Summary: Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ? Why? Why not Peter, why not one of the other disciples? What made Mary so special that she was the first? What can we take away from her life to apply to ours?
Easter isn’t about bunnies and eggs and candy, it’s about the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue my series on the Lesser known People of the Bible, but as I sat down and started reading through the Scriptures on the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, I found lots of characters that we don’t know much about, but this morning since it is Resurrection Sunday, I had to narrow it down to two, and only one won out. This morning the character that we’re going to look at is a couple firsts for our series. First, it’s our first character in the New Testament, and second, it’s our first character that’s a woman. You’ve probably guessed who it is, but if not, we’re going to be looking at Mary Magdalene and what we can learn from her life and why she was the first one that Jesus revealed Himself to after He arose from the dead.
Legends about Mary Magdalene abound. In fact, Mary Magdalene is probably more well-known for false details and unproven facts in her life. Often she is identified as a former prostitute, but there is nothing in the Bible that backs up this rumor. Frequently, people identify her with the sinful woman from the city that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. But there are no clues in the Bible text to the identity of that woman, and no reason to believe that it might be Mary Magdalene. At times, Mary Magdalene has been confused with Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister, another woman who also anointed Jesus with costly perfume. But we know that Biblically Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are two different people. Dan Brown wrote The Davinci Code in which he alleged that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were actually married and that they in fact had a daughter together. We know this of course to be legend and totally false.
So who was Mary Magdalene actually? Why was Mary the first that He appeared to? Jesus told Simon Peter that he was the rock that He was going to build His church on. So why wasn’t Peter the one the Lord appeared to first?
Just as at Jesus’ birth the angels announced it to the shepherds, who were the lowly and poor of their day, Jesus’ resurrection is announced to the lowly here also. Women were in that day considered second class citizens, if that. In some governments of the day a woman’s testimony in a court of law was not even permitted. Women were looked down upon, almost treated as property. Look at the mentality in our modern world of the way some Muslim women are treated. This is really a continuation of the way things were back in the days of Jesus.
Mary Magdalene loved Jesus deeply - maybe more deeply than anyone else. She held an important place in his life and ministry - she was present both at Jesus’ crucifixion and at his burial. She was one of the devoted women who came early in the morning to the empty tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene was the first one to actually see the resurrected Jesus.
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, `I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.' " 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.