Summary: No one really expected the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today we focus on the expectations of two of those who first saw Jesus: John and Mary. What they expected, and how Jesus actually met them, can help your relationship with Jesus too.
No one saw it coming. No one. On the Sunday following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ no one really expected what happened (or at least it they didn’t fully comprehend it). They should have. Shortly after confirming to His men that He was the Messiah, Jesus said: Mark 8:31 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.” So why, when it happened, did no one expect it?
Don’t get me wrong, the principals involved in the death, and burial of Jesus did have expectations, and I want to explore those a little bit as we celebrate the resurrection.
First, let’s look at Mary Magdalene:
John 20:1-2, 11-18
Mary was from Magdala, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mark 16:9 tells us that when Jesus encountered her, she had seven demons inhabiting her body. Jesus drove them out and she followed Him from then on. Jesus was all she had. She stood by the cross along with three other women. When He died, something in her must have died as well. Her psyche simply could not accept the reality she was witnessing.
After Jesus was taken down and prepared for burial Mary must have followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the place where they laid His body. After the Sabbath was over, while still dark on Sunday morning, she and Mary, the mother of James of Joseph, came to the tomb to anoint His body—to complete the burial ritual that was hurriedly performed by the two men on Friday.
Matthew tells us that as they arrived a large earthquake occurred, or that’s what it seemed like, and somehow the tomb was open. John focuses only on Mary Magdalene, perhaps because she was the one with a speaking role.
But for now, all she knows is that tomb is open—which meant—what?
She runs back to tell Peter and John, who we’ll get to in a moment. She then follows them back to the tomb and after they went inside, she manages enough courage to look in. It would have been very dark in the tomb but God thought enough ahead to provide two angels in bright white clothing to show clearly that Jesus was not there.
She is crying and so the angels ask her why? Here is where we see her expectation. She tells them that someone has stolen the body of her Lord and she doesn’t know where they put Him. Dead or alive, she cannot part with Jesus. She is in a state of horrendous mourning and grief. Other gospels tell us that the angels instructed Mary that Jesus had risen from the dead. Here, John just records the voice of Jesus Himself asking a crucial question: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
The question is important because 1. There was no need for mourning and 2. She was looking for the wrong Jesus. The Jesus she was looking for was a dead helpless body that people had “put” somewhere. In reality, of course, Jesus was alive and better than ever—and more than that, was now a source of incredible rejoicing, having paid the penalty for Mary’s sin, and everyone else so we could be alive and free forever!
She thinks that Jesus is the gardener, apparently he wasn’t dressed in bright white clothing. He looked different—the blood stains were gone, but not the scars, though they were not visible to Mary at this point. It wasn’t the sight of Jesus that broke through her expectations, it was the voice of Jesus calling out her name: “Mary.”
Peter and John
At the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter, who had denied the Lord three times, was nowhere to be found. He was cowering in fear—hiding away somewhere, filled with shame and guilt. John stood by the Lord and was given responsibility for Mary, Jesus’ mother. But after that John must have gone to where Peter was, because Mary Magdalene found them together after seeing the stone rolled away from the tomb.
She reported that Jesus’ body had been stolen, but gave no indication about a resurrection or anything. Luke’s gospel records the reaction: that it was idle tales. They did not believe the women at all. We don’t know exactly why, but the two bolted away and started running. Perhaps they worried that it was going to get light soon, and that if caught during the day, they could face the same fate as Jesus. Maybe they felt a sense of responsibility to look after the body since they were Jesus’ main men. It’s possible they felt some guilt at not having the courage to ask Pilate for the body as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had done.