There are so many wonderful accounts in the Scripture of Jesus’ resurrection. How about the one in Matthew 27:52-53 when after Jesus resurrection God brought to life many believers who lived near and in Jerusalem? It is one thing to hear that Jesus had just risen from the grave, but quite another to see those who had died walking around this great city and appearing to many. I wrote an entire message on this a few years ago; if you are interested in reading it let me know and I will send it to you. But the account that has always had my heart over the years at Easter is Mary’s response to Jesus’ reappearance. Her reaction is mentioned in all four Gospels; John 20 is the chapter on which I will focus.
Now this was not the Mary whom the Lord ministered to by raising her brother Lazareth from the grave a few days earlier. It was not Mary the mother of Jesus, who birthed and raised Him. It was also not the other Mary at the grave who was the mother of James and John. Rather it was Mary Magdalene who Jesus cast seven demons out of early in His ministry. When He met her she was being tormented, pestered, and made to suffer by a group of seven demons, that is, until Jesus stepped in and cast them out. By the way, there is no Scriptural evidence Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute, but only a woman who had lost control of her life to a bunch of rotten demons (Luke 8:2). After being freed from such a miserable affliction you can imagine what she thought of Jesus. You can also imagine what she must have felt when she saw Him arrested, tortured, beaten, and put on the cross; perhaps a great deal of despair, loss, hopelessness, and even a renewed fear that the demons might return again.
Nevertheless, Mary made her way to Jesus’ tomb after His death and burial to anoint His body with myrrh and other funeral ointments. As she approached, it was open! How can this be? Not really knowing what to do Mary immediately runs and tells Peter and John who run to the tomb as fast as they can. She runs too, crying all the way. But when she arrives she waits outside until they have left. Then she cautiously looks inside and sees Jesus’ burial clothes strewn across the floor in disarray, with only His face cloth neatly folded up on the stone where Jesus had laid.
Before she can make sense out of this, she sees two angels, one at the foot and one at the head where Jesus was lying. She says nothing, but only weeps and weeps. The angels see and say to her, “Why are you crying?” Mary says, “They have taken Him and I don’t know where they have laid Him.” Then suddenly she hears a voice of someone behind her, who is also asking her why she is crying so? Again she says, with so many tears running down her face that she can hardly control them, “Where have you laid Him?” A moment of silence passes, and then that voice cries out, “Mary!” Immediately she realizes the voice is that of Jesus who had spoken to her so many times before. All she can say in astonishment is, “Teacher.” Of course she wants to cling to Him, but Jesus says, “That’s for heaven, but for now go and tell the rest of the disciples I have risen.” And she does, and cries all the way back in search of them, but this time her tears are of absolute joy and not sorrow.
And what of the neatly folded face cloth seen that morning amidst Jesus scattered burial clothes? Why was it not just thrown on the ground too? Maybe the reason is there was a message in that folded cloth too that Jesus left. One we should all take to heart, just as Mary took to heart Jesus that morning.
You see in the Hebrew culture a folded cloth had particular meaning. It had to do with the master of a household, or father, and the one serving dinner. As the tradition went, of which all Jewish children knew, the one serving was to set the table according to the father’s direction. When the meal began, nothing was to be removed from the table until he was finished. Now, when the father was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth. Clean his beard with a face cloth, and then wad it up and toss it onto the table. When this happened the one serving the dinner was free to clear the table. So, in those days, a wadded face cloth meant, “I’m done.” But if the father got up from the table, and folded the cloth and laid it beside his plate, the one serving the dinner would not clear the table because the folded cloth meant, “I’m not finished, and I’m coming back!”
In respect to this well-known custom, maybe just maybe what Jesus was saying when He rolled up His facial cloth and neatly put it back on the stone bed in His tomb, was, “I am not finished, for I will return,” which is exactly what Scripture says He will do one day. (I Thessalonians 4:16-18)
And so like the tears of joy Mary Magdalene shed when leaving the tomb the second time, so will our tears of joy be when Jesus comes again, and says, “Why are you weeping? I’m back.”
Have a great Easter, and get ready for His return as much as you can, for the cloth is still folded, He is coming back!
John 20: 1-18 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb
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. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And 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.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (Which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Luke 8:1-2 1 Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and nesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
I Thessalonians 4:16-18 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.