Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Blinded by our tears

SOMETIMES WE THINK that devotion and doubt are opposite ends of the faith spectrum, but they’re a lot closer than that. Sometimes just a few days apart, as with Mary Magdalene.

She was one of Jesus’s closest followers. She’d seen Him perform miracles and heard Him speak about how He would come back from the grave; she knew He had power over death (having raised the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’s daughter, and His friend Lazarus).

Yet on Easter Sunday morning, just a week after she presumably rejoiced with all the others as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, she goes to His grave to tend to a corpse. To the tomb where He has been laid after being taken down from the cross. Jesus has risen, but in her mind and heart she can’t believe it: she still has Him in a box.

She still loves Him, clearly, as she is wanting to care for Him. She hasn’t deserted Him. But in the account of John 20 there is disappointment and doubt. Things haven’t turned out the way that she thought they should.

If you can identify with Mary in some way here, take comfort from her experience in the garden. Having seen the empty tomb, she mistakes her risen Savior for the caretaker. “Why are you crying?” He asks her (v. 15). She has been grieving because “they have taken away my Lord” (v. 13).

Maybe you know how she feels; perhaps someone has said or done something that has, in some way, “stolen” the Jesus you knew. If so, remember this: in your sense of loss and letdown, your tears may be preventing you from seeing clearly. But the resurrected Jesus is close at hand, He sees you, and He calls your name (v. 16).

As it dawns on her Who this is, Jesus cautions Mary, “Don’t cling to me” (v. 17). In other words, to encounter Jesus as He really is, we may need to let go of the way we thought He was or should be. We can’t hold on to how we wish things might have been. But Jesus has more if we are open to discovering Him as He truly is—beyond our hopes and expectations.

In encountering Him afresh, as He truly is, rather than in any ways we may have formed Him in our understanding, we will be renewed in hope. We will be able to tell others as Mary does, “I have seen the Lord!” (v.18).

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