Mary And The Risen Lord – John 20:11-18

Mary And The Risen Lord

Nick Esch, 11/11/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

On October 28th, 69 years ago, Jim Elliot wrote those memorable words in his journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose…” He believed that with all of his heart, and his life proved it… Jim, along with four of his brothers in Christ were missionaries who were martyred for bringing the gospel to an unreached tribe in Ecuador. He was only 29 years old when he died, but his wisdom and zeal for the Lord far exceeded his age. He once wrote in his journal, “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” “Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul? Short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.’”

In looking at his journal it seemed as though Jim knew that suffering and martyrdom awaited him, and yet, his prayer was not for safety, or comfort, or longer life, but for greater zeal, and greater impact for the glory of God. His concern was not avoiding suffering, but growing in his love and affection for Jesus. He wrote, “Be Thou the object bright and fair to fill and satisfy the heart. My hope to meet Thee in the air, and nevermore from Thee to part!” Jim’s concern was loving God more, glorifying God more, enjoying God more, and staying faithful to him, come what may. And that’s what he did. He was faithful till the very end. He and his brothers in mission gave their lives, literally, for the cause of Christ among the unreached people of Ecuador.

When news of the martyred missionaries came out, the world viewed it as a terrible tragedy, but Jim’s wife, Elisabeth Elliot realized that suffering, and even death is not outside of God’s sovereign plan. God was and is doing something in and through it all. She said that the world had missed what Jim said in his famous quote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose…”  She did not think it a tragedy. In fact, she then followed in her husband’s footsteps and went as a missionary to the same people. And God did amazing things there; even saving and transforming the lives of those who murdered her husband.

When most people think about Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Flemming, and Roger Youderian, or even Elisabeth Elliot, they wonder why in the world they would go and risk their lives, or even give their lives to advance the gospel… I mean it can’t only be because they loved those people—though I’m sure they did… But if that was the only reason, or even the main reason, how could Elisabeth go as a missionary to the very people who murdered her husband? Well you see, while they—even Elisabeth—surely did love the people they were seeking to reach, what motivated them more than anything was the love of Jesus: His love for them and their love for Him…

Jesus’ love for them and their love for Jesus controlled their actions… Jesus’ love for them and their love for Jesus compelled them to go and tell… Indeed Jesus’ love for them and their love for Jesus is why they joyfully embraced the great commission—even to the unreached in Ecuador… And that’s what I want us to see in our text today… Today we’re going to look on as the risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene; and in her we’ll see a Christian controlled, compelled, and commissioned by the love of God in Christ and her love for Jesus… So with that in mind look with me at John 20:11-18…

 

Context

We have walked through the narrative of the cross… We’ve been through Good Friday… Because we have sinned against the one true God, we have been rightly brought under condemnation, and separated from God in His grace… But, because God is gracious, and because in His kindness He has loved us, He sent Jesus to save us… Jesus came and took on flesh, and then lived the perfect life that we have failed to live, and on that Good Friday all those years ago, He died the death we deserve to die… Truly God and truly man—our perfect representative and Savior, He took on our sin and took on God’s wrath, and died in our place on our cross… And after dying, as we have seen, He was given the burial of a King, and placed in a new tomb not far from Calvary… He died and was buried on Friday, Saturday was the Sabbath, and now it’s Sunday… As we saw last week, Mary Magdalene came upon the empty tomb, and then John and Peter; and now, seemingly overwhelmed by grief, Mary finds herself back at the empty tomb… Which brings us to verse 11.

John 20:11-18

In verse 11 we read, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.” John and Peter, believing that Jesus is alive, but not yet seeing the risen Lord, have just left the tomb to head home… Somehow Mary and the disciples miss each other; and now Mary is at the tomb again, completely caught up in despair over the death and the missing body of Jesus… She’s grief stricken, confused, and perhaps a bit angry… And while there weeping she looks into the tomb…

In verse 12 we’re told, “And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” She expected to see an empty tomb and instead there were angels there, no doubt sent from God as His messengers and ministers—here ministering to Mary… But even their very presence and position in the tomb is a ministry and message. The position of the angels is like the two cherubim on the ark of the covenant over the mercy seat described in Exodus 25:17-22—one at the head and one at the feet of where Jesus once laid… And that seems to be by intent… As this scene mirrors that of the ark of the covenant, the very presence of the angels is proclaiming that Jesus is God in the flesh, who has come out of the Holy of Holies to reveal Himself to the world… The presence of the angels proclaims to everyone around that this was not a scheme of man, but a powerful work of almighty God… Indeed, as they are here, angels are often described as appearing in white or with great light, tying them to heavenly glory and the very power of God… And it is the power of God that’s on display here as Jesus conquered the grave…

