When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
The earlier manuscripts of Mark’s gospel end at verse 8. Why? Perhaps the last part of the original manuscript, which would have been at the outside of the scroll, broke off. Perhaps Mark was interrupted by some danger just as he was completing his gospel. What we do know is that the longer ending, verses 9 to 20, contains no new information not found in the other gospels. Thus, we can rely completely on the veracity of these verses without knowing who or when they were appended to the abrupt break in Mark’s gospel at verse 8.
The account of the appearance to Mary Magdalene is told in detail in John’s Gospel (20:10–18), of which Mark provides only a brief summary.
By reading and comparing the accounts of all four gospel writers, we can conclude that Mary set out ahead of the other women since she headed to the tomb while it was still dark (John 20:1), while the others went “just after sunrise” (Mark 16:2). When she saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, she ran to tell Simon Peter and John. They both ran and came to the tomb, but didn’t see Jesus. However, the evidence of the grave cloths was enough to convince John that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:1–9).
Mary must have trailed Simon Peter and John, because after the two men left she remained outside the tomb, disconsolate. Two angels asked her why she was weeping. Unlike John who had already believed on the basis of what he saw, Mary didn’t arrive at the same conclusion. So, she said to the angels, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” She suggested the same idea to the One she mistook as the “gardener.”
Can you imagine our shock if we were to discover that a recently buried loved one’s body had disappeared? We would do exactly as Mary—seek to recover the body. Thinking the “gardener had taken away Jesus’ body, she implored him, “Tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (John 20:15).
How do we apply Mary’s experience to our own lives?
First, Mary was looking in the wrong direction. She was facing the tomb. We know that because she “turned” to see Jesus (John 20:16). Sometimes we look at the wrong things, and they discourage us. Turn your gaze away from your loss toward Jesus, the resurrected Lord.
Decades later the apostle John would do that very same thing. Imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, he looked away from his circumstances to see the all-powerful and risen Lord (Revelation 1:17).
Second, sometimes our tears prevent us from seeing Jesus enter our situation. Human sorrow is real. But the resurrection of Jesus tells us that sorrow is only for a season. There will be a day in which there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4).
In the 1970s, Byron Jeffrey Leech wrote these haunting lines in a hymn: “All of our shattered dreams you’re mending.” Indeed! Mary’s experience is not unique to her alone. We, too, shall see Him face to face!
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your promise is true—after tears, joy comes at the breaking of the day!
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources.