“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!” (which means Teacher).
Walk up to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces in uniform, and you will see their name and rank on display. They’re easy to identify.
Watch the faces of family members when deployed troops come down the ramp to the meet-and-greet area. They don’t look for nametags or ranks. They look for faces. Loved ones are easy to recognize.
There’s a big difference between being identified and being recognized.
Identification is rational. Recognition is emotional. Recognizing a loved one brings a blip of joy. So does being recognized by a loved one. Sometimes it takes our breath away.
It did so on an Easter morning to a woman named Mary, who was from Magdala, a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. She became a follower of Jesus after he had cleansed her of seven evil spirits. She had been at the foot of his cross. She had watched his burial.
She came back to the empty tomb early Easter morning. She saw Jesus but did not recognize him at first. Then she did.
When he called her by name.
What has been called the greatest recognition scene in all literature is painted with only two words.
The hymnist wrote, “Oh, sorrow dread! God’s Son is dead!” That sorrow had seeped into the very bones of those who held Jesus dear. That hymn begins, “Oh darkest woe! O tears forth flow!” (Christian Worship 427).
Mary from Magdala was sobbing as she stood near the grave of Jesus. The pain that had pierced her soul while she watched him bleed and die throbbed anew when she discovered his tomb was now empty.
Confused and distraught, she didn’t know what to think. She had seen two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been. But that made no sense, either. When they asked, “Why are you crying?” she blurted out, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
It took Jesus to put her at ease with one word. “Mary.”
He called her by name.
He wasn’t a stranger. He was her teacher. He was her Savior.
He had not left her. He never would. He knew her before she was born. He knew her before demons tormented her. He knew she was at the foot of the cross.
He knew her. She was not a stranger to him.
“I am the good shepherd;” he had said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).
To be a member of the family of God is to be known by the Almighty One. To those who call upon him as God and Lord, he says, “Do not be afraid, because I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1 EHV).
Few words pack a punch as powerful as these.
At times, it may seem we are all alone. We may think that in the middle of the billions of people who live here, we are just nameless faces in an indifferent crowd.
We may not see Jesus or his angels in our lives; we may not think they are watching over us.
We may become confused, discouraged, or dismayed. But we are not alone. We are not on our own.
He calls us by name. He did that when we were baptized into his name. He did that as we awoke to each new day in our life.
He calls us by our name. We call him by the name the angel announced. “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
And one day, he will call us by name and say with a smile, “It’s time to come home.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we call you “Savior.” You call us “Friend.” We delight to sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” It astounds us that you can call us by the name our parents gave us. Remind us that you have redeemed us. Remind us that we belong to you. Assure us that we need nothing more. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why was the sight of the angels not enough to calm Mary’s fears?
- Why was it so important to her that she find his body?
- Why do you think Jesus did not immediately identify himself?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.