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"From Missing to Meeting: Known, Needed, N.O.K."

Easter Sunday Apr.5, 2015 10:30 a.m. Jn.20:11-18


In the mixed-up muddledness of that first Easter morning, what with tombstones rolled away and bodies gone missing, women and disciples scurrying back and forth trying to piece together what else has gone wrong - a solitary woeful voice rings out. Jn 20:11 "Mary stood outside the tomb, crying." This is not muffled sobs or sniffling; NIV Study Bible notes that, as at the tomb of Lazarus, it means "wailing", a loud expression of grief. Why might this be affecting this person this much?

We don't know a lot of detail about Mary Magdalene. Her name just means she's likely from the Galilean village of Magdala. Luke tells us in Lk 8:2 of "some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out..." Likewise in Mark 16:9 we're told Jesus "had driven 7 demons" out of her. Perhaps there had been some occult involvement on the part of either her or her forebears and these were definite evil spirit-beings. Perhaps though it was more what we'd call "schizophrenia" today, or some other psychotic condition, such as hearing voices, seeing things. The movie A Beautiful Mind featured Russell Crowe starring as a brilliant mathematician who suffered from delusions: he was seeing people who just weren't there. Medication helped control it, but that interfered with his mental ability, so he learned to get by with less medication and just determined not to pay attention to the voices and figures who attempted to distract him.

Either way, what might Mary have been feeling as she stood there outside the disturbed tomb? Disturbed even more herself? Jesus her Master who had driven out the demons was gone. She had learned to function normally again the last 3 years as she followed Him on His preaching & healing forays; how would she carry on? Would the demons come back? Where would she go? What was the point in living if not even the most innocent, pure, loving man alive, a miracle-worker who could walk on water, calm storms and raise the dead - if not even HE could stand against the forces of evil in "the system"? Most of all, she felt so awfully ALONE. She had drawn strength from this incredible Teacher, and now He was gone.

So, she wailed. She had to give expression to her grief, to vent. Is that where you find yourself this Easter? Have you experienced devastating losses this past year? Has something changed, some relationship been affected, some ability diminished, so you wonder how you are ever going to manage? What's been most upsetting to you lately?

It's hard to imagine what it must have been likely to have been afflicted mentally or spiritually as Mary Magdalene had been before she met Jesus. To have had not one or two or three, but SEVEN demons! Had she seen parents draw their children to one side as she came walking down the street, whispering to them to stay away from that "crazy lady"? But for sure, now her world had been jolted upside down by the events of the past few days. She wasn't even sure if she knew who she was apart from Jesus. He'd been instrumental in helping her recover - and now He, her mainstay, her chief therapist and counsellor, wasn't there.


One more time she stoops to peek inside the tomb at the graveclothes that once enwrapped her Lord. V12 she "saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot." Friday He'd been hung between two rebels, two terrorists; today, His location is between different company as it were - two angels. Normally the sight of angels causes witnesses in Scripture to be filled with dread or fall to their faces in fear, but Mary seems strangely unaffected. Her loss is still the dominant reality in her mind. When they ask why she's crying she replies, v13 "They have taken my Lord away,...and I don't know where they have put him." His absence prevails even over such an unusual event as seeing angels!

She turns around and sees someone standing there. They inquire why she's crying, whom she's seeking. V15B "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."" Somehow the impracticality and difficulty of hauling away a full-grown man's body doesn't seem to register with her: her main object, her driving focus, is to GET HIM. Find Him. Be with Him...even if He's dead. She knows herself only in relation to Him.

And then comes a single word floating gently and lovingly through the early-morning stillness that must have shook her soul like a sonic boom: "Mary." It was Jesus' voice! Her name had been said in a way only He would have said it! Could it be true? Was her mind playing tricks on her again? No, she definitely heard it - HE'S ALIVE!

Interesting, the impact of a single word - Mary's name, as spoken by her Lord. The syllables carried the essence of their relationship, it echoed the history they'd had together, the new person she'd become under His influence, the restoration of soul for which His miraculous healing power had been responsible. It was the Shepherd calling His sheep, His vulnerable little lamb. A Shepherd who knew her only the way a God-man could.

This same "being known" applies to us who come to Jesus. John throughout his gospel has been emphasizing Christ's supernatural insight into the hidden recesses of each person's character: Jn 2:24f "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man." Even His critics and opponents - Lk 5:22 "Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?"

Back when He was teaching about being the Good Shepherd He had said, Jn 10:3-4 "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name...and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." And in 10:27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Whoever you are - Jesus KNOWS you. He not only knows your past, He also knows the great future you can have in fellowship with Him, if you let Him lead. Know Him and experience the joy of being known by Him, treasured by Him. And at the end of time, He has a new name awaiting you, known only to you and Him (Rev 2:17).


Recognizing Him, Mary impulsively turns toward Him, possibly falling down and grasping His feet, crying out, "My Teacher!" She is clearly overwhelmed and wants this moment to last forever, just as Peter would have liked to camp out perpetually on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (Mk 9:5). But Jesus has more to do, others to see - including an upcoming appointment with 2 travellers on the Road to Emmaus later the same day (Lk 24:13ff). Ever about the Father's business (Jn 5:19,36). So He bids Mary not to keep on clinging to Him; He adds in v17, "Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Meeting Jesus, we discover we are not only KNOWN, we are also NEEDED. He has a task for us to do, a purpose for our being, a mission to carry out suited specifically to us. Mary Magdalene, this once-broken "crazy woman" afflicted with seven demons, is chosen to become the very first evangelist, the first eyewitness to Jesus' bodily resurrection. At a time in history when women's testimony wasn't even admissible in a court of law! Why did God choose Mary, of all people? Why did Jesus appear to her first, instead of Peter chief of the apostles in some logical order? Perhaps she needed Him the most. Her great love had driven her to the tomb while it was still dark, and kept her there after the other women apparently had left. And so Jesus commissioned her to be the bearer of awesomely important news, an earth-shaking cosmos-shattering announcement. God was pleased for her to rocket from "crazy woman" to "prime witness". What a boost to her esteem!

