“When the Lord Speaks Your Name!”

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Easter Sunday ~ March 27th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor


When the Lord Speaks Your Name!

John 20:11-18


In the gospel of John, the Easter story begins with Mary the Magdalene. In John 20:1 we read, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” Early … while it was still dark … as though Mary couldn’t sleep for sorrow. She rises to come to the place where they buried Jesus; there she finds the heavy stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb and the body of the Lord is not there. Mary runs back to the house where the disciples were staying and she brings a couple of them back with her, Simon Peter and John; and even after they have left the grave, Mary remains behind, weeping.


In John 20 we see a very desperate, confused, and helpless woman. The scenes of Good Friday are still overshadowing her mind. It was such a tough day. So, early while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to mourn, perhaps to speak to the dead rabbi through the stone door.


Mary is in real despair. Even the wonder of seeing the angels cannot distract her; even if they seem to speak kindly to her, they are not helping her find her Master; so she turns to someone, anyone, who can: even the gardener or the caretaker – maybe she doesn’t mistake Jesus as the gardener so much as she wants Him to be the gardener – the man in charge of the place, and bound to know all the comings and goings. In desperation, we grasp at straws.


In her desperation, Mary couldn’t recognize the Lord Jesus Christ who was standing right before her talking to her. In John 20:14 we read, “She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” Here is the question for us this Easter Sunday: What brings about the transformation of Mary? In my opinion, it is God’s grace that rescues us when we hit rock bottom. What we see in John 20 is an act of grace. It is in the midst of our desperation and hopelessness, our mess and confusion, that God extends His grace to us. So, where do we see the grace of God in here?


First: The Risen Lord Reaches out to Mary

Mary couldn’t figure out who this stranger was. She thought He was the gardener. Yet, He reached out to her. As I mentioned, she was talking to him, but couldn’t recognize that was Jesus. In reaching out to Mary, the risen Lord shows an act of divine grace. Jesus didn’t have to appear to Mary. Whether she was or wasn’t one of the inner circle of disciples is unimportant. He could have appeared to her along with all the others later that night or at any other time. So why come to her that morning? I think He appeared to Mary to prove His grace, to show her and the rest of us today that He is still near to us; that the aloneness and the pain, that the Good Fridays of our lives, are not the final word, but rather, that our Lord may speak, at any time, a word of grace, comfort, and hope to us.


Second: The Risen Lord Calls Mary by Name

Grace also shows itself in another great way in this story. The Risen Lord not only reaches out to Mary, but also speaks Mary’s name. He speaks her very name! In John 20: 16 we read, “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).” It’s not that Mary Magdalene finally recognizes His voice or His intonation, but that she understands that He knows her. The real blessing for us today is not we know Him, but He knows us.


The real power and beauty of this passage are in Jesus addressing Mary by her name. He speaks her name in Aramaic, ~ Mariam ~ not even in the classic Hebrew. That’s how He knows her – and us: completely, deeply, from birth, knows our names and nicknames, knows our hurts and knows our ticklish places, knows the things we try to hide, knows everything we need, and comes to us, speaking our name in the language we best understand, calls to us in the exact manner that will cause us to see Him. Here is such a profound love – as Jesus keeps coming to us, and a perfect grace – as He speaks so that we will know He is there. O, what a Savior!


Friends, as we celebrate Easter today, may the voice of the resurrected Lord be an old familiar one to us too. And because He still reaches out to us and calls each one of us by our name, may His voice be the sweetest sound you hear today. Happy Easter Elmer Presbyterian Church family!

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