The Lord's Question to Mary
John 20:15
Jesus said to her, Woman, why weep you? whom seek you? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him…


1. Those who have not yet found rest for their souls in God. If God be in the heart there are many ways m which men may enjoy Him; and, if God be absent, there are as many by which they may seek to fill up the vacant place — power, fame, pleasure, knowledge, and affection. For a while they are deceived by the ardour of pursuit, or the first glow of possession. But there comes the death of their hope, their grief before its grave. And so, if their nature be of the common superficial kind, they begin the chase after new shadows. Or, if the nature be deeper, they turn in upon them. selves to lament the vanity of human endeavour. And yet the Christ is near the place where they are groping among the ashes of buried hopes, which come to them to make them feel after and find Him.

2. Those who have had a deep sense of the soul's value, and of Christ as a Friend who could meet its need. But they seem to have lost Him. It may come in different ways; through a shaking of our faith in the Divine and eternal as real, or through a loss of our own personal hold of them, or, as often happens, through an intermingling of both. But, however it comes, those who feel it are of all men most miserable. The cause of the gospel was never so despaired of as in the hour of its birth, and this question is for the encouragement of those who are seeking Him whom they seem to have lost.

3. Some of those who know that they have not only a dead but a risen Lord. A little view of His greatness made one of His disciples say, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man," and the sight of it, with the spiritual eye, filled the apostle with an eager longing — "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

II. THE ANSWER, WHICH IS CONTAINED IN THE FORM OF THE QUESTION. It is composed of two parts; the first directs us inward to our own heart, with its want and sorrow, the other, outward to what is to meet and relieve it. Let us look at them,

1. It may be that speculative unbelief is troubling your soul. Observe, then, how in creation and man, there is an agreement between the need and cry, and the provision, e.g., seed and climate, eye and light, hunger and bread, thirst and water, the breathing frame and the vital air, and the manifold necessities and supplies which are like prayers and answers in every place and through all time. If it be so in the lower wants, shall it fail to approve itself in the higher? Shall God have regard to the animal necessities and turn a deaf ear to the cries of the soul? The ear which hears the young raven's cry cannot be deaf to the sobs and prayers of human hearts. And let us thank God that He has made the soul so that when it is truly wakened by Himself, none but Himself can satisfy its need. If there are such breathings of desire in human spirits there must be an object and end for them. The word is nigh thee, even in thy heart, and then the living Word Himself is near who answers it: "Why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?"

2. But it may be that your trouble is that you feel unable to lay hold of Him. Then the question still comes with its own answer. Ask yourself of your pain, and see if there be not in Him the remedy you seek. Are you oppressed with the burden of guilt? Here is forgiveness from His hand in a way which should meet your heart's desire. Is life a battle to you, with daily cares, troubles, and temptations, others leaning on you, and you without strength? There is one who comes to help the fallen that they who wait upon Him may renew their strength. Is it that you feel the loneliness of life when lover and friend have been put far from you, and the world outside is bleak and bare? There Christ stands at the door and knocks — "If any man open, I will come in."

3. It is by putting such questions as these that we learn the fitness of God's answer to our heart's cry, and find it all in Jesus Christ. It is the way God Himself has taken in the Bible; for what is the Old Testament, with its utterances of want and longing desire, but a pressing of the question, Why weepest thou? and what is the New Testament but the unveiling of Him who answers the question, Whom seekest thou? And when He comes in person what is His earthly life but a touching of the deep chords of man's nature, that He may awaken him to a consciousness of his misery and sin, and then assure him of His power to save and satisfy? And what is this life but a questioning us of our heart-sores and losses, with strength and comfort interspersed like pledges which make us say, Lord, to whom but to Thee? in order that He may prepare us for the answer when the weeping of the night gives place to the joy of the morning? "I will come and take you to Myself."


1. That Christ reveals Himself to the heart before He discloses Himself to the eye. He stood at first beside Mary as a stranger, led her to review her past, and seek and find Him in her sorrow; and then He removed the cloud which had come between, and appeared as the risen Saviour. It is this method which explains to us the gloomy hours and long questionings of some who are seeking Him: "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" We wonder that God does not show Himself and speak out. But He means to deepen the sense of need, and to make the revelation of Himself more blessed, "Whom having not seen we love."

2. That Christ makes Himself known in the way of duty. Some make comfort the guide of their spiritual life. But this recognition of Christ came to one who had no comfort, and who was scarcely seeking it. She came to Christ's grave because she could not stay away. Grief, loyalty, love, drew her there, and she had her reward.

3. Christ's way of revealing Himself. A human historian would have constructed a long speech, but Christ used a single word — so simple, so natural. It is like Him who has distilled His mercy into short Bible words — Immanuel, Jesus, Saviour, God is Love, — making it small that it may enter feeble hearts, as He makes the drops of water small to visit the blades of grass. The single word was a name. It spoke of personal knowledge and interest. We read that "God counts the stars and calls them by their names;" but it is something greater in Him that He calls by name the children of men: "Jacob whom I have chosen; the seed of Abraham my friend." "He called His own sheep by name." It was at the name that she turned and knew Him.

4. In this way of recognition, we have a hint of how Christian fellowship shall be restored in the world beyond death? This great Friend, who carries all other true friendships in His heart, named Mary from beyond His grave, to bid us hope and trust that He will meet and name His friends on the heavenly threshold Christ surely first as well befits Him, but afterward they that are Christ's, and ours.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

WEB: Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?" She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

The Living God the Source of Comfort
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