Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). John 20:16
Woman is specially honored in connection with the human life of Jesus. "Born of a woman," He made maternity glorious, so that the primeval curse is more than compensated by the joy that such "a Man is born into the world." Dependent, as an infant, on His mother's tender care, He dignified forever all those unostentatious but anxious toils which are the most important and characteristic part of woman's mission. Holy women were among His most faithful followers, and "ministered to Him of their substance." He specially encouraged her who touched the hem of His garment, and those who brought their children that He might bless them, and the penitent who bathed His feet with her tears, and her who anointed Him for His burial, and of whom He said—"Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she has done shall be spoken of as a memorial of her." No woman shared in His betrayal; and though "His disciples forsook Him and fled," "the women who came with Him from Galilee bewailed and lamented Him."
A woman, in spite of the jeers of the crowd and her anguish at His torture, consoled His human heart by a mother's silent sympathy. Women watched the burial of His body, and when the great stone was rolled to shut the tomb, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting near the sepulcher." Women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, for "very early in the morning, when it was yet dark, they came bringing the spices which they had prepared." And it was to a woman the risen Savior first appeared. It was only the third day since, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He had uttered His last words to the disciples. Now, in the garden near unto Calvary, He uttered His first resurrection word. Then He had wept, praying to the Father, and was comforted. Now, His first work was to comfort a woman, weeping, in quest of Himself.
Christians are often sorrowful when, if they had clearer knowledge and stronger faith, they would rejoice.—"Mary stood outside the sepulcher weeping." She wept because she thought He was dead. But the absence of the body—an additional grief—was a proof that there was no cause for grief. That which then caused weeping, afterwards caused rejoicing. And thus we often weep at that which would give us joy, did we rightly know or fully trust; we have dreaded what afterwards we prized, and mourned over that which became a permanent joy. When we stand at the sepulcher weeping for some dear friend, could we see him as he now is, robed in spotless holiness, and exulting in fullness of joy, sighs would be changed to songs for his eternal gain.
Angels sympathize with Christians in their sorrow.—Mary saw "two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why are you weeping?" If angels shed no tears, they are not indifferent to ours. They seem to say, "What you grieve for is helping you onward to the home where all grief will be remembered only with thankfulness. Our Lord and your Lord is not dead—He is risen. He is near you. Tell Him all your sorrows. He will strengthen you in every trial; and soon will summon you where all tears are wiped away. Woman, why are you weeping?
The thought of losing Jesus is enough to make His friends weep.—"She said unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." It is grief to Christians when, in any sense, their Lord is taken away. When He is absent from the Church, and outward shows divert the eye from the Lord; when instead of a living Christ there is only a sepulcher, no whitening of which can compensate for the absence of the Prince of Life; and when He is absent from the pulpit, and mere philosophy or ethics or polemics are discussed, and the living, loving Christ is absent; and when by worldliness we have no longer that fellowship with Him we once enjoyed—if we are indeed His friends we shall weep, saying of our follies and our sins, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."
Jesus is often very close to His disciples when they do not perceive Him.—"She turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus." Though He addressed her, she did not recognize Him. She was not expecting Him, His resurrection body was somewhat changed. Through the thick veil of tears she could not see distinctly. And so "she knew not that it was Jesus." Thus also we often fail to see Him when He is very near. We are not looking out for Him. He comes in a method unfamiliar. We are so absorbed in sorrow that we do not see Him who comes to soothe it. Like the sisters of Bethany at the grave, we grieve so much for Lazarus that we do not recognize the "Resurrection and the Life." Like the disciples in the storm, we are affrighted when He walks to us across the waves. We often think He is farthest when He is nearest. Is he not "a very present help in trouble?" Broken-hearted penitent, mourning because your sins have driven away your Savior—that very sorrow is a sign that He is close at hand, for "He is near unto those who are of a contrite spirit." Like Mary also, we sometimes mistake Him for the gardener. We think only of the servant when we should acknowledge the Master. We rest in the means of grace when we should rise to the Giver of grace. We deem Him absent when, in the blessing He gives, through the humblest of instruments, we should adore Himself.
