When I get discouraged and think it’s impossible to do something because a “big stone” blocks my way, I take courage from these women who went to the tomb early in the morning on that first Easter. Even if something looks impossible, start trying to do it. You never know how God will remove the “big stone” from your way. But he always does!
This blog is a quotation from the chapter “As Mary Cries, Jesus Comes and Calls Her by Name” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 309-312.
As you read this blog, think about how it applies to us in this Pandemic.
Our old way of living is gone—buried in a tomb behind a big stone. It looks impossible to remove the big stone in our way. Nevertheless, even though it looks impossible, start trying to move it.
We never know how God will remove the big stone from our way. But he always does! He comes, calls us by name, and gives us a new way of living—the Way of Jesus!
As published in 2004 in Hoping in the LORD, at pages 309-312:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance (John 20:1).
Mary was one of several women who went to the tomb very early that morning, just after sunrise, with spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1). As “they were on their way to the tomb . . . they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’” (Mark 16:2-3). So it was quite a shock when Mary Magdalene saw that the entrance to the tomb was no longer blocked by the “big stone” (Matthew 27:60) that Joseph of Arimathea had rolled there.
I’ve always admired the loyalty and determination of these women. They went where they could do the most good even though their task looked clearly hopeless. They didn’t even have a way to get into the tomb. Yet they went.
So when I get discouraged and think it’s impossible to do something because a “big stone” blocks my way, I take courage from these women. Even if something looks impossible, start trying to do it. You never know how God will remove the “big stone” from your way. But he always does!
However, as so often in life, the good news that the “big stone” has been rolled away is misunderstood at first. The women jumped to the conclusion that someone had taken Jesus’ body away so that now they didn’t even have that much presence of Jesus to comfort them.
Mary Magdalene ran for help. “[S]he came running to Simon Peter and [John] and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’” (John 2:2).
Peter and John ran to the tomb and went in. They saw “strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen” (John 20:6-7). But “[t]hey still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:10). So “the disciples went back to their homes” (John 20:10).
Typical males! Mary Magdalene desperately needed help and comfort. And they went back home!
It was more than Mary could stand. She “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).
“As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot” (John 20:11-12). Few things soften my heart more than to see someone cry. And even angels must be touched by our tears. Because, like parents to a small child, the angels “asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’” (John 20:13).
Through sobs, Mary explained, “They have taken my Lord away . . . and I don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:13).
“At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus” (John 20:14). It was not just the darkness of dawn and the tears in her eyes that obscured her vision. It was the darkness of her depression that kept her from perceiving that Jesus was there by her side.
All Mary could do was cry. So Jesus said, “Woman, . . . why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15).
Even now, Mary did not realize it was Jesus. “Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’” (John 20:15).
Poor, distraught Mary. She was so desperate to find Jesus that she was offering to carry his corpse.
And then she found Jesus! Alive!
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’” (John 20:16).
“She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:16).
When I enter into the emotions of this story, I always get a bit misty-eyed, thinking of Mary’s joy when she recognized Jesus.
We aren’t told how Mary was able to recognize Jesus. But it must have been something about the way Jesus said her name.
Jesus is “the good shepherd” (John 10:11) who “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . . [H]is sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4). They follow his voice to “find pasture” (John 10:9)—a place where “they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). They follow Jesus’ voice to the Promised Land.
Part of having life to the full is experiencing the joy of hearing Jesus call our name. To experience the revelation that God is not an abstract force far away. To experience the revelation that God is Jesus, our best friend who comes whenever we most need him—whenever we most need hope.
And the best part of having life to the full is experiencing the joy of having a life full of purpose. Because Jesus didn’t merely end the tears in Mary’s life. Jesus gave Mary something important to do.
As would be expected, Mary held Jesus close in that moment of joyous recognition. Then Jesus taught her that experiencing life to the full involves more than hearing him call your name and holding him close. There is work to be done.
Jesus is alive! Hope is alive! But other people in despair will not find Hope unless we tell them that Jesus is alive. Unless we tell them that there is Hope.
So “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me . . . . Go instead to my brothers and tell them . . .” (John 20:17).
With new hope in her heart, Mary did as Jesus commanded her.
With new purpose in her life, she “went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord’” (John 20:18).
As a father, I do my best to be there with my children in their times of hopeless despair—when they stand alone at the empty tomb of their hopes and fears, crying.
But since I cannot always be there when they need me most, I am glad to know that Jesus will always come to them—and to each of us—at such moments.
Listen. You will hear him call you by name.
That is how he brings hope back to your heart and purpose back to your life. That is how Jesus carries you across oceans of despair until you reach the Promised Land.
When I talk about the Promised Land, I am not talking about a geographic concept. I am talking about a spiritual concept—a “Promised Land” where “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). I used this spiritual concept in all my books, most notably The Promised Land and Healing the Promised Land.
To read why I believe Jesus rose from the dead, please read the chapters “Caiaphas and Pilate Ensure No One Can Steal Jesus’ Body” and “God the Father Resurrects His Son, Jesus Christ” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 297-308.
To read about the effect of the Resurrection of Jesus on his followers, please read my blog “Overcoming Oceans of Despair” and the chapters “As Mary Cries, Jesus Comes and Calls Her by Name”, “A Healthy Jesus Walks to Emmaus”, “Jesus Tells the Disciples, ‘Peace Be with You!’”, “Jesus Overcomes the Doubts of Doubting Thomas”, and “Jesus Encourages Peter to Take Care of His Sheep” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 309-333.
I made a few stylistic changes when quoting this passage taken from Hoping in the LORD.