20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other 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 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

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 Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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.'”

The Gospel of John is bookended by a similar question. In chapter one, John the Baptist points to Jesus proclaiming,

‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 

Two of John’s disciples hear their teacher’s declaration,

and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ (John 1:36-37)

Then here at the end of the Gospel the same word appears in the question Jesus asks Mary,

Whom are you looking for?

The Greek word used in both questions is zeteo; it means “to seek”.  It is the same word that appears in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is reported to have instructed his disciples to

strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

It is strange and unfortunate that in all three appearances the NRSV translators chose to use a different English word to translate zeteo. The question being raised is not a question about merely “looking” and certainly not about “striving”. It is a question about seeking.

Whom are you seeking?

What are you seeking?

Seek first for the kingdom of God.

Everything hinges on this question. Who or what are we seeking in this life? What we seek affects what we receive and shapes what we produce in life.

The religious leaders who afflicted Jesus were seeking power and control. They produced violence and suffering; they received tragedy and death.

Mary was seeking Life and love. She received the miracle of Christ’s risen Presence and produced a life of witness to the power of goodness, truth and beauty.

What am I seeking?

What does my seeking bring into my life?

What does my seeking produce?