“11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18)
Last week we finished with the ‘I am’ names of Jesus, but continuing with the Easter theme I want to touch on another name Jesus was called: Rabboni.
The name Rabboni is only used twice in the bible (also Mark 10:51). The meaning is not fully clear but it is generally translated as ‘beloved teacher’. It seems funny to me to put those two words together because I don’t think I thought of any of my teachers like that at school! I tolerated a few of them, but no more than that.
Jesus of course is altogether different. Jesus was also called ‘Rabbi’ on a number of occasions which is the usual title for a spiritual teacher. However Rabboni means a bit more than that. A Rabboni was someone who didn’t simply teach but also produced teachers. Jesus was a great teacher, but more than that, His whole mission was to pass on His teaching to His disciples and then on and on throughout the generations. I think we can safely say He has achieved that mission.
Another aspect of this name is that it came from the lips of Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been constantly scorned and rejected throughout most of her life. She had a chequered past but Jesus had forgiven and accepted her and now she experienced the unbelievable privilege of going to the disciples as the first witness, ‘teaching’ them what Jesus had said to her. This would have been highly unusual in that society and further shows the value and trust that Jesus places on women.
I don’t know if you are a person who easily disqualifies yourself, but take heart from this example of Mary Magdelene, a person who had every reason to disqualify herself but was wonderfully taught and discipled by Jesus. Many would have thought “why is Jesus wasting His time teaching her?’. But Jesus didn’t consider it a waste of time at all and it would seem she went on to grow into a leader of women amongst Jesus’ disciples.
There has been plenty of nonsense written about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, with suggestions made that they were lovers etc. The above verse I think clearly says otherwise. Lovers don’t refer to each other as teachers, especially using this formal term. There was clearly love between them but a pure sort of love that I sometimes think the world is incapable of understanding. She loved Him dearly as her teacher but that’s as far as it would ever go.
The lesson that I think we should take from this passage of scripture is to not disqualify ourselves, but rather to continue learning from the greatest teacher who ever lived and whose words are still available today. Let us make the most of them.