Sherry Sommer

While reading the account of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb, today, I’ve been struck for the first time by how much I can identify with her. While Mary is reacting to a unique historical occurrence, I can relate to the way she processes her grief over Jesus’ death.

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.  John 20:11-14

Mary, at the tomb, is so overwhelmed by grief that she doesn’t notice that the pair of strangers who question her are angels and that it is Jesus who is speaking to her.  The darkness of her grief turns her inward in pain, and obscures nearly all the light Jesus had brought to her life; but not all, however — she still calls Jesus “My Lord”. Friends tell me that I can bear difficult circumstances and challenges amazingly well, and I attribute that to my faith.  I do have my breaking point. When grief at injustice or human brokenness digs deep into my heart, I know intellectually that Jesus is my Lord and that he is the Lord of all. I feel like a wounded animal though, overwhelmed by pain.  It feels like Jesus has been taken away, even though I still believe He is Lord of all.

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”). John 20:15-16

When Jesus asks Mary why she’s crying, she doesn’t ask for better circumstances. Her response is that she wants to find Jesus.  When Jesus says Mary’s name, the horrible events she’s been through fade away, and all that matters is that He knows her and that He’s with her.   I’m also reminded that my circumstances can’t be relied on for happiness  when challenges are crushing and disorienting.   I’m reminded that stability and meaning in life are found in Christ alone.
When events are at their worst, what I really want is to find Jesus, to know that He’s with me. Experiencing God’s peace and comfort in the midst of hard times is the best experience I know. Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed by circumstances,  I subconsciously think I’ve disappointed Jesus, that my faith has failed somehow.  It’s good to be reminded that Jesus is compassionate, not disappointed, when my life seems overwhelming. 

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.’” 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 20:17-18

Jesus doesn’t conclude the conversation with Mary by promising that He’s back to stay — instead, he tells her He’ll ascend to the Father. This could upset Mary, but instead she goes back to the disciples to share the news that she has seen Jesus. The amazing experience she had of seeing Jesus and having Him call her name is enough. She doesn’t have a list of questions or ask for reassurance that He will be back to stay. It’s not easy living in this “in between” world of contrasts — beauty and kindness preferred to brokenness, and cruelty — to name a few.  I can’t see Christ like Mary did, but He has left me with the  guidance of the Holy Spirit, within communities of fellow believers and with the reassurance that He knows everyone who calls His name.   


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