An excerpt from Dr. Phillip Brassfield’s book, Pilgrimage to Pentecost.
Mark 16:9 “Now when He arose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”
Jesus’ idea of destiny is so different from ours most of the time. And that is a good thing. I must say, if I were Jesus Christ and had just experienced what he experienced during his torture and death on the cross, I would have done the resurrection a little differently. I mean, if I had been betrayed by a friend, abandoned by the rest, spit upon, cursed, lied about, severely beaten, and crucified, when I came out of the grave I would have made a few more unscheduled visits than he did, if you know what I mean. And they would have been to a select group of people who had a celestial visit coming. I probably would have made another midnight visit to the palace of Caiaphas, saying, “Guess who?”, or maybe appeared to the Sanhedrin in the Hall of Hewn Stones, or perhaps shown up in Pilate’s courtroom, saying, “I’m back.” But not Jesus. No, he understood destiny and had no identity crisis, no need to get even. He was clear about his purpose for coming into the world. It was for those very people who did what they did to him that he came to die.
King of Misfits
So instead of making a grand appearance at some strategic location in an “I’ll-get-you-back” kind of visit, Jesus makes his first appearance to a woman, previously demonized, in an obscure garden outside the busy commerce center of Jerusalem (John 20, the appearance to Mary Magdalene). She had been delivered by Jesus only in the last couple of years, and now he grants her the grand privilege of becoming the first evangelist of the New Covenant. Jesus sent her to tell the apostles, who were currently hiding for their lives (those great men of faith and power), about the resurrection. By doing so he offers hope to all of us who have fallen, been bound, and humiliated by sin. Yes, the very first appearance of the resurrected Christ was to a woman with a past, a woman whose life had been transformed, who had become a woman of light because of the victory he had won.
For Mary, coming to the tomb that early on the third day had more to do with loyalty than with faith. Reading the text of the Gospels, it is quite clear that her visit was all about love for the Lord and a personal commitment that she felt toward him. She was no quitter. And she had not forgotten what Jesus had done for her. Besides, she was a misfit and an outcast from society. She was not concerned about the opinions of men and had long since lost the fear of social rejection or of losing her life. She had proven that when she stood at the foot of the cross, by staying when almost everyone else had abandoned him. No, she was not afraid; she was devastated! All she could think about was what life was like before he came. For her, prior to Jesus’ coming, life had been a living hell. She had fallen so far into the pit of rejection and despair that her spiritual freedom and free will had been surrendered to the devil, and with it her morals and decency. In Jesus she had found freedom and peace where, in others, she had only found judgment and condemnation. When he looked at her, all he could see through the eyes of love was a confused, abused daughter that had become a slave to sin. She was the epitome of what he had come to do. So with the gentleness of a loving father, he had freed her and restored her without judgment or condemnation.
Jesus’ appearance to Mary in the garden that resurrection morning must have been a vote of confidence and affirmation for her, to say the least. For one who had been so devastated, humiliated, even captivated by hell and sin, it really underscored the point and power of the resurrection. What a fitting way to introduce this new kingdom initiative, and to declare to the principalities and powers of this earth that death, hell and the grave had been defeated. To choose one who once was a slave to the flesh and to the devil was a powerful sign of victory, and an appropriate message announcing the intentions of Christ’s kingdom and what was to come for the kingdom of darkness.
Now with the cross behind and the resurrection having been accomplished, the ground rules had been completely redefined. No longer would death rule the hearts of mankind through fear, for it had been defeated. No longer would the dreams and destinies of people be dashed by the grim reality of sin and despair. No, with the victory of the resurrection came the hope of success and personal fulfillment in life and eternity. Death was no longer the master and we its fearful subjects, but rather we were freed to become what God has purposed us to become. We were loosed from the power of the flesh to rule over us and limit our potential through a paradigm of fear. The door into the favor of God, the way of access into the presence of the Lord that Adam and Eve had enjoyed before sin slammed it shut, had been reopened by Christ on the cross. And now we, as soldiers of the cross, without the condemnation of sin, could attack the kingdom of the god of this world with faith as our focus instead of fear, joy as our anthem, and love and acceptance as our banner.
There are moments when our dreams seem to go up in a puff of smoke, when our hopes are mortally wounded by the vicious mobs of the disappointed. When this happens, give it a little while. Let it rest maybe three days or so, then go back to where you laid your dreams and let the Resurrection and the Life restore, commission, and renew your vision. He will give you a vision that even death itself cannot take away.