A retelling, based on John 20:1-18.



Early on the Sunday morning after Jesus' death and burial, she comes to the tomb. Her heart is broken beyond anything she’s ever felt before—and that’s saying something, because she’s led a life bruised and scarred by cruelty beyond what most people could imagine.

She arrives at the tomb to mourn the passing of her dear Friend—the One who saved her from the demons, the One who saw past what she had been to who she could be—someone who could be loved. The Teacher, from whose lips fell such incredible teachings. The One who had never spoken a cross word with her, had never been impatient with her anxiety or distress. The One who had opened up the gates of heaven and helped her realize that she, too, could feast at its table.

She halts abruptly. Her heart seems to stop. Her breath catches in her throat.

The stone! It’s not where it’s supposed to be.

Who’s moved it?

She rushes to the tomb and sees something she could never have imagined.

It’s empty.

Is it not enough that the Pharisees have engineered her Lord’s death? It is not enough that the Romans had their fun with Him on the cross? Must they now torment His disciples and desecrate His body?

Distraught, she rushes to the men. Perhaps they will know what to do. Maybe they will have some idea of where to look for Jesus’ body. She gasps out her tale, and is met with silence…and then derision.

“Always the drama queen!”

“Trust Mary to find something ridiculous to say, even now!”

“Maybe she’s hallucinating. You know how emotional women get.”

“Maybe, now that Jesus is gone, the demons are back!” [1]

Her worst fear, put into words. [2]

And yet… and yet…

Peter and John stand up. “We’ll go take a look.”

And they’re off.

John arrives at the tomb first. He peeks in, and waits for Peter. Peter waits for no one. He runs right into the tomb and sees its emptiness. John joins him.

When they exit the tomb, they finally believe Mary’s story. [3] But they have no solution. They return home, bewildered and hurt.

Mary, meanwhile, has completely fallen apart. [4] She can do nothing but stand there and weep. Nothing is really sinking in for her. She sees angels sitting in the tomb—they don’t even seem remarkable.

This is a dream. It must be. Well—a nightmare, really.

Everything feels woozy, fuzzy. The only sharp thing is her pain.

She turns around and sees someone else standing there. He’s not anyone she recognizes, but then, she didn’t recognize the angels either.

At this point, she’s desperate, and her desperation drives her to make conclusions about who he is. He must be someone who can help her.

I know! He must be the gardener!

“Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Never mind that she could never drag away a dead body, much larger than herself. There’s nothing about this situation that makes sense. All she wants is Jesus. All she wants is to put her spices on His body, and honour Him one more time.

The Man intervenes, with the lightest of touches.

“Mary,” He says.

And in that word, Mary recognizes the One who has injected love into her very name. In that one word, in her name, all of the preciousness and beauty that Jesus had imparted to her floods back into her soul. In that one word, she remembers who she is, and she knows who He is.

The spices drop to the ground, and all of her deepest desires come true—and more. She grabs hold of His ankles, of His feet, and worships Him with all of her heart.

“Don’t cling to Me,” He says. “I have a special job for you.”

On the way back to the disciples, Mary’s feet have wings. No longer is she rushing back with panicked news of fear and betrayal. She has something far greater to share!

She cares not a whit if they will mock or deride her as they did last time. This time—this time it doesn’t matter!

Jesus is alive! I don’t care if they believe me! I know it’s true! I’ve seen Him with my own two eyes!

The joy carries her through their incredulity.

And when the others finally see for themselves, when they finally believe, Mary is recognized for who she is: the one first honoured to share the good news about Jesus with other people. Her status of being a woman does not make her lesser. Her former state of being demon-posssessed does not make her prone to hysteria and craziness. Jesus’ deputization has let the disciples in on the secret—Mary, just like them, is a beloved child in Jesus’ kingdom.



NOTES

This method of reading the Bible is one I learned from Peter, many years ago. Try reading a passage verse by verse—pausing to close your eyes and imagine the story playing out. Where might everyone have been standing? What did they say? What might they have thought or felt?

[1] In those days, it was common to say, “He has a demon” whenever someone said or did something unbelievable. (See John 10:20, John 8:52, Matthew 11:18.) 

[2] Mary had formerly had seven literal demons cast out of her (see Mark 16:9).

[3] The Bible tells us “he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” (John 20:8-9) This means that they didn’t see and believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead—the Bible makes it clear that they didn’t understand this yet. No, this means they finally believed Mary.

[4] Based on her symptoms, by this point she may have entered a state of psychological dysfunction: unable to take care of herself, think rationally, or handle the tasks of daily living.