The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is certainly not a myth. This is the living truth, and it is only by faith we believe; otherwise, it would be impossible for us to believe in our own strength. Jesus showed Himself alive. Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, as we read in Mark 16: 9, Jesus first showed Himself alive to Mary Magdalene (for the purpose of this blog Mary Magdalene is referred to as Mary M). Secondly, he showed Himself alive to His disciples. According to John 20:20, “… He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad they saw the Lord.” As we get further into John chapter 20 (verses 24 -29), we are made aware of Thomas’ reaction to the disciples telling him they had seen the Risen Lord. Thomas says in verse 25, “Unless, I see the nail marks in his hand, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week or so later Jesus appeared once again to His disciples, this time Thomas was present. Jesus met Thomas at the level of his doubt.
Jesus, knowing all things because He is completely God, invites Thomas to reach, look, and then to touch. Thomas believes. Would our response be any different? I Corinthians 15:6 states Jesus was seen by a crowd of more than 500 followers. Now concerning the empty tomb, why was it necessary for John the Gospel writer to let his audience know Peter and the other disciple left the empty tomb, thus leaving Mary M alone. The text implies, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Did Mary M know the Scripture? Was she aware of the prophecies concerning the Messiah? Did Mary M’s faith compel her to remain at the empty tomb? Surely, even in her doubt, her faith kept her believing there must be more.
Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He told His disciples He came to do the work of His Father who sent Him. He told them He must suffer and die. In Matthew 26: 32. Jesus states, “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus knew His disciples would face the biggest test of their faith on the eve of His arrest. Of all people, we would expect the disciples to stand firm in their faith as witnesses to others. The disciples deserted Jesus and fled for their own safety. Even Peter, the bold and outspoken one who said to Jesus, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” The night Jesus was taken as a prisoner, Peter denied his Lord three times. When Jesus was crucified, the Bible declares in Luke 23:49, “But all His acquaintances, and the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things”. Does the pressure of today’s culture produce such intimidation in us that it drives us to in some way to deny our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ? Mary M, however, chose to firmly stand in her faith and in her love for the One who changed her life.
Let us now draw from John’s account of the Resurrection narrative (John 20: 1-18), where Mary M is also listed as the very first person who had seen the Risen Lord, in addition to what we find in Mark 16: 9 as previously mentioned. Mary M refused to leave the empty tomb without getting an explanation. Peter and the unnamed disciple would not tarry even for a little while longer. They left this woman at the tomb alone. I believe Mary M remained at the empty tomb because she was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and in obedience she would not leave even though she was left there alone. If we do not take the time to seek the Lord for ourselves, we will not see the glory of God manifested in our lives. Jesus meets us where we are. This showed devotion and strength on Mary M’s part. After all, what was she expecting to find? The tomb was empty! Mary M’s faithfulness, exceeded her doubts and her fears.
Mary M is mentioned in each of the Gospels in the resurrection narrative, but only Mark and Luke give a brief description about her background (Mark 16: 9 and Luke 8:2). She is identified as a woman who was healed of evil spirits and sickness. She was delivered of seven demons. We understand, this woman came to Jesus with all her torment, grief, pain, and shame and was given a brand new life. Jesus did not judge her, but loved her in spite of faults and failures. Jesus not only saw who she was, but whom she could be by the power of His redeeming love. Mary M saw in this man an overflow of mercy and an abundance of grace, such as she had never known before. Jesus made her whole again – she was set free. Jesus can do the same for us. He has the power to set the captives free. He still has the power to break every chain keeping us spiritually bound. In Jesus Christ alone, the evil one has lost his grip on us. We are kept safe in the arms of Jesus.
