“Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17 NIV emphasis added).
Friend To Friend
Jesus knew it was coming. He tried to warn the disciples. Death loomed in the air with swirls of bloodthirsty hatred circling the Son of God. But somehow the disciples didn’t understand the eminence of Jesus’ crucifixion, and they certainly didn’t comprehend the promise of his resurrection. Mary Magdalene didn’t understand it either. However, she was there until the end…and at the new beginning for us all.
After Jesus’ arrest, his eleven surprised disciples scattered like church mice when the lights come on – but not Mary Magdalene. She watched in horror as his beaten body was stripped, nailed to the cruel Roman cross, and displayed before the gawking crowd. She saw his precious blood drip from his thorn-pierced brow and onto the cursed ground. Mary watched closely when his lifeless body was lowered from the cross, and she followed quietly when they laid him in the borrowed tomb. We get no stories of Mary Magdalene running away from the authorities, hiding behind locked doors, or denying her association with Jesus from curious bystanders.
When it was time to make His big reveal, Jesus had something, or rather someone, very special in mind. Let’s join her crying at the empty tomb.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who it is 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20:15-16a) My heart just skips a beat every time I read these words. I see myself weeping with Mary as she is down on her knees with gut wrenching sorrow pouring from her soul. All her dreams – shattered. They died with Jesus on the cross and were sealed away in the cold stone tomb. And now? Like a sweeping tidal wave, the empty tomb erased the most important three years of her life…and then…all that changed with but one word. “Mary.”
As soon as he said her name, Mary knew it was Jesus.
Earlier Jesus taught, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 27). When the shepherd spoke her name, this precious lamb recognized him right away.
And what was the first word the risen Savior spoke? “Woman.” Don’t you love it? Jesus came to set women free from societal and religious oppression of his day. He honored women. He respected women. He appointed women. His first spoken words after his resurrection were directed to one of us – and in a sense, it was meant for all of us.
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabonni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). What did Mary do when she realized that Jesus was alive? The same thing I would do if I realized that someone I loved who was presumed dead suddenly appeared. I’d grab him or her and hang on for dear life! But Mary needed to let go of Jesus because he was sending her on special assignment. She had places to go and people to see! Liz Curtis Higgs wrote: “Just as God chose Mary of Bethlehem to bring the baby Jesus into the world, so God chose Mary of Magdala to bring news of the risen Christ to the world.”
During a time in history when women were not allowed to testify in court, when they were considered unreliable witnesses, God appointed Mary Magdalene the primary eye-witness of the most significant event in all of history.
Jesus’ resurrection was the most pivotal point of all time. And yet, he waited until Peter and John had left the empty tomb before he made his presence known to one lone woman – Mary Magdalene. Jesus was standing center stage and he extended his hand for Mary Magdalene to join him front and center. Mary is often referred to as the “disciple to the disciples” or as Augustine described her, the “apostle of the apostles.” Not only was she the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection, she was also the first to proclaim it. You go, girl!
Dear God, I don’t know why You waited to reveal Jesus’ resurrection to Mary Magdalene rather than Peter and John, but I am glad You did. Thank You for including women in Your redemptive story. Thank You for giving them leading roles. Lord, help us all to step forward when called. Help us to walk with the same courage as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the many other women who stood by Jesus until the end and beyond.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Notice the two words I highlighted in today’s truth. What are they? What does that mean to you?
Considering that women were not considered reliable or credible witnesses in a court of law during the days of Jesus, what does it mean to you that God chose Mary Magdalene to be the key witness in the most important event in all of history?
Considering the way women were perceived during those days, if the writer of the resurrection story were making up a tale, would he have made Jesus appear to a woman or a man? Which would have been more logical to those hearing the story?
Don’t you just love it when God defies logic!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s devotion. Does understanding how women were perceived in those days shed light on just how important God’s female image-bearers were to Jesus and how He went out of His way to honor them? Let’s chat. Visit .