Recognizing Jesus

John 20:11-18
Acts 2:36-41 / Psa 33

. . . she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
(John 20:14)

Declare, ’though we have never seen,
Share with all who care to listen,
The Word from Mary Magdalene:
Our Lord, Jesus Christ has risen!

Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that He had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)

Reflection

Was it because she was crying, and her vision was blurred, or was it because the appearance of Jesus was transformed after His Resurrection that Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Him when our Lord stood before her? Besides, this encounter happened very early in the morning, and it was probably still dark. Initially, she thought the person who asked her why she was weeping was the area’s gardener, because it was obvious that she was not expecting to see Jesus alive. It was only after He addressed her by her name in the loving tone that she recognized that she immediately realized her Lord and Master had truly risen from the dead. Then her tears of despair (that the body of her beloved Master had been taken away) turned to cries of joy; so much joy that she could not restrain herself from embracing the feet of Jesus in loving homage (Mt.28:9).

There are two common “blinders” that prevent us from seeing what is real, even when it is right there under our very noses. Like Mary Magdalene who was looking for Jesus even when He was standing right there beside her. The first is our mindset. When we have been preconditioned to expect the familiar and obvious, we fail to see the unusual or extraordinary. After witnessing the brutal crucifixion, death, and burial of her Master, Mary Magdalene’s grief had made her forget that Jesus had said He would rise again on the third day. The second are the unnecessary distractions of the world. Women are quite susceptible to this because of their preoccupation with details and their emotionalism. Mary Magdalene had prepared the spices, and went early to the burial site. She and her companion had even worried about who would roll back the large stone covering the tomb’s entrance (Mk.16:3). She had reacted emotionally (weeping) when she beheld an empty tomb, and only recognized Jesus when He called her name.

Let the example of Mary Magdalene’s devotion lead us to cling to Jesus in adoration, love, and faith. But He doesn’t want us to just “hold on” to Him if we have found Him in our hearts. He also wants us to “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” It is a clear mandate for us to declare to others that our Lord Jesus Christ has truly risen.

Dear God, thank You for the example of Mary Magdalene, once a great sinner whom Your Beloved Son turned into a great saint. May her love and devotion inspire us to recognize Jesus in others, so that we too may learn the true meaning of love. Amen.

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