“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher).” John 20:16
We have discovered that Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives by…
– Dispelling the darkness in our lives with the light of His resurrection (John 20:1).
– Providing evidence of His resurrection for our minds (John 20:2-9).
– Providing answers for our hearts (John 20:10-15a).
There is a fourth thing that happened to Mary Magdalene on that first Sunday after Jesus’ death and burial that helped her to see the resurrected Lord. And this is what we also need. If we are going to see Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, WE NEED A RELATIONSHIPFOR OUR SOULS (John 20:15b-18). That’s exactly what happened with Mary. There are two incredible recognitions that occur in one verse.
First, Jesus calls Mary by name. So Mary was able to say to Jesus, “You recognize me, Lord” (20:16a). At first,Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener. After all, the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (John 19:41). So it makes sense that Mary assumes this man outside the tomb is the gardener. “She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ ” (John 20:15b).
“The Son of God, the King of creation, had risen from the dead. And he was mistaken for a gardener!” 1 Her tears and her focus lead her to conclude Christ is the gardener. Even though she mistakes Jesus’ identity, her request for His body expresses her desire to assume the care of it, revealing her devotion to Christ. 2 Did you ever wonder how is Mary going to carry Jesus? That is a lot of faith and strength for her to think she is going to carry a dead man’s body by herself.
Here’s the big question for our lives, “Who do we mistake Jesus for?” We may laugh at Mary and say how could she have mistaken Jesus for the gardener? But who do we mistake Jesus for? Perhaps we have mistaken Jesus for luck. Something has happened in your life and you have said, “I was so lucky! I can’t believe that car missed me coming around that blind curve. I can’t believe I did not die when that car ran the red light! I can’t believe I haven’t died from COVID-19! I am so lucky!” No. The resurrected Jesus Christ was there. That is why you are still alive.
Sometimes we mistake our risen Lord for fate. Or we mistake Him for our own intellectual ability, like somehow we figured everything out and did it ourselves. God does use our minds, our heart, and our strength. But it was Christ who was there for us. So who do we mistake Him for?
Mary mistook Him for the gardener, but Jesus would not let her stay there. I love the way that Jesus recognized her. One word, one name. “Mary!” (John 20:16a). In the native language – Mariam. As the True Shepherd, Jesus “calls His own sheep by name” (John 10:3) and “they know His voice” (John 10:4). 3
The incredible thing to me that the first word out of the mouth of the resurrected Jesus Christ is not some great words of theology. It is a name. The name of one of His devoted followers. “Mary!” It is the name she had heard so many times before. It is the name she heard when Jesus cast the demons out of her life (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), when He called her out of a life of sin. She heard it again and again as He had taught her along with the other disciples day by day. But this time it took on new meaning because it helped her to recognize Jesus Christ is alive and He is here. He spoke her name in the midst of her pain and confusion and He does the same with us.
The resurrection of Christ moves from being an historical event to being a personal event when we hear Jesus Christ speak our name. It’s something personal. When Jesus calls your name, you see Him as a risen Jesus instead of a gardener. It becomes personal. Until Jesus becomes personal to you, there will be no lasting hope for you. Christ will be like a gardener to you. All you will have is dead religion. Other gods are not speaking our names because they are still dead in their graves or they are made by human hands and imaginations. But Jesus is not dead nor imaginary. He is alive and He comes to us speaking our name.
Do you ever call a dead person? I know that sounds like a strange question, but really, do you ever call a dead person? I don’t. I call a living person. Some of us do not call Jesus or talk to Him because we think He is still dead.
If Jesus spoke your name what would it sound like? What do you think it sounded like to Mary? If Jesus came into your life right now and spoke your name, how would you hear it? We need to learn how to hear it. I’ll tell you how I think He spoke it to Mary. With tenderness, compassion, concern, and power all rolled up into one. It is a tone of voice that is filled with hope for you and what God can do in your life. He speaks it with a tone that knows everything you have done wrong, and yet it is a forgiving and compassionate tone of voice. That is how I hear Him speaking our names.
