Reflection on John 20.1-18 (Easter Day, Year A)

John 20.1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. 

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. 


Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’

It always makes us feel special and valued when someone remembers our name, and especially when the person who, without hesitation, calls us by name is someone we only see occasionally. Our names form an important part of our identity. Even though there may be millions of others who share our names, they remain that which separates us from others. Sometimes our names are shared with older members of our families. It is not unusual for a name to be passed down the generations, connecting us with a time long past. Similarly, our names may be a conscious break with the past, the drawing of a line, the beginning of a new era. Our names are important to us, and that is why new parents spend so long choosing them. It is also the reason we feel diminished and demeaned when someone forgets our name.

In earlier times we were very protective of our names and how they were used. The use of a Christian name was a privilege that was only bestowed upon someone after its use had been earned through long acquaintance, through repeated acts of kindness, or some other rite of passage. Today we are more casual about such matters, although the stealing of our identity, that is the misappropriation and misuse of our names, is still considered one of the worst violations anyone can perpetrate upon us.

In today’s reading we hear of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark. Then having found the tomb empty, and all the other interaction with two of Jesus’ disciples and the two angels in white, she is confronted by a stranger whom she presumes to be the gardener. Then comes the important moment for her, and for us. The risen Jesus calls Mary by her name. Suddenly the darkness is swept away and the full joy of the resurrection is revealed … in the saying of that one word: Mary.

We spend so much of our time in darkness. The pressures of modern life crowd in upon us. Too often we struggle to hear Jesus calling us by name, extending his guiding and loving hand to lead us into the clear and radiant light of the resurrection. Therein lies the challenge for us on this Easter Day. As we proclaim the great truth: Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! let us never forget that he knows us so well that he never forgets our names, even if we sometimes forget his. Let us pray that when the darkness seems impenetrable we might remember to listen for that still small voice which calls us by name, inviting us into an ever closer relationship with him.