Thursday, November 19, 2015

God knows my name.

Do you ever think about your name--what it means, where it came from, if it really matters? What if you go by a different name than you started this life with? Did someone have to send God a memo so He wouldn't accidentally call you Gertrude when you've vehemently denounced that name and warned everyone to please refer to you as Trudy? ;)

But seriously, though. Sometimes I wonder because I was actually born with a different name than the one I now use. Well, they're spelled differently anyway. So God does know how to spell it, right? And my middle name is different--much better, by the way.

This morning while reading about the Resurrection of Jesus, I fell in love with this story about Mary and I realized just how deeply He knows our names:

I love Mary Magdalene. She isn't the most popular, the best all around, the most valuable player, the beauty pageant winner. She has dealt with shame, demons, and quite possibly with being the butt of others' jokes. But there's a particular passage in scripture that defies all these societal claims and labels that have been placed on her, and it's one of my favorites.

It's early, still dark outside--Sunday morning. Mary's heart has been broken--her Lord, her Rabbi, her friend has been ruthlessly slain. With her heart raw and in shreds, she carries the burial spices in the black of the morning--the sun still hiding behind the hills--expecting to add them to Jesus's tomb. Because that's what you do for the dead.

And Jesus was dead.

No angels had shown up and carried Jesus off the cross. It seemed that nothing extraordinary, nothing miraculous would happen after all. Not for Mary, anyway. When someone murders you, you truly die. The miracle did not come. Death had not been defeated, the odds had not been defied. All that was left was a cold grave with the most precious person she had ever known--the one who had loved her despite her flaws--laid inside. 

But the next few minutes will change Mary's life forever, no doubt. Mary finds the tomb stone rolled away, so she runs to fetch Peter and the other disciples to investigate what has happened to Jesus's body. 

He's been stolen! Who would do something so cruel?

And so scripture says she stands outside the tomb in shock and filled to the brim with grief. A new grief, one that cannot believe someone could add such insult to an already unimaginable injury.

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' Supposing him to be a gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away'" (John 20:11-15 ESV).

Wow, so much to take in here. Mary is not looking for a miracle; she is looking for the dead. Maybe she doesn't even believe in miracles anymore. Her heart has been broken and she is empty. She just wants to get Jesus's dead body back so she can tend to it. Is that too much to ask?

But Jesus has saved His greatest miracle just for her!

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned and said to him in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher)" (John 20:16 ESV).

Did you see that? Mary turned from the tomb and looked Jesus in the face and she didn't know Him. She thought He was the gardener, and begged this man to tell her where her Lord had been taken.

Her grief was so palpable, so overwhelming, that she could not even see the truth in front of her!

But there is one moment when she finally recognizes Him: 

When He says her name.

Oh, the beauty wrapped up in this one word: Mary! Jesus knows her name and says it in such a way that she also knows Him. I wish I could hear this exchange, to see the love on His face as His lips form the sound of her name! And what I wouldn't give to see her eyes widen and light up as she hears her name with such tone that no one else has ever used. I wonder if it sounded like singing.

Honestly, Mary seems to be a common name in scripture; the writers of the gospels differentiate her by adding Magdalene to her name, which also tells us where she's from. But Jesus didn't need to add that; He didn't need help distinguishing which Mary she was. And how extraordinary, how unique her name must have sounded when Jesus said it!

Mary. That's all Jesus had to say. He knew her in depth, He knew her heart like no one else, and He could prove it just by saying her name.

And you know what? Jesus knows your name, too. And if you let Him, He can call you in a way that no one else is capable. If you let Him into the deepest hurts, the darkest truths of your heart, He can call you by name and make it sound like a brand new identity. He can put joy and hope and purpose right inside your bruised heart if only you'll let Him. He can replace your sorrow, your disappointment with the greatest miracle you've ever witnessed.

And in turn, we can say His NAME and mean it in a way some can only marvel at. Jesus was "Rabboni"--Teacher to Mary.

I want Him to be Teacher to me, and I want Him to say my name like that. 

Don't you?

 Peace of Christ to you,

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