“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic,
‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” John 20:16
Until this point she was weeping over the loss of a friend. She was trying to come to grips with a future that looked entirely bleak. She had supposed she was speaking with a random groundskeeper. Until he said her name.
Suddenly, Mary is brought back to reality. At that moment the scales fall off her eyes, so to speak, and she’s able to see clearly again. At the sound of her name on the lips of her Savior, the whole world comes into focus. The Good Shepherd calls his sheep by name, and they hear his voice (John 10:3). At that moment she recognizes she’s not talking to the gardener at all, she’s talking to her beloved teacher—“Rabboni!”
What Mary is experiencing is unsettling, to say the least. She’s encountering a man who is alive—again! But to dispel fear or consternation, the resurrected Christ speaks a sweet word of assurance. “Doubtless much of the magical effect of Jesus’s word was due to the tone in which he spoke it,” says Geerhardus Vos. But in this single word spoken in this singular way, he “assure[s] her that whatever transformation had taken place, there could be and would be no change in the intimate, personal character of their relationship.”
It’s very important for us to realize that Jesus’s first words out of the tomb aren’t a speech or public discourse in front of the masses. Instead, his first words are a personal conversation with a friend. That’s because he’s a personal Savior and that doesn’t change after the resurrection. Even now as the crowned King—who conquered death itself and thus rules over all the living—he’s still intimately interested in you and me. We joke with gifted or popular friends, “Don’t forget us when you’re famous!” Jesus doesn’t. And he proves it right here by addressing Mary.
This is meant to fill our hearts with great hope and confidence! In the world of the resurrection, our Savior will speak to us by name. And to know our name means he knows us. He knows our needs, our desires, our hurts, our weaknesses, our hopes, our joys, and our troubles. This is why he can wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4) and cause our weeping to cease, as he does with Mary (John 20:15)—because he’s a personal Savior.
We’re learning from this episode what the risen Jesus does: He says our names. Perhaps that seems insignificant to you. But let me put it to you like this: The only way for you to be saved is if Almighty God in heaven hears your name on the lips of his beloved Son. There’s no entering heaven, the land of resurrection, unless the Resurrected One says to his Father, “I know her. She’s with me.”
Although in the world to come there will be a countless multitude raised to life eternal praising the Lamb that was slain, we shouldn’t think of it as some crowd of people filled with anonymous faces. Each will be known and named by none other than Christ himself. For in that place there is the Book of Life, with every name of every believer written down in permanent ink. Our risen Savior promises us in Revelation 3 that to the one who believes in him, “I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father” (v. 5)—and this is what saves us. And so we sing, “My name is graven on his hands, my name is written on his heart. I know that while in heaven he stands no tongue can bid me thence depart.”
This article is the first reading in our free, 5-day Easter devotional, “Meeting the Risen Christ.” You can download your copy here.
 Charitie Lees Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above,” 1863.