Of course, many people spoke that word to me prior to this moment. It belonged to me, named me, identified me. Mary Magdalene. But when he spoke the word, he made it his own. He made me his own.
The world around me emerged in new beauty, the sounds, smells, and sights radiating glory. I could hear murmurs of people as they wondered if the crazed woman finally lost it. I could smell sweaty crowds packed together, for everyone chased after this man, this Rabboni.
"All your sins are forgiven," he said to me. He smiled down at me, and I realized that I had collapsed onto the sandy ground. I bowed down at his feet, his dusty, dirty feet that came closer to me. I wanted to touch them yet didn't dare. I wanted to cry and laugh and yell and hide.
"Lord," I said, barely a whisper. "I am yours." I felt a calloused hand lift up my chin, elevating my gaze to his face.
"Come, let us go and eat at your house."
And that is where my life began.
His whisper hardly carried through the jeers of the soldiers and shouts of the people, but I heard it. I took a step closer to the cross, pushing down the nausea from the rancid smell of death. My core trembled at the sight of the blood that poured down my Lord's face, getting into his eyes and falling into his mouth. How I wanted to go up there and wipe it all away, pry off the nails that hung him on the cross, and mend his broken body. Why would he let this happen?
"Mary," he repeated as he body shook with pain. "Stay with my disciples. They need you." I nodded through the tears that cascaded down my face. No tears stained his face, though, although his eyes held more sorrow than I could bear to look upon.
Joanna came to me and supported my failing body, for I hadn't slept the past two days. We clung to each other as the sun vanished, as the sky echoed my own heart. Each rasping breath Jesus took pierced my soul. He was the Messiah, the Savior. He was my life, my hope, my purpose. How could I survive without him?
"It is finished."
The world moved about in slow motion as the crowd surged forward in morbid glee and the woman cried out in gut-wrenching sorrow. Jesus bowed down his head.
He died. And I died with him.
I hesitated, not daring to believe what I heard. It couldn't be. I saw him die. I came this morning to bury him. He... he...
I turned around.
Jesus stood before me. Alive. Coming towards me. Alive.
"Rabboni!" I rushed to him, throwing myself into his arms, his solid, strong, pierced arms. I didn't know how, I didn't know when, but I knew that my Savior lives. He lives! I clung to him, not wanting this moment to end, not wanting to ever let go of the One who had saved my life. I bowed at his feet in worship, for I knew that he was more than a leader, more than a prophet; he ruled over all, even death.
"Do not hold on to me," Jesus said, holding up my face with tenderness, "for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'" He helped me up and we locked eyes for that moment. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving, but I knew this wasn't goodbye, rather, this was the new adventure, the new following.
"Mary," Jesus said, and the word enlightened my soul just as a flash of light filled my eyes. When I opened them again, Jesus was gone. But I knew that I would carry that word with me forever.
Jesus is alive! And he knows my name.
"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep out by name and leads then out. When he had brought out all of his sheep, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it back up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 10:2-4, 11, 17-18. See also Luke 8:2-3, John 19:25,30, John 20:10-18 for scriptures to back up my fictional retellings of Mary Magdalene's experiences with Jesus.)
He has come close to us, calling us into His ways of grace. He is the Risen King.