Reading: John 20: 1-18
We went to a memorial service recently. On Waitangi Day actually. We were able to take some of our friend’s ashes and scatter them in the garden of the church in the city.
The interesting experience for me happened when we first arrived. We were walking around the grounds and I passed the gardener who was on his haunches digging away in one of the beds. Amazing – I thought – on a public holiday too. He had an old floppy hat on, and typical non-descript gardening gear. Not your Sunday best.
When I walked past him a second him he got up – and I discovered I knew him very well. And had done so for over ten years.
I couldn’t help at that moment thinking of Mary at the tomb.
“Thinking he was the gardener…” (v15) – she asks Jesus where his body was.
It raises questions for the curious mind. What was Jesus wearing?
His burial gear was in the tomb.
She doesn’t recognize him at all.
Did he look like a gardener?
Or is this the stuff that happens when you’ve lost a loved one and your mind plays tricks on you.
Grief does strange things. I remember a good friend who died at 19. I was his youth leader. Yes, I know you find that strange – I was young enough once to be a youth leader.
I’d seen Duncan after he died. I went with his parents to support them at the viewing.
So, I knew my mind was playing tricks when I thought I saw him a couple of times in a crowd. Or in public place.
It’s like a fog when you grieve.
The responses of all the disciples are understandable over that weekend.
They knew he was dead.
It would have torn their hearts in two.
Sometimes we live in that kind of fog – of protracted grief and sorrow – not only because we mourn our loved ones – because we have all kinds of losses we still mourn.
- For immigrants – the country of our birth.
- For those of us who feel the weariness of aging – we mourn our youth.
- For those whose marriage had died – there is mourning for lost love.
- For those who feel alone – there is grieving for the years when we really enjoyed intimate close friends.
- For those who suffer – we mourn the loss of those care free days when getting out of bed was pain free and worry free.
- For children changing school or moving home there are real losses too.
They all have their own kind of fog – those emotions.
Which makes the Easter story even more powerful. Even when people in their pain cry out that God is unfair and that if he were so loving he would understand our agony and do something about it – Easter tells us that he does and that he did.
He does understand, and he did do something.
Jesus took all this mess and agony on the cross.
He really does understand our pain.
And like Mary in the garden – our focus can be wrong.
Mary didn’t need to go to Specsavers.
You often see what you expect to see. Or you don’t see what you have ruled out as a possibility.
What changes this?
He calls her name.
Joh 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
It is one of the most beautiful moments in the whole of Scripture.
In her complicated life hearing Jesus speak her name before was a sacramental moment of grace – she was drawn into a new life and community by this amazing appealing attractive man who drew all kinds of people to himself – the ones needing healing, the ones who made holes in the roof – those Greeks who were wanting to see him – tax collectors, outcastes, rejects.
Many heard him speak their name.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
She knew that voice. No wax in those ears.
This is that intimate voice and a personal address.
Not a distant cosmic Lord but a close, loving address from someone who knows our deepest needs, our histories, our dreams and our losses.
It sounds a bit like John 10 – that passage about the Good Shepherd:
“The sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). Thereafter the Good Shepherd says, “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).
It’s not surprising that Mary recognizes the risen Christ when this Good Shepherd’s voice is heard calling her name.
Let Jesus call your own name, and the name of whoever you’ve brought with you, whoever needs his love and healing today.
Maybe for the first time – or maybe if it’s a long time since you heard his voice.
He really is alive and speaks today.
For Easter to be real we all need to hear the good shepherd speak our name.
We become part of this Easter community. That is what church really is.
A people of the resurrection who know Jesus now. And who know His voice.
A people whose grief is healed, whose fog is lifted, and who know what their purpose is – glorifying God, enjoying Him forever, and sharing the good news of Easter every day.
- That Christ has died.
- Christ is risen
- Christ will come again.
For now, we live in that waiting zone, living for him until he comes. –