Jesus Invites us to Speak Order Into Disorder
In his book, The Common Rule, Justin Earley talks about how he introduces himself. He is reluctant to offer his profession as a corporate lawyer as his first introduction but instead says, “I change things with words”’. Way more interesting, but also a beautiful way of framing that profession. Using words to change things is how he speaks of words’ creative power. He highlights that just as God used the power of the spoken word to bring order out of the disordered chaos in creation, we, as his image-bearers, possess the power to use words to bring order out of chaos. It is a unique co-creative ability that we have as humans, created in the image of God.
My mom died two weeks ago. I have been stopped suddenly by intense waves of grief pouring over me since then. Her death was a welcome relief to the suffering she had endured in her body, as her mobility and speech declined and her personality changed from the woman we once knew. However, the timing of her death was unexpected, and I am regularly surprised when an impulse to cry overtakes me for a moment.
This week, while reading some of Jesus’ passion narrative, I came across a tiny phrase in John’s gospel, when Mary was at the tomb, puzzled and disturbed at the empty tomb and Jesus’ missing body. In John 20:15, before she recognized Jesus in his risen state, Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Such an odd question for Jesus to ask. He knew full well why she was crying, so why did he ask her that? Isn’t it obvious? Why does Jesus offer this question when the answer is so clearly right before him?
Jesus is offering the woman an opportunity to use her words to formulate a bit of order in her disordered world. Her Lord has died, and she can’t even find his body to honour him in his burial. She needs a way to frame what is behind her emotional response. Perhaps Jesus uses this question to remind her of her co-creative abilities—that by merely articulating why she is crying, to name it, she can create order out of the chaos she finds herself in.
Jesus does this kind of questioning at other times in his ministry. We all know his question to the paralytic at Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?” or his question repeated in all three Synoptic gospels, “What do you want me to do for you?” first in Matthew’s gospel to two blind men, and then in the Mark & Luke accounts to one blind beggar. But the point is the same. Jesus asks a question with a seemingly obvious response. Why?
Maybe like Mary at the tomb, Jesus wants his image-bearers to use their words of light hidden beneath the surface, to give voice to their confusion and pain, and to not gloss over their pain of suffering. Just as blood needs to rush to an open wound to begin to form a scab and ultimately to heal it, so too, allowing the pain to flow outward and be spoken can be the beginning of new healing, resurrection life.
Jesus’ suffering on the cross is what we honour and remember this week. He is not immune to whatever suffering we may be experiencing in this season. Even though it may seem obvious on some level, he may ask us why we are weeping—either personally or what we are going through as an MB family. The invitation is to respond with the truth, not stuffing it down, not suppressing it, but believing in faith that the very act of naming it clearly before our Lord will be the first step of bringing order to the chaos we find ourselves in—the first step to recognizing the voice of our risen Lord there beside the tomb that once held him.
Connie Maier is Pastor of Outreach & Implementation at Glencairn MB Church in Kitchener, ON. She is a self-confessed book and coffee snob and a wannabe poet. She has a piercing laugh. If you heard it, you’d know it.