Have you ever wondered, “Where is God?” Does He ever seem to have disappeared or gone missing? I know I have! There are times when He feels far away and I have trouble feeling His love and presence.

With Easter coming up, I have been thinking a lot about what those days following the crucifixion must have been like for the followers of Jesus. They had just spent several years with Jesus, he knew them so well and they knew him well. He was the one they left everything for, the one they believed save the world, the one who they would follow to the ends of the earth. Yet they had just witnessed the one they loved, die on a cross and be buried in a tomb and with him, their hope. This was their darkest hour. Can you even imagine how confused and sorrow-filled they all must have felt?

Recently when I was reading the book of John, the story of one woman in particular caught my attention. It was Mary Magdalene. Mary was one of the women that traveled with Jesus and financially supported him in his ministry. Jesus delivered her from a life of misery by driving seven demons out of her. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the gospels, showing the important role she had in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not only was she present to see all his ministry and miracles, but she was standing there at the cross (John 19:25) grief-stricken and heart-broken. As a final act of love, she purchased burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early the next morning, she went to the tomb with her spices only to discover that the tomb is empty! Jesus was missing. Can you imagine her horror and confusion?

Now Mary [Magdalene] stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. – John 20:14-18

Mary Magdalene was the first person to discover Jesus was no longer in the tomb. She was devastated and confused to see that the tomb was empty. She did not know what had happened, only that her Lord was missing. Even when Jesus appeared and spoke to her, she did not yet recognize him. Was she too caught up in her grief or maybe in the task of trying to find him? I wonder how many times I have not recognized Jesus when he was right next to me all along?

Jesus simply speaks her name, and instantly she recognizes him and calls out to him. She turned to him, so excited to be with him. He was there all along. This tender moment when he simply says her name, shows how much she meant to him. Jesus had just gone through a torturous and horrible death, descended into hell itself and conquered death to come back to life. He was about to gather his followers to pass on the great commission and ascend into Heaven, yet he stopped and took the time to come alongside Mary. In the midst of her grief, he took the time to comfort her and let her know he was there. He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to see him after His resurrection and share the most important message of all time. Jesus reassured her of her place in God’s family. All it took was her hearing him say her name, and she saw him for who he really was–her Lord and Messiah.

Dear friend, Jesus knows you by name as well. Even in the times when it seems like He is nowhere to be found, He is with you and calls you by name. Turn your face toward Him and recognize He is right there with you. He longs to comfort you and remind you that you are loved and so very precious to Him!