Every single one of us follows someone. Who do you follow? Who do you look up to and want to be like? If you are interested in Jazz; maybe it is a jazz artist or a combination of artists. If you want to be well liked, maybe it is the smile of this friend, the “cool” of that one and the generosity of a third. We humans don’t know what we want to be and so we look around and find people, whether we know this or not, who we decide to follow.
Mary Magdalene had been a follower of Jesus. She had deeply admired him and he had pulled her out of a pit. She thought he was someone she could trust, depend on and who would always be there for her. He was a really good friend to whom she could tell her darkest secrets and deepest fears and he would understand. Just knowing he was around had given her great comfort.
But some terrible things had happened. Almost everybody turned on Jesus, tortured him in a horrible way, mocked him and spat on him and then they murdered him. They executed him publicly outside the city where everybody could see and feel the awfulness of it. Mary Magdalene could not believe that they had done this to her friend, her teacher, her spiritual leader. It wasn’t fair! He never did anything bad. He was always so gentle and never a bully. Why had they done it? He was innocent! He wasn’t guilty!
Have you ever seen a friend go through something horrible and you knew it wasn’t fair? You knew that your friend didn’t deserve it. If you have, you know how Mary Magdalene felt. And this was the most awful, awful thing you could ever image. It was gross. It made your stomach sick.
On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene was still trying to deal with this terrible thing that had happened. She couldn’t sleep and so she got up early while it was still dark and went to the cemetery where Jesus had been buried in a cave.
When she got there she noticed something very strange. The huge stone that had been covering the entrance to the cave was rolled to the side. So many strange things had been happening. What was going on? Not even dead bodies could be counted on to remain buried. Somebody had gotten into the tomb and stolen the body of Jesus her friend. Now she didn’t even have the burial place to comfort her. Even the body was gone!
In anguish and terror she ran to the disciples, woke them up and cried, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know have they have laid him.” The disciples became alarmed and Peter and another disciple ran back to the cemetery with Mary Magdalene. The other disciple got there first and looked in. There was the linen cloth that had wrapped Jesus’ body lying on the floor of the cave. When Peter got there, he went in. He too saw the body wrappings on the floor and noticed that the head cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was neatly folded and put in another place by itself.
The other disciple, whose name has never been told but who is described as the one Jesus loved, than came all the way in with Peter. This disciple, who ever it was, got it. The resurrection light first dawned on him. He saw the morning light peak over the mountain first. Our text from John says, “He saw and believed.” He was the first to understand that all of Old Testament scripture had pointed to this all along and that Jesus was the Son of God who had risen from the dead.
Strangely, the two disciples, according to our text, having seen this, then go home. They leave Mary Magdalene there crying. I don’t know why they do this. As she is weeping she decides to bend over and look into the tomb herself. She is astounded to see two angels sitting in the cave, one where the head of Jesus had lain and the other where his feet had been. They say, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Immediately she turns around and there stands Jesus but with her eyes full of tears she does not recognize him. He gently asks her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thinks he is the cemetery grounds keeper and replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She wants to find his body so that she can carry it away and bury it properly.
She has accepted his death and is ready to bury him when he says, “Mary!” He calls her “Mary.” He has called her name. He is alive. She can still follow him. Her hopes and dreams and yearnings have not been shattered by the cruelty of the world. He is alive after all. How can this be? Dare she believe it?
She turns toward him and in Hebrew says “Rabbouni!” which means teacher. The one she had decided to follow has been returned to her and now he is beyond death. Nothing can separate them—not even death for now there is no death. Death has been overcome. This is the One she can follow forever—to her own deathless death and beyond it.
But he tells her she is not to stay there holding on to him. She has work to do. He has a task for her. Her life will have meaning out in the world. He makes her a theologian by telling her that she is to tell Jesus’ brothers, his disciples, what has happened. Tell them, he says, “that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
And Mary Magdalene did that. She “went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Today, all over the world and particularly in Europe there are churches named after Mary Magdalene. Jesus called her name. Has Jesus called your name? I think he has and if he has I urge you, follow him. Your life will be an adventure.