Resurrection special – Mary Magdalene.
length: 90:32 - taught on Apr, 4 2021
Sunday March 4,2021
The apostle John was an eye witness.
One very important thing to note about John’s narrative of the resurrection is that he was an eye witness. He uses the word “witness” far more often than any other writer, though not usually in reference to himself. As a witness, John emphasizes the role of a witness. When he does use the word of himself, he uses it to authenticate his book.
This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life — 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us — 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
Harmonizing the gospels, we can put together the sequence of the resurrection appearances and the events of the day.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome and others arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning. They saw the stone rolled away, looked inside and didn’t find the body of Jesus, and heard the announcement of the angel (two angels in Luke’s account) that Christ was raised and to go and tell the disciples. The women reached the disciples and told them what they saw and heard and the disciples responded by saying it was nonsense and they wouldn’t believe it (LUK 24:11), but still Peter and John ran off to the tomb and Mary Magdalene followed some distance behind them. Peter and John saw the empty tomb and how curiously the face cloth was folded apart from the linen wrappings. Someone obviously took the time to neatly set it aside. We would imagine that at least John or both he and Peter were convinced that the body had not been removed for internment somewhere else, nor taken by robbers. Why would anyone remove all the linen wrappings the fold up the face cloth neatly apart from the rest? From this, John saw and believed (JOH 20:8). They left and returned to their own homes. Curiously, we don’t read of them looking in other tombs or throughout the area, nor making inquiries of any potential witnesses. John believed. Why would he seek other evidence? Perhaps Peter did as well, but maybe also, his grief stricken and guilty conscience continued to hound him with very recent memory of denying his Lord in his Lord’s hearing followed by his Lord’s gaze upon him.
When the two men have left, we then find Mary at the opening of the tomb weeping.
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."
Both the angels and who she thinks is the gardener ask Mary why she is weeping. Her response to both of them was the same - “They have carried Him away and I don’t know where He is.”
Christ’s first appearance to a person is to Mary Magdalene.
Mary stands there desolate and pours out her distress in tears. If that grave is empty then the whole world is empty to her. The dead body of Jesus was more to her than a living world. She had no thought of resurrection though she saw the same linen wrappings as John and Peter did, and added to that, two angels at either end of the shelf where Jesus’ body was.
We can imagine that she felt that all was over. She had not even the poor consolation of paying some slight additional attention to His body with the spices she had brought, now worthless to her. Tears flowing from a broken heart of the worst kind - total loss of what she loved most.
But why did she return? She had already seen the empty tomb and heard the proclamation of the angel that He had risen. She knew the body wasn’t there, but she returned to look for it anyway.
Love seeks again where it has already sought before, even without hope of finding.
In the midst of her grief she cannot believe that all that her life had become with Jesus was over and finished. To apply her spices to the body would at least prolong things in one more intimate moment with Him, even though His body was empty of all that made her love Him.
The vision of angels couldn’t even penetrate that grief, and perhaps that’s the reason we’re told that they were there. Seeing two angels sitting aside one another would make anyone forget whatever very important thing they were thinking about, but Mary’s sorrow and longing are so deep that not even the sight of two angels matter to her. All she can think about is her loss and a few more precious moments with Jesus’ body.
All she has to say to a vision few in the history of the world have ever seen is “I don’t know where His body is.”
Are we in love with Him as much as she was? That is not a question meant for condemnation or affirmation. It’s just a question that we should ask ourselves from time to time, though we might not be able to answer it as well as we would like, not ever been in the situation she was in. Our human nature makes us easily enwrap our hearts in our routine, even the routine of our Christianity. Every so often, something in the word of God snaps us out of it and we look from outside of the walls of everyday life to consider something profound very deeply.
Perhaps a shadow cast, or a shuffling of feet, or that innate feeling all of have when someone walks up behind us, makes Mary turn around.
Much has been said and postulated about why she didn’t recognize Him. Eyes clouded by tears, perception weakened by grief, or simply convinced that Jesus was dead forever so that even a clear sight of Him wouldn’t break that certitude. Maybe it is a combination of them all.
When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Real and profound grief over loss reveals a real and profound love.
“He who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.”
We can postulate, but we cannot say for sure why Jesus appeared to her first. Did she love Him more, seek Him more? We have no scriptural basis for any real answer.
