A Voice in the
And [the angels at the tomb] said to [Mary Magdalene], Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him. And when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away...." (vs13-15)
This little passage evokes within me such emotions that no words can express. The last few times I've read it, I have ended up with tears in my eyes, and a big knot in my stomach. And also, there are profound questions. Who, exactly was this Mary? And what was her relationship with Jesus? ...to evoke such pathos?
We know that she was one of those who followed Jesus "ministering to Him". (Mt27:55) "...out of [her] possessions." (Lk8:3) In other words, she came from a background of some means; and Jesus-and-company did not take up offerings as they travelled, to cover expenses. She also had been demon-possessed, whom Jesus had healed. (Lk8:2)
What, exactly, was the 'relationship' between her and Jesus? That work-of-blasphemy "Jesus Christ Superstar" (from the 70s) portrays her, if I recall correctly, as an ex-prostitute, who was 'now' trying to figure out how to be Jesus' lover, singing, "I don't know how to love Him..." Many from the world assume that she and Jesus were "an item"; that she was also the woman who "was a sinner" (Lk7:37); and that after Jesus had forgiven her, that she became His lover; and that He also fantasized about her while hanging on the cross. And there are many variations on these themes out there. But of such blasphemies, there is no shred of any Scriptural suggestion to these things! They are the concoctions of sinful man, who would seek to discredit Jesus; elevating themselves in their own minds, by bringing Christ down to their own gutterial level.
But if Jesus had been with -any- woman, what a mixed-up mess THAT would have been! He proclaimed that in Heaven they "neither marry nor are given in marriage". (Mt22:30) Since He was "from above" (Jn8:23), knowing He was to be crucified, and then would ascend back to the Father, that would not have been a life of love to marry a woman, only to leave her behind. He would not have been practicing what He preached! And how could He become "one" in such a manner with sinful humanity, and then be fit to be the "Lamb...without spot and without blemish", to provide redemption? (1Pt1:19) And if He had been with a woman to have offspring, then what about the Scriptural expression, "sons of God"? It would soooo pervert holiness and the entire Scriptural doctrine of the "spiritual" birth (Jn3:8) so as to totally confuse the basic doctrines of Redemption and Salvation. Since I'm not as well-read in worldly things as many self-presumed 'scholarly' types, I am not aware of any instances; but if I am thinking the possibility of these thoughts, what are the chances that there are actually some cults out there, claiming to trace their lineage back to Jesus through Mary Magdalene? But this concept is not of sufficient predominance to have become part of the major religions making claim to having "judeo-christian" roots (that I'm aware of). We know this was not the relationship between Jesus and Mary. But if people were to suggest that it was, these are some of the implications that would be involved. And in addition to the blasphemous false icon, Mary the "mother of god", would be the other unthinkable: Mary of Magdala, the "wife of god".
So now, moving along here...
Out of the women (plural) who went to the tomb (Mt28:1, Lk24:1,10), why did Mary Magdalene come back to the tomb (presumably following after Peter and John?), and then after Peter and John leave, does she stay there, crying? Now, truly, different people have different emotional makeups. It is claimed that women are "more emotional" than men. And among women, some are more emotional than others. But everytime I read this passage, in recent years, my spirit and soul burrow -deep- into this scene. Mary is not being -merely- "emotional". She is gut-wrenched over Jesus' death; and now that, by appearances, it appears His body has been 'stolen' (the story the soldiers were paid to tell Mt28:12-15), she is beside herself with grief. Her soul has been ripped out from her. I sense a very special kind of 'love' she had for Jesus. Some special relationship that is not recorded otherwise, except for us to speculate about it from this incident.
And why, out of all the disciples (even John, "whom Jesus loved" -Jn21:20), did Jesus make a special point for a 'personal' and 'private' meeting like this alone with Mary? If John was the disciple "whom Jesus loved", was Mary the woman Jesus loved? Along with Martha and Mary? (Jn11:5) In a similar sort of bond by which Jonathan and David's souls were "knit" to each other? (1Sam18:1) I don't know the answers to these questions. But whatever the case, it is quite clear that something unspeakably -deep- existed for Mary about Jesus. As this article ends, I think it will become clear why we are making such a big deal about this.
And so, with that as background, it is more than a little bit encouraging, the things we can learn from this passage. Some people, once they come to grips with the depths of their sin, and see the grandeur of God's righteous holiness, they sometimes despair of God's ability to save them: How could God save me? after all that I've done? I'm unsavable!! This passage demonstrates to us God's compassions towards us, His mercy. Whatever is in our souls, He knows us. (Heb4:12-13) "For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Ps103:14) He cares about us (1Pt5:7) -deeply- on the 'individual' level.
