Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). John 20:16
One of the things that set Jesus’s ministry apart was the way He interacted with women. Each encounter teaches us something about Jesus and our relationship to Him. It is important to notice in each case, Jesus treated these women with dignity and respect that was unheard at that time and in that culture. That in itself is instructive as we interact with people now.
This week we’ll finish up with Mary Magdalene.
Mary is the subject of a lot of legend, a lot of speculation and conjecture, and a lot misinformation. The truth is, the Bible says very little about her. Luke introduces her in 8:2, simply saying she was from a Galilean town, Magdala, and that Jesus had driven seven demons from her. We know she was devoted to Christ and was present at His crucifixion. At daybreak on Resurrection morning, she came with the other women to properly anoint the body of Jesus.
However, they found the tomb empty, and the angelic messengers explained that Jesus had raised from the dead. Peter and John confirmed that the tomb was empty and everybody went back into town. Everyone except Mary.
She hung around the tomb alone, privately grieving. In spite of the fact that the angels had explained Jesus was risen, it was too much to believe. We live on the other side of the resurrection. It is a familiar reality. However, Jews in Mary’s day had only a vague understanding of a general resurrection. We see that in Martha’s conversation with Jesus after Lazarus’s death. Mary mourned not only Jesus’s death, but now there was nothing left of Him. No place. No marker. No memorial.
I can identify with Mary. I have followed Jesus for a long time. But I admit, sometimes His words are difficult to grasp, even with the evidence right in front of me.
But for Mary, it was more than evidence in front of her. It was Christ himself! He asks her two questions to help her understand what was happening. Why are you weeping? Jesus, whom she loved, was gone. She could not perform the act of devotion, caring for His body, for Him. She had been robbed of that opportunity and she was utterly devastated. Jesus was gently prodding to think about her situation. Why was the body gone?
Then He asked, Whom are you seeking? Jesus was not like anyone else she had ever known. She had heard His words. She had experienced His liberating power in her own life. Essentially He wanted her to consider who Jesus is. Ordinary men are buried in tombs, Mary, Jesus is no ordinary man.
Do we weep and mourn when our plans, even our ministry plans, are disrupted? Do we cling to our loss rather than considering who it is that we worship and serve? I know I have.
Jesus doesn’t belabor the lessons, though. He speaks Mary’s name. (This moment chokes me up every time I read it.) That’s when she recognizes Him. After all, Jesus said His sheep would hear His voice. He IS alive! Her natural reaction is to embrace Him, but Jesus holds her off. Instead He entrusts her with an amazing mission. You see, Mary is the first person to see the risen Christ. Not Peter. Not John. Not even Jesus’s mother. Mary of Magdala. What an honor! What a privilege!
Mary vindicated Jesus’s trust in her by immediately carrying the news to the other disciples.
Jesus has called us by name and honored us by commissioning us to carry this amazing transforming message to others. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19) Let us, like Mary, be faithful to carry that message!