Excerpted from the NC Council of Churches Lenten Guide, “Love One Another: Reflections on Race, Power, and Privilege”
Easter — John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 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.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
She did not know Him. The Prince of Peace; the Savior; the Messiah; the Light of the World; and she did not know him.
I like to understand people. I like to know what guides their actions. I have always thought that I was gifted in the art of perception, but I have recently found that more often than not I am wrong. Just like the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” I do not know how an individual is really feeling. I do not know their past. I do not know their struggle and I do not truly know them. This reminder has been increasingly evident in the last few years of my life as I have been made aware of the blessings bestowed on me as a middle-class white woman, I have watched and read news stories and books like The New Jim Crow, and I am thrown into new situations where the only thing I can do is listen and observe. I can not change what I was born into, but I can recognize, just as Mary did, when something needs to be said.
Mary knew Jesus, but she did not know him in that representation. She was so caught up in the physical appearance that she almost missed the presence of the risen Lord. Often I am so blinded by stigmas that I miss the opportunity to love thy neighbor. Often I am so blinded by the desire to understand that I forget to listen. And, often I am so blinded by the negative images of race, power, and privilege that I forget to look for the hope; the hope for a better tomorrow because I know that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).” Let us rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God.
Prayer: Gracious God, let us remember that with privilege comes responsibility, with responsibility comes accountability, with accountability comes honesty, and with honesty comes faithfulness. God of creation, equip us to live faithfully in your Kingdom and recognize the hope you have provided. Amen.