From the Well - 3/8/2018

Mary Magdalene, The Witness

Mary Magdalene, The Witness

John 20:1-18 (NRSV) 
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 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." 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" 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." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because 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.'" 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

There are many stories and images from my life that are as vivid and real to me as when they first happened. From 1968 to 1971, the Burton family lived on the Quechan Indian Reservation in Yuma, Arizona. After moving to Yuma and getting settled into first grade my teacher noticed that I was having a hard time seeing the chalk board so my parents took me to the local optometrist. After an examination it was determined I needed glasses.

177-1968, Burtons with the Millers, Rob Roy Mine, AZ.jpg

After my appointment, my dad struck up a conversation with the optometrist and learned that he owned a gold mine. The Rob Roy Mine, as it was called, got its name because it was started as an attempt to "rob" from a lost vein of gold of a much larger and more productive mine on the other side of the mountain. The Rob Roy mine was a small operation that was never profitable.

The optometrist purchased the mine in hopes of working it in his spare time. It was a long time ago and I was young so I don't know for sure but I suspect the optometrist had dreams of finding the lost vein of gold and striking it rich. Like so many dreams of wealth or fame, it never happened.

What I do remember is the optometrist inviting us to visit the mine on several occasions. I remember looking down one of the vertical shafts. I laid on my stomach with my dad holding my belt so I could shine my flashlight into the darkness. I also remember asking the optometrist, "What would happen if someone fell into the hole?" he matter-of-factly replied, "You would be lost forever."

When Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb on that first Easter morning, she was sure that Jesus was lost forever. The triumphant entrance on Palm Sunday was only a shadow in Mary's memory as she struggled to deal with the loss of the one who had pulled her back from the darkness and despair of a former life. It was if Jesus had fallen into a bottomless black hole leaving those who loved him behind. Three years of excitement and anticipation for a better future was over. There was no hope. The disciples were in hiding out of fear for their own lives. The teacher, the healer, the story teller was gone.

Only Mary had the courage to go to the tomb under the cover of darkness. What a shock it must have been to arrive at the tomb and discover that the stone was rolled away. Had she interrupted grave robbers? Were they still there? What would they do if they saw her? There was nothing else she could do but run and hope for the best.

She ran to Peter and the others. Out of breath she exclaimed to the disciples, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."In a panic, Peter, Mary, and another disciple ran to the tomb and find it empty. Then, as if forgetting all about Mary and her emotional state, Peter and the other disciple leave her crying at the tomb to run and tell the others.

Slowly and carefully Mary gathers up enough courage to peer into the tomb. There, in the place where Jesus body should have been, there were messengers who ask Mary why she is crying. When she turns from them (Maybe to run away again) she sees a man who she assumes is the gardener who also asks her why she is crying. "They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have placed him," she tells the stranger. When the man says her name, "Mary," her eyes are suddenly opened and she realizes it is Jesus. Suddenly, Mary is running again. This time she doesn't run out of fear and despair but from excitement and joy.

That first Easter morning was life changing for Mary Magdalene and the disciples. Like Mary we are part of the story. It is a story of love as our lives are transformed and the lives of others are changed by Christ's love mirrored in our words, actions, and outreach to those who feel lost, alone, wounded, alienated, hungry, cold, and lost. Think about it.