When Mary hears Jesus speak her name, she recognizes Him. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher).” (John 20:16b). Mary moves from saying, “You recognize me, Lord”to saying, “I recognize You, Lord.”Mary is saying, “I see You. I understand Who You are. You are my risen Lord.” Mary refers to Jesus as “Rabboni” which means “Teacher.” “The term ‘Rabboni’ was a respectful form of address more emphatic and perhaps more honorific than the simpler term ‘Rabbi,’ the traditional honorary title for recognized teachers of the Law. The Aramaic rab means ‘great’ or ‘great one.’” 4 Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus is still our “Teacher” Who passes on the truths of His Father.
“The men were quicker to grasp, intellectually, the meaning of the empty tomb, but Mary was the more devoted, and this Christ rewarded. Mary exemplifies the case of those whose hearts seek Christ, but whose minds are ill-informed. It is the heart God ever looks at. We may know much truth intellectually, but unless the heart is absorbed with Christ, He will not reveal Himself to such a one in the intimacies of love and communion.” 5
“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them,’ ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17). Mary embraces her risen Lord because she loved Him and did not want to lose Him again. When Jesus tells Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father,” the Greek word translated “for” (gar) is an anticipatory conjunction, not a causal conjunction and is more accurately rendered as “since” instead of “because” or “for.” 6 So the verse is better translated, “Do not cling to Me. Since I have not yet ascended to My Father, go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ “ Jesus is telling her that it will be a while before He ascends to His Father so there was no need for her to cling to Him (cf. Acts 1:4-11).
Also the present tense verb “ascending” “might refer to Jesus’ ascension forty days later (without denying that He went to the Father often during that time). Compare 10:18 (‘I lay it [my life] down’) where another present tense clearly refers to a future event. The clause might be paraphrased ‘I will soon ascend.’” 7 The idea that Jesus ascended to the Father before He appeared to the disciples is not clearly substantiated by John 20:17. The main thing is that Christ has an important job for Mary to do now. She was “to go” to His disciples whom He now refers to as His “brethren.” This reminds us that believers in Jesus become members of the same family with God as their Father and Jesus as their Brother (John 1:12; Hebrews 2:11-12).
When Jesus told Mary, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God,” Jesus is not denying He is God as some conclude when He refers to God as “My God and your God.” This would be contrary to the entire argument of the gospel of John. Jesus simply acknowledges His Father is God. So many other verses also acknowledge Jesus is God in the gospel of John.
The beginning of the gospel of John establishes that Jesus is the eternal Creator God without beginning and the source of life and light (hope): “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-5).
Later in Chapter 1 John informs us that Jesus is “the Word” (God) and human “flesh.” “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:14, 17-18). Jesus Christ is presented in the gospel of John as one Person “with a fully divine nature and a fully human nature. He is deity poured into humanity. He is fully human so he cried as an infant, but he is fully divine and gave life to his mother! He is fully human so he had to sleep, but he is fully divine and can raise the dead back to life. Our God fully experienced what it is to be human—yet without sinning (see Heb 4:15).” 8
As the gospel of John progresses, we see the divinity of Jesus elaborated: He assumes dominion over all things (John 3:35); He identifies Himself as the promised Messiah-God to the woman at the well (John 4:25-26); He called God His Father, making Himself equal with God in nature (John 5:17-18); He claims to have the same power as God to give life to whom He wills (John 5:21); He claims to have the same privilege as God to judge the world (John 5:22); He claims to be worthy of the same honor and worship due to God (John 5:23); He declared that the Old Testament Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39); His disciples said He was the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:69); Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of God to the former blind man who then worships Jesus, and Christ does not refuse his worship (John 9:35-38); When Jesus said He and God the Father “are one,” the Jews took up stones to stone Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:30, 33); Jesus asks people to have faith in Him as they have faith in God (John 14:1); He is the earthly manifestation of God (John 14:8); Jesus claims to be able to do whatever people ask in His name after He is gone, more or less implying that He has omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence (John 14:13); He is the King of another world (John 18:36–37); In addition, He admonishes His opponents that His identity is central to salvation (John 8:24) and that He perpetually preexists Abraham (John 8:58), in both of these cases using the divine name of Yahweh from the Old Testament, the “I AM.” Jesus said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” This is the most indisputable claim by Jesus to be God. “I AM” is the name of God in the book of Exodus. Jesus’ audience knew full well what He was saying. “They took up stones to stone Him”(John 8:59) because they think He committed blasphemy, claiming to be God.
