Summary: This is a study that details the experience of Mary on Resurrection morning.
Resurrection Sunday is now over. Jesus has arisen from the tomb. He’s alive. For the next few studies we will be looking at His appearing to people. Tonight we look at His appearing to Mary. This is really a precious event. We are now seeing His appearance AFTER the resurrection. His first appearance is to a woman who had been saved from the depths of human depravity. This is His appearance to Mary Magdalene, one who loved Jesus with the deepest of loves because of what He had done for her. Let’s take a closer look as we begin in verse 11.
READ v. 11. Mary had returned to the tomb. She was the first one at the tomb and when she discovered the stone rolled away she ran back to tell Peter and the others. Now she is returning to the tomb. Just when is not known, but she probably followed immediately behind Peter and John as they ran to the tomb.
When they left, she remained behind. She was weeping bitterly. Seeing Peter and John enter the tomb gave her courage to finally stoop down and look in. What Mary began to experience would revolutionize her life. She couldn’t ask for more.
Here we see a couple of things that can revolutionize a person’s life. First, is a person would just linger at the empty tomb of Jesus it would mean a lot more to them. Too many rush by His tomb, never thinking, never giving any thought to its meaning. Secondly, one should seek the truth of the empty tomb, what it means to life and to the world.
Instead, Easter is over. People are still cleaning up their yards with bits of cascarones and a few stray, unfound eggs. They’ve packed up their tents and Frisbees, and volleyball nets. They’ve already gotten back into the routine of everyday life. Did they stop for a minute and think about the empty tomb and what it means to us? In most cases, probably not. Unfortunately, too many treat Jesus this way. His dying for us isn’t taken too seriously. What a shame.
READ v. 12-13. The first startling sight was two angels. These two angels were sitting right where Jesus’ body had been lying. Angels are messengers of God; they are the ministering spirits of God, servants sent from heaven to carry out His will. On this particular occasion, they were sent to add to the spectacular significance of the resurrection and to comfort Mary in her grief. They had been sent to her in particular, because they weren’t in the tomb when Peter and John went in.
They were clothed in white. Matthew added a few more details in his account. He said the white was like lightning (meaning visible, quick, startling, striking, frightening, brilliant). He wrote that the white was like snow (white, pure, glistening). The fact that they were dressed in white apparently symbolizes the holiness and purity of God from whose presence they had come.
READ v. 14-16. Here we see the 2nd startling sight. Mary saw Jesus Himself. There are 4 things I want to mention about these 3 verses.
1. There was a startling sense. While Mary was still speaking to the angels, she sensed another presence behind her. She immediately turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know that it was Jesus.
2. There was a starling question: “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” We have to note that a graveyard is where one weeps and seeks for a grave. The point is this: Mary was seeking a dead Savior, a Savior who was as all other men are, frail and powerless to do anything about life and death, or eternity and heaven. Her whole being was focused on a grave where her dead Savior was lying. Mary was living as the world lives, without hope.
3. There was the false identity. Mary thought the man was the gardener and that maybe he had removed the body for some reason. Let’s note for a moment why Mary had not yet recognized Jesus.
a. Mary’s eyes were full of tears and her head was bowed low in the normal shyness that arises in such scenes.
b. Mary was facing in the wrong direction—into the grave. She had turned back around to face where the body had been lying.
When I read that and think about it I think there is a message here for everyone. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus in confronting death. Too often, we see the dead and become so wrapped up in grief that we forget the risen Lord and the great hope He gives us.
There is no question about Jesus’ emphasis here. This is the message He wanted to convey to Mary. There was no need for such convulsive weeping. Weep and grieve, yes, but there is a limit. Mary could have and should have seen Him sooner. And many times, so should we.