April 17, 2022. Sermon Title: “I Have Seen the Lord.”

First Mennonite Church

April 17, 2022

“I Have Seen the Lord”

Text: John 20:1-18

Today, throughout the world, Christians are celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Thus, I greet you with the anthem: “The Lord is Risen!”

On that first Easter Sunday, the prospect of humankind was forever changed. Until then, the only people who could claim having a relationship with the Almighty God and who had hope in the world were the Jews. However, the coming of Jesus, his life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension gave every human being the possibility of enjoying a living relationship with God and a steadfast hope for the future, besides the innumerable blessings and the power to live a life pleasing God.

So, let us read John’s version of the resurrection story.

Read: John 20:1-18.

When Easter Sunday approaches, we all look forward to it with great anticipation. We look forward to the joy of participating in warm fellowship, as in our case, of a delicious Easter brunch, of joyful worship service, of family get-togthers and so on. However, that was not the case for Peter, John, Mary, and the rest of Jesus first followers. The ambience on that first Easter Sunday was gloomy, metaphorically and even literally. John begins his story of the resurrection telling us, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark.”

Mary Magdalene, who seems to be bolder than the men of her circle, was venturing in the very early hours of the day, while her companions remained behind closed door, out of fear. It was still dark and she was already at the gravesite. If her grief was not enough to see her Lord crucified, taken down and buried, what her eyes were looking at was even worse. The stone that was put to secure Jesus’ body in the tomb had been moved. For Mary the sight was like what we say, “Rubbing salt to wound.” Without further inspection of the scene, Mary rushed to tell her friends, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  

I don’t know if you have ever gotten robbed. But the feeling there is when you first discover it is like the bottom of your heart just falling down. The first time we were robbed was the second day Lilian and I arrived in Elkhart, IN. We went to buy our household stuff. As we were looking for a microwave, coffeemaker, and other small kitchen appliances, I left my shopping cart for a second, just to look at some chinaware on the corner of the aisle. I did not see that some people were coming behind me when I left the cart unattended. Lilian’s wallet was in the bag inside the cart. When she came to push the cart, she noticed that her purse was missing. We went directly to the cashier, who immediately locked the store doors and called the police. While I was on the phone telling the officer, on the other end of the line, what had happened, a lady who was watching us from behind the clothes racks came and said, “Is it this you are looking for?” She had Lilian’s purse in her hand. So, I told the officer, we just found the purse and ended the call. The feeling of losing every penny we had brought with us was a terrifying feeling.

The feeling of losing a few bucks would never compare to the horror Mary felt at the idea that someone had robbed Jesus’ body.

The confusion only spread further more. John and Peter came running to the tomb, although John—the beloved disciples outran Peter and arrived first. John did not enter to see inside the tomb, but when Peter arrived, he went right in. And, indeed, the body was missing. Part of the burial clothing was orderly laid, but part of it was set separately. But the greatest mystery was that the body was missing.

Once Peter and John left, Mary was once again left alone. She was weeping by herself. There was no one to hold her hands and there was no shoulder to lean on as she wept. She was disconsolate and at a loss of what had happened. With blurry eyes, she peered into half-lit the tomb, only to see two angels. They questioned the reason for her sobs. And once again, she expresses her heartbreak.  “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Mary then turned around and saw Jesus. Yet she did not recognize him. Mary thought he was the gardener. How could it be that she confused Jesus with a humble character? She even pleaded with him if he moved the body to please tell her where he had put it. It was then that Jesus pronounced her name, “Mary!”

Upon hearing Jesus, lovingly calling her name, Mary’s bereft heart, confused mind, and blurry eyes were transformed. Joy replaced sorrow, light overcame darkness, and true faith was born out of pain. Her love for Jesus was once again ignited.

There is a unique beauty in John’s resurrection narrative. Throughout his gospel, John emphasizes the importance of believing in Jesus as the basis for witness to him. But often times, faith only comes in the midst of doubt. Light only shines brighter when in the midst of darkness. Joy is born out of sorrow and pain. Hope sprouts out powerfully from despair. And, Easter come after Good Friday.

When Peter saw the empty tomb, he ran back home. When John saw Jesus’ body missing, although he believed he without comprehending what had happened. Mary, on the other hand, stayed behind weeping, searching, and mourning, all while it was still dark. In her half-lit world of deep pain, Mary’s world was changed when Jesus lovingly called her name, “Mary!” Her immediate response was like that of people who had not seen each for a long time or of those who have just found each other. She wanted to embrace Jesus, yet she could not. Jesus must have disappeared. But Mary’s faith in the resurrected Lord was such that she went and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

In a beautiful essay on the resurrection, theologian and writer Chris Barnes reminds us of what actually matters during Holy Week: “The question that Easter asks of us is not, ‘Do we believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?’ Frankly, that is not particularly hard.  What the Gospels ask is not, ‘Do you believe?’ but ‘Have you encountered the risen Christ?’”

I want to assure you that Christ is risen and alive. But the power of his resurrection, the evidence that he is alive might mean that we might have to go through moments of darkness in our lives. It could be the darkness of life’s hardships. It could be the darkness of the disappointments in life. Or, it could be the internal battle with the darkness of our sin. It could be that before we get to ever hear our names been lovingly called, that we have to grieve, weep, and search longer than we thought we could. But the truth about the love of Christ for us is that he will or is already calling us by our name. Many times, it is only in retrospect that we get to realize that the risen Jesus was with us during those half-lit moments in our lives.

Today, the Risen Lord might be lovingly calling your name. Open the ears of you heart, he might be calling your name. And once you hear your name being called, you will be able to go and tell your friends, “I have seen the Lord.” Amen!

Pastor Romero