This morning my devotions took me to the final chapters of John (which, to those who know the reading plan I’m using this year, is an admission that I’m a few days behind). We find such poignant little stories in these chapters, stories like Peter and John running to the empty tomb, Thomas falling on his face before the risen Lord, Jesus restoring Peter after his three denials. There is one story among them, though, that I love most of all.
Mary Magdalene has come to Jesus’ tomb and is distressed to see that his body is gone, the stone rolled away. Convinced that someone has taken away his body, she stands outside the tomb weeping. Two angels appear within and ask simply “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” The words carry with them the pain of her loss. Not only has she lost her Lord, but even his body has been taken away. She is lost and alone.
Then she turns and sees someone else. She does not recognize Him, though it is the very one she seeks. Somehow her eyes are closed so she cannot see who it is. This man says “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She supposes he must be the gardener and says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She wants the body back, needs the body back, and begs that this man might return it to her.
But then, in an instant, her eyes are opened. Jesus, as he had called Lazarus out from the tomb, calls to her. He says but one word. “Mary.” It’s one of the best sentences in all of the Bible. At at that very instant she knows. At that very instant she sees and knows and understands that the One she seeks is standing right there behind her. He is alive! He has risen! She turns and cries out “Rabboni!” (which means teacher). I wonder, does she scream this word, run to him, and throw her arms around his neck? Perhaps she can do little more than call out in a whisper as she falls at his feet. We don’t know. But we do know that she clings to Jesus, overwhelmed with his presence, overwhelmed to know that he is alive. She sees and hears and believes. She knows now that Jesus is alive.
As I read these words, I think of the way Jesus called me and the way he has called countless numbers of men and women to himself. Like Mary I was once unable to see Jesus for who he is. I saw a man who may as well have been a gardener. He was a good man, a moral man, and maybe even a great man. But he was just a man. Only when Jesus called me by name was I able to see that him as the God-man. Only then was I able to see him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only then did I really and truly know him. And only then were my eyes opened so I could see and my ears unstopped so I could hear and my heart renewed so I could believe. Like Mary, he called me by name.