“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love.” Psalm 143:8.
One of my favorite hymns as a child was In the Garden; I can still hear my Mother singing it while she and I made beds together in the mornings. It has a beautiful melody, but the lyrics bring forth such a wonderful image:
I come to the garden alone; while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
This is written around the account of Mary Magdalene’s early morning encounter with the risen Jesus in the garden. (The Story behind the hymn: In the Garden) I have loved this beautiful story as long as I can remember, and recently, while taking a seminary course on the Gospel of John, this story came to life for me. It is my habit, when I am studying a particular book of the Bible, to write out each verse as I study. That’s how I learn best. While writing the 20th chapter of John, of the account of Jesus’ resurrection, I found my heart racing in anticipation as I wrote John 20:10-18. I knew what was coming, but it was as if I were there, in the garden watching it all unfold before me. When I came to verse 16, my heart exploded in delight as I wrote: “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’”. Such a powerful moment should not be overlooked, but savored. Sit with me here in the garden for a moment and soak it in.
Consider with me too, that Jesus had spoken to her just before this saying, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (v. 15). So we know it wasn’t the sound of His voice that caused her to recognize the risen Lord. It was when He spoke her name. You see, Mary Magdalene had been an outcast before she first encountered Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus has cured Mary of demon possession, seven demons in fact had been cast out of her (Luke 8:2) . A demon possessed person was feared and loathed, an outcast in the community, and often cast out of the community altogether (see Luke 8:26-29). Maybe, if they were lucky, their family might keep them locked up in a room at home, but no one went near them, no one sat with them, and certainly no one tenderly called their name. This was Mary’s story before she met Jesus.
I wonder if you, like me, sometimes feel insignificant in this vast sea of humanity, and think “Does anyone notice me? Does anyone know or care about me.” “Does anyone know my name?” God does.
Psalm 147:4 says “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name,” and Isaiah 40:26 says “He [brings] out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name”. If He knows a billion stars by name, is it too difficult to believe that He knows you by name too? His Word assures us that He does: “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you . . . ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1). He knows your name and my name because He is our Creator.
I love this very intimate promise from God: “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).
Jesus knew Mary’s name, but more than that, He knew her life, her loneliness and brokenness. He knew her heart. He knows you as well – every struggle, every tear, every time you fall and every sin you’ve ever committed. Maybe you don’t have seven demons; maybe you have heartaches or failures. Perhaps your life is marked with rejection or grief or self-inflicted wounds. Know this: Jesus took on Himself all your sin and sorrow and shame and guilt, bore it on the cross where He died and buried it with him in the grave. And when He rose again, he left it all behind – you don’t have to carry it any longer.
Jesus described Himself as “The Good Shepherd” who “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). Jesus wants to lead you out of bondage to sin and brokenness and loneliness. He wants to give you freedom from whatever keeps you from living in His peace and joy and hope. Surely, if He can free a lonely women from seven demons, He can set you free as well.
My friend, hear the voice of the One who loves you with an everlasting love – He’s calling you by name.
He speaks, and the sound of his voice, is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me, within my heart is ringing.
Turn to the sound of that precious voice and run to your Savior.
Sweet Jesus, no other sound is a dear as my name on Your divine lips. Oh that everyone could have ears to hear your voice calling us by name. Amen
Take a listen: In the Garden – Brad Paisley
 C. Austin Mile, In the Garden, (Hall-Mack Music, 1912).