It’s still dark on Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb. She has been part of Jesus’ followers since he healed her of demon possession (Luke 8:2), she is present at Jesus’ death (John 19:25) and she watches as Jesus is placed in the tomb (Matthew 27:61). Now in grief and love she returns as soon as she can. It’s like she doesn’t want to leave the presence of the teacher she loves. To anoint Jesus body is the final act of love she hopes to share with him. But when she sees the stone moved from the entrance of the tomb, her only thought is that Jesus’ body has been stolen and she is robbed of being in his presence for the last time.
Despite Jesus’ many assurances that after his death he would be raised to life, we feel her panic, and witness her anxious running and tears that even the appearance of two angels and Jesus himself, is unable to shift. That is the context for this deeply personal encounter with the risen Jesus.
How tender is the interaction in vv16-17. Mary is running around frantically looking for the body of the dead Jesus and fails to see the living Jesus right in front of her. By herself, it is impossible for her to see the resurrected Jesus; he must reveal himself to her, and with the most gentle of rebukes, he wakes her up, assures her heart and widens her horizons.
Jesus wants to teach Mary that his death and resurrection mean that he will never leave her again. And once he ascends to the Father, the presence of his Spirit with her and all believers will mean that she, and us, can know his presence, peace and love with us always, even in a new and intimate way.
After meeting Jesus, Mary does not just exist in her experience of him; there is action for her to take in response to her encounter. How hard it would have been for Mary to leave Jesus’ presence and go and do what he has asked.
Mary is technically the first Christian, being the first to have a personal encounter with the risen Christ. He could have chosen anyone for that role but how fitting that the woman who experienced being possessed by 7 demons is the first to experience Jesus’ victory over Satan and death.
Thank Jesus for what you have leant from this encounter with him today and for all that his resurrection wins for you.
Acknowledgements: Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, Hodder & Stoughton Great Britain, 2013 PP81-102
James, Carolyn CustisLost Women of the Bible : finding strength and significance through their stories
“I Have Seen the Lord” © Nicole Davenport 2020 used with permission from artist.