Sometimes we just need Jesus.
Mind you, sometimes we don’t need Jesus. And when I say that, I mean, do we need Him to come down to us in all His glory and show us Himself? Sometimes that would be helpful. (Ask Saint Paul, for instance!) But sometimes it wouldn’t be. We may think we need Him to come down directly and handle whatever we are facing, but really, there are other ways in which God can work through us, our environment, and the people around us without resorting to Jesus making a miraculous appearance.
For example! When the women came to the tomb, the angels were good enough messengers. They spoke the word of God. They prompted the women to go back and tell the apostles their message. And, though the apostles were doubtful, Saint John and Saint Peter did run to the tomb anyway!
And if Jesus showed Himself to Saint John and Saint Peter? Well… let’s just say that Saint John and Saint Peter would be way too terrified to do anything. They needed Jesus to reach out to them in a much more gentle way at first.
But someone did need Jesus. Desperately.
The apostles were content to see the burial cloths at the tomb, and then they left, along with the rest of the women who followed them at a distance.
But poor Mary Magdalene! After the apostles ran away with their news and the women left with them, she lingered at the tomb, confused and disoriented. All that had happened was strange and confusing, and all she wanted was to know where the Lord was.
After all, He is gone!
The Gospel of John describes the scene as such:
11But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. 13And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. 17Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her.
And so, the second appearance of angels is not enough. The appearance of the “gardener” is not enough.
All she wants is Jesus.
Rembrandt illustrates the scene as such:
In this picture, the angels have just finished talking with her and then Jesus, depicted as a gardener in a big and rather humorous floppy hat, has shown up. She has just finished telling Him that she does not know where the Lord is when he says, “Mary!”
By the way, isn’t that hat great??? If you’re wondering, no, this isn’t what gardeners looked like in the Middle East… that floppy hat would be something that Dutch farmers would wear though, I imagine! I also find it amusing that there are so many artists who depict Jesus as being “disguised” as a gardener, thanks to the help of a floppy hat.
Now, this scene depicts the very moment in which Jesus utters her name. It is that split second in which she recognizes the voice without understanding who the person behind that voice is. And so, her face is lit up in recognition, and yet without understanding.
(Do I have to mention how incredible of a painter Rembrandt was for capturing that moment so beautifully??? SO INCREDIBLE. If you would like to take a closer look, feel free to click on the picture!)
And one thing that just strikes me is that she needed Jesus. Like, need. Nothing else was enough for her. Angels? Nope. The evidence that Saint Peter found? Nope.
Only Jesus was enough for her.
Yet, at the same time, when He appeared to her, she didn’t recognize Him. Can you imagine? To be so focused on one thing, and yet to be so blind simultaneously. It was only when He said her name in which she recognized Him.
And I have to wonder… how many times is this us? How many times do we pray for Jesus to come to us and we don’t recognize His Presence among us? And only later do we realize that Jesus was there all along.
We were just too blind to recognize Him.
May we continue to seek Jesus and strive to recognize Him always.