The events of the past few days have certainly been difficult. Watching someone you are close to suffer the excruciating horror of crucifixion is enough to make even the hardest person’s emotions raw. For those close to Jesus, the grieving process had to pause a bit because of the Sabbath, but now that it is over, it is time to pick up where they left off earlier: visiting the tomb to ensure a proper burial. The Gospel writers tell us Jesus’ friends headed to the cemetery as soon as the sun was rising and the Sabbath was ending. Heartbroken, they didn’t want to waste any time.
John’s Gospel specifically tells us Mary Magdalene was the first to go and realize the tomb was empty. Mary thinks she’s going to ensure a proper burial, but she finds an empty tomb and neatly folded linens with no Jesus. What happens next shows us the compassion the Lord has for the broken-hearted.
John 20 records, “Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Mary is seeing something here that looks an awful lot like the Ark of the Covenant. Prior to now, the Ark of the Covenant, which represents the Lord’s presence, was only accessible in the Holy of Holies, and only one day a year by one person – the High Priest. But not now! The presence of the Lord is accessible to this heart broken woman.
She is not the High Priest nor is she in the Holy of Holies. She is a common person standing in a garden, outside an empty tomb, in tears because she doesn’t know what is happening. The person she cared about so deeply was ripped from her life, he was tortured to death, and now she can’t even make sure he has a decent burial because he is missing. Heartache is stacked on top of her heartbreak. Can you understand how she feels?
We are certainly not strangers to this pain. Heartache comes to us in any number of ways. The person we thought we were going to marry walked away from us. The child who should have outlived us didn’t. The husband who pledged his faithfulness was anything but faithful. The spouse of 50 years was ripped from our arms by death. The pain of a broken heart is not a foreign experience.
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I know how she feels. It is exactly how I feel today.” If so, please remember, you are not alone in this moment.
Mary’s story shows us we are not left to drown in the tears of our heartache. As she is standing there crying, Mary is not alone. John 20 continues, “She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. ” Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).”
Jesus does not leave Mary standing in the garden with tears running down her face. The tomb is empty, and Jesus is right beside Mary amid her heartbreak. He brings compassion and grace. He brings encouragement and comfort. Jesus brings himself to the heartbroken Mary, and he brings himself to those who are heartbroken today.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
When our hearts are broken, we can look to an empty tomb and find a Savior who comes to the heartbroken. Just like he was with Mary amid her heartbreak, he is with us amid our heartbreak. The same accessibility and compassion are present. Jesus does not flee from the heartbroken; he comes to us. Jesus is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those with a crushed spirit.
Because of an empty tomb, you and I do not have to be alone in our pain. We can allow the Lord to come close and rescue our crushed spirit.