Sunday, April 23, 2023

When He Speaks Our Name

 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb…But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).”

John 20:1; 14-16 (NRSV).

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, Jesus was dead. This must be fully understood, or nothing wonderful can come from this story. Friday should have been the end of it. Except it wasn’t. Jerusalem and Rome, religious authority and civil authority, conspired to murder God. Let that sink in for a minute-God allowing himself to be murdered. But just for a minute, that’s not our main point. 

Apart from 1Peter 9-20, which is difficult for us moderns to understand and has little bearing on our present meditation, we don’t know exactly what happened between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. We do know this: John tells us Mary was first to arrive and last to leave. In between coming and going, she encounters the risen Jesus and mistakes him for the gardener. 

Which is one way to read our passage. Another way to read it is Jesus was intentionally masquerading as the gardener. Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus until Jesus speaks her name. Now, this does have modern day implications for modern day readers. 

First, on the ‘passive’ side, we ask the question: who masquerades as Jesus in our everyday lives? Do we-can we-recognize Jesus walking among us disguised as a gardener, or a fast food worker, or a homeless person, a delinquent child, a pastor or politician or police officer? Do we recognize his voice when our name is spoken?

Second, on the ‘active’ side, are we allowing Jesus to walk about masquerading as us? Who hears Jesus speak when we speak? Who sees Jesus act when we act? “

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:24-17 (NRSV).

Those of us who claim the title ‘Christian’, who claim to be a part of that ancient faith, who aspire to be followers of Christ Jesus, must keep these questions in the forefront of our thoughts, words and deeds at all times. Notice the order here. Thoughts. Words. Deeds.

Amen. Let it be so.

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