Apostle to the Apostles

It is absolutely clear from all four Gospels that women were the first to discover the empty tomb! In Matthew, it is Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary. In Mark it is Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. In Luke it is  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women.” And in John, it’s Mary Magdalene alone. So…who’s the common figure here? Mary Magdalene!

No wonder the Orthodox regard her as a disciple, even “Apostle to the Apostles,” and venerate her as the patron saint of the great cluster of monasteries on Mount Athos.

One thing is clear from the Gospel accounts: the men had fled! The “twelve” who were supposed to make up some kind of inner circle had betrayed him and left him to face torture and crucifixion alone (only the young John may have made it to the foot of the cross to stand with Jesus’ mother). It was the women disciples, chief among them apparently Mary Magdalene, who risked being associated with him still further even after his execution at the hands of the state by going to the tomb.

Even after dragging Peter there to witness the emptiness of the tomb, that was all he experienced at first – emptiness — and he returned home without pursuing it further. Luke tells us that the 12 initially considered the report of an empty tomb “an idle tale.” But Mary wouldn’t give up! She went back to the tomb, weeping. I’ve never been sure if she was weeping because of her grief at the loss of Jesus or her grief at the loss of nerve of the 12! But she wouldn’t give up! She peered once again, even deeper this time, into the tomb and when she turned around, she encountered the Risen Christ!

Not that she recognized him right away. At first she thought it was the gardener. But he spoke her name and immediately she knew who he was! Not a Jesus who had somehow escaped death. Not some kind of resuscitated corpse. But a wonderfully transfigured and transformed Teacher who was being taken up into the life of God 

“Do not hold on to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” And this time, she was able to tell the 12 – not only that the tomb was empty, but “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

Surely Mary Magdalene’s journey must be ours this Easter season. Not to be content with the Easter morning vision of an empty tomb. But to return to it again and again, persistently, peering into it, ever more deeply. Until we hear him call us by name. And send us forth as his witnesses! Apostles to future apostles!

Like Mary…first at the tomb!


One Response to “Apostle to the Apostles”

  1. Awdry Ely Says:

    ‘To return again and again’ yes – a very helpful thought for Easter.

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