"Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for His needs. Among them were MARY MAGDALENE." —Matthew 27:55, 56, and 28:1-11; Luke 8:1-4; John 20:1-18

The history of Mary Magdalene forms an appropriate link, connecting the earlier with the later "memories of Gennesaret." Her holy and honored ministry of love interweaves, like a golden thread, the tissues of that Greater Life from which her own derives all its interest and sacredness.

It is strange how a name worthy of deepest reverence should, by a popular misapprehension, which has no ground whatever to support it, been confounded with that of the penitent—"the Magdalene" of the Pharisee's house—whose striking history we have already considered. Of MARY's previous life we know nothing further, than that she had become a miracle and monument of the Savior's power and mercy. Her case in the Western Magdala, was the counterpart to that of the demoniac on the Eastern Gadara shore, and the exorcism of seven devils, sufficiently indicates the malignant character of the possession. From her name being afterwards mentioned along with "Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward, and Susanna," and it being related of her, that along with these, "she ministered to the Lord of her substance;" we may possibly infer that her position in society was not the poorest. It may have been one rather of competence, if not of wealth and luxury. But what was the world with its pomp—what the glitter of Herod's court—what the loveliness of hill, and shore, and sparkling water, that met her eyes all around, when a malady worse far than withering paralysis, or leper's taint, held her in the chains of Satan? Jesus (we know not where) had found her. His word of power had scattered the demon-throng; and never did gratitude so track a deliverer's footsteps, with duteous love and tears. From that hour she became a devoted follower of her Great Lord—a model Christian, worthy the imitation of all believers, and more especially those of her own sex.

Our first introduction to her in sacred story, is in a reference the Evangelist makes to a missionary tour of Jesus and His apostles, through the towns and villages of Galilee. It is on that occasion we find her associating with the other honored females we have already mentioned, in providing for the needs of the homeless Savior. She had probably, a considerable while before this, been attached to His person and cause; but with beautiful modesty she has kept in the shade—shunned publicity. It is only when acts of womanly devotion and kindness are required, that this quiet star is seen noiselessly and unobtrusively shining in her appropriate sphere. In gentle consideration she ministers to the indigence of her pilgrim Lord, as she afterwards embalmed His corpse, watched by His shroud, and wept at His grave.

No Apostle truly, of all the company, loved the Redeemer more than she. It must have been pure unselfish affection for Him, which alone prompted her to undertake that long journey, we spoke of in last chapter, to the ever memorable Passover which witnessed His crucifixion. The males from all Palestine, it is well known, usually assembled at the public festivals in Jerusalem, while the females "tarried at home." MARY, however, had heard from His own lips unusual and mysterious intimations of approaching ignominy, suffering, and death. She cannot brook the thought of separation in the prospect of an hour like this. She feels she can do but little in the way of active service—feeble would be her interposition when the hour of danger came—impotent her arm to ward off those legion foes; but if she can do no more, may she not contrive, by word or look, to solace these seasons of mysterious anguish? If death is indeed to stamp its ghastly lineaments on that holy Visage, can she not be hovering near at hand, to assist in performing the last sad tribute of affection? may not her hands serve, in some unknown way, to soothe and smooth that dying pillow, and close those lips which uttered the first words of mercy her soul ever heard? Her resolve is taken; and among "the women which followed him from Galilee," when "He set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem," was Mary of Magdala.

Our next meeting with her is at the most solemn spot of earth—the most solemn moment of all time—lingering near the cross on which her adorable Redeemer hung, in company with "the mother of Jesus, and His mother's sister, and Mary the wife of Cleophas." How acute and poignant must have been the anguish of that hour—the rude taunts of ruffian soldiery sounding in her ears—the cry of "Crucify Him," ascending from the infuriated crowd—along with other base indignities offered to the unmurmuring Sufferer. How willingly would her own tender feelings have induced her to rush from the scene of ignominy and shame, and bury her griefs, as the disciples were unmanfully burying theirs, in some secluded chamber in Jerusalem. A concern even for her own personal safety, might have dictated withdrawal from that arena of wild bloodshed and terror; but while others (His trusted friends) had grown cruelly faithless, "perfect love," in her case, had "cast out fear"—her love was "strong as death;" and when in that hour, around the cross of the Eternal Son, "deep was calling to deep"—all God's waves and billows rolling over Him—she gave proof of the saying, that "many waters cannot quench love, nor many floods drown it."

