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This is part of our Easter week series from Ross Paterson's daily devotional Facebook post. Like our page to keep up with our latest devotionals and news.

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John 20:11-18 can be described as “Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Lord.” There is something astonishing there. The resurrection narrative, this event that changes everything in time and eternity, in these verses just focuses on one person. “By the time Mary gets back to the tomb, Peter and John may be long gone, fearful of attracting the attention of the authorities.” Mary is all alone at the tomb – alone as far as human beings go, but certainly not in terms of angels or the Lord Jesus Himself. So today’s comments need to focus on Mary,  because the fact is that “Jesus comes to every one of us individually and personally. As Christians we don’t believe in the resurrection merely as a theological concept. We believe because we have had an encounter with the risen Lord, who has spoken to us by name. He has taken away our tears and our fear. He has filled us with joy and energy.”

  • Mary was a woman. “The very fact that the first witness was a woman bears testimony to the historical accuracy of John’s account.” “The fact that He appeared to Mary rather than to Pilate or Caiaphas or to one of His disciples is significant. That a woman would be the first to see Him is an evidence of Jesus’ electing love as well as a mark of the narrative’s historicity. No Jewish author in the ancient world would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this most important event.” That is the truth – though other statements about Mary are not true: “There is neither any evidence that she had been a prostitute, only that she had experienced a great deliverance, Luke 8:2.”

“Have you considered your place in God’s scheme lately? Don’t measure yourself by the world’s standards. God’s power gives ordinary people the potential to do and experience extraordinary things. God empowered Mary, a seemingly powerless woman, making her the star witness to bring the news to others. In the same way God can make us effective witnesses of His resurrection power to our world today.”

  • Jesus may have introduced Himself to Mary first because she had so earnestly sought Him. “She was at the cross while He was dying (John 19:25), and she went to His tomb early on Sunday morning (20:1).” Verse 14 says “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there.” The word ‘Saw’ (‘Theoreo’) means “To behold, view attentively, perceive, look with a prolonged and continuous gaze. ‘Theoreo’ conveys looking with a purpose, with interest and with close scrutiny.”

Mary was not a distracted or part-time seeker. She sought Jesus with all she had.

  • It took time for her to see Jesus clearly. “Eyes filled with tears and panicky, not seemingly facing Him full on, as we often do to hide our emotions from a stranger, she doesn’t recognise the one she is seeking until He speaks her name. Then Mary turns towards Jesus and runs to embrace Him in excited joy.” This statement by one Scripture Union writer is challenging and provocative: “It is a mistake to ‘just forget about yourself and concentrate on Him and worship Him,’ as the song suggests. This path can never be sustained. Life happens! Embrace disappointments. Express your fears. Face your doubts. Ask questions relentlessly! Relate to God on the basis of rugged reality, and I guarantee you will hear Him call your name and your response will be as instant as Mary’s.”

“We are not expected to disengage our minds, or forget our emotions and our struggles in order to have faith. If we process ours as honestly as Mary did hers, we will share her testimony: ‘I have seen the Lord! (v18).”

That is a challenge worth us battling through today…

  • “Do not hold on to me ... Go instead to my brothers ...” How can Mary stay in the garden when there is a group of dejected people nearby who need to hear the news of His resurrection? ‘Don’t keep Me to yourself. Go and tell.’ Don’t cling to the comfortable relationship; go and spread the news. Easter reminds us that we do not hold on to Jesus for the exclusive comfort of His Presence.”

“He has work to do, others to see. His resurrection is a prelude to His ascension and the giving of His Spirit. As long as He is ‘detained’ on the earth, the next glorious and universal chapter of His work – the age of the Spirit – will not begin (John 16:7).”

Mary then confronts us with at least two questions.

Has this Easter period helped me to encounter the risen Lord Jesus afresh, with new reality?

Secondly, has that encounter propelled me afresh into a dying world with this resurrection news that changes time and eternity?


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Published on March 29, 2021
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Ross Paterson
Reflections from Our Journey - Our Missionary Blog

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