The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
Their beloved Teacher was dead, and the hope of a restored Israel along with Him. His body was quickly placed in a tomb without proper ceremony and preparation. The government officials may or may not be after those that remained. And one of their number had already denied their Lord for fear of persecution. This was the position of the disciples on the morning of Resurrection Sunday. Things were looking rather bleak and hopeless with no light on the horizon. In such circumstances, it would have been easy to sulk, succumb to depression, and desert, and some of the disciples may have felt like it. However, the first verse of John 20 shows us that at least one woman was not ready to give up yet.
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”
Did you notice how Mary got up early, while it was still dark even? She was a dedicated woman! Also, John doesn’t tell us this, but we know from the other gospels that Pilate had stationed a guard of soldiers at the tomb to keep the body untouched from imposters. So not only did Mary Magdalene get up really early to go to the tomb, but she also very bravely went despite the soldiers posted at the entrance. But then when she got to the tomb, all was not as expected…the stone was gone, and the tomb was empty. So Mary ran to Peter and John and told them of what she found at the tomb, and they ran back to the garden. But when Peter and John discovered that the body of Jesus was not there, they left! They didn’t stick around to see what was going on; they simply left after seeing no body in the tomb and believing that someone had stolen it. But what did Mary Magdalene do? She stayed, and because she stayed she got to see something extraordinary…
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.’” ~John 20:11-15
When everyone else had given up and left the tomb, Mary stayed. She stayed to grieve and was so broken-hearted and filled with sorrow that when angels appeared to her, she didn’t seem frightened. Rather, she was distraught that the body of her Lord was missing and was willing to conduct a search for the body as evidenced by her reply to the supposed gardener. It was Mary’s great love for her Savior that caused her to grieve so deeply, but all that sorrow was about to change…
Did you notice how Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until He called her by name? He appeared to her and she guessed that He was the gardener, but once Jesus said her name she knew who He was and recognized His voice. But Mary Magdalene didn’t just hear and recognize the voice of her Lord, she also answered His call with “Rabboni” or “Teacher”. Rabboni was a term of reverence and honor and also of submission. It literally meant, “You are the Master, and I am your slave.” Rabboni wasn’t merely a trivial title like we use the term “teacher”, but was a word demonstrating utter submission and deference to the one it referred to. So when Mary responded to Jesus, it wasn’t a simple “Oh, how I’ve missed you!” but a “Lord, here I, your servant, am!” And though Mary spoke with reverence and honor towards Jesus, she also wasn’t afraid to bring Him into a tight hug, as evidenced by Jesus’ next sentence, “Do not cling to me.” Now did Jesus tell her not to cling to Him because He disliked hugs? I doubt it! I’m sure He loved the strong display of affection Mary showed Him; however, He had work for her to do. For the instruction, “Do not cling to me.” was followed by “but go”. Jesus wanted Mary to carry the good news to His sad and depressed disciples, and Mary obeyed. I’m sure she would have wanted to stay with Jesus longer and just bask in His presence, but she obeyed the directive and ran off to tell the others.
So now, in light of all this, the question is…have YOU heard Jesus call your name? How have you responded? Does your heart cry, “Lord!” at the sound of His voice? Or is it merely another voice calling for your attention? And when Jesus has called you to do something, have you responded with instant obedience? Or are there excuses that you make, delaying or disregarding Jesus’ command? How much of Mary Magdalene’s testimony can you claim for yourself?
Jesus didn’t appear to one of His well-known disciples first, or even to His mother. But rather, to a semi-obscure woman who was faithful and He called her by name, meeting Mary right where she was. So also, our loving Savior meets us right where we’re at—whether that is a tearful heap like Mary, the depths of depression, or the heights of victory—and calls us by name. He doesn’t care if we’re well known or popular or whether we’ll become great for His name, but simply if we’re faithful. For after this experience, Mary Magdalene didn’t go on to become famous in the New Testament or in church history, but rather faded into anonymity and was quickly forgotten about. However, she did have one claim to fame or as one commentator on Mary Magdalene’s life noted, “
So whether we—after hearing the Lord’s voice and responding “Rabboni!”—become Peters or Johns in our generation, men and women of notoriety and influence for the Lord, or Mary Magdalenes who remain largely anonymous in the Christian population, our testimony and claim should resemble in the spiritual sense that of the woman who first saw the Risen Lord and went on to proclaim it to all she knew.
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’”