Mary was called Mary Magdalene to distinguish her from the other Marys. She was from the small town of Magdala on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, a few miles around from Capernaum, where Jesus was based in his early ministry.
The only thing we know about her backstory is that Jesus had driven demons out of her. The other people that Jesus had done this for had experienced being out of control. One boy kept being tossed into fires. A man raged against others and himself. A young slave girl told fortunes as a slave. Others were blind or bent double. We don’t know how Mary was trapped.
But Jesus had given Mary freedom.
And she followed him, was part of the team that supported the ministry. She’s in a list of women who had their own resources, who underwrote the traveling team of Jesus.
Which means that she was part of the group that watched Jesus die.
Mary of Magdala knew what it was like to watch someone who was everything to you die.
The next day, Saturday, is a blank in her story. It’s a blank in our stories, too.
On Sunday morning, as early as she could she went out to the graveside. Mary M and some of the other women were going to do what women in some cultures still do: clean the body, pack spices around it, wrap it up carefully, wrap it up right.
When Mary got there, the grave was open. The body was gone. And Mary was upset, as she should be. It’s like going to the funeral home and finding that they don’t have any record. It’s like finding out from family members that the one you think is your fiancé is dead, and then showing up to see the body, and finding out that you can’t.
I’m not saying she was looking for closure. I struggle with the idea of closure. We never shut of the story of the ones we love. But there is something important about completing a task of devotion, of blessing a situation after the worst possible destruction. It is fitting. It is a response to the loss.
And that desire for a response is what Mary felt because that’s what Mary and her friends wanted to do.