He Calls Us by Name

An Easter Meditation

I once considered names to be arbitrary. I now know this is not so, for I have since learned names are laden with social and symbolic value. One intuitively understands: to know someone’s name means, on some level, you know them. With the exception of those who wear mandatory name-tags, we do not know the names of strangers—nor do we recognize their voice.

Near the end of the Fourth Gospel, one of Jesus’ followers—a woman named Mary Magdalene—weeps outside his tomb.2 She’s came to see Christ’s body, but it’s gone.3

When Mary turns around, she sees Someone before her:

It’s Jesus. Alive.

Mary doesn’t know it’s Jesus, though. She thinks he’s the gardener.4

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’5

When Jesus says her name, scales fall from her eyes, and she beholds the Risen One:

“She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).”6

Notice: Mary only sees Jesus for who he truly is when she hears him call her name. So it is with us. We must hear the Word speak our names and call us into a “…conscious awareness of His Presence.”7

Until we hear Christ’s call, we cannot to see him rightly. Indeed, a person must have an encounter with Christ before we begin to behold him—not as the mere hero of an ancient fable, nor an abstract ideal—but rather as a real Person who manifests his Presence to us.

What shall we do, now that we know Jesus deeply knows us, and calls us by name into his manifest Presence?


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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