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Lately, I've been reflecting on the story in the Bible when Mary Magdalene visits Jesus Christ's tomb and sees that the heavy stone door has been rolled back and that His body is no longer inside the tomb (John 20:14-16). She then weeps, wondering who had broken into such a sacred place and removed Christ's body. Two angels appear inside the tomb and ask why she is weeping and she explains that her Lord is missing. She turns around, and Jesus is right there. But she does not recognize Him.
Just as the angels did, Jesus asks her why she is weeping. Again, Mary explains, thinking He must be the gardener and wondering if He had taken Christ's body away. Jesus then calls her by name and Mary turns back and recognizes her Savior and says (I imagine with great emotion, excitement, and relief), "Master."
Below are some questions and thoughts that came to mind as I pondered what we can learn from Mary Magdalene and her experience.
How often do we look in an empty tomb for Christ? What can the tomb represent?
I think the tomb can represent places we mistakenly go, or things we do to seek fulfillment that can only be satisfied by Christ. For me, I think the empty tomb I turn to over and over again is a plethora of “quick fixes” and distractions, i.e., things that I try to fill a void with—things that can bring temporary, but not lasting, relief and pleasure. These things leave all of us feeling as empty as Christ’s empty tomb. Jesus cannot be found in distractions, quick fixes, or addictions.
How often do we not believe Christ is present in our lives because all we see is an empty tomb and someone or something we believe to be a figurative stranger? What can make us think Christ is not there?
For Mary and many of us, maybe it’s not understanding Christ’s promises that leaves us feeling abandoned. Maybe Mary didn’t understand what He meant when He said He’d rise again on the third day. Maybe we sometimes lack the faith to really believe that He can do what He said He’d do. Maybe we fear that we aren’t doing enough for Him to help us. Maybe we have doubts because of past experiences or because we haven’t discovered Him yet.
How often is Christ obviously helping us and we don’t recognize His influence in our lives?
Mary saw Jesus and spoke with him before she turned again and recognized Him. I believe that in order to recognize Jesus in our lives, we too must turn to Him. The Greek word for “turn” (used to describe Mary Magdalene’s turning in John chapter 20) is “strepho”, which means “to turn, turn around, turn oneself back to, or to turn one’s self from one’s course of conduct.” One form of turning is change, repentance, and purification. It is continually working on changing our conduct—our actions, speech, beliefs, and thoughts—to better match Jesus’s conduct. This is where we will find Him.
Tombs are for things that are dead—the past and the empty distractions of the world. Christ is not there, for He is risen. He and His power to heal us and help us are very much alive. He is involved in our lives right now, today, and He knows us as personally as He knew Mary Magdalene. He is calling to us just as He called out her name. Let’s turn our lives around and find Him.