After the morning of the empty tomb, many of Jesus associates thought a lot of things. They had been stunned on Friday, when the unbelievable happened. Their teacher, their leader, their friend had died. He wasn’t supposed to die, but he had. The apostle John, his mother, Mary, and Mary Magdalene were there at that moment, when Jesus said, “It is finished!” Now they didn’t know what to do. They were like the sheep that had been scattered when the shepherd is struck (Matthew 26:31).
If they had believed what Jesus had told them about the coming resurrection, they would have waited. All of them would have waited and rejoiced, because it was finished! The perfect sacrifice had been made. They were free from the sacrificial system. Sin had been defeated for all time.
But… That’s not what happened.
They didn’t believe. Over and over again it says in the scripture that they did not believe. What came to mind when they thought about Jesus that Sabbath, was…
“Oh, Crap! What do we do now?”
“Now I have to go back to fishing..”
“Are they coming for us next?”
“Who will want us now?”
“How could he leave us all alone?”
They really had no idea what to do next, so they did what they thought they should, they hid. There was no reason for them to believe that the executions would end with Christ, that they wouldn’t be next. The women went about the process of preparing the dead body. They bought the spices, because they expected to find his body on Sunday morning already beginning to decay. What came to mind when they thought about Jesus that day, was that they had lost someone they loved, and they did what they had always done in the past. They didn’t expect a new beginning.
Mary Magdalene didn’t believe any more than anyone else that day. She didn’t have some supernatural understanding of what was happening. She only felt love. She loved Jesus so much, that she came when it was still dark outside to be near the one that had set her free, that had saved her. She approached that tomb with her spices to find the stone rolled away and the body missing. Love and devotion brought her to the tomb, a desire to find Christ, and her passion led her to be the first one to see the Risen Lord, Jesus.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Mary followed her heart that morning, and she found Christ. She found God. She was the first to receive the Good News!
It says in Luke 24, that the women approached the tomb and two men in white clothes with faces like lightning were standing there. These guys were so awesome that the women fell to their faces on the ground in awe. In Mark 16:6-7 one of the men respond with, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “
The women returned to tell the apostles, who did not believe. They thought it was a bunch of woman nonsense (Luke 24:11). Peter and John returned with Mary to the tomb, and it says in John, that he believed when he saw the empty tomb, but Peter did not. It says that Peter looked around the tomb and wondered what had happened. He wondered. What came to mind that day, when Peter stood in the empty tomb, was not belief… not yet. So, they left the tomb, and returned to hiding. They did not rejoice, for they did not yet understand.
Mary… she waited. She waited in the last place she knew Jesus had been. She didn’t know where to go without him. He had been her one and only hope, a hope she was still clinging to, so she waited. It says she was there weeping, when she saw again the two men in the tomb, one at the foot of the slab and the other at the head. They asked Mary why she was crying and she replied, “That her Lord had been taken away, and she didn’t know where.” She was still seeking him. She didn’t understand, she didn’t believe, but she knew in her confusion to seek Christ.
Then another man spoke to her, one she thought was a gardener. He approached her with mercy, and asked her why she was crying, and again she explained, that she wanted to know where Jesus was. Here is the really cool part, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:15). She still didn’t believe in the resurrection, but her first thoughts were still for Jesus. She said, “I will get him.” How cool is that?
Jesus must have been moved by her devotion for him, because he then said one word. One word that he knew she would recognize. He said her name, “Mary”. He called her. In John 10, he states that the sheep follow the shepherd because he calls them by name. In verse 27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Mary heard her name, and suddenly she believed. She heard her redeemer’s voice and she believed, and because she believed the truth of Jesus was revealed to her. She saw her teacher, her savior, the one she loved as God. It says that she called out to him, “Rabboni”. Then the very next line, he tells her, “do not cling to me.” In my imagination, I see Mary tackling Jesus in an embrace so tight that he is having trouble breathing. What came to mind when she thought about God was this, I thought I had lost him, but he is here and he is safe. All that she thought she had lost at the cross had been found in the empty tomb.
Jesus tells Mary, go and tell my brothers (this is the first time he calls them brothers) that he would be ‘returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ (John 20:17) He refers to God as their father. He referred to the apostles as his brother. Within moments of the resurrection everything they had thought about God before had changed. There was no longer a separation between God and men. The veil had been torn and they were able to rejoin God the Father in fellowship because Sin had been handled! It was finished! Jesus had finished it!
Mary did as Jesus commanded and when she told them that she had seen Jesus, they still did not believe. I am sure they plagued her with their doubts, but she was not swayed. She had held her Lord. She had heard his voice. She could probably still smell him on her clothes. For Mary, the moment of doubt had passed. She believed… and she saw.