We are so blessed to have Jesus in our lives, and the Scriptures help to show us why in John 20.
I love this passage because there, we find Mary Magdalene embodying a beautiful example of devotion. She is weeping outside Jesus’ tomb, and the reason why she is crying is important. She is distraught because she thinks that Jesus’ body has been removed from the tomb.
Think about that for a moment: why would she care about that? From her perspective, he is dead and gone forever…so why would she care where Jesus’ deceased body is located?
Remember, this is a time in the Gospel narrative when many of the other disciples (primarily the men) had scattered or were laying low out of fear. Peter even publicly denied Jesus numerous times because they had all seen Jesus tortured and murdered, and the obvious thought that had to be going through their minds was, if they’ll do that to someone as important as Jesus, what will they do to someone like us that no-one cares about?
But here is Mary—who has traveled with Jesus and has witnessed Jesus’ torture and crucifixion like many of the disciples—and she doesn’t seem concerned at all about her safety. She had far fewer rights in her culture than any of the male disciples did. And it’s not that she had nothing to lose, either, because we read in Luke 8 that Mary had resources she had been supporting the ministry with, i.e. she obviously had finances that could be at risk. But she doesn’t seem concerned with any of these things. All she seems concerned about is why is his body gone? Why would that be?
When someone we care about dies, we are concerned about what happens next, because we love that person, and our love for them doesn’t stop after they die. And even though we know that many of the things in the funeral process are superficial, we worry about how those things are handled. It’s not because we really care about the stuff; we know that the flowers at the service will wilt and the casket won’t ever seen again once it is in the ground. But we concern ourselves with these details because we want to express our respect and adoration to the ones we love for what they mean to us already.
Mary is worried about how Jesus’s body is being treated because she loves him. She adores him. She respects him. She cherishes him.
And here is the subtle yet important nuance: she loves him, she adores him, she respects him, she cherishes him not because of what she is expecting him to do for her, but because of what his love has already done for her. Jesus has rescued her from the ways of the world that would keep her separated from God. He has shown her how to be reconciled in relationship with God. And he did this before he went to the cross.
So Mary loves Jesus because of who he is for her.
This distinction is important because it helps us to reflect on who we are as people of faith. Do we love Jesus for who he is and what he has already done for us? Or is our love conditional based on whether Jesus is going to give us something in the future? Are we grateful for having the opportunity to be in relationship with God and what that means for us as human beings?
There is a lot of pomp and pageantry surrounding Easter, but I sometimes wonder if we are just going through the motions…not because we are grateful to Jesus for what he has done and is doing, but because we are hedging our bets.
You and I both know that are a lot of folks like this in the world. Many people try to expand their reach as far as they can because it’s a numbers game for them. And from the world’s perspective and a statistical standpoint, that makes sense. If we know more people, then we have access to more resources and likewise more potential opportunity to better our situation. But that mindset—while not bad in and of itself—often arises out a false understanding of reality. It often comes from a mentality of scarcity, not one of abundance.
The world has pushed a false narrative onto us that we need to compete with everyone else in order to be “the best,” to be the “most important,” have the most accolades, win the most championships, make the most money, have the most letters before and after your name. From a superficial perspective, that means that if someone else has more than you do, somehow you are less important, less valuable, less significant.
But that simply isn’t true.
Think about it this way. It is estimated that 108 billion humans have been born in the history of our species, and roughly 11-14 billion of those people have been followers of Christ.
Now, I personally think that God’s grace is far greater than our statistical analysis, but If you were to “rank” yourself among the 14 billion faithful who have come before you, where do you think you’d rank? What a horrible thought experiment, right? I mean, there are days when I wonder, would I even make the list? Yet that is exactly how the world teaches us to think about things. And what does that lead to? All it leads to is us thinking that we’re not good enough.
But here is the thing:
Jesus sees you and says, “I see you for who you are. You don’t have to compete. I will ultimately provide you with everything you really need. I love you because you are you.”
What we see with Mary Magdalene is just this. All the pretenses have been stripped away. It’s not about what Jesus is going to do for her. It’s not about whether God will give her the most power or control or riches. It’s not about how people view her. It’s not about what future accomplishment that she hopes Jesus will bestow upon her. It’s about what Jesus already did for her.
Jesus freed her of all of those expectations that the world held over her. She was no longer bound by those infirmities and the limitations that the world had placed on her. He had shown her how to live in the present, and because of that, all of the world’s superficialities and false expectations, all of the unwarranted labels, would never hold her back again. And it’s in that freedom she is free to simply be in relationship with God and all of God’s goodness.
What is amazing is that Jesus offers that same freedom to us, also. Once we understand it and receive it—once we understand how precious a gift it is—we can’t help but cherish that gift and the giver beyond the capabilities of our verbal expression.
But the Good News doesn’t end there, because, what we know now (that Mary didn’t yet know)—what Easter is all about is that Jesus ultimately conquers and frees us from the power of death as well. And the proof of this power is in the fact that He is risen.
So not only does Jesus teach us how to live in flourishing relationships with God and one another, but then he gives us the gift of being able to live and enjoying truly living—forever.
This means that all of those folks who have gone before us, through God’s grace, we’ll be reunited with them again someday. And it means that from now until that day, in Christ, we’ll continue to grow in our relationship to God and to other people. In Christ, we’ll get to live into being the best versions of ourselves, not as world defines it, but as God affirms.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What pressures do you feel like the world puts on you that are not “of God?”
2. How does being person of faith help one to appreciate what Jesus has already done for us, as opposed to being constantly concerned about what Jesus will do for us?
3. What do you think the best version of you, as God affirms, looks like?