John 20 – When we read the Bible, we must understand that there is significance in every action and word. Who Yeshua chose to reveal himself to first after his resurrection is supremely significant.
In our reading today, we see that Mary Magdalene is the first one to see the tomb empty. Why? Because she was going there at her first opportunity after the Shabbat to anoint Yeshua’s body. This is once again – another theme we have running through our reading of John – an act of chesed. According to the Talmud (Sotah 14a), caring for (or burying) the dead is one of the four acts of chesed that G-d exemplified for us in the Torah. Her act of chesed is rewarded with the greatest gift – the revelation of the Messiah.
She alerts the disciples – because now they have a problem – the body of Yeshua has been stolen! (Or that’s what they suspected.) John and Peter come running to the tomb to investigate. These guys were like the head disciples. You would think they would be the ones Yeshua would first appear to. Though the men inspect the tomb and realize Yeshua has risen, they return home without having seen him.
Mary stays behind. She either wasn’t told by the disciples that they believed Yeshua had risen from the dead, or she didn’t believe them. John doesn’t say. What the text does say is that she was weeping (John 20:11), telling the angels she sees in the tomb that she weeps because she believes someone has taken Yeshua’s body and she doesn’t know where it is. When she finally sees Yeshua, he also asks her why she is weeping, and she doesn’t recognize him. It isn’t until he says her name, “Mary,” that she exclaims, “Rabboni! (My teacher)” in recognition. (John 20:16)
Yeshua appeared to a woman, broken with grief, sobbing at the loss of her Messiah and unsure of what was happening. Her emotions were so overpowering that she doesn’t even notice she is standing with Yeshua. Isn’t that just like us? G-d is revealing himself to us in little, subtle ways, and sometimes we are so wrapped up in our situations that we don’t see him there. But when Yeshua speaks her name, “Mary,” she recognizes him. Yeshua was there for the woman who was broken, to minister to her heart.
Are you awash with grief, pain, depression, anxiety, despair – feeling lost because you don’t understand what’s happening in your life? G-d is standing there by your side, calling your name. Just listen.