I can’t get John’s story of Mary at the tomb out of my head. (Check out John 20:10-17 in the Message) Four times John references her crying. Three times she is given an opportunity to “see”, which is the next key word in this short interchange. Kneeling, she looked and saw two angels. She turns away and saw Jesus but did not recognize Him. When He calls her name she turns to face Him. Now she ‘sees’. Light has dawned.
Pondering Mary’s tears it occurred to me that I’m most self-absorbed when crying. Absorbed with “my loss”, “my struggle” or even “my sin”, I can’t properly ‘see’ what’s really going on around me. I may observe, but I do not perceive. Mary weeping misses what’s going on around her. She looks at two angels but only saw her loss and confusion. “They took my Master, and I don’t know…” Unfazed by this interchange she turns away and sees Jesus standing there. But she did not recognize Him. Still dazed with her grief and confusion, she cannot really see until Jesus speaks her name.
Even though she misses what’s going on around her, with each misperception we begin to understand our Lord’s patience and grace. Two angels were on hand to help her ‘see’. She misses that only to turn and misperceive Jesus standing in the garden. Again, missing that, Jesus speaks her name and now she perceives the truth. He is alive, a risen Savior. Our Lord woos us, presenting so many opportunities for us to ‘see’ Him in our lives, to get past our self-absorption, our hurts, our emptiness, our loss to actually see what He is up to. He calls us out of ourselves into the light of His reality.
Another thing I think worth mentioning is that each encounter is personal at varying levels. Each encounter is gentle and inviting. Men did not usually address women, yet the angels kindly asked her why she was crying. Jesus, standing there, asks her the same question. Then He adds some definition to her tears, “Who are you looking for?” Jesus pushes into her tears and confusion. “Mary, I know why you are crying. Do you? You thought you came here looking for a dead body, not a living, breathing Savior. But I know your heart, I know you long for the reality of my presence… when you ‘see,’ that desire will be realized.” Still she misperceives. “Sir, if you took the body, just tell me where he is and I’ll care for him.” Then Jesus provides the final nudge. He speaks her name, “Mary”. Only then does she turn to face Him. Turning from concern for herself she faces her true desire. And her heart responds.
So do I. And I suspect, you do too. When light finally dawns penetrating our self-absorptoin through Christ’s patient and gentle wooing, something deep and true responds in worship. We can’t help it. It’s the most natural response.
Mary’s story is a bit like mine. Muddled by my pre-occupation with all that seems necessary and urgent I often miss the obvious – He is risen. That’s why Mary’s story gives me hope. Seeing is possible. And more importantly, Jesus continually give me opportunities to do so.