WHEN SHE CAME to His tomb early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene discovered that the stone had been rolled aside and that Jesus’ body was missing (Mat. 28:1; John 20:1). She had lost Him twice—first to the grave and later to thieves (John 20:2), or so she thought. Evidently the same people who were responsible for His death were also guilty of stealing His corpse.
She was understandably brokenhearted and the awful crimes carried out against the Lord fueled her despair (vv. 11, 14). She repeated her anguish three different times:
- “They have taken away the Lord…” (v. 2).
- “…They have taken away my Lord…” (v. 13).
- “Sir, if You have carried Him away…” (v. 15).
Evidently Mary hadn’t considered the possibility of Christ’s resurrection—at least not in the torment of this moment (cf. v. 9). If she, like the other disciples was conscious of Old Testament prophecy (i.e., Hosea 6:2, Jonah 1:17, Isaiah 53:10-12, Psalm 16:10), she hadn’t put two and two together.
Suddenly, here at the tomb, Mary met the Lord in prophecy realized—and He wasn’t dead, but very much alive. He appeared to her and echoed the question that the angels had asked earlier, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (v. 15, cf. v. 13). She assumed the individual who expressed concern over her tears was the local cemetery gardener. It was still too dark at that hour for her to know the true identity of her querist (v. 1). She tried once again to explain the reason for her grief when the Lord called her by name, “Mary!” (v. 16). In an instant she knew to Whom she was speaking. It was Rabboni—her Teacher (v. 16)!
The raw emotion of not only seeing Jesus, but the living and breathing Jesus, moved not only her tongue but her arms, and she immediately embraced Him. Most of us would agree that that was a natural response.
Ironically, Jesus insisted that she let Him go. “Do not cling (hold—NIV) to Me…,” (v. 17a), He urged. Despite the strength of her affections and the excitement of encountering the risen Christ, Mary had to release the Lord and then go and tell her peers what she had witnessed and Whom she had met at the grave (vv. 17-18).
Mary, like Thomas a week later (vv. 24-26), needed a tangible Christ. She needed to see Him and cling to Him because her security was embedded in an earthly, corporeal Savior. It’s been my observation that some brethren today are like Mary Magdalene—they also need to fasten themselves to the concrete Christ. Think I’m over-stating my case? Consider:
- Why is it that some church members today habitually skip evening services? If Jesus was really going to be at the church building, they’d be sure to attend, wouldn’t they? Of course, we know He’s at all of our assembles (Mat. 28:20; 26:29; cf. Heb. 13:5b), but His presence, for some odd reason, is less apparent after the morning worship, a Sunday buffet, and a hearty nap.
- Why is it that some Christians claim that when they offer their prayers, they feel as if they’re simply speaking to a wall? If Jesus was really there, He’d manifest Himself in some overt, even miraculous, fashion and then affirmatively answer their petitions with the swiftness of a new microwave oven.
- Why is that when temptation whispers, “Nobody else will find out…” that some children of God repeatedly succumb to its allures (1 Cor. 10:13)? If Jesus was actually standing close by and observing their behavior, they no doubt could, and would, withstand the devil’s assaults.
People need a solid Savior—One that they can actually hold on to in a perceptible way. Because if they can’t interact with and talk to Him like they talk to their friends, He’s little more than a faint mirage—a Messiah only on the rice paper pages of their Bibles. If He can’t be encountered with their physical senses when sin entices, His body might as well be back in the tomb in Jerusalem.
The problem is—Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Memorize that. “NOT by sight.” Our faith in, and obedience to, the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25) is not dependent upon our senses. On the contrary, it’s based upon a strong confident faith, one that is grounded in the innerrancy of Scripture. It is “the ASSURANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). We can know the Lord (1 John 2:3, 5-6; 4:13), even though we can’t relate to Him in a tangible fashion (1 John 1:2), we can have fellowship with Him (Mat. 12:48-50; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3, 6), even though we can’t touch Him, and we can walk with Him (Gen. 5:24; Col. 2:6;1 Pet. 2:2, 6), even though we can’t see Him!
Jesus HAD to ascend. And, like Mary Magdalene, we HAVE to let Him go in a material way (John 20:29). You won’t ever bump into Him at Wal-Mart. He won’t fix your flat tire—except through the arms of His spiritual body, the church (Mat. 25:40, 45). You won’t feel Him pat you on the back when you’re struggling with your marriage, but that doesn’t mean that He’s unaware of your pain (Mat. 26:38-39; Heb. 4:15), that He doesn’t hear your cries (Psm. 34:15; 1 Pet. 3:12), that He’s not present (Exo. 33:14; Psm. 27:8; Jer. 29:13), or that He doesn’t love you (1 John 4:16).
“Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29b; cf. 1 Pet. 1:8).
Oxford church of Christ