Mary and the Mercy Seat {John 20}

11:30 PM

Mary and the Mercy Seat {John 20}

By Sue Desmarais

Once more there is so much that I’d like to point out from this one chapter, but I’d need several post to do an adequate job of it! Therefore, after careful consideration, I’ve decided to limit my post to two significant points found here, for I believe John purposely mentioned them, but they might be easily overlook by one who was not familiar with the Old Testament Law and the customs of that day.

The first is what Mary sees once peering in the tomb, but first allow me to give you a quick update leading up to that moment:

  • Mary Magdalene (and the other women) go to Jesus' tomb very early on the first day of the week.
  • They see that the stone that covered the opening was rolled away.
  • Mary (and the other women) run and tell Peter and John (referred to as "the other disciple whom Jesus loved") that someone has taken Jesus' body.
  • Peter and John run to the tomb. John arrives first, stoops down outside the tomb, looks and sees the linen bandages that had been used to wrap Jesus' body, but waits to go in.
  • Peter arrives after John, and he goes straight into the tomb. He sees and considers the linen wrappings and the handkerchief that was used to wrap Jesus' head.
  • John goes in, he sees and perceives what has happened, and he believes.
  • Peter and John leave.

(Did it strike you as odd that the angels didn’t appear to Peter and John? Yet John is the one who is describing the scene for us? More on that later)

Mary had followed them back to the tomb and is now left standing outside weeping.  She then peers into the tomb and sees two angels sitting, "the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."

You have to travel all the way back to Exodus 25:17-20, to God’s instructions to  Moses concerning how the mercy seat is to be made, to see the significance of how these angels are sitting.

““You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be..”
The two angels, one at each side, is the arrangement of the mercy seat. The mercy seat was located in the Holy of Holies area in the Temple where only the High Priest could enter once a year and sprinkle blood upon the mercy seat as an atonement for Israel’s sins.

It’s clear that Christ Jesus is our true mercy seat! Now, some of you may be wondering, if Jesus is the mercy seat, why when Mary saw these angels was Jesus resurrected body gone? I’m glad you asked; just look at what Hebrews 10:10-14 says, "And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."
Doesn’t that just make you want to shout, “Hallelujah!!”? Jesus was offered once as our propitiation for our sins; then was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). He wasn’t to remain a dead mercy seat; He was to become our living throne of grace in heaven! Isn’t that amazing!?
But hold on; there is one more thing I’d like to point out before I let you go and that is, why was Mary Magdalene the one to witness this and John the one to record it? Why a woman when women’s testimonies were not considered valid in the courts at that time, and why a woman with Mary Magdalene’s dark past; a woman who would have been considered an outcast by the religious community?
I thought J. Lee Grady summed it up better than I could:
1. There were two gardens. Man’s Fall occurred in the Garden of Eden—a place of intimate fellowship with God. After Adam and Eve disobeyed Him, the Lord cursed the ground and banished them from Paradise. On Resurrection Sunday, Christ appeared in a garden (John 19:41 says Joseph of Arimathea donated a garden tomb to Jesus) to remind us that now, because of His redemption, intimate fellowship with God is available again. Jesus reopened the doors to Eden.
2. There were two women. Sin entered the world when a serpent deceived the first woman, Eve. On Resurrection Sunday, after Christ had defeated Satan through His atoning death, Jesus appeared first to a woman—one who had previously been in bondage to Satan’s demons (see John 20:14). Mary Magdalene is the New Testament counterpart to Eve. Her life reminds us that Jesus offers us total deliverance from the bondage of our past. (Adapted from Fearless Daughters of the Bible by J. Lee Grady.)

Now would be a good time to shout, “Hallelujah! Thank You Jesus!”

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