“Woman, why are you weeping?”
As she stood at the tomb of Jesus, dismayed and horrified at the thought that grave robbers had stolen the body of her beloved teacher, Mary Magdalene was asked this question twice: “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:13, 15).
Has anyone ever asked this – “Why are you weeping?” – of a person overcome with grief, at the very spot the body of her loved one was laid to rest? Could any question be more out of place? Yesterday I wrote of the “strange glory of the cross.” Here is an equally strange idea, that anyone should wonder why a woman weeps at the grave of a dead friend.
But on the first Easter morning, at the empty tomb, this was the right question to ask! First the angels asked Mary this as they stood next to the place where the body of Jesus had lain. Angels in the tomb! Linen burial cloths on the floor! Jesus was not dead, he was risen! This calls for joy, not tears. But Mary didn’t understand. So next the Lord himself, standing outside the vacated sepulcher, put the question to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
It was not so much a question as a gentle rebuke. Oh Mary, why should you should cry for sorrow when Jesus – gloriously alive! – was standing before you? Was it not unbelief that kept you from seeing the truth literally before your eyes? Look and see – Jesus is not dead, but he is risen!
Christian, you may have many reasons to weep today. Death casts its dark shadow over all of life; we can’t escape sorrow. But even as your tears flow, you have the sure and certain promise of victory over death. Look into the tomb of Jesus – it is still empty! Look up to heaven – there is your resurrected Lord reigning in glory! He is risen indeed! At the empty grave of Jesus, wipe away every tear and rejoice that the Living One has conquered death forever.
I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. (Jer. 31:13)