Easter: Christian joy
St Mary Magdalene
For the Apostles and friends of Jesus, the first Easter day started as a miserable day, but it ended as the happiest day in their whole life.
The empty tomb
Jesus died on the Cross at three o’clock on the afternoon of Good Friday, and by the time Joseph of Arimathaea had got permission from Pontius Pilate to take his body down from the Cross, and Nicodemus had brought the spices and grave bands, the day was nearly over. As a result they had to bury his body rather hurriedly. So Mary Magdalene and the other women who had watched from a distance, made up their minds to return later on to the garden where the tomb was, and to do everything properly. The next day was the Sabbath, when all work was forbidden, and so on the Sunday morning before dawn they made their way there, only to find that the tomb was empty.
At once Mary Magdalene went running back to tell Peter and John the news. They, without waiting, ran to see for themselves, and having done so returned the way they had come. In the meantime Mary Magdalene walked back again to the garden. She was quite sure in her mind what had happened: the enemies of Jesus, out of spite, must have taken his body away. She remembered the last time she had seen him alive – as he hung in agony on the Cross. It was a terrible memory. And now, she thought, not content with having crucified him, they would not even let his poor body rest in peace.
So she stood there weeping in helpless grief, not knowing as yet that the body of her Lord had not been taken away at all, but that he was risen from the dead and his body had changed into a heavenly body and left the grave bands behind. The words of the Psalmist were about to come true for her, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (NRSV, Psalm 30:5), and this was the morning of her joy.