Easter in Guilden Morden this year was very special, because, after three years of pandemic restrictions, we were finally able to return to some semblance of normality. It was a moving experience to walk with the cross through the village on Good Friday, singing hymns at various points. A week earlier, our Palm Sunday service began with the blessing of the palms and a procession outside the church – bearing a banner with an image of Jesus on the donkey. It was cold and windy, but we marched valiantly along the path, with an occasional cry of “Hosanna! Jesus is our king!” echoing through the village.
The third century rabbi, Shemuel ben Nachmani, said that: “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” I think this is very true of people’s reactions to Jesus at different points in their lives. On the original Palm Sunday, crowds cheered for Jesus as their king – but a short time later, many of those same people were calling for his death. Their feelings had changed; they were disappointed by a ‘king’ who promoted peace, not war against their Roman oppressors.
Even Mary Magdalene, who was the first person to meet Jesus after he rose on Easter morning (John 20:11-18), saw things unclearly because of her own situation. Weeping in the garden by the empty tomb, she did not immediately recognise Jesus, even when he spoke to her. Many have pondered why this was the case. Why did Mary not recognise the man she had followed and believed in for so long? Was she blinded by the rising sun? Were her eyes blurred by tears of grief? Did she not know Jesus or his voice simply because she was not expecting him to be there? Was his risen form so transformed from the suffering man she had last seen that he was quite unfamiliar?
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that when he said her name, her eyes were suddenly opened and she knew him. My prayer this month is that we are all able to recognise Jesus, especially if pain or grief, or the burdens of our daily lives, may have blurred our eyes. And keep your ears open too – because he calls each of us by name.
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