“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him
in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘My Teacher’).” –John 20:16
“Mary!” This is Jesus’ shortest sermon in the Gospel of John and, one of the most dramatic and life changing: “Mary!” The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and “calls them by name” … AND his sheep “know his voice” (John 10:3-4). This one life giving Word, as at creation (“And God said …” see Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26; cf. John 1:1-5; 20:1), Mary’s own name – spoken by the very death conquering Word of God, “the Word made flesh” himself (John 1:18) – changed her whole life.
“And she turned …” In the one or two seconds this turn took, the world shifting ever so slightly on its axis and at about this turn’s one-second midpoint trajectory, history, too, moved almost imperceptively from B.C. to A.D. A second before this turn there is a woman in the deepest human despair in the agonizing presence of inconquerable death; a second after the beginning of this turn there is a woman in the deepest possible human elation, in the presence of the death-conquering Central Figure of history. The rush that must have come over Mary in her two-second turn is unimaginable. She is the first person, ever, to experience the personal presence of the Risen Lord. When she turns to Jesus at this moment, as his voice broke the darkness of it all into light (cf. John 1:4-5), human history took a turn into the light of a hope that is eternal.
“And Mary said to Jesus in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!” (which means ‘My Teacher’). In five short syllables, “Mar-y” and “Rab-bon-i” … and in just about that many seconds the world became a whole new place. Death, once final, has met its match. There is a reality – Someone – more final than death who calls Mary’s name into his very breath of new life. And so it is for you, this Easter day. And Jesus said: “____________” (Say your name here.)
And so listen-in to this powerfully poetic reflection by one of our former senior pastors of First Lutheran Church (1952-1955), later President of Luther Theological Seminary … a great patriarch and witness in the faith for many, Dr. Al Rogness:
“The Easter resurrection is as cataclysmic an event today as it was then. Death is
destroyed! It does not have the last word. In the wake of Christ’s resurrection, a new life
is in store for everyone who hears and believes it. Because Christ lives, we too can live – in
a kingdom and among riches that are as glorious as they are endless. …
Without Easter the world would spin on its melancholy axis with no great morn
dawning, doomed to keep people in bondage to their anxieties and cupidities, in aimless
repetition until death overtakes them. The best they could hope for would be simply to endure.
Why long for something better? Why aspire to something new?
Nothing in all the world has so enchanted and haunted people down through the
centuries as has the event of Easter. Whole civilizations have been changed because people
have [heard and believed the good news] that death does not have the last word. They have
clung to the Risen Christ, and he has clung to them, and together they have reshaped the hopes of the world. There is forgiveness, there is victory, there is love and courage and
an everlasting future. This is Easter!” (The Word For Every Day; p.376)
Come and join the family of faith, gathered at First Lutheran this coming Sunday – in all of its joy-filled, festive fanfare of brass, choirs of all ages, holy communion, and pipe-organ … with all the stops pulled – including Widor’s famous Toccata!
Dr. John R. Christopherson