Mary M, as John the Gospel writer exemplifies, stood near the cross of Jesus with Mary the dear mother of Jesus, the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, and the beloved disciple (John 19: 25). According to John’s Gospel account, Mary M was there to witness a beaten and bloodied Jesus carry His own cross. She witnessed her Lord being nailed to the cross for all to see. She saw the soldiers gamble his clothing. She saw the religious leaders mocking her Lord. She saw and she heard the blasphemous voices of a hostile mob. Mary M saw her Lord, who had done no wrong, suffer for all to see. She was there to witness the soldier pierce His side with a sword, and watched as her Lord’s blood and water were poured out. She saw her Lord’s dear mother grieving for her first born. She was there to observe the precious Lamb of God on the cross dying for her sins too. She saw first hand the one who saved her, still with that look of love and forgiveness in His eyes. Mary M was there when our Savior’s dead body was laid in a brand new tomb. Yet, considering all Mary M had witnessed that dreadful day, she still believed and she stood firm in her faith.
Mary M did see her Risen Lord. She demonstrated an active, a persistent and resilient faith. She allowed her faith to be stretched way beyond what was comfortable. Mary M knew Jesus. He was the center of her life. Could it be Mary was aware of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after being in the tomb for four days? The story of Lazarus appears in John 11: 1- 27. Could it be she was aware of the words Jesus had spoken to those in the crowd, concerning Lazarus’ grave clothes and his head wrap, “Take off the grave clothes, and let him go!” Mary M knew Jesus was no ordinary man. She knew there was no one who could do what Jesus did. Deep within her soul, she believed. Do you or I have this level of faith?
Mary M, might have been inspired by such women of faith as Mary the sister of Lazarus, who gave herself permission to sit at Jesus’ feet. The one who gave herself permission to be taught by the very best, the “Master Teacher”. Mary, unlike, her sister Martha, chose the good or the better part. In a hectic world with multiple distractions, Mary boldly chose to do what was needed. She needed to spend time with her Lord. Similar to Mary, Mary M was a woman who was devoted to her Lord. These women were women of the word and worship. It is any wonder, why the risen Lord commissioned Mary M to go and tell the disciples the great news, He is risen. If only Peter and the unnamed disciple would have tarried for just a little while longer. Be confident of this, in due season, or at the appointed time, the Lord exalts the humble. Wait on the Lord!
I pray the resurrection power of our Risen Lord will keep you firm in your faith. The stone is rolled back and the tomb is empty, because great and mighty is our Lord. Jesus conquered it all because He loves us. I pray you will come to know the resurrection power of the Risen Lord in your personal life and in your ministry. Mary M held on because she had hope in an unfailing God. A hope that is steadfast, sure, and deeply grounded in the Savior’s unshakable love. She held on to a hope that neither death could shake nor destroy. Mary M knew what Jesus did for her - she was once spiritually dead and was made anew. Jesus made something beautiful out of her messy life. Beloved, He has the power to bless your life. This is the awesome power of the resurrection.
Mary M said to Jesus, whom she first thought was the gardener, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him.” Mary M heard her name called in a voice she knew all so well. She turned and said, “Rabboni (which translates “Master Teacher”)!” We recall, the words of Jesus in John 10:14, “I am the good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” Of course, Mary M tried to touch Jesus to make sure it was really Him. No doubt, most of us would probably have done the same. I know I would. This story gives us renewed hope in the midst of the uncertainties of life. No matter the disappointments, the challenges, or the obstacles overwhelming you, like Mary M, I pray you keep on seeking until you experience Jesus in a real way. Hear Jesus call your name!
Yes, Mary M’s world was turned upside down and downside up, yet she kept on believing. Sisters, keep on believing in a powerful and a faithful God. Mary M firmly stood in her faith. Her faith kept her holding on. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” As the Bible declares, one glorious day, we shall be like Jesus and we shall see Him as He is. Face to face, we shall behold the Lamb of God and we shall be forever in His presence. Sisters, I can only imagine! Get this, Mary M believed without needing to see Jesus’ nail prints and His pierced side. She just heard her Lord call her name. Beloved, stand firm in the power of our Risen Lord. I encourage you to come along side a dear sister in Christ, and help her grow deeper in her faith. We are called to be women after God’s own heart. Yes, Mary Magdalene was a woman after God’s own heart. This kept her still standing, still believing, still worshiping and still proclaiming. Mary Magdalene certainly came to know it, and I pray we know it too. I am talking about the awesome power of the Resurrected Lord working daily in our lives.