Ever run into someone you know but not recognize them? Perhaps an old high school classmate or that neighbor from across the street when you lived on the other side of town all those years ago? It can be frustrating and even embarrassing when they recognize and remember you but you have no idea who they even are and why they know your name and are talking to you like the long-lost acquaintance they really are.
What do you do? Do you fake it and pretend to remember them and go along with the small talk until you can make your escape? Do you confess that your mind is blanker than a new factory fresh cassette tape (for those readers under the age of 25 go ask someone older to explain cassettes to you) and hope they don’t get offended in reminding you who they are? It can make for some interesting moments and stories to tell.
11Mary, however, stood outside the tomb sobbing, crying, and kneeling at its entrance.12As she cried, two heavenly messengers appeared before her sitting where Jesus’ head and feet had been laid.
Heavenly Messengers: 13Dear woman, why are you weeping?
Mary Magdalene: They have taken away my Lord, and I cannot find Him. 14After uttering these words, she turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.
Jesus: 15Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for? She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:
Mary Magdalene: Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.
Mary Magdalene (turning to Jesus and speaking in Hebrew): Rabboni, my Teacher!
Jesus: 17Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.
John 20:11-17 (The Voice New Testament)
I Love this part of the passion story. You don’t hear it much around Easter time as we tend to focus on the “big” parts of the story, the death and resurrection, and tend to forget about or skim over the part of the story dealing with what happened next. Jesus has died, Mary and the others were there, they saw it with their own eyes. They likely were there every moment and step of the way as His body was lowered from the cross and placed in the tomb and the stone rolled in front of the door and sealed shut. They were in mourning and grief. I suspect that between the grief and the Sabbath occurring Mary was tired – both emotionally and physically as she made her way back to the tomb. With the Sabbath being over Mary and the others were now free to give the body of Jesus a proper burial by finishing the arrangements they were unable to complete with the holy day closing in on them prior.
Mary and the others have arrived at the tomb only to find it empty. The reactions are understandable; confusion and dismay. They have witnessed first his death and burial and now they have seen an empty tomb and in their human frame of reference they can only assume that the body is missing; stolen or moved. The others leave and go home, but not Mary.
This is where it gets good.
Mary in her grief and confusion sees Jesus but does not recognize him. Of all people you might think that Mary should be the one to put the events together and recognize her beloved Jesus, but she does not. She thinks he is a caretaker of the cemetery and that he has moved the body of Jesus.
That’s all Jesus says in response to her question and with that her eyes are opened and she recognizes Jesus. In her joy she leaps towards him and verse 17 tells us Jesus has to gently tell her to let him go. He has entered his new phase of ministry and she cannot cling to him and attempt to hold him back or keep him to herself. Instead she must go tell the others. She must bear witness of a living Christ.
How many times in our lives, particularly in our grief, sorrow, dismay, and woe-is-me self-pity have we felt that Christ was missing for our lives? Feeling that he has somehow disappeared from us and all is lost. Feeling like are a suddenly alone to face our problems only to have had him standing there in front of us and in our self-absorbed state we fail to recognize him?
More than we want to admit…….
There are two lessons here. First; no matter how dim or bleak the outlook may seem to us we must remember that Christ is with us always. He is standing before us if only we would recognize him and the assurance he offers. Second; we are to be witnesses of Christ and his message. Even in the dark times we are to telling others and sharing with them the powerful message of Christ and his love. The message that overcame the grave is one we are to be telling others. We should be sharing our story of our living Christ who is alive in us and through us every day.
Today whatever is going on around you and no matter what you may see or feel, remember that our risen Christ is in front of you and that is news we should be sharing.