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"Sorrow and Joy at Easter" (posted April 11, 2017)

   Now when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
   - Mark 16:9

There are six women in the New Testament named Mary. This Mary (called Magdalene because she was from the region of Magdala, or Magadan) had quite a story. The Bible writer Luke implies that she and her friends were relatively wealthy, and yet she was hopeless and miserable because seven different demons lived within her (Luke 8:2-3). This demonic possession is no metaphor; despite Mary's comfortable lifestyle, her mind and heart had become hospitable places for the occult.*

Then Jesus came to Mary's town (Matthew 15:39 shows that He occasionally spent time in that region), and He changed her life. With the demons gone, Mary traveled with Jesus and His other disciples, using her own money to help provide for their needs.

Then came the day of Jesus' death. Mary was near the cross, mourning as He suffered. She watched as His body went into the tomb. She was one of the three ladies who set out early that Sunday morning to anoint His body with spices. When they saw the empty tomb they left in confusion, but in her grief Mary returned, walking and weeping. When the groundskeeper approached her, she pleaded with him, "They have taken away the body of my Lord! Where is He? Please let me take His body..."

"Mary," the man replied, and no one ever said her name like that except One. It was not the groundskeeper; it was her Lord!

In those days, the testimony of women was considered worthless in a court of law, and yet the Christian story is that a once-hopeless woman was the first to see the risen Christ-- a point that adds credibility to the resurrection of Jesus. Why fake a story with details that other people might dismiss as unreliable? But more importantly, Mary's experience reveals that the resurrection changes everything, and the deepest sorrows are rolled away by Easter's joy.

*By the way, Mary Magdalene is often confused with the immoral woman who repents and comes to Jesus in Luke 7. That's a great story too, but there is no evidence that this Mary is that unnamed woman.

Stephen Campbell

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