What we can say is that Jesus would not coldly stand off from any believer who sought Him with such desire, passion, and love.
I isolate that statement to believers because unbelievers don’t seek Him. He seeks them. “Seek and you shall find,” He said. And the prophet said, “You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek for Me with all of your heart.”
The Lord is absent from us right now. He is in us, but His body is in heaven. Periodically we long for His presence. Sometimes that longing is very strong and we become something like Mary here, as if we are looking into an empty tomb wanting. That kind of longing is to mourn His absence and that is to desire Him, and that cannot be faked in any way. To desire His presence is to invite His presence, and in a little while, you will secure it. I do mean His presence in this life, before we die and are physically in it. The spiritual and supernatural way in which we know He is near and walking with us.
Do we seek Him and do we long for Him? It is only self-examination, for we cannot self-will true desire.
Like so many real things, there is no procedure or formula for achieving it. It is like being in love. You cannot make yourself in love. You also cannot self-will longing. So how do we get it? I suppose we could ask how Mary got it.
The world at that time was in just as much darkness and turmoil as our own. In Israel the priesthood was completely corrupt. Rome ruled the known world, and although she kept order, she did it with feet of iron. There was crime, immorality, corruption, abuse of power, unfair taxes, and poverty. But Jesus didn’t appear in the high priest’s palace or to Pilate’s praetorium and triumph over them and demand they change or else. He didn’t first appear to the disciples and give them busy plans for organizing the church. Rather, He appears to a poor woman who, in their world, is not considered a credible witness because she is a woman. In fact, her testimony might only serve to discredit the event.
Yet still, in our age and in all ages, it is the same. Christ reveals Himself to believers all over the world, who are nobodies. He doesn’t seem all that interested in working miracles in the lives of rulers and elites, but in the not so many wise, noble, or strong in this world.
It has always been that through the common man, Jesus transforms and changes the family, the city, the state if they are willing.
The meekness, the true perception of the actual sorrows and wants of men, the sense for spiritual need, the utter disregard of worldly powers and glory, characterize Him now as before.
The sense of need is what always effectually appeals to Him. The soul of the unbeliever that sees no need for Him does not possess Him. The soul of the believer that does not long for His life and way, do not experience it. The believer whose soul values and longs to possess all knowledge of Him, to have His purity and love, in other words to live as close to Him as possible, will always find it. The Lord regards such worshippers.
When a man prays for the things of Christ, not with his lips but with his life’s effort and his heart’s true craving, his prayer is answered.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
If we desire, we will seek. If we seek, we are willing to abide in what we find and do what it asks, and by doing so, we find more of it. All the while we pray for it.
It is not receiving by works when we are willing to obey our Lord as we seek for all that He is and to be like Him. Prayer with the lips only and without true craving is not a request by desire but by convenience.
To seek Christ is to feel like Mary felt, to see with her that the Lord Jesus is the most precious of all possessions, that to be like Him is the greatest and most valuable of all attainments; it is to see His character with clearness, and to be persuaded that, if time gives us opportunity of becoming like Him and actually makes us like Him, it has done for us all that is vital and permanently important.
The likeliest person to be then standing in front of her was the keeper of the garden.
The words of the two angels could not break through her grief, but one word, her name, from the Lord could smash through it.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!"
The man obviously knew her. Perhaps it was a recognition of the voice and the way He said her name. I would think that a woman who loved the Lord Jesus as much as she did would treasure every time He called her name or said it. We are not given insight into her emotions or reasons, but hearing her name from Him opened her eyes to who He was.
If the finish of the gospel of Mark is indeed right, that same voice casted seven demons out of her. It is fitting that now He is casting away her seven-fold grief.
From being perhaps the saddest person on earth at the time, she became the happiest at just a word from our resurrected and victorious Lord.
Her joy is easy to understand. She heard herself owned as a friend by the risen Lord who called her name in His familiar tone. He stood there superior to all risk, assault, evil, and even death and He called her His friend. There would be much for Mary to learn in the years to come, but looking at the Man she saw die on the cross, now alive, she would have understood that He was above all earthly and human things, and perhaps within herself, she now knew at some small level, that she was as well.
Christ rose, not that He might bring ecstasy to Mary alone, but that He might fill all things with His presence and fullness, and that our joy also might be full.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
He has called all of us by name.
