My name is Mary Magdalene. You may have heard of me. I lived a long, long time ago, 2,000 years ago. And I’m here today to tell you the story of Easter as I saw it. But first I should tell you that some people think I'm a little crazy. Legend has it that I spent most of my life alone in a cave, and that would drive anyone crazy.
But before the cave, when I was a young woman, I knew an amazing man whose name was Yeshua, who you call Jesus. He was a great teacher. He helped to heal people. In fact, he touched sick people no one else would touch. He fed the hungry. In fact, he ate with people the laws of our time said he shouldn’t eat with, non-Jews, and tax collectors (who everyone hated). And us women? He treated us like equals. That just didn’t happen back then. That’s why we stuck by him when the Romans took him, when the men were too afraid.
Yeshua was a great prophet. That means he could see how bad things were and how we could make them better, and then he told us what he saw. He saw that we could build a kingdom of the spirit, inside ourselves and also between us. He said we could build a strong community like this one you have here, that was too strong for even the Romans to break.
Throughout my life, the Romans ruled our land. They didn't like hearing Yeshua or any of us, his followers. Jesus' message scared the Romans and made them angry, and they did a bad thing - they made sure Jesus died in a terrible way that was meant to scare us and keep us from acting up. Those were bad times, when I was a young woman. People in power could do those sorts of things even to good people.
They put so many good people to death back then. We called them saints. We believed their spirits went to a paradise not far from the land of the living. This may sound strange to you in this day and age of science and technology, but we even believed their spirits could come back and visit us. Not like ghosts, not scary, but kind of nice. Like having them back again.
And that was true for Jesus. We felt that he visited us, sat with us, that we heard his voice and saw his face again. It helped to remember him in that way. It gave us courage to keep building that kingdom inside us and between us, no matter what the Romans did to try to scare us out of it.
Things were so bad back then that many other religions around us told stories of saviors that would come from heaven to show us how to get there. In all their stories about saviors, the savior came to earth, died and went to heaven, and came back to life to tell us how to get there.
Now we all thought of Jesus as a savior, so over time his followers decided to use that ending for the stories they told about him - an ending that would help other religious people understand how important he was to us. So that' s how the Easter story started.
Have you heard the story? Like most stories, people tell it differently, but I'm in all of the Easter stories in the bible, so if anyone can tell you, I Mary Magdalene, can. Well, he died on a Friday, during Passover. Some of the men took his body down from the cross where he died, and put it in a tomb before sunset.
The Sabbath starts at sundown, the holy day we Jews celebrate each week. We were mostly Jewish, Yeshua and the rest of us. According to Jewish laws you can’t touch a dead body on the Sabbath. So his body lay there for a whole day and two nights. Sabbath laws say you shouldn’t be sad on that day, and since it was also Passover we tried to be as cheerful as we could be, but our hearts were broken.
Since his body hadn’t been properly prepared for burial, early the next morning (a Sunday) some of us women went to the tomb to do that. We didn’t have morticians or undertakers in those days. Women among the dead person’s friends and family prepared the bodies of the dead, and were honored to do it. We said prayers that blessed the bodies of those we loved.
Anyway, as the story goes, we women were walking through the garden talking with one another, and wondering who would roll the big heavy stone away from the door of the tomb. None of us was strong enough to do, and even together we couldn’t see how it could work.
When we arrived, the story says, we were amazed to find the stone already rolled away. The story says we found an angel (some say there were two) who told us that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and that we would see him again in Galilee!
One story says that we women were so afraid and amazed that we told no one. Now I ask you, how would anyone know that story if we hadn't told anyone? And us, afraid? We stood amongst the Roman soldiers as the rabbi died! How could an angel scare us?
Other stories said that we did tell people that Jesus appeared to us in order to give us hope, to tell us not to fear, to be glad and not to give up on this kingdom of the spirit inside and between us. To me the real miracle of Easter is that we didn’t give up on that kingdom. We kept right on building it inside and between us. As sad and scared as we were, the Roman’s didn’t scare us out of it, they couldn’t stop us from telling everyone we could about Jesus and what he taught us. That’s the real miracle.
You might ask me, did that other miracle really happen? Did Jesus really rise from the dead and live again? Well, I'm a wise old woman now and I'll tell you what I've learned in all these years, cave or no cave. Whenever anyone you really love dies, that person rises often in your memory. That person lives in your heart and in how you live your life. As long as you remember and love that person, that person never dies.
That's how it was for all of us who loved Jesus. For us, he lived in our love for him, our memory of him, and our trying to follow his example. He lived in the stories about him we told again and again, to more and more people. Eventually people wrote down those stories so other people would know and remember and love him too, long after we all had died.
Now people since then have sometimes done really bad things in the name of Jesus and that makes me really mad. Some things they did were just the opposite of what he said to do. People disrespect Jesus when they hate or hurt other people in his name.
He said to love people, to bless even our enemies, and not to judge anyone. So whenever someone does a good thing in his memory, like feeding a poor person, or visiting a sick person, or comforting someone who is sad, or standing up for fairness and love, Jesus lives in that person.
Whenever a person inspired by his story helps people, heals them, gives them hope and courage, or shows us how to make the world a better place, his true message lives on. He doesn’t die so long as we remember who he truly was, what he did, and how he loved everyone, no matter what.
That's what I think, anyway. But then again, some people think I'm crazy. What do you think?