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Forgiven Much

Updated: Mar 17

The morning air was cold as she walked. The sun was beginning to peak over the hill, casting a pink glow on the horizon. Mary glanced at her friends walking beside her and pulled her robe a little closer. They had risen early from a sleepless night spent talking and planning. The events of the last few days left them raw with grief and fear, unable to grasp the reality of what happened. Somewhere deep inside her heart, Mary clung to the belief that it would all be okay, that the words he spoke were true, and God’s kingdom was here. She could not reconcile that thought, however, with the reality of things so she kept it buried, silent. Jesus was dead, the enemy had won, and all his followers were scattered and in hiding. She knew his disciples would soon follow him to the grave, and maybe even herself. It was not forbidden or unusual for a woman to be crucified in Judea. As disturbing and urgent as these thoughts were, a bigger thought kept crowding in. How will we roll the stone away?


As they approached the tomb, Mary bristled from the chill and the rising fear of the Roman soldiers. Even though he was not a Roman citizen they were keeping watch, guarding his grave against robbers and thieves. Would they let her pass? Would they let her by? The thought that they may not gripped her heart tighter than any other fear, for she had to see him, had to tend his broken body. She closed her eyes as the tears ran down her face. She could not bear the thought of not preparing his body for burial. Who else but her and these women should do it? The disciples who fled? They could not watch him die, how could they now care for him after death? She and the other women had stayed at the cross and watched and waited. Why, she wasn’t sure, except she couldn’t let him die surrounded by enemies. She needed to be with him, could not be separated from him, even in death.


As she came into the clearing the ground began to shake and Mary held onto her friends. Her heart pounded as she fought to keep her balance. The earth rumbled and rolled violently beneath her, just as it did the day he died. Then suddenly it was over, and everything was calm. She closed her eyes to steady her breathing and felt the crisp morning air cool the perspiration on her brow. When she opened them again she saw her friends staring. She followed their gaze and saw the Roman Guard, their faces pale and motionless. Mary turned to see what their stunned eyes were looking at and immediately noticed the gaping hole where the stone had been.


Panic rose in her heart as a sickening thought crept into her mind. They have taken him! She ran as fast as her feet would take her, her friends following quickly behind her. She nearly stumbled, and she wasn’t sure where she was going at first, but she had to run for help. Panting, she ran down the path she had just come from and into the streets of Jerusalem until she reached the door she was looking for. Standing outside she tried to catch her breath before knocking, but could not wait. She pounded on the door and ran past the man who answered into the back room. It was dark compared to the morning brightness and she stopped to let her eyes adjust. Two men looked up in surprise, then rose to greet her. “Mary, what’s wrong?”, one asked. She tried to calm her ragged breathing, and pointed her hand toward the tomb. Mary grabbed Peter’s arm and exclaimed, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him!” (John 20:2)


John and Peter glanced at each other and then quickly back at Mary. There was no need for further explanation or questions. Peter rushed from the room and out the door, running at full speed. John followed behind, gaining with each step. When she got outside, Mary saw the other women and together they all ran back to the tomb. The panic still gripped her as thoughts of his desecration ran through her mind. What have they done to him? How would she find him? As she approached the tomb once again, Mary saw Peter rush past John, who had taken the lead, and disappear into the dark hole. Despair finally overtook her and she stood outside the tomb weeping. The familiar voices whispered to her and she no longer had the energy to rebuke them. “It was all a lie”, they said. “He couldn’t save you. He couldn’t even save himself! You belong to us and you know it. Why do you fight us? There is no hope, there is no freedom. You are going to die!” Mary shook her head but said nothing. Her deliverance was real, she thought. I am free! ‘If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!’ Jesus had said it and Mary fought to believe it, even as the demons laughed.


Standing by the empty tomb, Mary continued to wrestle with the demons of her past. Deep in her soul the hope she had been holding onto was beginning to weaken. What if they are right? What if it was all a lie? But if it was a lie, how had he delivered her? He must be the Messiah. He had done what no one else could do- make the demons go away. For so long she had lived with the torment, terror and lack of control over her own body, mind and soul. For so long she had burned with hatred and rage. But then he was there. He looked at her and saw past the woman crushed by sin and the evil living inside of her. Jesus looked into Mary’s eyes with love, compassion and forgiveness. She did not know the God of her people, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until the day she met Jesus. In a moment he took away the demons, but more importantly he forgave her and took away her shame. No longer was she a slave to sin, but a humble servant of her Savior, and after that moment of change Mary never left his side. But today he was gone and she didn’t know how to find him.


Mary looked up and saw Peter and John running away, neither saying a word. Mary leaned into the tomb to see for herself and gasped. Sitting where Jesus’ body had been were two angels. She looked around for Jesus but he was not there. Her heart instantly sank. Where is he? She looked at the two men, so bright she could hardly make out their forms. “Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:12-13)


In her grief, Mary turned to leave. He wasn’t there, and even the host of heaven could not help her now. She turned and nearly bumped into the gardener. He stepped aside to let her pass and Mary walked by without looking up. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Mary stopped in her tracks and looked at the man. Could he have moved her Lord? She had to know. “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15)


Mary waited for the man to answer, but he just looked at her. Perhaps he was wondering how she could move a dead body and the 70 pounds of burial herbs along with it? After several moments of waiting she sighed and turned to go. He didn’t know, or at least he wasn’t willing to tell her. The sorrow and despair, which threatened to overwhelm her a few moments ago washed over her anew.


“Mary!”


She heard his voice and instantly recognized it. A chill ran down her spine and she reeled around to look at him. “Teacher”, she exclaimed. Mary reached out her arms for him and her knees buckled. She fell at his feet and wrapped her arms around his legs, as if to keep him from getting away. She could not believe it was Jesus, her mind could not grasp how he was standing here now, when only days ago she watched him die on the cross. She knew it wasn’t possible, but hadn’t he already proven he was capable of the impossible? Mary was jolted from her thoughts by Jesus. “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father but go to My brethren to say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.’” (John 20:12-17)


Mary slowly pulled herself away and stood up. The tears streamed down her face as she realized he was sending her away. “I want to stay with you”, she whispered. Jesus looked into Mary’s eyes for a long moment and she felt safe again. It was really him, and he was really there, and all the fears and that plagued her were melting away. “I know”, he said. “But I have a task for you to do.” Mary shook her head in agreement and forced herself to walk away. As she did, she turned back for one more look. Jesus was gone. A pang of sadness gripped her, but lasted only a moment. Joy pushed it aside and filled her heart. He was alive! Her Savior was alive, and had come to her and everything would be alright again. Mary did not know what the future held for any of them, but she knew one thing with a certainty that surprised even herself. Jesus was God, he loved her, he freed her and she would never be the same again.



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