“But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
He knows we are sheep. He understands our nature. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. And, He claims to satisfy us, claiming an intimacy with us that no other can claim. The voice of Christ, risen and above all things, invites to His perfect joy and friendship. He stands alone with each of us in the garden and only our name is on His lips and only our wants occupy His concern. And we know then and there that we are saved from everything because of Him and will be with Him forever.
Let us not miss true personal intercourse with Christ. Let nothing cheat us of this supreme joy and life of the soul. Let us not slothfully or shyly say, “I can never be on such terms of intimacy with Christ, - I am so unlike Him; so full of desires that are unlike His; so frivolous, superficial, unreal, while He is so real, so honest, and during; so unloving while He is love; so reluctant to endure hardness, when He is so strong; so impure while He is pure and holy.
Mary was once trodden down by sin and evil. Whether she had the demons or not, we know this to be true because it is true of all. But it is what is in Christ that is powerful, and it is sufficient for every man.
Christ won His supremacy by love, refusing to enjoy His private rights as deity without our sharing them. He maintains His supremacy by love, teaching all to love Him, subduing to devotedness even the hardest heart (Saul of Tarsus) - not by a remote exhibition of cold, unemotional perfection, but by the persistence of His perfect, divine love.
Mary likewise responds with a name.
"Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher).
“Rabboni” had more reverence than “teacher.” It was applied to the president of the Sanhedrin. It should be - “My master.”
It is a term of reverence and respect. Would that we all called Him our Master and only Teacher. The one who calls Him Master is one without evasion of duty; a confident and expeditious follower; having a strong heart that makes room for the distresses and needs of others.
Our conscience cannot be purified and elevated but by worthy love of Him and deserved reverence of Him, and by living in His presence as our familiar Friend who commands our love and lifts our nature to what is far above it.
Apparently she clings to Him.
She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"
Various conjectural reasons have been given for the prohibition. He encouraged the disciples to touch Him so as to see that it was He. Was Mary making sure He was material and real?
The reason He gives is that He has not yet ascended to the Father, which implied that touching was no longer a prohibition after He ascended.
He would not be there for her and the disciples for very long. They wouldn’t be able to count on His presence as a comfort, or His words in defense of them, helping them in the same familiar ways and training them by His spoken words. He must ascend to heaven, to the Father, and those who love Him on earth must learn to live without the physical appearance, the actual seeing and touching and hearing of the Master. No more kissing Him. No more sitting to table with Him. No more walks through the countryside with Him. Now, required of them was a devotion, a homage of a sterner, deeper sort; they would have to walk by faith and not by sight. Walking through the countryside alone or with one another and by faith knowing He was in them and in heaven praying for them, but not visibly going with them anymore. They would have to dine with one another in love and by faith know that they wouldn’t dine with Him again until it was in heaven’s kingdom in the presence of the Father.
They must learn to serve an absent Lord. They must walk in their calling by the power of the Holy Spirit within them. They must acquire a love of righteousness without Him to be there defending them against those who hate righteousness. They would have to defend themselves through faith and speaking His word, rather than standing behind Him and waiting for Him to speak.
Our true tastes and convictions are truly tested and therefore known by choosing to mature and fulfill our destiny in His absence, and by faith going forth aside an invisible Lord.
And so He tells her to go and say to the disciples:
JOH 20:17 but go to My brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"
He has become the link between us and all that is highest and best. The resurrected and ascended Lord, having accomplished the victory of sin, death, and the devil upon the cross, has made His Father our Father, His God our God, and heaven our home.
We know that He has overcome all evil, and when He walked out of the tomb, He left it behind. He makes it clear that He will not enter where we cannot follow.
"When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men."
We know that His love binds Him to us as strongly as His righteousness and victory carry Him to His Father. We can as little believe that He will abandon us and leave us out of His eternal enjoyment, as we can believe that the Father would refuse His own Son a welcome into heaven.
“I ascend to My Father and your Father,” - “The joy that awaits Me at My homecoming awaits you also; the affinity of heaven for Me is the same for you; the victory that I have achieved now belongs to you; the holiness and power I have used I now give to you; what I have achieved and now enjoy are yours; I am your Brother, your Husband, your Lord; what I claim, I claim for you.”
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come."
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.