Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

John 20: 11-18

About 7:00 am on Sunday the seventeenth of Nisan

DIG: Why did Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene even before He appeared to His own apostles? What finally breaks through her grief and confusion? How does her return to the Eleven contrast to that in John 20:2? What term does Christ use for His talmidim here? What is new in their relationship from now on (John 15:15)? Yeshua Messiah clearly chose Miryam from Magdala to be the first to see Him after His resurrection. Why was the Lord's appearanace to Mary so important and significant?

REFLECT: How has Messiah spoken your name in a time of grief? How did it affect you? What does it mean to you that our Savior is your brother?

If this account of the resurrection was a fabrication, this would not be the way to do it. Under Jewish law the testimony of a woman was not accepted. This is why the talmidim to not believe the women right away. A person making up a resurrection lie would have told it men, or a group of men, at least two or three, in accordance with the Jewish concept of testimony. Therefore, having the first appearance of the resurrection be seen by a woman actually authenticates the resurrection account.1661

By the time Mary Magdalene made it back to the tomb, Peter and John had already come and gone. Along now, feeling lost and beside herself with grief, her sorrow surged and she stood outside the tomb sobbing uncontrollably. Her Savior was dead, and someone had taken His body. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. Even though the angels had announced to her on the first visit to the tomb that Messiah had risen (Luke 24:5b-6a), Mary still did not understand. So in light of the previous announcement, they asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” If she believed their message that Yeshua had risen, there would have been no need for tears. Mary’s reply revealed her interpretation of the empty tomb. Through her broken-hearted sobs, Miryam cried out: They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put Him (John 20:11-13). To this the angels made no reply.

It was just then that she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. This was the first appearance of the resurrected Christ. At first, through her tear-filled eyes, she did not realize Him at all (John 20:14). Incidentally, she was not the only one who didn’t instantly perceive who He was after His resurrection. Later that day two of His disciples traveled some distance with Him on the road to Emmaus before their eyes were opened (Lk 24:13-35). His face was different – glorified. John would later describe Him like this: The hair on His head was white as wool, as white as snow, His eyes were like blazing fire, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters (Rev 1:14-15).

Yeshua repeated the angels’ question and asked her: Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Not only did she not recognize His appearance, she also did not recognize His voice. Jesus Christ was the last person Mary expected to see alive. Thinking He was the gardener, she said: Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him (Yochanan 20:15).

All He had to say was her name, and she instantly recognized Him. He calls His own sheep by name . . . and they know His voice (John 10:3-4 NKJV). Then Yeshua called her by name, saying: Miryam. When she turned to look at Jesus – really look at Him - she accepted the fact of His resurrection and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” or my Teacher (John 20:16). Mary’s grief instantly turned to inexpressible joy.

Why would the risen Lord start by appearing first to a grieving Miryam from Magdala? Why would He entrust this vital, history-altering revelation to a woman who, according to society’s rules, wasn’t even a credible witness? Just think, if He had only arrived a little earlier, He could have revealed Himself to two of the greatest apostles, Peter and John. Wouldn’t that have been better? Nevertheless, the Messiah chose Mary Magdalene, and from what we know of Jesus, neither His timing nor His choice was an accident. Miryam was a perfect person for the supreme honor of being first to see the risen Christ – fitting, strangely enough, because she was a woman.

After being held for who know how long in the power of seven demons, who else better than Mary Magdalene to be the first to witness Christ’s decisive victory over the Adversary? She knew from painful personal experience how the Enemy really operated. Jesus did far more for Mary than simply free her from demons. By His death and resurrection, Jesus not only broke the power of sin and death, He conquered her former tormenter, the devil.

The outcome of the war between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), was decided here. And how fitting for Jesus to ask Mary: Women, why are you crying? Although it seems like an odd thing to ask in a cemetery, in this case, the question is profound. Miryam was weeping over the empty tomb, the one historical event that brings hope to all our tears. If Mary found what she was looking for – a dead Messiah – we would all have reason to weep in despair. Instead, He was the victor! Hope is alive, no matter how grim things look, Yeshua has won the war, and the rest of history is merely mopping up. Satan is a defeated foe, and Mary’s, and our, liberation was complete.

