The gospel of John essentially begins and ends with the same question. It is the premier question, and it is at the heart of prayer, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38; 20:15) Early in the gospel narrative, this is the question posed by Jesus to two of John the Baptist’s disciples. Then, after His death, on resurrection morning, He meets Mary of Magdala, coming with spices to embalm His dead body. Jesus is alive, but she does not recognize Him. Sincere, but bewildered by the empty tomb, she inquires where she might find Jesus. He simply repeats her question, “What are you looking for?” (John 20:15). The entire book is bracketed by the question, “What are you looking for?” Prayer is a search for God – personally and corporately.

What Mary and the disciples of John were searching for is what we search for – God. God in Christ. God’s voice, recognizing and speaking to us, personally and corporately. As Jesus gathered His disciples on the last night, He continues to gather disciples to Himself in prayer. He is still praying, and he invites us to join Him in prayer. The essence of the Acts 2 experience, is the Church. His disciples who were gathered here on earth are yet in some mysterious way, connected to Him. As the bride and the bridegroom are joined, in prayer, by the Spirit, in heaven and earth. Out of this corporate prayer gathering comes mission. Upon the church gathered, comes the roar of mighty wind, an attestation of the character of the resurrected Christ, the Lord of the Church.

The church gathered and faced the confusion of the rejecting dismissive culture, “What does this mean? You are drunk with new wine!” (Acts 2:12) That small, formidable group of Christ followers stood as one voice offering a reasoned explanation for the life of Christ, His death, resurrection and ascension, His enthronement in heaven. As we gather in prayer, we invite the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be witnesses before a watching world. Continuing in prayer (Acts 2:42), we enlarge the circle of Christ followers, inviting them into the discipline of prayer, the Word, the joy of fellowship, the grace of the table. Paul would exhort, “There is one body and one spirit” (Ephesians 4:4). We are not two churches, apostolic and modern. We are one with Pentecost. The same church founded by Christ. The same power. The same faith. The same table. The same Jesus.

Through the gospel of John, the question lingers – “What are you looking for?” The entire book is a search, a quest for Christ. At the end of John’s gospel, on Resurrection Day, Jesus answers the question, and He does so to one of the most notorious sinners in the New Testament, Mary of Magdala. To such people, to sinners, Jesus choose to make the sacred disclosure. Her spices will not be needed to embalm the dead body of Jesus, He is alive. She, is perhaps overcome by grief and is focused on the task at hand, so she does not recognize Him. She is bewildered. Her sensibilities, already shattered, are now further unraveled. Jesus helps her focus by repeating her question, “What are you looking for?” Then, He says her name, “Mary.” And, she knows. This is the gospel – to have been found by the Living Christ. He came, to seek and to save. He came calling her name, and ours. This is what all us are looking for – “God’s voice, one-to-one, speaking unconditional love, gently saying your name.”[2] This is prayer – reconnecting and staying connected to God.

After the resurrection, Jesus connected with Clopas, His uncle, on the road to Emmaus, and helped him to believe. He sought out His brother James, and in the Upper Room, James was present, as were all the brothers of Jesus, and His mother, Mary. He found Peter and restored his call. He allowed Thomas to confirm his faith. He appeared to His disciples multiple times, in dramatic ways, to strengthen their faith.

Be open to how God will reveal Himself to you this Resurrection weekend!

P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.

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[1]       Donald Bloesch, “Whatever Happened to God?” Christianity Today, (12:3).

[2]       Rolheiser, Ronald, Sacred Fire:, 182.

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