Jesus could have appeared to anyone, Nicodemus, Peter, John or any of the disciples. In fact it’s a good study to look at the people to whom Jesus did appear. But who saw him first and to whom did he entrust the most important message of all? That privilege went to a woman, Mary Magdalene
You have to love Mary, she had sat opposite the tomb when it was sealed (Matthew 27:61), she had arrived early before dawn to tend to the Lord’s body (20:1), and she had run to Peter and John with the news of the empty tomb (20:2). She must have then returned to the tomb, perhaps he couldn’t run as fast as Peter and John who was even faster but she must have made the journey because when they went home she stayed there and was outside the tomb weeping.
John doesn’t mention Mary looking into the tomb on her first visit but now having seen Peter and John enter she looked inside. She saw two angels sitting inside the tomb and they asked her why she was weeping. Mary’s response is heartfelt;
“They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She then noticed another figure there, who asked her the same question. Why didn’t she recognise that it was Jesus, possibly because she wasn’t expecting him to be alive and speaking to her and perhaps because she was weeping and couldn’t see him through the tears? I love Mary’s words here, she wanted to know where the body was so that she could ‘get him’, as with yesterday’s reading, Mary didn’t spend time planning exactly how she was going to achieve this.
One word brought clarity; ‘Mary’. Jesus called her by name and immediately she knew it was him. The evidence had been mounting up, the empty tomb, the angels and now a word from the Lord himself. Mary was the first person to realise that wonderful truth, Christ is risen! She was certainly not the last.
Understandably, she seems to have clung on to him but Jesus had a word of assurance; “I have not yet returned to the Father.” of course he would return to the Father but not yet. Jesus sent Mary to the disciples and there must have been great encouragement for them in his words. Remember they hadn’t exactly come through this experience walking by faith, they had failed but Jesus called them his brothers (20:17) that is amazing but not quite as amazing as him being unashamed of us and calling us his brothers and sisters.
‘So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.’ (Hebrews 2:11)
‘Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!’ (Bill Gaither)