But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping…

A portion of Sunday’s Easter sermon based on John 20:11-18.

Of all the followers of Jesus, Mary Magdalene was one of the most grateful. I say that with confidence because of the actions we see in her, and because of the blessing given to her by the LORD. Of all those whom He could have chosen to appear to first, He chooses Mary.

So who is Mary Magdalene? Most believe that she was the sinner found in Luke 7, who anoints Christ’s feet with her tears and oil. But there is no reason to believe this other than speculation, and to say that she is the woman in Luke 7, when Luke has every opportunity to tell us, is to speculate. Don’t fear if you have done so. I’ve oscillated on the issue as well. But for now, I’m in the camp that believes it’s not the same woman.

Luke tells us that Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons and the Lord delivered her from those demons. Just in case you are wondering, being possessed by demons is not a sin. It’s a dreadful state, but not a sin.

We also know that she is from Magdala, which is close to the Sea of Galilee. Other than that, we don’t know that much about her.

From that point of deliverance, she is one of the many silent supporters of Christ’s ministry. She was the type of person that every ministry truly needs. One that helps provide for those out front. We see her first in Luke 8, where she was named among the women who were following and supporting Christ.

Luke 8:1-3 Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him[a] from their substance.

She was also there for Christ at the cross. She stood by and watched as her Lord was put to death.

She was at His burial, and noted that His body wasn’t fully anointed.

She was one of the women who arose early on that Lord’s day so that they could anoint His body with oil, and one of the first to find the tomb missing.

Both Peter and John come running up to look at the situation, find the tomb empty and then go back home. But she lingers. She remains at the tomb and weeps. Her heart is broken. Not only have the authorities crucified Her Lord, but now the body is missing. She is broken.

In her lingering, we discover a wonderful truth about those who love the LORD, that is, that those who love Christ most diligently and perseveringly are those that receive the most privileges from Christ’s hand.[1]

It’s a touching fact that she would not leave. She wanted to be with Him, even if He was dead. It should not surprise us to see her deep love for Him. Remember what it was the Jesus did for her. He delivered her from the bondage of seven demons. Now I don’t know that any of us have ever been possessed by a demon, but I can imagine that it is something we don’t desire or want.

She was possessed by seven demons, and knew that her sanity and salvation was found in one man alone, Jesus Christ. It is true, the more one is forgiven, the more one loves the Lord. Apparently her love was such that the Lord would bless her in a wonderful way, by appearing to her first.

The Lord blesses all those who are His. In some, He gives greater blessings than others. But we must realize that those who dwell with Him, will always have more shown to them from the Word of God, than those who don’t.

“But it is a certain fact that those who love Christ most fervently, and cleave to Him most closely, will always enjoy most communion with Him, and feel most of the witness of the Spirit in their hearts.”[2]

Does that not sound delightful to you? To have more communion with Him though, we must spend more time with Him, and realize the depth of are sin. By doing so, we see the greatness of His grace in our lives and we long to be with Him even more.

EXPLANATION: We spend time with Him, by being in His word, praying to Him, asking for insight, talking to Him about His truth, meditating on His truth.

But also by being in worship. This is our time to be with Him. When we gather in worship, we are coming together as a body to sit at His feet, learn and be fed. This is one reasons why I don’t like to limit our time to one hour. I know, everyone has the Sunday hams at home. But just as Martha had to learn about her sister, it was better to let dinner wait and sit at the feet of Christ, than satisfy the flesh with a big smoking ham.

Luke 10:42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary does this. She longs to be with Him, so much so that she did not fear the rulers on the day that He was crucified. She went, and stood with the other women and wept with them. The disciples fled, but she stayed.

Peter and John left the grave, but she stayed. She didn’t want to be the first to tell the others. She wants Him, and because of this, Jesus will open her eyes to the realization of the resurrection.

Remember, this is what the empty tomb is about. It’s about the risen Savior, showing us God’s good pleasure in Him. The is the sealing of our faith, showing us that we are not foolish in believing in Christ because we have a future hope.

Our death, whether we are in Christ or out of Christ, does NOT bring annihilation, as so many people believe. Annihilation is the belief that when you die, you just cease to exist. The problem with this view is that all mankind is made in the image of God. Therefore, even though our images are tarnished with sin, we go on after our physical deaths. Those in Christ go on to be with Him in heaven, while those outside of Christ go on forever in eternal hell.

The resurrection confirms that reality. It shows that God truly is the God of the living, not the dead. It confirms all those promises that He gave during His ministry.

John 14:1-6 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3

His statement is pointing to the resurrection, showing that He is leaving them, but not just because death overtakes Him. He is leaving them because He has a greater purpose in mind.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me

All this to say that He was preparing them both for the resurrection and His ascension.

[1] Taken from JC Ryle’s Expository Thought On the Gospel of John, Banner of Truth Trust, Vol. 2, p. 366.

[2] Ryle, p. 366.