Vision that Comes from Hearing
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). (John 20:14-16)
In each of the gospels, the resurrected Jesus seems difficult to identify. It’s almost like Jesus is in disguise, and resurrection comes to us cloaked as our normal lives. We struggle to have eyes to see it, maybe because we can’t see the evidence even when we’re looking at it.
I think that’s why the Gospel of John focuses so much on what we hear with our ears. Mary has seen the empty tomb. She has conversed with angels. She is staring directly at the risen Jesus, and yet resurrection is lost on her. She beholds it directly, but can’t quite see it. She is glaring at glory, but it is too bright for her eyes. In John, Easter is not about the eyes but the ears. It’s only when Jesus speaks to her, “Mary,” that her eyes are opened. It’s when she hears him, that she sees him.
Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus has been telling us that all along. In John 10, Jesus speaks of the Good Shepherd saying,
The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out (10.3).
I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. (10.16)
In these texts, the sheep do not recognize their shepherd by his face, but by his voice. With his voice, he calls them out to pasture and with his voice, he calls them back into the safety of the pen. It’s the voice that guides them. It’s the voice that protects them. It’s the voice that teaches them. It’s the voice that initiates and nurtures the connection between them.
The notion of hearing resurrection has captured me in these days because, to be totally honest, I do struggle to see it. I stare into the abyss of these hard and unprecedented days and wonder where the hope is. I sing, “Because he lives, all fear is gone,” while my knees tremble at where this pandemic might take us. I listen to the Governor’s daily press conference and can feel my body tense and pulse quicken.
Where can I look today and see resurrection?
And then I think about all Jesus has said to us, just in the Gospel of John. Take a few moments and read these words carefully. No, don’t read them, hear them. No, don’t hear them, listen to them. Really listen…
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (3.16-17)
I am the light of the world; he who follow Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. (8.12)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (10.27)
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (11.25-26)
Truly, truly, I say to you, she who believes in me, the works that I do, she will do also; and greater works than these she will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14.12-13)
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. (14.18-19)
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (16.33)
Can you hear him today? Do you recognize his voice today? Can you hear him whisper your name as you hear these words? What if they were spoken, not to the other characters in John, but to you? If you listen, really listen, then you’ll no longer say, “Where can I look and see resurrection?”
You’ll say, “Where can I look at and NOT see resurrection?”
See!!! As I said on Sunday, you will HEAR Easter before you will SEE it. But once you hear it…
***photo: Mary Magdalene in the garden with Jesus, detail of mosaic in Resurrection Chapel, Washington National Cathedral