This Easter season, I am reminded of Mary, who early on the Sabbath day, while it was still dark outside, found the tomb of Christ empty. In the darkness, as she comes close to the tomb of her beloved Lord, she perceives the stone covering the sepulcher has been removed. In the early morning darkness, her first thought is the Jews had continued in death the vile work begun three days earlier while Christ was yet alive, by robbing His grave. Desecrating the tomb of the Lord. Preventing a proper burial which had been delayed by the onset of the Sabbath. She runs, finds Peter and John, and they come. Looking inside the tomb they see the body of Christ missing, but not His clothes. At this point, the reality of the resurrection, that glorious truth that first Easter morning, is not understood.
Peter and John leave, and Mary is left, alone, in the garden, outside the tomb. Weeping, and alone. And in this time of trial, sadness, and heartache, she is ministered to by angels, yet apparently fails to recognize them as authorized messengers of God, for she turns away from them to continue weeping. She sees a man, presumably the gardener come to tend his cultivations, and does not recognize the risen Lord, Christ Jesus, standing before her as she weeps. Again she turns away, to be alone in her grief.
The Christ asks, “Why do you weep? Whom do you seek?”
These are the key questions. Why do we weep, and sorrow in our extremities? As Nephi said, “Why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?” (2 Nephi 4:26) Whom do we seek? Our answers to these questions are key to what happens next in our lives.
Mary sobs a response, asking for her Lord. She seeks the Lord Jesus Christ. She feels lost, He has died, and now His body is gone. There is nothing left but His burial clothes. The grave robbers didn’t even have the common decency to steal the Lord with His clothes on. What kind of depraved acts of barbarism have been committed to His body – the body we are commanded to remember always (3 Nephi 18:7)
Christ responds, and calls her by name. “Mary.” It is then that she knows Him. It is only then that she is able to hear His voice (John 10:3-4,27) despite hearing His words but moments before. Christ was in her midst, with her in her time of extremity, even as she turned away from others and from Him. He was there. Unrecognized. Beside her. (John 20:1-17)
Later that same Sabbath day, two men, one who is named Cleopas, leave Jerusalem. Cleopas was most likely the one whose wife Mary stood by the cross (John 19:25) with the other two Marys, and Christ’s maternal aunt, witnesses to the death of the Lord. Given her presence at the crucifixion, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, was most likely with that select group of “other women” who came early that Sabbath morning, in the dark, and found the empty tomb (Luke 24:10)
This same Cleopas is walking to a nearby village approximately 12 kilometers, or seven and a half miles, away called Emmaus. Cleopas and his companion spend the trip talking, and are apparently sad, and disappointed. Their prophet, Jesus of Nazereth had died, and they had believed this Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. And then there was those wild tales of women, one of them likely the wife of Cleopas, about angels and a missing body. The angels reportedly said Christ was alive, but He was no where to be found. Lots to talk about. Mystery, intrigue, dashed hopes, and heart ache.
It is in this setting a man, walking the same road as they, draws close and begins to walk with them. He asks them, “What are you talking about?”
Cleopas responds, “What kind of stranger are you that you have not heard what has happened these last three days?”
The Lord again asks, “What?”
Cleopas responds with the tale mentioned above of a great prophet who is now dead and missing from his tomb, whom they had hoped would redeem Israel; but now all they are left with is some wive’s tales about angels.
The man calls Cleopas and his companion fools, dummies, slow of heart, slow to believe. And then begins the most remarkable Old Testament Bible study session in scripture, led be the great Master Himself. Starting with Moses and continuing through all the prophets the Christ of the Old Testament was revealed to them.
The seven and a half mile trip for Cleopas and his companion draws to a close and they turn off, yet the man is going to continue on down the road in to the evening. It is only then that Cleopas and his companion make the great invitation. “Stay with us, abide with us, for fast falls the eventide, the darkness of the night approaches. Stay with us. Eat with us.”
The man, Christ the Risen Lord, sits down to eat, and blesses the bread. He breaks the bread, and gives it to them. It is then, through the broken bread, that they recognize their Lord, the Christ of the New Testament. He was with them as they walked, sad, in disbelief, commiserating, on a dusty road to a small town, in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. He walked beside them in their time of trial, just as He had walked with them in happier times before His death, yet they did not recognize Him. He did not reveal Himself to them until they had invited Him into their home, their lives. He stands at the door, and knocks, but it is up to us to open that door, and let Him in to eat and break bread with us (Rev 3:20).
That very same hour, late in the evening, the two companions left immediately for Jerusalem. Walking the seven and a half miles back the same dusty road they had traveled with Christ. Fifteen miles round trip, in one day. Why? To tell their brethren the good news, the Gospel, Christ was the Risen Lord, and their hearts had burned while in His presence. (Luke 24:13-33)
How often are we like Mary Magdalane in the garden, or Cleopas and the unknown disciple on the road to Emmaus? How often do we recognize the Lord as He stands by our side, as He travels with us, as He teaches us? Do we respond to His queries, His gentle knocking at our door, with an invitation to join us at the table, saying, “We seek the Lord, our Master?” We can all be the unknown disciple, the unnamed traveling companion, the one who sees and recognizes the Lord. We can all be the woman who recognizes Christ when He calls her by name.
He knows all our names, and He loves us individually. He has a great deal invested in each one of us; we are of great worth to Him (D&C 18:10), for He saw each of as He suffered (Isaiah 53:10-11, Mosiah 15:10-12). The atonement is infinite, but it was individual. (Alma 34:12-14) The name of this blog is 2 or 3 gathered in His name, because where two or three, you and I, are gathered together in His name, behold, He is in our midst (D&C 6:32). “Behold” is a command. It means pay attention, cast your eyes about (Alma 33:22). He is here, in our midst. He is with us, at our side, helping us along (Isaiah 46:3-4) calling us by name, knocking at the door, asking to be let in. He is the living, resurrected Lord.