All throughout the sports of my childhood, there is one thing I still remember well. The voice of my dad ripping throughout all of the environment…the cheerleader cheers, the coaches yelling, the fans screaming….his sounds piercing through my eardrums and I immediately recognized the voice without hesitation. It was in the times that he called me by name that is especially got my attention. When you combine the familiar voice of someone that loves you with the name given to you at birth, it’s almost impossible not to give it attention even if you are trying to focus on other things.
We all know that feeling. Whether it is like the sports dad getting your attention or even your momma calling out your full name that nobody else knows, about to lay a whipping on you for doing something wrong. We are drawn to the voices of those that know us well and those we know well. We recognize their sounds easily, we know their voice, and we are hard wired to recognize those voices quickly, often times without consciously trying.
One of my favorite stories of Easter is one that doesn’t very commonly get preached about on Sunday mornings. It is mentioned as part of the Easter story, but most times gets ran through as other sermons and messages are relayed to those in attendance.
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
John 20:11-18 gives the account of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb. Mary had been one of Jesus’ closest followers throughout His ministry, being a woman saved from demonic possession to being mentioned as often as most of the 12 disciples. This was a woman who knew Jesus well and Jesus knew her well. On that morning, when she went to the tomb and found the stone away and the body gone, she lost it. She wept and cried and must have been so overcome with emotion that her Savior had been stolen that she was downright hysterical. She was so hysterical and overtaken with emotion that when she saw two angels, she wasn’t even surprised or taken aback. These were two white robed angels hanging out in the tomb, and all she did was half heartedly answer them, probably without even looking at them. Even when Jesus popped onto the scene, she doesn’t even recognize His voice asking what she’s doing, and doesn’t even bother to answer His questions. She is more concerned about finding His body that she isn’t even paying attention to her surroundings.
Now this is my favorite part in the entire account. Verse 16. It often gets lost in the message, but it is so overwhelmingly important to see. He calls out to her. He speaks her name. I picture her walking right by Him as she’s answering His first questions, mostly ignoring Him out of grief and shock, getting several yards away to continue the search for His body. Then she hears it….then she hears HIM. The voice pierces through her ears in a way that she knows immediately who is calling. Her soul instantly recognizes that voice calling out to her, calling out to her soul, calling out to her existence. She doesn’t even have to turn around to see Him to know that is in Him, because she already knows. I bet she freezes on the spot when she hears it and is calling out “RABBONI!” before she even turns fully to see Him. In that instant, all of her darkness fades….all of her weeping ceases….all of her absent joy erupts inside. She hears her Teacher’s voice, and she knows He is near.
To this day, He is still calling out to each one of us. In the world it is so easy to be overtaken by so many things and get lost. Tragedy strikes and we turn into helpless victims of the pain and grief. We are so blinded by despair that we don’t even recognize white robed angels in front of us. So internally shaken that we can look upon our Teacher as we turn and leave that we don’t even recognize Him. It takes His calling to ground us, to bring us back to life and recognize immediately He is in our midst. He calls out to US in a way that He called out to Mary. Not an aggressive or commanding call…but a comforting and “Hey, it’s me..and I’m here for you” kind of call. As soon as you recognize His calling, you turn and see Him, arms open wide, even taking steps toward you….calling you to His embrace….calling you to His comfort. All too often we think we can handle the burden of this life on our own. We are constantly looking to be saved, yet we are so overtaken by life that often times we don’t even recognize the Savior as we walk by. The good news is that He knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows your soul. And He’s calling. Take comfort and rest in the arms of the Rabboni today. He has conquered death…He has experienced loss and wept openly…He knows all that we could ever go through….He is Almighty God and has cast out demons….He has angels and followers by the millions….but He knows YOU…He knows you intimately….And He is calling out YOUR name…turn and run into His embrace…
PS. I think it would be a grand time to point out another thing us men can all learn from this passage. When Jesus called out to Mary in the midst of her despair, he never said “Calm down.” Even Jesus knows no matter how lovingly he called out to her after that, he would still have the wrath of a woman on His Almighty Butt for telling her to calm down….
HE IS RISEN!