Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Mary C. Earle

But when they heard he was alive and had been seen by Mary Magdalene, they would not believe it.
—Mark 16:11

Saturday in Easter week

I can understand the disciples’ unwillingness to believe this seemingly fanciful story of Mary Magdalene. So many dashed hopes, so many memories of brutality and betrayal, including their own. Why, in God’s name, should they participate in her illusion that Jesus has been raised from the dead? Why take the risk? After all, she is a woman, and anyone with sense in the first century knows that a woman can’t offer faithful testimony.

The constant in the resurrection accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is the presence and witness of Mary Magdalene. This woman, who was not a prostitute (no mention of that is in scripture), became known by the titles Myrrh-Bearer and Apostle to the Apostles in the early centuries of the church.

She was called Myrrh-Bearer in honor of her fidelity in going to anoint Jesus’ body after his death. It is that fidelity that leads to her being the first one to know that he has been raised. She was called Apostle to the Apostles because Jesus sends her to tell the disciples that the tomb has failed to contain the life of God. He is risen, not dead.

Perhaps because she has some awareness of the sacredness of the body, Mary Magdalene proclaims the resurrection of the body. She is the first to say, “He lives.” She does not say, “I have seen a ghost.”

She tells the disciples that Jesus is alive. Somehow, his earthly body has been transformed and made new. The risen life, hid within the cocoon of the corpse removed from the cross, lives on beyond death.

Mary Magdalene has the guts to go to the grave. Because she walks in the valley of the shadow of death, she is the first to know:

Even at the grave
We make our song
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Risen Christ, hallow our deaths with your risen life, and raise these bodies of your own creation to new life in You. Amen.