Theme: Love Covers Multitude of Sin

From today’s Gospel reading we shall buttress the above theme by looking at the personalities mentioned in the reading namely Mary Magdalene, Peter and the other apostle (John). Mary Magdalene (the woman that loved much and was given much), Peter (the head of the apostles and the one that denied his master) and John (the youngest apostle and the beloved one).
Mary Magdalene
She was the woman reported to have washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and Jesus absolved her of all her sins and restored her to her original dignity (Luke 7:36-50). She is also the woman from whom Jesus did cast out seven demons (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). No wonder, she remained completely loyal to Jesus even after death; thus, she set out early in the morning on the first day of the week to go and anoint his body (John 20:1). The implication is that she loved Jesus even in death. Not seeing the body of Jesus in the opened tomb did not remind her that Jesus would rise from the dead. Hence, her statement, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have kept him” (John 20: 2b). Her major preoccupation, no doubt, would be, so they have also stolen the body after killing him. This is because she had no idea that Jesus would rise from the dead. She would have been happier if the body were to be in the tomb for her to pay the body the needed attention. She had wanted to repeat what she did for Jesus when he was alive.
Since her conversion, her name appears first any time the names of female followers of Christ are mentioned. For instance, during the crucifixion of Jesus, a group of women disciples were watching from a distance and they included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome (Mark 15:40-41; Matt 27:55-56); all the four Gospels reported that she was among the women that witnessed the crucifixion and death of Jesus and even knew the particular grave Jesus was buried in, unlike the rest of the apostles (Matt 27:55-56,61; Mark 15:40-41,47; Luke 23:49,55-56; John 19:25). Again, at the empty tomb, she was the first to notice the empty tomb without knowing the implication (Matt. 27:61; 28:1; Mark 15:47; 16:1; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1-2). She seemed to be to women followers of Jesus what Peter was among the male apostles. Precisely, she was the leader of all women who followed and served Jesus out of their means (Luke 8:2-3). Thus, she was the first among the women Jesus made messengers to the male apostles as he told her, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matt 28:1-10; see also, Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:4-10). Peter ran to the grave maybe because he felt that the woman was talking nonsense and that the witness of women should not be relied upon. In other words, he rushed to the grave to prove them wrong but he went and saw everything as the woman reported (Luke 24:11, 22-48). All these were possible because of the love she had for Jesus and Jesus repaid her with all these – the empty tomb experience and being the first to notify the apostles about it.
Peter was another person that loved Jesus so much and would have loved to die in place of him but suffered from what Jesus described as, “the spirit is willing but the body is weak.” He was a fisherman and among the foremost disciples that Jesus called. On his own side he was called and promised to be made a ‘fisher of men’ (Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2; John 21:3). He really changed his life in order to be a good fisher of men (Luke 5:1-9). His leadership of the apostles and subsequently the Church as a whole became manifested when he revealed the proper identity of Christ at Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13-20). This is because he was the only person as at that point who could identify Jesus properly and he rewarded him with the mantle of leadership. Peter is counted as one of the members of the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry. For instance, he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus; the experience of Jesus’ agony in the Gethsemane as well as the raising of a dead girl (Mark 5:37). In short, he was the number one disciple. Any list that bears the names of the apostles, his name most often appears first and he was always presented as the spokesperson of the followers of Christ (Matt 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 16:14). Jesus during his earthly ministry made use of Peter’s properties and belongings for instance, his house (Mark 1:29-31), his boat (Luke 5:1-3). Without mincing words, he tried to imitate Jesus very closely, no wonder he had the opportunity of working on water as Jesus did (Matt 14:28-33). Through such closeness, he discovered that with faith in God all things are possible. Peter loved Jesus so much and that is why he could tell Jesus, that he would follow him even if it means his own death (Matt 26:33-35; Mark 14:29-31; Luke 22:33-34; John 13:37-38). Even when Jesus revealed what would happen at the appointed time (i.e. Peter’s denial), deep within him, he knew that Peter loves him. But Jesus knew that the body of Peter was weak despite the strength of his spirit. Jesus had to rejuvenate Peter even before his denial by saying to him and praying for him thus, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Most importantly, Jesus after his resurrection asked Peter to feed his Sheep (John 21:18ff. If not for love, Christ would not have done all that for Peter even before his promise that he would never deny him since he knew everything before they come to pass. All these would reveal to one why John could not have entered the tomb before Peter even though he reached the tomb before him as a younger person. Peter was the head of the apostolic team and hence, first person to enter into Jesus’ tomb though he never understood whatever he had seen. Hence, because of his love for Jesus and his repentant spirit, Jesus granted him the gift of being the first to enter the empty tomb and saw things for himself.
John the beloved disciple as the other disciple
Synoptic tradition made it very clear that John was very close to the heart of Jesus. He is indeed the other disciple- the beloved one (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2 etc). His name appears most often with Peter and James. He is one of the three most prominent apostles (Peter, James and John). He was there during the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:.37; Luke 6:14); at the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt 17:1); in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:37); he and Peter prepared for Jesus the place where the Passover took place (Luke 22:8). John is always very close to Jesus’ heart (John 13; 21:20-24). Because of this, he was the only one when he entered into the empty tomb with Peter that received the message that Christ had risen from the dead. He saw the situation in the tomb and believed (John 20:9).
Mary Magdalene was the one Jesus restored back to her original dignity; she therefore, lavished her love on Jesus Christ while he was alive, thus Christ granted her the privilege of being the first person to notice the empty tomb without understanding what she saw. Peter was rewarded with the privilege of being the first to jump into the tomb, as the head of the apostles, though without understanding the signs of the day. John the beloved apostle, though was the first to have reached the tomb but in humility allowed Peter as the head of the apostles to see the situation first (i.e. the open tomb); John on his part was granted the privilege of being the first to believe in the resurrection. This reminds us that God will reward everyone of us according to our good work here on earth; our faith in, and search for, and witness to Jesus.