Written by:
Grace Killian

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Sacred Surprises

By Grace Killian

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb… Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” - John 20 selected verses

I can imagine the early morning air and darkness that was beginning to turn to day as Mary made her way to the tomb. The birds may have begun to chirp but nothing sang of new life to Mary. Exhausted and grieving, I doubt Mary was expecting any surprises when she arrived at the tomb. Perhaps she was still hoping that the events since the arrest of Jesus on Thursday had all been a nightmare and she would wake up soon. But she was not expecting the tomb to be empty. Imagine her surprise, then, when she found the stone rolled away and the cave empty.

Exhausted and grieving, I doubt Mary was expecting any surprises when she arrived at the tomb.

It was certainly not a welcome surprise. She did not immediately believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Instead she was moved to more grief. The tears she had been fighting all morning overcame her again and she stayed in the garden alone. Even when the risen Jesus approached her, her grief and tears clouded her recognition of him. It was not until Jesus called her by name that she realized the joy and life of the empty tomb.

I wonder how different we are today from Mary. Do we often approach the darkness of life and the world having already decided what God can and will do? Out of self-preservation, we sometimes prepare ourselves to have our fears confirmed and, in doing so, blind ourselves to God’s ability to make all things new. Fear and doubt are powerful.

We sometimes prepare ourselves to have our fears confirmed and, in doing so, blind ourselves to God’s ability to make all things new.

Yet, Jesus does not condemn Mary’s grief, instead he comforts her. Indeed, here we see the first words of the risen Christ – words of compassion and comfort. Certainly, today there are many reasons to grieve in our broken world. Violence, oppression, and fear are often on our hearts and mind. In our own personal lives, we may be facing illness or broken relationships, among other things. Just as Jesus comforted Mary in her grief and lovingly called her by name to recognize the Resurrection, Christ calls us to open our eyes to the resurrection-work around us, in our lives and world. This loving and transformative invitation is far more powerful than fear and doubt.

Discussion Question: How can we open ourselves to God’s surprises in our lives and world?