Reading of the empty tomb, there is one story that I love the most.
Mary Magdalene is standing outside the empty tomb weeping in despair. All her hopes were crushed when Jesus died on the cross and was placed in a tomb. This man who had delivered her from the bondage of sin. This man who had made her feel a person of worth once again. This man who had showed unconditional love.
Not only was he dead, and with him all the hopes and dreams she and his fellowers had cherished, but now even his body had been stolen.
Who would have taken it? Why would they have taken it? Would they desecrate his body? How sad to not even have his body to anoint and properly bury.
Suddenly she saw a man standing nearby. She thought he was the gardener. Why did she not recognize Jesus? First, she clearly was not expecting a dead man to be standing before her. Perhaps in her tears her eyesight was even blurred. Perhaps Jesus had purposely temporarily allowed her not to recognize him.
How did he reveal to her who he was?
Not by telling her “I am Jesus.” “Don’t you recognize me?”
He simply called her by name.
At the sound of her name in his mouth, she recognized him. What a joy to think that to Jesus, Mary was not just another one of his followers. She was not just “Hey you.” This was Mary.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
“Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.”
Whenever I read this story I am reminded of the time in my own life when Jesus spoke my name.
At fourteen my father, who I adored, left my mother, sister and me. He also left the church and turned away from following the Lord. I was devastated. He had been my role model. I saw him night after night sit at the kitchen table after supper and read his Bible. Following his example, I loved the Word of God.
Now, confused, brokenhearted, I sat down at my piano and began to play. Music has always been a source of comfort to me. I go to it when I want to celebrate, when I want to cry. Singing an old hymn, “Does Jesus Care” this teenager sang it as a cry to God. Did He really know me and my hurt? Was this little unknown teenager living in a small house in a small town known to Him? Did he care?
As I sang from my heart, tears running down my face, I suddenly felt someone standing beside me. There was no one at home then but myself. I knew no one had come in the front door. Yet, I knew someone was standing beside me.
In that moment, I felt him speak my name. Like Mary, I knew it was Jesus. I was afraid to turn and look as I felt so unworthy to look on him. I never turned. But as sure as I know I am sitting at my computer right now, I know Jesus was standing beside me. He was telling me he not only knew my name, knew my hurt and sorrow, but he cared.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.”