11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.
This is a somewhat confusing scene, don’t you think?
Peter and John have rushed to the empty tomb, and having found it empty, THEY BELIEVED! They remembered what Jesus had said about having to be crucified, and how He said that He would rise again three days later. This was the day! It clicked in their hearts and minds, and instantly, their grief became joy. And then there’s Mary Magdalene…
12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 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.
Two angels are sitting in the tomb where Jesus’ body had once lain. She’s looking at ANGELS! Yet, the reality of the situation still hasn’t sunk in. Perhaps they didn’t look like angels to her. Perhaps she had forgotten Jesus’ words around rising from the dead, or maybe she wasn’t even around when He’d said them; thought, I doubt it. She had the same experience as Peter and John, and yet she was still gripped by sorrow.
Then Jesus Himself speaks to her, and she snaps out of it, right? Not quite…
14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Supposing him to be the 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.
She’s looking at and having a conversation with Jesus, BUT SHE DOESN’T RECOGNIZE HIM! Why?! Could it be that the grief of having buried Jesus—possibly the only person who’d ever loved her for her—was so raw that it kept her from recognizing Him? All she can process at the moment is that Jesus is dead, and now His body’s gone. She can’t handle much more; she’s literally at the end of herself. Could her situation have been so overwhelmingly painful that she wasn’t able to see God? I think so.
Working in camp ministry for over thirteen years, I lifeguarded for, well, about thirteen of those years. One of the things I was taught in all those recertifications was that an active drowning victim (pictured above) is aware of NOTHING apart from the need to get his or her head above water. You could be screaming their name and telling them to grab the buoy you’ve just tossed them, and they’ll never hear you. You could be right beside them in the water, and they won’t know you’re there until you grab them. Nothing outside of their situation is getting through.
We can quickly find ourselves in a situation that feels like this, can’t we? We see tragedy strike in the lives of those around us, but we never expect to touch us. Then it does, and we suddenly feel like we’re 100 miles off shore, tossed by the crashing waves of our situation, fighting just to keep our heads above water, gasping for hope, and choking on our situation. In those moments it’s hard to see God. Truly, it’s hard to even see the walking, talking people who love us and are right beside us because of the raging storm.
I’d never fault a person for becoming so lost in sorrow that they’re unable to see God. Rather I’d seek to remind them that, even when it doesn’t look or feel like it, God is there. He promised to be.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The gospel of Matthew ends the way it begins, with the promise of the God who is with us…
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel
Sometimes it’s hard to see God in the midst of pain. But, you see, we’ve become a people of faith. We don’t just go off of what we can see (or feel). We trust what we KNOW. We trust WHO we know. And what we know is that He is with us ALWAYS. And one soon day, we WILL see Him face to face.
Praise the Lord!