For quite some time, John 20:11-18 has been one of the most affecting passages in all of Scripture to me. For your reference, it’s pasted below:
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Mary for just a second. A few days ago, the man (God-man) in whom you’ve placed both your earthly and eternal hope has been brutally crucified at the hands of the Roman government and the religious elite. Indeed, Mary is so distraught that all of Jesus’ cryptic foretellings of His own death and Resurrection are nowhere to be found in the deep recesses of her mind as she approaches the tomb. Upon realizing it is empty, she has no capacity to think, “Well I’ll be, He was right.”
What’s her response? She cries, telling the angels that someone has taken her Lord away, and asking the gardener in a rich shot of dramatic irony if he has, in fact, taken the Lord’s body away. In this moment, there’s no chance that Jesus could have risen.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this passage is that the first question Christ asks after His Resurrection is, “Why are you crying?” Richard Sibbes, the puritan writer, has this to say about Christ’s question to Mary: “It is a good question after Christ’s resurrection. What cause of weeping when Christ is risen? Our sins are forgiven, because he, our head and surety, hath suffered death for us; and if Christ be risen again, why weep we? If we be broken-hearted, humbled sinners, that have interest in his death and resurrection, we have no cause to grieve.”
But it’s not only that question that’s so poignant! It’s what happens at the end of the passage that always floors me. After this whole episode in which Mary is upset, the angels ask why she is crying, as does Jesus, the questions stop. Jesus doesn’t hit her with the Socratic method in order to prove Himself to her, nor does He show her a DNA test. He merely says to her, “Mary.”
One word is all it took. A word which she no doubt heard from Jesus many times over during the three years prior to this moment resonates with her and immediately alerts her that she’s not talking to any ordinary gardener. She’s talking to the One who created the Garden, the true Vinedresser who has just covered her sins with His sacrifice.
Sibbes goes on: “Till Christ began nothing would comfort Mary. Christ began himself, and used but one word. It is a word, and but one word. Nothing will comfort but the word of Christ. The word that comforted her when he spake, and it was but one word, and yet enough, there was such fulness of spirit and comfort in that one word. And she answereth with one word again.”
Of course, this passage isn’t merely historical, and it doesn’t only have application for Mary at the empty tomb. Whenever Christ calls us to Himself, He whispers our name to us, bringing us to Him. Even after this, He continues to speak to us in His Word, ever bringing us back to Him and into His Presence. May we always hear that Voice, and may we always remember that after Christ’s resurrection, “we have no cause to grieve” in an ultimate sense.