One thing that I find particularly interesting in the gospels is that the Holy Spirit allowed each individual personality to shine through. Johnconsistently writes about himself as if he were referring to someone else and he consistently shows himself as superior in some way. Remember back at the “last supper,” he writes, “one of his disciples , whom Jesus loved, was reclining at the table, close to Jesus.” In chapter 20, it says, that Mary ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved to tell them that the stone had been rolled away. As a result, Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple out ran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Scholars agree that this is John writing about himself.
This is so real and something that I think we can all relate to on some level. John consistently writes himself in the better light. He is the faster runner. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. John makes me laugh – “Jesus loved me more.” “I run faster than Peter.” He reminds me of a little kid. And Peter. characteristically, ran right into the tomb. Impulsive Peter. Act first. Think later. “I find it charming and rather funny to see their personalities come out in their accounts.
I also see the same probing side of Jesus in His encounter with Mary that we have come to recognize in all the previous chapters. When she turns and sees Jesus for the first time, though she does not recognize Him, He asks her some questions. ” Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Now if we are thinking temporally these are pretty crazy questions. Our family tried to play this scene in our minds as if it were happening out here on our land with the graves of our parents.
Now all this is fact: We buried my mom in April and Mark’s mom in October in a family cemetery a field away from our home. We actually made and personalized with decoration each coffin ourselves. We lowered the coffins into the graves ourselves. We covered the coffins ourselves – mounding them with dirt and landscaping around each grave site. But then I tried to imagine what it would have been like, if the morning after my mom’s burial, I went to the gravesite, to find the dirt taken out of the grave, the coffin standing open, my mom’s clothes neatly folded and left behind and her body missing. Now of course I know I would not expect anything like this to happen with my mom. But I have to ask myself, did the disciples get what Jesus had been teaching them all along? Were they expecting a resurrection? We have the benefit of hindsight, so we read the account and say, “oh, of course he’s not there, he’s risen.” But, if you had never heard of the resurrection and no one had ever done that before, would you have gone to the tomb expecting it to be empty? I don’t think so. I think anyone of us would have gone there fully expecting His body to be there.
So, with that same attitude, not expecting my mom’s grave to be empty, what would I be feeling and thinking if I found it in that condition? In that case, aren’t the questions Jesus (aka gardener) and angels ask, seemingly absurd? “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Ummmmm….Now if that were me and my neighbor,who had witnessed my mom’s burial, calmly walked up to me the next morning as I stood in front of her empty coffin and asked me these questions, you can bet I would saying something along the lines of: “What do you mean, why am I weeping? What do you mean, who am I seeking? I am seeking my mother. I laid her body in this grave yesterday. Don’t you remember? Have you seen it? Do you know anything about this? If you took it, please just give it back to me.” would be hysterical.
And yet, these are the questions Jesus asks Mary. Why?
Well, we know Jesus is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. So, just as we saw in all the previous chapters, Jesus must be probing Mary’s heart. We know He consistently speaks on the spiritual level. The spiritual world is His reality. The temporal world is simply and illusion. It is not the real thing. And all along,throughout His lifetime, He spoke and taught of what was to come. Yet very few understood because most were lost in the temporal. This is where Mary was stuck that resurrection morning.
Then, comes the simple, but amazing reveal: “Mary.”
I don’t know about you, but I imagine Jesus to be shaking His head a bit and using a tone that is perhaps slightly scolding like when He confronted Martha about her bad attitude toward her sister Mary. “Mary, Mary – did I not tell you about these things? Didn’t you know I would be back? Why didn’t you get it? Spiritually His questions make sense. Don’t they? “Mary, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Or in other words, “Mary, why in the world are you weeping? You should have known I wouldn’t be here. Weren’t you listening to my teaching? Why didn’t you get it?”
And when she reaches out to touch Him she is not allowed to. He commands her not to hold onto Him for He has not yet ascended to the Father. Did you notice that the next time Jesus appears to His disciples is in the evening? What happened to Him in between His time with Mary and His next appearance with the disciples? I have never noticed or considered these lost hours before. Might this be when He went to present Himself before the Father? Was this the time of the King’s coronation?
It is only after this time that He allows the disciples to touch Him.
Many unanswered questions remain for me that perhaps I will never know,but they fascinate me nonetheless:
- Where was Jesus when the disciples ran into the tomb?
- Was He watching them?
- Was He amused that they were running back and forth?
- What happened in those hours when He ascended to the Father? What was that reunion like?
- Why didn’t He want the disciples to touch Him until after He ascended?
John I’d love to hear any insights you have.
-March 20, 2016-