Today’s reading: John 20:1-18
Mary came to the tomb before sunrise. She’s alone when the angels ask her why she’s weeping. It’s likely that in her grief she didn’t realize who they were or why their presence was odd. She didn’t care; she just wanted to be with Jesus. Her teacher, the one who cast demons out of her and set her free, was gone, not even a body left to care for. She doesn’t know it’s Jesus who asks her why she weeps and who she’s looking for. Please, she says, just tell me where you put him so I can take care of him, so I can be there for him the way he was there for me. Please.
She knows it’s just a body. She knows Jesus isn’t alive anymore. She knows his tomb will eventually hold nothing but dust and emptiness. But if sitting by his body is all she has, she’ll take it. And when that body goes missing, she doesn’t give up. The other disciples have gone home, not even to report the body or look for it. They just leave. But Mary stays. She wants to be with Jesus.
God wants the same thing that Mary wants – to be reunited. In Mary’s mind, the best she can settle for is watching and weeping over her Rabboni until he returns to dust. But God doesn’t ask us to settle for a love that has us sit by a cold, dusty tomb, where nothing but ashes and chill linger.
Isn’t it strange how insistent Mary is on finding Jesus’ body? What good will it do her now? All of the other apostles have left. None of them have tried to find Jesus’ body. And yet, here is Mary asking, “Where is Jesus?”
What a beautiful moment it must have been when Mary finally realizes who is standing in front of her. He says to her, “Mary!” and suddenly, she knows him. Jesus calls her by name, and she sees that her precious Rabboni has returned to her.
When Mary doesn’t realize who Jesus is yet, she asks for his body to be returned so she can care for it. What she doesn’t know is that Jesus has risen again. Mary finally understands: the tomb isn’t empty because hope has fled. It’s empty because Jesus is alive.
All of creation is about the longing and love of God, and this moment of resurrection is the culmination of that love. Not even death can separate us from God. We may grieve for the things we’ve lost, but God wants to give us more than we can imagine, and has more in store for us than we can believe.
Sometimes people ask, “How could Mary not recognize Jesus?” There are many theories, but maybe one facet is that we can be so focused on what we think needs to be done that we miss what’s already happened. We don’t yet understand.
Everywhere we look, there’s work to be done. There’s death, grief, destruction. We see a very clear picture of the ugliness that humans visit upon one another. It’s devastating when you realize how vast systems of oppression can be. What hope is there that they’ll be dismantled in our lifetime? In the lifetime of our children or our grandchildren??
But God is doing the work. God has already done the work. You are not alone. I am not alone. We have not been abandoned. Our place in this plot isn’t solely to grieve by an empty tomb, to lament the ways we harm one another, to desperately wish for direction and help. Yes, there is despair, but there is also hope.
God wants more for us than we can imagine.
Mary was focused on doing what she could, and that put her in the right place to see Jesus before anyone else did. Even if she couldn’t see a glimpse of God’s plan, she came to the tomb. She’s doing what she can.
And in those bleak moments of grief and despair, she couldn’t have imagined a future like this. God gives Mary more than what she asks for. God doesn’t give her back a corpse; God makes a brand-new creation.
Earlier in the morning, she only had bad news to deliver, and now she runs to tell Good News. Carry that Good News, friends. We have hope for a future that’s even brighter than the one we’re working towards. There is a God who is doing the work, and has already done it.
God calls us by name, shows us a new creation, and waits for that moment when we understand. God wants to be known, and they’re going to show us the most dazzling display of love we can imagine. They don’t tell us to stop crying; they ask us what we’re looking for and then wait for us to see them, standing in front of us.
Created by: Stella Won
About the author: Stella is a second-gen KA who lives in Southern California. She has a passing interest in most things and a passionate interest in justice, literature, representation in media, education, food, pop culture, crafting, and all things cute. She is addicted to personality tests, but never agrees with the results.
Image by: Hannah Yoon
About the artist: Hannah Yoon is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Ontario. She focuses on issues revolving around race and identity.