Post Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Series
“The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene”
John 20.11-18 (Mt.28.1; Mk.16.1; Lk.24.10)
Last week we looked at the importance of the post resurrection appearances of Christ and I
encourage you to watch the sermon or read the sermon notes. Understanding the
importance of Christ’s resurrection is essential to our salvation, our faith, and our
preaching of the gospel.
Today we begin looking at some of the narrative accounts of Jesus’ post resurrection
appearances. The Bible records that Jesus appeared ten times during the forty-day period
between His resurrection and ascension. What is striking is Jesus’ first post resurrection
appearance was to a woman, Mary Magdalene. The reason I say it was striking is because
during that time women were not allowed to give testimony in court. Men in that day
considered women to be unreliable, but the Lord knew that truth. So, on this Mother’s Day
2022 it is fitting that we would consider Jesus’ first post resurrection appearance to Mary
Before we get to today’s text, I want to emphasize the role that women played in the earthly
ministry of Christ. Even though the New Testament directly identifies five women who
were involved in Jesus’ ministry we know that there were many others. Luke records that
at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He began going around from one city and village to
another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with
Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was
called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of
Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their
support out of their private means. (Lk.8.1-3) Here we see that many women not only
traveled with Jesus as He proclaimed the kingdom of God, but they contributed to Jesus’
ministry out of their private means.
When you come to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see many women who had
followed Jesus were at the foot of the cross. Matthew records, “Many women were there
looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him.
Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother
of the sons of Zebedee.” (Mt.27.55-56; Mk.15.40-41; Lk.23.49) In the culture of that day
women held little significance outside of childbearing and raising children. But when you
read the Bible, especially the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts you will see that women
were extremely engaged in the ministry of Christ and the early church.
On the evening that Christ died Mary Magdalene and the other Mary followed Joseph to the
tomb and watched as he wrapped Jesus’ body in clean linen cloth, lay Jesus’ body in his new
tomb, and rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mt.27.59-61; Mk.15.46-47;
Lk.23.55) Luke tells us that after the tomb was sealed that the women returned home and
prepared spices and perfumes to anoint Jesus body as was the custom for a proper burial,
but they couldn’t return to the tomb until early Sunday morning in honor of the Jewish
sabbath. (Lk.23.56; Mk.16.1)
But early Sunday morning the women came back to the tomb with the spices and perfumes
only to find the large stone that Joseph had rolled against the entrance of the tomb rolled
away. They entered the tomb and discovered that Jesus’ body was not there. An angel
appeared to them declaring that Jesus had risen from the dead and that they should go tell
the disciples. At first when the women came to the disciples, they considered what the
women were saying as nonsense but eventually Peter and John got up and ran to the tomb
only to find it exactly as the women had said. Mary Magdalene chased Peter and John back
to the tomb but when they departed, she stood alone outside the tomb weeping.
Hear now the Word of God. John chapter twenty verses eleven through eighteen.
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and
looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the
feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you
weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know
where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus
standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you
weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if
you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him
away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which
means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the
Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and
My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the
Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the resurrected Christ. One might ask why Jesus
would appear to her first. As I mentioned earlier in that day women were not allowed to
give testimony in court and hearing that Jesus appeared first to a woman would have made
the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection less credible. Peter and John, were future pillars of
the church and they had been there moments before. Wouldn’t it make better sense for
Jesus appeared to them first instead of Mary Magdalene?
Yes, from a worldly perspective but Jesus isn’t interested in appealing to the world. He is
interested in touching lives for the glory of God. Mary Magdalene had been a faithful
follower of Christ since the early day Jesus’ ministry. The only details we know about her is
that was from a small fishing village on the west side of the Sea of Galilee and that the Lord
Jesus had casted seven demons out of her. (Lk.8.2) Seven, whether symbolic or literal,
meant that she lived a life of torment prior to Jesus setting her free from evil spirits. Some
mistake Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, but there is no biblical support for this assertion.
The Lord Jesus had set her free from a life plague by evil spirits and Mary Magdalene would
be devoted to Christ by faithful service from that day forward.
When I considered Mary’s conversion experience and her life of faithful service, I thought
maybe we don’t serve the Lord with that type of zeal and devotion because we have
forgotten what the Lord has delivered us from. Maybe we start thinking that we really
weren’t that bad off and therefore our devotion to Christ loses its intensity. But not Mary.
She knew what the Lord Jesus had saved her from, and she was going to follow Him. She
was going to love Him with all her heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. I think we
should follow her example.
The last week in Jerusalem and especially the last few days had been emotionally
exhausting for Mary. She watched on the first Palm Sunday as the crowd exalted Christ. She
watched as Jesus taught in the temple throughout the week. She watched as they tortured
Him. She watched as they crucified Christ. She watched as Jesus breathed His last breath.
She watched as Joseph took Jesus down off the cross and lay Him in the tomb. She had been
waiting for three long and agonizing days to honor her Lord by given Him a proper burial.
Mary was the first at the tomb and she stayed after everyone else had gone home. She
diligently sought Jesus because she loved Him, and the Lord was about to reward her for
Outside the Tomb
All the excitement of that Sunday morning, all the running back and forth from the tomb
had left her physically exhausted, and now she stood outside the tomb by herself weeping
uncontrollably, confused as to where Jesus’ body has been taken. Maybe she ran back to
tomb chasing after Peter and John because she thought that Jesus might appear to the boys.
