Early in the morning she is on her way to the cemetery, to the place where he was laid to rest. What is going through her mind as she makes her way to his grave?
Maybe she is blaming herself. Reliving the last few days or even years to try to figure what she might have done to cause his death or what she might have done to prevent it. Painstakingly, she examines her words, her actions trying to find a clue to help her understand why this has happened. What could she have done that would cause things to turn out differently?
Perhaps she is too scared to be thinking of what she might have done or not done, said or not said. Maybe she is concerned for her own safety. After all, he is dead. Will they stop with him or will they come after those who followed him? If she is afraid, her fear is not enough to keep from going to where he is buried. Others may be too frightened to venture out, but not her. Fear or no fear, she will go to him.
She may well be numb. Grief does that sometimes, just leaves a person mercifully numb. With the immense tragedy of the loss floating somewhere beyond the reaches of her mind, she puts one foot in front of the other. At least, she is moving. One step at a time, she goes to him. What will she do when she gets there? Cry some more. Who knows? All she can handle right now is putting one foot in front of the other. She will figure the rest out when the time comes.
She does get there. They all have her there on that first Easter morning, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Some of the details and characters vary, but each of them place Mary Magdalene at the tomb of her Lord that morning.
Weeping outside the tomb she hears a voice. He calls her name. In that moment the first Easter sermon gets written. Later she will proclaim to the others, “I have seen the Lord!”
Every sermon preached this Sunday will in some way expand on what Mary said that first Easter morning. No doubt, they will be longer than hers. Filled out with illustrations and a poem or two they will be meaningless without the truth of her first Easter sermon. If her words are not true, there is no church. A movement that gave hope, healing and meaning to a good many people merely fades into annals of time. Without the truth of her words, all that could be said is that a good man died. The same thing could be said of many good men and good women over the last 2000 years. Their names are in history books and they are remembered from time to time.
However, because of the truth of her witness, people don’t just think about Jesus from time to time. Some people think of him every day. Some gather weekly with others to worship him. A good many more find their way to a sanctuary each year to celebrate Christmas and Easter. All the words in all the years since that resurrection morning spoken in all the places were the name of Jesus has been praised are preceded by Mary’s simple, yet earth changing message, “I have seen the Lord.”
I know that there are those who would say that five words do not make a sermon. Yet, on that first Easter morning those five words are the best preachin’ available. If that is all the preaching that happens on the first Easter, some may wonder why God did not arrange the order of things so that those words come from the mouth of a man rather than Mary’s. If God did not want women to preach, then why is it that on the most significant day in Christian history the most significant message in Christian history, along with specific instructions to deliver it is given to a woman?
The question arises “How do women preachers dress?” Well, the first one dressed like a grief stricken soul whose deep sadness was turned to great joy. Cloaked in numbing sorrow, she was wearing resurrection life before she was finished. This is to say that what a woman wears when she is proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not really the point at all. The point is that she has had an experience with the risen Lord, an experience so real, so life-changing that she cannot help but tell others.
May the church that bears his name have ears to hear the words of his servants, male and female, as Mary’s sermon gets reused again.