By Bethany Pitman
(Read John 20:11–18 from a Bible version you prefer.)
Imagine the scene: Your beloved mentor, trusted confidant, and faithful friend was unjustly beaten, humiliated, and executed. You walk to his grave, craving a chance just to be near him, to feel some comfort in being where his lifeless body lies. When you arrive, your world is flipped upside down and everything changes.
I often think of Mary Magdalene and her special place in the Easter story. According to John’s account of the day, Mary was the first to the tomb and the first to realize that Jesus was missing. She is the one who sounded the alert to the disciples who were on their way to the gravesite. When the disciples arrived and verified her story, they left to tell the others. But Mary stayed behind to mourn yet another unfathomable loss of her beloved Jesus.
Have you ever wondered why the angels didn’t appear to the disciples and waited until Mary was alone? John’s account gives no indication that Mary was afraid when the two angels talked to her. According to Scripture, angels can look scary to a human. Why wasn’t Mary more afraid? Was she so engrossed in grief that the angels’ appearance didn’t register?
When Mary turned around, she was face-to-face with Jesus and yet still did not recognize him. Then, when Jesus said her name, she knew exactly who he was and ran to embrace him. He had chosen her.
When I read this resurrection account, I imagine how Jesus might have said the name “Mary.” I imagine the lilt and tone of his voice as her name comfortably rolls off his tongue—a name he has said hundreds of times before. There is something familiar about the way Jesus says Mary’s name that snaps her to reality and lifts the shades from her eyes. I bet that was the sweetest sound Mary had ever heard. It isn’t long before Jesus gives Mary a monumental task—she is the one who is supposed to tell the others about his resurrection. She is charged with spreading the good news. Typically, news like this should come from an important male—a rabbi or exalted official, maybe even from a beloved disciple, but certainly not from a lowly, formerly demon-possessed woman. Mary—the woman whom Jesus trusted with the greatest news of salvation—responded immediately to his call.
Jesus is calling us today. Do you recognize his voice? Can you hear the familiarity and gentleness as he embraces you in love? What task is he charging you with today? What is your call, and do you feel ready to respond? Like Mary, we don’t always recognize the call of Jesus at first. Perhaps this is because we are immersed in life’s struggles or have drifted away from familiarity with him. Just as he called Mary specifically and equipped her with the confidence needed to carry out his mission, he has also prepared you with the gifts and skills you need to respond to his call. He loves you, knows your name, and has called you for such a time as this.
Prayer: Jesus, your resurrection means life for me. Attune my ears to your calling and give me the confidence needed to carry out your work. Give me the words to speak and ears to hear as I respond to your call. Prepare the hearts of those I will meet so that they will be open to the work you are doing. Amen.