Pre-eminent indeed was the claim which that Savior had on the devoted gratitude and love of this woman. In addition to dispossessing her body of fiendish tyranny, enthroning reason on its abdicated seat, He had evidently lighted up her soul with gospel peace, and cheered her future with gospel hopes. The feeling uppermost in her heart doubtless was, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" Like the devoted crew in the sinking vessel, who will rather go down with their faithful Captain than leave Him in the hour of extremity—she, her sister-heroines, and the Beloved Disciple, are willing to brave every indignity and danger—yes, death itself—rather than desert their gracious Lord. Doubtless, the eye which from the cross recognized His own mother and named her, would not fail to note, in the devotion of the kindred spirit at her side, a lovely sequel to previous constancy and devotion. How He would be cheered and sustained, by this loving sympathy, in that hour of all others when He most needed it! On the other hand, how fondly would they receive His last look! How would these accents linger in their ears, as they wended their sorrowful way back to the city—"Woman, behold Your Son! Son, behold Your mother!"

But the ministry of love is not ended. Joseph of Arimathea had "asked for the body of Jesus," and, wrapping it in a linen shroud, "laid it in a new tomb." Nicodemus, too, had provided a mixture of myrrh and aloes—a hundred pounds weight—and embalmed the corpse. This, in ordinary circumstances, might have relieved from the need of additional expenditure on costly spices, or making further provision for the burial. But theirs was no common, no ordinary attachment; although, even in this beautiful tribute of affection, we have proof that while love was strong, faith was weak. Amid the humiliations of that dreadful hour, when they beheld the King of Terrors effecting so signal a triumph, all their fond hopes regarding the "Messiahship" and "the kingdom" seem buried in their Lord's sepulcher. He had told them plainly that He was to be killed, laid in the grave, and in three days rise again. But the insignia of death had been so terribly imprinted on their memories as to exclude every nobler thoughts. The preparation we find them making for embalming the body, too truly reveals the irresistible conviction which had seized their minds, that His flesh was to share the common doom of mortality, and to be laid in its long home.

The spices and perfumes were duly purchased on the Friday evening; and after the hours of the paschal Sabbath (the most sacred of all the year) had elapsed, Mary Magdalene is seen, in the early dawn of the first day of the week, hastening to the spot where all she most loved lay silent in the domain of death. As she and the other Galilee women enter the garden gate, their first thought is as to how they shall be able to remove the incumbent stone. They are nearing the spot. Look! the stone is already rolled aside from the mouth of the sepulcher. Mary, in a moment of panic, leaves her companions and rushes into the city to carry to the disciples the tidings of the deserted grave. The thought of crude hands pillaging the sepulcher, and taking the beloved inhabitant away, alone seems to have occupied her. She has never entertained the possibility of her Lord having risen. She had expected to have seen his cherished form again, to have bathed his pale countenance with her tears, and laid the embalmed corpse in its rocky bed. Blinded to grander realities by her overpowering grief, in an agony of sorrow she pours out her painful tale to the disciples, "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him."

Meanwhile, the other women who have lingered behind, see a young man seated in the vacant tomb, clad in long white clothing—the emblem of gladness. He announces the startling tidings that the Lord they loved had risen, that He was to go before them into Galilee, that Gennesaret and its shores were again to hear the familiar music of His voice. "He goes before you into Galilee, there shall you see Him, as He told you."

Peter and John, on hearing the strange account from the lips of Mary, had hurried to the sepulcher. They had entered it—beheld with their own eyes the napkin and linen clothes lying by themselves, (the undoubted trophies of victory,) and yet, with mingled doubt, and wonder, and terror, they "went away again to their own home!" Mary, unable to run so quickly as they, had followed their steps to the tomb, where (in the most touching portion of the wondrous story) we find her alone, alone with her tears. "Mary stood outside the sepulcher weeping!" Still is the idea of a risen Savior by her undreamed of. She is filled with sorrow at the loss of a beloved friend—indignant, poignant anguish at the thought of crude hands and iron hearts stealing His remains away. The death stillness in that silent place seemed to echo the dismal taunt, "Where is now your God?"

