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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS APPEARS TO MARY MAGDALENE

John 20:11-18 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou; whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her.

Looking at the verses preceding the lesson text, we find that Mary Magdalene, with other women, ran to Peter and John telling them that Jesus' body had been taken from the sepulchre in which He had been buried. Both of these apostles ran back to the tomb, and having satisfied themselves that what they were told was true, left and went to their homes. In this lesson we assume that Mary Magdalene had followed these apostles back to the tomb because, soon after Peter and John had left, we find that Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping. Although on many occasions she had ministered to needs of Jesus, she most certainly remembered on this sad occasion the glorious day when Jesus healed her, and certain other women, of evil spirits and infirmities (See Luke 8:2-3). And now, after a few years of serving her Master, Christ Jesus, she wept, not for His death that had already taken place, but she shed tears of sorrow because His body had been removed from His tomb and she could not find where it had been laid.

No doubt, through tears of dedicated love and affection, as well as sorrow, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. There inside the tomb in which Jesus was first laid to rest, Mary Magdalene saw two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Although Matthew and Mark mention only one angel at the tomb, some say that they only referred to the one that did the speaking, as was also true at this time. It could also just as easily be explained that God had dispatched another angel on this occasion. It was evident that she recognized them as angels probably because of their bright appearance. Regardless, one of the angels spoke to Mary asking, Woman, why weepest thou? She answered, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. These words were the same as those expressed to Peter and John by her when she first learned of the empty tomb and the disappearance of Jesus' body (John 20:2).

After expressing her sorrow and grief to the angels, and as if intending to depart, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing. This had to be shocking to her. Mary Magdalene had no knowledge or understanding of the resurrection of Jesus from His sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary. Although she was seeking Jesus, when she saw the Man before her who had all of the physical characteristics of her Master, she knew not that it was Jesus. Some skeptics often ask the question, "Since His burial clothing were left in the tomb, where did Jesus get the clothes He was wearing at this time?" The only answer that one can logically give is from God, His Heavenly Father. After all, was it not God that also supplied the garments that were worn by His angels that were present and seen at Jesus' sepulchre?

When Jesus asked her why she was weeping, and whom she was seeking, she thought that He was probably the gardener - one that was hired to tend to, and keep the garden area surrounding the tomb of Christ, and probably many other tombs, neat and orderly. It seems that, even though she had heard it innumerable times, she failed to recognize Him by the sound of His voice. Thinking that He was the keeper of this garden area, she asked Him if He had removed the body of Jesus from the sepulchre He had originally been buried in, and had taken it to a tomb in another area of the garden. If so, she indicated that she would become responsible for His care and said the she would take Him away.

In order for Mary Magdalene to know Jesus, He only had to say one word - her name, Mary. Immediately she recognized the familiarity of her name being mentioned by this Man; she now knew Him to be Jesus, her Master. She replied, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. From the commentary of Barnes' Notes we learn that, in the Hebrew language, there were three degrees of Jewish teachers; Rab, or master, the lowest degree of honor, Rabbi, my master, a title of higher dignity, and Rabboni, my great master, the most honorable title of all. To Mary Magdalene, Jesus was, indeed, the greatest Master of all.

Observing her willingness to hold Him in obedient reverence and serve His needs as she had done in the past, Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. At this point in time, Jesus did not need her care to sustain His physical life; He had other things for Mary to do in service to Him - things that He must do, and which He had sufficient time to do, before ascending back into heaven to be with His Father. Instead of personally caring for Him, Jesus asked her to go to My brethren and tell them of His resurrection and that He would soon return to God, His Father. Looking back in Jesus' earthly ministry, He identified His apostles with many different names; they were at times called His friends, His servants, His disciples, and here they are called His brethren. With His instructions, Mary Magdalene obeyed her Master, came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her.

Oh, that we all would hear the voice of Jesus, recognize Him as our Lord and Savior, and, joyously, without any hesitation, we would faithfully and obediently, do His will!