There is no way to describe the feeling I get when one of my girls surprises me by running toward me and giving me an unexpected hug. Of course, as they are getting older the feeling I get is sometimes fear of being knocked over, but my heart is always warmed when they show me this type of affection. I can remember many occasions when one of my little girls would run down the aisle toward me after worship service on Sundays. She would jump into my open arms or crash into my legs if I was not paying attention. Either way she just wanted to give me a hug. These hugs came as a result of her being excited and happy to see me, but they also happened on occasions when she was unsecure or fearful.
On one occasion after Sunday morning worship, a group of men and I were talking while my youngest daughter was playing a short distance away. For some reason she began to feel uneasy and wanted her dad. Without thinking, she turned and ran toward a pair of legs and grabbed hold as she has done so many times before to me; however, this time the legs were not mine. When she looked up and saw that she had the wrong dad, panic came across her face for a moment. She quickly backed off and began scanning the group of men until she came across the face in which she found her security. She then ran to me and I picked her up and she gave the biggest hug and smile possible.
In John 20:1-18, Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb to pay her respects to Jesus. No doubt she is still distressed and grieving the events of the Friday before. What an emotional week for her and all the followers of Jesus. They had experienced the excitement and motivation of entering Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna,” and now they were experiencing the lowest of lows. If ever Mary needed Jesus, this was the time; but He was dead. She had seen Him die with her own eyes, there was nothing that could be done now and everything she hoped for was buried in a tomb behind a boulder.
When she reached the tomb Mary saw that the stone has been rolled away and she immediately thinks that things have just become even worse; now even Jesus’ dead body has been stolen. Peter and another disciple ran to the tomb and simply confirm Mary’s fear that the body had been taken away. Even the sight of two angels does not ease Mary’s pain. In my mind I see her hunched over on her knees weeping, when she hears someone behind her and turns to see who could be standing there. Through her tears and distress she simply glances at the figure behind her and assumes the man to be the gardener; of course she would not expect to see Jesus, he is dead. She resumes her position of mourning at the feet of this gardener and pleads with him to help her make sense of this unthinkable situation. Then Jesus calls her name and Mary looks up from her weeping and through the tears she looks into the eyes of the last person she expected to see, but the person she needed to see the most.
As we read this story we have the advantage of knowing the whole story. What Mary did not know was that the victory had already been won before she even saw the empty tomb, but Mary needed to see Jesus to be assured of the victory. We really are not much different when we are going through the dark times of our lives. We tend to forget that God has already won the victory and that he will carry us through these difficult and burdensome times of life. Sometimes the darkness becomes so dark that we feel like Mary and just want to fall to the ground and weep. Only when we look up and fix our eyes on Jesus will the darkness surrounding our life begin to fade into the light of Jesus’ victory.
During the trying times of our life we need to act like my little girl and run to where our security and encouragement resides. We need to run to Jesus and allow Him to comfort us, cry with us, encourage us, and strengthen us. You may find yourself in a dark place right now and there seems to be no light anywhere. Remember that this darkness is only part of the story; the full story ends with an empty tomb and the light of Christ filling all the dark corners of our lives.
There will always be dark and difficult times until Christ comes again, but even in the midst of this darkness we know that the victory is already won. Jesus told Mary to go and announce His victory over death. In a world so consumed by death, violence, immorality, and hopelessness there needs to be a message of hope. Jesus is that message. We need to go and proclaim that darkness has not prevailed, that there is light to be found in the midst of the darkness, and that the light of Christ will extinguish all remnant of darkness. Let us live in the light and share the light with those who are still lost in darkness.