In verse 13 the angels begin to minister directly to Mary. “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.’” Now when they call her, “Woman,” it’s not in a disrespectful way; Jesus is going to address her the same way in verse 15… The Greek word translated her woman is sometimes translated as wife, or dear woman; and that’s the idea… It’s like they are calling her a dearly loved woman… So the angels look at her and essentially say, “Dearly loved woman, why are you weeping?” You see they know the amazingly loving work that Jesus has just accomplished for His beloved people—for Christians like Mary… Indeed, Peter tells us that angels long to look into the good news of the gospel (1 Peter 1:12); no doubt because they find God’s love and grace amazing… And so they look at Mary, who has been more loved by God in Christ than she could ever understand, and they ask, “Why are you weeping? What could possibly bring you to tears if God loves you this much?…” And beloved, we might ask ourselves the same thing? Why do we weep when we have such grace and such love from God in Jesus? Why do we get so bogged down by this broken world when we have Jesus Himself?…

Now Mary clearly hasn’t grasped God’s amazing grace the way the angels are hinting at it here; all she knows at this moment is that Jesus died and now His body is missing… And so while the angels think she should be moved to joy because of Jesus’ great love for her, it’s her great love for Jesus that is causing her to weep… It’s her love for Jesus that has led her to the tomb in the first place… Her love for Jesus is what’s controlling her here… Wandering to the tomb in the early hours of the morning, weeping uncontrollably, looking desperately for Jesus—the motive behind it all was love… The love that Jesus had already lavished on her, and her love for Him… She is so motivated by love, and so grief stricken and desperate that she doesn’t even really acknowledge that she’s speaking with angels here… It’s like she has a one-track mind and a one-track heart: she’s focused on Jesus… And what we see next is that Jesus is focused on her…

In verse 14 we read, “Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” Now, perhaps it was because it wasn’t fully light out yet, or because her eyes were filled with tears, or like Luke 24:15-16, on the Road to Emmaus, perhaps Jesus kept her from realizing who He was… But, for whatever reason, Mary did not recognize her Lord whom she loved and longed for… No doubt, after the resurrection, in His glorified body, Jesus probably looks a little different—certainly He looks much different than He did on the cross when Mary saw Him last…

We can be sure, in God’s providence, there is a reason why Mary does not immediately recognize Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” So again Mary is addressed as a dearly loved woman… Jesus addresses her, wanting to get at her heart… Basically He’s saying, “You are dearly loved, and you have a great Savior; so why do you weep and grieve? This Jesus you say you are seeking, who do you think He is? What kind of Messiah do you seek?” It seems that Jesus means this as a gentle rebuke… As we can see from what Mary says next, she’s focusing far too much on the body of Jesus, on Jesus as a man and not Jesus as God in the flesh… And Jesus is opening her eyes and her heart up to that…

Again in verse 15 we’re told, “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.’” Her one-track heart and mind are so preoccupied with the lifeless body of Jesus that she’s overlooking her risen Savior, the Jesus who is alive and full of life eternal standing in front of her… She seems to think that Jesus is Joseph’s gardener, and wonders if He knows where the body of Jesus was taken… She says she wants to know so she can take His body away—seemingly to give Jesus a proper burial (though He’s already had one)… Though she’s mistaken and a bit misguided here, her love and devotion for Jesus are to be commended…

Mary’s heart is so gripped by love that she cannot help but seek Jesus… People often speak of non-Christians seeking Jesus, but biblically it’s only Christians that seek Jesus… And that’s a part of our calling as Christians—to seek Jesus more and more each day… To seek to know Him more, love Him more, and live for Him more… To draw near to Him and seek to live in greater communion with Him… So we could all learn something from Mary here… We should all be as dedicated as she is… We should all be controlled by the love of Christ like her… And if we could just begin to grasp how much Jesus loves us, we would surely love Jesus like Mary here…

