April 9, 2024

I Have Seen the Lord

Prayer for Illumination:

Risen One, help us recognize You this day as we hear Your word. You are “Rabboni,” our Teacher, our Guide. Come, speak to us, that we might be messengers of Your love and doers of Your word. Amen.

A man from Manitoba flew to Mexico away from the long and cold winter for a vacation. His wife was on a business trip and was supposed to meet him the next day. When he reached his hotel he decided to send his wife a quick email. Unable to remember her email address, he did his best to type it from memory.

Unfortunately, he missed a letter from the email address, and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher’s wife, whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her email, she took one look at the monitor, and fell to the floor, screaming. At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:

Dearest Wife,
Just checked in.
Everything is prepared for your arrival tomorrow.
Your Loving Husband.
P.S.: It sure is hot down here.

What could be more powerful than news from the other side of death? Easter is that and more. Easter is not an email message, but a living message, not from man, but from God, certainly not from hell, but from heaven.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, we can almost sense the heavy desolate mood that filled the air in this dark quiet garden. Jesus, whom they loved so much; for whom they gave up their family, career, and ordinary life; whom they trusted; died two days ago. They were deeply in shock and despair. The last two days were like total darkness without any hope for them.

After the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb on the Jewish day of Preparation, the day before Sabbath, they couldn’t do anything because it was Sabbath. So, early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.

What do you think she thought or felt on the way to the tomb? Those who have lost their loved ones unexpectedly surely understand what she might have felt… unbelief, sorrow, confusion, anger, emptiness, and pain…

Other Gospels mention that other women went to the tomb with Mary Magdalene that morning. But John’s Gospel records Mary Magdalene’s name only. Mary wanted to see Jesus once again because He was everything to her. There was no one like Jesus, who accepted her, never condemned her, healed her, and gave a new life to her.

She perhaps couldn’t sleep all night and headed to the tomb while it was still dark. But when she arrived at the tomb, she found the stone rolled away from the entrance. She certainly didn’t expect the risen Lord. Assuming His teacher’s body was stolen, she ran as fast as she could to tell Simon Peter and the one Jesus loved, who was most reasonably, the author of the book, John.

When they heard what Mary reported, they rushed to Jesus’ tomb. Peter first, then John went into the empty tomb and saw that only the strips of linen and the burial cloth that wrapped Jesus’ head were there. Indeed, the tomb was empty.

As far as we know from the scripture, Peter did not yet believe. It is understandable because the death of Jesus on the cross two days ago was still so real to them. They saw with their own eyes Him beaten, nailed, pierced, and dead. They smelled the blood; they heard His last cry.

But, John said that he “saw and believed.” But what did he believe? Did he believe what Jesus had said the night of their last meal together, “Take heart! I have conquered the world”? (John 16:33)  V9 explains that they still did not clearly understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Peter and John went back to where they were staying, while Mary remained in the garden weeping.

When Mary was alone, she looked inside the tomb and saw two men sitting. They asked, “Woman, why are you crying?” Without realizing that they were the angels, she said, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She wasn’t sure who took the body of Jesus, whether it was other zealous Jesus followers, religious leaders, or graverobbers. Whoever that was, Mary was desperate to find the corpse of Jesus which she would never find.

When she turned around she saw a man standing there. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” She said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him,” thinking he was the gardener.

Mary didn’t understand what was happening and did not realize that Jesus had risen from the dead. All she wanted was to bring Jesus’ dead body back to the tomb so that she could anoint his body and grieve.

Her eyes were so blinded by her sorrow and pain of loss that she wasn’t able to see the risen Lord. She was looking for the corpse, not the risen Jesus. She was still staying in the darkness of the Friday.

Then while she was still weeping, He called her name, “Mary.” When hysterically disoriented Mary heard her name, her eyes were opened. She now recognized that the man right in front of her was not a gardener but the one she was eagerly searching for. She was able to refocus and recognize the voice.

She cried out, “Rabboni,” which is an Aramaic term for ‘my great Rabbi’, ‘Teacher.’  We remember what Jesus said before:  “The shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4).

Imagine the sheer joy when she heard the voice she missed so much; when she found someone whom she thought was gone.

Mary came to the tomb when it was still dark, but when she encountered the risen Jesus, the darkness turned into a great bright Light. She was blind, but now she could see. In the midst of despair; in the midst of devastating loss; and in the midst of heart-wrenching pain, Jesus only had to call her name.

“Mary” One word changed her life. One word changed her from sorrow to joy. And she was overfilled with joy, with hope, and with love. Jesus’ calling her name, the very personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus transformed, renewed, and restored her life forever.

Can you relate to this? When you feel like you can’t endure anymore. When you are weeping alone in a dark room grieving; when you receive a phone call that your brother is in critical condition; when you wake up in the middle of the night in pain…

When you feel like you’re hitting the bottom, you feel the fresh breeze, you see a bright sunrise, you hear sounds of hymns from the back of your mind, or a voice calling your name. And then, indescribable peace and unspeakable comfort surround you.

Easter happens in the E.R. when the doctor comes out to the waiting area and shakes his head.

Easter happens in a war zone where bombings shatter the whole city.

Easter happens on the nursing floor where once strong-bodied men and women watch their peers disappear one by one and where these wheelchair-bound precious people know that all of life has now come down to this long waiting for death.

Easter happens at the funeral home when parents have to bury their dear child who died of an overdose.

Easter happens where death is because that is the only place it is needed.

Friends, what is the meaning of Resurrection to you? Why are we all so excited about the event that happened 2000 years ago? Do you truly believe that Jesus had risen from the dead? As much as it is true that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, it is so true that on the third day, He was raised from the dead.

The good news is that if you have faith, then you have seen the Lord. The trumpets may not always blare at every moment of your life as a result. In fact, you may still be struggling, crying, and desperately searching.

But it is in the midst of those bitter tears that Easter happens. It is in the midst of our disappointment, sadness, and fear that Jesus comes up behind us and shows us He is here with us.

Our faith is on Resurrection as Apostle Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:14 & 17, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith... if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

We all have had decisive moments in our lives. We have had those life-changing experiences and we know that life has changed since then. This morning, we find ourselves standing once again before the empty tomb, the empty cross, and the empty grave clothes.

Today, the risen Christ calls your name, and His calling is very personal and relational. Are you going to remain blind staying in the darkness of death or are you going to turn to Him who paid it in full for our sins, who gave His life to give us a new life? The choice is yours.

Friends, The resurrection of Jesus is a mystery, but it is the Gospel Truth. If you haven’t met Jesus personally yet, today is your day. My invitation to you today is very simple. Claim the mystery of the resurrection as your own. Just have a little faith in God who is able to bring out a new life even of completely dry bones.

I pray that your eyes may open and you may recognize the Risen Lord who conquered death and hear Him calling your name.

If you believe that Jesus died for you and rose from the dead, then share the Good news with others. Proclaim, “I have seen the Lord.” “Jesus is alive! He conquered death. He destroyed sin.” Hallelujah!

Let us pray.

Gracious God, without the resurrection of Jesus Christ our faith would be empty. Thank You for bringing us out of the sorrow and hopelessness of death and giving us hope, purpose, and new life.  Thank You also for calling each of us by name.

Help us respond to Your call which is transforming and life-giving.

In the name of the Resurrected Jesus, we pray.  Amen.