Lord Jesus, I am prone to waver, to fall, and to need help. Therefore, my confidence is in you, the constant One.
Read JOHN 20:11–18
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Bring any situations where you may be feeling fearful and uncertain to Jesus. Ask for his presence to enfold you and give you the courage to be faith-full.
By the time Mary gets back to the tomb, Peter and John may be long gone, fearful of attracting the attention of the authorities. Grief-stricken and weeping, Mary stands by the tomb before she finally bends down and dares to look in. We’re not told whether the angels were previously present and just not discerned (as in the experience of Elisha’s servant1), but Mary sees them now, their radiance (‘in white’, v 12) filling the tomb as they sit respectfully at the head and foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lain.
The angels’ question is deceptively simple, provoking a deeper response of faith beyond the obvious. Mary has no hope save the desperate one to find Jesus’ remains. Even when she finally realizes someone is standing outside, she is hoping for no more than fittingly reverencing his body. Eyes filled with tears and panicky, not seemingly facing him full on, as we often do to hide our emotions from a stranger, she doesn’t recognize the one she is seeking until he speaks her name. Then Mary turns towards Jesus and runs to embrace him in excited joy.
However, though Jesus is risen, though death has not been the end, Jesus gently but firmly insists that things cannot be as they were before: Jesus’ resurrection illustrates both continuity and discontinuity. These appearances are a grace, a proof positive of the resurrection’s reality, yet they will come to an end when Jesus’ earthly life, even in this resurrected state, will itself come to an end with the Ascension. Mary, full of joy, dashes away to witness no longer to a puzzling absence but to an astonishing presence: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v 18).
Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing.2 Ask that you can come to recognize what he’s doing around you – and get involved.
Father, lift me above my small world, and enable me to see my place in your wider work. Help me to play my part in it well.
1 2 Kings 6:15–17 2 John 5:19
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