It’s Holy Week. Maybe the same day-to-day grind has this week feeling less than holy. The same carpool. The same job. The same errands. It can feel busy, full, hectic, isolated – anything but holy.
But make no mistake, it’s Holy Week — a time of deep introspection as we remember the days that the entirety of Christianity hinge upon. If the events of Holy week didn’t happen, then Jesus isn’t who He said He was. If He wasn’t crucified, and then three days later raised from the dead, there isn’t a reason to set the alarm on Sunday morning or live every other day for Him.
But if everything that happened is true, well then, there isn’t anything else for us to do except know Him and worship Him with our every breath.
One of the ways I prepare my heart for Easter is to simply read the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection in the Bible. But there is one story that uniquely transforms and prepares my heart to take in all the promises kept of Easter. And specifically, one word within that story that speaks to my heart every time.
The whole account appears in John 20:10-16. It features Jesus’ follower, Mary Magdalene (not Mary, Jesus’ mother), who loved Jesus and never left Him – even at His darkest hour on the cross. Most of His disciples fled, but Mary was steadfast and unwavering in her devotion.
The story begins with Mary outside the empty tomb crying – sobbing, really. The stone had been rolled away, but Jesus’s body wasn’t there. Mary looked in the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white seated where Jesus’ body had been. They asked her, “Why are you crying?”
She answered through tears, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”
Then, Mary turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus. (There are likely several reasons she didn’t recognize Him – her eyes were tear-filled, she was looking for His dead body and He wasn’t quite ready to reveal Himself, to name a few.)
Jesus, not recognized by Mary, said, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Mary thought He must have been the gardener and she tearfully replied, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him and I will get Him.” I can hear her anguish.
At that point, Jesus didn’t say, “It’s Me! I am risen just as I promised! Dry those tears!” Nor did He make an extravagant proclamation that was full of pomp and circumstance. He didn’t even wait to gather a large crowd to share the greatest news the world has ever known.
No, with His audience of one – His most faithful one – He said a singular word that changed everything. It is a lone word written in red that tells the whole story of the Gospel. One word so meaningful, so piercing, so sacred and yet so playful:
Scripture says upon hearing her name cross those familiar lips, she knew it was Him. Maybe He had a certain way He always said her name. She heard her two syllables and turned toward Jesus and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). He had risen! Her response was immediate, spontaneous and full. She went to Him at once and held on.
There is only One who could say her name like that. And I like to think since Jesus had just conquered Hell and changed the course of all mankind, He was bursting with joy and said it with a warmth in His tone and a knowing smile on His lips.
Jesus could have revealed Himself to anyone, but He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to see Him alive after death. He chose her because of her steadfast devotion and affection for her Savior. She never left Him and He honored Her for her unwavering faithfulness.
With Jesus, it’s personal. It’s always personal. There is nothing cold, flat or distant about Him. He came to engage with us. With you. With me. It is only fitting that His first revelation of Himself as the Resurrected Savior is personal. He so loves the world, but He’s one-on-one personal.
When Jesus spoke her name, it wasn’t just an old greeting, it was a new message that everything – EVERYTHING had changed. Death lost its sting and we were given the opportunity to live with Christ for eternity. And from this beautiful moment, word of Jesus’ resurrection had to spread to the rest of the world. And He chose a simple, faithful woman to be the very first evangelist and “go tell” the Good News.
This week may not feel holy as we go about our day-in-day-out routine. But as we prepare for Easter, I pray we make Holy Week personal. Read the stories, pray about what Holy Week means specifically for you. Call out His name.
And, of course, listen for yours.
Lord, thank You. Thank You for Your Grand Plan of redemption. Thank you for calling each of Your followers by name (Isaiah 43:1). Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace and You reign over this chaotic world. I pray that we would know Your love for us as we celebrate Your victory over sin and death. I pray we would not grow calloused to hearing the story of all You did for us – and all You continue to do. We thank You in advance for the work You will do in our lives. Lord, we love You. Amen.