Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Are You Weeping? (John 20:11-13)

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

In verse 11, “Mary” refers to Mary Magdalene. Peter and John had returned to the protection of their hiding place in the city. Mary, however, transfixed by shock and grief, thinking nothing of her own safety, stays behind at the tomb. She still cannot believe that Jesus’ body is gone. Just to be sure, she looks into the tomb one more time.

To her great surprise, Mary is greeted by a quite different sight than what Peter and John had seen. She sees two angels in white, one sitting at the head (of where Jesus’ body had been) and one sitting at the feet. The angels address her formally (“Woman”), using the same form of address that Jesus had twice used with his mother. “Why are you weeping?”, they ask her. “For the angels, this is the time of joy and triumph. The question is not so much a request for information (they could guess why she was weeping) as it was a summons to rejoice” (Farley, 344).

But Mary, weary, eyes filled with tears, and suffering from a combination of shock and grief, does not perceive that these are two angels. She thinks that they are merely men (Temple guards? Priests? Unknown disciples of Jesus?) wearing white garments. So, filled with grief and pain, she bursts out “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

Fr. Farley points out something very interesting. Earlier, when she had spoken to the disciples (v. 2), she used plural language (“we do not know”) and had spoken of Jesus as “The Lord.” Now, she says “I do not know” and calls Jesus “my Lord.” In Fr. Farley’s words, “She is here more focused on her own relationship with Jesus and on her own grief” (344).


charlene said...

Father James,
As to the wording used by Mary, could it also be that when she spoke to the disciples, she was speaking to persons who also claimed Jesus as their Lord, whereas the angels were two strangers to her, and she might have been careful lest she give away the others who loved Jesus? Or maybe there is a reason that Fr. Farley sees it this way based on something that follows, or something to do with this Mary that came before or in another part of the scriptures?

Fr. James Early said...

I think that your proposed reason is equally possible and likely. Fr. Farley's interpretation is just one way of looking at it, and it may be based on the comments of the early Church Fathers on the passage (of which I, sadly, haven't yet read much).