April 12, 2021
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
This week we are looking at the story of Mary encountering Jesus at the tomb. It’s found in John 20, and we’ll look at it directly on Wednesday and Friday. But today’s reflection comes from Isaiah because it encompasses a key part of their interaction in just a few short phrases. Mary, in the presence of the risen Jesus, fails to recognize him, thinking he is the gardener. But once he calls her name, she instantly knows who he is. She knew because, as Isaiah described here, God often revealed himself by calling people by name.
He did it with Moses in front of the burning bush. He did it as he wrestled with Jacob. He did with Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus did it with the samaritan woman at the well, when he looked into her heart and spoke the truth of who she was. When Jesus reveals himself to the woman as the Messiah, she believes it because he had already told her about herself. As she said to the townspeople, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
That’s what Jesus did with Mary Magdalene in front of the empty tomb. He simply spoke her name. In that single word I imagine were all sorts of qualities: love, warmth, invitation, familiarity. But, most importantly, as in all of the other examples given above and illustrated in the passage from Isaiah, Jesus calling Mary’s name indicated that he knew who she was. He recognized her.
I wonder if you and I, as we stand in front of our metaphorical tomb – confused, sorrowful, uncertain – should start listening for a voice that knows us. A voice that knows our fears and pain. A voice that recognizes our hopes and dreams. A voice that sees our failures and doesn’t criticize. A voice that promises more than our current circumstances would indicate. If we can find that voice, there’s a good chance it’s the voice of Jesus. It might show up in a scripture passage, a poem, the words of a friend, a sermon illustration, or a book. Wherever it’s found, if you are asking God to reveal Himself and His way to you, listen for the voice that knows you.