"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 Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher)."
- John 20:14-16 (ESV, adapt.)
Ah, the distractions of life. We are distracted by culture, work, family, ministry, news, and, of course, self. At one time or another, we allow one or all of these things to keep us from focusing on what matters most...Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.
At the tomb, Mary Magdalene was distraught and confused, for the body of the Lord seemed to be missing. So consumed was she by her own grief, she was unable to recognize the presence of the Risen Christ before her. Certainly not expecting to hear the beloved voice of her dead leader, she assumed him to be the gardener. (In her defense, Mary wasn't the only Scriptural hero to make this error; we read of other disciples making the same kind of mistake in Luke 24 and John 21.)
How many times I have done the same! I get so preoccupied and busy with myself, and with the many concerns of life and work, that I forget that my living Lord is right before me, in my very presence.
His presence is a wonderful thing! At Easter, we see the (partial) fruition of the ancient prophecy that in Jesus, truly, "God is with us". Yes, sometimes the distractions of life cause us to miss his presence, but he nevertheless remains with us.
This is wonderful news for our age. I am convinced that our society suffers from an epidemic of loneliness. So many people feel alone and utterly disconnected from those around them, even though they may be surrounded by love, that anyone who cares about people needs to be seriously looking for ways to help.
Alan Moore, one of the world's most important postmodern (or perhaps "pre-postmodern") fiction writers, wrote these words in 1987, which capture well this modern feeling of alienation:
"Crazed with helplessness, I cursed God and wept, wondering if he wept also. But then, what use his tears, if his help was denied me? My own sobbing had frightened the gulls. They departed... and in the terrible silence I understood the true breadth of the word 'isolation'."What a wonderful promise, then, is the presence of the Risen Jesus! We need not "bring Christ" to people as much as help them to recognize that Christ is already with them, already loving them, already at work in their lives.
As Alfred Ackley wrote in his great 1933 Easter hymn, "...just the time I need him, he's always near." There is a dark night of the soul, and it is pervasive in Western civilization, but in the midst of the night is the light of the Risen Jesus. Today, I'm thankful (and a little distressed, to be honest) that Jesus is still with me and will remain with me "...to the end of the age."