Christ has risen! He is risen indeed!
The testimony of women is an interesting detail in the accounts of the life and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Saint John tells us that a woman was the first witness of the risen Christ. Mark's Gospel also briefly mentions the appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene.
Who was Mary Magdalene? She was not a prostitute, nor was she the wife of Jesus, as many false stories say. Her name refers to her place of origin: Magdala, a village located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the canonical gospels, more than most of the apostles and more than any other woman in the gospels apart from Jesus' family. The Gospel of Saint Luke 8:2–3 lists Mary Magdalene as one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support her ministry "with her means", indicating that she was probably rich. The same passage also states that seven demons had been cast out of her, a statement that is repeated in Mark 16.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke inform us that Mary Magdalene did not come to the tomb alone, but was accompanied by other women that John did not mention. But John knew that Mary Magdalene was not the only woman who came to the empty tomb. We know this from the first person plural verb: "And we don't know where they have put it."
The open tomb was the first evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. The women left before dawn not because they expected the tomb to be empty, but because Jesus' body was hastily buried and they wanted to finish the anointing with aromatic spices. The women were concerned with the stone that sealed the tomb.
Mary Magdalene, in the company of the other women, came into view of the tomb and saw that the heavy stone that fitted into the groove before the opening and served to close the entrance had been removed. The other women stayed behind and investigated the matter more closely, but Mary ran back into town as fast as she could. She first found Simon Pedro and Juan.
Mary Magdalene's message prompted both Peter and John to act quickly. The younger and more agile Juan overtook Pedro and reached the tomb first. But here she couldn't bring herself to investigate more closely. He just crouched down and looked into the tomb. She could make out the linen bandages that had been wrapped around the body, but nothing else. More proof of the resurrection: he immediately knows that what happened in the tomb could not have been the act of thieves. They would have left the body and taken the costly linens and perfumes.
Peter entered the tomb; he looked closely at the burial cloths, making sure of his identity; he also noticed the kerchief, which had been wrapped around the Jesus' head. He noted that this cloth was separate from the other linen wrappings, in a separate place, and that it was folded or rolled. The fact that the kerchief was found rolled apart from the linen cloth indicates that Jesus' body was not carried by unknown persons but was rolled up by the Lord Himself. More evidence of the resurrection.
All these important discoveries were communicated to John, until the latter was finally induced to go in and see the evidence presented in the tomb with his own eyes. It was no doubt quite surprising to find all the cloths laid aside with such apparent care, with no sign of haste, as would have been the case if the sepulcher had been violated and the body stolen. What John saw led him to one conclusion: Jesus had risen.
After Mary informed Peter and John, she must have followed them to the tomb. They must have left before she arrived and most likely took a different path than she did. When Mary arrived, her disciples had already left. As Mary weeps outside the tomb, she becomes aware of the presence of two angels who have been sent as further evidence of her resurrection. The angels ask her, "Why are you crying?"
Mary's response indicates that she also had not understood the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of the necessity of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The risen Christ himself asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" But, Maria still does not believe, confusing Christ with the gardener. At last, she recognized Jesus when he called her by her name.
Today we have much evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like Mary and her disciples, we have the prophecies of the Old Testament, the testimony of the apostles and early Christians, the testimony of the enemies of Christ who could not explain the empty tomb. Also the history of the church and its martyrs. But, the risen Christ also calls us by name in baptism and we have the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Christ lives, the Word of God lives and the Holy Spirit is active in the proclamation of the Gospel and the sacraments.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you now and forever. Hallelujah! Amen.
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