It was the last day she would be able to enter the tomb to dress the body of Jesus. Joseph and Nicodemus had hurriedly prepared the body on Friday placing Jesus in the tomb of Joseph. Returning on the first day of the week final preparations would be made to the body for entombment. The day after Sabbath was the last day friends would be able to come and commune with their teacher as he lay in the tomb. Sadly when Mary came to the tomb her heart was rent in two finding the tomb empty. What had happened? How could this be? The stone had been removed and realizing that something was terribly wrong Mary hastened to Peter and John telling them the alarming news the body of Jesus was missing. The two disciples raced to the tomb finding it empty. Puzzled and dismayed they returned home leaving Mary in the garden weeping and broken hearted.
The lone figure of a weeping woman filled the garden with the mournful tears of fear and sadness. Still disbelieving her Lord was taken she looked inside the tomb and found two men sitting where the body of Jesus lay. They asked Mary, “’Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him’” (John 20:13). She did not know who the “they” were but she could not understand why “they” had taken his body. The soldiers who had guarded the tomb were in the city reporting to the chief priests what had happened (Matthew 28:11-15). How could anyone take the body of Jesus? Why would they desecrate the tomb by taking the body? She wanted to know where her Lord’s body was!
Standing behind her a man appeared. She did not know it was Jesus and thought He was the gardener. “He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him’” (John 20:15-16). A little frustrated anger rises up in her broken heart because if this man did something with the body of her Lord then he better tell her right now where it is and she will take care of it. How dare he take the body out of the tomb? He should know what happened to the body and she demands to know what happened. A determined woman.
And then it happens. Can you see this moment? Can you see the face of Jesus as He utters these words, “Mary”? Now turn the camera on the face of Mary as “she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’)” (John 20:16). Tears of grief become a flood of joy and she wants to grab him and squeeze him so tight He would bust. Her joy is tempered by the Lord’s admonition that His presence does not suggest He is there to stay. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (John 20:17). He knows that in forty days He will return to His Father. His work on earth will be accomplished and the task of teaching the lost the good news of a risen Savior will rest upon the shoulders of people like Mary. Racing back to the disciples she expresses with unbounded joy the news of the risen Lord.
She stood at the tomb weeping. Someone had taken the body of her Lord and she was distraught. The deep feelings of grief filled her heart because of her love for Jesus. Her feelings were not uncaring, uninterested nor indifferent. We hear often of people dying but our feelings are not expressed with weeping and sadness of heart. A simple reason is we do not know the person and while we may mourn the loss because of a tragedy our connection does not create feelings of deep sadness. Mary stood at the tomb weeping and broken-hearted because she loved her Lord. She would learn in the next few days how special Jesus was and after Jesus ascended to His Father she would grow to love Him more and more. But at this moment she was a broken woman because of her relationship to the man from Nazareth. We all need to spend time at the empty tomb weeping for our Lord.
The challenge for us is that we know He rose and that He lives and reigns at the right hand of God. But the empty tomb means more than a cavern void of a body. It signifies the cruelty of Jesus’ death on a cross and the sting of death. He suffered in the days of His flesh and learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:7-8). Mary wept because of her love for Jesus. She had been crying for three days as she witnessed the crucifixion, spending a Sabbath day without her Lord and finding on the first day of the week His body was gone. We need to have the heart of Mary to experience the feelings of sadness for what man (you and I) has done to the Son of God. Our weeping is trying to understand what cannot be understood. How can a loving God save such a wretched creature like man? Look in the empty tomb and you will find the answer. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:5-6)!
Mary Magdalene knew the horror of Satan (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2) but she found peace in the presence of Jesus. It is probable that Mary was among the women of Acts 1:14 (see John 19:25). The story of Jesus to those early disciples would include the day she stood at the empty tomb of Jesus weeping. But she would tell them of her tears of joy when she saw her Lord face to face. He was not just a figure to her; He was her “Rabboni.” Our faith will only be as strong as the tears we shed standing at the empty tomb of Jesus and finding the power of the resurrection to change our lives.