For the first time she ventures a closer inspection of the grave. Stooping down into the deserted vault—look, two angel forms have taken their places, "the one at the head, the other at the feet where the body of the Lord had lain." The celestial messengers are the first to break silence. In affectionate sympathy with her fast-falling tears, they put the question, "Woman, why are you weeping?" We might have expected at that lonely hour and lonely spot, with two mysterious visitants from the spirit world, that she would have been agitated and frightened; but her grief was too acute, her mind too much riveted on one absorbing topic. She repeats her sorrowful answer, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

There is often, at a time of trial and bereavement, some peculiar phrase or turn of expression which we come almost mechanically to use, and which seems at last naturally to well forth from the depths of the smitten heart. We find, in the case of Martha and Mary of Bethany, that the settled utterance in their season of bereavement was, "If the Lord had been here, our brother would not have died." In MARY's case she seems to have attuned her lips to the plaintive lament, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." She reminds us of the picture given in the Song of Solomon, of the spouse roaming the streets of the city with disheveled tresses and tearful eye, in search of her Beloved, saying, "I sought him, but I found him not; I called upon him, but he gave me no answer."

But "the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." She hears a footfall, and in turning about sees by her side a Solitary Figure. The angel's question is repeated. The Stranger asks the cause of these hot tears. She supposes Him to be the gardener, and in importunate urgency demands—"Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him." Love will brave anything; it feels as if it could cope with impossibilities, even though it should be a female arm bearing away a dead body by its own unaided strength. One word from the Stranger's lips dissipates every shadow of darkness—dries every tear—"Jesus said to her, MARY!" It was one of the first words His risen tongue had spoken. MARY! He needed no other utterance. It is "the voice of the Beloved!" "His sheep know His voice." He calls His own sheep by name, and leads her out! "She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, Rabboni! (which means Master!)"

Wondrous meeting between the great moral Conqueror and a weeping woman! between the Great and Good Shepherd and this bleating sheep of His smitten and scattered flock. The Shepherd had been "smitten"—the sheep had been "scattered"—but He is now fulfilling the accompanying promise, "I will turn My hand upon the little ones." And how gently that hand is turned! He appeared to her in no overpowering splendor, no dazzling glory. She mistakes Him for the gardener. Though surrounded with the evidences of victory, He is still the lowly Man, the Brother, the Friend. He rose with the same heart of unaltered and unalterable love with which he died, "That same Jesus!" The experience of the Psalmist was fulfilled in that of this honored disciple—"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy." Weeping had endured during the two preceding nights, but joy came in the morning. She rushes into the city with her heart bursting with the wondrous tidings—"I have seen the Lord!" Words long familiar to her, had now a new and nobler meaning impressed on them as they glowed under the sunbeams of a first Christian Sabbath—"This is the day which the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad of it!"

Ah, how God honors waiting faith! The Disciples, in their doubt and selfish sorrow, had stood aloof from the scene of ignominy and death—they forfeited the first glorious surprise, the first coveted benediction. But Mary had continued at her ministry of watchful love and in her case a new testimony was added to the faithfulness of God to His own recorded promise—a promise equally applicable to his waiting, watchful, prayerful people in every age—"Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."

Let us learn, from the experience of Mary, the true and only source of comfort to the dejected, downcast, sorrowing spirit. Angels were there. They had spoken to her kind and soothing words, but they could not dry one tear. They found her in floods of grief, and in grief they left her. It was not until the Lord of Angels drew near and spoke, that her sorrow was turned into joy!

Observe, moreover, that it was not the Form of Christ—His bodily appearance—that dispelled her doubt and lighted up her soul with peace. It was His VOICE! that mighty Voice which had first bid away the demon-throng that ruled her wretched body! The Person of Jesus is now withdrawn from the eyes of His church. His glorified body is hidden from our view within the curtained splendors of the Holiest of all. But His Voice is still heard. The echoes of His tender soul are still preserved fresh to us as they sounded to Mary, in His own Blessed Word. We can still write over every precious promise it contains, "Thus says the Lord;" "Truly, truly, I say to you."

