Easter - April 5, 2015 ______________________________________________________________________________
a single verse of scripture – Psalm 30: 11 – David set out a word picture that
is astounding in terms of the contrast portrayed. On the one hand we have a
picture of wild, uncontrolled, and gut wrenching lamentation, sorrow, and
mourning. In that same picture we see a wardrobe: bleak, dark, and black
garments – the wardrobe of death and the grieving associated with it. That’s
the first picture.
second picture is that of a dancer engaged in the activity of dancing. But it
is vital to catch the spirit or nature of this dancing: it is wild,
unrestricted, bursting with enthusiasm. It is – as Peterson stated it –
‘swirling dance.’ And note also there has been a change of wardrobe: the bleak,
dark, and black garments have been replaced with the clothes of gladness, joy,
happiness, rejoicing, and celebration – depending on the translation. One can
only assume that these were vibrant, multicoloured garments.
the first picture we have a mourner who is beyond the reach of any comfort. In
the second picture we have a dancer who is so giddy with joy and gladness that she
cannot be touched or influenced by mourning. But here is the final amazing
wonder of this picture – David is not referring to two different people; he’s
describing the same person. The mourner is the dancer; the dancer is the
I looked upon and into this word picture of the Psalmist I asked one simple
question: What can transport a person from this depth of mourning to an even
greater height of joy? What can transform such a mourner into such a dancer?
only answer is – in a single word – EASTER!
the record of the New Testament there are at least five Marys who pass before
us. It is not always easy to keep them properly sorted out. On this Easter
Sunday morning I want us to look again at one of those Marys, and in her we
will see the portrait that David painted with his words. I am speaking, of
course, of Mary Magdalene.
is surprising how little the record actually reports of this woman. We know she
was from a village (small city) located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
named Magdala. The designation Mary Magdalene means Mary of Magdala. We also
know that Christ had delivered her from seven demons. We know that she became
an absolutely devoted follower of Christ. We know she was there at the cross,
standing near to Mary the mother of Christ. We know she remained there until
the body of Christ was taken from the cross. We know she was there when he was
placed in the tomb. We know that she along with the other women bought spices
and oil to prepare the body of Christ for burial. We know that she and those
same women were first at the tomb with the rising sun on that first Easter
made note of the fact that Mary was the last to leave the cross, and the first
to visit the tomb Sunday morning. The purpose of that observation is to
highlight the profound devotion Mary had for Jesus; the depth of her love for
the One who alone was able to deliver her from hopelessness.
cannot be finally proven scripturally and yet is suggested by many writers is
that the woman we meet in the seventh chapter of Luke’s record is Mary
Magdalene – or Mary of Magdala. This is the woman who came into the house of
Simon the Pharisee. Her public reputation was that she was “a sinner.” The city
of Magdala also had a reputation. It was widely known as a place of unbridled
passion and lust; a centre of prostitution.
was just such a woman that came into that house, wept on the feet of Christ,
dried his feet with the hair of her head, and anointed his feet with oil. Simon
the Pharisee was horrified that Christ allowed this “woman of the street” to
touch him much less weep on his feet and dry them with her hair. And, of
course, in that culture, for a woman to appear in public with unbound hair was
a sign of prostitution.
then spoke that profound story of the two debtors; one owing an astronomical
amount of money, the other owing a mere trifle. The master fully forgave each
man his debt. And then came the very revealing question: Which of the two
debtors would love the master the most? And then came the very obvious answer:
the debtor who was forgiven the most would love the master the most. And then
came the heart-revealing lesson: “He who is forgiven little loves little; he who
is forgiven much loves much.”
will never be able to say for certain if the woman in Simon’s house that night
was in fact Mary Magdalene – but here is what we can say with absolute
certainly: The lesson Jesus drove home that night with His story was absolutely
true of Mary: She had been forgiven MUCH and therefore she loved MUCH. And at
no time was this demonstrated with greater poignancy than it was on that first
Easter in the garden. The only way to understand the depth of her mourning is
to first understand the depth of her love and devotion.
is how that first Easter unfolded: A group of women arrive at the tomb at dawn.
They have come to properly prepare the body of Christ for burial. The stone is
rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. They encounter angels. They see the
evidence of a resurrection but are not yet able to come to a solid belief
concerning what they are seeing. They are given a message to take to the
deliver their message. The disciples call it ‘nonsense’ (depending on your
translation). Peter and John decide to investigate. They find the same
evidence. They return confused. This is where John’s record singles Mary
Magdalene out from the rest.
would appear that Mary returned with or immediately after Peter and John
visited the tomb. But rather than going back with them, she remained behind in
the garden. This is where we see the reality of David’s word picture of the
person transported from mourning to dancing.
is peering into the tomb for the second time. She is weeping without shame.
Remember – the depth of her mourning reflects the depth of her love and
devotion. For a second time she has a conversation with angels; she does not
recognize them as angels.
Christ is standing behind her. She hears His voice but fails to recognize His
identity. She is busy explaining her grief and mourning. She is lost in her
loss. And then she hears her name, and with the speaking of her name she
recognizes the voice and falls at the feet of Christ. It was not accidental
that the revelation of the resurrected Christ came with the speaking of her
name. Not only did Christ know her name, but He spoke her name in a manner no
one else could; there was uniqueness in the way He spoke her name that was
known only to Mary. And with that there was no mistaking who this was.
have to hurry to the end of the story. He commissions her with these words –
“...go to my brethren and say to them...” He assigns her a message to be
there we see the wonder, the glory, the indescribable mystery of Easter; it
transforms Mary the mourner into Mary the missionary. Right there we see what
David pictured in Ps.30:11 – the mourner becoming the dancer.
made the journey from the tomb to wherever the disciples were huddled. Let me
ask you: What do you think that journey was like? No matter how many
translations you read it seems none really communicates Mary Magdalene’s
experience. If you put them all together along with some extra Biblical
writings you arrive at a picture of wild dancing – spinning and twirling –
while shouting and singing at the top of her lungs: “I have seen the Lord. He
loss are you mourning right now? It may be a lost relationship, a lost
opportunity, a lost dream, a lost hope, a lost job, a lost ministry; it may be
lost time. In this life there will always be losses. And those losses need to
be properly mourned and grieved. But – and this is the whole point – those
losses must never become the defining reality of our life and experience. And
here’s why in a single word: EASTER!!!
resurrection. Resurrection means reconciliation and restoration; the
reconciliation and restoration of all that was lost and mourned in the journey.
That’s the message of Easter – and living in the reality of Easter we will
always move beyond our mourning and dance our way into our future.