Many of the formative stories of Israel’s faith journey begin with God calling someone’s name: Adam; Noah; Abraham; Moses; Samuel; Jeremiah. And in the Christian story, we read of Joseph (Mt 1:20); Zechariah (Lk 1:13); Mary (Lk 1:26-38); Peter, Andrew, James and John (Mt 4:18-22); Matthew (Mt 9:9-13); the 12 Apostles (Mt 10:1-4); Martha (Lk 10:38-42); Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10); Lazarus (Jn 11:1-57); Peter (Jn 21:15-19); Paul (Acts 9); Ananias (Acts 9).
There is something powerful about being called by name. This may be contrasted by other stories where there is no mention of being called by name – most of the prophets stories are told in this way. The prophet Ezekiel reports that the LORD simply called him “O mortal.” Perhaps the lack of direct naming is a way of emphasizing humility and the universality of their calling. However that may be, our story for today is very clear that the Lord called Mary by name, and that in this calling she was able to recognize him.
Several things to notice about this story:
- Mary comes to serve the Lord with very limited theological understanding. She is being as faithful as she knows how to be in the circumstance – and Jesus honors that.
- Mary invited others on the journey with her – and they also had limited understanding.
- Mary stayed longer than the others to linger over this painful mystery. She does not run or hide from the pain – and it was because of this that she was able to encounter Jesus.
- Mary was in prayerful conversation with God’s messengers (angels) sharing her grief, confusion and fear.
- Mary saw Jesus moving in her life but did not recognize him – in fact misidentifying him as someone who was possibly undermining her relationship with God. She supposed him to be a gardener who had possibly moved the body of her Lord.
- Mary speaks to Jesus without recognizing him – she is in relationship, is in conversation with Jesus despite her lack of recognition or understanding.
- Mary did not believe in the resurrection when she experienced Jesus call her by name. (neither did Peter and John or anyone else).
So, do you want to hear Jesus call you by name?
- Serve him as best you know how. Don’t allow your lack of knowledge and understanding keep you from doing what you can.
- Share your journey with others who are also seeking the Lord.
- Be honest with yourself and God about your fears and heartaches.
- Seek Jesus passionately.
- Ask those you encounter where they may have seen Jesus.
As we hear again in Jeremiah 29:
7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Did you hear that from Verse 13-14? “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart I will let you find me.” This is what Mary was doing. Was she a sophisticated theologian? No. Was she a great champion of faith? No. Was she a noted leader in the community? No. She was one of the women whom Jesus had healed, and who had chosen to provide material support to Jesus and the apostles on their missionary journeys. She was there at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified, and now was one of the women who came to the tomb to honor and remember him. She was looking and longing for the presence of Jesus in her life. That was enough.
Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him; to all who call on him in truth.