A retelling of John 20:11-16.
Jesus was presented before the Jews wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns—both unable to cover the hideous, deep marks of a whip. The flogging from before left him half-dead, just barely alive enough to be sent to the cross.
Pilate looked to the Jews, “Shall I crucify your King?”
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests replied. And so it was that Jesus Christ, the man who claimed to be the Messiah, was nailed to a cross by those he came to save.
Mary Magdalene was one of the few to stay nearby during Jesus’ death. Three days later, she went to his tomb early in the morning while it was still dark.
It was empty.
Has someone stolen the Lord’s body? It can’t be true.
Mary Magdalene ran for Peter and John, two of the disciples. They followed her to the tomb, finding the body to be absent like she had said, the linen burial cloths folded up in its place. Neither man understood what this meant. In defeat, they returned to their homes.
And so Mary sat alone outside Jesus’ empty grave, her body folded over, weeping.
Suddenly, a man entered the tomb—a gardener, it seemed, from what she could tell through her tears. The man spoke to her, “Why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?”
Desperate, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
The man quieted her fears with a single word—her name. “Mary.”
And in that moment, it was as though her eyes were opened. She recognized his voice. It’s him, he’s here, he’s alive!
“Rabboni, my Teacher!”
* * * * *
She thinks she’s talking to a gardener until Jesus calls her just like he said he would—by name—and it is then that she recognizes his voice.
Initially it may not seem super significant that Jesus said Mary’s name–that is the typical way of addressing a person, after all. 😉 But it is significant that Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus until he says her name…because this isn’t the first time that Jesus talks about names.
Earlier in his ministry (back in John chapter 10), Jesus shares a parable saying, “The sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice, and [the shepherd] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3b, 4b).
Jesus continues, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11).
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Three days prior to the scene in John 20, Mary watched as Christ literally died for her and for the world.
In that moment, she would’ve understood that the good shepherd analogy wasn’t an exaggeration, it was a foretelling of exactly how Jesus’ life would end. It was real-life proof of just how much Christ loves those he came to save. And he didn’t just come to save humanity. He came to save individuals—individuals with names, names he knows. Mary. James. John. You. Me.
In John 10, Jesus claims that he is the Good Shepherd, keeping intimate relationships with his followers. In John 20, he shows what that means practically as he addresses Mary by name.
He really does call his sheep by name; his sheep really do know his voice.
And that is true today just as much as it was 2,000 years ago.