The morning of the third day after the death of Jesus didn’t begin as the disciples expected. Mary Magdalene, after visiting the tomb came running to the apostles Peter and John with the announcement that the body of Jesus had disappeared. What a shock that must have been?
When an attempt was made in 1876 to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln, and to hold it for ransom, our nation was shocked and distraught. After the plot was foiled and the criminals captured and imprisoned, the body was re-buried in Springfield, Illinois, in a coffin encased in a steel cage set into tons of concrete.
Imagine the shock on Easter morning when the disciples of Jesus were numbed by the news of the announcement that someone may have taken the body.
The Discernment of the Disciples (9–10)
The “other disciple” in the text is John. Apparently Peter had a little more weight on him than John. Running backs like Peter are good for sprints not long runs. We know this from the sprint to the tomb.
I want you to notice 2 greek words translated by 1 english word: saw.
John runs to the tomb, stoops down and saw the linen cloths. Saw is a word for simply glancing. He looked in a cursory manner.
But Peter rushed in the tomb.
D. A. Carson points out the pattern of Peter up to this point: “the reader will remember with a smile that when Peter finally recognized he needed to have his feet washed, he asked for a shower (13:8–9); but much more seriously the reader will recall that after Peter professed a willingness to lay down his life for Jesus (13:37), he denied Jesus 3 times (19:17–27);
In the presence of the arresting soldiers, he sliced off the ear of malchus (18:10) but then backed down to a servant girl (18:17); and that at the sea when he learned it was the Lord on the land, he hastily jumped off the boat and sprang into the water (21:7).”
Peter, true to his nature, barges into the tomb and looks inside. The word saw used in verse 6 is different than the one used in verse 5. It’s the greek word for saw is theoreo, where we get the english word theater. He carefully examined the tomb and finds the grave cloths but no body.
The linen cloths were used to wrap the body in preparation for burial. Peter would have known immediately that someone didn’t take the body because the linens were carefully folded. Apparently, John believed in Jesus by what he saw or by what he didn’t see in the tomb. He is the first person in all of history to believe in the resurrected Christ.
Peter on the other hand was confused. This is confirmed by the text of Luke 24:12, which says that Peter “when he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.” the word amazed means he wondered what happened.”
This should blow your mind. Jesus told the disciples not once, not twice, but 3 times that he will die and be raised from the dead. But they missed it. They wanted a Jesus of their own fabrication. A messiah who died was not a category in their belief system.
It’s another reminder that evidence will not convince people.
Some think that if we find the ark of the covenant or the ark of Noah, or Moses’ staff, Joseph’s multi-colored coat, or Jesus’ slipper, then I’ll believe. No you won’t. “faith comes by hearing and hearing the word.” Some religions build their faith upon feelings or experience. The problem is that one day, the signs stop coming. The feeling falter. The experiences cease. Then what?
Jesus has to remind them of his resurrection multiple times in the new testament and even after his death with Thomas, Peter, and those on the road to Emmaus. What does that tell us about us? We are sheep.
The Devotion of Mary (11–12)
Verse 11, “but Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying. 13 they said to her, “woman, why are you crying?” “because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.
Mary arrived at the tomb with three other women that morning to anoint Jesus with spices according to mark 16.
Mary was from magdala a seaport town on the sea of galilee. This is not Mary, mother of Jesus. Or mother of John and James, or Mary of Bethany, sister of martha. Mary Magdalene was set free from 7 demons when she met Jesus.
After seeing the stone rolled away, Mary immediately left to report the news to John and Peter. After the 2 men departed from the tomb, Mary was left behind crying. Why didn’t John and Peter tell her what they saw. We can assume their paths didn’t cross. The word for crying is sobbing or wailing. This was a typical middle eastern response to death.
You would think that Mary, who heard Jesus say repeatedly he would rise from the dead, would say, “it’s the third day. There is no body, wait a minute…. Maybe he has risen from the dead.” she doesn’t even consider that he’s been raised. She is distraught. Mary bends down and looks inside, probably for the first time, and sees angels. Where are the angels sitting?
Verse 12, “she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying.”
Notice they were sitting not standing where the body of Jesus had been lying. this is a witness to God’s rest after the finished work on the cross.
Jewish readers would have immediately linked this picture to exodus 25:17–19, “make a mercy seat of pure gold… make two cherubim [angel] of gold; make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 make one cherub [angel] at one end and one cherub at the other end. At its two ends, make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat.”
The mercy seat was the place where God was supposed to dispense mercy to the people after the blood atonement was sprinkled upon it. Verse 22 displays this it perfectly: “I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the Ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites,”We no longer have to meet at a temple to speak with God. We have access to God through Christ our mediator.Notice something striking in verse 14, “having said this, she turned around.” after she talks to the 2 angels, she turns her back on them to search for Jesus’ body. Her minds attention and hearts affection were on Christ.
If Jesus occupied the throne of our hearts, the pleasures of this world would have no appeal to us. Maybe the reason we have little concern for the things of God is because you are absorbed with the things of the world. Jesus speaks to Mary: “woman,” Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed him, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”
She may not have recognized him because of the tears streaming down her face.
–“Why are you crying?” is not an inquiry but a mild rebuke. You should be rejoicing, not weeping.
