Theme: The Command to Teach Others
In this week’s lessons, we look at another story unique to John’s Gospel, and see what important truths are illustrated for us in Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene after his resurrection.
Scripture: John 20:1-18
The third teaching is seen from John 14:3, one of the discourses in the upper room. Everybody’s troubled because Jesus said he’s going away, and he even tells them not to be troubled. He tells them to trust in him, just as they trust in God. He says he’s going away to prepare a place for them there, and then he says to them, “If I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me, that you may also be with me where I am.” Doesn’t Mary’s story illustrate that? He was taken away from her by death, but he came back for her.
That’s just a temporary illustration of course. We don’t see him face to face in this life, but the same principle holds. He’s been taken from us for a time. He’s in glory but he will come back for his own one day, just as surely as he came back to call Mary and meet her in the garden, and come back for the others as well. He’ll come back for you if you’re truly his.
A fourth teaching is taken from John 17:26, the very end of that high priestly prayer. Jesus says something that’s interesting. He’s speaking to the Father, and he says, “I have made you known to them and I will continue to make you known.” You see, while he was here on earth, he taught them about God. But his teaching has not stopped; he’s going to continue to teach them “in order that the love you have for me might be in them and that I myself may be in them.” That’s what he does for Mary and others after his resurrection. He continues to teach them.
After Mary recognizes him in the garden, she tries to hold on to him because she wants to keep him there with her. But he says, “No, go instead to my brothers and say I’m returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God; and you go tell them that you’ve seen me.” And for the next 40 days, Jesus continued to teach his disciples. That’s what goes on in the church today as we study the Bible and talk about it with others. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, teaches us of the Father. And he does it in order that the love that God the Father has for the Son might be in us, and that we might grow together in that love.
Here’s a final example of teaching from John’s Gospel that we see illustrated in this story with Mary. In John 14:15, Jesus said to the disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Now, that’s what he’s saying to Mary, too, isn’t it? She loves him, of course, and what she wants to do is hang on to him. She has him back at last! She doesn’t want to let him go. But he says to her, “No, I have work to do, and you have work to do, too, so you go tell my disciples you’ll see me again; you go be a witness.” And she did because she loved him.
That’s what Jesus says to us today as well. When we’re sad or discouraged, or we feel some great loss when we’re distressed, and we are weeping alone, as Mary was, we find ourselves saying, “Oh, if Jesus would only come,” or “If he would only take me to be with him now.” If he doesn’t, it’s not because he doesn’t love you; he loves you far more than you love him. It’s because he still has work for you to do, and part of that work is to tell others about him. He told Mary to “go and tell my disciples,” and she did. The story ends that way.
Mary of Magdala went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord” and she told them that he had said these things to her. That’s what we have found all through the Gospel: people giving testimony to Jesus Christ. John the Baptist does it at the beginning, Mary is doing it here, and in the next chapter we’re going to find that that’s exactly what Jesus tells Peter. He asks Peter, “Do you love me?” And when Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know that I do,” what Jesus says every single time is this: “Feed my sheep. Teach them. Teach them. Teach them.”
That’s what we’re to do, as well. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, your task is to teach others. We talk a great deal about witnessing today. That’s good of course. We ought to talk about witnessing. But when we talk about witnessing, it needs to include teaching because that is really what we are called to do. That’s the great commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations by teaching them.” When we do that, we’re obeying him, and when we obey him, we show him that we love him, and when we love him, we come to know him better, even as Mary did. May we all do that, because that’s what we have the privilege of doing in these years that he’s given us, to serve until he comes again.
List the three other teachings that are illustrated in the story of Mary Magdalene.
How does Mary act as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection?
Application: What are some ways you can witness to others and teach them who Jesus is and what he has done through his death and resurrection? Whom do you know who needs to hear the gospel?