The first is Mary Magdalene. She was the prostitute, the one from whom seven demons had been purged. She was the one who "prepared the Lord for burial" at Simon's feast. This is a story I have puzzled about. In one gospel, we hear that Simon is a pharisee; in another, that he had been a leper. Perhaps he was one of the lepers that were cured by Jesus but never came back to thank Him. So, at this feast, he eagerly invited Jesus in, but was still a long way from understanding what truly inviting him in meant. Mary however, knew where she had been and where Jesus had brought her. And by John's account, she was the first to speak to the risen Lord.
Peter was next. In Mark, Mary is told to talk to Peter in particular, and the evidence that this was a one-on-one is found in 1 Corinthians 15:5. There was something very personal that happened to Peter, related in Luke:
Luk 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I do not know what you say. And immediately, while he still spoke, the cock crowed.
Luk 22:61 And the Lord turned and looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, Before the cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.
Luk 22:62 And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
And this required a personal repair before the public one could be effected. What happened, we'll never know. Where Mary's repentance and forgiveness became part of public record, that of Peter- the man who believed and still failed- is not. Peter and Jesus are allowed a private coming together- and their next public words forgive him publically, and establish his ministry. Now, if you continue the reading, you'll find that there is one more private one on one.
7 then He appeared to [c]James, then to all the apostles; (1 Cor. 15)
The James here is a point of contention for our Catholic brothers; but who could it be besides the Lord's own Brother, a man that, to this point, had not believed. Again, a personal, private appeal to the one who did not believe- but would lead his family, and eventually, the Church- into belief. He didn't believe because he grew up with the man; and because he grew up with the man, He gave him this one more chance, and James took it. Not only for himself, but at least one other of the four brothers- Jude, followed his example. And why would Jesus, who'd once intoned, "Who are my Mother and my brothers?", give this chance?
To show that the Resurrection reached across time and boundaries, not only taking in those who believed before it occurred (like Mary), but those who believed but no longer felt worthy (like Peter), and even those who never believed like James- past, present, and future, all bound up in the one moment, the one action. Is it a wonder that the three who had the most reason to believe themselves undeserving became the first to receive Jesus' personal appeal?
And while you wonder where you fit in on this continuum, think of two other people. Think of Simon, who thought that the cleansing of his body was enough... did he ever learn that next step? And think of Thomas, who lost 2 weeks of valuable time with the Lord because he demanded a God that "proved it to him". Now, where do you fit in?