Why Are You Crying?John 20:1-18Theme: Rejoice!This week’s lessons teach us that there is both a time to weep and a time to laugh. LessonThe story of Mary’s meeting with Jesus in the garden is told with such brevity that it is necessary to add certain parts, particularly the motions of Mary, to understand it. For example, in the middle of the story John tells us that Mary saw Jesus and had the conversation with him that we have already considered. He asked her why she was crying, and she responded that if he was the one who had taken the body away, he should tell her where it was so she could go and get it. Presumably she was looking at him when she said this. But the next thing John tells us is that Jesus spoke her name, and that when he did, she turned toward him crying, “Rabboni.” He does not tell us, but in order for her to have turned to him again, she must have turned away as soon as she made her request of the one she supposed to be the gardener. She must have turned back to the tomb. That was the last place she had seen Jesus, and she was not interested in anyone else until she saw that dear body again.
There is another motion of Mary’s that is important at this point. When Jesus said “Mary,” she recognized him. She cried out “Teacher.” And then, though John does not say so, she must have rushed to him impulsively and thrown her arms around him for the sheer joy of having him back again. As I say, John does not write this, but this is the way it must have been. For Jesus’ next words are, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ ” (v. 17).
Mary had expected him to be the same old Jesus, as well she might. But although he was the same, he was different, too. They had known him “after the flesh,” but now they were to know him in that way no longer. He had risen from the dead and was now entering into his role as Lord over the emerging church. He was giving commands, and the chief of these was to go into the world with his Gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes there are some words of great wisdom: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (vv. 1, 4). Let me say emphatically, there is a time when we are to weep. We are to weep over sin, over sin’s effects, over suffering, anguish, pain, and death. We are to weep when we suffer. We are to weep when others suffer. Christianity is no stoic religion. It is not a religion of the stiff upper lip. It is a religion that recognizes sin as sin and evil as evil, and grieves for both. We will have to grieve as long as we are in this world.
But not always! Not as those who have no hope! And not now! This week we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, and we rejoice with Mary whose tears were turned to joy. How can we weep? Once we had only a dead religion, but we have found a living person. We thought we had a martyr, but we found we have a Savior. We had a mortal, so we thought. But we have found a reigning Lord.
What two motions did Mary likely make that are not described in Scripture? What do those two motions tell us about her?
What chief command did Jesus issue after his resurrection?
Why is grief an unavoidable part of true Christianity?
Further StudyMeditate on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
ReflectionHow do you handle grief? A stoic approach is no more helpful than wallowing in sorrow. The beneficial way is to acknowledge Jesus in the midst of your suffering and invite him into your pain, so that you can know his comfort.