THE TENTH WITNESS — Mary Magdalene
The Lord Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Dear fellow redeemed: As we left it three days ago, John had seen Jesus die, Jesus was dead. Through sightless eyes, John had seen only what mere human eyes could see, and honestly, it wasn’t much. By his eyes, John saw only a lifeless body. Only the eyes of faith could reveal that this was the Lamb of God, who had now taken away the sins of the world. TO SEE is a big thing in John’s Gospel, In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” In John 1:46, Philip invites Nathanael to
Jesus with these words, “Come and see.” The Samaritan woman invites the townspeople in John 4:29, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.” The man born blind man in John 9:25 confesses, “I was blind, now I see.” On Palm Sunday, John 12:15 announces, “Behold, your king is coming.” On that same day, some Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). Now, on Easter morning, Mary is beside herself when she says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18).
Let’s follow Mary on that early morning trip to the tomb. The other evangelists give more detail and fill in about other characters, but John just follows Mary Magdalene. John 20:1–18 (ESV)
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had
reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 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. 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.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means
Teacher). 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.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Mary went back to where the disciples had gathered. We find out in the next section that they were behind locked doors. If Jesus had been arrested and killed, maybe they, His closest followers, were next. Bang! Bang! Bang! Mary pounded on the door. Somebody unlocked it and she stepped inside, breathless, and bears witness, I HAVE SEEN THE LORD! John leaves it there: Sight has come at last.
In April of 1994 (I think) Deborah had been through surgery for cancer and was starting both chemotherapy and radiation. We didn’t know how it would turn out. It was Lent, but I was beginning to prepare for Easter. One hymn I looked at was, “Alleluia Christ Is Risen,” to the tune Hyfrydol. I loved the tune and thought it would be a great Easter hymn. But it wasn’t. It was an ascension hymn. So I sat down and wrote this Easter hymn that within a time of great darkness tells what it means that WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD through the eyes of faith. Alleluia, Christ
Is Risen; His the Scepter, His the Throne!. So let us also rise and sing!
To the Lamb upon the throne: Unto Him be endless praise! For The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Our last witness in this season of devotion is a woman. Honestly, if the account of Jesus’ resurrection were contrived, it would not have included a woman as a witness. Women’s testimony wasn’t allowed in Jewish courts. And this woman, after all! There are five Marys in the Gospels. A review of secular writings from the time show a similarly high proportion of the name, “Mary.” Mary Magdalene was someone who had been possessed of seven demons, which Christ had cast out (Luke 8:2). “Magdalene” wasn’t her last name, it just means that she was from Magdala, a little fishing village on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee. Tradition says that Mary had been a prostitute, but there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that. Like all of us, her soul was the battleground between spiritual powers. Jesus had reached out and defeated the powers that had afflicted her and endangered her soul. For Mary, like you and me and all of us, was precious to Jesus. But now Mary was able to declare, “I have seen
the Lord.” By using the word “Lord” she was acknowledging Jesus as true God, as the great “I Am,” who created all things and has brought life and light into the world. To John, writing by inspiration some decades after the resurrection, the problem of spiritual darkness was severe. Many of the Jews did not see that Jesus is the Christ. Many of the Jews did not acknowledge the resurrection. Many thousands did truly see the light at Pentecost
and thereafter. Many of the priests became Christians, but still spiritual darkness was rampant. Simeon had called Jesus the “Light to lighten the Gentiles,” and John had seen that too. In fact his last years were spent among the Greeks and Hellenistic Jews, especially in Ephesus, when he wasn’t exiled to Patmos. It is by divine power that the light of the gospel has spread out across the globe and across the centuries, even to this time and this place. By the grace of God and in faith, we can say with Mary, “I have seen the Lord!” In Philippians 3 Paul says that he turns away from the darkness of this world to the light of the gospel so “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, ESV)
Yet there is much darkness in the world, and many are lost. How is it that we sometimes fail to see? How is our spiritual sight darkened? We do well to ask that question. How does Christ and His resurrection become meaningless? How do we lose sight of it? For some, it is a compulsion to succeed or to prove themselves. All in at work! Put in the hours! No thought was given to God’s word and no time for prayer and devotion. Success? Maybe. But at the cost of losing sight of Christ.
For some, it is disengagement from the realities of life. Immersion in too much internet, too much sleeping, too much alone time, too much shopping, too much drink, too much drugs. For some it is a loss of their bearings, the loss of truth. They adopt a worldview based upon materialism, upon narcissism, on the lies of the age. How else are we in such darkness that good becomes evil and evil good, truth is violence and delusions are enshrined as truth.
A world that things that families are evil, that boys can be girls, that sex can be casual without harm, that society or things are responsible for what people do, that we have all come from time, matter, and chance, and our end is but dust… such a world is blind. Bang! Bang! Bang! All the witnesses, like Mary, bang on the door, throw it open, and let in the light.
Families are God’s creation, He gave you your vocation as a man or a woman and He blesses it. There is not just matter and energy. We have a mind and soul. There is love, joy peace, hope, faith. We are a unique creation, and what our immortal soul leaves behind in the grave will rise to eternal life. For after all …
THE LORD IS RISEN! (HE IS RISEN INDEED, HALLELUIA!)
That is the message for us this Easter day from all of the witnesses, but now especially Mary. By faith we say with her, “I have seen the Lord.” For ..
THE LORD IS RISEN! (HE IS RISEN INDEED, HALLELUIA!)