John 20.11-18

Title: Mary Magdalene

Text: John 20.11-1

Introduction: In an article Mindy Belz @ World Magazine – Dr. Jerry Umanos moved his family to the war-torn province of Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago. Lawndale was devastated by the riots of 1968 and never really fully recovered economically. He wanted a ministry that mattered. So he and his wife and their three children lived in this low-income area of the city. For 25 years Dr. Umanos served the less fortunate.

Seven years ago, he felt a calling to serve those who needed desperate help – the people of Kabul, Afghanistan. Many times, after putting in a long week in Chicago, he would board a plane and fly the 20+ hours to Kabul, where he would serve the needy. He would become so frustrated at the loss of a baby being born full-term, but dying from some preventable cause; Or a baby being born with some deformity. If only these women could get the prenatal vitamins these babies needed! As a pediatrician, he would care for the children. He said he wanted to go to Afghanistan because, “it was the most dangerous place to be born.”

Dr. Umanos would travel to Afghanistan and stay in the hospital’s guest house for visiting Doctors. He kept a stationary bike there to get exercise, because exercise outside of the hospital’s compound was just too dangerous. Dr. Umanos was a part of the missions team that traveled up into the surrounding mountains to help those who couldn’t travel to the city. In 2010, he helped supervise a group of medical teams doing mission work in the mountains. You probably remember the last team in that group being gunned down by members of the Taliban. Dr. Umanos lost some good friends that day. Namely, Dr. Tom Little, a missionary Doctor for 40 to Afghanistan. And yet, he continued to go.

This past week, Dr. Umanos and two other doctors were working there at the hospital in Kabul, when a police man, serving as their security guard, opened fire on them, killing all three.

Transition: This begs the question: Why? Why does someone like Dr. Umanos continue to go when he knows how dangerous it is? When he has known others there with him have been killed?

We begin a new sermon series this morning:

The Lord’s Prayer (January)

The Lord’s Passion culminating in the Resurrection last week (February-April)

The Lord’s Purpose – We’ll see the reason he came and the great commission he’s given us.

Luke 19.10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

John 20.21: As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.

We begin our study of the Lord’s Purpose in John 20.11 with a look at Mary. I think we’ll find some of the answers we’re looking for in this story; rd v 11; Mary

  1. Her distraught at the loss of Christ. (11-15)
  2. Her joy at finding him. (16-17)
  3. Her obedience in his orders to go and tell. (18)

To begin with, I’d like to look at what we know about her.

–       Because of her name.

–       Because of her place in Scripture.

–       Some fallacies passed down through time.

Look 1st at Her Name, as a way of introduction to this passage: rd v 11a;

Defined – Mary – lit.: maria; a derivative of Miriam, the sister of Moses.

Shared – there are 7 different women who share the name Mary, unless two references are the same woman. Let me list them for you quickly. This list will be posted on the website in the morning. Just go to the tab “The Pastor’s Teaching” under “The Pastor’s Heart”

  1. Mary – the mother of Jesus
  2. Mary – the mother of James and Joseph, one of the group at the cross and amongst the women who followed Jesus
  3. Mary – the wife of Clopas. She is often understood to be the same Mary as the mother of James and Joseph. (Jn 19.25) I think it’s highly possible that #2 & #3 are the same Mary.
  4. Mary – the mother of John Mark, in whose home the church at Jerusalem met. Acts 12.12
  5. Mary – a woman mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans (16).
  6. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus; Mary of Bethany. John 11; She is often confused with Mary Madalene. Who is actually the 7th
  7. Mary Magdalene; What do we know about her?
    1. Magdalene refers to the village she was from; the town of Magdala which, according to the Talmud, lay about a twenty minutes’ walk from Tiberias on the west side of the Lake of Gennesaret, which we know as the Sea of Galilee. The city of Tiberias is actually mentioned 3x’s in John (6.1, 6.23; 21.1).
    2. She is listed 1st in every listing of the women disciples who followed Jesus (Matt. 27:55–56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40–41, 47; 16:1; Luke 8:2–3; 24:10). This gives her prominence amongst these ladies.

i.     We mostly only here about these women at the resurrection, but Luke lets us know that these women were with Christ throughout his ministry. Luke 8.1-3;

ii.     Jesus cast out 7 demons from Mary. Hence, her devotion to him.

iii.     Mary is listed among the women who supported Christ’s ministry out of their abundant means. So, she must have been wealthy.

  1. Question: Why the confusion between the two (Mary from Bethany & Mary from Magdala)?

i.     The related stories are from Luke 7.36-50 & John 12.1-7.

ii.     I think they’re two different stories.

  1. One is earlier in Jesus’ ministry and the other is in his last week.
  2. The woman, however, mentioned in Luke 7.36-50 isn’t given a name; She is probably mentioned in the subsequent chapter; 8.1-3; Mary of Bethany, according to John 12, performs a similar act of worship and devotion.
  3. The woman in Lk 7 is most probably known as a harlot. She finds forgiveness in this episode. Mary, on the hand, is acting out in a different manner.
  4. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala, not from Bethany.
  5. Summary:
    1. Two similar, and yet very different stories. These are not two different versions of the same story.
    2. Two different women, from different towns.
    3. Different reasons for their actions.
    4. Different Locations, Different times (early ministry/late ministry).
    5. It’s possible that Luke 7 represents a 3rd, unnamed woman, but the context of Luke 8, makes me think that Mary Magdalene is that woman. John, very clearly identifies the woman of John 12 as Martha and Lazarus’ sister.

Just a couple of other notes concerning Mary Magdalene:

  1. Mary is curiously absent from the rest of the NT:

i.     Even in Acts 1.14;

ii.     Of those who witnessed the resurrection in 1 Cor 15.

