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Look again…


Why did she stoop down again, why did she want to look again? It is never enough for a lover to look once, because love’s intensity does not allow a lover to give up the search. Mary sought a first time and found nothing; she persevered in seeking, and so it happened that she found Jesus.’

-    Gregory the Great (Pope Gregory I), Homily 22


Over Easter this week, I’m reflecting on Mary at the tomb on the morning of Resurrection Day (John 20). She is troubled with deep sadness over the death of her friend, saviour, leader and Rabbi. She is first at the tomb the morning after Shabbat. Finding the stone to the tomb rolled away, she is now fearful and confused about the reasons why and so runs to find her friends Peter and John. After their competition dash to the tomb, John arrives first and looks in from the threshold. Peter is second and walks right in to scan the scene of discarded garments and cloths. John swiftly follows and then tells the reader that despite his lack of understanding, he believed that Jesus must be raised from the dead. They then return to their dwellings.


Mary however, lingers at the scene. She stands weeping outside the tomb. As she weeps, scripture tells us that she ‘…bent over to look into the tomb.’ You know the story well. She sees the two angels this time who ask her why she is weeping. She concludes that someone has taken the body and turns to leave. It is then that she witnesses the risen Christ who she mistakes for the grounds keeper.


Jesus calls her by name.


"Mary."


And she recognises him. "Rabboni!" she cries. Jesus sends her to tell the others.


I’m left wondering why Jesus neglected to show himself to the fellas. According to the narrative, we’re talking a matter of a few short moments. The angels and Jesus wait until they have left, wait for Mary to look again, and then show themselves. What a scene to witness?! I’m also left wondering why Jesus asked her why she was crying and whom she was looking for?


Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is constantly speaking to the desires of those He encounters, addressing the issues of the heart, motivations and longings. He is always asking questions that go directly to the why behind the what. So, this question of "whom do you seek?" is not really out of the ordinary. Mary was expecting a tomb with a rather large stone in front, and when that wasn’t there, she was looking inside for the dead body of the one she loved. She didn't find that either and so she looked again, she persevered in her seeking. Gregory’s observation is helpful here, 'love’s intensity does not allow a lover to give up the search.' I wonder if my love for Jesus would drive me to persevere in such circumstances? I wonder how many my own expectations and understanding of Jesus are rooted in misperception and I wonder if my desires for Him are strong enough to sustain me in the search? Am I willing to lay down my expectations of what I may find, and open my heart to the Risen Christ who calls my name? When He does, will I recognise Him? How will He defy my expectations?


How could He defy your expectations this Easter?


Perhaps by simply calling you by name. Have you ever heard Him say that?


Perhaps in His quiet approach towards you; in the busyness and noise of celebration, are you able to hear His gentle whisper deep in your heart?


Perhaps the message of the Risen Christ will come to you from an unexpected source, like the male disciples hearing it from Mary; maybe from one who has tasted darkness and now walks in light, perhaps someone from the margins will simply and profoundly declare to you, “I have seen the Lord!”


Mary’s heart listened to the voice of her Rabbi. That is what’s so beautiful about Jesus as a teacher. He leads people not by bold statements, clear instruction or lengthy monologue. Instead he asks questions that engage the heart and help the receiver, in this case Mary, seek him inwardly, turn towards Him at the core of their being.


In this story we see three people who witness the empty tomb. Two of them leave, while one stays to look again, to follow her heart. It is Mary who first witnesses Jesus. The first human being to witness the Lord on this glorious Resurrection Day. Jesus arrives this morning not with triumphant shouts of angelic praise; He arrives not to gloat at the Romans or the religious leaders; He arrives not in the radiant glory that He displayed at the Transfiguration. He arrives quietly and humbly. No big show, just simple yet affectionate and profound words for the one He loves dearly, the one who has walked alongside Him, who He rescued and restored, His friend who never left His side and who went in for a second look. He calls her by name and in a culture where a woman's voice carries no authority or even validity, He sends her to tell the others.


This Easter, may we all be found with a willingness to seek Him and for Him to defy our expectations. But may we also be found with perseverance, with inquisitive hearts that stoop down low at the door of the tomb, and through weeping eyes, lift our heads to look again.


Jon Timms

Director: Scotland and Northern England

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