“But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping: so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beholdeth two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her: Woman, why weepest thou ? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him....Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?.... John 20:11-17
Standing at the open mouth of the grave of her Lord, Who had taken captivity captive! She weeps here at the open grave from whence, at this very moment, no doubt, the other Galilean women were hastening to the disciples and brethren, with fear and great joy, to tell the glad gospel story of the resurrection of Jesus, the crucified one!
How utterly incongruous! How this marvelous fact of the glorious resurrection, which shall turn all our sorrows into eternal and abiding joys, is hid from the weeping eyes of Mary!
The mighty angel of the Lord had suddenly descended from heaven not long prior to this time; he had rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb, and had sat upon it; he had proclaimed the Word of peace to the woman, telling them: Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, the crucified one. He is not here but is risen, come see the place where the Lord has lain.
And Jesus Himself had appeared to the hastening women on the way, telling them to go and tell the glad tidings to His brethren....
But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping at such a time as this.
It is the time when all the prisoners are set free, death rejoice in victorious hope, and when all the when they who dwell in the valley of the shadow of angels of God worship Jesus, the first begotten from the dead, saying: Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels lift up their glad voices and chant and sing in joyful lays at this very moment. Is it the moment, that believing Abraham, and all the patriarchs with and after him, saw afar, and....rejoiced!
It is the time to which we, as the New Testament saints from Gentile lands, look back and see and confess that we have born anew unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because of this glad day of all days we gather on each first day of the week and sing a new song, saying unto our Lord and King: Worthy art Thou Lord Jesus, Thou faithful Witness, Thou firstborn of the dead, and Thou ruler of the kings of the earth to receive the Kingdom of David, our father, forever!
But Mary was standing at the tomb weeping.
At such a time as this....
Woman, why weepest thou?
My Lord it was! saith weeping Mary.
Him, they have taken. And I know not where they have placed Him....
He, the Lord, Who had the power to cast out the demons out of me, a poor, sinful and wretched woman. Seven devils had gone forth from Mary Magdalene. Her soul, which had been possessed by demons had been set free from these powers of hell. Joy and gladness had again become the cherished portion of this liberated Mary of Magdala. And for the joy of this great salvation from the very power of the devil, Mary, together with other women of whom Jesus had been the beneficent liberator from sicknesses and demon possession, was ever afterward ministering to the wants of Jesus from their substance.
O, let it never be forgotten, that from that moment life had taken on a new meaning for this Mary of Magdala. In a sense, she had ceased to live, and all her life was now wrapped up in her Lord and liberator, as she understood Him.
Her soul cleaved to Jesus. Nothing was ever to separate her again from His love. In Him she had a glad future. From now on all would be well. And, what is more, nothing would ever disturb it....
But things had begun to change. Jesus had set His face to go to Jerusalem. And when they were on the way, Jesus had walked in silence before them, so silent and awful in the trouble of His soul, that the disciples and the Galilean women had become deeply disturbed.
Ah, but this shall never happen to Him, what He had told them, taking them aside by the way, namely, that the Son of Man would go up to Jerusalem to be delivered into the hands of the elders, scribes and chief priests; that He will be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, be mocked, scourged, condemned to death, be crucified....
But the impossible had happened!
Oh, Mary had seen the cruel crucifixion. Had not she and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary the wife of Cleopas, stood beside the cross early in the day, before the three hours of darkness had fallen over all the earth. And had she not stood, with all the Galilean women and with all the acquaintances of Jesus, from afar, yet as near as they dared, when the Roman soldiers bring the vinegar to Jesus' parched throat and tongue, and He, her Lord, had said: I thirst? And had she not heard Him cry with a loud voice: Father into Thy hand I commit my spirit?!
And then, Jesus, her Lord, had bowed His head and died. And the kind hands of Joseph of Arimathea and of Nicodemus, both men from the Sanhedrin, yet believers true, had taken Jesus from the cross, and had buried Him in the tomb where never before the dead had lain. And again, had not Mary been present on this day of awful events to the very end. Had not she and the other Mary observed the burial of Jesus, observed how the body was placed tenderly in the grave by loving and believing hands? And, then, while the sun sank in the west and the Sabbath drew nigh, had not Mary of Magdala and the other "Mary sat down over against the tomb....
Too much had happened in one day for Mary to be able to see it all in its proper light. And, pray, how could she understand it all? But one thing is certain, Mary's Lord was not cast forth as an accursed one to defile the land, or to be eaten by the dogs as a Jezebel, but He had had the honorable burial of the Kings.
Assured that all was well, and that the body of Jesus was tenderly placed in the grave, Mary Magdalene had returned to the holy city to rest, according to the commandment.
But Mary's love and devotion must find its fit expression in the anointing of Jesus. So early in the morning, while the first break of the dawn is on the eastern horizon, Mary hastens with the other women to the sepulcher. And when they arrive Mary sees the stone removed and concludes, that the grave has been broken open by the enemies, and that the body of Jesus, her Lord, had been stolen. She had ran and told this erroneous report to Peter and John saying: They have taken the Lord out of the sepulcher and we know not where they have placed Him....
