top of page


Part Two Session Six


Sent Ones


In this session we will look at the story of resurrection morning found in John 20:1-18, Luke 24 and Mark 16:1–13 , Matt. 28:1-10. It takes portions from all the accounts to tell the whole story but most of the lesson will come from John 20:1-18.


We will explore:


1. The importance of detail in scripture

2. The definition of an apostle

3. Whether Jesus calls women to function in leadership

4. Jesus’ challenge to the church today.


Women at the Tomb


John 20:1-18.

1 Now 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.”

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. 5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.


Mary Magdalene Sees the Risen Lord

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.


Setting the Scene


It was still dark just before dawn on resurrection morning. Mark tells us that, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Mathew describes an earthquake and an angel of the Lord who scared the guards at the tomb so badly they were like dead men. The gospel accounts vary in detail but a careful reading shows that on resurrection morning a group of women came to the tomb. As dawn breaks they find the stone rolled away and angels send them to tell the disciples that Jesus is risen. However, Luke 24:11 tells us, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”[1]


The Gospel of John appears to say Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb. But take a careful look at John 20:2. Speaking to Peter and John she says, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." Notice when she tells them she uses the word “we” indicating that she was not alone in this first visit to the tomb.


Such detail may seem unimportant, but it matters that the gospels do not contradict each other. It is normal to have some slight differences with any story told by more than one person, but this detail was a problem.  What a relief to discover that John was consistent with the rest in telling what happened.


Next Peter and John race to the tomb and find it empty. It appears that at least John believes Jesus is risen. (vs. 9) Evidently Mary Magdalene followed them to the tomb because after Peter and John leave she is seen at the tomb weeping. (vs 11) She sees the angels and is asked why she is weeping. Her response lets us know that she is still looking for a body. (vs 12-13) She turns to leave and sees Jesus standing there but does not recognize Him. Mary thinks He is the gardener and asks about Jesus’ body. It is only when He speaks her name that she turns again and realizes who He is.


What happens next should forever end the question of whether women can preach. Jesus says to Mary Magdalene “go and tell My brethren that I am ascending to My Father and your Father and to My God and your God.”


Peter and John were just at the tomb. Why didn’t he appear to them? It seems that He waited for her. He chose to send her to “go and tell.” What does it mean for Jesus to “send” her. The definition of an apostle in Greek according to Strong’s #649 is “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.” Jesus, our Lord, deliberately chose a woman, and sent her forth with orders.


Mary Magdalene fulfills the definition of apostle, Not only that, she is sent to His brethren,[2] the apostles as well as His disciples. No one has ever been given a higher commission! How can we ask if women should lead when the head of the church Himself chose a woman to be the first to see him and to tell the awesome news.


Jesus sent a message to the church by deliberately appearing to a woman and sending her forth with orders! The church has ignored the message. Will we continue to be blinded by the religion and traditions of men and refuse to believe this clear word about the women’s freedom to function wherever they are called? 


The Lord spent much of His ministry demonstrating by both words and actions that it was culture and tradition, not God, that was prejudiced against women. We have only studied a few of Jesus’ encounters with women, but if you go back and read them all, you will find that the only rebuke of a woman[3] came because her comments valued women only for their ability to have children.[4]


We must read the gospels with our eyes open, not blinded by the scales of traditional interpretation. Jesus’ revolutionary views have been ignored and even hidden by theology that is often at war with scripture. It is God’s time to free His church from practices that leave at least half of its people hindered in accomplishing His purposes. We must ignore gender, put aside prejudice, look for the anointing and trust God’s choices. Jesus showed the way. Will we follow Him?





1. In Mark 16:11 we read, “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. Later in Mark 16:14 Jesus appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.


2. The word “brethren” in Greek is adelphoi. In this context it means fellow believers. The word adelphoi is like the word anthropos, which in most Bibles is translated as man but should be translated human being. Both of these words can refer to both men and women.


3. Luke 11:27-28 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and [the] breasts which nursed You!" But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"


4. Even the Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter had a demon was rewarded for her faith and persistence.


Questions for Discussion:


1. In John 20:14-16 Mary Magdalene turns first to hear Jesus but she turns a second time to recognize Him after He speaks her name. The word “turn” here means in Greek “to turn yourself” and is defined as meaning metaphorically to turn one's self from one's course of conduct, i.e. to change one's mind. Do you think it is significant that the scripture mentions that she turned twice? If so, explain.


2. Do you believe that it is important that Jesus chose to speak first to a woman after the resurrection? Why or why not.


3. Jesus told Mary Magdalene to “go and tell” His brethren. Look at the meaning of brethren in Footnote 2. Do you think there could have been women among the His brethren? Why or why not?


4. In John 20:15 we see that Mary Magdalene did not recognize the resurrected Lord and thought Him to be the gardener. If you read other accounts of His post resurrection appearances you will find that in no case did anyone recognize Him until He either spoke to them or did something. This is true even of the disciples who saw him more than once. Do you think He might have been teaching us something through these appearances? If so, what?


Click here to discuss 


Back to the top      Link to Review of Part Two

Anchor 14
bottom of page