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Mary Magdalene at the tomb
Bible Passage John 20: 11-18
This content is part of a series Bright Morning Reflections, in topic 2024 & book John.

Mary Magdalene at the tomb

  • Rev. Bright Mawuena Nfodzo
Date preached February 28, 2024

11 Meanwhile, Mary stood crying outside the tomb. As she cried, she bent over and looked into the tomb.

12 She saw two angels in white clothes who were sitting down, one at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus’ body had been lying.

13 They asked her, “Lady, why are you crying?” She told them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 After she had said this, she turned around and noticed Jesus standing there, without realizing that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus asked her, “Dear lady, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she told him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him away.”

16 Jesus told her, “Mary!” She turned around and told him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus told her, “Don’t hold on to me, because I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I’m ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 So Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord!” She also told them what he had told her.

Even today, there are many arguments against the resurrection of Jesus. They say that the story is not true. But for the believer, much evidence is found in Scripture to support the resurrection claim. The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the scriptures confirm the resurrection. Jesus appeared to many people at different times after His resurrection.

But this passage proves that the story is a true record of real events.

According to John’s account, Mary (who was from Magdala) went to the grave early morning to check on Jesus. It was very early and it was still dark. She saw that the rock was not still across the entrance of the grave so she ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. She said to them, ‘Somebody has taken the Lord’s body out of the grave! We do not know where to find the body!’

This is the second reference to Mary from Magdala in John’s Gospel. The other Gospels tell more about her. Jesus made 7 evil spirits leave her and she became His loyal follower. She was probably the leader of the group of women who travelled with Jesus and His disciples. These women sometimes paid for the needs of Jesus and His disciples. They looked after Jesus and His disciples practically. Mary from Magdala was present when Jesus died on the cross. The other Gospels tell us that some other women went with Mary to Jesus’ grave.

Per Jewish laws, there had to be two male witnesses to an event. Then people would believe that it had happened. They did not allow female witnesses in a court of law. However, John recorded what happened. Here, John carried the message of the value of women.

Mary was crying realizing that the stone that covered the tomb had been rolled away. Even when she saw the angels, she did not stop weeping. She did not understand what had happened. She had expected to see Jesus’ body in the grave, but it had gone.

She certainly did not expect to see Jesus alive so she would not recognize the presence of Jesus or His voice. Perhaps her tears made it difficult to see. Perhaps it was still dark. Whatever the reason, she did not recognize Jesus until He mentioned her name. Then she recognized Him. He used the Aramaic form of her name. And she answered him in Aramaic. Aramaic was the familiar language that Jesus and His disciples spoke. The author John wrote his Gospel in Greek. But he recorded the actual Aramaic words that Jesus and Mary used. This emphasized how personal this meeting was. John was very careful to include these details. He was repeating the report of somebody present there.

Jesus knows us all personally. He knows each one of us by our name. When we pray, He speaks to us in our minds and spirit. Like Mary, we will recognize His voice (John 10:1-6).

Jesus had not become alive again so that He could remain on the earth. He had not returned to life so that He could stay with His disciples. He knew that, soon, He had to return to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit could come, as Jesus had promised (John 14:15-31). So He could not stay with Mary in the garden. Mary had to leave too. She had an important message to give to the disciples. Jesus was alive! She had seen Him!

The role of women in ministry, community development, and many other professionals cannot be overemphasized. In Africa, women are their enemies. They don’t support each other or encourage themselves to face the challenges of the world together. They pull each other down. Sometimes, some women are very bad leaders (that is not to say all men are good leaders). They can be very wicked and power drunk to the surprise of all. But women are created in the image of God too. They have God’s breath and can serve as tools God uses to achieve His purpose. Mary Magdalene was the first apostle. She was the one sent by Jesus to proclaim His resurrection message even to the male disciples.

Jesus had called His disciples ‘friends’ rather than ‘servants’ (John 15:14-15). But in verse 17, He called them ‘brothers’. Because of His death and resurrection, they had become God’s children. God was their Father, too. But he was their Father in a different way from the way that He was Jesus’ Father. This is because Jesus, the Son, has always existed with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is also God. But everybody who believes in Him receives the right to be called God’s child. God adopts such people into His family.

🔷 Women are equally important tools of God. They cannot be discriminated against only on the grounds of their gender.

🔷 Jesus is the source of hope for the world and for all those who believe in Him.

🔷 We must earnestly look for Jesus and desire to see Him and be with Him always

🔷 We must go and announce our meeting with Christ to others to know about Him and follow Him too

💥 Pray for women in ministry
💥 Ask for the grace to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection to others

God has made and chosen us with different roles and abilities. We need not doubt our Lord but rather proclaim Him to the world. Women have not been excused from this daunting but glorious task of sending forth the message of His resurrection to all people.

In series Bright Morning Reflections