Three women went to the tomb of the crucified and buried Jesus, expecting to anoint his body with spices. But they are surprised to see the stone rolled away. What had happened? Next they hear from an angel in the tomb, “Do not be afraid. He is risen.” The four gospels have slightly different versions of the exact sequence of events now. The women returned to tell the disciples to share that the body was missing but they were not believed. Peter and John run to the tomb and confirm that the body is missing. They return to the disciples but Mary Magdalene lingers. She has seen with her eyes, heard with her ears, but she is still confused. John 20:10-18 shares that a man then speaks to Mary from behind, asking who she is 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.’” Mary turns and cries out for she recognizes Jesus.
It is in this personal encounter that the reality of what “He is risen” begins to take meaning and the truth of the resurrection deeply impacts Mary’s life. We can watch movies. We can hear testimonies from others. But when we personally encounter Jesus calling our name, our lives change. I suspect she may have given him a huge hug for he then says, “Do not hold on to me.” Eyes, ears, and touch – the resurrection is real for Mary. People who have come later in history and who did not experience that hug may not have stories of “holding” Jesus but often there are stories of the feeling of being engulfed in love and of feeling completely known. Many love to hold a cross that gives that sense of connection.
I believe President Biden is president and I have seen him speak on TV and heard his words but he has never called me by name. He does not know me. I will probably never even get near him. Christianity claims that we worship a risen Savior who knows our name, calls us to our better self, and walks with us in the transformation. Mary’s story of her experience of the resurrected Jesus is the foundation for a life journey of faith that transforms.
John 10 talks about Jesus being the “Good Shepherd.” “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and the sheep know me. V.14” “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. V.22” Isaiah 49:16 ponders if a nursing mother can forget her child but concludes, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.” In this world where we sometimes feel like a social security number, a phone number, a driver’s license number, or some other impersonal identification, a resurrected savior who calls us by name and knows us is the beginning of an eternal relationship. We may mistake him for the gardener and not recognize that he is behind us, but he “has our back”, and is calling our name. May we learn to recognize his presence during this Easter season as we hear the testimonies of those who saw the risen Lord face to face. He knows our names; they’re written on the palms of his hands.