Next words of Jesus: Who is it you looking for?

“Woman, who is it you looking for?” — John 20:15a (NIV)

Everyone knows about the seven last words of Christ on the cross. Many churches probably offered musical settings of them some time during Holy Week. Of course, as I wrote in the immediately previous post, Jesus violated everyone’s expectations by his resurrection from the dead. And then he had more to say. Easter Sunday has passed, but not Easter season. It’s a great time to look at the next words of Christ after the cross.

[I recently came across a book by Shane Stanford, The Seven Next Words of Christ: Finding Hope in the Resurrection Sayings (Abingdon Press, ©2006), and acknowledge my debt to it.]

We probably can’t reconcile the four surviving accounts of what happened on that chaotic Easter morning, but all agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ. In John’s account, when she saw the empty tomb, she ran to tell Peter and John. In Luke, she reported having seen Jesus. In both cases, Peter saw the empty tomb and didn’t stick around long enough to find out what happened.

John reports that Mary returned to the tomb, saw two angels, and said the same words she had spoken to Peter. They asked why she was crying. In other accounts they asked why she was looking for the living where the dead belong. Since she expected only to finish preparing a corpse for burial, what she saw and heard did not compute.

Like Peter, she was without a clue, even when she turned around and saw Jesus. Supposing him to be the gardener, she said exactly the same thing to Jesus she had said to Peter and the angels. Only when he spoke her name did she recognize him.

Today, we still find a world that obstinately refuses to conform to our expectations. In times of crisis, if we don’t act like Mary, we act more like Peter or John or Thomas,  or Cleophas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. That is, one way or another, we go into shock and it takes a long time for us to get our bearings.

In other words, no matter what we know in the spirit, no matter what we believe or how strongly we believe it, we easily miss the clues all around us that God intends what happened for our good, and not for calamity.

As Jesus came to Mary, so he came to all his other disciples, either singly or in groups. He always spoke the words or asked the question they most needed to hear in order to regain their trust and belief in him–and not only that, but to raise it to a previously unimaginable level.

I am still trying to recover from a shock that overturned my life more than two years ago, but I am no longer reeling. Jesus came to me. Look for him. Listen to his voice. He will come to you, too.


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