She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she did not recognize him. “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 he is and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out “Rabboni!” — John 20:14-16
It was in the garden, near the tomb, where I was the first to see him risen.
But I did not recognize him
I had been weeping
The tears blurring my eyes, my memories, my hope
And so I did not recognize him.
I didn’t know who he was because
I was overcome with grief
My heart was somewhere else
Remembering the first time that I saw him.
It was in another garden.
He looked like any other man
But there was something in the way he moved
A rhythm that you could feel when you were near him
A weaving together of things that did not make sense
He was so meek, so deeply gentle, and yet his presence was fierce.
You feared him, were overwhelmed by him, yet you were drawn to him, like fire.
He was so beautiful that it hurt to look at him, like love.
He called out my name before I even told him what it was.
And when the name came from his lips
It was as if I heard it for the first time
As if he was calling it out on the day I was born
Before my wounds
And my sadness
And my harlotry.
Before my name had been spoken on dozens of men’s lips
Who loved themselves in my presence
But never loved me.
He spoke my name for the first time
And the name fell from his lips
Like the waters covering the seas.
And I knew …
I knew that the name he really meant was
“Do you know me?” I asked.
“Yes Mary, I have always known you,” he answered.
From then on, I didn’t leave his side
All I wanted to do was be near him
For he saw me lovely
And he called me beloved
Slowly, in his presence,
I was remembering who I was
Who I was always meant to be.
When others looked to him as the future king
Who would rescue them from their slavery and make them powerful
I saw him and knew
That he had already rescued me from my slavery.
I didn’t need anything more than that.
I wanted to give him something back. Something precious
Not just a physical outward thing
But something that resided in my heart
I wanted to show him that I believed
Not what the world said about me
But what he said about me
I chose the night Jesus ate at the Pharisee’s house
I burst through the door with no invitation,
As I knew I would never be welcome
In a place such as this.
But I had to come
I had to see him.
Just as I suspected, as soon as I came through the door,
They called me harlot, sinner
But I didn’t even hear their words
Because my Jesus was there.
And all I could hear
Was his voice calling my name
Just as he did on the day that we met.
I held the gift I had, the flask of oil, before him
I said “I am broken, I have so little to give to you.”
“Vessels must be broken to pour out an offering.”
So in my brokenness made beautiful
I broke the alabaster jar
I poured out the oil,
I kissed his feet
I covered him with tears.
As I did this, the Pharisees whispered
“If he was a prophet he would know that she is a whore.”
He stood up and looked at them. Steadily, but with indignation, he said
“Her name is not whore.
Her name is not worthless or wretched or broken,
as so many people have called her.
Her name is Mary.”
He stood me up and looked me in the eyes.
He said “You have been forgiven much.
That’s why you love so much.
Your sins have been forgiven.”
I didn’t deserve this kind of love.
But I knew that he didn’t care if I deserved it or not
He wanted to give it to me.
He said something to them about how
When the good news was told
My story would be told as well
As a remembrance.
What could he have meant?
On the day Jesus died, one of the disciples told me
That he had washed each of their feet the night before.
Imagine — the most powerful man on earth
Making himself a servant
Showing that power is not found
In bloodied battles and kingdoms conquered.
It is found in a quiet strength
That pours out forgiveness when forgiveness is not deserved.
Demonstrating that love is a better way.
I couldn’t help but wonder
If he thought of me when he washed their feet.
If my gift had made an impression on him.
If this was somehow a remembrance of what I had done.
I pondered all of these things as I stood here,
In the garden near the tomb
But now my Savior, my Beloved, my Hope
Had been nailed to a cross three days before.
All that I had left was the memory of this beautiful man
All that I could do was to mourn him well.
So I brought the oil again.
Another flask, another offering.
And in my grief, I did not recognize the man in the garden, asking why I was weeping …
Until he said my name.
And my eyes were opened.
This was Jesus
Risen from the dead.
He could have chosen anyone to reveal his resurrection to.
He could have chosen a man, for this was a man’s world
He could have chosen a king, for he could tell the world of Jesus’ power
He could have chosen a religious leader, for that is what everyone expected
But he chose me.
The poor whore
That he called beautiful
Who had been forgiven so much
So very much
That she had learned how to love.
He chose me to remind the world
That he reveals mysteries
And lavishes love
On the ones that have been called
Broken, sinner, worthless.
He calls us by our real name.
The same is true for all of us.
The infinite became flesh
He rose again
All so that we could remember who we are
All so he can look past our sin
And call us Beautiful.