EARLY IN THE MORNING
In 20:1 we are told that Mary came to the tomb early in the morning. Here early morning is a sign signifying the freshness and brightness of life in resurrection. When you were saved and regenerated, did you not have the sense within of something fresh and bright? This is the sense of resurrection. Whenever we are in resurrection we have the sense of freshness and brightness of life.
Often my spirit stirs within me and causes me to rise up early in the morning. I can testify that when I rise up early, I sense the freshness and brightness of life in resurrection. No doubt, when Mary met the Lord and heard Him speaking to her, she had the sense of freshness and brightness. This is the significance of the sign of early morning.
THE SIGN OF SISTER MARY THE MAGDALENE
Perhaps you have never realized that in this chapter Mary the Magdalene is herself a sign. This sister signifies the ones who love the Lord and who seek the experience of Him.
In contrast to the sisters, the brothers are often satisfied with facts or doctrines. The sisters, however, care for experience. The reason the sisters pursue experience and the brothers are often satisfied with doctrine is that the sisters are much more emotional than the brothers. Usually, the brothers are more sober in mind than the sisters are. For example, when Mary broke the alabaster flask and anointed the Lord, she acted in a very emotional way (John 12:3-8). If she had been sober, as Judas was, she never would have done that. The one who was sober asked why the ointment was wasted, and why it was not sold for a certain amount of money. To a certain extent, this is an illustration of the soberness of the brothers.
Generally, it is the brothers who are sober and the sisters who are emotional. Some may say that Mary the Magdalene was foolish to go to the tomb early in the morning, while it was yet dark. It might have been only four o’clock in the morning when Mary arrived at the tomb. Those who are sober-minded in a natural way may have criticized her for her behavior.
When Mary saw that the stone was taken away from the tomb, “She ran therefore 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” (20:2).
When Peter and the other disciple heard this, they came to the tomb and saw that it was empty. Moreover, they “beheld the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief which was on His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded up in a place apart” (vv. 6-7), and then believed that the Lord had risen from among the dead. After believing the fact of the Lord’s resurrection, “the disciples therefore went away again to their own home” (v. 10). They had the fact of resurrection, but they had not met the resurrected One.
Unlike the brothers, Mary, an emotional sister, was not satisfied. She “stood outside at the tomb weeping. Then as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb” (v. 11). Then she saw “two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” Peter and John saw the linen cloths and the handkerchief, but this sister saw two angels.
Then she received further revelation, a definite word from the resurrected Christ Himself. Thinking that the resurrected Christ was the gardener, she said to Him, “If you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away” (v. 15). “Jesus said to her, Mary! She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, Rabboni!” (v. 16). Like a lamb who knows the shepherd’s voice, she immediately recognized the voice of the Lord.
Mary wanted to cling to the Lord, but He did not allow it. “Jesus said to her, Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (v. 17). Here the Lord seemed to be saying, “Do not touch Me in My freshness. The freshness of My resurrection must first be presented to the Father for His enjoyment. Mary, go tell My brothers that I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”
The Lord’s word to Mary indicated that in resurrection His disciples had become the same as He insofar as they also were sons of God. On the day of His resurrection, the only begotten Son became the Firstborn (Rom. 8:29), and His disciples became His many brothers, the many sons of the Father (Heb. 2:10-11). Before that day, God had only one Son, the only begotten Son. But in Christ’s resurrection many sons were born. This means that the Lord’s resurrection was a great bringing forth, a delivery that saw the birth of millions of sons of God.
Acts 13:33 indicates that Christ was born in His resurrection as the firstborn Son of God. This was the reason God said to Him, “This day have I begotten thee.”
As we have seen, Christ was not the only one born in His resurrection; all His believers, including us, were born in His resurrection to be the sons of God. The disciples in John 20 are our representatives. Therefore, all of us are sons born of God in the resurrection of Christ. For this reason, 1 Peter 1:3 says that we have been regenerated through the resurrection of Christ.
Praise the Lord that when Jesus Christ was born as the firstborn Son of God, we all were born with Him! Mary was the first to receive the revelation of this, for she was not satisfied with the fact, but was seeking the experience of Christ. Hence, Mary Magdalene is a sign of those who love the Lord and seek to experience Him.
THE SIGN OF THE TWO BROTHERS WHO WERE SATISFIED WITH THE FACT
We have already pointed out that whereas Mary was seeking the experience of the Lord, Peter and John were satisfied with the fact of the empty tomb. I wonder how Peter and John felt when Mary came to them with the report that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken with her (v. 18). John may have said to Peter, “I wanted to linger at the tomb, but you urged me to go back. Didn’t I tell you that we should stay for a while?”
Many times the brothers are satisfied with the fact and do not linger to seek the experience of the Lord. Sometimes the brothers may even hinder certain saints from seeking the experience of the resurrected Christ. Brothers, we need to learn from this sign not to be satisfied with the mere fact or doctrine, but to seek the experience of the resurrected Christ.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 59, by Witness Lee)