Mary Magdalene looked up to the sky, wiping the tears from her eyes. Her beloved Lord was hanging on a stake. It was about noon on a spring day, “yet a darkness fell over all the land”! (Luke 23:44, 45) She pulled her garment around her shoulders and huddled closer to the women near her. A solar eclipse, which lasts only minutes, could not have caused this three-hour darkness. Perhaps Mary and the others standing near Jesus began to hear animals of the night that are not commonly heard during the day. Some onlookers “grew very much afraid and said: ‘Certainly this was God’s Son.’” (Matthew 27:54) Jesus’ followers and others might have thought that Jehovah himself was signaling his sadness and displeasure at his Son’s brutal treatment.
Mary Magdalene could hardly bear to watch the scene, but she could not leave either. (John 19:25, 26) Jesus must have been in unimaginable pain. Jesus’ mother also needed comfort and support.
After all that Jesus had done for Mary, she felt compelled to do all that she could for him. She was once a broken and pitiable woman, but Jesus had changed all that. He had filled her life with dignity and purpose. She had become a woman of great faith. How? And what can her faith teach us today?
“Ministering to Them From Their Belongings”
In the Bible, the story of Mary Magdalene begins with a gift. Jesus gave her freedom, releasing her from nightmarish bondage. In those days, demon influence was prevalent, and those wicked spirits attacked many people, even entering into some and taking control of them. We do not know what effect the demons had on poor Mary Magdalene; we know only that she had been possessed by seven of those vicious, perverted bullies. And thanks to Jesus Christ, they were all evicted!—Luke 8:2.
Free at last and relieved beyond measure, Mary had a whole new life before her. How could she show her gratitude? She became a loyal follower of Jesus. She also responded to a need that she saw. Jesus and his apostles needed food, clothing, and a place to sleep at night. They were not men of wealth, and they were doing no secular work at the time. In order to focus on preaching and teaching, they needed material support.
Mary and a number of other women helped to fill those needs. The women were “ministering to them from their belongings.” (Luke 8:1, 3) Some may have been women of means. The Bible does not say whether they prepared food, washed clothing, or arranged for lodgings in one village after another. But they willingly carried out their work of supporting this traveling group, which possibly numbered about 20. The efforts of those women surely helped Jesus and his apostles to devote their full attention to the preaching work. Of course, Mary knew that she could never repay Jesus for what he had done for her—but what pleasure it gave her to do what she could!
Many today might look down on those who perform humble work in behalf of others. But that is not the way God feels. Imagine how pleased he was to see Mary giving of herself, doing all that she could to support Jesus and his apostles! Today, too, many faithful Christians happily perform humble services in behalf of others. Sometimes a practical favor or even a kind word can do much good. Jehovah appreciates such contributions.—Proverbs 19:17; Hebrews 13:16.
“By the Torture Stake of Jesus”
Mary Magdalene was one of the many women who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover of 33 C.E. (Matthew 27:55, 56) When she heard that Jesus had been arrested and tried during the night, she was surely horrified. And the news got worse. Governor Pontius Pilate, caving in to pressure from the Jewish religious leaders and the crowd under their influence, had sentenced Jesus to a cruel death on a stake. Mary may well have seen her Master, already bloody and exhausted, struggling through the streets, hauling the long pole for his execution.—John 19:6, 12, 15-17.
At the scene of the execution, after darkness had fallen at about midday, Mary Magdalene and the other women were standing “by the torture stake of Jesus.” (John 19:25) Mary, who was there to the end, saw and heard Jesus entrust the care of his mother to his beloved apostle John. She heard Jesus’ agonized cry to his Father. And she heard his triumphant last words, “It has been accomplished,” uttered just before he died. She was in anguish. Nonetheless, after Jesus died, she was evidently still there. Later she remained by the new tomb where a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body.—John 19:30; Matthew 27:45, 46, 57-61.
Mary’s example reminds us of what we can do when our fellow believers face hard trials. We may be unable to prevent tragedy or to take away the pain of the victims. Yet, we can show compassion and courage. The very presence of a supportive friend can make a big difference in hard times. Standing by a friend in need shows great faith and can bring tremendous comfort.—Proverbs 17:17.
“I Will Take Him Away”
After Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, Mary was among the women who got some additional spices so that they could later apply them to his body. (Mark 16:1, 2; Luke 23:54-56) Then she rose early in the morning after the Sabbath was over. Picture her walking along the darkened streets with other women, heading to Jesus’ tomb. On the way, they wondered how they could roll away the heavy stone that blocked the entrance. (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-3) Yet, they did not turn back. Their faith evidently moved them to do what they could and entrust the rest to Jehovah.
