I’m still mulling over what I learned at the Capital City Church conference two weeks ago. Pastor Donna Pisani gave a talk about looking for God. She used the story of Mary finding the rock guarding Jesus’ tomb tolled away in John 20.
In this passage we meet Mary Magdalen a woman with a reputation around town, if you know what I mean. Jesus had been crucified two days before. He had died. No one knew what was next. Their Teacher; their leader had died and, despite His best efforts, His disciples did not know what that meant. They had just spent Saturday mourning, grieving, and in confusion. So Mary, a devoted follower who was known around town by her past, came to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning. No one expected Jesus to be raised from the dead, so when Mary saw the rock rolled away from the tomb she thought someone had stolen His body. Why else would the tomb not be closed? Not only had her beloved friend died and left her without an explanation, now His body was missing. Great. She bent over to look in the tomb and saw two angels. I imagine Mary was surprised. Who would guess she would see a tomb which was supposed to be sealed with a dead body in it full of two, bright white angels? They asked her why she was crying and she answered that she did not know where her Lord was.
Mary was stuck in her circumstances. She was looking where she thought her Lord was- in the tomb holding His dead body. She was looking at how her life had been impacted, shattered, changed by this event. Mary was looking here in the tomb, in her own circumstances, and could not imagine any other place her Lord would be.
How often do we do that? How often do we get stuck in our here-and-now? How often do we only see as far as our circumstances go without looking around? How often do we expect God to be where we want Him; where we think He should be and are shocked that He’s not there? How often do we wait and look in our empty tomb wanting God to show up? What are we missing when we keep looking where God isn’t showing up? *
In verse 14, this is important, Mary turned around from the tomb and saw Jesus. Now, she didn’t recognize Him right away because she thought He was dead. It wasn’t until He said her name that she knew her Lord was alive. But notice that Jesus waited until she turned around, He waited until she started seeking Him before He called to her. She turned around from where she thought her Lord would be and found Him standing there, alive. She looked beyond her grief, her logic, her circumstances and found what she was looking for, her Lord. And she knew His voice when He called.
According to the book of John, Jesus first showed Himself as a risen person to Mary. It was up to her to tell the disciples about the miracle that had happened. What an amazing gift Jesus gave her, once she looked for Him elsewhere. Pastor Donna went a step farther than what the Scripture says in this passage. She said that when we turn around from our circumstances and look in the face of humanity, we see Christ. Christ is in the slums, the shacks, the hurting, the ill, the hungry, the victims, the oppressed, the widows, the orphans, the hopeless. When we leave our empty tomb of our own circumstances and turn around to look at the world, we can encounter Christ in bigger, more illogical ways.
So, let me ask you, are you looking at where God is or where you want Him to be?
(*I do want to make one small caveat. I believe being patient for where God has called you to be. Therefore, there is value in waiting for Him to show up in what He is calling you to do. So, if you are looking there and He hasn’t yet come, this is a different circumstance and I believe praying and waiting is important.)