In what some consider the climax of the gospel, a disciple named Thomas realizes who Jesus is and exclaims in affirmation, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) to which Jesus responds, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). Jesus does not correct Thomas when he said Jesus was his Lord and his God. Why? The answer is obvious. From the first to the last, John’s gospel identifies Jesus as God. You cannot ignore those verses and be honest with God’s Word.
“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” (John 20:18). Mary did as Jesus commanded her and faithfully told the disciples all that Jesus spoke to her. “Don’t overlook that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was first announced by a woman. In first-century Judaism, a woman’s testimony wasn’t considered credible. So if the disciples were going to invent a resurrection story, they wouldn’t choose women to be the first to see and declare it. Such testimonies would have been rejected by the Jews. Thus, the fact that the first witnesses were women (see Matt 28:1-10) provides evidence for the historicity of the resurrection. It also affirms the communication gifting of women as long as the gift is exercised under the legitimately authorized spiritual authority and covering of the home and the church (see 1 Cor 11:5, 10).” 9
What Mary says to the disciples is the best thing we can say about any moment of our lives – “I have seen the Lord.” “I’ve seen the Lord give direction for my family. I’ve seen the Lord comfort me in this painful situation. I’ve seen the Lord show me His will in this decision. I’ve seen the Lord’s presence even in this place that I don’t want to be in. I’ve seen the Lord heal my friend of a deadly disease. I’ve seen the resurrected Lord.”
Are we seeing Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives? If not, it is becausewe need the darkness in our lives to be dispelled by the light of His resurrection. We need evidence for our minds. We need answers for our hearts. And we need a relationship for our souls. This is not about a religion or philosophy. It is about a Person Who loved us so much that He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead. And He is alive today and He is speaking your name. The risen Lord Jesus wants to be personally involved in our lives. He wants to have a love relationship with us.
Would you like to begin a relationship with Jesus now that lasts forever? All He asks is that you come to Him as a sinner, realizing He died for your sins and rose from the dead, and then believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Christ is alive today and He has the power to freely give you a future bodily resurrection and never-ending life. All He asks is that you believe in Him alone.
Prayer: My faithful risen Lord Jesus, thank You for rising from the dead and speaking my name with compassion and love. You are not some impersonal force who is far away from His creation. You still speak my name in the midst of pain and confusion which comforts and soothes my soul. You are involved in my life every day, teaching me truths from the Father. I have seen You give direction for my family. I’ve seen You comfort me in this painful situation. I’ve seen You show me Your will in the decisions You have led me to make. I’ve seen Your presence even in places that I did not want to be in. I’ve seen You protect me from careless drivers. I’ve seen You in the every-day circumstances of life. I praise You, my resurrected Lord. And I beg of You to have mercy on those who are rejecting You at this time. Please send Your Word to them so they may believe You are the Resurrection and the Life who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in You. Glorify Your name my risen Lord! In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1827.
2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 370.
3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 697.
4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 363 cites F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), pg. 389.
5. Tom Constable, pg. 372 cites Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol. 3 (Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; 3 vols. in 1 reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 279.
6. Laney, pg. 363 cites Michael McGhee, “A Less Theological Reading of John 20:17,” JBL 105 (June 1986): 299-302.
7. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 564.
8. Tony Evans, pg. 1748.
9. Ibid., pp. 1827-1828.