a woman searching for a book in a library

John 20:11-18: Do you Really Know What You’re Searching For?

As a librarian, teaching my students the research process, I couldn’t stress enough the importance of knowing what they were searching for.

I explained to them that they could spend hours on the Internet or in databases and actually “find nothing”. 

The main reason for this was that they didn’t know what they were looking for. They had the best intentions on completing their research, but couldn’t find anything because they didn’t know what they were looking for. 

The articles they needed were in front of them, just like when we’re talking to someone on the phone and are desperately searching all over the house because we can’t find our phone.

Once they had a clear view of what they required, they started to find the right information.

Mary Magdalene

That experience was what came to my mind after reading the Resurrection Scene in John 20:11-16 when Mary Magdalene meets the empty tomb. 

At the beginning of the chapter we see that Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb, sees the stone removed, calls the disciples who confirm that the body of Jesus, the Lord, is not in the tomb. 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.

And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” John 20:11-13 (ESV).

The disciples returned. But Mary stays crying by the tomb (v. 11). 

From her conversation with the angels, we can feel her sorrow and her great concern for not knowing where the body of Jesus is. 

Mary went to the tomb to see the source of her pain, and found the source of her hope and salvation.

Her Lord, Whom She is Searching For

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). John 20:14-16 (ESV)

Let’s think about this for a moment. Mary saw Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus? 

While reading the gospels, we learn that she is one of the women who was closest to Jesus. 

We would think that she must have known Him well and that it would be obvious that she recognized him. 

Perhaps the crying clouded her vision or the light was not the best? We don’t know for sure why, but that’s what led me to think about my students. 

How many times I’m searching for something in a drawer and I don’t find what I’m looking for. Because my vision is cloudy, either because of haste or desperation. 

Then Jesus speaks and asks: “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary, still wrapped in her sorrow, answers the question in a hurry to get the answer she needs: where is the body of her Lord?

Jesus patiently answers: “Mary!” Thus, as a call to be awakened from her concern, to actually see what’s in front of her. 

She turns to look at him, and finally recognizes him and exclaims: “Rabboni!” (Teacher). 

She Found More

After talking with Jesus, Mary returns, probably faster than the first time, to the disciples. 

Now she tells the disciples: “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18) Notice that she didn’t say: “I found His body.” She has seen him, she has talked to him. 

Mary went to the tomb looking for the Lord. But the surprise of the missing body, the unexpected turn of events, and the pain clouded her vision and she did not find what she was looking for. 

She was searching for the dead body of the Lord, and she couldn’t find it. 

Just like my students who couldn’t find the information they needed for the research because they weren’t sure what they were looking for.

Mary went looking for a dead body, when she should have been looking for the risen body of the Lord.

Once she heard Jesus’ voice, everything started to make sense. There was no dead body to find, she was supposed to be looking for what he promised, Him risen. (Matthew 16:21)

Mary went to the tomb to see the source of her pain, and found the source of her hope and salvation. 

What Are We Searching For?

How many times do we seek the Lord in prayer for an answer, and we do not find it? To later realize that the answer was in front of us, but we did not know what we were looking for. 

A lot of times we have an idea of ​​how the Lord should answer our prayers. We are sure we know what is best for us, or what should happen, but we don’t find that answer. 

The truth is that most of those times, we don’t know what we should be searching for. 

Just like Mary, in our sorrows, worries, uncertainty, and even in the midst of our joy, we forget what we should be searching for.

The one thing we should be searching for is our Lord, the risen Lord, and His will for our lives preserve to us in the Bible.

Mary went to the tomb looking for a dead body and came out having found hope. 

As we come in prayer to the Lord with all that’s in our hearts and minds, may we also find hope and be able to rejoice on what Jesus has done for us. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. Romans 5:1-3 (ESV)

Final Thoughts

When you approach the Lord in prayer, do you know what you are looking for? 

If you are like me, surely you are looking for solutions, plans, and answers.

We can even fall into the error of thinking that the Lord does not listen to us or is not answering. Beware not to be searching for our phone while using it. 

Let us go in prayer and let us be confronted like Mary and leave our prayer time having found hope, comfort, and peace. 

That we can say like Mary: I have seen the Lord! The Lord has heard my prayer!

This post was originally written in Spanish and can be found here.

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