Likewise, Jesus has a job for each of us who come to Him for meaning, purpose, and direction. So Paul writes in Eph 4:8,11f "This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."...It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for [WHAT?] works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up..." Christ blesses you with a gift and sends you into the world to serve or minister to others in His name, as His body. YOU ARE NEEDED. The whole body - hands, feet, ears, tongue, legs...Jesus' restorative right-wising work goes on in the world today, just as He healed Mary.


KNOWN - NEEDED - Jesus also gives us NEXT OF KIN. When Mary had those 7 unwelcome intruders, they had taken over her life, made her a prisoner in her own body. When they were exorcised, it probably took her a while to find out who she really was. Who knows what toll that affliction had taken on her relationships? Had her relatives and family learned to avoid her because of social unconventionality? Had her neighbours shunned her because of uncontrolled outbursts? Standing outside the tomb wailing, she had likely felt utterly ALONE without her Leader.

But suddenly, Jesus is implying she has a whole new FAMILY! Did you catch that in v17? "Go...to my BROTHERS and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Take the last part first: "my Father and your Father..." The disciples had witnessed Jesus praying to His heavenly "Abba" / Papa and probably wistfully yearned for a connection to God so intimate, so familiar, so open, cherished as in a loving parent's care. Such closeness was unheard-of in Judaism: it was shocking to the religious leaders that Jesus dared call God His "father" (Jn 5:18). Yet that's exactly how Jesus taught His followers to address God routinely in what we call "the Lord's Prayer": Mt 6:9 "Our Father in heaven..."

And now, this side of the cross, the dividing wall of guilt that separated us from such a Holy Almighty Being has been torn down and removed. Paul writes in Gal 3:26, 4:4-6 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."" Also Rom 8:15f "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."" What a privilege, that we can become God's own "next of kin"!

And there's more - as sisters and brothers of Christ the unique God-man, we are given those in the church to be our kin also. "Go...to My brothers..." Jesus said to Mary (v17). Back in the village of Magdala her own family may have abandoned or shunned her, but now she had a new family in the apostles and others who trusted Christ. In the church we have connectedness, bonds of caring and compassion and sympathy, genuine concern for those who are endeavouring to follow the Lord amidst the challenges and burdens of everyday life. Rom 12:10 "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.Honour one another above yourselves."

1Thess 4:9 "Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other."


LivingLight News tells how Hattie Kaufman, an Emmy-award-winning journalist, was struck by a shocking development in mid-life. Hattie made news in 1989 as the first Native American journalist to report on a national news network. This despite being raised by alcoholic parents who would often leave her and her siblings (she was 4th of 7) on their own. She recalls: "Seven kids all alone often, the lights turned off, the heat turned off, no food.There was always a sense of 'What's gonna happen next?'...When you grow up in a home with alcoholic adults, the reality is that there was nothing you could count on.There was always chaos or suspense or surprise."

At 52, having climbed the ladder to become a senior correspondent of CBS News, Hattie was enjoying huge success and a stable life. Then one day out of the blue, her husband of 17 years announced he wanted a divorce.

His explanation was a vicious slap in the face to Kauffman: he said, "I just settled for you because I was tired of being alone, and you were pretty then."

Blindsided, Kauffman admits she was devastated. She says, "I had struggled so hard to get out of chaos and suddenly, there I was in chaos again.It was as if the ground was moving under my feet."

Suddenly, the strong and resilient woman had become a fragile little girl. She recalls, "'It struck at the most basic question of 'Where is stability? Where is safety?'" She must have felt like Mary Magdalene outside the tomb that morning: her world had crumbled.

As Hattie desperately searched for a safe haven, her late aunt's teaching her Bible verses - the 23rd Psalm - came rushing back. She took comfort in the psalmist's words but didn't expect an encounter with the Good Shepherd Himself.

Just days before covering the Oscars, Kauffman sat peacefully in a hotel room with her eyes closed when it happened. She writes in her book Falling Into Place: "I felt a palpable sensation of a hand touching the top right side of my head, the way a parent might touch a child in tender love...It was lovely and so real that I opened my eyes to see whose hand it might be.As I did so, the 'hand' lifted."

The following day, she felt led to go to a nearby Christian church. As she stepped forward for prayer, she felt the pastor's hand on the top right side of her head; she notes, "The warmth, the pressure, the duration were exactly what I'd felt the day before." Marvelling at what just happened she confessed, "God, you are real." Immediately an overwhelming sense of awe happiness and joy filled her heart. The fear was gone. Despite her impending divorce, she finally felt safe.

The pieces in Hattie's life fell into place after surrendering her life to Jesus Christ. The shame of her childhood, and the anger she felt against her parents and her husband were miraculously erased. She is glad people are being helped by reading her story. She says, "In the end the point and the message is, God loved me even when I didn't love Him and He loves you too.We can earn a lot of money, we can build a big house, ...or we can have a spouse or a second spouse, but there's only one way to finally fill that aching hole inside of ourselves...It all starts with one simple [prayer] of 'God help me.'"

Let's pray.