John 20:11-16 (the message)
But mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”
“They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.”
After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.
Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”
Jesus said, “Mary.”
Mary Magdalene was the first one to discover the empty tomb. The first one to see Jesus. Not Mary the mother of Jesus. Not the disciples. Mary Magdalene, a once possessed woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. That Mary.
As I read those verses this morning I was struck anew by her heart ache. I can just see her in my mind’s eye: kneeling at the tomb, weeping because her Lord’s body is missing. She has been grieving that her Savior was crucified for two days and now salt in her wound…His body is missing. When she first arrived and saw the tomb empty, she ran for the disciples and two of them came back with her. They saw that indeed His body was missing and went back home! They did not understand that He was alive. They could not imagine or comprehend what we so easily dismiss at a tenant of our faith…Jesus is alive. Even after the two disciples left for home, Mary remained. Can you just sense her loss? Her broken and shattered soul spilling out in the tears she cried and her pleading to know where he had been taken. Was Mary just being more emotional? Oh I don’t think so…
Mary had been delivered of demonic possession. Jesus gave her freedom. Freedom is precious and priceless once you have it. Many of us have a testimony of freedom from the strongholds in our thinking that have kept us prisoner to shame, unworthiness, sickness, fear, depression, instability, bitterness, rage and lack. If you have experienced a rescue, if you nod your head reading this because you know exactly what I’m talking about…you know the before and after of your life. Before you knew just how real Jesus was and what He could do for you and the after of a life where your heart and mind are free to know Him and live life, amidst the challenges, to the fullest. Mary knew.
My heart was so touched this morning reading the 20th chapter of John. Feeling Mary’s sorrow pour out…her loss. She doesn’t suspect Jesus’ tomb is empty because He walked out. So, as she looks up at Him from her place of brokeness on the ground she begs this gardener to tell her where He is. And I really, really love what Jesus says: “Mary.”
Can you feel His love for her? His compassion for this precious daughter? In the midst of her grief for the One who gave her freedom…on the heels of her first row seat to His crucifixion…Jesus calls her name. I can hear the tenderness in His voice, the way He gently calls her name, and if you read on you’ll see her exuberant response to her “teacher.”
Here is my heart today: when you grieve, when you face loss, there is nothing sweeter than hearing Jesus call your name. As you kneel under the weight of despair and the whirling confusion there He is…ever present…calling you by name. The Savior, the Freedom-Giver, calming our hearts and bringing an amazingly personal touch to our circumstances. To be known by Him…to hear my name spoken by my King and instantly recognize the love and comfort of Jesus. He is not far away. He is not missing. No one can steal Him from us. If we cannot hear Him call us by name then perhaps we are not listening. Perhaps we don’t expect that He would care so much. Perhaps, like the disciples, we choose to contain ourselves and return to our comfort zone. Perhaps we have not yet let Him truly deliver us from our strongholds and so our taste of freedom is just that–merely a taste.
I would rather be Mary in this story. I would rather pour myself out because I experienced Jesus in such a deep and meaningful way than contain myself so easily because my heart has yet to be completely turned inside out by Him. Even in sadness there is a beautiful experience in hearing Jesus call your name. Even in loss and disappointment my name on His lips is a balm like no other. But I must be able to hear Him.
We get to choose how we live our lives. ( Free will and all) I can live a self-contained life. I can keep Jesus in His “proper place” and not let my “religion” get out of hand. In that life I will acknowledge Him and He gets whatever amount of influence on my life I allow Him. But in that life I won’t be found at the tomb at dawn. I won’t be the first to see Him and I probably won’t hear Him when He calls my name. Or there is this other life…the one where I can’t hold back anymore. It ceases to matter what others think of my “fanaticism” because I know real freedom. I have been delivered of my demons and can still hardly believe He’s so good and real and personal. In this life Jesus is everything and all other facets find their “proper place” in Him. In this life I race to be with Him because there is no one else on earth like Him…I can be found pouring my heart out at the last place I saw Him…looking for Him and no doubt finding Him. In this life I must be near Jesus. I have discovered in my wild and offensive pursuit of God that He is untamable and more than enough for me.
There is nothing in life that compares to hearing the King of Kings call out your name…