He Calls Us by Name

An Easter Meditation

Names are fascinating. To know someone’s name means, at least on some level, you know them. With the exception of customer service workers, we don’t know the names of strangers. 

I grew up with a twin brother. He looks a lot like me. So naturally, I became accustomed to being mistaken for someone else and being called a name not mine. Over time, I learned to expect this from people who know my brother but not me, and from people getting to know one or both of us. But sadly, some—who have spent considerable amounts of time around both my brother and I—have never learned to distinguish between us. They don’t know what name to call us, and this reveals an unfortunate truth: they don’t really know us. 

In a scene near the end of John’s biography of Jesus,1 one of Jesus’ followers, a woman named Mary Magdalene, is found weeping outside his tomb.2 She’s crying because she came to see his body, but it’s not there. She thinks someone took it away.3

But when Mary turns around, she sees Someone standing behind her. 

It’s Jesus. Alive.

But Mary doesn’t know it’s him. She thinks he’s the gardener.4

But then… “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”5

Now she gets it. Now her eyes are open. Now she can see the risen Jesus standing before her. “She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).”6 Notice: Mary only sees Jesus for who he truly is once she hears him call her name. 

It’s the same for us. Everything changes when we realize Jesus knows us and reveals himself to us by calling us by name into a “…conscious awareness of His Presence.”7 Until we hear Christ’s call, we are unable to see him rightly. But when we hear his voice speaking our name, we begin to understand: Jesus is not a distant deity, nor a character from an old fable, but a real Person who manifests his Presence to us and longs to be known by us. 

What would it look like for you to live with the knowledge Jesus deeply knows you and calls you into his Presence? And what would it look like for the universal Church to come together as a people who live in response to the God who reveals himself to us and calls us by name?

Notes 

1. John 20:11-18. On the four Gospels (known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) as ancient biography, see Pitts, A.W. (2020). The Fowler Fallacy: Biography, History, and the Genre of Luke-Acts. Journal of Biblical Literature, 139(2), 341-359 (esp. 348-351); and Wright, N.T., & Bird, M.F. (2019). The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians, 681-684. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

2. John 20:11 

3. John 20:13

4. John 20:14-15

5. John 20:16a ESV

6. John 20:16b ESV

7. Tozer, A. W., (2017 [1948]). From The Pursuit of God. In The Essential Tozer Collection, 42. (J.L. Snyder, Ed.) Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House.

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