The Messiah we think that we know and seek is not always the same as the Messiah that lives and breathes. The risen one moved among men at times unrecognized by His own disciples.
Miriam (Mary Magdalene) believed the Master’s enemies had dealt one more indignity to Him by stealing away his body. The possibility of a resurrection had not occurred to her. Alone with her grief, she gathered the courage to peer into the tomb herself. As yet, she had not done so. She saw what the same thing the other women saw. Two angels clothed in white sat where the Master’s body had lain. The linen shrouds lay between them.
How did the two angels escape the notice of Simon Peter and John who had been there a moment earlier? Angels are spiritual beings. They might appear visibly to one person and not to another. The women saw the angels; the men did not. One of the angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She explained that the body of her Master had been stolen away. In her grief, shock, and surprise, she apparently did not think it odd to be speaking with angels, or perhaps she did not realize they were angels. She stood up, wheeled about, and found herself face to face with another stranger.
Just as Simon Peter was the first of the men to see the risen Messiah, Mary Magdalene was the first of the women. Mary Magdalene was the chief of the Master’s disciples among the women who followed Him in much the way that Simon Peter was the head among the men.
The longer ending of the Gospel of Mark begins with a brief description of the appearance to her: “He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.” When Miryam from Magdala first met the Master, she suffered some form of debilitating affliction caused by seven evil spirits that vexed her. The Master had liberated her and given her a new start in life. In gratitude, she left her home in Magdala behind and became a devoted disciple. She also financially supported His work. She loved Him, and now, face-to-face with Him in the garden, she did not recognize Him.
The stranger repeated the question posed by the angels, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She did not recognize the one she sought. The resurrected body of the Messiah is flesh and bone, but not according to the forms and function with which we are familiar. He might appear in any guise.
Mary mistook Him for the gardener—the caretaker of the orchard and the cemetery. Who else would be in the garden at such an early hour? Still disoriented, she asked him if He might know the place to which they had moved the body, but He gently interrupted her, speaking her name, “Miryam.” The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name. (John 10:3)