In a world controlled by men, who was the first to discover the stone rolled away and the tomb empty? Mary of Magdalene. Who was the first person Jesus greeted and spoke to during those predawn hours? Mary, of course. Who was the first commissioned to tell the others about the resurrected Jesus? Mary, of course. Other women were there as well, including Joanna, Mary the mother of Jesus and “others,” my Life Application Bible tells me in the Gospel of Luke. (Suffice it to say that the Biblical text never fills in all the details that I want to know, so I consult other scholarly sources.)
My favorite version of the empty tomb narrative is from the Gospel of John because it’s the most detailed. Perhaps only John was lucky enough to witness the tender interaction between Mary of Magdalene and Jesus. But even she, his most devoted follower, didn’t recognize him right away, because, like most of us, she didn’t understand the resurrection.
The most touching part is John 20:15. “Woman,” (an affectionate term) he said, “Why are you crying?” I don’t hear the question as condescending, baffled, or impatient, but more like a lover verbalizing his concern over his beloved. I’m willing to wager that Mary and Jesus had not a sexual relationship, but an emotionally close, perhaps sibling-like relationship. After all, he changed her life by driving seven demons out of her, and she contributed financially to his ministry. Which is why she is so deeply grieved over what she thinks is his death.
And perhaps, in our own grief, whether it’s due to personal loss or the current state of worldly affairs, we also fail to recognize the risen Lord, standing before us, ready to wipe away our tears.
Imagine Jesus asking every one of us women, “Why are you crying?” Well, there are many reasons why we cry in a world still controlled by men. He asks out of compassion, but he knows every single one of those reasons and he’s already provided the answer. He has left the tomb. He has defeated death and Satan. He has wiped away all of our tears.
There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.