Why did Jesus appear in a special way to Mary Magdalene and no others at the tomb?
Peter and John came to the tomb as well, so why did Jesus not appear to them? Why only Mary? What was so special about her to Jesus? What was she doing that Peter and John did not do?
John 20:1-18 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.
Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb while it was still dark out (John 20:1-2), though other women may have been with her. She ran to tell Peter and John, who looked inside. They only believed the tomb was empty when they saw for themselves (John 20:3-10). They then returned to where they were staying. After the disciples leave, Mary Magdalene cried outside the tomb. Looking inside the tomb saw two angels. Then, she saw Jesus, but thought he was a gardener (John 20:11-17). At dawn, just after sunrise, a group of women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus with spices. Mary Magdalene was probably still at the tomb (Luke 24:1-4, Matt 28:1) Then all the women saw the angels and heard of the risen Lord, and “remembered” the words of Christ (Luke 24:1-8, Matt 28:5-7, Mark 16:4-8). Mary likely told them as well of her encounter. They told no one, but headed towards where the disciples were staying. Along the way back, all the women encountered Christ (Matt 28:1-10).
The woman did not tell anyone, but went strait to Peter and the apostles with the news (Mark 16:1-8). All but Peter thought they were ‘talking nonsense’. (Luke 24:9-12) Mary appears to have been the most outspoken of this group, but this might also be because she had the most to say. (John 20:11-18, Matt 28:1-10)
[There are actually many theories as to this exact sequence of events, so the above is just one possible sequence].
There is an alternative ending of Mark 16 in some manuscripts that gives more detail: “Then they quickly reported all these instructions to those around Peter. After this, Jesus Himself also sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.
Jesus’ appearance to Mary has a number of spiritual lessons:
A reminder of faith Faith is believing on credible, but not primary, evidence. It is the conviction of things unseen, and the assurance of things hoped for (Heb 11:1). After Jesus’s Resurrection, there were many men who ‘doubted’, leading to Jesus’ eventual lesson “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) The women, conversely, remembered Christ’s words when the angels spoke to them (Luke 24:5-8). God has a habit of using “the weak things of the world to shame the wise” (I Cor 1:26-28). This is so man cannot boast in strength or charisma, but only in the grace and mercy of God. Where the people might have believed Peter due to his position, or one of the men due to their social standing – sending the angels and the women first meant that their confidence would need to be in the remembered words of Christ, not in a strong figurehead or messenger.
A picture of faithfulness She was there at his Crucifixion (John 19:25), there at his burial (Matt 27:57-61), the first to the tomb in the morning (John 20:1-2), and she remained at the empty tomb when the disciples left. This is a picture of the heartfelt and consistent devotion we should all give to Christ; how we all should cling to Him and long for His appearing. This also shows how it is often the most broken among us that cling to God the tightest, as those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 7:36-50). Mary, despite her past as a demon-possessed woman, sought to stay close to the side of Jesus, no matter what.
A mini-portrait of sharing the good news Jesus could have easily appeared to all of his disciples first, or to everyone at once, etc. So why did he start with a few women? This is to show how we all have been called as workers for God’s harvest (Luke 10:2). Rather than Jesus declaring Himself as Lord to everyone at once as He will at the second coming, we are commissioned to go out into the world and share the gospel, due to God’s patience (II Pet 3:9).
As goes the saying, “God does not call the qualified, He equips the called”.