On the first Easter Sunday, Mary, while it is still dark, and after a sleepless night, is up and out of the house to visit the tomb.
As she arrives she finds the stone moved away. Appalled, and certain the body of Jesus has been taken, she runs to get Peter and John and they all return in great haste to the tomb. The men look in, see the spice-laden grave cloth crumpled at one end of the slab where his body had been laid, and the cloth which should have been covering the face of Jesus, folded neatly and left at the other end.
Startled by the sight, but more than that, by what it reveals, Peter and John stumble out of the tomb—and believing, go home.
Mary, distraught at the now double loss of her Lord and friend, hesitates, standing away from the tomb, expecting nothing but emptiness and more grief.
As she approaches and bends down to look into the dark cave, she sees two angels, it dawns on her they are speaking, asking her a question, a ridiculous, senseless, question, “Woman, why are you crying?’
This was nothing like she had been expecting.
Through her tears she sees another figure off to one side, she takes him for the gardener. He asks her the very same question, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’
Almost choking on her words, she asked where he’d put the body of Jesus. The blurred figure called her by name, ‘Mary!’, Mary realises this is her Jesus, and overwhelmed by emotion, she reaches out to gather him close.
Jesus drew back even as he spoke to her. He hadn’t yet ascended to his Father, so she can’t be allowed to cling to him—he told her to go and find his brothers to tell them he is— ‘Ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’
You can read more of this account in The Gospel of John, Chapter 20, Verses 1-18.
As I read through this story one aspect stood out to me more than it ever had before. It was this.
Mary didn’t rush away, but lingered, and because of this she had a significantly different experience.
Mary saw and spoke with angels. She met the newly risen Jesus. She made eye-contact with him in the very same instant she realised who it was she was even setting eyes upon!
She had a conversation with him, and was given an unrepeatable assignment—Jesus told Mary to go and tell the other disciples what had happened, and to pass on his message.
This is no small matter.
Why did Jesus choose to meet Mary, and not Peter and John? These men had always been two of the three he had picked to spend extra time with, yet this time he chooses Mary.
He didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t miss them, and therefore, just ‘make do’ with her. He only ever acts with purpose.
Just an aside, since the 3rd century Mary has been called, ‘The Apostle to The Apostles’. At least in part because she waited and didn’t rush away.
Peter and John missed the angels, the conversation with them, the meeting with Jesus, a conversation with him, maybe even an assignment for them too.
All of this leads me to ask— How much do we miss by not waiting around?
The most fruitful times I have are those times when I linger in worship, or prayer, or bible-reading; soaking in his presence. Staying there is precious, and life-changing.
What might we hear, feel, or see, if we stay for longer?
What might we miss if we choose brevity, and rush to get on with the busyness of the day?
There must be time for long, slow, presence-loving worship, prayer, reading, and thinking.
Also, what might we miss if we rush away after spending time with others? Don’t you find some of the most significant times with people can be when others have left, and conversation changes gear, becoming more open and vulnerable?
As I prepared this post and listened to worship music, there was one particular track which seemed to fit with Mary’s story. I’d love it if you’d spend a little while listening to it, but don’t listen as ‘you’, listen to it from the viewpoint of Mary when she has had this experience of meeting the risen Jesus. I hope you enjoy it.