The followers of Jesus Christ had suffered the greatest trauma that anyone could ever experience after He was crucified on the cross.
They could not comprehend the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem. They believed Jesus had come to build His kingdom upon the earth. They had waited for Him to overthrow the Roman Empire, freeing their nation from the yoke of oppression, and even though they had watched and waited, it never happened. Their new reality was that it would never happen. The One whom they had followed for three and a half years was now dead, and not only was He dead, but He was buried in a tomb and a massive stone sealed it. All they had hoped for and imagined would now never take place. They couldn’t wrap their minds around all of it. They were devastated and felt lost. Where were they to go? What were they to do? They had no purpose.
Unfortunately, they suffered greatly because they had not received the revelation Christ so diligently sought to get over to them. He had told them He would suffer and die. Yet they refused to receive it because it did not line up with their agenda for Jesus; they had written their own story. As I reflect upon the feelings of the early believers, I can’t help but reflect upon my own life. Is there anything God has tried to get over to me and I’m just not getting it because I’ve written my own story?
I always humanize the people I am studying, imagining what they must have felt or thought in the midst of their encounters or trials and relating it to myself. Whenever I get to the crucifixion, I not only meditate upon the suffering of Christ when He paid the cost of redemption for the whole world, but I also think about the pain His followers experienced. I believe I would have felt the same as them. So many of them had given up everything in order to follow Him.
Mary Magdalene is one of my favorites. According to all four Gospels, she was a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Mary was from the town of Magdala, giving the reason for her surname, Magdalene. Many theologians believe that she had been a prostitute before she met Jesus. Even though the Bible doesn’t unequivocally state that Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute, the fact was that Magdala, where many fishermen frequently visited, was rumored to be a town that promoted prostitution. Moreover, she was a woman with resources (see Luke 8:3). In that time, it was very uncommon for unmarried women to have finances; therefore, the conclusion was that she probably had been a prostitute.
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources (Luke 8:1-3 NRSV).
In the day in which she lived, unmarried women were thought of in scandalous terms and were not accepted like they are today, especially if they were possessed with seven devils! She was rejected, used, and probably isolated until she encountered Jesus who cast those seven demons out of her. He set her free from a lifetime of hurt and torment. She had finally found her purpose, and life took on new meaning for her. She discovered God’s love for her. No longer was she tormented; no longer was she used by men. From that point on, she invested everything into following Jesus.
I can’t even imagine the pain that she felt as she stood watching as Jesus was beaten until He was unrecognizable. Her heart must have been in a million pieces as she witnessed the ordeal playing out before her eyes. No doubt she wailed in pain, pleading for them to stop hurting the Son of God. The despair she must have felt as she saw Him lifted up on a cross, nails in His hands and feet. There He hung, and then it was over. Jesus was dead. All of her dreams seemed to die with Him. Her heart and mind were in turmoil. Everything she believed was called into question. The thoughts that she must have wrestled with in her mind—Was it all not true? Do I go back to my old life? Where are You, God? Why didn’t You save Him? Why did He not come off the cross and demonstrate His power?