Summary: The story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus teaches us many things about when and how Jesus reveals himself to us.

John 20:1-2, 11-18 “Seeing Jesus”


For several Sundays, we have been walking with Jesus as he has sent his face toward Jerusalem traveled toward the cross. Our time with Jesus has been a time of learning. While Jesus has not instructed us in things that our society considers important: How to win friends and influence people, Time management, Successful parenting, or How to think and grow rich, we have learned important lessons. We have caught a glimpse and began to understand what the ministry of Jesus Christ is, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Today we pause for a moment from our travels with Jesus in order to focus on the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus. Throughout its existence, the church has used the lives dynamic Christians—saints—as teaching examples. They too have much to teach us about the Christian life and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This particular story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus has much to tell us about how Jesus reveals himself to us. If someone came up to you and asked, “Where do you see Jesus in your life?” what would you say? Mary Magdalene, when asked this question, would probably share the story of the first Easter morning.


The story of the empty tomb is recorded in all four gospels. In each of the gospels Mary Magdalene is listed as one of the women who walked to the tomb early on Sunday morning. Only in John, however, is Mary identified as the only woman who went to the tomb.

Mary rose up early in the morning to walk to the tomb. She needed to make this trip as an expression of her grief, and in order to complete the burial preparations of the body. I think Mary also simply wanted to spend time with the person she loved. Early in the morning, with the person she loved, she saw Jesus.

Mary went to the tomb early in the morning because of love. Her presence wasn’t dictated by religious necessity or ritual. Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary. He had transformed her life. Jesus had loved her when she was thought to be unlovable. Mary responded to Jesus’ love and saving activity in her life with love. Love motivated her early morning discipline and opened her up to the possibility of seeing Jesus.

Following Mary’s example, people schedule specific times in their lives to be with Jesus. These times may be early in the morning, late at night, or in the middle of the day. Whenever they occur, these are times of prayer, devotional reading and meditation—times to be with Jesus. All too often Christians fall into the trap of believing that they must discipline themselves because that is what good Christians do. Soon they find themselves working hard to be good and to do the right things.

Mary reminds us that such devotion is truly motivated by love. God loves us with an overwhelming and steadfast love. Jesus died for us, even when we were rebelling against God’s Lordship in our lives, in order to forgive our sins and provide us with a new life and a new relationship with God. God invites us to respond to God’s grace with faith and love. Spending time in God’s presence, because we love God, opens us up to seeing Jesus in our world and in our lives.


When Mary arrives at the tomb, she discovers the tomb empty. She immediately assumes the worst, like many of us would do, that someone has stolen the body of Jesus. Mary rushes off to tell the disciples. Peter and the beloved disciple return to the tomb with Mary. They confirm that indeed the tomb is empty, but they cannot off any explanation except the cryptic comment that the beloved disciple looked inside the tomb, saw and believed.

Mary’s grief is multiplied. She not only grieves Jesus’ death, but also that someone has desecrated his body. She is confused and overwhelmed by the events of the morning. Even when two angels appear to her and she sees a man in the garden near the tomb, she does not hear hope or see Jesus.

We understand Mary’s predicament. We’ve been there and done that. Overwhelmed by the trials and struggles of life, and blinded by our tears we have been unable to experience hope or see Jesus. But Jesus does come to us. In the midst of our tears we see Jesus.

Martin Luther made a distinction between what he called the “Theology of Glory,” and “The Theology of the Cross.” Mary’s story is an illustration of the “Theology of the Cross.”—we experience God’s presence in our lives and see Jesus in our suffering. We do not need to strive for the mountaintops of life in order to see Jesus—the Theology of Glory. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is that Jesus meets us where we are at. Jesus reveals himself to us in the “stuff” of life. We do not need to seek struggles and bad situations. They will happen without our efforts. When they do, though, Jesus will be there with us and we will sense God’s presence and love.

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