Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Happy Easter, Beloveds—or should I say “Mary” Easter? I often think about Mary on that first Easter morning. I think about all the divergent feelings she must have wrestled with as she journeyed to the tomb. Like Mary, I find myself holding disparate feelings in tension this Easter season: joy and pain, hope and despair, longing and fulfillment, peace and anxiety.
There is a poignant hymn in All Creation Sings, the new worship supplement, titled “Woman, Weeping in the Garden” (935). The song illustrates Mary’s Easter encounter through John’s Gospel account. The author’s lyrics invite us to embark on a grace-worn path from hopelessness to hallelujah.
On that first Easter morning, we arrive at the tomb with Mary, who came to perform the traditional burial custom of anointing. Mary, embracing the darkness, left her home early in the predawn hours and walked to the tomb in faith. She knew the massive stone was covering its entrance, yet she went anyway, trusting that God would make a way out of no way.
Instead of the anointing, Mary experienced an encounter that was unimaginable. As she arrived at the tomb, she noticed the stone had already been rolled away, hurling her from agony to astonishment—until Mary discovered that Jesus wasn’t there.
Peering into the tomb, she was greeted by two men in dazzling white garments. The angels asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13).
Mary turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize him. Jesus spoke directly to her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Disoriented by grief, Mary can’t believe her eyes. Her pain prevents her from recognizing Jesus. She assumes he is the gardener.
Like Mary, we have been transformed by God’s power and love.
She responds, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him (15).” Mired in misery, Mary can’t make out the Messiah’s voice. But then he calls her by name—“Mary!” (16). She is overwhelmed.
In these few short hours, Mary has traveled a vast emotional landscape: devastating and traumatic grief at the murder of her dear friend, fear of meeting a similar fate, the intricate honor of maintaining burial traditions, astonishment, confusion and agony at the tomb and in the garden. But all these disparate feelings give way to sheer, abundant and unencumbered joy when Jesus calls her by name!
Woman, dancing from the garden, find the others and proclaim Christ is risen as he promised;
tell the world he knew your name! (verse 5).
Mary rushes to share the good news with the rest of the disciples. Siblings in faith, Mary Magdalene came to anoint Jesus and instead our risen Savior anoints her as the first evangelist of the good news. Through Luke’s Gospel we learn that other women were with Mary. I’d be remiss if I didn’t posit all Christian preaching begins with this Easter proclamation from these devoted women.
Siblings of the faith, be encouraged in these perplexing times. Grief is real, tombs are real and the resurrection is real. Like Mary, we have been transformed by God’s power and love. Throughout this Easter season and always—in times of confusion, joy, fear, loss or abundance—remember who you are. You are a beloved child of God, called by name. Just like Mary.