Jesus Knows Your Name
This past week was Vacation Bible School at Fellowship Community Church. Wonderful news was proclaimed each evening. The news is that Jesus is for each one of us.
Actually, that was talked about two Sundays ago when we considered Psalm 139. That is a passage that informs us God knows us, has known us, and is willing to guide us and teach us - each of us individually.
But we did talk about Jesus being for each of us. We did that each evening of VBS.
When we considered John 10, we learned we are to be so close to Jesus, we can know His voice.
When we learned about Mark 6 and John 6, we were reminded that through a miracle, Jesus fed 5000 men, plus women and children. He did that corporately, but He cared for each of the individuals, making sure each one had enough to eat.
Luke 15 was highlighted. In it, we celebrated the fact that Jesus cares about each prodigal.
In this message, the celebration of Jesus being for each of us will center on two passages in which we are reminded Jesus knows us so well He knows us by name. The passages tell of what happened on the first Easter Sunday morning.
To set the stage for those passages, I have a story to share. I told the story back in March when we were gathered for this year’s Easter morning service. I will repeat it for three reasons. You may have missed it back in March. Or you may consider it such a fantastic story you have been yearning to hear it again. At any rate, it fits the theme for today very well.
Here is the story.
A man had been on a business trip for a week.
The flight out had been rough. The people with whom the businessman had met had not been cooperative. Negotiations had been tense and difficult. Not everything he had hoped to accomplish had been completed. All the while, the man missed his family.
Now, the day of his return to his home airport, things had been equally unpleasant. The first leg of his scheduled trip was cancelled, meaning he had to be re-routed through another city. Both the flights he did get on had been very crowded, many of his fellow passengers equally tired and disgruntled.
Then, upon landing, which was a couple hours later than originally scheduled, and getting inside the terminal, he found great crowds of people. Too many for the area to handle comfortably. There was lots of pushing and shoving on his way to where his luggage could be picked up.
From there the man would have to make his way outside and hail a cab. He wondered if there would be enough cabs for him to hire one to get him home.
The trip had been difficult, the return flights had been difficult, at the airport things were difficult. It was a bad time for the businessman. His energy was gone. His nerves were on edge.
Then he heard it. “John. John. Over here.”
Was that his name he heard? Yes, it was. He was able to pick out his name in the midst of all the confusion.
Was that his wife calling his name? His wife, who he expected to be home with the rest of the family? Yes, it was. John’s wife, knowing her husband had had a difficult week and day, had got a babysitter and driven to the airport to meet him and take him home in comfort.
Immediately, the businessman’s energy was restored. His nerves calmed down. His discouragement was gone. He heard his name and saw his wife. His entire mood changed for the better.
Let’s think about that as we consider the first of the two passages for today, which is the first half of chapter 20 of the Gospel of John. A passage that begins with a woman being even more distraught than was John returning from his business trip. She - named Mary Magdalene - was very distraught because Jesus, the one she had known and followed, had, three days earlier, been killed by crucifixion, then buried in a borrowed tomb. The one she loved was dead and gone. Mary was very distraught.
On the third day after Jesus’ death and burial - the day after the Jewish sabbath - Mary went to Jesus’ tomb. According to John 20, it was still dark, though the dawn - the start of the day - was about to arrive.
Mary went to the tomb. We know from other Gospel accounts there may have been some other women with her and that her intent was to anoint Jesus’ body. Anointing had already been done just prior to the closing of the tomb, so it is a bit confusing why she intended to do what had already been done. Perhaps she wanted to add to what had been done. Perhaps it was her way of showing her respect for Jesus.
Mary went to the tomb. As she approached the area, she began to wonder how the tomb could be opened.
The closing of the tomb had been by a large stone being rolled to close the entrance. Mary certainly did not have the strength to move the large stone by herself. Even accounting for other women with her, together they did not have enough strength.
Plus, the Roman government had sealed the tomb. No one in their right mind would break the seal.
Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, hoping to anoint Jesus’ body, concerned how that could be done. Imagine her surprise when she got to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed. The tomb was open.
According to what she was soon to report, Mary looked inside the tomb. To her horror, she saw the tomb was empty.
With her surprised horror, Mary immediately ran to where two of Jesus’ disciples were. The two were Peter and John. More on Peter in today’s second passage, but Mary ran to Peter and John, telling them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we [she and whoever had been with her] do not know where they have laid Him.”
That caused Peter and John to also be surprised and horrified. Upon hearing the report, they left where they were. They, too, ran, this time to Jesus’ tomb.
John reached the tomb first. He stopped at the entrance, stooped, and looked in.
Peter, who arrived second, did not stop at the entrance. He went into the tomb. There, he saw what Mary had seen and what John saw when he looked into the tomb. There was no body. All they saw were the linen cloths in which Jesus had been wrapped as He had been prepared for burial. They saw the napkin, which had been on Jesus’ head, rolled up at one spot. They saw the rest of the cloths folded, lying at another spot.
Then John entered the tomb. He got a closer view of the empty cloths. Immediately, he believed that Jesus must have risen from the dead, just as Jesus had said He would. With that, the disciples went back to their homes.
However, Mary, who had followed Peter and John back to the tomb, remained there. She wept outside the tomb.
As Mary wept, she again looked into the tomb. This time, according to John, she saw, not only the empty cloths, but two angels, both dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one where His head had been, the other where Jesus’ feet had been.
The angels said to Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
Then Mary turned around and saw someone standing with her.
That someone was Jesus, but she did not know it was Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, Mary said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
With that, Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
That was all Jesus said. “Mary.” All He did was say her name, but immediately, her distraught state - her sadness, confusion, sorrow - disappeared. Mary’s energy was restored. Her nerves calmed down. Her discouragement was gone.
That happened as soon as Mary heard her name. In an instant, her entire mood changed for the better.
All that as Mary recognized Jesus, whereupon she cried out, “Rabboni,” which means Teacher, who gave her an assignment, which was to tell the disciples He had risen from the dead, which Mary did. That leads us to the second passage for this message - Mark 16:1-7.
This is one of the other Gospels that names women in addition to Mary Magdalene who went to anoint Jesus early the first Easter morning. The others named are Mary, the mother of James, and Salome.
This is one of the Gospels to mention that the purpose of going to the tomb was to anoint Jesus. This is where we learn about the concern of how they would get into the tomb so Mary and anyone with her could anoint Jesus. Mark records that on the way to the tomb, there was a discussion about who would roll away the stone.
As also recorded by John, when Mary - and any others - arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled back.
When the women arrived and, according to Mark, entered the tomb, they saw a young man sitting there, dressed in a white robe. [John’s account says there were two angels. Here it says one. Another report says the angel was not in the tomb, but on the stone that had been moved. I am not concerned about the differences. The important thing is that someone from God talked to Mary.]
The man - an angel - talked to Mary and anyone with her, saying to not be amazed. He added, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But now [this is getting to the point we need to see for this message] go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, as He told you.”
Did we catch it? Peter’s name was spoken. And no, he was not there at that spot at that time to hear it, and no, his name was not mentioned by Jesus directly. However, what happened would have been reported to him by Mary, and angels do the work of God, so Jesus directed that Peter be named.
What a wonderful thing that was for Peter. Remember? Just hours before Jesus was crucified, Peter had promised Jesus he would stay loyal to Him no matter what. He had promised he would die with Jesus if that became necessary. Peter had been so confident in his spiritual strength.
A confidence that lasted until the very tense moments at Jesus’ arrest and being on trial.
At the arrest, Peter did try to defend Jesus. Peter grabbed a sword and cut off an ear of one of the arresting officers. But after that - after Jesus stopped the violence and healed the injured officer - Peter, along with the other disciples, ran away.
