Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 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.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:11-16)
Last week I mentioned that I was hoping to be in Lincoln on Wednesday to celebrate my mum’s birthday with her. What I didn’t mention was that this visit was a surprise for my mum. In order to make the surprise a success I had needed the help of various other members of the family. Firstly my dad needed to know I would be coming, next my younger brother and his husband needed to know as I wanted to stay the night before over at their house and they also needed to know that if dad put birthday cake on the food shopping list they were to ignore it as I was going to bring a homemade birthday cake up with me. I left Scaldwell on the Tuesday evening after my usual daily chat with my mum on the phone and hoped that she wouldn’t call back for any reason and find out that I was not there.
Wednesday morning arrived, I put on my new blouse (one that my mum had not seen me in before), put the cake in my car and drove the short distance from my brother’s house to my parent’s bungalow. I pulled up in front of the kitchen window, got out of the car, with the cake and rang on the doorbell. My mum answered the door and I said “Did someone order a cake?”
What I had not expected was that my mum did not at first recognise it was me. As far as she was concerned I was in Scaldwell (which is, after all, where I had told her I would be), I was wearing a blouse that she had not seen before and I was carrying a cake that she knew nothing about. Logic told her that it could not be me and her mind tried to find a logical answer to who I was. Once she realised it was me, she was delighted with the surprise and we had a lovely day together.
This reminded me of the account in John’s gospel of the first Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus in the garden outside the tomb, but she does not recognise him. I expect that he won’t have looked exactly as he might have done before, maybe his clothes looked different, and she certainly was not expecting him to be standing in front of her. Many theories have been proposed about why Mary did not recognise Jesus, but for me she simply did not expect it to be him and if logic tells you that it can’t be Jesus standing there, then it is easy not to recognise him.
If we want to see God’s work in our lives, we need to be open to seeing that it is him who is speaking to us and guiding us. Sometimes we will call it conscience, or common sense or even just coincidence, but maybe we are missing the fact that it is God at work, God who is talking to us. We need to live our lives expecting to see God, expecting to hear him and then maybe we will have the chance to recognise him more often.
The lines to a song that we often sang when I was a child goes ‘Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done’. Let us be prepared to be surprised.
Loving Heavenly Father, you are a God of surprises. Your ways are unlike our ways and your thoughts so far above ours that we cannot understand why you would love us so, but we know that you do and we live safe in the knowledge of that love.
Song: Blessed by your name (Matt Redman)