Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18 (NIV)
I have always been touched by the deep sadness of Mary Magdalene when she finds that the tomb is empty. On the first day of the week, when she went to see the tomb she was so upset that she barely even acknowledged that there were two angels sitting there! This is actually the only time in the Bible that someone doesn’t fall down in fear at seeing angels.
Unbeknownst to Mary it was also the first Easter Sunday. We too are in times unknown and perhaps, and understandably, like Mary we may feel anxious and worried at what might happen next.
When Jesus appears to Mary, she is so sad that she doesn’t recognise him either. I love how Jesus responds to her, though, simply with her name, ‘Mary’. How lovely it is that one of the first words spoken upon Jesus’ resurrection is her name. It is he who calls her, not the other way round, as you might expect. I imagine him speaking in a tender, gentle voice as if he is saying ‘Be still, Mary, and know that I am God. I am here, and everything is going to be all right.’ That may sound cheesy, but it is so true; in fact, it is the best truth we can hear, because he has overcome death! I love how this simple, gentle response of Jesus is so reassuring, not only for Mary but for us as well.
Perhaps this lockdown period has felt like a very long night, even our darkest hour in some moments, especially if someone we know or even we ourselves are grieving for loved ones. We remember that Jesus is the light shining in the darkness, announcing the coming kingdom of God while the world still groans under the curse of the Fall.
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 declares: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”’ Because of what Jesus has done, we can one day also see him face to face, just as Mary did, and he will gently speak our name.
In these dark times and as the celebration of Easter fades, hold on to this promise, grab your Bible and re-read the story. It might feel like Friday (or Sunday just before daybreak) but Sunday IS coming!
This reflection was written by Philippa Strachan for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and darkness.’ Philippa Strachan is A Rocha UK’s Supporter Relations Officer.
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