[The angels] asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"
"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him" (John 20:13-15 TNIV).
This is a story of despair — a story about losing everything that matters in life. Mary has had life crushed out of her by the torturous death of Jesus. She is blinded by her grief and the job at hand. She has no expectation of anything good coming out of this senseless and inexplicable tragedy. Mary does not recognize Jesus even though he is only a few feet from her.
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher") (John 20:16).
When the Lord calls her by name, she recognizes Jesus' voice ... she recognizes that it is Jesus! Just as the Lord promised, when those who follow Him hear His voice, they recognize Him and follow Him (John 10:1-4).
About this point in our thinking, the not-so-friendly Yabbots interrupt our faith-thinking and replace it with earthbound "reality" thinking.
"Yeah, but Jesus doesn't speak to us today."
"Yeah, but we can't expect that to happen to us today."
Underneath the "reality" thinking, this earthbound pessimism, is a nagging fear: Jesus doesn't really know about me, He doesn't really care about me personally, and He doesn't involve himself in matters as small as me. It's a way of saying, "I really don't matter that much at a personal level to the Lord."
Of course, those of us who are religious, have more "righteous" sounding ways of explaining away why Jesus doesn't talk to us. "I don't believe in modern revelation!"
But listen to what we sing!
He knows my name.
He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls.
And He hears me when I call (by Tommy Walker).
He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own ... (by C. Austin Miles).
Also take note of what we see Jesus do after the resurrection! He speaks personally to Mary, calling her by name. He speaks and shows the scars of crucifixion to the disciples. He speaks personally to Thomas to help him believe that the resurrection is true, once again showing the scars on His hands, feet, and side. He shares a very personal and intimate meal with two followers from Emmaus.
Then notice what we have heard from Scripture. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Listen to the psalmist:
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast (Psalm 139:8-10).
We are not cogs in some cosmic clock that God wound up and left to us to play out our roles as time winds down. God knows us from conception (Psalm 139:13-16). God is involved in working the pieces of our life out to some good purpose (Romans 8:28-29). Our lives are the personal work of God himself (Philippians 1:6; Philippians 4:13).
So what creates our doubt? What makes Jesus hard for us to recognize in our daily lives?
Could it be that we are so caught up with our own wounds and grief, our work and busy lives that we don't expect to hear anything? Have we forgotten to listen?
So if God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are involved in our lives, and if the Lord speaks to us, then how does He do it and how can we can be sure it is really God and not some selfish desire or some worldly wisdom or some evil spirit trying to deceive us?
Ah! Two good questions. I'll give you a response, but leave it to you to do some digging in Scripture to deepen your understanding and to discover God's truth for yourself. (Try these ideas out and work through the Scripture references!)
How does Jesus speak to us today?
- While we sleep! (The Bible talks about God ministering to us while we sleep. I encourage you to read the article, While We Sleep.)
- During our times with our church family! We forget that church is more than filling pews and following a worship order. Jesus is present (Matthew 18:20) and through the power of the Holy Spirit, our worship becomes more than a sharing of words (1 Corinthians 5:4). Our songs are Spirit-filled messages where we speak to each other (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:17-19). Those who speak are to do so as speaking the very words of God (1 Peter 4:11). So what is preached, what is said to encourage us by friends, the loving confrontations we help each other face in Bible study, and the messages we sing to each other are one way Jesus speaks truth and hope into our hearts!
- During our everyday life experiences. God is at work in us, speaking to us when we read His word, when we hear repeated thoughts from multiple sources, and through the well-timed note, phone call, or card we receive from a friend (Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28).
What are some other ways you think the Lord may have spoken truth into your life?
But how can we know it is really from the Lord and not from some other source? Aren't we taught to "test the spirits" to see if what is being said is true? (1 John 4:1-6)
Here are some ways to test to see if what we hear the Lord communicating is really from Him:
Know Jesus. Get into the Jesus story and recognize what has the ring of truth from knowing what the Lord said and how He lived (John 10:1-4; John 10:27; read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help in knowing what is truth and knowing Jesus' will. The Holy Spirit is given to us to help us know the truth from error and to recognize what is from God and from some other source (1 John 2:20-27; 1 John 3:23-24; 1 John 4:1-6; John 14:16-18; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:12-15).
Do what Jesus says to do. Not only is Jesus' truth self-validating when it is lived by His disciples (John 8:31-32), but Jesus promises to reveal Himself to us and come make His home with each of us (John 14:19-23).
What are other ways that you believe we can discern what is truly from Jesus and what is from some other source?