The Gospel accounts tell us that two days after Jesus’ death and burial, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” (John 20:1). As soon as the Sabbath was finished, the women returned to the tomb in the hope of anointing Jesus’ body with spices. Like the other women and the disciples, Mary was undoubtedly full of grief at the Christ’s suffering and death. She was the one “from whom [Jesus] had cast out seven demons” (Mark 16:9)—a marvelous deliverance. Christ had brought her to new life in and through Himself. She loved her Savior dearly; she had experienced His saving and transforming grace.
And now, she thought it was all over. The One who had lived among them, so pure, kind, faithful, holy, with such power to do good, had been arrested, abused, crucified, executed, and buried. Each Gospel narrative confirms this weighty reality. After Jesus died, His body had been taken down from the cross and buried; the tomb had been sealed and guarded. For the women and the disciples, there was not only the profound grief of loss but also the crushing reality in their minds that it had all come to an awful end. This is the vantage point that the Apostle John brings us into as we vividly read that Mary came and saw that “the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1).
Mary’s immediate thought was that the authorities, not content with murdering Jesus, now had also taken His body away. She ran to tell Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). These disciples sprang into action, running to the tomb. If Jesus was dead, why all this action? What motivated and drew them? Wasn’t it that even though they didn’t remember what Jesus Himself had promised them, they loved Him? They had hoped in Him, were now shaken and full of grief, but their running tombward was driven by love for Christ.
There was much that Mary and the disciples had forgotten in their trouble, things that they did not yet understand from His Word. But their love remained in these dark days. Even when they did not understand, they were enabled to love. The Apostle John, reflecting on these things years later by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son” for us (1 John 4:10). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Christ’s love for His sheep was eternal, through His incarnation, earthly ministry, and death on the cross. Mary and the disciples would soon realize His love again as they saw Him in His resurrection glory. His love was the source of their love, just as His love is the source of ours. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).