It also shows us that, just because a person has a "personal relationship" with Jesus, it doesn't necessarily follow that the person is saved. (Do you need to re-read that last sentence?)
It is obvious that Mary had a deep 'love' for Jesus. But was that sufficient? She's clinging to the concept of this 'man'... but where is her heart focused? As we shall see...she was 'blind'.
I'm not going to try to map out the sequence of every detail of the events, to coordinate them all between the four gospels (that's not the purpose of this article). But it is obvious that Mary goes to the tomb the first time with the other women, as they are prepared with more spices to anoint the body, and are wondering how they will get the stone rolled away. (Mk16:3) But on their way, there is the earthquake and the angel rolled the stone away. (Mt28:2) So that, when they get there, they find the stone 'already' rolled away. (Jn20:1, Lk24:2) As they see the body missing, the angels appear, "He is not here, but is risen!" (Lk24:6) And in that conversation the angels ask them to "remember" how Jesus had told them all these things, and it says, "And they remembered His words." (vs6,8) So they go tell the Eleven, and Peter goes to have a look. (Lk24:12) As one might hear the account told by various people, this seems to be a more 'general' account, as told by Luke; as Luke had gathered all the bits of information from all the eyewitnesses to compile this treatise to Theophilus. (Lk1:1-3) Luke was not himself an eyewitness, but he compiled from all the different sources as they told the bits and pieces they remembered.
Here in John we have a more 'personal' eyewitness record of events. Now as the other women are apparently excitedly telling the general group that they had seen the angels, and the report that Jesus was risen, it seems here that Mary specifically seeks out Peter and John more privately (perhaps while the rest are all in a hubbub?) to say similar things to them. (vs2) Only, she doesn't seem to convey what the angels have said, that "Christ is risen", but rather she says, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." In other words: Yeah, the others are all excited, but the truth is... The body isn't there. He's missing!
In other words, she has heard what the angels said, as they exhorted the women to "remember" Jesus' words...and they "remembered" Jesus' words. But she is NOT BELIEVING it. She's still looking for a DEAD BODY, when the angels had already asked "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" (Lk24:5) The angels have proclaimed Jesus' resurrection, but Mary comes to Peter and John (two of the three Jesus regularly showed special things: raising of Jairus' daughter Mk5:22+; transfiguration Mt17, etc...these are two 'leaders' of the group): His body is missing, and we don't know where it is!
Last month we observed how John then goes, sees the burial clothes, empty, and believes. But Mary hasn't yet got it figured out.
"Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away..."
For you who grew up with expected standards of behavior, and experienced the necessary parental discipline to guide you, remember those times where you were either fully misbehaving, or were on the 'verge' of misbehaving, and if your name was "John", to hear "Joooohn!" There were two things: 1) You -knew- your parent's voice, 2) and you -understood- the 'tone' of their voice at that moment. You knew that you had better -quickly- modify your behavior, or you knew to expect certain consequences. At dog competitions, there might be -many- 'masters' calling to their dogs, and all the dogs will be hearing all the -various- masters...but the dog hears -his- master's voice (like the old 78's and RCA Victor.) and obeys the commands. Somebody calls up a loved one on the phone, and says, "It's me." It is not necessary to say, "This is your husband, named so-n-so, whom you know and love, as we are married." "It's me" is sufficient, because the hearer knows the voice of the one calling.
"Mary!" And she turns around, grabs Him by the feet, "Rabboni!"
As I look at this at this moment, I am wondering if the words in parentheses, "(which is to say, Teacher)", were added by others after John wrote this narrative originally, because "Teacher", which is a correct translation of the Greek there, does not really convey the meaning of "Rabboni" adequately, like the parenthetical note claims for it. The word appears only twice. Once here in Jn20:16, and the other time when Bartimaeus is brought to Jesus, and he addresses Jesus as "MY MASTER....that I may see again" (Mk10:51)
The word means, not merely "honorable sir, teacher"; but with greater honor: "Master, chief, prince" (This is why I wonder if someone, perhaps a copyist? added this note of 'explanation' later. To say "teacher" doesn't really seem to fit. KJV says "master" there, which I'm sure is from the older English where, for instance, school teachers were called, school masters. The KJV "master" means the same thing as today's "teacher". But "rabboni" conveys a higher position of elevated status. One of 'greatness'. My spirit says it doesn't belong there (in the Greek); but lacking proof, it is left in the VW-edition)
As Bartimaeus was imploring the "Son of David (in other words "Messiah") have mercy on me", proclaiming Jesus' Deity, so is Mary here.
