Sabbath. She had no intention of there being any mistake about which tomb Jesus’ body was in.
– She is one of the women who heads for that same tomb as soon as dawn breaks after the Sabbath is over, and they are shocked to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
– It appears that as soon as Mary sees the stone is rolled away and the body is gone; she leaves the other women and runs to tell Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” that the tomb is empty and that someone has taken the body.
– The two males rather thoughtlessly run ahead of any speed she can maintain and leave her behind. So she arrives back at the tomb after they have come and gone.
– Because Mary Magdalene had run back to inform the male disciples, she seems to have missed the encounter the other women had with an angelic messenger who says to them: “Don’t be afraid. Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here; he is risen.
– So, Mary of Magdela, now arrives at the tomb alone, and stands there crying for some time. Then, the angelic messengers, who on this day seem to be available to the women and not the men, appear at the head and foot of the place where Jesus had body had lain. They say, “Why are you crying?” Mary, probably only half looking at them and with recognition that they are angels, says, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” Then, turning to go, she almost turns into someone whom she takes to be the caretaker of the garden tombs belonging to wealthy families.
– The “gardener” speaks to her. “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Filled with the love she has for the dear friend she has lost, she replies, “Sir, if you are the one who has carried him away, just tell me where you put him, I will take care of everything.”
– And, Jesus said, “MARY!” The voice of one who dearly loves you calling you by name is one of the most powerful words available to human experience. She not only was loved; she is loved by the resurrected Jesus!
– She knew! “My teacher!” She throws herself at Jesus’ feet and hugs him like she will never let him go. He laughs and says, “You can’t hold me here. I haven’t even gone to my Father yet.” (You can love me, but you cannot control me. I still have a lot to do.)
– And, Jesus continues: There is still a lot for you to do, too. I entrust you with the ministry of being the first witness to my resurrection. Go tell the others that I am returning to MY GOD and YOUR GOD, MY FATHER and YOUR FATHER.
And, the resurrected Jesus who knows Mary—and you—by name, sends Mary, who could not witness in the first century court because she was a woman, to be the person first entrusted with telling others this good news: Not only did Jesus love us, the resurrected Jesus still loves us. And, he knows us by name. “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”