Outside the tomb of Jesus, we find Mary Magdalene weeping because the tomb is empty and she cannot find Him. She turns and He is actually standing there, but He is unrecognizable to her. Grief does that to us. He asks her why she is crying and she is honest with Him. Then it happens. “Jesus said, ‘Mary.” (John 20:15). It was only when He said her name that she saw Him.
I have been by a grave and you probably have too. We see people we love die, dreams and ideas turn out completely different and many more losses that cause deep grief and we weep. Our tears flow and we finally speak honestly with our Savior. Maybe it is here that we become humble enough to receive our true identity that comes from the One who made us. Where else can we go for such a gift? Then it happens in an instant and our weeping turns to joy. We hear our name spoken by the One who calls us His beloved. We see Him in a new light, want to get to know Him and we find Jesus to be far better than we ever imagined. From there we begin to truly live, only answering and responding to who we were created to be. What an exciting way to live!
Since I am still studying the book of Matthew with some precious women, you get to join along. And this week in our study, we are standing at the foot of the cross and then beside the guarded tomb. I find myself at both places, answering a question Jesus asked Peter some chapters ago. He asks Peter, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). We join Peter in his response, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (vs.16). Jesus blesses Peter and tells him that it was God that revealed His identity to him. He does the same for each of us too. Looking at His crucified body, how can we deny who He is?
Then something else amazing happens. Jesus then tells Peter, “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.” (vs.17). Jesus speaks words of life, identity and purpose over Peter. The same man who would later deny Him, but was also restored. Once we answer the most important question we will ever be asked, how can we doubt that God will not also reveal our unique identity, purpose and restore us each and every time? Today it seems crazy to doubt, but I know my heart and how fear helps me forget. So, I will stand here as long as I need to let this great cost sink deep.
I am still moving slow through studying the events leading up to the cross. Something so costly and eternal deserves time. Jesus says these words, “Are you still still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:46-47). I hear authority, determination and control in His words. There is also the invitation to rise and go with Him all the way to the cross. We stand here and decide, not looking away, will be betray or accept? Either way, He moves ahead and pays the price with His life. Who does that? Who could love us that much? Jesus.
Walking through the days leading up to Easter and reading the scriptures slow, I noticed a verse for the first time. Jesus was before Pilate, the governor, who was giving the people a choice. He had in his power the ability to release one prisoner and a criminal went free that day. However, Pilate knew something I had missed all these years. “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.” (Matthew 27:18). This was so convicting, for how many times have I been envious of another? And we can read in Mark 7:22 that envy comes out of our heart and is not love. It is a bit tricky because envy can remain hidden, thoughts that cross our mind and go unseen by others. And if we do not confess, tell God the truth, about these thoughts, look how far it can go. With this realization, I was all the more thankful for the cross and my release from the death my sin deserves. I smile as another thought crosses my mind, “therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47). What a gracious Savior!
On the first Sunday of the month, our church takes communion together. These days we are given a cup, with the elements sealed tight, as we walk into the sanctuary. This time I held the cup in my hands until it was time. I do not know what it was that made this observance different than all the other times, but it hit me afresh the cost and pain of what I was holding in my hands. Again I wondered if I was worth such a sacrifice. The answer was yes and I was overwhelmed with love and gratefulness. Having been forgiven so much how can I not respond?
I read a great question that asked, “How might a legacy built on forty years of certainty that you are loved impact future generations?”. When something impacts those I am raising, the work becomes more important to me. It is a matter of freedom and that always comes with a price. Daily a choice is made to believe and act upon the death of Jesus on the cross. What higher price could He have paid than to lay down His life? What love this must be and I decide to accept or reject. The decision will impact future generations and this certainty shapes our thoughts, actions and words, all of which greatly impacts relationships. Certainty of love also strikes me as a weapon against the enemy, that would have us believe and live otherwise. And so today as the a new week begins, what will it be?
A friend and I ventured down to a well known furniture event here in Texas. There were tents set up with all kinds of offerings. Something for everyones decorating style, so much creativity on display. It was a bit overwhelming, but quite an experience. Some businesses sold beautiful antiques, while others sold reproductions. At first glance, many appeared the same, but I am the daughter of a gifted furniture designer and have been taught what to look for. For when you inspect a bit closer, there are several differences, especially the price and quality. An original is always more valuable than an imitation.
This made me think of us, God’s creation. We are a masterpiece, a one of a kind, but often tempted to want to look like someone else. The result is a manufactured copy, losing much of ourselves in the replication process. Being authentic takes courage and truth, not often captured on social media. It requires knowing our identity, that goes far beyond the information on our birth certificates. And from what I saw on this fun trip, people are drawn to what is original. Makes sense when we look at the life of Jesus.