Mary Magdalene the witness! – John 20:10-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 3, 2016
We may at some time in our lives be asked to “tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God”, but what does this mean? It means we are to relate the truth as we have witnessed it or experienced it and therefore it can differ from another’s perspective of what they saw, heard, or experienced during the same event. This is in fact why we get some minor variations from the different Gospel perspectives of the same events, including the resurrection of Jesus.
Simon Peter and John had headed home after witnessing the empty tomb for themselves and now we find Mary still there. What she sees and experiences gives us a fuller picture of what took place that Easter morning so long ago when the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Let look again at what occurred and discover for ourselves what it means for us this morning as discover more about Mary Magdalene the witness!
When someone who is very close to you dies it seems as if your world comes crashing in on you. And if you watched them die a tragic death it can be traumatizing to say the least. Here we find Mary alone at the tomb and as we follow what occurred we discover that…
I. Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! (Vv. 10-14)
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:10-14 NIV)
1. When John writes back in verse 8 that he saw and believed, did he mean he saw the empty tomb and believed Mary that Jesus’ body was gone or that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Folks have speculated about this because we learned from verse 9 that evidently the disciples did not yet understand from Scripture Jesus’ resurrection. Perhaps John had not yet told Mary that he suspected Jesus’ resurrection or that he too was shocked and still puzzled over the empty tomb. Whatever the reason, we learn that the disciples “went back to their homes” while “Mary stood outside the tomb crying.” However, Mary was soon to be the witness and participant of something extraordinary. “As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.” Where once there was just an empty sepulcher now there were heavenly visitors! While in visions angels may appear as multi-winged creatures with lots of eyes all over their bodies, but when they appear before men here on earth they often take on human form. No halos or wings ever. How did John know these were heavenly beings? He is writing after the fact and the word for angel (angelos) literally means messenger. So John relates that there were two heavenly messengers who ask Mary, “Woman, why are you crying?” Mary’s grief causes her spiritual blindness and sets the stage for perhaps one of the greatest reveals in all of history. She responds thinking the body is still stolen, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” And here is one of history’s poignant moments because sensing perhaps someone else was in the tomb as well “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” The message of the angels is to set the stage for the Messiah. With tear-stained eyes and blurred vision Mary does not at first recognize Jesus and so it is here in this moment that along with Mary we hear the message of heaven!
EXAMPLE: There have been times in history where important messages have been misunderstood. Robert Frost wrote a now famous line in one of his poems: “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” It’s not about being brave and taking the road less traveled! Far from it in fact and Frost himself admitted that he was actually mocking the idea that single decisions would change your life, and specifically making fun of a friend of his who had a tendency to over-think things that really weren’t that big a deal. Or the song “Every Breath You Take” by the Police seems like a wonderfully sweet love song. However, Sting wrote the song about his bitter divorce, and the lyrics explain how the experience made him obsessive and controlling! From text and Tweeter messages to Facebook posts others can misunderstand what we are trying to convey. And here in John’s Gospel we find the same thing happening, yet, if we allow ourselves to we can experience what she did and along with Mary we can hear the message of heaven!
What occurred to Mary she never ever expected it to happen in her entire life. How could she? As we are involved with this grief-stricken lady we discover that…
II. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord! (Vv. 15-18)
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, 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, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:15-18 NIV)
1. As she talks with her Master Mary does not realize at first who she is speaking with. Some suggest Jesus kept this from her as he did with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) or that Jesus’ appearance had changed or it was her grief that kept her from recognizing Jesus. Far too often in our own self-centered world we do not recognize our Master’s voice either nor do we see him actively working in our lives. Yet he is always speaking to us and at work. John writes that Jesus’ conversation is the same question as that of the angels, “Woman, why are you crying?” Yet Jesus goes further than mere sympathy he pushes her to face her grief by immediately by asking, “Who is it you are looking for?” Jesus is literally asking Mary, “Who do you truly desire?” or “Who do you really worship?” Did she want her grief over a dead person or did she desire a living Jesus! It is the question we must ask today. Who do you truly desire, Jesus or yourself? Mary’s grief still blinds her, “Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.'” What is blinding you this morning in accepting the risen Lord? God is merciful and kind, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.'” He uses her personal name and in this she recognizes her Master’s voice. “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!'” (teacher). As the Good Shepherd he calls his sheep by name and they recognize his voice. (John 10:3-4) She may have hugged him or grabbed a hold of him in her enthusiasm however Jesus tells her, “Do not hold on to me, 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, to my God and your God.'” The “touch me not” of the KJV is way too harsh of a translation and the NIV actually got it right. Jesus was not untouchable in any way; rather the idea is that she should not hold on to him physically because there is now a new relationship. He would always be with her through the church and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And to Mary’s credit her reaction is to go “to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.” Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!
EXAMPLE: What you experience and what I experience during the same event might differ greatly depending upon what we think we see, hear, or even our likes and dislikes. A birthday party might have been the greatest thing in the world for you, but not for me. I was raised very poor, often shared birthdays with my brother who was two years older and only a week apart from my birthday. Birthdays became no big deal. Yet here in John’s gospel we discover that the witness of Mary is so genuine and real because it places us right there with her in her grief. And I cannot help myself because when Mary finally realizes who it is speaking to her, I am experiencing it right there with her. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!
Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.