11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. ~ John 20:11-18
Three days after Jesus’ death, Mary goes to his tomb. She is confused and bewildered when she finds it empty. The possibility, the wonder, the power of resurrection had not occurred to her. How could it? Who could have imagined new life after the death of Jesus at the hands of Roman soldiers on a hill outside Jerusalem? Without the presence of her beloved teacher, she feels lost, lonely. Her grief, tears, and shock blind her to the identity and reality of the Risen Jesus standing before her. Which is to say she is blind to the ways God works amid death, confusion, and grief. She mistakes the one Christians call God incarnate for the gardener. Mary’s grief is like our grief. It causes us to weep, it causes us confusion, we too are left without the one we loved, and cared for. We too cannot imagine life without those we loved, we too feel lost. Grief makes us unable to see. Sometimes after watching our loved ones suffer illness, or dementia, still wonder where is God in all of this? Our grief, like Mary’s, blinds us to the possibility of God’s provision of new life, and new hope in ways we least expect. Jesus clears up her confusion, he calls her name, and as soon as Mary hears Jesus’ voice, she knows who it is, her eyes have been opened to the identity of the one before her. Grief, in hope, means that we trust God will somehow call out to us in the midst of grief, and let us see beyond our tears, our sorrow, and our confusion. God will call us from grief into trust, from fear into comfort, from confusion to a new reality. Jesus reminds Mary, the reality will be different, she cannot hold on to him in the ways that she used to. In the same way, we know, we sense the presence of our loved ones who we have lost with us in different ways. But Jesus reminds Mary, reminds us, that in God, there is new life beyond grief. This is the truth to which we can, and to which we must now cling.