Yes, Peter did return to the area where Jesus was on trial. He was in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. But remember? While there, three times, Peter denied being a follower of Jesus.
The first time, Peter denied knowing what a girl meant when she said he was a follower of Jesus.
The second time, he said he was not a follower of Jesus.
The third time, he swore he was not a follower. He said if he was lying, he deserved to die.
At the very moment of the third denial, a cock crowed, which Jesus had told Peter would happen. The sound was announcement of Peter’s failure.
At the same time, according to another Gospel, Jesus looked into the courtyard. His eyes met Peter’s eyes. Jesus’ eyes must have had sadness and disappointment in them.
Peter ran out of the courtyard, weeping as he went. All his big words promises had meant nothing. He had failed. He had failed miserably.
Peter’s sorrow remained during Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, both of which happened on Friday. It remained all the next day, which was the Jewish sabbath day. It continued early on Easter morning. It continued until he heard his name. As it was reported to him by Mary, the angel said, “Tell the disciples and Peter.”
Peter heard his name. Immediately, his distraught state - his sadness, confusion, sorrow - disappeared. Peter’s energy was restored. His nerves calmed down. His discouragement was gone.
Peter suddenly had hope, which is described very well in the song He’s Alive. Let me read the words of the song. They bring to mind Peter, not only hearing his name, but also what might have happened when Jesus, later that day, met with the disciples.
The song begins with what things were like early on Easter morning. Things experienced by Peter.
The gates and doors were barred,
All the windows fastened down.
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound,
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear that the day
Would find the soldiers breaking through
To drag us all away.
Just before the sunrise,
I heard something at the wall.
The gate began to rattle
And a voice began to call.
I hurried to the window.
I looked down into the street,
Expecting swords and torches
And the sound of soldier's feet.
There was no one there but Mary,
So I went down to let her in.
John stood there beside me
As she told us where she'd been.
She said they have moved Jesus in the night
And none of us knows where.
The stone’s been rolled away
And now His body is not there.
We both ran toward the garden.
Then John ran on ahead.
We found the stone and the empty tomb
Just the way that Mary said.
The winding sheet they had wrapped Him in
Was just an empty shell,
And how or where they'd taken Him
Was more than I could tell.
Well, something strange had happened there.
Just what I did not know.
John believed a miracle,
But I just turned to go.
Circumstance and speculation
Could not lift me very high
Because I'd seen them crucify Him,
Then I saw Him die.
Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came.
Everything I had promised Him
Just added to my shame.
When at last it came to choices,
I denied I knew His name.
Even if He was alive,
It would not be the same.
Suddenly the air was filled
With strange and sweet perfume.
Light that came from everywhere
Drove shadows from the room.
Jesus stood before me
With His arms held open wide,
And I fell down on my knees
And just clung to Him and cried.
He had called me by my name.
Now He raised me to my feet.
As I looked into His eyes
Love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies.
Guilt in my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release.
And every fear I'd ever had
Just melted into peace.
He's alive! He’s alive!
He's alive and I'm forgiven,
Heaven's gates are open wide!
He's alive! He's alive!
He's alive and I'm forgiven,
Heaven's gates are open wide,
He's alive! He's alive! He’s alive!
God knows us, has known us, and is willing to guide us and teach us. each of us individually.
Jesus wants us to be so close to Him we can know His voice.
He proved in the miracle of feeding thousands of people that He cares for each individual. He wants to make sure each one of us has enough to eat, both physically and spiritually.
He cares for us, even if we turn away from Him. He will keep watching for us to return to Him. He will celebrate when we do return.
All that, plus the wonderful thought that Jesus knows us by name. As it did for John in the story and as it did for Mary and for Peter, Jesus knowing our names should bring joy. With the knowledge Jesus knows our names, may any sadness, confusion, or sorrow we have disappear. May our energy be restored. May our nerves be calmed. May any discouragement we have be gone. May we, too, have hope.