Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 37: Mary: The First Missionary

Today’s passage: John 20:1–18

Focus verse: Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

Although Mary Magdalene shows up in each of Jesus’s four biographies, we know little about her. What we learn from Scripture is that Jesus casts seven demons out of her.

Though people debate what casting out demons means, the one fact we can agree on is that the healer makes her life better. Isn’t that what Jesus always does? He improves the lives of everyone he interacts with.

Mary Magdalene shows her gratitude for his healing by following him and giving him financial support. Later, she keeps vigil when Jesus dies and again when they lay his body in the tomb.

The next day, she heads to his gravesite to prepare his corpse, according to their practices. But when she arrives at the grave, his body isn’t there. 

With a mixture of confusion and excitement, she runs to find Peter and John to tell them what she saw. Though she doesn’t realize it, she’s the first to see evidence of Jesus’s resurrection. The two disciples race to the tomb and confirm it’s empty.

That makes three witnesses who can testify that Jesus isn’t there. The principle of having multiple witnesses to verify truth occurs throughout the Bible (such as Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, and 2 Corinthians 13:1).

But the evidence is circumstantial. They assume someone moved Jesus’s body. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, but Mary is clueless.

Perplexed, she cries at the opening to the bodiless grave. Mary talks to a man nearby, whom she assumes is the gardener. He’s not. He is resurrected Jesus.

He’s ready to return to his Father in heaven, and he tells her to let his disciples know he’s alive. In saying this, Jesus picks Mary Magdalene to deliver the breaking news of the most significant event in human history. 

It’s significant that Jesus chooses Mary as the first eyewitness that he is alive because that culture won’t accept a woman’s testimony. Her word carries no legal authority, yet Jesus chooses her to be the first to tell others the good news.

Mary is, in effect, the first missionary for Jesus.


  1. How has Jesus made your life better?
  2. When God tells you to do something, do you obey? 
  3. How can you know what God wants you to do?
  4. Does God hear us when we cry? Why?
  5. Who have you told about the good news of Jesus? 

Discover more about Mary Magdalene in Matthew 27:55–61, Mark 15:40–47, and Luke 8:1–3. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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