He is risen indeed! This past weekend was unmistakably powerful to celebrate: from Palm Sunday to Easter, we got to follow along Holy Week through the tragedy of Jesus' arrest, trial, torture, death, and the glory of His resurrection. Though we go through the pain and despair of Good Friday, it is so beautiful to also see the hope and the fulfillment of prophecies on Resurrection Sunday. You can go back and listen to our Holy Thursday Devotional as well as our Resurrection Sunday Devotional from last week. I pray that both of them might be impactful for you to hear, or that you might also share them with others who don't yet know Jesus.
In our Faithful Fan Resurrection Sunday Devotional, I focused on a chunk from the Gospel of John—John 20:11-18—where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. I love this section for so many different reasons, first of which being that Jesus chooses to reveal His resurrected self first to a woman. Why is this so significant? In doing so, Jesus broke with tradition, because in that culture, women were not considered reliable witnesses in court and therefore could not testify. Yet when Jesus rose, He first commissioned a woman to begin spreading the Good News! She was appointed to go and tell; she was empowered to speak out. Jesus did not limit her or restrict her—instead, He called her into the great commission before His other disciples.
Mary Magdalene is also not one of the typical "Mary's" we think of first: she is not Mary, mother of God, or Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. But she was a follower of His, one whom Jesus drove out seven demons. She was present at the cross when Jesus was crucified. And she has been called one of His most devoted followers. So it makes sense in John 20:1 that she goes to Jesus' tomb before anyone else and sees that the stone has been rolled away. She tells Peter and John, and then they come and see for themselves. But she comes back, sorrowful and weeping that her Lord is nowhere to be found. She believes His body has been taken. And then we get verses 11-18:
My favorite part of this section is that Jesus calls Mary by name. In our current culture, the power of using one's own true name might go unnoticed, especially with the number of nicknames or vernaculars like "bro" "dude" or "girl". But there is something special about hearing your own name, and in a way it can be the greatest way for someone to connect to your identity and individuality. Think about how valued you feel when someone remembers your name after just meeting you. Or when you're at a restaurant, or have an appointment at the Apple Store, or are picking up your coffee at Starbucks, and they identify you personally by name. When someone calls your name, it says "I remember you" and "I am prepared for you".
"A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” - Dale Carnegie
But think about if Jesus were to stand right next to you, and call out your name: "Ashley." "Amy." "Christopher.""Mary."
Think about the intimacy that conveys. Using Mary's own name, or anyone's name, especially first name, assumes a familiarity and closeness beyond a formal connection. It is a fulfillment of John 10:3-5:
3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
Mary does not recognize her resurrected Lord until He calls her by name. And then she responds by recognizing His true self and calls him "Rabboni", or teacher, which is a name she may very well have used before His death and resurrection.
So what does this mean for us?
1) The foundation of our faith is true: Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, who humbled himself as human, lived among us, was tortured and died on a cross, to be raised again in fulfillment of the scriptures. His resurrection and ascension ensures that for those of us who would receive Him and believe in Him, his death paid the price of our sins (Mark 10:45, Romans 5:8). Without this miracle, we would be lost forever.
2) Our God is an intimate God. He knew us before we were even a thought in our parents' minds. He knew what our life would be like and what our thoughts and desires would be. We see this all over the Psalms, especially in Psalm 139, where He knows us so intimately, for He is the one who created us.
3) We are called to follow in Mary's footsteps and in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We as believers have been tasked with going and telling those in our spheres-of-influence about Jesus, whether that might mean telling a parable story, sharing our own testimony, or...having your own geekdom- and faith-based shop and blog :) The Lord is with us wherever we go, and He will use your specific gifts and nature to His glory, in the same way that He was glorified through His encounter with Mary Magdalene after he was resurrected.
There is so much more that could be unpacked from the Gospels and the Bible, of course, but this is a passage I have enjoyed digging into through the end of Holy Week. I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating Easter, and that this would be a time of renewal in your faith!