At the American Union Conference in December 2023, nine workshops were held on subjects relating to the overall theme, “Behold the Man!” Historical figures and Jesus’ sayings on the cross were put into perspective.
Raquel Orce, General Conference Publishing Department leader, presented the last workshop for the English-speaking attendees. Her topic was “Woman, why weepest thou?” from John 20:15. She explained very helpful concepts about Mary Magdalene’s experience at the tomb on the morning of Jesus’ resurrection.
She arrived before the sun arose. Her purpose was to finish applying the herbs and spices to the Saviour’s body. She was wondering how the stone could be moved so the women could go inside.
But the stone no longer covered the tomb’s entrance. Startled, she ran to find Peter and John with the message, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they laid Him.” Verse 2. The two men dashed to the tomb and went inside, where they saw the folded burial cloths. Of John the Scripture says, “He saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Verses 8, 9. The two disciples left.
When Mary got back, as she was crying, she looked into the tomb and saw two angels. “And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Verses 11-13. She turned around, saw Jesus, and thought He was the gardener. Jesus asked, “Woman, why weepest thou?” That was the same question that the angels asked. But He added, “Whom seekest thou?” Verse 15.
Jesus had told the disciples that He would rise in the resurrection, but they were so caught up in their own thoughts and conclusions during that time that they missed the main message. The same thing had happened to Mary.
It was explained that when we decide to do things, three things are involved: (1) belief, (2) experience, and (3) perception.
Jesus’ closest followers were devastated when He was crucified. They believed what the Jewish leaders had taught–that the Messiah was coming to set up Israel as the chosen nation on earth. Jesus had explained to them His mission to be the Lamb of God, which the Passover typified. Now the real Lamb had come to be sacrificed at the Passover, and their mistaken belief blinded them to what was really happening. Their experience also got in the way, and therefore their perceptions were incorrect.
But one word changed everything for Mary. She said to “the gardener,” “Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Verse 15. Jesus concentrated on her before she could concentrate on Him and become more confused. “Mary.” She immediately recognized Him.
The resurrection upended what she, the disciples, and everyone else had believed. It totally realigned their experience. And it also corrected their perceptions. Had they paid closer attention to all of Jesus’ prior messages, they would have been spared a great deal of suffering. Nevertheless, they went through the experience and maintained their loyalty to Him. Now He could communicate with them, and they would understand. He told Mary to take the message to the disciples that He was going to ascend to His and their Father, and He met with them later that day.
We will do well to keep human emotions under the control of faith until more information becomes available to solve whatever we are facing. That is, we need to move away from high-intensity emotions and be calm. Ask God to explain what is happening and what to do, for the promise is true and powerful: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.