He Calls Us by Name

An Easter Meditation

I once considered names 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, to know them. Apart from those who don name-tags, we know not 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 the Lord’s body, but it’s gone.3

When Mary turns around, she sees Someone before her:

It’s Jesus. Alive.

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

But then…

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’5

As Jesus says her name, something like scales fall from the eyes of her heart. Now she beholds the Risen One face-to-face.

“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. And so it is with us. We must hear the risen Word speak our names and call us into what Tozer calls “…a conscious awareness of His Presence.”7

Until we hear Christ’s call, we cannot see Him rightly. Indeed, we must first have an encounter with Christ before we can begin to behold Him—not as the mere hero of an ancient fable, nor as an abstract ideal—but rather as a Person who dwells among us and speaks the Word of life to us.

What shall we do, now that we behold Him who 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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