John 20:11-18 Why Are You Weeping? Bible Study Notes (The Living Well)
Mary may have gone back to the tomb because she was overtaken by grief and did not know what else to do or where else to go. Another reason she may have gone back to the tomb was in the hope that someone may show up who could give her more information about what had happened.
As we saw last week, when Peter and John looked in they saw the grave clothes of the Lord. When Mary looks in, she sees two angels. The appearance of these angels is significant. God means for us to understand that His power had been put on display. He was at work. It was not Rome, or the Jews, or some thieves, but God was present in this empty tomb event.
The angels ask Mary why she is crying. They are not trying to learn some information, but they are gently rebuking her. She had no reason to cry from their vantage point. Mary has still not moved beyond the thought that Jesus’ body has been taken away (maybe by some robbers). She tells the angels what she had told the disciples after the first visit to the tomb.
Next she sees someone else near the tomb. It is Jesus, but she does not know it. Maybe her eyes are filled with tears, and she isn’t seeing clearly; or maybe she is overtaken by grief and is not thinking straight. Another possibility is that Christ is veiling His form. There is a tension in many of the resurrection appearances. Jesus is often not immediately recognized (the following comes from Carson): the two on the road to Emmaus were kept from recognizing Him (Luke 24:16); the disciples in the boat on the sea of Tiberias did not recognize Him on shore (John 21:4); and Mary did not realize it was Jesus (here). Jesus’ body can be touched and handled (Luke 24:39; John 20:27); His wounds are visible (John 20:20, 25, 27); He cooks fish (John 21:9, 13) and eats it (Luke 24:41-43). Yet, in His resurrection body, He apparently passed through His grave clothes (John 20:6-8); He appears in a locked room (John 20:19, 26); and is sometimes not initially recognized.
Jesus rebukes her by asking the same thing as the angels, Why are you crying? He then asks a second question which invites her to consider what kind of Messiah she was expecting (Carson), Whom are you seeking? Mary had great devotion and loyalty to the Lord, but that meant nothing if she did not know who He truly is and what He was doing.
Even after meeting Him and hearing Him speak, Mary is still blinded and thinks that the man is only a gardener who was being friendly. She thinks that maybe He saw something or had something to do with the disappearance of the Lord’s body.
Remember with me what Jesus said in John 10 about a shepherd and his sheep. Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, and His sheep know His voice (10:2-4; 11; 14; and 27). Jesus says, “Mary!” and she realizes who He is. She turns to Him and calls out “Rabboni!” which is the Aramaic word meaning Teacher. Aramaic was a common language related to Hebrew.
Apparently, Mary’s first reaction was to embrace Jesus, but He commands her to not cling to Him. I think what He means by “Do not cling to Me” or “Do not hold on to Me” is that Mary should not expect Jesus to stay for long in the present form. In finishing His mission, He must return to the One who sent Him, that is, God the Father.
Folks get confused about verse 17 because Jesus calls the Father “His God,” but Jesus is making a distinction here. He does not say “our God.” Instead, He says, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” Jesus maintains a distinction between how He relates to the Father and how the disciples and all humanity relate to the Father.