John 20: 1-23 – Stay in Awe
When was the last time you stood in awe or wonder of something?
When was the last time something left you dazed and confused?
In the Gospel of John chapter 20, individuals are still living in the shock and shadow of the death of Jesus. Early, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus, finds it empty, and ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, presumably John himself.
Mary relays to them an incorrect story. She thinks someone took Jesus’ body and now does not know where it is. The disciples run to the tomb and notice strips of linen and a cloth that covered Jesus’ head. Surely no one would take a corpse and unwrap it first.
This line of thinking brings John to write that in that moment he believed. The disciples go home but Mary stays by the tomb.
At the tomb Mary weeps, bent over near the tomb until she sees two angels. Mary has a conversation with the angels still supposing Jesus had been taken away by the “they”. Who know’s who the “they” were? Who knows if Mary was rational in this moment?
She neglects the clues.
Then, Jesus shows up, and she doesn’t realize. Perhaps, she is too overcome by emotion in this moment to look at her surroundings. Maybe she finds it hard to see through her tears.
Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, and she says something that I don’t quite understand why it makes my eyes water while I write this at work. She says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
And Jesus says back, “Mary.”
At the sound of her name coming from her Lord and friend, her disposition and perception changes instantly.
Have you ever so misinterpreted a situation that it muddled your outlook on life to the point where truth became very difficult to comprehend?
For Mary, the death, the empty tomb, the angels were for her, all reminders that Jesus was not there. Yet in the mind and heart of God, these were all to serve to remind that Jesus has always been there. To the end, his love was present and powerful.
And it wasn’t until Mary heard her name from Jesus that this came into view. Hindsight flooded her, and Jesus sends her to deliver a very good message: “I have seen the Lord!”
I like to imagine Mary frantically out of breath recounting this story. “I went and saw the tomb empty and talked to people dressed in white and then I saw the Lord. I thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus. He said my name. I knew as soon as he said my name. He is really alive.”
I imagine in that moment Mary felt alive too, more alive than ever before.
Later, that same night, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are hiding from the Jewish leaders. He reveals himself and they are overjoyed. He breathes on them while giving them instruction to receive the Holy Spirit and to forgive.
This chapter moves from surprise to surprise, but the surprise doesn’t at this point lead to unction. Jesus tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure they do in this moment. That’s not to say they don’t, but later he will tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit.
In moments of awe, we are to embrace the surprise and wait for instruction. If something awes us, it should change us even if only slightly. Moments of awe make way for the eventual unction to move.
And when we move, we likewise, appear.