Called by name

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20.11-18)

The day was still beginning but for Mary time had stopped. The others had left her and she was there outside the tomb. The grass was dew-jewelled and she got up from where she had been kneeling, she went to look inside the tomb, to see what Peter and John had seen. She expected it empty like they had said but it wasn’t. There were two people there; well they looked like people, but in white; calm, beautiful, full of messages it seemed. She had no fear. They saw her tears and with voices like the gentle breeze of dawn asked her why she was weeping and she told them.

She felt as though she were no longer alone in another way. It is strange how we can sense when someone is behind us and that was what happened. Mary turned from these two beautiful creatures and looked back into the garden. She was looking from the darkness of the tomb into what was the first light of the new day and there was someone there.

Was it her eyes not coping with the shift from dark to light; was it the tears filming her eyes, obscuring her sight; was it the quality of this first light. Whatever, she couldn’t make out who it was.

'Noli me tangere - touch me not'

‘Noli me tangere – touch me not’

He asked her the same question that she had been asked in the tomb. ‘Why are you weeping?’ and then ‘For whom are you looking?’

Who was this person? She couldn’t see; she couldn’t think; all she knew was that she wanted Jesus and to be out of this strange disturbing yet peaceful place. She thought this stranger must work in the garden – at least he might know what had happened.

She was looking back now into the tomb as he spoke to her and she said ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ She was looking where the body had been, she was looking at the cloths lying folded, she was looking at the emptiness within which was like the emptiness in her heart and then life changed.

In the famous ‘poem’ by Henry Scott Holland, so loved at funerals, ‘Death is nothing at all’ there are these lines

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

It is when Mary hears her name in the garden, in the dawn, at the tomb, through her grief, that resurrection and truth and life break through and she wakes up to a new reality, THE new reality. Only her name could break the seal.

As the prophet Isaiah says

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

(Isaiah 43.1-2)

‘I have called you by name’. We are known by God for who we are, personally, intimately. Jesus knew the real Mary, not the notorious sinner from Magdala but the beloved of God, created in God’s image, loved by God. Jesus had died for her as he died for you and he called her into life by name, just as he called Lazarus back to life, by name. And he calls us back to life, by name.

Lord God,
at my baptism I was named as your child.
Call me into your new life,
may I hear your voice
and recognise my new self
in you.


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