The Day God Grew

In this drama, loosely based on Matthew 27:55-61 and 28:1-10, Mary Magdalene (MM) and “the other Mary” reflect on their time with Jesus and the events of Easter morning.

While the details of these two women’s lives are unclear, what isn’t disputed is the fact that they traveled with Jesus and the disciples and played a significant role in the resurrection narrative and message.

What we do know from the gospel of Luke and Mark is that Mary Magdalene was freed from seven demons by Jesus. Scholars believe that “seven demons” may be more descriptive of a complex mental illness than seven separate demons. —JB

Mary: We want to tell you about an amazing day: the day when God grew. Oh, God didn’t actually grow, but our understanding of God surely did.

We had given our lives to Jesus and to supporting his ministry; we thought we had heard and seen it all.

MM: Jesus had told us again and again that, in Jerusalem, he would be put to death and then be raised three days later, but we were clueless. We had no idea what he really meant. Raised from the dead?!

Mary: But we should back up and tell you our stories from the beginning. I first heard Jesus when he came to my town in Galilee. He spoke in our synagogue one Sabbath, and I found myself drawn in by his words. He spoke simply but with real authority. But not everyone liked him. He was a threat to some, to those who were content with things the way they were, to those who enjoyed the power they had in our small community. The buzz about him continued for weeks after he moved on.

MM: My first encounter with Jesus was a day I’ll never forget. It changed my life! I had been weary for years. I felt like I was encased in a suffocating blanket. My family didn’t understand what was wrong with me. They’d try to snap me out of it, but their well-meaning words just caused me to retreat further.

Then Jesus came to our town of Magdala, and my son invited Jesus and his friends to our home for dinner. After the meal, my son asked Jesus if he could spare a few minutes for the weary mother in the back room. Jesus sat with me and listened to my story. He listened with his ears and with his heart. He asked gentle questions, and I found myself admitting to him things I found difficult to admit even to myself.

Then he looked me in the eyes and spoke words that set me free. I know that sounds foolish, but that is all he did. And the heaviness lifted from me. I was free. I was his.

Mary: Jesus returned a few months after I first heard him. One Tuesday morning, he strolled into town. It didn’t take long for the word to get around and people to begin gathering, pushing forward the sick ones and the ones for whom we had no hope. Since we had last seen him, rumors had run through town about his healing touch. That day I saw the results of his touch.

My neighbor Jacob’s little boy had limped ever since he fell down the ravine playing with his cousins. But at Jesus’ word and touch, his leg straightened and he was made whole again. He hasn’t stopped running since! That was when I decided that I needed to do more with my life.

I was a widow with means, and my sons, James and Joseph, were grown. I decided to join those who followed Jesus and supported his ministry. That’s how I met Mary.

MM: Those months of traveling with Jesus and the others were filled with wonder. Wonder over the things he could do, wonder over the things we could do in his name, wonder over his complete disinterest in his own popularity. Crowds would follow, eager to see more miracles, eager for the free food, eager for some excitement in their drab lives.

There were so many times when Jesus could have used his power to gain position or wealth. And it seemed like it was at just those times when he would ratchet up his teaching. When he would turn and talk about dying to yourself or forgiving your enemies or loving the Romans. When he would tell controversial stories or say alarming things like, “I am the bread of life.” And we’d watch the crowds melt away and wonder at what he did.

Mary: But we loved him. We gave our lives to him. We even followed him to Jerusalem.

MM: It started well enough, with the enthusiastic crowd giving him a king’s welcome as he entered the city, waving their palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But their loyalty was short-lived. Within the week we were caught up in a mockery of a trial and a gruesome execution.

Mary: Mary and I watched him die. It wasn’t safe for the men to be there; they could have easily become targets for the authorities. But we knew that most men weren’t like Jesus—most men overlooked women, and we were probably safe. So a group of us gathered at a distance and watched as the soldiers nailed him to the cross. I don’t know that I have ever cried as much as I cried that day.

MM: That evening, before the Sabbath began, another of Jesus’ patrons, Joseph from Arimathea, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He wrapped it up and laid it in his own new tomb. We watched him seal the tomb and we hurried back to our lodgings, just in time to observe the Sabbath.

Mary: What a difficult day that was. We lit the ritual candles and tried to sing the usual songs and praise God. But it was hard through the tears. A day of rest. A day to sit and remember Jesus. To tell the stories: the funny ones, the tender ones, the startling ones. Those stories seemed to be all we had left of him. Our memories.

MM: After the Sabbath was over, Mary and I left at first light for the tomb. We were eager to properly wash and anoint Jesus’ body; there had been no time for it on Friday evening. It would be our last gesture of affection to the One to whom we had given our lives.

Mary: We thought we knew what we’d be doing that morning. My biggest worry was how I would stand the sight of his tortured body. I had often helped to wash and anoint the dead, but never a crucifixion victim before. But we were clueless. Despite all we had seen, our God was too small. He grew that day.

MM: As we approached the tomb, the ground shook beneath our feet. We’d all lived through earthquakes before, they’re not uncommon where we live, but it was a complication I wasn’t up for that morning. Please, God, don’t let anything else go wrong, I prayed.

Mary: But the earthquake was altogether right; death itself was being reversed. An angel of the Lord greeted us. He looked like a bolt of lightning, and we would have joined the guards in falling down like dead men if it had not been for his words.

MM: I’ll never forget them! You know you can never forget the words an angel speaks to you.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

Mary: As many times as I heard Jesus say he would be raised, I had never really heard him. I heard him with my ears, but not with my understanding. An empty tomb? An angelic messenger?

MM: We went inside the tomb and saw that it was empty. There was the shelf on which the body had lain; there were the linen wrappings that had encased his body. But he was not there. I have never felt such fear and fierce joy all at once.

Mary: I thought I had seen and heard it all, but I was clueless. My God was too small. Until then, my faith was only a paltry thing.

MM: The angel told us to go quickly and tell the others. We turned to do so. Then whom did we encounter but Jesus himself! “Greetings!” he said, like it was an ordinary morning at the market. Like the world hadn’t been turned upside down. We both fell upon him, covering his feet with our tears and kisses, worshiping him.

Mary: If it had been up to us, we would never have let go. But he gave us a task to do, repeating the angel’s commission. It was our privilege to bring the good news of his resurrection to his other friends. And our privilege to continue to serve him. We thought we had seen and heard it all before he died; but all that has paled in comparison to what we’ve seen and heard since he was raised.

MM: I thought I knew what he was about. I had seen so much. I loved him so much. But with his resurrection, I realized that my God was too small. The story was only beginning.

How big is your God? Is he in a little box, easy to admire, easy to understand? Or is he big enough to be worth worshiping? Big enough to be worth serving?

Susan Scott is the pastor of the Union Church of Stow in Stow, Massachusetts.

Reformed Worship 114 © December 2014, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.