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Jesus’ Appearance To Mary Magdalene

And as they [the women who came to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning] went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him (Matt. 28:9). Jesus saith unto her [Mary Magdalene], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God (John 20:17).

A reader asks, "Why were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary permitted to hold Jesus feet in Matthew 28:9, while in John 20:17 Jesus forbids Mary Magdalene to touch Him?" The questioner is mistaken when he writes that Mary Magdalene was once refused to touch Jesus and was once permitted to do this. Mary Magdalene was not amongst the women who held Jesus by His feet (Matt. 28:9).

The sequence of events on that glorious resurrection morning was most likely something like this. Early Sunday morning, the women who had witnessed Jesus’ burial (Matt. 27:61) returned to the sepulchre (Luke 23:55-56). It seems as if they had forgotten that a large stone had been rolled across the sepulchre’s opening (Mark 16:3). Among these women were Mary, the Lord’s mother; Joanna; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James,Joses and Salome; and the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matt. 27:56Mark 16:1Luke 23:55; 24:10).

When the women noticed that the rock was already rolled away from the door of the sepulchre (Mark 16:4), Mary Magdalene immediately concluded that someone had stolen the body of the Lord. So she ran to tell Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 20:1-2). She did not, therefore, accompany the women all the way to the sepulchre nor on their return to Jerusalem.

On hearing Mary Magdalene’s report that the body of the Lord was stolen, Peter and John ran to the sepulchre to investigate for themselves (John 20:2-10). Mary Magdalene returned to the sepulchre behind Peter and John and arrived at the sepulchre after they left (John 20:11ff.). Then the Lord appeared to her "first" (Mark 16:9), and later to the women returning from the sepulchre to Jerusalem.

The ten appearances of the Lord to His disciples and others during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension were wonderful events. Jesus used these appearances both to prove to His disciples that He had risen from the dead and to teach them the nature of His resurrection and the work that He would do when He ascended into heaven and sat at God’s right hand. Each appearance was perfectly adapted to the purpose for the appearance. Thus Jesus appeared in different forms at different times (Mark 16:12John 21:4). The message which the Lord brought to those to whom He appeared was particularly suited to them and their needs at that time. This also explains why the women were permitted to touch Jesus, while Mary Magdalene was forbidden to do the same.

Jesus appeared to the women returning from the grave to show that He was truly risen from the dead, to make it unmistakably clear that He was not a wraith or ghost, and to commission them to tell His disciples that He was risen (Matt. 28:9-10). Thus the women were permitted to touch Jesus to be convinced that this was indeed the same Lord whom they had loved and served.

But Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene was for a different purpose. She was filled with a deep love for the Lord, for He had cast out of her seven devils (Luke 8:2Mark 16:9). She had found her life’s calling in caring for Jesus’ needs as He preached in Palestine (Matt. 27:55-56). To her Jesus’ death was so extremely painful because she could no longer minister to His needs, and was by His death deprived of her one purpose in life. Now she desperately wanted to give Him her last token of love by properly preparing His body for burial. Even this was denied her by those who had taken His body, and so she was broken-hearted.

When Jesus made Himself known to her, she was filled with a great joy, for she could now resume serving the Lord’s earthly needs. So Jesus had to tell her that such service was not possible, for He had not come back to this life and to another earthly ministry, but He had been raised with a resurrection body, adapted to live in heaven. In fact, He was about to ascend into heaven where He would be with her no more—although His abode in heaven would be of greater blessing to her than any earthly ministry could ever be (John 20:17). Thus she was forbidden to touch Him, for her motive was to resume her earthly ministrations.

We ought also to notice that Mary did not recognize the Lord by seeing Him, but by hearing His voice when He called her by her name (John 20:16). Today Jesus still calls His own by their names from His throne in heaven at God’s right hand. He calls them through the preaching of the gospel and by means of the Spirit in their hearts. He calls them, not by their earthly names, but by their spiritual names: those labouring and heavy laden, the poor in spirit, the meek, those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, etc. And when He calls His own by their names, they know Him—as Mary knew Him when He called her. Thus, through His cross and resurrection, Jesus’ own words are fulfilled: "But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice" (John 10:2-4). Prof. Hanko

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 8
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko

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  • City
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  • State or Province
    MI
  • Zip Code
    49428
  • Country
    United States
  • Telephone
    616-667-6033

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