Some years ago when I was a Parish Minister, I happened on this particular occasion to be at the western General Hospital in Edinburgh visiting my new parishioners
I went to see Mrs Bloggs. I located the ward and the bed. “Hello, there, Mrs Bloggs, and how are you feeling today? “Not so bad, thanks, but I’ve got a bit of pain…about here” and she indicated her abdomen, and then proceeded to go into what I think can only be termed as very personal and indeed private, if not intimate detail about the effects of her recent surgery.
I was getting a bit hot under the dog collar by this time, and especially when she said that she would like to show me her operation scar.
“I think I’d better get a nurse, Mrs B”
“Right, DOCTOR” she answered
That’s when the penny dropped. DOCTOR a case of mistaken identity.
Needless to say, I made my excuses and left.
Mistaken identity. It happened on another occasion, back in the 1970s. I called upon this elderly lady, who opened the door, and said “I’ve been waiting in all day for you to come and convert me” A strange kind of remark
“It’s over here” she added and showed me a cupboard where the gas meter was situated.
“Have you not brought any tools with you?” she then asked.
Perplexed I was thinking ‘what tools?’ a bible? maybe a communion kit?,
And then the penny dropped – no, it clattered. She thought I was from the gas board and had come to covert her supply to the then new North Sea gas!
Let’s pause for a moment and think about these two incidents – in the hospital, the patient has been expecting to see a doctor; perhaps it was the time when he did his rounds – hence the mix up.
In the other case, the elderly lady had been anxiously waiting all day for the gasman to come; no doubt, she was a bit flustered; maybe her eyesight wasn’t as good as it could have been. She was expecting someone else – not a minister, even although I was wearing my collar; so…. when I turned up on her doorstep: Behold the Gasman cometh!
On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdelene went to the rock tomb where Jesus has been buried on the Friday, having been taken down from the Cross.
She was in a highly emotional state. She certainly wasn’t thinking straight.
The person in whom she had put her trust had been put to death. That was fact. Dead & buried.
Then, coming to the tomb early in the morning of that Easter day, she finds the stone rolled away. She tells Peter and John of her discovery; they run ahead of her to assess the situation.
Mary goes back herself, standing outside the empty tomb weeping.
We’re told that she sees angels who talk to her and ask her why she is crying.
This is an obviously emotionally charged situation. This poor woman is confused and disorientated.
And even although the signs are all there – the empty tomb – the angels (a sure symbol of divine activity) , her expectation level is low – the last person she would possibly hope to encounter is Jesus.
But she’s in a garden. Who else but the gardener should approach her and speak to her “Woman, why are you crying?” He may have looked like Jesus, and sounded like Jesus – but Mary, her eyes blinded by tears, her mind confused, expecting to see a gardener, sees a gardener. And thinking that he is the gardener, she asks him where they have put the body of Jesus.
But then he speaks her name, “Mary!”, and she knows…she knows.
Mary was seeking a dead Christ on Easter morning.
So do so many many others so often.
They say that he was a good man or a good teacher, a guru or a prophet…..but long since dead and gone. They do not realise – do not want to acknowledge that our Christ reigns forever. He goes unrecognised.
But he is alive! And once we know that, we see all the glory…..and like Thomas later in the Easter narrative, we too can say of him and to him “My Lord and my God”