The First Eyewitness

by The Chapel

Covered: Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, Matthew 28, Acts 1
Scripture Memory: Guilt – Romans 8:1-2
This week we get to read about the event that is central to our Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus. J.C. Ryle wrote, “The resurrection of Christ is one of the foundation-stones of Christianity. It was the sea of the great work that He came on earth to do. It was the crowning proof that the ransom He paid for sinners was accepted, the atonement for sin accomplished, the head of him who had the power of death bruised, and the victory won.” No superlatives would overstate the importance of the history recorded in this week’s reading.

Let’s look more closely at just one small piece of these resurrection accounts – Jesus’ interaction with Mary Magdalene at the tomb. What can this interaction teach us about our God? First, notice how personal it is. Look at how He approaches Mary. He is asking her questions, being gentle with her, calling her by name. Here is the King who has just conquered sin and death for all eternity, yet pay attention to how tenderly He speaks to Mary. The resurrection is intensely personal here, as it is for you and for me as well.

Next, clearly, Mary loves and is devoted to Jesus. But notice how she is looking for Him. She is looking for a corpse, for a dead Jesus, for a human Jesus, not for a risen-from-the dead God incarnate. Surely she would have never found Him had He not revealed Himself to her. The Jesus she was looking for was too small. In our humanity, by ourselves, faith is all but impossible. It is only if Jesus breaks through to us, only if He comes and opens our eyes that we can find him. Scripture repeatedly speaks about how God pursues us and reveals Himself to us, as Jesus did to Mary. Aren’t our minds and our hearts always too small? Our culture, our upbringing, all sorts of things in our lives say Jesus can only be this big. Only when Jesus comes to us, reveals Himself to us does He burst through those categories. Christ Himself taught, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44)

Third, consider that Mary Magdalene is the very first eyewitness to the resurrected Messiah. Does it surprise us that Jesus didn’t choose a pillar of the community, an educated and respected man, a spiritual leader for this privilege? Of course, we know that at this time, women were considered of lesser value. They could not even serve as witnesses in a Roman or a Jewish court. And remember that Mary Magdalene, not so long ago, had seven demons thrown out of her (Luke 8). Surely she was considered a demoniac and a social outcast. But isn’t this how Jesus so often operates in His new upside-down kingdom? He taught, “The first shall be last and the last first.” Time and time again He chooses the lowly of this world for His special purposes. Not only is she chosen to be the first eyewitness, but the first messenger of the good news as well, as Jesus sends her to tell the other disciples. And is she chosen because of her mortal uprightness or her religious discipline? Not at all. This is a message that Jesus saves by grace, that He chooses her to be the first person in history to encounter the risen Messiah and be told “Go and tell everyone else.” Tim Keller explains, “How much more vivid could Jesus be? How much more powerful could the message be that says ‘I do not save on the basis of pedigree or moral attainment or on the basis of record. I save you not by your work but by my work. I don’t save people who think they are strong, I save people who know they are weak.’ Behold the grace of Jesus Christ.”

So what can we learn from Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ interaction at the tomb? We see that the resurrection, the gospel is intensely personal. We see that God pursues us and reveals Himself to us. We see that God’s values are not those of the world; He values and uses those that are weak and lowly by the world’s standards. And, perhaps most of all, we learn that He is a God of grace, who saves us by this grace. A woman, once filled with seven demons, comes to the tomb to anoint a corpse, and becomes the chosen one to go proclaim the risen Christ – He is risen; He is risen indeed!
Written by: Jennifer Harris
Photo Credit: Alexander Ivanov
Sources: Timothy Keller, “Encountering the Risen King”
Alexander Ivanov, “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection.”

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