To Whom Did He Come?

Author: David Montague | MTR President

Below is a portion of what David shared at the MTR Spring Selection Weekend dinner last Friday. He uses elements of Jesus’ first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20) and connects it to the work of urban education. Be encouraged this Easter weekend. He is risen!

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To Whom Did He come?

He came first to a woman.  A women with a “story”… a past… from whom seven demons had been cast out.  A women weeping.

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

What do we know about women in the first century.  Women were seen as less than.  They did not carry the same rights or value or dignity as men.  Women were not considered valid witnesses either personally or in the court of law. For we know, from Josephus, that the Jews had added to the word of the law (which says that on the testimony of two or three only can anything be established), these words: “But let not the testimony of women be received, because of the frivolity of the sex.” The rabbinical teaching was that the testimony of one hundred women was not sufficient to refute that of one man.  In essence, they were not fully participating legal citizens.  They were marginalized and oppressed, systemically, in a male dominated world.  Add to that formally demon possessed and single with no protection from a husband, and you had someone on the lowest end of the social system.  She was the ultimate “Outsider”

Memphis is a collection of “outsiders”….  We are a “what good could ever come out of….” Type city.  We are a city with a questionable reputation… Routinely ranked in the top 10 of questionable / unsavory rankings of poverty and poor health.  And we are, of course, the city where one of our nations greatest leaders, MLK, was killed.

SCS, too, is a “less than” district.  For example, in a recent ranking of states, TN was rated as the 41st highest performing state putting us in the bottom 25% of all states.  Within TN, SCS is the lowest performing district.  Regarding poverty, approximately 85% of SCS students qualify for FRPL, while more than 40,000 students come from families that make less than $10,000 annually.

Memphis is a Mary Magdalene of cities… the type of people and place that Christ (and his people) come to first.  Not last.

(as an aside… isn’t it interesting that with Mary who was one of the only few to stay with him to his death was the first to see him at his resurrection… quite literally the last shall be first)

How did He come?

He came, nameless (anonymously), as a common gardener. 

14… At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

He broke into history, alive, resurrected… not appearing to Kings or the wealthy or the majority or the powerful.  He announced himself to the world anonymously.  Nameless.  A commoner.  Veiled.  Simple.  Plain.  A gardener.  Just a common man doing a common job.  Although I don’t think it is a simple coincidence that he came as a gardener… as He has come to create and cultivate a new world, and has called his people to also create and cultivate (see theme to MTR yearbook).

In the same way, teaching is an anonymous job.  It is not for the self-serving.  It is not for those of personal ambition.  It is not the place to make a name for yourself.

There are 7,000 teaching jobs in Memphis; teaching 100,000+ students in public schools. SCS is the second largest employer in Memphis with a total workforce of 16,000.  2nd only to FedEx’s 31,000 employees.  Methodist 12,000…. IP 2,200.

In education, you are often known as a 3rd grade teacher, or an Geometry teacher, or Middle School science…. Not as much Emily Tuberville, or Ben Rollins or Rebecca Rhodes.

You are often nameless and anonymous, doing a common job… common in the sense that you share the job/ role with 7,000 others (probably more than any other job in the city) and that the job must be applied to every child in our city, by law.

Yet, uncommon and glorious in that in what other profession can you have the right and obligation to shape and form minds and hearts more than any other person in their life, save possibly their parents.

What did He do?

He called her by Name.  And blessed her with purpose.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Teacher! 17 …Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

His first word to her (following his question)…. His announcement of His coming as King of the World was not, look at me… it was you, “Mary”.

His first act, encounter, conversation, was appearing to and calling an outsider by her name.  It was saying “I see you, I know you, you are a person and individual.  I see you not as simple a female, or as a person, but as an individual worthy of my time and attention… despite your social status. Despite your issues.  Despite what the world thinks of you.

Interestingly, at the sound of her name, at nothing more than this life-giving dignity, Mary “got it”, she could see.  This value produced an ‘aha.’

So, we remember that we teach children and not subjects.

And you get the wonderful opportunity to go where the children are… to the modern day “well” necessary gathering place for all children.  And while you don’t go there talking about Jesus, you get to go there living like Jesus.  Seeing people.  Many of whom living with issues…  With a vision to see beyond their needs and seeing, knowing, loving them as individuals.

Please be encouraged that your work is strikingly similar and aligned to that most powerful and intentional moment in history… there is a wonderful purpose and story that accompanies your often very hard work.  So, thank you.

Have a great Easter weekend.


John 20:11-18

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.