  1. Contrary to popular myth today, Mary was not married to Jesus. The Da Vinci Code and a recent ‘discovery’ of another gospel fragment implies that Jesus had a wife and at least one child. Simply put: that is heresy.

Let’s look at our text today and see what John tells us.

  1. Mary is distraught at the loss of Christ.

exp.: Rd Jn 20.11-15; Stop for a moment. Do you realize the state Mary is in? So distraught is she, that she is missing the angels and Christ standing before her. Here is a woman, who is once again so focused on her Lord that she’s not really seeing those around her – as spectacular as all of that is!

This has bothered me this week – this little part of the story has bothered me this week. It’s made me ask this question:

  1. Fred, what would you be like if someone took your Jesus away from you? Would you care? Would it turn your world upside down? I’m afraid of the real answer! I fear that there would be no difference.
  2. Can I ask you that question? What would you be like if someone took your Jesus away from you? Would you care? Would it turn your world upside down?
  3. Let me ask us another question: When was the last time you or I didn’t care what others thought about our devotion to Christ? For You: That your passion and your worship and your devotion was so great, that you’d risk everything to be at his feet? She thinks he’s dead – and still, the only place she wants to be is where he is! And here she is again, ready to pour out what she has on his dead body?
  4. When was the last time I was willing to be considered a fool for Christ? What happens to us ladies and gentlemen? Where does the reckless abandon go? A sinner in this world, someone who has been a harlot – scorned and made fun of in public, but used and abused in private – finds the forgiveness she’s needed. She doesn’t feel dirty anymore, because he’s considered her clean and pure. He doesn’t want her for selfish motives; Christ truly values her as a person. There’s something about a person who is first cleansed and saved! What happens to us, that we lose that? We get church broke and realize that we’re not supposed to act that way anymore! When was the last time I didn’t care what someone else thought of my foolishness for Christ? And when was the last time you didn’t care what others thought of your foolishness.
  1. Mary is overjoyed at finding Christ

exp.: Read v 16a; v 1 & v 11 are Μαρία; But v 16 is Μαριάμ! Rd v 16b; There he is! No one has taken him! He’s Alive! Rd v 17; Do not cling to me; 39x’s in the NT – almost all is the word touch. Sometimes, it is translated light – as in light a fire or light a lamp. In 1 Cor 7.1 – Now concerning marriage, this word is translated sexual relations. Paul uses the word touch or light a fire, a euphemism for the relationship between a man and a woman. At this moment, I think Jesus is saying to Mary – and to us, the relationship you’ve had with me as Master, Teacher, Rabboni and Disciple, learner, one who sits at my feet is going to be different from now on. Don’t cling to me… The relationship dynamic is changing. Christ has put into play a plan that includes the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He’s taught her and all of the disciples about this. We read of it in Jn 14-16; John 16.13 – Guide you in all truth. And then he gives her, her marching orders.

  1. Mary is obedient to the commission of Christ.

exp.: According to this passage and the 1st three Synoptic gospels, Mary is now…

  • The 1st commissioned evangelist. We see this specifically in v 18;

o   She went – the past tense of go; obedience; Matthew 28.10 Jesus tells her to ‘go’; she’s commissioned with a task; Go and tell;

o   She announced – ἀγγέλλω; This word appears only here in the NT; In the other scores of times it appears, it is usually in compound form; The most popular is Eu-angello; Good Message; The word from which we evangelism; The noun form of this word means ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’; Hense, the 1st evangelist;

o   What was her message? Rd v 18; This is what happened! He’s alive!

Transition: Mary’s commission has been no different than ours; Here we see three parts to our Great Commission:

1.  Go: we’ve been commanded to go. Mt 28.10 – go, v 19, having gone; ‘as you go’; You will be my witnesses

2.  Proclaim: Simply tell others what has happened to you. Tell them you met a man who changed your life!

3.  Responses: not only was she the 1st commissioned to go and tell, but Luke tells us that they thought it an idle tale, and they didn’t believe! Lk 24.10: Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 But… these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

– Rejection: Some will think your story is an idle tale.

– Acceptance: We see these folks eventually understood and believed. These people eventually did – once they had an opportunity to evaluate everything.

– The results are not up to you – only the going and telling part; only the obedience part.

Transition: Mary’s story is an incredible one. If she is the woman of Luke 7.36-50, then her story is one of beauty and forgiveness. Thank you Luke for sharing that part of the story. If not, we still know that Christ chose her to be the first one to see him and the first one to go and tell. All 4 gospels make that clear.


Why did Christ pick Mary to be the 1st to fulfill his purpose? I wonder if it had anything to do with her personality – the part about not caring what others thought of her foolishness! I wonder if it was simply her love and devotion to him was so great, she’d risk everything?

It makes me think about Dr. Umanos, who died this past week in Afghanistan; who was risking it all, not caring about what others thought even 25 years ago. His passion and devotion for Christ moved his life.


So, what are some Observations & Implications:

  1. Sharing the Gospel is risky business. Here or around the world.
  2. Sharing the Gospel is not an option. It’s a command, in spite of the risks.
  3. Your life experience gives you a unique opportunity with certain people. Your testimony will connect with them. Mine won’t. That’s why you’ve been sent! How are you doing with that?
  4. What’s holding you back from, 1st – going and 2nd, sharing? You need to nail that down and repent of it this morning.
  5. When was the last time you were considered a fool for Christ? That your public behavior caused others to be uncomfortable? Maybe, just maybe, Christ chose Mary Magdalene to be his 1st evangelist because she was the one who more than anyone else, would take the risk! What are you and I willing to risk – not for them, for Christ – to tell them what they need to know?
  6. What are you waiting for?

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