John and Peter had hastened to see what had happened. John had seen the clothing and believed. Peter had gone out thinking about all these things. The women, in the meanwhile, had heard the report from the angel, had met Jesus on the way, and were now hastening to tell the Good News to the brethren.
But Mary was disconsolate.
She is like the woman in the Song of Songs, who pours out her heart in disconsolate strains, saying: By night on my bed, I sought Him whom my soul loveth: I sought Him, but I found Him not....The watchmen that go about the city found me; to whom I said, Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?
My Lord have they taken, and I know not where they have placed Him. Disconsolate Mary, too distracted by grief and woe to have noticed that the night is past and that the day has come....
Whom seeketh thou?
Turn thee about, and let thy soul live.
I adjure thee, O Daughter of Jerusalem above, by the roes and hinds of the field, look behind thee.
And weep no more!
Thus it is that Jesus addresses this daughter from the city of Magdala. And the sound of Jesus' voice, calling her name, awakened in her a joyful recognition.
Oh, the intense happiness of that moment for Mary.
Joyful and spontaneous she replies in mutual love: Rabboni!
Her Lord and Savior she has found. He has come to awaken her out of the grief, that will not be comforted. Only the finding of her Savior can satisfy the panting longing of her disquieted and disconsolate soul....
But here is far more. Here is more than mere finding. Here is instruction of love!
Mary must learn the lesson that her Lord had not been stolen at all. Cruel and ruthless hands and loveless souls who mocked all her love, had not taken away her Lord at all. The conclusion at which she had jumped an hour earlier at the grave was not true at all, Her report to Peter and John had been wholly erroneous and contrary to the glad fact of the resurrection.
In that one glad moment all the mist had rolled away from before the tear-filled eyes of this beloved daughter of Jerusalem. Her lover had not forgotten. In tender and saving love He comes to greet her as the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.
All her sorrow is turned to joy, and her tears shall be wiped from her eyes. But in this glad moment she must learn the full truth of all that has come to pass, in this sorrow that endureth for the night but which is followed by the joy that cometh in the morning.
Touch me not, Mary. . . .
Ah, do not be disappointed, my beloved sister. It is no reason for sorrow but rather for joy that you must not touch me, not cling to me, not will to hold me fast, in attempting to keep me here forever at thy side.
It is profitable for you that I go up to the Father at His right hand.
Remember how, when I was with you, I spoke to you of these things. I will surely go to the Father. I go to prepare a place for you and for all thy fair sisters, for they are virgins. I have cleansed you, my beloved, in my perfect sacrifice on the cross. I have not yet gone up, but I go up.
Presently when I shall have gone up, then you may see your desire fulfilled....
Then shall thou, and all of the church, be beautiful upon the mountains of Zion and Jerusalem, O princes daughter, thou whose body is like a round goblin, wherein no mingled wine is wanting, thou whose waist is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies....
Touch me not, Mary!
Go tell my brethren!
Stay not thy feet upon the way to the city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt! Hasten upon thy way, fairest maiden, and bring the tidings of the bridegroom.
Tell them, that I am passing through.
Ah, tell them, that the king's business requireth haste.
Nay, my being for three days and three nights in the heart of the earth was not a slackening of the pace of the great love, that brings all mine own elect to the great day of my coming. Behold I come quickly. I will, that ye all may presently be where I am, and that ye may behold my glory! Even in the moment of your great sorrow I hastened through the pangs of death. And, listen, my beloved brethren, death has been swallowed up to victory. Death did not swallow me up, but it became the womb of the morning! Day is born out of night, thy day star from on high has arisen out of the depths of darkness.
Oh, jealousy is cruel as Sheol, but love is as strong as death. The flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of Jehovah. Many waters cannot quench my love, neither can floods drown it....
Tell it to my brethren.
Tell it to them, whom I am not ashamed to call my brethren. I, indeed, came to become partaker of your flesh and blood, that I might conquer him, who had the might of death, that is the arch foe, Satan. He would quench my love for you. He has poured all the waters of his fury and wrath over my soul. He has laughed at me in the depths of Sheol. Oh; his jealousy was cruel, his cunning was great. But many waters did not quench my love for you....
I am going up.
All is for your profit.
I shall come again to receive you unto myself in the glory of our Father and of our God....
Then shall it be said: thou that dwellest in the gardens, thy companions hearken for thy voice: cause me to hear it.
Make haste, My Beloved....
Tell, my brethren!
Rev. George Lubbers (1909-2001) was born in Blendon Township, MI on August 6, 1909. He graduated from the Protestant Reformed Seminary in 1934 and was ordained in September of that year. He served in the following churches:
Doon, Iowa (1934-1937)
Pella, Iowa (1937-1943)
Randolph, Wisconsin (1944-1950)
Creston, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1950-1954)
Home Missionary (1954-1964)
Southwest, Wyoming, Michigan (1964-1970)
Missionary in Jamaica (1970-1975)
Pella, Iowa (1975-1978)
He was taken home to be with his Lord on April 13, 2001.