Finding What We’re Not Looking For

Rev. Bradley Swire   -  

Have you ever confidently walked into a store, certain of what you need, only to find your item has vanished from its usual spot? I recently experienced this little saga, feeling a blend of annoyance and eventual embarrassment as I sought help for what I initially refused. It’s a humbling reminder that sometimes, what we’re looking for isn’t always where we expect it to be.

This feeling of searching for the seemingly lost connects deeply with the poignant story of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb. The narrative from John 20:11-18 offers us a glimpse into a deeply human moment—Mary, overwhelmed by loss, fails to recognize Jesus standing right before her. It’s a scene that speaks volumes, not about theological debates or spiritual duties, but about the very essence of our human hearts.

Mary’s devotion to Jesus was unparalleled. She stood by him through thick and thin, her life profoundly changed by his compassion and teachings. Yet, in the moment of her greatest despair, she could not see him. She looked but did not recognize. How often do we find ourselves in Mary’s shoes, so focused on our quest that we overlook the answer standing in front of us?

Jesus’ presence at the tomb serves as a metaphor for his constant presence in the shadows and trials of our lives. He remains, patiently waiting for us to recognize him, to see beyond our immediate troubles and the ‘missing pieces’ of our lives. This story is a tender reminder that sometimes, the answers we seek are not about finding what’s lost but about realizing what’s been there all along.

The repetition of Jesus’ question, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” is particularly striking. It’s a moment that transcends time, reaching out to us with the same urgency and intimacy. Jesus’ inquiry is not about obtaining information but about prompting a deeper self-reflection within Mary—and within us. It forces us to confront our fears, desires, and the very essence of our hope.

The narrative of Mary at the tomb is a mirror reflecting our own experiences of confusion, loss, and the journey to understanding. Like Mary, we may find ourselves distracted by the minutiae of life, our vision clouded by our immediate concerns. Jesus’ question beckons us to look beyond, to find solace and clarity not in the frantic search for what we believe is lost but in the recognition of his presence in our lives.

This reflection on Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ invites us to examine the tombs of our own lives. What do we find when we peer into the depths of our experiences, our losses, and our disappointments? Can we see past the details that consume us, to the hope and resurrection that Christ offers?

Let this story be a reminder to us all. In the midst of our searching, our longing, and our confusion, may we have the grace to recognize the presence of Christ. May we find peace in the knowledge that he is always near, gently asking, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” And may our hearts always be open to the unexpected answers that await us.

In the end, my prayer for each of us is simple yet profound: that we may not let the burdens of our uncertainties prevent us from witnessing the risen Christ. He stands in the corners of our hearts, waiting, always waiting, to reveal the power of new beginnings and the eternal promise of hope.