"Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene" 
John 20:11-18 Bible Study

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, a town which is no longer in existence. Most believe she is often confused with the woman in Luke 7:31-50 with the alabaster jar, who was called a sinner. 

After Jesus had cast out seven demons and healed her of an unidentified illness, Mary Magdalene became a devoted follower and disciple.

She was the first to witness the empty tomb. There can be no doubt that she was deeply respected and admired by Jesus.

Down through the centuries artists have love to paint her, resulting in about 25 famous Mary Magdalene paintings.

Mary Magdalene as mentioned 12 times in the four Gospels, which is more that most of the disciples. She is known as a faithful disciple of Jesus, and remained as close as  possible throughout the crucifixion.

Verse 11: "But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb."

John does not tell us when Mary returned to the tomb; he simply continues his account with her there.

Mary was weeping for the suffering of Jesus, for His death, for the loss to her and her friends, and because she could not find His body.

Jewish people took the first seven days of mourning so seriously that mourners could not wash, work, or even study the law. To them the missing body would have been intolerably tragic.

The enemies had understood Jesus to say that He would rise from the dead, and, according to the synoptics, had placed special guards around the tomb to keep the body from being stolen.

Later, the Jewish leaders would spread the preposterous lie that the disciples had stolen His body and were only pretending that a resurrection had occurred.

Mary, now alone and grief stricken, did not leave the tomb with the others, but stooped in order to see inside the tomb.

Verse 12: "And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet."

In Jewish tradition, white linen garments were worn by Jewish priests, other ancient priests, and by angels.

These messengers from Heaven had come to attend the resurrection of the Son of God, and to honor and worship the Son as they did at His birth, (Heb1:6).

However, perhaps due to her grief, Mary shows no indication that she even recognizes that they are angels.

Most of those in Scripture who encountered angels were struck with fear, but if this was true for Mary, John makes no mention of it.


The Angels Talk to Mary

Verse 13: "They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 

Mary was crying because she thought the body of the Master had been stolen. She did not know the Lord had risen, the victory won, and that this would soon become a glorious event.

Many think that her grief was so great that she apparently took no note of the angels, and after answering their question, turned away from them.


Jesus Talks to Mary

Verse 14: "Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus."

"Then she turned and saw Jesus." Just as she had failed to distinguish the angels, she did not recognize the Lord.

There has been much supposition regarding Mary's failure to recognize Jesus.

Most believe it was due to her profound emotional state.

Some think it was due to a change in the appearance of Jesus' resurrected body, and refer to the two disciples on the road to emmaus who did not recognize Him, (Luke 24:13-35).

However, according to Scripture, "Jesus opened their eyes," which would indicate that He had controlled their recognition of Him, and so it may have been with Mary.

It is important to note that the Gospel of John does not mention any change in the appearance of Jesus' resurrected body. It would seem that, except for the scars left by the crucifixion, it was the same body as before the resurrection.

Verse 15: "Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Suppposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

Mary was still suffering bitterly from the events of the past few days that ended with Jesus being crucified; she was perhaps in a state of shock, and now even His body was gone.

She had lost her Master, and friend. Jesus was different from all the other men she had ever known; because there was no guile, no deception, no covert sinful actions in Him, toward her, nor anyone else, and now He was gone.

In this distraught state of mind, with her back to Him and perhaps weeping uncontrollably, Mary did not recognize His voice - until He called her name.

Verse 16: "Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher)." 
(ra BOH nigh)

Jesus' personal greeting filled her heart with recognition, and she exclaimed Rabboni!

(Rabboni is more personal and less formal than Rabbi), and could mean, "My dear teacher."

Verse 17: "Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'

Mary did not yet understand the resurrection, and not wanting to lose Jesus again, was either clinging to Him, or attempting to do so; either way, it is clear that Jesus did not want her to touch Him.

Jesus did not refuse to be touched after the resurrection, and had even invited His disciples to see and touch the scars in His hands and side; but He had not yet returned to the Father, and would not be detained.

Can we not sense the urgency as He said to Mary, "Go to my Brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."

"Brothers!" In using this terminology Jesus was saying, "Tell my disciples it is done!"

Verse 18: Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her."

Mary announced to the disciples that Jesus had risen from the tomb, and that she had seen and talked with Him. Even though her message was not well received, she had only shared what she knew to be true.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was now accomplished, making it possible for all who believe, to become brothers/sisters and joint heirs with Christ. 

The miracle He had promised Nicodemus, in John 3:3, was now in effect! Eternal life was now possible for all who would believe.

The Gospel of John does not tell of any later meetings Jesus had with Mary, but there are many things we are not told, so perhaps He did; if so, wouldn't it be great to know the things He said to Her.

This concludes our study of: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene


Our Next Study Is:

"Jesus Appears to the Disciples"



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