God’s love is so powerful that it can even penetrate the hearts of us puny humans and enlarge our capacity for love. We see this in the Easter story. Those who show their love for God do so in irrational ways at Easter. It makes me think, what has been my most irrational act of love?
Though the Pharisees followed each word of the Bible, they followed irrational commands without love that led to emptiness. That is not the love I’m talking about. There is no soul transformation in that kind of behavior. True acts of love are not done to make you think you are worthy of God’s love. They are not done to make you feel better than other people.
The infectious love of Easter is never found in human effort. It only begins with an irrational, inescapable love for God. Jesus’ love for God is the one and only reason He loved us so extravagantly on the cross. In John 14:30-32, He explained:
”I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”
Jesus didn’t go to the cross because He wanted to beat the devil. The devil had no hold over Him. He didn’t have to go to the cross for Himself. He went to the cross because He trusted so fully the commands of God out of His love for God.
I imagine it was the same for the three Marys of Easter. As I think about their actions in the Easter story, I see no other explanation than their utter, heartfelt love for God. Mary of Bethany was already a marked woman. She was the sister of Lazarus, whom the Pharisees wanted to kill as well. She would have had every reason to stay away from the dinner at Simon’s house, if she gave into rational self-protection. Not only did she publicly reveal herself as a follower of Christ but also she brought Him a jar of pure perfume. I don’t know if she intended to pour the whole bottle over His feet when she picked it up and took it to the dinner, but her utter love for Jesus and God led her to anoint Jesus’ body with oil. Her loving act is remembered every time we think of the events of Holy Week. After this she disappears from the story. Was it because of the conflict? Were things getting too heated up in Jerusalem? Did Jesus’ favorite family of three stay in hiding the rest of the week? Every time we meet Mary of Bethany, she is at the feet of Jesus. It seems strange not to find her at the feet of Jesus at the cross. Mary sensed when her service was needed and when it was not.
Mary the Mother of Jesus could have been no other place than at the foot of the cross of her beloved Son. Simeon had told her that her heart would be pierced. It was. There was no outward wound or abuse given to Mary, but what she experienced was more painful. She stood there strong and steady unwilling to leave her Son. Though the sight of Him was horrific to take in, she couldn’t take her eyes off Him. It was only after He died that she disappeared. She surrendered to the feelings she tried to keep at bay all day. She was probably paralyzed. She couldn’t think of how to bury Him. She needed others to do that for her. She just had to focus on how to breathe, how to walk, how to exist after the shocking event of the cross.
Mary of Magdalene was at the cross, at the tomb first thing on Easter morning. She was the first to see and speak to the risen Lord. Her love for God would not allow her to go away on the word of angels alone. She would not leave until she found Jesus and He told her what to do next.