John 20:11, “11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;”
In the context of John 20 Jesus has been handed over to the authorities, put on a false trial, heard people cry out, “Crucify Him!, and then experienced the most painful death we can imagine, wrapped in linen, placed in a tomb, and this all takes place on a Friday.
In verse 11 it is Sunday morning, and Mary, a faithful friend of Jesus is showing up to the tomb where Jesus is buried, and she is weeping.
John 20:12-13, “12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
In verse 12 Mary peeks into the tomb, she sees two angels in white sitting in front of her, and in verse 13 the angels ask Mary, “Why are you weeping?”
You need to remember at this point Mary is completely shocked. You would think Mary would be shocked by talking to angels, but instead Mary can’t understand why the body of Jesus is missing.
Keep in mind, Jesus had told Mary He would conquer death. Jesus talked about His resurrection 5 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but also remember that resurrection wasn’t a normal subject in their culture. It wasn’t normal in the Roman culture. It wasn’t normal in the Jewish culture, and the only thing Mary can focus on is, “Where is Jesus’ body?”
John 20:14, “14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
In verse 14 the resurrected Jesus is standing right in front of Mary, and she doesn’t recognize Him. In verse 15 Jesus speaks to Mary and Mary refers to Jesus as the gardener. Mary is confused!
This is why every year on Good Friday we take our children for a picnic lunch at a local cemetery to illustrate Jesus’ resurrection. We figure, “They are pastors kids, so lets double down with something creepy like a lunch at a cemetery.”
This year we went to the Texas State Cemetery and we usually find someone that has been dead for a long time, and we talk about how the body is still in the grave rotting and decomposing all these years. It’s great!
Then, I talk to them about how crazy it would be if the hand of that dead body started reaching out from the grave, opening the casket, sitting down, and asking if they could have a bite of our sandwich. It’s about that time my children start packing up to leave!
This is what we are talking about in verses 14 and 15. But, when Jesus speaks to Mary He isn’t a zombie. Jesus isn’t Casper the friendly
Ghost. Jesus is raised in glory. Jesus body is perfect, and Jesus is standing right in front of Mary and she is completely confused.
John 20:16-17, “16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
In verse 16 Jesus says to her, “Mary!” Jesus calls Mary by name, and something clicks for Mary. She hears the familiar voice of Jesus and Mary says, “Teacher!” The word “teacher” in verse 16 actually means “my teacher.”
At first reading it could look like everything is coming together, Mary finally understands, but, then in verse 17 Jesus says to Mary, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
Isn’t that an odd way for Jesus to respond? Mary must have been thinking, “Jesus I was so scared. I can’t ever imagine losing you again. I am going to wrap my hands around you so that I never lose you.” And Jesus says, “Stop clinging to Me.”
When Jesus says those words in verse 17 Jesus is introducing completely new relationship to Mary and to the world. In verse 17 Jesus isn’t concerned with Mary touching Him physically. The resurrected Jesus invites Thomas to touch His wounds. The resurrected Jesus eats fish with the disciples. It isn’t a physical contact problem.
It is as though Jesus is saying to Mary, “Mary you don’t have to cling to Me because everything is about to change.” A new relationship is coming, because when Jesus resurrects from the dead and conquers death He transcends humanity. Jesus is no longer limited to a physical location or a specific point in history. Jesus has conquered death!
This is why we don’t need to travel to Jerusalem to see Jesus. This is why we don’t have to live at a specific time in history to be close to Jesus. We don’t have to grow up in a certain family to be close to Jesus. We don’t have to go through a certain class to be close to Jesus. It is because Jesus is alive!