God Running is a blog for anyone who wants to draw closer to Jesus, love him more deeply, love people the way he wants us to, and follow him as closely as possible.
(Read John 20:12-16) In our last post from the book of John, we left Mary Magdalene near the empty tomb staring inside at two angels, one on either side of where the body of Jesus had lain. (see previous post 7 ways the Ark of the Covenant is a prophetic picture of Jesus)
Today we pick up our story where we see the two angels engage Mary in conversation:
Why Are You Weeping?
“Why are you weeping?” the angels asked Mary.
“They took away my Lord, and I don’t know where they put him.”
After saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t realize it was Jesus.
I used to wonder why Mary didn’t immediately recognize Jesus. But recently I’ve heard several good explanations: She didn’t realize it was Jesus, perhaps, because she didn’t expect to see Jesus alive, and/or she was weeping and her vision was blurred, and/or she was still recovering herself after conversing with angels, and/or Jesus in his resurrected glorified state appeared similar but different enough from his pre-ressurrected self for Mary to not recognize him immediately. At any rate . . .
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Mary, thinking he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you put him and I will take him away.”
Then Jesus said to her:
God Called Her Name
What must that be like? To hear God Himself call your name?
“. . . and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Jesus told us in John 10:3.
I don’t know about you, but I want that. I want to hear God call my name. I want that kind of intimacy with God. Maybe you do too.
It’s interesting that God chose a woman as the first person He would appear to. It went against the culture of the day. Women had little credibility among men but Jesus’ values weren’t aligned with the values of men. With all the polarization in our culture today, it can be easy to identify with one side or the other. But I find certain values on either side of the political spectrum misaligned with Jesus’ values. So if I’m going to pick a team, I want to pick Jesus’ team, even if it means I don’t belong to the team my friends and family identify with. That can make life harder sometimes, but that’s what Jesus did. He lived for his Father without regard for meeting the cultural expectations of his day.
So if Jesus didn’t follow cultural expectations when he picked Mary as the first person to reveal himself to, why did he pick Mary? And why might he pick you or pick me to reveal himself to?
3 Reasons Mary Heard God Call Her Name
If you want to hear God in an intimate way, the way Mary did, I think we can learn from her in this passage. Here are three things Mary did to put herself in a position to hear God’s voice:
- Mary rose early to seek Jesus. We saw this in the first verse of this same chapter: “. . . Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark . . .” I have to be honest here, this is a weak point for me personally. But I know so many people who have a deep intimate connection with Christ who get up early in the morning to seek him, the way Mary did in our passage. When I do manage to rise early and seek God this way, it’s almost always so good. It’s quiet. No people around. No distractions. My mind is calm. Contrast that with those times I get out of bed later: I’m trying to read God’s words and pray but I get a text from a friend, then someone else calls me, then I remember the guy who asked me to call him before noon, then Kathy reminds me I have to make a deposit because our checking account is too low. It’s just so much harder. Rising early and seeking Jesus the way Mary did is one of the big keys to hearing God’s voice.
- Mary was more than willing to engage the gardener. Gardener’s were at the low end of the socioeconomic scale. But she choose to engage the gardener anyway, and that’s where she found Jesus. It was the same for those two men who decided to spend time with some random dude they met on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35) We err when we think we’re dealing with someone who’s beneath us. If you’re a Jesus follower, no one is beneath you. If you don’t believe me just ask the people who were offended at Jesus. Those people said, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3) If we wait long enough, we can learn about categorizing people as less than we are when this happens: Matthew 35-46. So if you want to hear God call your name, if you want to hear Jesus’ voice, love the landscape guy, and the neighbor with the messy yard, and the person who drops off your Amazon package, and the janitor, and the homeless man, and the woman with the disability, and the person who sins differently than you do.
- Mary was suffering. Mary was weeping, and grieving. Today I heard a story on Matt Brown’s podcast Think Eternity. It was from a man named Leighton Ford, a man who worked with Billy Graham for thirty years. (He was also married to Billy Graham’s sister.) Leighton and his wife had a son who was athletic, bright, and healthy. But when he was twenty-one he developed a heart arrhythmia. The doctors were confident they could heal him but during a surgery Leighton’s son’s heart stopped unexpectedly. They couldn’t revive him, and he died. Leighton and his wife were crushed with grief. It was one of the darkest times in their lives. But God spoke to Leighton Ford in his suffering. As a result of that experience, Leighton began a ministry helping young emerging Christian leaders to find their way. “There are places in our heart we don’t even know are there, until our hearts are broken open,” Leighton Ford shared in his interview. “God broke open my heart to help others to run their race for the Lord.” We don’t choose suffering, but God definitely uses suffering to help us hear His voice and to grow us into the likeness of His Son Jesus.
Three reasons Mary heard God call her name. Three reasons we might give God to help us hear Him call our names. We can rise early to seek Him, we can engage and love the least, and we can listen for God in our suffering. These aren’t the only ways we can help ourselves to hear God’s voice, but these three are evident when Mary encountered Jesus at the empty tomb.
“Father, please help me, and help the reader, to rise early and seek You the way Mary did in our story, the way Jesus did while he walked the earth. Bless us with the greatest possible sensitivity to Your voice. Let us be those who hear You. Bless us with the great pleasure of hearing You call each of our names.
“In Jesus’ name,
After Jesus called Mary’s name she turned and said to him, “Rabboni!”
According to Keener, Rabboni is more personal and less formal than the term Rabbi, which speaks to the intimacy Mary enjoyed in this passage.
I recognize there are many things we can do to help us hear God’s voice including hanging with other Jesus followers, prayer, and reading His Bible. But I think those are more obvious and talked about more often. This passage provided a great opportunity to shed light on three less obvious but important ways we can hear God’s Holy Spirit speaking to us.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 316-317
Image of Christ and St Mary Magdalen at the Tomb by Rembrandt via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain