When tears become lentils | Adventist Review

It’s a new day. The morning sunlight pierced the darkness of the night. It’s also a new week. Whatever one feels from the past week’s betrayals and misfortunes is in the past. It’s time to pick up the pieces and move on. This new week surely promises better things.

But it’s not just a new day or a new week; it is a new era. A new era has dawned. In a few scattered pieces of abandoned weapons, it could be read. In the fractured remains of a Roman seal we could deduce it. And in the absence of His body and the presence of His burial garments, it could be perceived. But the pain of the past week is so deep, it’s a tortured pilgrimage to rejoin the joy of this new time.

There had been others at the tomb. They came because she called them. And they left. Among them, the story of John records that “the disciples returned to their homes”.1 They had visited the tomb. After all, cemeteries are appropriate places to visit. A visit to the grave of a loved one is appropriate. A tear shed, a memory recalled, a renewed pain. But one would wonder about the one who takes up residence there. Only the mad live among the graves.

Their eyes perceive the evidence that their heart can process. . . and considerably more. They take mental note of the environment, trying to make sense of it all. Like the astute detective Hercule Poirot, they come to visit the premises, sort through the evidence, set their “grey cells” in motion. But then they go, leaving behind one whose tear ducts are working: “Then the disciples went home. But Mary wept outside the tomb.2 In a way no one else does, Mary “endured with Jesus the darkest hours in the history of the world.”3

In pursuit of the pursuer

To fully appreciate this story, one must remember one facet of Christian theology, that dealt with by AW Tozer in his little book The Pursuit of God. He titles the first chapter “Following Hard After God”:

“We pursue God because, and only because he first put in us an impulse to pursue. “No one can come to me,” said our Lord, “unless the Father who sent does not draw him”, and it is by this . . . drawing that God removes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God comes from God, but the result of this impulse is our relentless following after Him; and all the time we pursue. . . we are already in the divine hand . . .

“In this divine search and this human “following”, there is no contradiction. Everything is of God, because . . . God is always prior. In practice, however, . . . [we] must pursue God. On our part, there must be positive reciprocity if this secret attraction to God is to produce a true experience of the Divine. In the warm language of . . . the forty-second psalm: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when will I come and appear before God? It is the deep calling to the deep, and the greedy heart will understand this.

Luke describes how Mary helps cover the expenses of Jesus and his disciples.

“An acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He is waiting to be searched.4

God plants in our hearts the desire to seek him. And the Divine is waiting for the answer, waiting for us to follow it fiercely, to seek what we might find. Something truly remarkable happens when the seeking God is met by a seeking person. When the heart of God meets a human heart, a heart that longs for the Creator of its desire, profound things happen. Once we understand this, we are equipped to tackle Mary’s story.

The others leave. Mary remains, weeping, near the tomb. Why? Surely because she loves Jesus. It was the last place she had seen her dead lord. The tomb is empty, but it is his tomb. That’s all she has, her only connection to Jesus. She came to serve her Lord in death. And to add loss to tragic loss, she cannot locate his lacerated form. Her love for Jesus is evidenced by her watch at the tomb.

Encounters at the cemetery

Still in tears, Mary bends down to look into the tomb. And she sees “two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been laid, one at the head and the other at the feet”.5 These two cannot be confused, appearing as they do in Celestial attire and Celestial form. Divine sentinels sent from the celestial courts, they are not so much messengers as they are one. They are proof that God is at work here. Grave robbers cannot explain their presence. It is an invasion of the power of God.

They ask Mary: “Why are you crying?6 She doesn’t seem to mistake them for cemetery staff, implicating them in her lord’s disappearance. She replies, “They took away my Lord, and I don’t know where they put him.”7She is so focused on her quest to locate her dead Lord’s body that she practically ignores two angels.

It might be like sending someone to buy your favorite ice cream. Let’s say you send for natural vanilla from Breyer and your customer returns instead with a generic brand of vanilla ice cream. When you’ve got your taste buds for your favorite, anything less is a disappointment. Mary is looking for Jesus, and even the angels won’t. For Mary, it’s as if they weren’t even there, as if they hadn’t appeared at all. Mary’s stubborn love for Jesus is reflected in her contempt for angels.

