November 18, 2017

The Appearances of the Risen Christ, 8

By Chaplain Mike

We are marking the Great Fifty Days of Easter with a series of devotional thoughts on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Today we look at another narrative in John’s story of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances, from John 20:11-18 (MSG).

Text

11-13But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

13-14“They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.

15Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

16Jesus said, “Mary.”

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

17Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'”

18Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.

Thoughts

The resurrection narratives in John’s Gospel are like those in Luke, in that they show a progression of faith as they go along. In John’s characteristic style, however, he focuses on individual encounters with the Risen Christ and how those individuals come to believe and find life in his name (20:30-31).

  • The author introduces Mary Magdelene in verse 1, but the first narrative (20:1-10) is really about how John came to faith through seeing the empty tomb.
  • The second story (20:11-18) returns to Mary and shows how she came to faith through hearing the word of the risen Savior.
  • The third account, which happens in two movements (20:19-23/24-29), is the climax of the resurrection narratives, and indeed of the entire Gospel. Here we learn how Jesus invited Thomas to see and touch him, and how the doubting disciple fell on his knees in worship.

Today’s text takes us into the garden with Mary. Weeping and confused, she hears the word of the angels, who question why she is in such a sad state. She expresses her grief, but before they can reply, she turns away and realizes that someone else, a Stranger, is there. Like the disciples on the Emmaus Road, she does not know it is Jesus. And just as Jesus did not reveal himself to those men right away, he does not immediately let Mary know who he is. He gently questions her, probing her sadness.

In answer to her anguished appeal to help her find her “missing” Lord,  Jesus speaks her name. At that moment, the scales fall from her eyes and she recognizes the Master! “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

However, Mary needs to learn how to follow him in this new situation post-cross and resurrection. In words that have been interpreted in many ways, Jesus says to her, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'”

In his book analyzing the Resurrection Narratives, Dr. Grant Osborne explains the risen Lord’s emphasis here:

Jesus is telling Mary that she must not cling to her earthly relationship with him since the messianic age is about to begin. In that age she will have a new relationship with him which will be intense, more personal, and focused through the presence of the paraclete.

The personal word of Jesus came to Mary in the Garden. It comes to us as the Spirit takes the message of the Gospel and applies it to our hearts. Although we do not have the same face to face experience with the risen Christ as Mary did, we likewise may know him truly and have life in his name through his living word.

“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Prayer

Almighty Father who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give me grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that I may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Prayer Appointed for the Week from The Divine Hours)

Comments

  1. Mary encountered several signs of resurrection (the empty tomb, the angels…) but reason and evidence alone does not lead us to see the risen Lord. Especially when, as Lewis says, “it’s hard to see clearly when your eyes are filled with tears”. Your words “The personal word of Jesus came to Mary in the Garden. It comes to us as the Spirit takes the message of the Gospel and applies it to our hearts.”, are true for all of us both in coming to Christ and continuing in Christ.