As we reflect on John 20:1-18, we can imagine why Mary was devastated, and why she didn’t recognize Jesus when he appeared to at the tomb. A resurrected Lord was the last thing on her mind, in spite of what Jesus had told the disciples. As N. T. Wright explains, “No one was expecting anyone, least of all the Messiah, to rise from the dead. A crucified Messiah was a failed Messiah.” (Simply Christian, 112) This is what makes Jesus’ appearance all the more surprising, because this was the last thing Mary expected. So notice how gentle Jesus is with her. He knows that she’ll be shocked to see him, so he doesn’t immediately announce his identity. Instead, he cares for her. “Dear woman, why are you crying?. . . Who are you looking for?” It wasn’t until he said her name that she knew it was him. It was Jesus—the Messiah!
So when did Jesus call your name? When we tell our stories, we sometimes say that “I found Jesus.” And of course there’s some truth to that statement. But the greater truth is that he found us! Some of you grew up in a Christian home and in the church. In fact, you were so young when you first met Jesus that you don’t remember him calling out your name. But he did. And happily you’ve been listening to his voice ever since. Some of you were older when you first heard Jesus call your name. So you remember it well. You were struggling along in life, just trying to make your way and be happy. But you weren’t happy. In fact, you were miserable! And then you heard Jesus call your name as you encountered him through his Word or through a friend. And once you realized it was him, and you felt his love and acceptance, you responded in faith. And now you’re a devoted follower of Jesus–thanks be to God! Now Jesus invites us to help him call out the names of others who have yet to follow him.