Now again, she’s a bit misguided and mistaken; she thinks Jesus is the gardener here… And it’s a bit ironic that Mary thinks this, because in a way He is the great gardener… Jesus has just shown Himself to be the true better Adam who is everything Adam failed to be… Adam disobeyed God’s will in a garden, and Jesus perfectly obeyed and submitted Himself to God’s will in a garden… And like Jesus said in John 12:24, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…” So He has gone to the cross, died for His people, and was placed into a tomb—into the earth like a seed or a grain; and now He is risen to bear much fruit… He is the great gardener who causes the fruit of salvation, the fruit of the church, the fruit of worship across the nations to grow and flourish for the glory of God… And this is what Mary begins to see in verse 16…

In verse 16, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” With one word Mary’s eyes are opened and her heart is flooded with joy… As Don Carson has said, in this moment, “Anguish and despair are instantly swallowed up by astonishment and delight…” What we see here is God’s sovereign grace in action… As Jesus said in John 10, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (27)… Indeed, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (3)… He calls Mary by name and suddenly she knows the sound of the great Shepherd’s voice… She knows the voice of her Savior… She’s given ears to hear, and what she hears is sweeter than she could’ve ever imagined…

John Newton once wrote, “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrow, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear…” Which is true enough; but sweeter still is to hear your name come from the mouth of Jesus… To hear our Lord and our God utter our name is the sound of amazing grace… And this is essentially what every Christian hears when they first become a believer… Jesus woos us and calls us; He summons us by name, calling us into the light of His glorious grace… In our sin Jesus could be standing right in front of us and we wouldn’t know Him; but, by God’s sovereign grace we are given eyes to see and ears to hear; and when we hear the voice of Jesus, we know it and we follow Him… So, I wonder, have you heard the voice of the Chief Shepherd? Have you been called out of your sin by God’s grace, and picked up your cross and given yourself to following Jesus? You see, the gospel is not a mere invitation, it’s a summons—a summons to come and follow the One who’s Name is so sweet, and who graciously calls us by our name. Perhaps you’re hearing Him for the first time today; if so, repent and believe in the gospel—surrender to Jesus, and give yourself over to following Him all your days…

Mary hears Jesus say her name and she knows it’s Him… She responds to Him, calling Him Rabboni, which was how she typically referred to Him… As John says, the word means teacher, and Jesus was indeed her teacher; but He’s so much more… So, though she means no disrespect, she isn’t seeing Jesus quite the way she should here… Just as she’s been too focused on the body of Christ, now she’s reverting back to the way things were between her and Jesus before the cross, and again she’s focusing too much on His humanity, and thus overlooking His deity… She’s only thinking of Jesus as He has been, not as He is as the resurrected Lord—as the Risen King… But nonetheless, her heart is overflowing with joy because Jesus—who dearly loves her, and whom she so dearly loves—is standing before her…

As she’s been controlled by the love of Christ up until this point, now she is so moved that she’s compelled by His great love for her and her love for Him to just grab a hold of Him… It appears she throws herself at His feet and clings to His ankles… In the beginning of verse 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…” Now Jesus isn’t rebuking her for touching Him… The Greek is literally, “Do not continue to cling to me…” The issue is that Mary is clinging to Him as if she’s afraid that she will lose Him, or He will lose her; she’s afraid He’ll go missing—as she thought He had been… But Jesus mentions the ascension, and what He’s saying is that the time for Him to depart and ascend to the right hand of the Father has not yet come… He’s going to stay with her and the other disciples for 40 days before ascending to the Father… There’s no need for her to cling to Him as if she might lose Him if she lets go… Indeed it’s not her clinging to Christ that will keep her in communion with Him anyway, but His grip upon her… As Jesus said after He spoke of His sheep who hear His voice, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28)… It’s not our grip upon Christ that saves us, but His grip upon us…

But, Mary’s instinct here is actually a great example for us… We would all do well to have hearts that were so compelled by love for Jesus that our greatest desire is to cling to Him and never let go—to want to be with Jesus forever… Indeed, when God’s sovereign grace does a saving or transforming work in our life—like Mary here—clinging to Christ is exactly how we should respond… When our souls are saved by grace our hearts should be compelled by love, and that love should drive us to Jesus… We should be compelled to know Him more, love Him more, and live for Him all the more… Indeed, once we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good we should never be able to get enough… We should hunger and thirst for righteousness; for in Christ there is an infinite fountain filled with grace, a fountain of living water that He bids us to come and drink from again and again… He says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1)… “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)… He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6)… Beloved, does your soul long for Jesus? Is your heart compelled by Him? If so, praise God… Continue to throw yourself at His feet again and again… If not, beg God to open your eyes to His amazing grace, and to transform your heart…

