“Why are you crying?” (John 20:15)
I don’t cry, much.
OK, I’ve been known to get misty-eyed during some episodes of Heartland, and I’ll admit that Florence Foster Jenkins left a lump the size of an apple in my throat. Kim tells me that I have softened with age … and that’s a good thing. Granite is only attractive in Yosemite National Park or on a kitchen counter-top, not in bed beside you at night.
So, this question from Jesus took me by surprise. “Why are you crying?”
In John 20, Mary Magdalene has gone to the empty tomb of Jesus. She is shocked and horrified to find it empty. Someone has done the unthinkable; broken into the tomb and taken His body (20:3). She runs and reports it to Peter and John who high-tail it to the tomb to look for themselves. (John discreetly mentions, three times, that he outran Peter!) It’s true. Jesus is gone. And Mary returns to the tomb, and stands there crying.
“Why are you crying?”
Mary’s tears flowed from deep personal pain and grief. After a life of hardship and demonic enslavement (Luke 8:2), she had now lost twice (at the cross and the tomb) the one man who had restored her dignity and value. And she is so overcome with her tears that she fails to recognize the risen Christ in front of her.
I don’t cry much. When I’m deeply wounded I tend to internalize my emotions. Tears don’t flow, but endless looping tapes start in my mind. I start rationalizing, calculating, strategizing, and planning. But the outcome is the same as with Mary so long ago: I fail to recognize the risen Christ in front of me.
“Why are you crying?”
I don’t imagine Jesus asking the question with a mean spirit. He is not belittling Mary. Rather, He asks the question precisely so He might reveal Himself to her; which He does.
Pain, fear, or loss may produce tears, or any number of other responses. But whatever our learned response may be, it can blind us to the risen Christ in front of us.
Are you facing a loss or a fear on this fourth day of Lent? Worried about something large in your life? Wounded or grieved by something that has happened even just this past week? Jesus simply spoke Mary’s name, and her distracting tears subsided.
Perhaps He’ll speak your name and my name again today, if we’ll listen, and restore to us joy, hope, and peace in His Presence.