The last marshmallow peep finally got eaten yesterday. It was the last bit of Easter left in the house except for the tiny shreds of Easter grass I keep finding everywhere, thanks to my 14-month-old son.
It’s amazing how quickly holidays can come and go, and then it’s back to the usual packed schedules and hurried rhythms of life. It’s so easy, some 2,000 years later, for the awe and wonder of the resurrection to fade to a comfortable complacency in the familiarity of grace. It can be hard to find a lasting way to relate to the story in a way that connects us intimately to the God of the Universe who gave Himself up for us.
But when I think about that very first Easter, I think it would have been impossible to shake the overwhelming experience that the followers of Jesus witnessed so long ago. After walking, talking, and eating with Jesus daily, it would have been so jarring to have Him suddenly gone from the ebb and flow of everyday life together. My mind is especially drawn to Mary Magdalene, grieving in the garden after Jesus died.
Here was a woman whose life had been completely transformed by the love of Jesus. She had once been demon-possessed, outcast, and abused by society…until Jesus. He healed her miraculously, restoring her health, her dignity, and her worth. From the moment of her transformation, she followed Him, helping fund His ministry and spreading the good news that the long-awaited Messiah was here to set free the captives and bind up the brokenhearted, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. She trusted and loved Jesus with her whole heart, mind, and soul. (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-3)
I can’t imagine her heartache as she knelt in the garden next to His tomb the day after he had been so cruelly killed. The depth of sorrow she must have felt would be overwhelming. The Lamb of God had been sacrificed for the sin of the world, for all our sin.
There would be so much she couldn’t know yet, and I think that would have been the hardest part. Not knowing how to make sense of all she had seen and experienced. Not knowing what the future would hold. Maybe there was part of her still holding her breath, hoping for just one more miracle.
As she walked again to His tomb the next day, I imagine she had scarcely begun to allow herself to accept that He was gone, when she discovered that the tomb was empty.
As she sobs by Jesus’ empty tomb, fearing that His body had been taken and that the only part of Jesus she had left was now truly gone, He appears, risen, alive and radiant! The miracle she had been hoping for had come. In her weariness and grief, she doesn’t recognize Him, until she hears Jesus’ voice calling her by name, “Mary.” (John 20:11-16)
Doesn’t that just give you chills? I can’t wait to hear Jesus say my name someday. I think it will be the prettiest my name has ever sounded.
The moment Mary hears His voice she knows the miracle has come. Jesus is alive and standing before her, comforting her in her grief and dispelling every fear in her heart.
What Jesus says next is nothing short of incredible. He commissions Mary to go and tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead–to give testimony of what she had just seen and experienced.
He commissions Mary, a woman with a messy past, tear-stained cheeks, and eyes wide and wild with hope, to be the first gospel-bearer.
Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells her that she is family now, saying, “I’m going to my Father, and your father, to my God and your God.” She is now a co-heir with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In one moment, Mary goes from despair to laying hold of a hope and a future that is unshakable. (John 20:17)
I don’t know what else Jesus and Mary may have spoken about between verses 17 and 18. But what we do see is that in the very next verse, Mary sets out on her mission. If I were Mary, my legs wouldn’t be able to carry me fast enough.
I can only imagine that she burst into the room where the disciples were gathered, out of breath, and overjoyed when she shouted, “I have seen the Lord!”
I would love to have witnessed firsthand Mary telling the disciples about seeing the resurrected Jesus. I can almost picture the joy spreading like a sunbeam across the disciples’ faces as the reality sets in that Jesus is alive. Death and sin have been defeated and eternal life with Him is now available to all people, for all time. (John 20:18)
What Mary had experienced in the garden was incredible, but what was more important was that she shared it. She told everyone about what Jesus had done in her life and in the lives of those around her. She didn’t hold back but leaned into Jesus in her story. And because she was there through it all with Him, we have the benefit of knowing about it today.
Maybe you’ve had a moment like Mary, standing before the empty tomb, overwhelmed by despair, hoping for a miracle. Maybe you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pay the bills and buy groceries, or you’re waiting for a breakthrough with a child who is struggling just to get through the day. Perhaps it’s a marriage that is hanging on by a thread and you just can’t see how you’ll survive one more argument, or a health crisis that makes it hard to even get out of bed each day.
There are so many things in this life that can threaten to overtake us. But just like in the garden, Jesus always shows up. He never fails to come through. And we have the same divine invitation now that Mary did then: to stand with the empty grave behind us and behold the Risen Savior before us.
We can have confident hope that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and empowers us to live out our purpose in Him. We are co-heirs with Christ, renewed by His love, redeemed, cleansed, and sanctified by His ultimate sacrifice.
That means that even if you are waiting for your miracle, praying for Jesus to show up in the middle of your mess, you can have hope. He never leaves us in our brokenness, but rather runs to meet us there, to love us and comfort us, and then calls us forward in faith to new life with Him.
So even though the Easter decorations are put away, and the daily hustle and bustle of life has resumed, my calling and commission, my purpose is the same: to be a Gospel Bearer. To tell of Christ crucified and raised again, and to share how He has written and redeemed my story. And like Mary Magdalene, once you’ve experienced the love of Jesus, you can’t help but shout, eyes wide and wild with hope, “I have seen the Lord!”