When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
Sabbath ended at sundown; thus, the women bought spices on Saturday evening and headed for the tomb the next morning. No one gospel writer lists all the women who came to the tomb but we know from reading all four Gospels that there were at least six. Mary Magdalene is listed first in each gospel.
The remaining women were the “other” Mary (Matthew 28:1), who was the mother of Joseph and James (15:47; 16:1; Luke 24:10); Joanna (Luke 24:10); Salome (16:1); and at least two other unnamed women (Luke 24:10). The mother of Jesus didn’t come to the tomb, no doubt too grief-stricken to make the effort.
Some of these women could have come from different directions, at even slightly different times, which would explain the varieties in details of that morning among the gospel writers.
But let us focus on Mary Magdalene. Here is what we know about her.
She was a leader. Even as Peter’s name is always listed first when the Twelve are mentioned, so also Mary Magdalene’s name is always first when listed with other women except for the one time she is listed at the cross with Mary (the mother of Jesus) and her sister (Mary, the wife of Clopas, John 19:25).
She had suffered greatly until Jesus delivered her from seven demons; thereafter, she became a loyal follower of Jesus who with other women helped support Jesus and His disciples from their own means (Luke 8:3). The fact that Mary Magdalene could financially support Jesus tells us that she was a woman with some degree of wealth and independence. Like millions of other women through the centuries, she made her time and resources available to Jesus.
She evidently was a go-between for two groups of women at the cross—being listed near Jesus (John 19:15) and those women who were watching from a distance (Matthew 27:55–56). We are left to assume, from a comparison of the Gospels, that she stood with each group at different times.
Finally, Mary Magdalene’s love and loyalty is shown not only by her presence at the cross, but as a witness to the placement of the body in the tomb (Matthew 27:61) and her presence at the tomb on resurrection morning. A poet said of her:
Not she with traitorous kiss her Master stung,
Not she denied Him with unfaithful tongue;
She, when Apostles fled, could dangers brave,
Last at the cross, and earliest at the grave.
What does her example teach us?
She had lost hope, but had not lost love. Love brought her and the women to the tomb. Love had kept her loyal when hope had died. On resurrection morning, Jesus restored Mary’s hope, but He didn’t need to restore her love. She never lost that!
Is your love holding even when adversity impacts your life, when faith and hope have taken a monster hit? Hold on to that love. Jesus will make His presence known to you as He did to Mary Magdalene.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, all of our shattered dreams You are mending. I love you, Lord!
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources.