The first person to preach the Gospel on the very first Easter morning was a trauma victim—Mary Magdalene, who witnessed Jesus’s execution. Dreams dashed, dizzied with confusion, she visited Jesus’s borrowed tomb, found it empty, and supposed Jesus’s body had been removed. The narrator leaves no question—Mary was a wreck. Here’s how it all unfolded in John 20:
- Mary visited the tomb under a canopy of darkness—she could not see well (v. 1).
- Mary wept outside the tomb—a veil of tears blurred her vision (v. 11).
- Mary stooped, peering into the tomb—her vantage point was poor (v. 11).
In darkness, eyes blurred with tears, she turned around and saw Jesus, only she did not recognize him. Supposing him to be the gardener, she inquired as to if he’d removed Jesus’s body, and offered to collect his remains, if he’d just point her in the right direction.
Then, Jesus called her name, “Miriam” (v. 16). Our problem is, the English text doesn’t tell us he called her Miriam. You’d have to check the Greek to realize that on this one occasion, unlike any other time he’d called her name, Jesus called her, not Mary, but Miriam.
Amidst darkness, tears, and a poor perspective, Jesus called Mary’s name in a way that made sense to her, so that she’d know he was not the gardener, but rather her dearest friend. She muttered the only word that could express her bewilderment, “Teacher.”
Mary left that encounter and preached the first Gospel message to the other disciples: “I have seen the Lord.” The first preacher of the Gospel—a traumatized woman.
It’s a peculiar message given what happened: it was dark and she was weeping. It would appear that Mary had done anything but see the Lord.
But that’s precisely the nature of faith, of Christian witness, isn’t it? To hear Jesus call out to you, amidst your pain, darkness, and weeping, and to whirl around on the inside and find that he’s been right beside you the whole time.
This half-seeing, weeping, confused seeking is the nature of Christian witness, the context for faith to emerge, for Jesus to call out to your soul and for you to respond.
May the risen Lord call your name today, in a way that makes sense to you, and may you, with Miriam Magdalene, and all other bewildered seekers, tell those around you, “I have seen the Lord,” even if your vision isn’t clear, your world is a wreck, and you’re hanging on to all the hope you can find.
Happy Easter. He is risen, indeed.