Cross Words: The girl who saw the risen Christ first

By Isaiah Pauley

His body abused. His hands hammered into wood. Feet smashed against a splintery cross. Blood pouring down his arms and legs. A crown of thorns poking into his forehead. And insults being thrown at Him left and right.

This is Jesus. The King of the Jews. Murdered on a cross for the sins of humanity. And on this Good Friday, we remember His perfect sacrifice unto the Father. We reflect upon the beauty of Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13 ESV).

Through Christ’s death, we find life. Because He doesn’t stay dead. And on this Easter weekend, I want to pause my Esther series to share some thoughts on the resurrection of Christ.

The Bible tells us that Christ first appears to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection. Mark 16:9 reads, “Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons” (ESV).

John provides some more details on Mary’s situation.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1 ESV).

Here’s a faithful woman of God. Coming to her Savior’s tomb. But as she approaches, she finds the stone rolled away. She runs to Peter and John to tell them the news. The disciples come and look inside the empty tomb. But what the Bible says next is what I want us to focus on.

Verses 10 and 11 read, “Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb” (ESV).

I love how Mary stays. Imagine the uncertainty in her heart. I mean, there’s an empty tomb. A missing Savior. And rather than leaving like Peter and John, Mary remains. Weeping. Because of her love for Christ.

If you find yourself in a season of waiting for God, then I encourage you to stay close. Don’t leave Him. Trust in His faithfulness. Rather than leaving, Mary stays close. And what she experiences is more beautiful than words can describe.

“And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 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.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus” (v. 12-14 ESV). Nothing like turning around to find the risen Christ standing before you! But it takes a second for this reality to register in Mary’s mind.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (v. 15-16 ESV).

Can I tell you that Jesus is calling your name today? In the middle of your weeping and seeking, Christ is calling you by name. Beckoning that you come to Him. And with open arms, He offers you salvation from your sin and shame.

In this moment, Mary is awakened to the reality of her risen Lord. I can only imagine the joy that floods her heart in this moment. Do you remember when you first recognized the reality of your risen Lord? Do you remember the joy that consumed your heart as you realized for the first time Christ’s victory over death?

But Jesus has more to say, “Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that he had said these things to her” (v. 17-18 ESV).

Jesus desires Mary to see how there’s more to the story. He would soon ascend to the Father’s right hand. But I want you to notice what Mary does after her amazing experience with Christ. The Bible says she “went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’” (v. 18 ESV).

Have you told someone about your experience? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Mary had. And she immediately told others about it. That’s what Jesus told Mary to do. And through the Great Commission, He commands us to do the same.

That’s the girl who saw the risen Christ first. May we learn from her example.

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.