Monday, December 12, 2005

48. The Sweetest Thing

We evangelicals have a tendency to read the Bible as a sort of text book or study guide – a divinely inspired, infallible, authoritative text book, but nonetheless, as a text book.  We read it chapter by chapter, verse by verse… or sometimes we use the subheadings that some of the publishers put in for us.  

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this.  I think having a method and format for studying the Scriptures is important.  And everything in the Bible is good for teaching, so I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading it and analyzing it verse by verse… some amazing revelations can come by doing that. (Of course, some scary things can come of that too.)  But every once and a while I like to try and read it a bit differently.  You know, I’ll take one of the epistles of Paul and read it as a letter, the way it would have been originally read.  I’ll pick one, like 1 Corinthians, and read it all the way through, in one sitting, the way people actually read letters, and try and understand what the Corinthians would have originally taken out of it.  (By the way, when I did that, the conclusion I came to is that Paul was very upset with the Corinthians.)

Another thing I’ve done in that vein is read the Gospels as narratives.  I think I did this on the recommendation of one of my pastors.  The first thing I remember noticing is that the Gospel writers were obviously a little upset with Judas Iscariot.  That probably sounds like a kind of stupid thing to notice, but it seemed that they couldn’t mention his name without explaining that he eventually betrayed Christ, even if it had nothing to do with the event they were discussing at the moment.  

There were a couple of other things that I noticed when reading through the Gospels this way, but there was one story, at the end of John that stood out to me the most.  I had read it many times before, but for some reason it stood out to me this time.

John 20:10-18

“Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 They 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.

"Woman," he said, "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."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."

 She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

This, to me, is one of the sweetest stories in the entire Bible.  The disciples go to the tomb, and Jesus’ body is gone, so they go home… but Mary is so heartbroken, she can’t leave.   Angels appear to her, but she doesn’t care.  She only cares that Jesus is gone.  

Jesus, of course, was in the middle of the most important work in the history of mankind.  Human history pivots on this point.  Because of the resurrection, we can be saved… redeemed.  He conquered death.  He made a way for us to go to heaven.  

In short, Jesus was busy.

But Mary was grieving, and Jesus, in the middle of the incomprehensively important work he was doing not only took notice of her grief, but stopped what He was doing to  come and see her, to comfort her.  It’s not like He couldn’t have come and seen her after He was done, after He had returned to the Father, but He could see how she needed Him right then, and so He came.  This says so much to me about who Jesus is, His heart, His love for us.

This has nothing to do with what is generally the theme of this blog, but my pastor mentioned this story in passing yesterday, and I have been thinking about it ever since.  Thought I’d share a bit.


Angel said...

WOW. I never would have thought about it that way. Thanks for sharing that :)

tschaka said...

Some great thoughts. I liked what I read.

Anonymous said...


Spoke to my friend at the United Church. Her next sermon is Jan 15th, though she is leading the Dec 24th service at 8:30pm.

Hope you're able to attend one of them.

Eric said...

yes, wonderful story JJ! =)


Rewfio said...

thanks for sharing... it is good to be reminded to look at things the way they were intended and stop tearing it all apart.