By Revd Edward Gorringe, Diocesan Secretary
John 20:11-18 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 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.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 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.
Today we reflect on a reading from St John’s Gospel, the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus at the empty tomb.
Earlier in the day we are told, while it was still dark, Mary had visited the tomb and found the stone rolled away. She had run to Simon Peter, doubtless in great distress, to report that ‘they have taken the Lord out of the tomb’.
Now she has returned, still crying, hoping to find the body. To show Jesus the honour in death, she believed had been denied him in life. Questioned by the two angels as to why she is crying she repeats her earlier statement to Simon Peter, ‘They have taken my Lord away…and I don’t know where they have put him’.
So how must she have been feeling at this point?
The leader she had followed had been taken away so brutally, the dreams they had all had of a new world had come to naught. All that they had believed in appeared to have been for nothing. A good man had died a violent and cruel death, and really, all for what?
And so, she wept.
She wept for a future lost, for dreams dashed, and for a friend that she had loved.
Sadly, many have also wept in our own communities in recent weeks. Some for loved ones they too have lost, others for dreams and hopes they now fear will never be fulfilled. Many of those who have not wept, are still full of concern for the future. What will it be like? Will this go on forever? Will things ever be the same again?
Returning to Mary Magdalene, we see her turning around and finding a man she takes to be the gardener standing beside her. That man, the passage tells us, was Jesus, but Mary, through her tears, did not recognise him.
How apt it was that she thought him to be a gardener, because He was indeed bringing into being a new creation, bringing God’s creation into order and fruitfulness. As the Lord’s prayer says, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. His was a kingdom based not on the worldly values of power and wealth, but on peace, joy and righteousness.
And then, he calls her by name, Mary.
Suddenly she recognises him and all is changed, her tears cease, she cries out teacher! Her master has returned, the future has purpose again!
She was probably still uncertain about exactly what that future would be, but she knew that by following the teacher all would become clear.
Jesus knew Mary by name, just as he knows each one of us. He knows all about us, He knows our hopes, He knows our fears, He knows our laughter, He knows our tears.
No mater what concerns we might have, no matter how uncertain the future might seem, if we, like Mary, search for our Lord, then we too can know a future with him.
A future in which we will know and be surrounded by the love of God.
A future in which we can share that love with those around us.
A future in which we, like Mary, can be on first name terms with the Saviour of the world.