The beloved spiritual intones: “Were you there…?” More than any other figure in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene can answer with an emphatic “yes.” She was there in heartbroken love and faithful vigil. Consistently named in the Gospels as present at the cross and at the empty tomb, she represents the kind of commitment Jesus desires from his disciples.
John 20 1-18 gives the fullest account of her role in our Easter faith. It was she who bore the news to Peter and John that the tomb was empty—even though she did not yet understand he had been raised. Because she desired to know more, she returned to the place of burial and encounters the Risen Lord. When she hears the voice of the Good Shepherd who calls her by name, her grief turns to joy and she becomes the apostola apostolorum (the apostle to the apostles), as the ancient church called her.
Regrettably, the church has never been very comfortable with powerful women, and her testimony to the resurrection has been muted by the varied attempts to discredit her character, calling her a prostitute—for which there is no textual warrant. True, she had been liberated from a sinful past by the forgiveness of Jesus, as have we all. I would think that an apt expression of resurrection faith might be to listen to the female voices speaking the word of God in our day. Indeed, they have also been commissioned by the Risen Christ!