By Peter Lundell
It was the worst day of their lives watching Jesus get brutalized and strung up. All day Saturday they huddled in grief and shock.
Between the time he got killed and they got permission to take down his body, they didn’t have time to embalm and wrap it because the Sabbath started at sundown. The whole sky had turned dark anyway. And then that crazy earthquake.
So on Sunday the ladies went back to finish the burial process, wondering who would roll away the stone, wondering what would become of their shattered band of Jesus followers. How do you follow a dead guy?
Mary Magdalene, the lady out of whom the Master had cast the demons, was weeping as she looked into the dark tomb. In John 20:11–16 (NIV), we read:
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.
“Woman,” he said, “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!”
We might say she didn’t recognize Jesus because her tears blurred her vision—just as tears blur our physical eyes, as well as our souls. Or we might say that because of her grief at having just seen Jesus crucified, she couldn’t recognize him because she had no expectation that it could possibly have been him—and how often do we miss what Jesus does in our lives because we are discouraged and have little expectation?
Besides all that, Mary apparently didn’t recognize that the two guys in the tomb were angels, so why would she recognize Jesus?
And Jesus let all her trouble happen. He didn’t intervene to make her feel better. He didn’t hug her and say, “There, there.” He let her be miserable. Seems he still does that. To all of us. Could it be that just as with Mary, Jesus is right near us in our grief, whether we recognize him or not?
Mary was focused on the tomb, looking in the wrong direction. She was focused on sorrow and death, so she couldn’t see hope and life; the same way we sometimes do.
She had lost the ability to expect. Through life’s traumas, some of us have also lost the ability to expect.
Then Jesus called her name—just as he still calls ours.
Though her circumstances stayed the same, her despair gave way to joy—which changed everything. Jesus still brings life-changing joy into our unchanging circumstances. Yet her circumstances did change, and so do ours. Whenever the risen Lord enters, things change.
Like Mary, we can’t control what happens in our lives. But we can choose where we look. We can choose what we expect. Psalm 121:1 says, “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.” What do you expect when you look there?
We tend to let our expectations of life and of God drop to the level of our experience. The challenge is for our experience to rise to the level of our faith expectations.
Along with Mary, on this side of the resurrection, where will you choose to look? What will you choose to expect by faith?
Copyright © 2015 Peter Lundell. Used by permission.
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With a pastor’s heart, Peter Lundell connects people and their life issues to a real God so they can live well in the face of eternal realities. With a quarter century of missionary, pastoral, and teaching experience, he brings new perspectives to interacting with God that most people overlook. He holds an M.Div. and D.Miss. from Fuller Theological Seminary and resides in Southern California. He authors books on Christian spirituality. Visit him at www.PeterLundell.com.
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