Why Weepest Thou?

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : April 4, 1901

John 20.11-18

 The women had been to the sepulcher very early in the morning, and had found it open, and Mary Magdalene had run to tell Peter and John, and, meeting them, had said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him.” Then the two apostles ran in haste to the grave, and went in, Peter first, and then John. In verse 8 John says of himself that he went in also, and he “saw, and believed;” but the words that immediately follow, namely, “for as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead,” plainly indicate that what he believed was what Mary had said, that they had taken the Lord away, and not that He had risen. This is also evident from the fact that the eleven had not believed the two who returned from Emmaus, and Jesus, when He came in, reproved them for their hardness of heart.

Peter and John, having looked round, “went away again into their own home; but Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher; and sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, whom the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.”

“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest 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. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni.”

We have in this far more than a simple story of loving loyalty and tender-hearted devotion. It is a lesson of admonition and comfort to all that mourn. All sorrow is caused by absence from the Lord, or rather, by inability on account of sin and unbelief, to recognize His presence; for “in His presence is fullness of joy;” He makes all who see Him exceeding glad with His countenance.

Too often we are perversely content to be sad, and many know not the cause of their sadness; but there are many who, like Mary, know that the cause of all their grief is that they have lost the Lord. Yet even while they wander in doubt and darkness, vainly seeking Him, He is not far from them. Be sure that He who came to seek and to save the lost, will surely manifest Himself to every one who is seeking Him. There are souls who are constantly mourning their separation from the Lord, whose mouth might be filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing, if they would but put forth the hand of faith; for they would then find Jesus.

Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for those who shall be heirs of salvation. So here were angels ready to minister comfort to the mourners. The other disciples, in their haste, missed the experience that Mary had. They did not see the angels, nor the Lord. It is well to wait on the Lord. “If the vision tarry, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not tarry.” Don’t be in too big a hurry, when you do not at once see the Lord where you look for Him. He is a God that hides Himself; but He hides Himself only that He may be found.

Jesus came so quickly after His messengers that they had no occasion to speak words of comfort to the sorrowing woman. He addressed her the same as they had, “Woman, why weepest thou?” Think of the significance of this question twice repeated. Why did she weep? It was because the grave was empty. But that ought to have caused her to rejoice; for it indicated that Jesus had opened the doors of death and the grave, and that He held the key.

Why did she weep?—Because as yet she knew not the Scripture, that Jesus must—mark that word “must”—rise from the dead. There was no real need for her to weep. Indeed, she was weeping for that which was the most joyful thing that has occurred since God laid the foundation of the earth, “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” And all her weeping was because she did not know the Scripture; and the only reason why she did not know it, was that she did not believe it.

“Why weepest thou?” Is it because of your sins? Then the message from God is that your iniquity is pardoned. Isaiah 40.2. “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins; return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee,” says the Lord. Isaiah 44.22. He gives “the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” that people may be called “trees of righteousness.”

In our deepest trials, we may be sure that Jesus is nearest. When it seems as though we had lost all that is worth having, then we may be assured that right by our side are treasures far more precious than we have ever dreamed of. Mary was mourning for a man whom she thought to be dead, and she found a living Saviour, Christ the Lord. He has come “to comfort all that mourn,” and He comforts us in all our tribulation. No matter how great the trouble, in Him there is peace, and He is with us always, even to the end of the world. There is no need for anybody to weep other tears than those of joy.

It is not a sin to weep, but one should know truly why he weeps. Tears may flow because of sin, and much more at the thought of God’s goodness and tender mercy; but these very tears, if our eyes are open, contain the assurance of salvation, for the sunlight of God’s love falls on them and makes the bow of promise. There is no situation so desperate but that the very trouble itself affords hope, if we but recognize the Lord in it. “Why weepest thou?”—Is it because you have allowed your eyes to remain closed to the “exceeding great and precious promises”?—Then let the tears swing open the gates, that “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened,” you may “know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”

One word was sufficient to dry Mary’s tears, and to bring her in rapture at the feet of Jesus. It was her name, uttered as only Jesus could speak it. He said “Mary,” and she at once greeted Him as her Divine Master, and not the gardener, as she had supposed. Would you like to have the same experience? It is yours already. He says to you; “Fear not; for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.” Isaiah 43.1. Blessed assurance! He stands by the open grave, calling each child of Adam by name, saying, “I have redeemed thee.” How can we continue weeping? Weep, if you will, but be sure you know why. Are you weeping for sadness, or for joy? Why weepest thou? Listen to the voice that singles you out from all the multitudes of earth, no matter how obscure your station, and gives to you personally the assurance of acceptance, and hail Himas your Master for ever.