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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (Jn. 20:14-16 ESV)
These days we monitor the COVID-19 statistics on the number of people infected, the number who recovered, and the deaths. We want the curve of the virus’ escalation to flatten soonest so that we can get on with our lives. We do our part in pulling that curve downward by staying at home and observing social distancing guidelines.
The statistics are needed by governments to make decisions that will keep in balance the lives and safety of the people and the health of the economy.
The numbers are useful but they don’t say that behind each statistic is a person who may be in the ICU going through extreme pain and fearful of dying alone. There is the anxiety of a family as they pray for their sick loved one. And then there is the unspeakable grief when the loved one passes away and the family could not even say goodbye.
One of the most moving moments in the post-resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus was when Mary Magdalene meets Him in the garden near the empty tomb. Mary was the woman from Magdala whom Jesus delivered from the control of seven (7) demons; she was a loyal follower of the Lord and was near the cross when He died. (Lk. 8:2; Jn. 19:25).
Mary saw Jesus standing there, but thinking that He was the gardener she did not recognize Him, Then Jesus calls her name. It is then that she realizes it is the Lord. Mary’s heart must have leapt with joy when she saw her Teacher and Friend alive and standing there before her!
A week later Jesus encounters Thomas who doubted Jesus’ rising from the dead. Jesus understood Thomas, that he needed proof of the resurrection before he would believe. So Jesus addresses him personally and invites him to put his finger on Jesus’ hands and side. Confronted by the Truth, Thomas declares one of the great confessions of personal faith, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:27-28).
Not many days later Jesus again appears to the disciples by the seashore.
Jesus knew that Peter’s denial of the Lord was an unresolved issue for Peter. Peter needed assurance of forgiveness and restoration of his status as disciple. Hence three (3) times Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John do you love me?” And Peter each time replies, “Lord, You know that I love you.” (Jn. 21:15-17). Jesus reinstates Peter as an apostle.
For Jesus we are not just a number lumped with other numbers by some computer. Jesus relates to us on a personal level. He knows what we are made of; He knows us by name:
- “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” (Isa. 49:1b).
- In Psalm 139 David sings about God’s knowledge of him being too wonderful of him to understand.
- Jesus the Good Shepherd declares that He calls His own sheep by name. (John 10:1-4).
What great comfort this is for us that the God who created and sustains all the galaxies in the universe knows the name of each one of us. God knows your personal needs, your hopes and your fears; and God loves you. The cross and empty tomb prove that!
Dear Father, Your knowledge of us is beyond human understanding. Accompany us as we live these days of uncertainty and comfort us with Your abiding love. In Christ’s Name, amen.
By Pastor Emmanuel N. Ilagan