Joy Comes Because Jesus Comes

Maybe it was the way he said her name. The inflection. The tone. The Galilean accent. Maybe it was the memory associated with it, the moment she first heard someone say her name without demons screaming it in her mind.

“Mary.”

She’d come to the tomb early that morning. Before the sun was up. Before anyone knew the Son was up. She found the tomb to be empty except for some angels she mistook for grave robbers. She told them that she would retrieve the body if they would disclose the location.

That’s when Jesus spoke her name.

“Mary.”

When she heard the voice she knew the source. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher)” (John 20: 16 NKJV).   In a second. In a pivot of the neck. In the amount of time it took to rotate her head from this way to that, her world went from dead Jesus to a living one.

She threw her arms around him. We know this to be true because of the next words Jesus said: “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet gone up to the Father” (John 20: 17 NCV).

Maybe she fell at his feet and held his ankles.

Maybe she threw her arms around his shoulders and held him close.

We don’t know how she held him. We just know, for a moment, she did.

And Jesus let her do so. How wonderful that he did! That the resurrected Lord was not too holy, too otherly, too divine, and supernatural to be hugged.

Someone should paint this scene. Capture it in oil and frame it on canvas. The brilliant golden sunrise. The open tomb. Angels watching from a distance. The white-robed Messiah. The joy-filled Mary. Her arms around him. His eyes upon her. If you are the one to paint this scene, be sure to include the reflection of the sunrise in the tears of Mary. And, by all means, paint a broad smile on the face of Jesus.

“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things to her” (John 20: 18 NKJV).

To her! Of all the people to whom he could have spoken, he went first to her. He’d just ripped the gates off of the hinges of hell. He’d just yanked the fangs out of Satan’s mouth. He’d just turned BC into AD. Jesus was the undisputed King of the universe. Ten thousand angels stood in rapt attention ready to serve. And what was his first act? To whom did he go? To Mary; the weeping, heartbroken woman who once had seven demons.

Why? Why her? As far as we know, she didn’t become a missionary. No epistle bears her name. No New Testament story describes her work. Why did Jesus create this moment for Mary Magdalene? I can’t help but think it was to prove this promise: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). Joy comes because Jesus comes. If we don’t recognize his face, he will call our names. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16 NIV).

Your name is not buried in some heavenly file. God needs no nametag to jog his memory about you. Your name is tattooed, engraved on his hand. He has more thoughts about you than the Pacific coast has grains of sand.

You are everything to God.

Do you find this hard to believe? You think I’m talking to someone else? Someone who is holier, better, nicer? Someone who didn’t screw up their marriage or mess up a career? Someone who didn’t get hooked on pills or porn or popularity? You think I’m talking to someone else.

I’m not. I’m talking directly to you.

I’m saying that the greatest news in the world is not that God made the world, but that God loves the world. He loves you. You did not earn this love. His love for you will not end if you lose your temper. His love for you will not fade if you lose your way. His love for you will not diminish if your discipline does.

You have never lived one unloved day.

Someone told you that God loves good people. Wrong. There are no good people.

Someone told you that God loves you if you love him first. Wrong. He loves people who have never thought of him.

Someone told you that God is ticked-off, cranky, and vindictive. Wrong. We tend to be ticked-off, cranky, and vindictive. But God?

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, GOD feels for those who fear him” (Psalm 103:8-13 MSG).

God loves you and because he does, joy will come.

© Max Lucado, February 2017

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