Please tell me where to find His -body-. "Mary!" You -ARE- alive! You -ARE- the Master/Chief/Prince. You -ARE- the Exalted One!
I would suggest that, in that instant, Mary -knew- Jesus was more than a mere man...but that He was very God. It was that very moment that she "first believed". (Rom13:11) Perhaps like Thomas? Unless I see the nail holes, and put my hand where the spear went in. Perhaps Mary heard what the angels said, that "He is risen"... But...I don't know...this is all too much to take in! Where's the -body-? Where's the proof?
Is Mary being like the other disciples whom Jesus chided, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken." (Lk24:25) ??
If Mary had previously been demon-possessed, she had likely experienced many of the things today's charismania boasts with claims about: this sign, that miracle, that great work over there, this other experience. Perhaps, being in that realm, she also heard the claims of conjurers, but saw the fakery? So now, here these heavenly/spirit beings (like she had seen before in her demonic trances...remember: demons are fallen angels) are making claims that "Jesus is alive". But yeah...I've seen all -that- before! Don't you be foolin' around with me now! Jesus healed me of these demons; but now He's dead....and the demons are back!!? Don't be messing with my mind! Stop this foolin' around! Show me the body, and I'll be on my way...
And she hears His voice, "Mary!" ..and as Thomas would say a week later, "My Lord and My God!" (vs28) That's what "Rabboni" meant in her heart. And notice Jesus emphasizes: "My Father and your Father...My God and your God" (vs17) No...this is not a reversion to demons. This is the REAL THING!
So, let's make some application here. Earlier we said that it is not enough to merely have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. This is what Mary had, but she had not yet (in her heart) come to -believe- that Jesus was -very- God. The blind man whom Jesus had given sight to scarcely a week or two earlier was confronted, "Do you believe into the Son of God?" (Jn9:35) The Ethiopian's faith was confirmed with the statement, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Ac8:37) Mary, yet in unbelief, wanted to drag away His dead body... So, she had had a "personal relationship" with Jesus. But she was not yet saved. The "Gospel" includes the belief that Jesus rose again from the dead. (1Cor15:4) Otherwise, Eternal Life is one big farce! (1Cor15:17-19)
I hope some of you are now beginning to shudder greatly! Is not one of today's primary "gospels" the so-called gospel of the "personal relationship" with Jesus? Some of you call yourself a "Christian" because you were told you needed a "personal relationship" with Jesus, so you -prayed- a so-called "prayer" and "asked Jesus to come into your life"...for that alleged "personal relationship". But were you exhorted to "repent" of your sin (Ac2:38) and "receive" Jesus (Jn1:12), "believing" on Him (Ac16:31)? Not for that "personal relationship", nor to be your "friend...to be with you to the end"...but as your "Rabboni"? "Your Master!"?
Don't worry, the "relationship" will follow, as Jesus promised through the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Jn14:23, 16:13, etc)
But if Jesus is not your Master, He will never be your "friend". A high and lofty "prince" and "master" is one under whom one subjects themself. If a person "humbles" themself and submits to the Master, then the Master will "exalt you". (Jac4:10) But if a person comes along looking for a "relationship"...well, the world is full of those! And they are all going togther down the "broad way" to "destruction". (Mt7:13)
Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me." (Jn10:27) When Jesus called to Mary, she heard the voice of her "Master".
Certainly, Jesus said, "No longer do I call you servants...but I have called you friends.." (Jn15:15) Truly, this is the relationship that comes to be between the Lord and the Believer. But it must -start- with Jesus being Master, and the repentant sinner being the servant. Remember, Jesus also said, "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for SO I AM." (Jn13:13) Yes, we become the Lord's "friends"...but we never stop being His "servants". Just because Jesus says, "no longer do I 'call' you servants" does not mean that we have ceased to be His servants. After all, look at the disciple He "loved", fallen in a faint when John saw His glory. (Rev1:17) That's not the response of a "friend" who is not also a "servant". The 'emphasis' changed: One who is only a servant obeys out of 'fear' and 'duty'; but a friend obeys out of 'love' (Jn14:15, 1Jn5:2-3) And there is "no fear in love". (1Jn4:18)
Yes, the "relationship" will develop, once you are in the family of God. But you must first listen to the right voice. There are many "invitations". Satan has many "ministers of righteousness" (2Cor11:15) giving out invitations, putting on their trance-like out-of-body "light" shows. (vs14) But if satan is inviting...where do you end up? If you accept his invitation, the "relationship" you have is with whom? Certainly NOT Jesus Christ!