As Mary speaks with the angels, she becomes aware of the presence of another. So she turns away from the empty tomb. And through her tears, she sees a man. His perceptions follow his hopes. And for now, she has no hope of seeing her risen Lord. Right now, her greatest hope is to find someone who knows where Jesus’ corpse is. In the shape before her, she sees the gardener, the one who may well possess this crucial knowledge.

She hears his questions and matches them to her perceptions. Admittedly, the first request seems a little personal for a gardener: “Woman, why are you crying? But, after all, she is crying. The next one is exactly the kind of question you might expect from a gardener: “Who are you looking for? »

The tomb is empty, but it is his tomb. That’s all Mary has – her only connection to Jesus.

“Assuming him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Lord, if you have taken it away, tell me where you have put it, and I will take it away.’ »8

What do you think Mary means by this offer, “to take him”? Mary is a woman of some influence and means. Luke describes how she helps cover the expenses of Jesus and his disciples.9 Mary is therefore the patroness of Jesus. When Mary says to someone she believes to be the gardener, “Please just tell me where he is, and I’ll remove him,” she may say, “I have the resources. I will see to it that his body is taken care of.

But maybe Marie means something else by volunteering to “take Him”, something more spontaneous. John has already told his readers that Nicodemus brought to the burial of Jesus a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about 100 pounds, and they wrapped these spices in linen cloth.ten So, to the body weight of Jesus you must add the heavy spices and the linens brought by Nicodemus. Perhaps Mary impulsively promises to remove Jesus’ body herself. If so, either Mary was a very large woman or, more likely, her deep love for Jesus leads her to promise something she cannot do.

Mary loves Jesus. She remains by her grave, weeping; she disregards the angels in her quest to tend to her crushed form; she promises to take his body away, which she cannot accomplish. “An acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He is waiting to be searched.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned around and said to him in Hebrew: “Rabbani! (meaning Master).11 The sound of his own name in his ears dispels the haze in his eyes. Her tears are lenses for a clear vision of the risen Christ. She is able to do more than look through tears; she sees through them and sees her risen Lord.

What this means

Many of Jesus’ earlier promises in the Gospel of John find focused and joyful fulfillment in this touching moment. Describing himself as the good shepherd, Jesus said that “the sheep hear his voice” and “he calls his own sheep by name”. And when he calls them by name, they “will follow him because they know his voice.”12 He had promised: “I will not leave you an orphan; I am

comes to you. . . . You will see me.”13 Jesus had prophesied that his disciples would suffer the pain of his loss, but that “your pain will turn to joy”.14

For Mary, each of these promises becomes wondrously true in her fragrant encounter in the garden with the risen Christ, framed against the portal of an open tomb. And in the inspiration of this encounter, she becomes the apostle of the apostles, the first preacher of the risen Christ.

Marie-Madeleine seems like such a bad choice for this role. If heaven wants the message of Christ’s resurrection to have influence and credibility, why Mary? Why in a world of men choose a woman? Why choose someone with such a past? Why choose a person with a history of mental disorders? Why choose someone who had been possessed by a demon? Why choose Mary Magdalene? Because “the keen desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.” He is waiting to be searched.

If heaven wants the message of Christ’s resurrection to have influence and credibility, why Mary?

If Mary could so earnestly seek Him whose lips were sealed and whose tongue was mute, can I not so vigorously seek Him whose voice speaks in Spirit and in Word?

If Mary could be so loyal to an executed criminal on whom had been heaped all the civil and religious hatred that her society could muster, could I not be so loyal to Him on whom was conferred all the splendor and respect that the universe has to offer?

If Mary could be so in love with a dead Jesus, can’t I cherish the living one?

This article was published in the Adventist Review in April 2004. At the time of this writing, John McVay was dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He is now president of Walla Walla University.

1 John 20:10. All Bible quotations in this article are from the New Revised Standard Version.

2 Verses 10, 11.

3 Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, At the cross: Meditations on the people who were there (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1999), p. 90, 91.

4 AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, Inc., 1948), p. 11, 12, 17. I have adapted the quote slightly.

5 John 20:12.

6 Verse 13.

7 Verse 13.

8 Verse 15.

9 Luke 8:1-3.

ten John 19:39, 40.

11 John 20:16.

12 John 10:3, 4.

13 John 14:18, 19.

14 John 16:20.

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