If you struggle to see His grace as amazing, just look at what Jesus says next. After telling Mary that she need not cling to Him the way she is because He’s not yet ascending, in the last part of verse 17 He says, “but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Now this is truly amazing… For the very first time He refers to His disciples as His brothers; the word He uses is ἀδελφός, which refers to a brotherly or family type bond and relationship… So it could be used to refer to brothers and sisters… What He’s saying here is that His disciples, both male and female, by God’s grace in the finished work of Jesus, are in the family of God… Jesus is the first born among many brothers… Because of the person and work of Jesus all of His disciples are now sons of God…

Jesus says that He’s soon ascending to His Father and His God; and He is preeminent, so God is first and foremost His Father… But He also says that He’s the disciples’ Father and the disciples’ God; He’s Mary’s Father and Mary’s God… So He distinguishes Himself while also lining every true disciple up with Him as a child of God. And this is utterly amazing; everyone was shocked when Jesus referred to God as His Father… And now by God’s grace, Jesus is saying that God is the Father of every Christian… In fact this is what it means to be a Christian… J. I. Packer once wrote, “What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…” God is the creator of all, but He’s not the Father of all… He’s only the Father of those who are in Christ… Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection all who turn from their sin and trust in Him are brought into right communion with God—He’s our God—and brought into the family of God—He is our Father… By grace through faith we are covered in the righteousness of Jesus, and God sees us as His beloved children in whom He is well pleased… This is good news… This is truly amazing grace… In and of ourselves we are sinners who deserve death and hell; but by God’s grace we are children of God destined for heaven…

Mary was compelled to cling to Christ, and no doubt, in many ways she probably was even more so after Jesus said all of this… But, what He’s also saying here is that He’s ascending to the Father, to our Father, and when He does the Holy Spirit comes down to indwell and empower every believer to assure them that they are children of God and to truly live as children of God… Mary clings to Christ, partially in fear of losing Him, but Jesus says He’s ascending to the Father so that He can be with her always… Indeed Jesus ascends and the Spirit of Christ—the Holy Spirit comes down, and now Jesus is with us always to the very end of the age; indeed He will never leave us nor forsake us… The good news of the gospel just gets better and better; God’s grace in Christ just gets more and more amazing.

But in the midst of all of this wonderful truth, Jesus commissions Mary to go and tell… He tells her to go and share the amazing news of the Risen Christ with the disciples… And in verse 18 we read,“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that he had said these things to her.” Again Newton said, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believers ear…” Well how sweet must this news have been in the disciples’ ears?… Jesus is alive! He’s accomplished the great work of redemption! Our sins have been forgiven! And we are no longer under the wrath of God, but we are now in the family of God! The God of the Bible is our God and our Father! Jesus is our great elder brother! He is our Lord and Savior!… Mary goes and shares this amazing news controlled and compelled by love; in love she joyfully submits to Jesus’ commission… Mary is a woman, a Christian, a child of God controlled, compelled, and commissioned by the love of Christ… The love of God in Christ Jesus transforms her from a mourner to a missionary… And beloved, our calling is the same…

Conclusion

Jim Elliot and the rest of the Ecuador 5 knew this all too well… Jim’s wife Elisabeth knew this all too well… As you can hear from the quotes I read earlier from Jim’s journal, his heart beat for Christ alone; and that’s the type of person Mary shows herself to be here… And that’s exactly the type of person we should all be striving to be… We should be controlled and compelled by the love of Christ… But if we are, we must understand that with that comes a commission to go and tell… To advance the gospel deep and wide… Our calling may not look exactly like Mary’s or Jim’s, but every Christian is called to go and make disciples of all nations… We are called to pour out our lives for the fame of Christ among all peoples… And beloved, if we would see how much we are loved in Christ, we could not help but go and tell… If we would see Jesus rightly we would forsake all and cling to Him… Indeed, doing that may cost us much; but remember the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose…” Beloved, to live is Christ and to die is gain… So let’s pray that like Mary we would be controlled, compelled, and joyfully commissioned by the love of Christ…