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John 20:11-16

Now Mary 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?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “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”).

I can imagine how Mary was feeling. She had given up everything to follow this man she believed to be the Messiah. Her identity was tied up in him, and he had been not only a teacher and religious leader, but a close friend and loved one. And now it looked like he must have been a raving madman, because he didn’t do what he said he would. He was supposed to change everything, and instead, he died.

I imagine that at first, Mary grieved because of the loss of a dear friend. She had loved Jesus, confided in him, trusted him, and he had left and she was mourning.

Then I imagine she grieved the loss of her faith, the loss of her understanding of the world. If Jesus wasn’t the only way, where should she center her life now? What should she do with all the things she had supposedly learned from him?

From there, I’m sure it was easy to feel angry and betrayed. Why had she walked away from her old life only to be let down? Now she was a target and the disciples had to be in hiding, all for a false prophet who had lied to them. How could he! If only she had never met Jesus, she would have been better off.

In the middle of all of these feelings, she wakes up early to visit the tomb. She still felt some loyalty and respect and love for Jesus. I imagine as she walked up to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved, she assumed someone else was in there working on putting some good smelling stuff down and finishing up the burial rites correctly. She might have felt a little nervous as she peeked around the corner into the tomb, but I am sure she felt confused and angry and frightened when she realized that no one was in there- including Jesus, who wasn’t supposed to be able to move anymore.

And then we arrive at this scene. Mary is confused and angry and scared, crying outside the tomb. And Jesus shows up in the middle of the mess he brought her into. Jesus shows up and asks why she’s crying.

Honestly, it’s always made me a little mad that Jesus greets her with, “Woman, why are you crying?” First, he certainly knows why she’s crying. This is just a cruel rhetorical question. But to add insult to injury, Mary is crying because Jesus has left her. She doesn’t just feel abandoned by Jesus or alone in the world, she isn’t just going through a “dry spell”, and most importantly this isn’t going to get better. Jesus has literally died and she watched it happen. He actually has left her and all of his followers in the middle of a really big mess. And he asks why she’s crying.

Mary, to her credit, says the ancient Hebrew equivalent of, “Look man, it’s been an emotional week and I’m not in the mood for chit chat. If you know where the guy who was buried in this tomb yesterday is now, I’ll go get him from wherever that is, no questions asked.” I imagine she was glaring at the “gardener” through her tears, daring him with her eyes to say anything else to her. I’ve heard people guess that perhaps she didn’t really look up at him, or that it was hard to see him, but I don’t think so. I think she stared at him hard and angry.

And then, the impossible. The gardener, whispering, taking a step closer, apology and sorrow in his eyes, says, “Mary”. He calls her name, and she can see. There is not a moment of hesitation, not a moment of “But I watched you die…”, no recorded disbelief, just a joyful realization. “Rabboni!”

Because when Jesus is gone, not just far away, but dead and gone, there is no hope, only confusion and anger and sorrow. But in a resurrected Jesus, an Easter Jesus, who calls out my name, even when it feels like he’s been gone for a long long time and I don’t know whether I feel confused or angry or sad anymore, when that Jesus calls out my name, there is joy and hope. Joy and hope and not even a moment of hesitation.

May the Easter Jesus who lives on today call out your name and restore your hope and joy in him.