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Jane Korvemaker ponders the Resurrection story as told in the Gospel of John, and what we can learn from Mary of Magdala's experience of the risen Christ.

Praise the Lord! Jesus is risen!  

St. Augustine speaks of three types of vision: physical vision, mental vision, and vision of the heart. If you have read the account of the Resurrection in the Gospel of John, we can turn to Mary of Magdala's experience of the risen Jesus, which illustrates this so well for us.  

She enters the garden not once, but twice. The second time, it's not hard to imagine her confusion: two other men have confirmed that the tomb is indeed empty, but not one of them can explain what's happened. She came with them, but while they returned to their homes she remained, in terrible grief. It is here, in her brokenness, that the beloved Son meets her.   

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.   

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” (John 20:14-15) 


Reading this lightly, there is humour here: Mary, who has traveled with Jesus, who has heard Him speak many, many times over the last few years, and who is considered a good friend to Jesus, turns toward the man speaking to her but does not recognise that it is Jesus. Point-blank, there is not one thing about this man that is familiar to her.  




There is no harking to the angels’ song that lays plain who this is. It isn’t because He is ordinary-looking, not clothed in glory; there is nothing that had been presented to her that would connect for her that the Holy One of Israel is the person she knew, Jesus. She knew Jesus as an intimate friend, but this is not Him.  

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. (John 20:16) 


If we were to take this literally, we saw that she already turned to Him. Yet in verse 16, she turns again. How can this be so?   




St. Augustine tells us that there are three types of vision: physical, mental, and of the heart. Mary physically turned and saw Jesus; she recognised a man present, but did not mentally connect him to anyone she knew, nor did she know in her heart who it was speaking to her.  

Jesus initiated the contact the first time, encouraging her to fully turn toward Him. It was not enough. And so he reached out again: “Mary!” and boom, there it is. To understand why it took her name being called, we have to look back to John chapter 10:  

The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. (John 10:3b-4)


She recognises her Shepherd when he calls her by name. We know this because she responds, “Rabbouni.” Now her spirit turns toward him, the second turn, and she mentally sees that this man is Jesus, her beloved friend who was crucified. Yet not only this, for it follows:  

Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18)


She does not proclaim him as Teacher. She proclaims that she has seen the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. The vision of her heart is now clear: Jesus, her intimate friend and the Teacher, who was brutally crucified and died, is not only who they all thought He was, but hidden away from their vision (even his closest friends!) He also was (and is!) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Holy One. She is given Paschal vision.  

Mary experiences the turn of faith. She has fully turned to Jesus, Son of God, physically, mentally, and with her heart.   

I think we all have experiences similar to this, when in a moment of sudden clarity, we see God working in our lives. We see the meaning behind experiences, according to God’s perspective. It is because our loving Shepherd is reaching to us, calling us by name to turn to Him fully. What a gift and a challenge for us—to live out this Easter faith with eyes that look for Jesus in others! 




I pray that we all open ourselves to Christ this Easter season, inviting the Spirit to open our vision, like Mary, and see Jesus.   

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8) 


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Copyright 2024 Jane Korvemaker
Images: (top, center) Holy Cross Family Ministries; (bottom) Canva