Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 8, 2018
“Do You See (Part Two)?”
We continue celebrating this week that greatest miracle of all: Jesus is risen from the dead—never to taste death again. Remember that we who believe on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord partake of His colossal victory: over sin, over death, over hell, and over Satan. In view of the foregoing, we continue today in John’s Spirit-led account of that early Resurrection morning. Last week, we saw what Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John saw at the empty tomb—and we saw to what degree each saw. We focus more on Mary Magdalene this week. We note what, and Who, she didn’t see upon her return to the tomb—and then we note Him Who she finally saw. Let us hear, once again, God’s written Word read aloud in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We see in this text, particularly in this second half under examination today, that Mary Magdalene is blinded. She is blinded by her tears, and that to the degree that she has trouble perceiving with her eyes things ordinarily familiar. She is also blinded by grief. Her only thought is of the death of her beloved teacher, and she cannot see—let alone focus upon—anything else. She, furthermore, is blinded by her pre-suppositions. She cannot suppose anything else save that the body of her Rescuer from seven demons, and worse, lies somewhere else than Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb—and she cannot escape the nagging concern that robbers may be mistreating His body even this instant. Because Mary is thus blinded, she cannot suppose what John, through the eyes of faith, asserts: He is risen, He is risen indeed.
Mary Magdalene, for a host a reasons, simply cannot see. She cannot perceive the significance of two angels seated inside the tomb, one sitting where Jesus’ head lay and the other sitting where His feet lay. They ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” They address her respectfully (cf. John 2:4, where Jesus addresses His own mother as “Woman.”), and they would hear from her the cause of her distress. Apparently they know glorious information (as does John) that Mary does not know. She reveals her ignorance of Jesus’ resurrection, saying, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have taken Him.” This repeats what she said to Peter and John. She is fixed upon finding Jesus’ body and honoring Him in her care for it, though—as the late Australian Anglican scholar Leon Morris asserts—the worst thing possible is for her to find His body.
Mary, thus blinded, also cannot perceive Jesus in her midst. Jesus appears, and the angels appear no more in this passage. Jesus, though not perceived as Himself by Mary, asks much like the angels, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Mary, still not perceiving Jesus, thinks Him the gardener, and—again—she asks for His body, wherever it may be. She does not reckon how difficult the recovery and transport of His body may be. She still does not reckon that He may be risen. She wants to do Him honor by her best lights—to wit, to give Him the best burial possible.
Yet Mary, in time (actually, a very short time), hears—and then she sees. She hears Jesus in His familiar address to her, “Mary.” There is no doubting that voice, no doubting that special way He spoke her name. Now, hearing, she sees too, crying, “Rabbouni,” (which means Teacher or My Teacher). Mary sees the risen Jesus before her very eyes, and doubtless her heart overflows and her joy knows no bound.
Now that Mary sees, Jesus’ instructs her joy-filled being. She tells her not to cling to Him, for He is not yet ascended. This motivation for Jesus’ command is difficult to understand here, but Godly, learned commentators have offered some possibilities. Perhaps Jesus says what He says with a view of conveying that there will be time for such clinging later—but not now, in light of the urgent desire to spread the news of His resurrection. Perhaps Mary needs not tactile verification that Jesus rose, whereas others (Thomas, e.g.) do. Perhaps also Mary may need to relate to Jesus differently—not merely as Teacher and miracle worker, but as transcendent, living God—and Jesus’ command makes this clear to Mary. In any case, Mary is not to cling to Jesus just now—perhaps as formerly she did. Mary, furthermore, is to go to Jesus’ disciples, His brothers, and say this, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Mary complies, telling both Who she saw (“I have seen the Lord.”) and what she heard.
Sometimes, in our lives, we too are blinded to Jesus—and this for a host of reasons. First, we are blinded to Jesus by our occasional-to-often inclination to sin. If the truth be told, we would rather entertain our sin than Him—and He withdraws some of our sense of His presence for a time. Second, we are blinded to Jesus by our frenetic, distracted lives. The pace of life—everywhere in the Western world, it seems, even in our small town and rural locale—drains our energies and diverts our attentions from steady gaze upon Jesus. Third, we are blinded to Jesus by our pains and griefs, even to tears. Just as Mary Magdalene could not see the Way, the Truth, and the Life standing right before her because of her grief and tears, so too we miss Jesus from time to time when life hurts. Fourth, we are blinded to Jesus because of our pre-suppositions concerning Him. We believe at times, contrary to fact, that the Lord is aloof and distant from us—and, therefore, He is unconcerned about us. We also believe at times that the Lord is mean, angry, and has it in for us—even though, if we be in Christ, all the wrath rightly due us is poured out on Christ at the Cross, and no more remains for us (Romans 8:1). Yes, even we, occasionally, are blinded to Jesus’ reality and presence.
Hence today, I, ministering in Jesus’ Name, ask again, “Do you see Him?” Do you, through God-given saving faith, see Him risen, glorified, ascended, seated on high, and returning? Do you see Him in every high moment of the abundant life that He gives us, and does this move your soul to thank Him for all His benefits? Do you see Him in every difficulty that providentially comes—and do you thank Him for His mercies, enough and to spare, in those difficult hours? May we, by God’s grace, in every season, see our risen Christ and worship Him ardently.
 Morris quotes R. C. H. Lenski, “Indeed, why does she weep?—when we should all have had cause to weep to all eternity if what she wept for had been given her, the dead body of her Lord!” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971, 837n29]).