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I Have Seen The Lord

April 21, 2019

I HAVE SEEN THE LORD

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

April 21, 2019 (Easter/Resurrection Sunday)

 

John 20:1-18


20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. 

 

We exult in your love,
O God of the living,
for you made the tomb of death
the womb from which you bring forth your Son,
the first-born of a new creation,
and you anointed the universe
with the fragrant Spirit of his resurrection.
Make us joyful witnesses to this good news,
that all humanity may one day
gather at the feast of new life
in the kingdom where you reign
for ever and ever. Amen.


“I have seen the Lord.”  What are we to make of the claim Mary Magdalene made about the resurrection of Jesus?   Mary Magdalene’s testimony was possible only because Jesus rose.

 

  • Jesus rose from death despite having been crucified.
  • Jesus rose from death despite having been wrongfully convicted.
  • Jesus rose from death despite having been falsely arrested.
  • Jesus rose from death after the religious nationalists, commercial capitalists, and imperial strategists of his day did their worst.
  • Jesus rose despite having been denied and deserted by people who called themselves his closest friends and most valiant defenders.
  • Jesus rose despite having been betrayed by someone who he loved, taught, commissioned, and tried to help.

 

More than anything else, “I have seen the Lord” is Mary Magdalene’s testimony that Jesus rose!  God’s love rose!  

 

The fact that Jesus rose – affirmed by Mary Magdalene’s “I have seen the Lord” testimony – showed the shaking people of her time and place and the shaking people of every time and place that the power of God’s love is stronger… 

  • Stronger than death!
  • Stronger than sin!
  • Stronger than injustice!
  • Stronger than hypocrisy!
  • Stronger than unbelief!
  • Stronger than fear!

  

Mary Magdalene’s testimony on the first Easter also shows that faith in and proclaiming God’s love is always radical, always defiant, always political, and always subversive!  People who live according to faith in God’s “stronger than anything and everything else love” understand that the invisible God of love is more real than the visible forces that conspired to assassinate Jesus.  God is more real.  God’s love is always more real.  God’s love is always radically defying and disrupting the make-shift stuff people who worship empire call “reality.”   

 

Mary Magdalene also shows that claiming and living by the power of God’s resurrecting love is always a political act!  That’s because liberation from the powers of empire always involves defying the myths of empire.  Claiming and living by the power of God’s resurrecting love means going against the religious, commercial, political, social, and personal “insiders” who set up and operate versions of empire in every society and age.   

 

We should also remember something else.  Before Mary Magdalene delivered her defiant and political unsettling report about the resurrection of Jesus, verses 11 thru 14 of John 20 contain the following narrative.

 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 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.  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.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus.

 

 “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” expresses the feelings of many people who are frustrated and unsettled because they cannot find evidence of God’s love where they expect it.  They try to find evidence of God’s love in organized religion, only to find people who use religion as an excuse for oppression.  They try to find fulfillment in serving God through ministry, only to find roadblocks, power plays, and misdirection.  Like Mary Magdalene, many people become so frustrated and unsettled that they are unable to recognize God’s love even after being confronted by it.  

 

It often seems that people and forces have stolen God’s love from the world.  Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus ends with report that scheming religious leaders bribed soldiers who were assigned to sentry duty at the tomb of Jesus and told the sentries to circulate a false story that the disciples of Jesus stole his body (see Matthew 28:11-15).

 

Whenever people use the religion of Jesus as an excuse for white supremacy, racism, slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, and race discrimination, it is understandable for people to feel that “they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  

 

When men who call themselves followers of Jesus use the religion of Jesus as an excuse for patriarchy, sexism, and male domination of women and children, it is understandable when other people feel that “they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

 

When people who call themselves religious use the religion of Jesus as an excuse for mistreating persons who are LGBTQ, immigrants, persons who are incarcerated, people who are financially poor, and any other persons who are marginalized and vulnerable, it is understandable for people to say “they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him.”  These people echo Mary’s frustration and anxiety. 

 

But the good news is that God’s loving call to us is stronger than the frustrations and anxieties we suffer because of human oppression.   Religious nationalists and imperial colonizers crucified Jesus, but because God’s love is stronger than death, he rose and God’s love calls us!

 

Timid men denied and deserted Jesus, but because God’s love is stronger than fear, he rose and God’s love calls us!

 

A disloyal fellow betrayed Jesus, but because God’s love is stronger than human unfaithfulness, he rose and God’s love calls us!

 

The Roman Empire crucified and buried Jesus, but because God’s love is stronger than tyranny, he rose and God’s love calls us!

 

Because Jesus rose and God’s love calls us, we will not stop loving no matter what bigots and tyrants do.

 

Because Jesus rose and God’s love calls us, we will not be silent.  We will not conform.  We will press onward and live in the power of the scandalous, subversive, radical and politically defiant God who loves us, and who has set us free from bondage to empires be they personal, religious, political, commercial, social, cultural, or anything else.  

 

Because Jesus rose and God’s love calls us, we thank God with Mary Magdalene.  Jesus rose and God’s love calls us!  

 

Love lives!

Love is stronger than death!

 

Love is stronger than the powers of death!

 

Love is stronger than the politics and politicians of death!

 

Love is stronger than the conspiracies of death!

 

Love is stronger than the commercial schemes of death!

 

God’s love lives!  Hallelujah!

 

Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2019