Praying til Pentecost Day 2
"When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. '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.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to Him, 'Rabboni!' (which means, Teacher)." John 20:14-16
My first encounter with death and grief involved the funeral of my grandmother, Nina Larish Miller. I was 12 years old and remember wondering why I did not react to her passing with the same level of emotion and sadness of the others around me. Grannie had always been a bit of a distant figure. She lived in Pennsylvania, and the first ten years of my life, I had lived in Texas. I had not seen her very often. I had not meet her until I was seven years old, and my most recent visits to her home were difficult. Her last two years on earth, she had been suffering from dementia. Eventually she was secluded from the grandchildren in a nursing home. When she died, I was a little embarrassed that I felt relief for her. She had been such a quiet, and loving person, and watching her battle with memory loss and disorientation had filled me with profound sadness. When death came to her, it did not come as an enemy, but a friend who released her from prison. I learned early in life that there are some things worse than death. One of those is a life that becomes overwhelmed with daily distortions of reality.
Grief is another force in our life that has a powerful way of distorting reality. John's Gospel records this first encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Christ. She was so overcome with the loss of her Lord, that she drew no comfort from angelic messengers. She even missed the Presence of Jesus when He was standing right next to her. Grief can deal out the facts of life, but it does not always add much meaning to life. It has a way of numbing and blinding us to all the good that is going on around us.
The resurrection of the dead moved from theory to reality for Mary, when Jesus spoke her name. He said, "Mary!" He called her by name, and suddenly the fog lifted from her eyes. She saw the Risen Christ, and she responded with a teachable spirit. She called out, "Rabboni!" Jesus was about to start His first class in Kingdom Living 101.
Grief over the loss of a person or the death of a vision often blinds us to the manifest presence of the Risen Christ. Mary was in love with her Lord, but she was just not in touch with her Lord. Death had brought grief, and grief had left the bitter after taste of defeat. When Jesus showed up in the midst of her grief, He called her by name, and offered to make sense out of the senseless.
For forty days, Jesus was going to walk among His followers to restore hope in them and affirm His mission for them. After He ascended to Heaven, they would wait ten days in Jerusalem and pray until The Promise of the Father was sent to them. After Pentecost, the Risen Christ would indwell His followers through the person of the Holy Spirit.
When Mary came looking for Jesus, He was waiting for her. She may not have recognized Him, but He had not forgotten her. He spoke her name like no other person could speak it. He met her in the middle of her grief, and gave her a reason to live and a mission to complete.
Grief still has the power to blind us from the living presence of the Risen Christ. When we are stumbling in the dark everything seems bigger than it really is, especially death. The image of the Risen Christ meeting Mary at the empty tomb should not be lost on us. Jesus still has a way of taking the thing that intimidates us the most and turning it into a victory. At first glance, the tomb looked like a finale of a lost relationship, but it was a prelude to The Promise. When her ears heard her name being called, her eyes were open to the Presence of Jesus. He is calling out to you today. Can you hear Him?