We can only imagine the cheerful look of surprise of Mary’s face when she recognized Him. The worst of sorrows changed in an instant to the best of joys. We’re sobbing our hearts out. We can’t find Jesus. We’ve lost all hope. Then Yeshua comes. He speaks our name. Suddenly the cloud lifts and our troubles are bearable. We feel a rush of excitement. Christ seems so near, and so does our hope.1662

When we put this information with what we gleaned from Luke’s gospel tells us that Mary was one of the women who traveled with Jesus (see Eg – Mary Magdalene and Some Other Women Supported Jesus Out of Their Own Means), it is clear that Miryam was a student in the school of Rabbi Yeshua. She was blessed with more than the average opportunities to hear His word and to observe and interact with Him. Once again, if this were a made up story you wouldn’t use a woman here, because women were unreliable witness in the Jewish culture.

At that point Miryam must have tried to hold Him as if she would never let Him go. But Jesus said: Stop clinging to Me, since I haven’t yet gone back to the Father (John 20:17a NASB). The Lord’s words testified in a unique way to Mary Magdalene’s extraordinary character. Most of us are too much like the apostle Thomas – hesitant, doubting, and pessimistic. Yeshua urged Thomas to touch Him, in order to verify the Lord’s identity (John 20:27). It is remarkable and sad (but true) that most of Christ’s disciples, especially in this postmodern age, constantly need to be coaxed nearer to Him. But Mary, by contrast, didn’t want to let Him go and held on for dear life!1663

From what He says here and from what He says in Hebrews 9:11-12, 24 and 10:12, we know that Jesus offered His own blood in the Most Holy Place, the more perfect Tabernacle that is in heaven. So He could not be held until He had ascended to heaven. But instead go to My brothers (Greek: adelphos) and tell them that I am going back to My Father and your Father, to my God and your God (John 20:17b CJB). Adelphos can be used of physical brothers, or brothers in the Lord. The context determines how it should be used. Here the context is the apostles, so it would be brothers in the Lord.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse to prove that Jesus cannot be God because He is inferior to God the Father (to read more about this see Kr – The Holy Spirit Will Teach You All Things). The Witnesses are going to say that this is the resurrected Christ, not Jesus as a man ministering on earth, saying: I haven’t yet gone back to the Father. Could Jesus make such a statement if He Himself were not God? This verse reveals perhaps one of the most important features of the doctrine of the person of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ, when He walked this earth, combined two natures: a divine nature, on the one hand, which is the nature of God, and a human nature, or on the other hand, which is the nature of man. Jesus was both God and man at the same time. He was not fifty percent God and fifty percent man; He was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man.

An interesting exercise to undertake is to go through the Gospels and note carefully the sayings and the activity of Christ and see how at times the divinity of Christ is emphasized, then at other times, the humanity of Christ is revealed. For example, in John 4, Jesus was sitting at the well talking with the Samaritan woman because He was tired from His journey. Only a man gets tired; God does not grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28). Another example of the humanity of Christ is seen when He was hanging on the cross. He was dying and He was saying His final prayers to His Father. Of course, when Christ died, it was the humanity of Jesus that died, not the divinity of Messiah, because the divine Christ could never die. Therefore, when Yeshua was resurrected from the dead, it was the humanity of Christ, the human Jesus that rose from the dead.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the when Jesus was resurrected He gave up His humanity forever. They believe that when Yeshua died and His human body went into the tomb it was dissolved by God the Father! They paint themselves into a theological corner because they believe that Christ was Michael the Archangel before he was somehow transformed into the human of Jesus in the womb of Mary. I am not making this up! So after His is death on the cross, Yeshua had to rise from the dead as a spirit in order to become Michael the Archangel once again. Oh, what a tangled web they weave!

Therefore, to illustrate the divine nature and the human nature of Yeshua, we only need to look at the two special titles applied to Jesus throughout the Gospels: The Son of Man and the Son of God. Messiah Himself used those two titles. Yes, indeed! I tell you that there is coming a time – in fact, it’s already here – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given the Son life to have in Himself. Also He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Don’t be surprised at this; because the time is coming when all who are in the grave will hear His voice (Yochanan 5:25-28).

Son of God is the title showing the divinity of Messiah, so notice the action that accompanies it. Those who hear the voice of the Son of God will live. Only God can give eternal life! On the other hand, when we look at verses 27 and 28 we see that God has given Christ authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man. His divine nature is the One who performs the miracle of giving eternal life (see Ms – The Eternal Security of the Believer) and His human nature is the one who is associated with judging mankind. So here John was emphasizing the humanity of Christ when He identified Himself with His talmidim as My brothers (John 20:17b above).1664

He would return to Galilee and the Eleven were to meet Him there. With the new joy that came from her understanding of the resurrection, Mary went to the apostles with the news, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her (John 20:18). Hers was an extraordinary legacy. No one can ever share that honor or take it from her. But we can, and should, seek to imitate her deep love for Messiah.


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