And now, we might imagine Mary's joy complete. Jesus is once more by her side. The "little time" He spoke of, "You shall not see me," is now past. She has entered on the "while" that "You shall see me!" There seems now to lie before her, a happy future of perpetual interaction, that is to know no interruption until her own dissolution summons her away! But different are His purposes towards His Church and people. "Touch me not," He says, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." His work is incomplete if He does not ascend to His Mediatorial Throne. Though dear to them would have been His living, loving, personal Presence, yet there are purposes of mercy still unfulfilled which demand His departure—the Intercessory work—the comforting Mission of the Paraclete. He is to leave them, and yet not to leave them. Tossed on Gennesaret, He is still up on the Heavenly Hill bending on their agitated boat His watchful eye, and coming invisibly to their aid in an hour of extremity.

"Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended!" But, did not these words indicate to that lowly disciple that there was a time coming (though not now) when she should touch Him? Yes, on the Last and Great Day, when He was to come again and receive His people to Himself, and to utter in their hearing the joyous word of welcome, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" This Resurrection Morning at Golgotha was in one sense a "coming again," but not the GREAT coming! He is now a Pilgrim Lord, in haste to be gone to finish in glory His vast undertaking. But soon these clouds shall be torn, and soon the Conqueror of Calvary, seated on His throne, will greet the no longer weeping Magdalene with the old name of affection—in unutterable love He will say to her, MARY! She was not ashamed of Him and His word, while other disciples were; and He will then "confess her name before His Father and before the holy angels." Great was Mary's honor and privilege in seeing a dying and a risen Jesus—in being last at His cross and first at His sepulcher.

But if we be of Mary's faith, and partake of her lowly self-denying love, we shall be sharers too in her joy on that glorious Easter-morn of Creation, when our Lord shall come forth, not from the swaddling bands of death, but with His head encircled "with many crowns." She "ministered to Him of her substance," and waited on Him with unwearying devotedness. Though in this respect we cannot imitate her, we can do what is in His sight equivalent—we can bestow our time, our substance, our personal exertions, in lowly offices of love and mercy to His people—"You did it unto THEM." "You did it unto ME!"

We know nothing further of Mary's earthly history beyond what is here told us regarding the interview at the sepulcher. It is more than probable—more, we believe certain—that she met Him again on His return to Galilee, and followed His footsteps on her beloved native shore. The last words recorded as having been uttered by her are these—"I have seen the Lord!" They are true of her at this hour! She is now "seeing" Him without a tear, and that forever and ever!

May Mary's gladsome exclamation be ours, when we are waking from our sepulchers! In turning around at the Archangel's summons in the darksome cell of the grave, may it be to see Jesus standing with looks and tones of ineffable kindness, ready to pronounce our name as one written in His own Book of Life! Happy for us if we can say, even now, in joyful hope, "It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Hum, for we shall see Him as He is!"

Meanwhile let us exult in Him as an unchanged and unchanging Savior—a Brother born for adversity. The message which Mary bore to the disciples was a message to the Church in every age—"Go, tell my brethren." Comforting thought! The risen, exalted, crowned Jesus is "not ashamed to call us Brethren!" Even when He stood on the field of His triumph—Death a dethroned monarch under His feet!—yes, even then, when the glories of Heaven were fully in view, the crown, the throne, the universal homage—when He saw the gates of Heaven lifting up their heads, that He, the King of Glory, might enter in—He speaks of the redeemed sinners he came to save as Brethren! And when He refers to His own entrance into the beatific presence—the glorified Son returning to the bosom of the Eternal Father—mark His words—"MY Father and YOUR Father, MY God and YOUR God!"

Arise, then, and let us go on our way rejoicing. We have glorious anticipations!—we have a glorious Predecessor! "Look!" said the angel, "He goes before you into Galilee!" Joyous must have been the thought to Mary and the other women, in returning the long road to their distant home, the certainty of their again meeting their Lord! If they had left Judea under the impression that they had bid Him farewell forever—that before they reached the shores of Tiberias the chariot-cloud would have borne Him away—with heavy and disconsolate hearts would they have set out on their pilgrimage! But the angel's implicit word—"There shall you see Him," must have put gladness into their hearts, and caused them with buoyant footstep to undertake the journey!

Pilgrim believers! yours is the same strong consolation! You shall meet Him again on a better than any Gennesaret shore, to enjoy blessed interchanges of love, an everlasting Sabbath-feast in a Sabbath world! "He goes before you." It is a blessed watchword for every Zionward Traveler. You need not dread the way to the "long home"—"He goes before you, look! He Himself told you!" Have your eye ever fixed on these Heavenly shores, these everlasting hills; for "There you shall see Him!"