But when they found the tomb empty and headed back, she found herself standing alone
stood outside the tomb. The morning sun was just coming over the horizon, so she stooped
down to take one more look inside only to discover once again that Jesus’ body wasn’t
there. At that moment it all the events of the past few days caught up with her and she is
overwhelmed with emotion. The word for “weeping” indicates that Mary wasn’t just having
a “good cry” but that she was wailing, overcome with pain and grief. Both the angels and
Jesus make mention of the wailing asking, “Why are you weeping?” It might be better
translated, “Why are you hysterical?” Mary replied, “Because they have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
She was so overcome with grief that the presence of the two angels didn’t seem to shock
her. She had no plans to leave, and she wants answers! But before the two angels could
respond she senses that someone is behind her. She turns around and sees who she
presumes is the gardener. She quickly thinks to herself, “now that would make sense the
gardener moved Jesus’ body.” It’s the only thing that made any sense that entire morning.
The gardener moved the body. The presumed gardener asks her, “Woman, why are you
weeping?” And then adds another, “Whom are you seeking?” What a question! Mary’s reply
was swift and direct, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and
I will take Him away.” She had not thought through how she would carry a dead body but
that didn’t matter. She was seeking Jesus! “Just tell me where you have laid Him! I am
exhausted, confused, and emotionally spent. I don’t have time for games or riddles. Just tell
me where you have taken Him!” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” (Jn.20.16a)
Unlike His other resurrection appearances, here Jesus simply calls her name, and Mary
immediately recognizes Him. Maybe it was the calming tone of His voice that she had heard
throughout their travels together and during His many teachings. Mary knew that voice and
hearing it immediately calmed her and brought her comfort. Jesus had taught, “My sheep
hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (Jn.10.27) And here Mary hears His
voice, and she is transformed from grief to giggles, from hysteria to happiness. Brothers
and sisters, the Lord knows us by name. (Ex.33.17) As the Lord spoke through the Prophet
Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Is.43.1)
The Lord knows your name and He calls your name to bring comfort amid the chaos.
Mary immediately falls to the ground wrapping her arms around Jesus’ legs. Mary’s clinging
to Jesus shows that He was not a phantom or illusion. We must understand that Jesus was
raised bodily from the dead, He ascended bodily into heaven, and He will return bodily in
power and glory.
Mary clinging to Jesus’ legs was a way of saying, “I lost You once and I’m not going to lose
You again.” But Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the
Father.” (Jn.20.17a) It wasn’t that Jesus was opposed to being touch during His post
resurrection existence or that He was practicing “social distancing.” We see eight days later
Jesus would say to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here
your hand and put it into My side.” (Jn.20.27) So, why would Jesus ask Mary to stop clinging
to Him? It was Mary’s strong embrace, her clutching, her clinging. Jesus knew that He had
not accomplished all that the Father had given Him to do. He had more appearances to
make and more teaching to do. And in addition to that Jesus knew that Mary couldn’t have
Him all to herself. She must share Him with others. So, Jesus tells her to go to My brethren.
“Go to My Brethren”
This is the first-time believers are called “brethren.” Jesus had called us friends, but this is
the first-time He calls us “brethren.” “Go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My
Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” (Jn.20.17b) The message that Jesus told
Mary to share with His brethren is an announcement of the dawn of a new age of
relationship between believers and God the Father. “Say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and
your Father, and My God and your God.” Jesus is announcing that His resurrection has
opened the door to a new age of relationship between believers and God the Father. This is
the fulfillment of what was spoken through the prophet, “No longer will they teach their
neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least
of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will
remember their sins no more.” (Jer.31.34)
You see, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection Jesus’ Father is our Father. Because of
Jesus’ death and resurrection Jesus’ God is our God. Because of Jesus’ death and
resurrection, we enjoy the same relationship Jesus has with the Father. “My Father and your
Father.” Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enjoy the same relationship Jesus has
with God. “My God and your God.” Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are no
longer strangers and aliens. We are family. We are God’s household! (Eph.2.19) I love the
way the writer of Hebrews says it, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and
through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their
salvation through sufferings. . . for this reason, He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
(Heb.2.10-11) Jesus is not ashamed to call you, His brother! Jesus is not ashamed to call
you, His sister! He suffered for you to become a member of the family of God!
As I close this morning, I want you to see the lessons we can learn from Mary and this first
post resurrection appearance of Christ. First, no one is ever too far gone from receiving
salvation from Christ. If Jesus could free Mary from seven demons, and she, in turn, could
become one of His most loyal followers, then He can transform us. Secondly, we should
never lose sight of what the Lord has delivered us from and never be distracted from living
a life of grateful service to the One who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous
light. (IPt.2.9) Third, Jesus knows our name and says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I
have called you by your name; You are mine.” (Is.43.1b) Forth, you can’t have Jesus all for
yourself. You must share Him with others. Fifth, the first job of the new creation was given
to a woman because the Lord knows that the job would get done. Sixth, because of Jesus’
death and resurrection we are brothers and sisters with Christ to enjoy intimate
relationship with God our Father.
And one last thought. Mary presuming the Jesus was a gardener isn’t too far off. Just like a
gardener Jesus appeared to Mary to cultivate beauty out of the chaos of confusion. He
appeared to Mary to uproot the weeds of worry and thorns of turmoil and to plant new life.
And He desires t do the same for you and for me. Thanks be to God.