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gone, the angels appeared to the women who were left, and delivered the message to the disciples, and they returned toward the city to deliver it. As they were thus returning, Mary Magdalene, with Peter and John, came to the grave, and the two apostles saw the empty grave and the folded grave-clothes, as described in John xx. 1–10.
They returned home, musing on these strange things, and left Mary weeping at the sepulchre. Not having waited to hear the words of the angels to the women, she knew not the fate of the body, but supposed that it had been rudely removed by the gardener, and her heart was ready to break because of this desecration of the body she so much loved. Moved with a vague, unconscious feeling of anguish, she stooped down and looked into the hollow chamber where the body had been laid, and then for the first time saw the angels, who appeared to the other women, but were invisible to Peter and John, because they were not yet prepared for such a vision. The words of the angels to her differed from those spoken to the other women, and indicate the difference in their states of mind. They were affrighted at the sight of these heavenly messengers, and hence they were addressed with the words, “Fear not," to soothe their fear. Mary, with the fearlessness of a mourning love, too intense to give room for any other feeling, was addressed with words directed
not to fear but to grief, “Why weepest thou ?" This simple incident lays bare the feelings of each, and shows the absorbing intensity of Mary's love to Jesus, that left no space for any feeling that referred to herself, like the emotion of fear. In reply to this question of the angels, she said, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.". Hearing at this instant a step behind her, she partly turned around, and saw some one, whom, with her eyes blinded with tears, she did not recognize. He repeated the question, “Why weepest thou ?" Supposing him to be the gardener, in the tearful glance she had given backward, she said, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Here again we see the deep love of her heart. She does not reply directly to the supposed gardener, as she had to the angels, because she suspected him of being the violator of the grave, and felt a rising of resentment at this intrusion into her grief. To the angels, whom she thought to be sympathizing friends, she tells her grief; to the supposed author of the removal of the body, she only asks to be allowed to relieve him of what he had treated as an incumbrance. And she utters no name. Perhaps she thought, in the fulness of her heart, that there was but one being that could occupy the thoughts of any one, as there was then with her
but one object of solicitude. Perhaps she felt that sacredness that often hallows the name of the dead in the lips of the living, making it an unspoken word, the name of one in heaven, which to. utter on earth, were a species of sacrilege. Whatever be the exact reason, it is evident that her heart was full, almost to bursting, as she uttered these words.
Then occurred a scene of most impressive beauty. But two words were spoken ; but they were full of meaning. Jesus said to her, “ Mary!" and at once the old, familiar tones of love announced the blessed one, whom she mourned ; and turning completely round, she flung herself at his feet in a gush of rapturous embrace, and from the depths of a glad heart exclaimed, “Rabboni,” “My Master! my Lord !”
She would faiu have clung to his feet and indulged the luxury of gladness, but Jesus forbade her, saying, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” This prohibition was very remarkable, because in a few minutes afterwards he allowed the women to do the very act here forbidden to Mary. The reason of this difference will then be more fully discussed. In this case, it was doubtless because of erroneous impressions under which Mary laboured in regard to him, and which she expressed by this forbidden act. She thought doubtless that he had returned
to life, to remain with them on earth, and set up a visible kingdom, and she may have uttered words to that effect, a fact indicated by the name with which she addressed him, Rabboni. Christ desired to correct this error, and hence checked the act that was its expression. He thus assured her that the time for this anticipated enjoyment had not yet come. He was not yet entered upon that final condition where this loving intercourse could be enjoyed, and where a whole eternity would give scope for every expression of love. In the present state of transition, duty was more sacred than delight, and must ever be preferred. Hence he forbids the indulgence of those feelings of delight, and bids her go to the disciples, who were indulging the same dream of an earthly kingdom, and tell them the same corrective truth. “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." There is an exquisite tenderness in this message to the drooping disciples. He calls them not his disciples but his brethren, the children of a common Father and God, to assure them in their discouragement that he still loved them, and forgave their sorrowful desertion of him in his hour of need. He thus assures them that they had not forfeited his affection, or lost their brotherhood by their conduct. Such a message at such a time was full of the most unspeakable tenderness, and doubtless was so felt by the dispirited disciples, when delivered by Mary.
The whole scene is one of the most ardent love on the one side, and the most touching tenderness on the other, and is full of instruction. There were two causes of grief to Mary, and hence two cases of mourning love are illustrated: the one spiritual, the other natural. Let us look at them both.
1. The spiritual grief. Mary mourned an absent Saviour. She wept because the tomb was empty, and she knew not where they had laid him. There was no lack of love. Her tears proved her love. There was no lack of a certain kind of faith. She believed as far as she comprehended. Her error was that she did not know that Christ meant all that he said, when he declared that he would rise from the dead. She did not take him simply at his word, as that word was uttered, and hence she was in darkness.
Do we not often repeat the same error in our spiritual gloom? We mourn an absent Lord. Our hopes are gone; and the candle of the Lord that once shone bright, is now gone out. We may have stood at the cross, and gazed with tearful eyes at the thorns, the nails, and the spear, as we saw Christ evidently crucified before us. We may have gone to the sepulchre, and seen the place where the Lord lay. We may be convinced in a word that Christ died for sinners, and be deeply moved by the love displayed in that death;