Following Jesus in a Fog
Are you following Jesus in a fog? Is your relationship with Jesus of Nazareth limited by the fog of confused identity? Do you follow Jesus as an earthly friend, a comforting teacher, or a personal guru? If so, you might be trapped in the same fog as Mary of Magdala. Mary of Magdala followed a version of Jesus that only existed in her mind. Yet she was as sincere in her devotion to Jesus as you might be. But she followed Jesus in a fog.
Perhaps the same fog darkens your understanding of Jesus’ identity. If so, you might consider the case of Mary of Magdala. John’s Gospel portrays her as following Jesus in a self-made fog. But at the right moment, Jesus burned away the fog from her senses. Once the fog was lifted, she recognized Him as He really was. It was a life changing moment for her. Her tears finally stopped. It could be for you as well. Is He trying to burn away the fog for you? Is this moment the right moment for you?
Mary’s First-Hand Advantages
Mary of Magdala was a devoted follower of Jesus. She knew Him well; at least she thought she knew Him. She had seen Jesus work miracles. Her sincere devotion to Him motivated her to follow Him all the way to scene of the cross, staying after most of Jesus’ disciples fled in fear. They fled. She stayed. Mary was devoted. She had the advantage. There’s more.
Sees Jesus Die on the Cross
At the cross, Mary watched Jesus give His mother to John to care for. But the presence of Jesus’ mother failed to lift the fog. Mary heard him say, “I am thirsty.” She saw him drink the sour wine given to him while hanging on the cross. She heard Him say, "It is finished." The fog remained. There’s more.
Mary saw the blood and water flow from his side after it was pierced by a Roman lance. She watched Jesus give up His spirit and die. But Mary was lost in a fog.
To Mary, Jesus was a close friend and teacher who had died. Mary could not sing, “At the Cross, at the cross…where I first saw the light…” Mary was at the cross of Jesus, but she failed to see the light. The fog shrouded the light.
Sees the Empty Tomb
But that’s not all. She was the first person at the tomb early Sunday morning, the first to peer inside and realize that His body was gone. The fog still shrouded her eyes.
She spoke to Peter and the beloved disciple. She saw two angels inside Jesus’ tomb and even heard their pointed question, "Why are you crying?" But she didn’t get it. Their question about her tears didn’t register. Imagine ignoring two questions from angels. The fog was thick.
Sees the Risen Jesus
Last, but not least, Mary was the first to see the risen Jesus. She saw Him with her own two eyes. Mary even heard Jesus ask her two penetrating questions: “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you searching for?”
You’d think the fog would have lifted immediately when she saw Jesus and heard his personal questions. Yet, she didn't recognize Him. Not even a, “Wow, that voice sure sounds familiar to me. The voice sounds just like Jesus’ voice. Could it be Jesus?”
Still looking for a dead body, Mary assumed the risen Jesus must be the gardener. Despite all her advantages, Mary remained in a fog and her tears still flowed.
The Veil of Fog Remained
Mary of Magdala had the advantages of witnessing the key moments and people in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet with all of first-hand experiences at the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, she still was determined to find the dead body of Jesus. The veil of fog remained over the eyes of Mary’s heart. Her advantages failed to lift the veil.
Mary needed more than devotion, advantage, and determination. We all do.
Why the Fog?
Why the fog? To Mary, Jesus was a close friend, an earthly companion, and a teacher to whom she was devoted. To Mary, Jesus was a human teacher (a “Rabbi”). To Mary, Jesus’ origins were from the earth.
Her limited understanding of Jesus’ true identity generated the fog. Her faulty assumptions of Jesus’ true identity jumbled her mind and emotions into confusion, tears, and disappointment at his death. Mary was in a fog and she needed someone to burn it away. She needed someone or something to help her stop grieving.
Jesus Called Mary by her Name
Then the risen Jesus did what no one else could do. Jesus called Mary by her name. He said to her, “Mary.” The name did it. Speaking her name broke the foggy spell. The fog burned away in that one moment. She recognized him not through seeing the risen Jesus but by hearing his voice calling her personally.
Jesus Gets Personal
The veil over Mary’s eyes lifted when Jesus spoke her personal name. “He calls his own sheep by name.” (10:3). “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (10:14); the risen Jesus knew Mary’s name. He called it and her recognition followed immediately.
The Voice of the Good Shepherd
Mary had searched unsuccessfully for the body of a dead friend. The fog remained over her eyes despite her first-hand experiences with Jesus at his most-important events. But Mary’s case is not so unusual. Many people are shrouded in the same fog and do not recognize the real Jesus. They, too, have advantages. But they need personal intervention. Perhaps this is the case with you as well.
Mary needed intervention. Do you? She was looking for the wrong version of Jesus, an earthly Jesus. Are you? But because Mary was eternally destined to be a member of His own flock, the risen Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, called her by name and burned away the fog. It was the voice of the risen Good Shepherd calling Mary’s name that made the difference.
Is Jesus Getting Personal with You?
Do you find yourself in the same fog? Is Jesus calling you by your personal name? Is the voice you are hearing in your mind the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd? Is Jesus getting personal with you?
Are You Searching for a Jesus that Doesn’t Exist?
Perhaps you are searching for a Jesus who doesn't exist. Perhaps like Mary, you view Jesus as your guru or spiritual teacher. When we look for a mere teacher or popular hero, a powerful friend, or even a gifted example, it is hard to recognize the true identity of the risen and exalted Son of God. The fog is just too thick to see clearly. That is why Jesus intervened in Mary’s case.
The Risen Jesus Still Calls People by Name
The risen Jesus, the exalted Good Shepherd, still intervenes into the fog-bound minds of men and women when He calls them by name. Jesus still barges into our human experience to lift the veil from our eyes. Without Jesus’ radical incision into the mind of Saul of Tarsus (“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Acts 9: 4), he would have remained the antagonist of Jesus. Calling Saul’s name made the difference.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead by calling his personal name: “Lazarus, come forth.” (11:43) Calling Lazarus’ name made the difference. Is Jesus calling you by your name?
Which Version of Jesus are you Following?
Are you following Jesus as an earthly friend, a comforting teacher, or a personal cheerleader? Like Mary, you, too, will be soon disappointed. Jesus is far more than an earthly companion.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to His Father in heaven. He is the One with whom we must meet to find God as our Father, to experience the forgiveness of our sins, and to dry our tears of disappointment and grief.
Is Jesus Calling You by Name?
So, is Jesus calling you by your personal name (i.e., Jessica, Valerie, Jerry, Jake)? Has Jesus come to you in your tears and called you by name so that you will recognize his true identity? Have you responded by faith to His call? This might be the right for moment for you.
Leave the Fog Behind
Why not respond right now. By faith, leave the fog behind and trust Jesus as God’s risen and exalted Son, the One upon whom you depend completely for the forgiveness of all your sins, to guide you through life as a Good Shepherd, and one day, to take you home to your Father in heaven.
Your decision to trust Him will be a destiny changing moment for you. Clear skies, bright Son, and no tears or fog there. And you’ll meet Mary of Magdala and be able to share your own fog story with her. You can laugh about the fog together.
Thank you for reading.