Christ's first resurrection word was one of consoling sympathy—not of power, victory, or vengeance. He is tender, loving still—"the same yesterday, today, and forever." His first word was not to an official but a private person; not to the strong but to the weak; not to an apostle but to Mary. He spoke to womanhood through her. He knew how often woman weeps unseen—what a martyrdom of grief she often undergoes by sensibilities wounded, yearnings unsatisfied, love unrequited, closest ties torn asunder, anxieties and toils which only love like hers could enable her to endure, and wounds hidden from all eyes which only love like hers could bear and yet conceal—and so Christ's first word after His resurrection was one of sympathy with woman's grief. "Woman, why are you weeping?" He asks the cause, not that He does not know, but that He would have the sorrowful lighten their sorrow by pouring out their heart into His.
"Woman, why are you weeping? whom do you seek you?" Seeking Jesus is the best antidote to weeping. The question implies that sorrow should be dispelled by such a search. Are you seeking one who is angry? Then you might weep, dreading a foe. Or one who is treacherous? Then you might weep, fearing betrayal. Or one who is feeble? Then you might weep at his inability to help. But if you do you seek the loving, faithful, mighty Savior, why are you weeping? Weeping and seeking are sure to end in finding and rejoicing when He whom we seek is Jesus.
True love may be combined with deficient knowledge.—"Sir, if You have borne Him hence, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away." No name had been mentioned, but Mary speaks so, because He was uppermost in her feelings all the world besides must think of "Him" too. So let the thought of Jesus be in our hearts. Will He be pleased? What would He have me to do? In this enterprise, in that company, shall I have His presence and enjoy His blessing? Affection sees no difficulties. Love laughs at the impossible. Mary was alone, a weak woman, but she was ready to bear away the body at once! Yet how little knowledge! She was thinking of Christ as dead, and expected to minister only to His corpse. Jesus accepts true love in spite of its errors. There may be theology, correct and complete in every detail, but without love; and there may be love, true and deep, allied with much ignorance. Should not we also be lenient with intellectual mistakes when associated with reverent love? Even doctrinal errors should be treated gently, much more should ecclesiastical. Are those who use other church forms be more alien from us, than those who do not love the same Savior? Shall we separate from any loyal soldier of Christ merely because he does not wear our uniform, and regard those who do not serve Him as nearer to us, because within our own pale, than his true friends outside? Jesus will excuse mistaken modes of worship and of thought; but no orthodoxy or churchmanship, however sound, will win recognition from Him without love. If we sorrow because we cannot as yet see as some other Christians do, let us not fear rejection from Him who seeks first the homage of the heart, and will eventually enrich with all truth those on whom He has already bestowed the greater gift.
Christ knows His disciples individually. "Jesus said unto her, Mary!" He addressed her by the old familiar name. The friend of former days was still individually dear. So Jesus knows all His disciples personally. "I have engraved you on the palms of My hands." The good Shepherd "calls His own sheep by name." The High Priest carries their memorial on the sacred breastplate. So He appeals to us. Are we in sorrow, inconsolable, forgetting Him who sends it for our good? He reminds us of His presence, saying—Mary! Are we fearing some danger as though we had no Almighty Friend to protect us? He places Himself between us and it, and says—Mary! Are we becoming worldly, restraining prayer, toying with temptation, looking at some forbidden fruit until it becomes pleasant in our eyes? Jesus, in a tone of faithful remonstrance, says—Mary!
Every true disciple recognizes the Savior's voice.—"She said unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master." Do we thus confess Him to be "Master"—saying, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" In sorrow, do we submit with patience, and say, Rabboni? In danger, do we trust with holy confidence and repeat, Rabboni? When tempted, do we turn at His reproof and penitently, resolutely exclaim, Rabboni?
At death Jesus will say—"Mary." It will be the voice not of an enemy, but of our best, our heavenly Friend. It will be Jesus coming to take us to Himself. Shall we be ready at once to welcome Him as Rabboni? When He sits on the throne of judgment He will invite to His kingdom every one of His faithful followers, with an individual recognition, calling each by name—Mary! Shall we be among them and joyfully respond, Rabboni?
Let such be our response now in every garden of grief. Let us cheerfully submit to His will, and drink every cup He gives us. In answer to His personal appeal, let us habitually and practically imitate her who, when Jesus said unto her, "Mary!" turned herself and said unto Him, "Rabboni!