Mary Magdalene: The Woman at the Tomb

We’re at the end of five weeks studying Mary Magdalene in our Mummy Meditations community. Rachel wrote last week about Mary’s treatment when she shared the news of the empty tomb. This week, we follow Mary as she goes back to the tomb with John and Peter, in John 20.

There, she sees two angels, and then sees the risen Jesus. She think he is the gardener first, until verse 16:

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

This is a real emotional rollercoaster of a scene. Following the terrible grief of Jesus’ crucifixion, she sees the tomb is open and empty. Then she is desperate to share the news, but it is dismissed as foolishness. Finally, she returns to the tomb, sees the angels but thinks someone has stolen the body. Her love for Jesus is finally rewarded when he reveals himself to be alive.

For some reason, Jesus does not reveal himself to be who he is until he says Mary’s name. She thinks he is the gardener, and simply asks for his body back. When he says her name, she turns towards him and cries out to him.

Called by name

Like Mary, we are each called by name by Jesus. Isaiah 43:1 says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

I think this shows how much he knew her – and how well she knew him. He only said her name, and she knew it was him. She has followed his ministry for 3 years, and was obviously one of his closest followers. When we are devoted to Jesus, when we follow him closely, we will recognise his voice the moment he calls our name.


Mary calls Jesus ‘Rabboni!’ Most translations say that this would be ‘My master,’ or ‘My teacher,’ a term of real honour or respect. At this point, though, Mary doesn’t seem to recognise that he is the Son of God. She still sees him as she has known him.

Later on in the passage, Mary clings to him. Jesus tells her not to hold on to him, for he is not yet ascended to his father (verse 17). Mary still has a way to go in her understanding of who Jesus is.

Meeting her in her grief

Jesus meets Mary at the worst moment of her grief. When she has given up all hope, he is there. He speaks her name, encourages her, and gives her a mission: to go to his brothers and tell them he is risen from the dead.

Look at how quickly Mary’s despair turns to joy and then to purpose. I suppose then, she was the first to believe in the resurrection as she was the first to share the good news of the resurrection.

This has completely changed my own understanding of who Mary was, and of her place and position in Jesus’ ministry. She shared the news of Jesus’ resurrection with the (male) disciples. He tells her to share the news with his brothers. This isn’t a woman witnessing only to women; this is the first woman telling the good news to all men.

So, who’s next?

Every woman we’ve studied so far has shown a different aspect of what it means to be a woman of God. In studying Mary, we’ve seen transformation, healing, devotion, being dismissed as ‘nonsense’ and now, being the first person to see the risen Christ. The first evangelist, perhaps. What a woman!

Next, we are going to look at two very different women: Leah and Rachel, from Genesis. Our first verse is Genesis 29:16-17:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.

Do join us in our Mummy Meditations Community as we discuss these sisters.



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