The first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulcher…
1. WHO WAS ? On the western bank of the Lake of Galilee, there stood the village of Magdala; so-called from a "Migdol," or fortified place, round which it clustered, and it means the same as "Castleton." Thence Mary was named the "Magdal-ene." She has often been most unaccountably regarded as the woman which was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). This mistake has been repeated in countless legends, hymns, homilies, ancient and modern; and by countless preachers, from down to John Bunyan; her life has often degraded into a subject for pictorial sentimentalisms; asylums for once dissolute, but now penitent women, are distinguished by her name. All this matters little to her now but it matters more than a little to us, if by adopting this error, we stand convicted of levity or laxity in our treatment of God's Word.
2. Out of whom went seven devils. Whatever may be the psychological import of the terms, it is clear that they set forth the desperateness of Mary's sorrowful plight before she know Christ. It was not a great sin, but a great sorrow. At last, she wandered into the path of Jesus; and then the spirits met their Sovereign Master. Out the loathly horrors had to go like burglars who had broken into a house of life belonging to Christ.
3. After that wonder, this new event is reported: "Jesus went through every city and village, preaching and... Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils... and many others, ministered unto Him of their substance." I can trace the sequence and understand the motive of the action thus chronicled. Ruth said to Naomi, "Intreat me not to leave thee," &c. The inner language of Mary to Jesus would be the same, but with a meaning heightened unspeakably. Of course, this implies that she had substance to minister with; and as she is mentioned in companionship with the wife of Herod's steward, the fair inference is that she probably belonged to an equal social station. But now she counted all things but loss for Christ's sake.
4. At length we see Mary standing at the cross. How did she reach this fearful station? What had she in Jerusalem? The men were bound by law to appear at each great feast; but not the women. In her noiseless, unobtrusive way, she was with Him that she might minister to Him of her substance. It was true that her ministering could do little for Him now; but this she can do, at least she can show her love. When all was over, still she stood there; when the two senators carried away the body into the tomb, she was one of those who could say, "We marked the spot, arid shall know it again." She ministered of her substance in helping to prepare the final honours; and on the morning of the first day she was the first to arrive at the sepulchre.
5. It is remarkable that John says nothing of the other women. Perhaps Mary's spiritual presence was always so imperial, that any person meeting her in company at any exalted moment would have seen, heard, and have been conscious of Mary alone. Mary is always the royal personage. Her life was a glorious romance of love to Christ. On earth she was the type of this love; in heaven she is a leader of those who swell the sanctus, "Unto Him that loved us," &c.
II. WHAT WAS HER ALARM? "They have taken away my Lord," &c. From dull feeling, firm nerve, or superb physical vitality, some of our friends are not easily frightened; but after what Mary had gone through, we can very well understand that her nature was quick to take alarm. When Jesus expelled the deaf and dumb spirit, Thomas Fuller remarks, "He went out like an outgoing tenant, that cares not what mischief he does." It is reasonable to conjecture that when Mary's seven tormentors were mastered, and their reign of terrible tyranny was over, the traces of it were left in a life of nervous vibration and excitability, and just now her strained life had been strained afresh, and when she was setting out for the sepulchre she had reached the point of the intolerable. When your dead is out of sight, your heart feels fit to break; but if you had the sudden fear that foul violators of the grave had snatched away what to you is most fearfully sacred, such a fear would come with a blow on the brain enough to make the reason totter. So thought Mary as to the buried form of her soul's Holy One.
III. HOW HER ALARM ENDED — In a great discovery (ver. 11, &c.).
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.