Who are you looking for?

I remember my first time flying on a plane. My parents were taking my sister and I on holiday to central Europe and I’d convinced myself we’d be travelling by train and boat. When we got to the airport I was just confused. It wasn’t what I’d expected. It took me a while to figure out why we had to check in our bags, and why there was no train.

Unexpected events can be hard to process. That was the experience of the followers of Jesus on the first Easter Sunday morning. One of them, Mary Magdalene, set out early with a group of women to go to Jesus’ tomb. When she got there, she saw that the stone which had covered the entrance had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus’ body had disappeared.

Although Jesus had told his followers several times that he would die and then rise from the dead, it wasn’t what she expected that morning. The empty tomb should have been a cause for excitement; instead, it was a place of sadness. Later, Mary stood outside the tomb, crying by herself. We can understand her pain and grief.

Turning around she saw a man. It was Jesus, but Mary didn’t recognise him. She thought he was the gardener. He asked her two questions. First, ‘Why are you crying? Then, ‘Who are you looking for?’ She pleaded with the man to show her where she could find Jesus’ body so that she could carry it back to the tomb and lay it to rest.

It wasn’t until Jesus spoke again that Mary saw things clearly. The Bible tells us he called out her name, ‘Mary’ and at that point she realised who he was. Her sadness turned to joy, and she went back to tell the others.

As I write this, I’m struck by the questions that Jesus asked Mary outside the tomb. The first is a compassionate rebuke. Why was Mary crying? Jesus had told her he would rise from the dead so why was she so sad. Yet, there is no harshness in Jesus’ tone. His words are gentle and kind.

The second is a probing question. Who was Mary looking for? In her mind she was looking for someone who used to be alive, not someone who was alive. She was looking for someone who she had known, not someone she could still know. Yet, Jesus wasn’t just someone from the past, he was alive and stood in front of her.

I wonder, how do you think about Jesus today? Very few would deny that he existed, and his teachings have been respected by many people from different religions. Is Jesus only a figure from the past? The Bible makes an incredible claim that we celebrate at Easter time. It says that Jesus rose from the dead. If that’s true he is someone we can come to know today, not just as a man who lived a long time ago, but as God’s Son who is alive now.

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