–“Who is it you are looking for?” is questioning her understanding of the messiah. Wwhat did you expect?”
It’s not until Jesus calls her name that she realizes that its Jesus. Her eyes were opened to see him.
It reminds us of what Jesus said in John 10:27, “my sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish —ever!”
The first time Jesus addresses her as his creature: woman.
The second time he addresses her as her savior: Mary.
Mary recognizes Jesus and calls him what she has always called him: rabboni.
You have to understand Mary Magdalene’s past to sympathize with the depth of her despair over someone taking Jesus’ body.
Mary Magdalene was tormented by seven demons. She was a prisoner in her own body. 1 demon is bad. Seven is an idiom for mega. She was wholly possessed. Demon possession was true bondage by an evil spirit. An real, personal, fallen-spirit creature. This was an affliction not a sin. They were all miserable, sorrowful, lonely people. There were often outcasts of society. Their lives were broken and ruined by the possession of a demonic spirit.
Her life was a wreck. Imagine the depression. Imagine the despair. Her body was broken and she needed Jesus to put her back together again. And that he did. At one time, she was controlled by satan. Now she owes everything to Jesus. From the moment she was set free, she never left Jesus’ side. She financially contributed to his ministry, she traveled everywhere with him, she followed him on the road to calvary, she stood under his feet as he hangs from the cross, she is the first at his tomb in the morning.
The Bible says, “he who is forgiven much, loves much.” when you’ve experienced the depths of sin like Mary, you are grateful for the mercy and grace of God. Her devotion is seen in her response to the so-called gardener: Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “sir, if you’ve removed him, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”
Pastor Donald Barnhouse said: “she was a 120 pound woman who had been drawn in her soul for 3 days and who had already made the trip between jerusalem and the tomb 3 times. She was offering to carry the body of a man who weighed perhaps 160 pounds. She couldn’t have done it, but she would have split her heart trying.”
We can learn a lot from Mary. When others came and went from the tomb, Mary stayed. Even when Peter and James ran home, she didn’t leave.
Love caused her to linger. Love caused her to honor the last place she saw him.
Love reaped a rich reward. she saw the angels whom Peter and John missed. She was the first to hear Jesus speak. She was the first to see him in his resurrected body.
It’s no accident that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden in Genesis and Jesus’ first appearance was in the garden to Mary. Mary thought he was a gardener. She doesn’t mistaken him for a soldier, or a disciple or a pharisee or a bystander. She mistakens him for a gardener. A job that God gave to Adam. He was to tend the Garden of Eden. I think it’s an allusion to Jesus being the new Adam. Finally, it was a woman who was deceived by the lies of the devil. And now Jesus appears to the woman with the truth of God.
The Deployment of Good Bews
Verse 18, “don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father—to my God and your God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “i have seen the Lord!” and she told them what Ge had said to her.”
Jesus tells her to stop clinging to him. This is the most difficult verse in the passage to understand. Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct thomas to do so? Thomas needed affirmation of who Jesus was. Mary is holding on for a different reason. Jesus is making it clear that he is going to depart from this world. And the relationship she had before His death is different than the one they will have after His resurrection. He is going to move from being with them to being in them. “When I ascend to the right hand of God, I will send the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will comfort you.”
Jesus gives Mary a mission. Go share with everyone the message of the gospel. Now why would he do that? He chooses a woman, not a man. He chooses a former mental patient, not a reputable member of the community.
Jesus uses Mary as the first missionary.
The writer, Annie Dillard, said, “I have been my whole life a bell, and I never knew until I was picked up, lifted up, and rung. I thought I was a paperweight. I thought I was a doorstop. I had no idea that if somebody picked me up and rung me, I was a bell. I had no idea what I was.”
Mary should be an example for every person on the planted with a stained past that God can use you. He takes a mess and formulates a message. He takes our tests and gives us a testimony.
Jesus redeems in order to reign and then give responsibility. What does he say, “Go tell those lousy disciples”? “Go tell those miserable deserters”? No. “Go tell my brothers. Because of my death, and resurrection, we’re in the same family. My father is now their Father, and My God is their God.”
This the first time Jesus addresses his disciples as brothers.
Bishop Andrews said, “As by a woman came the first message of death, so by a woman came also the first notice of the resurrection from the dead. And the place also fits well, for in a garden they both came”
Even though Mary saw Jesus with her own eyes, the disciples don’t believe her at first. Mark 16:10, “she went and reported to those who had been with him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 yet, when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.” Proof that Jesus rose from the dead is the more than 515 eyewitnesses that saw him on 12 different occasions. Acts 1:3 says that, “after He had suffered, He also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the Kingdom of God.
But to me the most convincing evidence of the reliability of the scriptures is that Jesus chose to reveal himself first to a woman. Women in the first century, although it was wrong, were not trusted witnesses in court. They didn’t have many rights. But Mary was no ordinary woman. She was a formerly demon possessed. She was an outcast. She was a freak. A weirdo. And this is the person that is entrusted with the greatest message of the world. Mary was a walking billboard of mercy. She was a choice trophy of God’s grace. The greatest apologetic to a lost and dying world for a risen savior is a changed life. Mary was living proof of the power of the resurrection.
Are you? When people see you, do they see Christ?