Mary may have been ahead of the others as she arrived at the tomb. She stopped in her tracks, shocked. The stone had been rolled away—and the tomb was empty! A woman of action, she ran back to report to Peter and John what she saw. Imagine her breathlessly exclaiming: “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him”! Peter and John rushed to the tomb, verified that it was empty, and then went back to their homes. a—John 20:1-10.
When Mary returned to the tomb, she lingered there alone. Very early in the morning, the silence of that empty tomb descended on her, and she was overcome with weeping. She stooped forward to look into the tomb, still not believing that the Lord was gone, and she received a great shock. Two angels in white sat there! “Why are you weeping?” they asked. Baffled, she repeated what she had said to the apostles: “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid him.”—John 20:11-13.
She turned, and there was a man standing behind her. She did not recognize him, so she assumed that he was the gardener who tended the place. This man kindly asked her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary answered, “Sir, if you have carried him off, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:14, 15) Think of what she said. Could that lone woman have really picked up and carried off the body of Jesus Christ, who had been a strong and vigorous man? Mary did not pause to think of such things. She only knew that she must do what she could.
When we face sorrows and obstacles that seem to be more than we can bear, can we imitate Mary Magdalene? If we focus only on our weaknesses and limitations, we may be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. But if we resolve to do all that we can and entrust the rest to our God, we may accomplish far more than we can imagine. (2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:13) Most important, we will please Jehovah. Mary certainly did, and he rewarded her in a most unusual way.
“I Have Seen the Lord!”
The man who stood before Mary was not a gardener. He had once been a carpenter, then a teacher, and then Mary’s beloved Lord. But she did not recognize him, and she began to turn away. Mary could not have imagined the truth: Jesus had been raised to life as a mighty spirit. As such, he materialized in human form, but not in the body he had sacrificed. In the thrilling days after his resurrection, he often went unrecognized even by those who knew him well.—Luke 24:13-16; John 21:4.
How did Jesus let Mary know who he was? It was the way he uttered a single word: “Mary!” She spun around and cried out, uttering the familiar Hebrew word she had no doubt used to address him countless times—“Rabboni!” It was her beloved Teacher! Joy flooded through her. She took hold of him and did not want to let go.—John 20:16.
Jesus knew her thoughts. “Stop clinging to me,” he said. We may imagine his saying the words kindly, perhaps with a warm smile, as he gently disengaged himself from her grip and reassured her, saying: “I have not yet ascended to the Father.” It was not quite time for him to depart for heaven. He still had work to do on earth, and he wanted Mary to help. Mary, of course, was all ears. “Go to my brothers,” he told her, “and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’”—John 20:17.
What an assignment from her Master! Mary was one of the first disciples privileged to see the resurrected Jesus, and now she was entrusted with the privilege of passing along the good news. Imagine the joy, the eagerness, that impelled her to find the disciples. Picture her breathlessly uttering the words that must have echoed in her mind and theirs long afterward: “I have seen the Lord!” She told them everything Jesus had said, her words rushing out in sheer excitement. (John 20:18) Her account added to what the disciples had heard from the other women who went to Jesus’ empty tomb.—Luke 24:1-3, 10.
“They Would Not Believe the Women”
How did the men respond? Not very well at first. We read: “These sayings seemed like nonsense to them, and they would not believe the women.” (Luke 24:11) Those well-meaning men had grown up in a society that tended to mistrust women; according to rabbinic tradition, a woman could not offer testimony in court. Perhaps the apostles were more influenced by their culture than they realized. But Jesus and his Father are above such prejudices. What a privilege they accorded that faithful woman!
Mary surely did not let the men’s response embitter her. She knew that her Master trusted her, and that was enough. All those who follow Jesus are similarly entrusted with a message to deliver. The Bible calls that message “the good news of the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 8:1) Jesus did not promise his followers that everybody would believe them or appreciate their work. Quite the contrary. (John 15:20, 21) So Christians do well to remember Mary Magdalene. Even the skepticism of her own spiritual brothers could not dampen her joy in telling the good news about the resurrected Jesus!
In time, Jesus appeared to his apostles and then to more and more of his followers. At one point he appeared to over 500 at one time! (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Mary’s faith surely grew with each appearance, whether she saw it or heard the reports. Perhaps Mary Magdalene was one of the women mentioned as being in attendance at the meeting in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when holy spirit was poured out upon Jesus’ gathered followers.—Acts 1:14, 15; 2:1-4.
At any rate, we have ample reason to be confident of this: Mary Magdalene kept her faith till the end. May each of us be resolved to do the same! We will imitate the faith of Mary Magdalene if we show gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us and humbly serve others while trusting in God’s help.