But...but... Hold on just a minute! Didn't Jesus invite, "Come to Me and I will give you rest? (Mt11:28) Didn't Jesus pray to the Father "that they may be one...with Us"? (Jn17:21,etc) Isn't that "one"ness a "personal" relationship? Well, yes it is...but it is only for those who have "kept God's Word" (vs6) (saved ones). "NOT" for the "world" (vs9)
For the world, what is in store is "death". The "wages of sin is death". (Rom6:23) The "soul who sins shall die" (Eze18:4) What is required is the "redemption" that is provided by Jesus' blood, the "remission of sins" (Col1:14, Eph1:7) which is given to the "repentant" sinner (Lk24:47, Ac2:38) when "by faith/believing" (Ac16:31, Rom3:28) the person "receives" Jesus Christ. (Jn1:12) When the person, thus, receives Jesus, then and only then is there authority to be called a "child of God". And only then can there be any basis for a so-called "personal relationship" as the new "baby" in Christ (1Pt2:2) is now calling out "Abba, Father". (Rom8:15, Gal4:6)
But if a person seeks to gain entrance to Heaven, to God's presence, the need is not for love, or relationships. The thing that keeps a person out of Heaven is -SIN-. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has uttered perverseness. No one calls for justice, nor does anyone plead for truth; they trust in vanity and speak lies. They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity..." (Is59:2-4)
Contrary to those snake-oil invitations, God is not in Heaven wringing His hands, yearning for "relationships" with man. As long as man rebels, God's attitude is: Get out of My sight! Today's society doesn't like this word, and they come up with all sorts of politically correct, psychologically expedient words to replace it. But the word is "Sin". SIN! SIN is the SEPARATION between man from God. When man merely seeks a "relationship" God says, Get away from Me, sinner!
For many years there has been this epidemic called, "easy believerism". It preaches a watered-down so-called "gospel" that is "seeker friendly". It's primary doctrine is "only believe". It's next-of-kin invitation is the "personal relationship" with Jesus. This is a 'pleasant' gospel. All you have to do is realize your own 'worth' before God, and go-forward, and once up at the altar, somebody will lead you in "-THE- prayer"... and you don't even have to learn it... just "repeat-after-me". And hockus-pockus, you're now a "christian". (Any of you who believes in this stuff: please produce a Scripture, so we can all see it, that proclaims this doctrine, either "-the- prayer" that was formulated by God to pray, or even the command from God with any words resembling: "pray this prayer to be saved") This 'method' does not look at sin. It rarely even talks about "hell". When Luis Palau was in town almost 20 years ago, he specifically made the statement with words something like this: "I don't like hell. I don't like to talk about hell. So this week I'm not going to talk about hell. I'm going to talk about Heaven." And he had hundreds of people "go-forward".
Jesus talked more about "how hard" it was for certain kinds of rich self-righteous people to get to Heaven. (Mk10:23) And Jesus spoke often about the "outer darkness" (Mt8:12), "hell fire" (Mt5:22) and the "weeping and gnashing of teeth". (Mt22:13) John, while pointing out: "Behold the Lamb of God" (Jn1:29) spent more time warning against the "wrath to come". (Mt3:7) Unless you acknowledge your sin, and the impossibility of your getting to Heaven as long as you are a sinner, you will never (NEVER) get to Heaven!
Sin requires atonement. Something Jesus provided when He died on the cross. (That was a very ugly, bloody mess! It would not have been 'appropriate' on your white-cloth-draped altars! And it would certainly chase people away from your churches! They certainly would not 'feel' wonderful, and leave with "batteries all charged up"!) And His resurrection provides and guarantees Eternal Life. (Rom6:3-7, etc)
Phew! "So complicated and grotesque!" you say? How can anybody be saved, if all -that- is required? Well, like Jesus answered a similar question, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Mt19:25-26) While being complex, it is also simple and childlike. (Mt18:3, 19:14) And also remember that it is a 'heart' thing (Rom2:28-29, Ac15:8, Ps7:9)... God knows your heart...
"Blessed are the PURE in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt5:8)
Whose voice are you hearing? The demons who would impress you with their conjurings and spirit-filled 'experiences'? The false prophets purporting to promise you pleasant things they have no authority to promise, in the context of your proud, "hard and impenitent heart"; storing up for yourself "wrath"? (Rom2:5)
Or have you come to the end of yourself, and is -JESUS- calling your name? And if so, What are you responding? If Jesus is calling you, and you answer Him in the affirmative... all those aforementioned 'complexities' will vanish away into the "simplicity that is in Christ" (2Co11:3)