About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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    Jesus Appears To Mary Magdalene (ch. 20:10-18)

In verse 10 John tells us that the disciples went back to their homes.  What disciples John was thinking of may well be debatable.  We know there were some other women at the tomb.  We know Peter and John were at the tomb.  If there were more disciples at the tomb, it is not recorded.  If John is speaking of Peter and John going back home, home would be in the province of Galilee which was quite a way from Jerusalem.      


Verses 10 and 11 tell us that Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb and then looked into it.  Upon seeing the empty tomb she began to cry bitterly.  Really, what she saw makes us happy.  For us who look back, the empty tomb is a glorious thing but to Mary it wasn't.  She thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus.


In verse 12 we note that Mary looked into the tomb and saw two angels inside seated, one where Jesus' head would have been and one where Jesus' feet would have been.    


At this point I should point out that we have a discrepancy between the gospel accounts.  Matthew and Mark say that there was one angel while Luke and John said that there were two angels.  I'm not sure how to reconcile this at this particular time.  


In verse 13 an angel asks Mary why she is crying.  She answers in the same fashion as when she spoke first to Peter and John, saying, "They took Jesusí body and I donít know where they took Him."  Again, Mary was thinking that someone, probably the Jewish or Roman soldiers, stole Jesus' body.  She did not think in terms of Jesus rising from the dead.    


In verse 14 Mary turns around and actually sees Jesus standing by but she does not recognize that it is Jesus.


In verse 15 Jesus asks Mary two questions.  "Why are you crying?Ē  "Who are you looking for?"


In verse 15 Mary thinks Jesus was the gardener and so she thinks that maybe he took Jesusí body somewhere.


Just why Mary did not recognize Jesus is of some debate.  She was not the only person that did not recognize Jesus right away.  I do believe that Jesus is in His glorified body at this point.  We donít know exactly what our glorified bodies will look like, let alone Jesus' glorified eternal body.  It could have been possible that the Jesus she saw was a somewhat different looking Jesus than what she was used to.  There have been other speculative ideas why Mary didn't recognize Jesus.  Some suggest that she, being in a darkened tomb and looking out into the sunlight, was a bit blinded by the light.  Some suggest that one could only recognize Jesus after His resurrection through spiritual revelation.  


In verse 16 Jesus replies by simply saying her name - "Mary."  Immediately Mary turns around and looks at Jesus and recognizes Him.  One moment she doesnít know Him, and the next moment she does.


What was it in this one word answer, the calling of Mary by her name that made the difference?  Maybe it was the way in which Jesus says her name.  Maybe the way He called her name was the way He used to call her name and that jarred her out of her misery.  Or maybe the calling of her name was in fact a spiritual calling, a revelation.  I personally think that Jesus simply called her Mary as He had previously done.   


Upon knowing this man is Jesus, she immediately cries out "rabbonie," which John tells us is the Aramaic word for "teacher."  This helps us understand that John is writing to Gentiles.  If he had been writing to Jews he would not have had to make this explanation because they would have known what the word "rabbonie" meant.  Remember, John wrote this account in around 90 to 95 AD, most likely from Ephesus .  Ephesus was obviously a Gentile city.           


Mary grabs onto Jesus in a strong embrace.  Some suggests that she falls to His feet and grasped onto His feet in an act of worship.  How she grasps Jesus we donít know, but we do know from what Jesus says that this was a strong, tight, passionate clinging to Jesus.


In verse 17 Jesus says, "Do not hold on to me."  The Greek verb tense used here means a tight grasping.  Mary was clearly extremely happy and relieved to see her Lord alive.  She probably didnít understand that Jesus had not risen from the dead into His old body, like that of Lazarus.  


The reason why Jesus tells Mary not to cling to Him is because He had not yet ascended to His Father.  We know that He ascended 40 days later as seen in Acts 1 but did He ascend to His Father prior to Acts 1 and then reappeared on earth to His disciples?  There is a good chance that He did and it has to do with the Jewish Feasts.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, died on the Feast of Passover.  He rose from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits.  He in fact is the first fruit of a new race of people.  We, the believers, will be raised like Him in an eternal glorified body.  


The Feast of First Fruits is significant.  It was the time of the barley harvest in Israel.  Before the barley could be harvest there needed to be the gathering of some barley that was packaged, brought to the temple, and waved before the Lord.  Only after this could the rest of the barley be touched and harvested.  Jesus was the first fruit, the first package of barley that was waved before the Lord.  When Mary saw Him, He had not yet ascended to the Father, not yet waved before the Lord.  For that reason, like the barley in the field, Jesus could not be touched.  He must have ascended to the Father shortly after seeing Mary because we learn later that Jesus allowed Thomas to touch Him.  Obviously by then Jesus had ascended to the Father.  This suggests to me that when Mary saw Jesus He must have just risen from the dead.  


Then Jesus tells Mary to go to His brothers, meaning His disciples Ė the eleven chosen apostles.  It is note worthy that Jesus now calls these men His brothers. They are brothers because they have the same Father as He states in the next sentence.  They are also brothers because they will now work together in ministry, but in a much different way than before.  The last verse in the book of Mark states that the disciples went out and preached.  They did the manual labour of preaching.  Then Mark says that Jesus went with them confirming the words with miraculous signs.  Jesus provided the signs and wonders as they preached.  Jesus did the spiritual part; the Eleven did the physical part.


Jesus tells Mary to tell the disciples that He is ascending to His Father and their Father, His God and their God.  The verb tense suggests that this ascension has not taken place as yet, but because it will, it is good as being done already.  


The ascension is the culmination of Jesusí earthly ministry.  After the ascension Jesus could then give the Holy Spirit to His followers. At that point they would be closer to Him than ever. The important message of Jesus to His followers at this point was concerning His ascension and the soon coming Holy Spirit into their lives.


Just why Jesus asks Mary to tell the men that He has risen when He could have done the same is unknown for sure.  We could speculate but that would not tell us the real answer. One thing we know is that it was a woman who first saw the risen Christ and it was a woman who first proclaimed the risen Christ to men.  In turn these men would have to believe the report of a woman.


In verse 18 we see that Mary went and told the others what she had seen.  She said, "I have seen the Lord."  That is one very powerful statement.  


We know that Jesus now had a new body.  This body was different in some respects than the body His followers had seen in the past.  This new body thus demanded a new relationship between Jesus and His followers.  As I have said above, I believe the Feast of Firstfruits may provide the reason why Jesus would not allow Mary to touch Him.  As it was with this feast, before the barley in the field could be harvested, the Jews had to gather a handful of barley to be waved before the Lord.  Only after this could the rest of the barley be harvested.  When Mary touched Jesus, He had not yet returned to Heaven, and in a spiritual sense, waved before God.  Upon His return, He could be touch and this is why Thomas could later touch Jesus.          


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