Emphasizing Major Role of the Blessed Mother and
Lesser Role of Mary Magdalen
Also note the lesser status of Mary Magdalen, who acts as messenger and reporter to the disciples just as she had lesser status at the cross, where her name was mentioned last among the four persons listed. At the cross, she is in attendance, yes, but she does nothing. It is the mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved who fill the sponge with soldiers’ wine and wrap it in hyssop in response to Jesus’ cry of thirst (John 19:29). It was a bold act of faith on the part of the new mother and new son that brought forth Jesus’ final words: “It is completely finished,” followed by the breathing forth of the Spirit onto His new family.
The actual chronology of the scene that occurred at the empty tomb, from a detailed biblical analysis of John 20:1-18 from the Gerhard book, is as follows:
1) Early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalen came alone to the sepulcher where Christ had been buried the preceding Friday afternoon. She discovered that the holy women (Blessed Mother Mary, and most likely Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, who owned the grave from which Lazarus rose) were already there and saw that the stone guarding the tomb had been taken away from the sepulcher.
2) Blessed Mother Mary gives Magdalen a message to relate to the apostles, namely: “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him.”
OBSERVATION: Blessed Mother Mary’s reference to “the Lord” in the message she gave for Mary Magdalen to report was an expression of her own faith to which she had come at the time of what we now call the Annunciation, and which she never lost. Mary Magdalen heard the words, and delivered them to the homes of Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. And perhaps Magdalen had arrived at faith in the blood shed on the cross by the time she reported to the
disciples in verse 18.
disciples in verse 18.
3) Magdalen immediately leaves the scene to go to the home of Simon Peter, and to the home of John to give them the message that she has just received from Blessed Mother Mary. John reflects on the message’s reference to Jesus as “the Lord,” which causes him to rush to the tomb, outrunning Peter, and begets in him a thought process that culminates in his own faith in the blood of the Lamb, the outpouring of Whose blood he had seen on the cross.
4) Blessed Mother Mary remained at the sepulcher, where she engaged in conversation with two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. When asked by the angels why she was weeping, Blessed Mother Mary declared: “because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” – which was a signal of intimate proprietorship.
5) Blessed Mother Mary then turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but did not immediately recognize Him. As she begins to recognize Him, He prompts her further addressing her as “Woman” (which is the same name Adam used for Eve in Genesis 2:23), and asking: “Why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?”
OBSERVATION: The word “Whom” gives Blessed Mother Mary the clue that Jesus, because of His miraculous knowledge, is already aware of her prior conversation with the angels and that she is looking for a person.
6) At this juncture, Mary of Bethany, who was near Blessed Mother Mary, erroneously thought that Jesus was the gardener, and asked where they had taken the body.
OBSERVATION: Mary of Bethany is brought to mind by the Greek pronoun EKEINE (11:29). Up to 20:15, she is the only woman whose image is brought to mind by this pronoun, which equals: “this other woman.” At Lazarus’ tomb, Mary of Bethany shows that she does not know what is going on, any more than she does now, and causes Jesus to groan inside not just once but twice (Cf. 11:33 and 11:38) to indicate her lack of faith. At Jesus’ own tomb, He does not groan, because someone with real understanding is present, namely Blessed Mother Mary who has caught on to everything – even the vision of the angels as transport to heaven (Cf. 2 Kings 2:11).
7) Blessed Mother Mary, having come to full recognition of Jesus while Mary of Bethany misidentifies Him as the gardener, now takes a short step toward Jesus and begins to physically embrace Him to demonstrate the affection of a mother for her Son.
8) Jesus then addresses her as “Mary,” using her proper name, as Adam addressed Eve, using her proper name in Genesis 3:20.
OBSERVATION: Blessed Mother Mary is thus crowned by Jesus as the second Eve and the Mother of the Church.
ADDITIONAL OBSERVATION: The original Greek text juxtaposes His salutation as: “So said Jesus, Mary.” This is the only place in the Greek text of the Gospel of John, where proper names, such as “Jesus, Mary” appear in immediate juxtaposition, suggesting the actual physical embrace taking place between Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. Thus the Gospel writer has astutely suited the words to the action. This embrace is the only one portrayed in this Gospel, and the longest in any Gospel except for that which the Nativity scene allows us to imagine.
9) Jesus then said to Blessed Mother Mary: “Do not continue to cling to Me for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I am ascending’ unto My Father, and your Father, and to My God, and your God.” OBSERVATION: By requesting Blessed Mother Mary to deliver His words verbatim, Jesus was putting into her mouth the exact words, which would also foretell her own subsequent Assumption into heaven, thus sending her on a mission meaningful to His brethren on account of 7:3-9, and meaningful to Mary because of the verbatim message. These verses provide biblical support for the papal proclamation of our Blessed Mother Mary’s Assumption - this infallibly defined doctrine of our Faith.
10) Magdalen had just returned from summoning the apostles in item 3 above, saw Jesus and addressed Him as “Rabboni” (Teacher). She was there in time to witness the embrace and overhear the words Jesus spoke to our Blessed Mother Mary in item 9 above.
11) Magdalen then left again to go to the disciples (except to John who lived with Blessed Mother Mary and would obviously hear the news directly from her) to tell them that she had seen the Lord, and relate to them what Jesus had said to Blessed Mother Mary in item 9 above.
12) All the women then left the scene at the tomb, before any disciples came.
13) Finally, Peter and John arrived at the sepulcher, entered it, and noticed that the body of Jesus was gone. They also observed that the linen wrappings that had covered Jesus’ body and the towel that had covered Jesus’ head were separately and neatly placed on the floor. John alone then “saw and believed” that Jesus had actually risen.
OBSERVATION: This is the climactic scene in which the beloved disciple came to faith in the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. He had highly probable evidence for the Resurrection in the data he saw at the tomb – especially the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head folded in a special way, the way John had seen at the Last Supper. We can say that from the highly probable evidence he concluded to the Resurrection, and then came to full belief in the blood of the Lamb of God on the cross as the act of mankind’s eternal salvation. He saw the wonder of it all as the Jews did after they experienced the crossing of the Red Sea. That event was a foreshadowing of John’s similar experience of recognition and belief in Jesus crucified as Christ and Lord.
To be continued...