It had been a week of triumph and sorrow for the young woman. She knew about joy, the joy of love, and the sorrow of saying good-bye to one whom she loved more than herself.
At the beginning of the week she had cried tears of ultimate joy. Now, at the end of the week her tears would flow unchecked for the next day. They would be tears of sadness and loss—the kind which burns the eyes and stains the ground.
The memories of a few hours before flooded her mind with every vivid detail. There she stood at the foot of the roman cross where her beloved hung suspended between earth and heaven.
Around her sitting on the ground were her friends—Maryām, her beloved’s mother; Salome, her beloved’s aunt; Maryām, the wife of Clopas, Joseph’s brother; and a young man named John, one of the 12, who stood by his Master when all others forsook him on that dark night. Here she was—Maryām (Miriam) of Magdala—standing looking up at her beloved.
The Roman Centurion Longinus had been kind to her and the others. He kept his men from harassing them.
The darkness, the earthquake and the thundering voice had laid them all prostate on the ground. Longinus helped the women up and gazed upon the man on the central cross. The blood stained the base of the cross, a small pool collecting there. He glanced at the blood and then at the man.
His words still echoed in her ears. “Truly, this man was the son of God…”
Since sleep was eluding her, she wandered through the house, the house of Joseph of Arimathaea, a member of the Sanhedrin and well respected by both Jews and Romans. It was he who on that fateful afternoon had gone to the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate to ask for the body of her beloved. Joseph had placed him in his own prepared tomb.
She found Joseph in the garden with his hands outstretched to the stars. She did not wish to disturb him, but he sensed her presence.
From his garden he could see the Roman Prefect’s residence. The Prefect, too, could not sleep as his wife Claudia Procula lay beside the window exhausted from crying. He walked to his balcony and glanced downward onto the man and woman standing in the garden. Instantly, he knew who they were.
Sleep eluded them all that night. As he looked toward the temple, he saw the lights of the Sanhedrin. Of all people in this wretched city those seemingly pious leaders should never sleep again, he mused and smiled slightly.
A few hours later those religious leaders would petition Pilate to place an armed guard around the tomb where Maryām’s beloved rested in the stillness of the Sabbath. Pilate was even more disgusted with them for violating the sanctity of their holy day to make sure a dead man was guarded against theft.
During the rest of the Sabbath Maryām did sleep some. After sundown she and the other women began preparing spices to finish the anointing of her beloved’s body, because she and the others could not have finished before the Sabbath began and remain ritually pure.
A few hours later they headed toward the tomb. They hoped the soldiers would be kind and roll away the large stone seal for them to finish their burial rituals.
To their surprise there were no soldiers and the stone seal had been rolled away. They found the tomb empty.
They ran to Nicodemus’s house to inform Peter and John. Nicodemus was another member of the Sanhedrin who, like Joseph, was shut out of the machinations of their fellow council members concerning the nefarious plans for the Nazarene Teacher.
They all returned to the tomb and after a while left except for Maryām who—tired and exhausted—began to cry again tears of sadness and grief. Her whole body shook from overwhelming grief and agony of spirit.
What happened next has been a source of controversy for over two thousand years. She wandered back into the tomb where she saw two angels or messengers as they are referred to in Koine Greek.
Back outside she fell at the feet of a man she supposed was the caretaker of the garden. She begged him to take her to the body of her beloved.
Her exorbitant grief had blinded her to the reality of her quest. Standing before her was her beloved. Grief gave way to overwhelming joy.
She was given the special message of proclaiming her beloved to be alive. Her message was maximi momenti because in her society a woman was not valued as a source of vital news. Her status as a special messenger would propel a new religion on its way as the men dealt with her acceptance as a special envoy of her beloved. Of course some would not embrace her message of the resurrection.
There has been much speculation concerning the relationship between Maryām of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth. In a future post (sometime this Summer) we will explore what happened to Maryām of Magdala.
Because by the time of Paul, the tent maker, she and some others mentioned in this account were no longer on the scene to bear witness of her beloved. What happened to her and them are clouded in the mists of legends and esoteric mysteries.
G. D. Williams © 2013
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