Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Have you ever been so out of sorts that you've lost sight of the normal, customary way in which you move through life? Grief will do that. It can shake your foundation. Fear is another example. A lot of scams tap into our fears, to the point where we suspend all logic and reason. Anger can put us in a very dark place. People who have let anger get the better of them say things like, "That's not who I am," and, "I don't know what came over me." These are but a few examples of how clear-headed thinking gets sidetracked by unexpected moments or events.
Which brings us to Mary and the first time the resurrected Jesus appeared to her.
Here's where we're at:
Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
As we saw last week:
The word translated as "weeping" in verse 11 comes from the Greek klaiousa, which means "uncontainable, audible grief."
Now we're all on the same page.
There are times in our lives when we're no different from Mary. We get swept away by some emotion or difficulty, and for a moment we can't see Jesus. The resurrected Lord is always there, but we don't see him.
Mary is asked two questions by Jesus that reorient her view. These two questions helped Mary see the resurrected Lord in her life and they can help us, too.
Why are you crying?
Mary's heart has been broken. She's seen the cross. She's seen Jesus' body
taken down. She's seen him taken to the tomb and buried. She's got all this grief and sadness and love swirling around her. And now, three days later, she's come back to the tomb and it's empty. She thinks his body has been stolen. That adds insult to injury. So she's hurt and she's crying.
What do you do when your dreams have died? It happened to Mary. I'm sure it's happened to some of us, too. Some of us can relate to what I'm talking about. One heartache most of us have dealt with at least once in our lives is when our expectations make a u-turn from what we thought was going to happen. Or when the solid ground you thought you were standing on crumbles beneath you. I think most of know a bit about what Mary was feeling. What has hurt you? What is making you hurt now? That's what Jesus asked. "Woman, why are you weeping?"
That question right there…woman, why are you weeping…that question reminds us how much Jesus cares about our hurts. How much he cares about our struggles. For Mary, her hurt was keeping her from seeing God at work in her life. That can happen to us, too. Don't ever let your hurt keep you from seeing your Savior. Jesus is alive.
Whom are you seeking?
In other words, why are you here? What has brought you to this place? Jesus always asked great questions. That's one of the reasons why it's so important to read the gospels. The questions Jesus asked people were remembered and preserved because we need to let Jesus ask us questions, too. We learn about ourselves from the questions Jesus asks, and we learn about our place in God's family when we listen to the answers.
Here's what I mean.
One day, a great crowd gathered as Jesus was teaching. It was getting late. He didn't want to send them away empty. So he asked, "How many loaves do you have?" Just five loaves made all the difference. Even if it's a little bit, Jesus can make a huge impact. All we have to do if be faithful.
Another times Jesus asked, "Who do people say that I am?" He followed that question with, "Who do you say that I am?" What happens when Jesus asks us those questions? Jesus brings us to a place where we get real about who we think Jesus is and what he can do in our lives. You don't know the full extent of what you believe until you answer that question.
Over and over Jesus asked questions. "What do you want from me?" "What is important in life?" "Whom are you seeking?"
Mary listened to the questions. She listened. And as she listened, she turned around. When we listen to Jesus' questions, our lives start to turn around. Are you with me on that? Here's something you might want to write down:
Hearing the voice of Jesus changes lives.
Let's pick things up with verses 14-16:
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
What's the practical thing you see here? Mary turns around, and for a lot of reasons, she doesn't initially recognize Jesus. While she has yet to figure out what's going on, she still asks a practical question. She needs Jesus' body in order to finish the burial preparations. I wonder how she thinks she's going to carry the body, but I suspect she'll get the gardener to help. It's in this exchange when Jesus says, "Mariam." That's her name in Aramaic. Mariam. And I'm reminded here of John 10:3, when Jesus said,
"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
The scene ends with Jesus saying to her,
"Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
We need to take this moment in. Mary is going to be the first one to see the resurrected Lord. She doesn't recognize him at first. And then she tells the others. She includes everything. She lets them all know how she didn't recognize Jesus at first. Her honest sincerity isn't lost on us. This moment is going to be put in the Bible. It's going to be read until Jesus returns. People are going to be inspired by it and lives will be changed in its telling. She leaves nothing out. How she turns around and at first thinks Jesus is the gardener. It's all there…the tears, the hurt, the pain. She mistakes the resurrected Lord for the gardener.
Here's a big question for us:
Where don't we see Jesus?
When we've been hurt and we say, "I will never forgive him or her."
When we get into an argument with someone.
When the test results aren't good.
When we get drawn into gossip.
When we judge someone who's different from us.
When we encounter a major life disappointment.
When something good comes our way, and we think it's because we got lucky.
When we've achieved a huge accomplishment and we think it's because of our diligence, intelligence, and hard work.
Jesus Christ is always with us in our lives. But sometimes we don't see him. He is present to us in so many different ways.
Mary finally recognizes Jesus. What's incredible about this whole moment is what opens Mary's eyes. It's not a deep theological word or point or argument. It's simply her name. Mariam. It's the name she's heard many times before. It's the name she heard when Jesus cast the demons out of her life. It's the name she heard when Jesus called her out of a life of sin. It's the name she heard when he taught her, along with the other disciples. Jesus called her name over and over and over again. But this time it was different. This time it helped her recognize the risen Lord.
Here's the thing. Some people say, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" I know I'm being picky and quirky, but that's not exactly right. Jesus calls us by name. I prefer to ask, "Have you accepted the truth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?" Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, whether people recognize it or not. John is telling us here that the resurrection moves from being an historical event to being a personal event when we hear Jesus Christ speak our name. It's personal. It's real.
How do you think Jesus speaks your name?
With Mary, he spoke with tenderness, compassion, concern, and power. It was a tone that filled her with hope for what God was doing in her life. When Jesus spoke Mary's name, all she could hear was grace and mercy.
On my drive to church on Sunday mornings, I listen to XM63 - The Message. This morning, they played "You Say" by Lauren Daigle. These lyrics fit perfectly with the point John wants us to understand:
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough
Every single lie tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know
You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don't belong, oh you say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In you I find my worth, in You I find my identity.
Jesus speaks your name the same way he spoke Mary's name. Even though he knows everything you've done wrong, he also knows everything you can do right for God. It's a forgiving tone. It's a voice of compassion. That's how Jesus speaks your name. It's not scolding or condemning or judging or disappointed. Jesus speaks in a voice resonating with grace and mercy when he calls you by name.
This week, listen for Jesus speaking your name. And come back next week, when we'll hear about Dennis, a man who was a devoted follower of Elvis Presley. It all depends of whose voice you're listening to, right?