Asking and Answering: The Right Question

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she 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.” John 20:11-16

Sometimes, asking the right question makes all the difference in the world. Asking the wrong one can be equally revealing.

Once I was employed by a company, but was asked to fill in for a leaving service manager until they could hire a new one. When the hiree came in for his first day of work – we shook hands, I welcomed him aboard, and before we could even have our first cup of coffee he asked: “How soon do you think I can get some time off?”

At the first opportunity, I went to my boss and told him I thought we had the wrong guy for the job. He was more interested in how quickly he could get time off, (turns out – so that he could do some fishing) than asking a single question about the job. Assured by the boss he was the right man – I went about training him. He lasted about 6 weeks. Guess he really did want that time off.

The Bible often does not answer the questions we are asking, but steers us toward more important ones. God knows we very often ask the wrong ones. He never does. What stands out in this text is the question the risen Jesus poses to dear Mary Magdalene.

In essence, Jesus is asking Mary to ask herself something of supreme importance. Something quite different than the question she was asking.

Here she is, left alone after the departure of Peter and John at the Tomb. She has seen the Tomb is empty. She has seen the angels. She has heard their question with her ears, but her heart is still too heavy. For their question too is a good one. If, Jesus was who He said He was; if He has risen as He said He would – why indeed was she weeping? Those facts weren’t informing her at that moment. Only the empty tomb was.

“Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

How thick and dull my own heart and mind can be. Confronted with the facts, maybe even with the appearance of angels themselves – still I look at things though eyes colored only by natural understanding. The supreme and supernatural facts just don’t even seem to faze me.

But then Jesus approaches and speaks. His question is even more piercing than the angel’s. He asks again “why are you weeping?” But He ups the ante immeasurably with His second question – “WHOM are you seeking?” This is THE question. The one that answers all of the rest.

If she were seeking the eternal Son of God, the Lamb of God for sinners slain, the promised Messiah, second member of the Triune Godhead – God robed in human flesh, prophesied to rise again and rule the cosmos – if she were seeking THAT Jesus, then crying is wholly inappropriate. Faith would alter the whole reality altogether. This is EXACTLY what she should expect. He is risen – just as He said.

But, if she were seeking a mere prophet, a miracle-working but enigmatic figure, one whom she loved but did not really understand, a hope, but only if things went the way she and the others imaged they would – then there could be nothing but disappointment, disillusionment, and confused sorrow.

So, in the midst of your grief or confusion today – which Jesus are you trusting in? And if He is whom He said He was and proved so by His resurrection – then why are we so downhearted, disappointed, faint, weary, troubled and dismayed? Maybe, we’re not sure just whom it is we seek – either.

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