It’s no wonder that when he heard the tomb was empty, Peter was the first one down there on Sunday morning. But it wasn’t Peter—it was Mary who had the privilege of seeing Jesus first and taking the good news to the disciples. Why do you suppose it would be Mary, of all people? The same Mary who was known for living an immoral life? Mary, out of whom Christ had cast seven devils? Would we have elected her for that high honor? But God chose Mary.
Later on, when Mary recognized Jesus and fell at His feet to worship Him, didn’t Jesus say something like, “Don’t touch Me! Don’t touch Me, Mary! If you touch Me, I can’t go to heaven?” What would that kind of comment say about our God? No, in the language of the day, this is what He actually said:
“Do not detain me (emphasis supplied), for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and tell them that I am going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17, Noli).
Jesus would have spoken these words kindly and graciously. Greetings took a little time in those days. He was literally saying to Mary, “Do not detain Me, Mary, do not go on holding Me or clinging to Me.” Notice also in the text Jesus calling the disciples “brethren,” His brothers. These were the very men who had let Him down when He had needed them so much in Gethsemane. Not only this, when the angels confirmed Jesus’ command to go and tell the disciples, they added something that must have overwhelmed Peter when he heard it. They said: “Now go and give this message to His disciples, including Peter: ‘He [Jesus] is going to Galilee ahead of you’” (Mark 16:7, GNB). How very God-like of the angels to add, “especially tell Peter.” The angels admire and worship God for the incredibly gracious way in which He has handled sinners in His family. How much those angels must have enjoyed adding the words, “And especially tell Peter.”
There are many more examples we could add. But if we trust Him, isn’t this the kind of God with whom we would want to spend eternity? We would be spending eternity with Someone who has an infinite memory, yet we would have no need to be afraid of that memory. For God is forgiveness personified. He has promised not only to forgive us, but to treat us as if we had never sinned. Think of all the verses that say this. For example, “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa 38:17, RSV). Or, “You will trample our sins underfoot and send them to the bottom of the sea!” Micah 7:19, GNB.
There is no pretense or forgetfulness in this. God knows what kind of sinners we all have been. The angels have watched our every deed. These things are not forgotten. Yet we are treated as if we had always been God’s loyal children. But this doesn’t mean that God has gone soft on sin. Think what it has cost Him to answer the questions and meet the emergencies that sin has caused in His family.
On some serious occasions it was necessary for Jesus, gentle Jesus, to call sin by its right name and denounce it in the strongest terms. One of these was the time when those pretentiously pious Bible teachers, trusted so much by the people, denounced Jesus’ picture of His Father as satanic (John 8:45-52). They were saying that the Son of God’s description of His own Father was heretical, unbiblical, and diabolical. And it was Sabbath-keeping, tithe-paying, Bible teachers who made that accusation. Because of their great influence on the people, Jesus turned to them and said, “No, it is not I who have a devil. You are of your father, the devil, and you prefer his lies to the truth” (John 8:45-49). Yet, when He said that, there were tears in His voice.