Friday April 17, 2020
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Yesterday the point I wanted to make, that I’m really not sure I made, was that we’ve been given the perfect self-revelation of God in Jesus. What more do we need? More than that, we’ve been given, through our Lord’s work, the person of the Holy Spirit to make God’s self-revelation a part of us. Today I want to look at Jesus’ personal revelation as a source of contentment again, but also as it is a source of amazing comfort.
We know from verse 1 in John 20 that Mary in v. 11 is Mary Magdalene. Mary had been possessed by seven demons before she met Jesus (Luke 8:2), she followed him, supporting him and the disciples monetarily. She heard him preach, she saw him heal countless others like he had healed her. She was a true believer, but now her hopes were dashed, because three days ago (by Jewish counting) she had seen…him…die.
Now it was the first day of the week (maybe tomorrow or next week I’ll write on the theological significance of the first day) and all she wanted was to minister one last time to her Lord. Not her living Lord anymore, so in her mind maybe he was no longer Lord at all. It would be understandable if she thought that. In any case, she wanted to minister to Jesus’ dead corpse. But as if to add insult to injury, to quench any remaining spark of hope and faith, the body wasn’t there.
Just think about the lowness Mary must have felt on that morning—that’s why she was weeping. It was more than crying, she was weeping with all of her being. The Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament defines this word (klaiw for you Greek nerds) as “To weep, wail, lament, implying not only the shedding of tears, but also every external expression of grief.”
In her lament, she failed to notice Jesus. “They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
The same happens for us, doesn’t it? In the midst of trying times and circumstances beyond our control, it feels as if God is so far removed from us. It begins to feel like we’re on our own and abandoned, when really God is closer to us than he’s ever been! We simply need our eyes of faith restored again, Jesus said to her, “Mary”, and then she saw him!
I imagine we’re all feeling some level of spiritual discomfort and malcontent, not least of all due to our isolation. Jesus left this earth to ascend into heaven on behalf of believers. To represent us to the heavenly host! To be our mediator at the right hand of God! But he didn’t leave us as orphans, he gave us the Holy Spirit—to warm us in his absence to God’s love. To stir us into all righteousness. To remind us that nothing will separate us from God himself!
Jesus told Mary, “do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father”, indicating the importance of his ascension. But it’s also a lesson for her and us, there is a body to which we should cling now—the Church itself. The ancient Latin church father Cyprian famously said, “He can no longer have God for his Father who does not have the church for his mother.” Even in our isolation from the physical presence of the body, we continue to have the essence of the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. It could be that in our dark moods and even loneliness Jesus is closer now than he has ever been!
Dear family, I miss you, may you find comfort and contentment in Jesus today through your personal habits of grace! Jesus is always with you, even to the end of the age. Amen.