Mary At the Sepulchre
John 20:11-18
But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher,…

1. We little realize how much light goes out of the world with some lives. "There was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour," write Matthew and Mark in their record of the Crucifixion. This symbolized a great fact. We know how the vanishing of one life may be to us like the setting of the sun: many of us have passed through such an experience. After the Evangelists have recorded the burial, they pause and halt in the narrative. The record only moves again when the light begins to return. "As it began to dawn towards the first day" are the words with which Mark starts anew; so, too, in different phrase, the other Evangelists emphasize this new starting-point.

2. Again, observe the revealing power of a great trial. It takes great or trying events to reveal all the strength and beauty which otherwise lie dormant in some characters. The breeze of summer brings music out of the AEolian harp, but only the storms of winter can awake the mighty deep into harmonious symphony and make the trees of the wood clap their hands in grand accompaniment. So it required great tests to reveal the devotion of these grand heroic women toward their Lord.

3. This expression of devotion was very human, and supremely womanly. How significant — how full of strange amotion — the first visit to the grave where our dearest lie!

4. This was a very beautiful and expressive protest against mortality. Beneath all this anointing was the conviction that man was too noble to pass away into decay. In the proposed anointing of the Christ by the women, we find the mightiest protest against the corruption of the grave; but God would yet accomplish the same end in His own way. John, however, centres his narrative in one person: Mary's love was the most intense and the most persistent. "But Mary stood" (or Revised Version, "was standing") — stationed herself — words expressive of resoluteness. Up to this point there was a measure of companionship in sorrowful watching among the mourners, — now we reach the point of isolation. Others had accepted the theory that Jesus had been taken away, and had left with sorrow, but Mary was more persistent, since to her more had been forgiven. The sorrow of this little community now became Mary's, as if it were exclusively her own. "As she wept." According to the three Synoptic Gospels, the other women were afraid, or "affrighted." Mary wept. There is nothing new in weeping at the grave. It is the old place of weeping. More tears have been shed there than anywhere else. But the circumstances are exceptional in this case. Others have wept because the grave is tenanted; Mary wept because it was empty, and because the ministry of love in anointing the dead body seemed no longer possible. At length, by steady gazing, she found that the grave was not so empty as it had appeared. There was no dead body in it, but there were two of God's angels. Mary saw them. Peter and John did not. They were in two great a hurry. Men do not see angels in such a mood — they only see "linen clothes," and the like. "They say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?" Tears are a profound mystery to angels. But it was a misuse of the mysterious capacity to weep that perplexed them now. Weeping in this case they knew was out of place. "Why weepest thou?" are words of challenge. "Because they have taken away my Lord," was Mary's reply. These words reveal, among other things, the soul's power of appropriation — "My Lord." This is the greatest paradox of being, that finite man or woman can claim the Infinite God as his or her possession. "Thou art my God," said the Psalmist. But here, too, we have weeping inadequately explained. Mary's data are wrong. "They have taken away my Lord." How much more the angels knew about it than Mary! How inadequate our explanation of our grief when we are challenge! There is an impatience in the answer. She has silenced the angels with a false theory, and hastily withdraws, or "turns round," and waits not for the reply. It is a terrible thing when sorrow becomes reflective, and turns in upon itself. But as Mary turns there is another Presence near. Now it is asked by One who has Himself wept by the grave side. There is a tear in this tone of inquiry. Remember in passing, as a significant fact, that these are the first recorded words of Christ after the Resurrection — "Woman, why weepest thou?" &c. What a reflection for sorrowing ones! There is hero also the additional question which completes the first. "Why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?" Sorrow is stupefying. There was a danger for Mary to forget her search in the steady gaze, becoming more vacant as it was continued. The question of the angels threw her in upon her sorrow; the further question of Christ awakened within her the recollection of her quest. It aroused the spirit of search and of expectation anew in Mary. It is a sad thing when, in our sorrow, we forget the aim of life, and lose the inspiration of hope. This takes all the buoyancy out of life. Our Lord would ever save us against this. Observe Mary's answer as contrasted with her answer to the angels. To the angels she replied, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." This is sorrow in its reflective, despairing form. On the contrary, her answer to Jesus is — "Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." This is sorrow in its resolute and hopeful aspect. "I will take Him away." She could not have carried Him; yet she saw no difficulty. There is a frenzy of love which is well-nigh omnipotent. There is yet hope of Mary. It is a grand thing when sorrow has not taken all the courage out of us. The Christ can hide Himself no longer from her. He reveals Himself now through speech. Of all things about us, the voice is that which, amid the processes of change, retains its identity most. "Mary." How much Jesus compresses of tenderness and revelation into that one word! Her reply is equally brief — "Rabboni." Here we have a dialogue in two words. When feeling is intense, utterance becomes laconic. "Rabboni" is the word in which Mary's soul expresses alike its love and its wonder. We find here a passionate concentration of feeling. The spirit of loving discipleship is crystallized and perpetuated in that one word. There are times when the whole soul flashes forth and reveals its personality in an exclamation. The first impulse of the soul in the presence of the risen Christ is to worship. It is a moment of infinite surprise. It is the reaction from blank despair to boundless ecstasy. The gospel of the open grave is the story of the Resurrection and the prediction of the Ascension combined. "I ascend!" She had stooped and looked into the grave for the Christ; hence. forth she will look up and wait for her Lord from heaven. Thus is the story grandly progressive, and the past and present are made predictive of the yet more glorious future.

(David Davies.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

WEB: But Mary was standing outside at the tomb weeping. So, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb,

Mary At the Empty Tomb
Top of Page
Top of Page