I saw this picture recently with the caption – Do you want to be seen or not?
Wearing camouflage clothes and putting a hi viz vest on top so you stand out is a bit of a paradox isn’t it? And it got me thinking that sometimes with God we go looking for something that we think is hidden and needs searching out when actually it’s in plain sight and obvious. When it comes to death, it doesn’t make sense to us does it? We make up all sorts of stories to tell the kids when the gold fish or the family dog has died. How much harder when a human loved one passes! So practicing resurrection can be full of questions and confusion – it certainly left the disciples disorientated by the whole event. Even when Jesus is in plain sight they still don’t recognise and ‘see’ Him:
Whilst the men are else where denying and hiding it’s Mary who visits the tomb but not in anticipation of the resurrection though but to honour the body. Even when Jesus is talking to her she still doesn’t ‘see’ Him and supposes him to be the Gardner. (John 20)
Jesus is walking on the road to Emmaus with Cleophas and the others listening to their understanding of recent events and they don’t recognise Jesus in plain sight either. He’s a stranger. (Luke 24)
Jesus helps out Simon Peter with his fishing trip by suggesting casting the nets in a different way yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. (John 21)
Thomas despite being told information still presses in for more ‘proof’ of Life. He needs to see and touch Him for himself. (John 20)
So what stops Life flowing? Perhaps assumptions of our own limited understanding mixed with our incessant desire to make sense of things leads to us supposing and therefore blinding us to what is already there. When Jesus journeys to Bethany to Mary and Martha’s place after Lazarus has died, what I notice is that Jesus is trying to explain it to them but they don’t get it. There are a lot of things said that reveal assumptions of what is happening:
Thomas presumes that if they go to Bethany then they will die too.
Both Martha and Mary share they disappointment in Jesus absence, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
I hear the doubting in the crowd too of how much power Jesus has, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?
Lots of people supposing but let’s be honest, we do the same. I identify with Spurgeon’s points about Martha, “It is clear that she derived very little consolation from the fact of a distant and general resurrection: she needed resurrection and life to come nearer home, and to become more a present fact to her.” Don’t we all? We understand life much better than death. Life, not death, fits inside our language and experience because we all yearn to have a full, meaningful, purposeful Life – faith or not. Supposing what is, is only suggestions and our insistence to be the author of our own story we are experiencing is a barrier to us that keeps Jesus hidden. Jesus is trying to highlight that we can presume on His Life and receive it now. He’s writing the story and it ends very well!
As for Mary Magdalene, she linger at death’s door longer than is comfortable. She knows there is no where else to go. What does she have without Jesus who has already changed her life so much? He’s speaking to her but in the natural she doesn’t recognise Jesus and ‘sees’ a gardener till He calls her name. With echoes of when Jesus called forth Lazarus here He is calling her forth into what has just been won. There is a wonderful book I re-read often and the author uses phrases like ‘can you picture the scene? can you hear Jesus speaking? can you hear the tone?’ I find that helpful here. I can see myself with all the questions I have sat searching for Jesus. I can hear all the stories I make up and assume in an effort to make sense of the death of hopes, relationships, ministry or situations. However, I can hear Jesus calling my name. Not to let death out of me but to release the Life within me that He is giving. ‘Don’t cling to me’ has so much meaning. It’s an invitation to not cling too Him physically but also don’t cling to Him as a teacher. There is a gentle encouragement to let go of Him simply being a law giver who tells us what and what not to do. This Life is not going to be lived though information and rules. Don’t assume Him to be a Gardner either where God just potters re arranging things so everything looks nice and blossoms. Don’t cling to a naturally interruption of events in our limited experience. The plan was always ‘let us make man in our own image’ and here Jesus is doing it. The assurance comes that we don’t need to cling to any of that because His Life is our life. It’s ‘My God and your God, My Father and Your Father. What I have is yours and I’ve called your name raised you from the dead too. This union is not hidden but visible.
Recognise His Presence is here. In the primitive Church, when they repeated an article of the creed, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the flesh,’ they would point to their bodies and say, ‘etiam hujus carnis,’ even of this very flesh.” God’s not playing hide and seek with us as He delights to give us the Kingdom. In fact, it’s His good pleasure. We keep searching for the fulfilment of promises and obtaining insights or answers when actually Jesus has already done it. He gives us Himself which is the source of all the Life we need. I want to stop searching and settle it- rest there trusting and receiving so I practice resurrection. Who wants to join us? I want to catch it in the Spirit like Job did. Quite a remarkable revelation! He didn’t have any Isaiah prophecies to encourage him or accounts written in scripture of Jesus’ life and resurrection yet he still said, ‘I know my Redeemer liveth and in my flesh I will see God’