He Is Alive!
This sermon was originally written for Easter Sunday April 8, 2012. The scripture focus was John 20:1-18.
I have seen the Lord!
I have seen the Lord and he knows my name!
These are the thoughts of Mary Magdalene on the morning that she discovered the stone rolled away.
I have seen the Lord and he knows my name!
John’s Gospel account of the resurrection is a wonderful reflection of this event, a beautiful narrative full of power and richness. John takes us from the depths of despair, leads us to believe and finally reveals the resurrected Christ!
It is interesting to note who Jesus reveals himself to in John’s Gospel account. He reveals himself to Mary. Not to Peter and the other beloved disciple. Though they ran to the tomb upon learning that it was empty, it was not to them that Jesus revealed himself. And yet they ran to the tomb with such urgency, wanting to verify Mary’s words. The other disciple outruns Peter, arriving first. You can imagine their state of mind. Where is the Master’s body? Has someone taken it? To where?
At the tomb they discover the linen wraps. Why would these be left behind? If grave robbers had attended the scene why leave the wrapping of the head and the body behind? It makes no sense.
However, the Gospel states that when the other disciple went in and saw, he believed. He believed in a new beginning. We too can look and believe just as the beloved disciple did, in moments of tragedy and social injustice. We too can believe. And in doing so we can represent the church and we can be bold. We can share the story we find in scripture, of a hope beyond this world, of hope beyond this life, of healing of the eternal kind. Of grace that only a risen saviour can provide. As we gaze into the empty tomb this is the witness that we are able to provide to a broken and hurting world. To a world that long ago gave up on the miracle of the resurrection. That long ago gave up on the dream of eternity. Just as the beloved disciple saw the empty tomb and believed, we as a beloved community of faith believe. We believe in the power of God’s enduring love for His creation. We believe that God’s love continues to enter the world upsetting death and destruction and making all things whole and all things new. We are the witnesses. Today we have also come to the tomb and found it empty. And today we proclaim that Christ has risen!
And so beginning to believe the disciples return home. It is Mary who remains at the tomb, she is weeping. Her despair at the loss of Jesus is a wound that is raw, wrenching at her soul. It is these moments of grief that the angels reveal themselves to her. And after lamenting to the angels, Mary turns and she sees what a man she believes to be the gardener. Not recognizing Jesus she asks where have you taken him?
Mary mistakes him for the gardener. How could she not see Jesus? How could she not recognize him? Was she blinded by grief? Was her vision so blurry from tears that she simply could not see clearly? It is only when Jesus speaks to Mary that she recognizes him. This echoes a theme we find earlier in John’s gospel relating to the Good Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Later the Good Shepherd says “I know my own and my own know me.”
So when Jesus replies only with her name, spoken in what I can only imagine was the most tender of voices. “Mary.” There is no doubt. Mary knows that she stands in the presence of the risen Lord. The fear she has just experienced dissipates as she begins to realize the significance of what has transpired. Then Jesus instructs her to go and tell the disciples of what she has seen. And so Mary goes forward proclaiming I have seen the Lord!
On this day of resurrection we too have seen the Lord! We too know that he has defeated death and risen from the grave. The events of the cross are behind us and today we stand united in victory, sure of the power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Knowing that in him all things are possible, for he has surpassed the grave!
What I love about this story is the very personal nature of it. How Jesus speaks to Mary and reveals himself to her. He simply says her name. Mary. It is so very intimate. There is nothing more personal or intimate than having a loved one call you by name. How wonderful it must have been for Mary, who was there at the moment of Jesus’ death to be the first to hear him and then to see him clearly.
Do you hear Jesus this morning? Do you hear him calling your name? Quiet your hearts and minds, listen?
Do you hear him calling your name? Letting you know that he knows you!
Just as we believed alongside Peter and the beloved disciple did when they gazed into the empty tomb. I believe that Jesus calls to each one of us today. He calls each of us by name, calling us in a most intimate and personal way.
I believe that the witness Jesus provides here is a powerful one. As we are called to witness to the empty tomb, to the power of the resurrection, we are also led to call on all those who are wounded and afflicted by greed, insensitivity and injustice. The reason is simple, the Good Shepherd is calling all the world’s names this day. And we as servant leaders in Christ take on the mantle to display the love and the grace that the risen Christ asks of us, to go out into the world and to know each one by name.
We are called to go out and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, testifying that God knows and calls the least of these bringing them back into the community of which they are rightly a part.
This is the power of Easter. This is the power of the resurrection. For in defeating death Christ has stripped it of its power. Death is no longer something to be feared, but is merely the gateway to life eternal with Christ our Saviour. In Christ Jesus, death shall be no more. In the power of the resurrection we are freed from the bondage of sin and are granted the eternal promise of eternity spent with our God and Creator.
I believe Emily Bronte in her poem No Coward Soul is Mine has captured the spirit of this day. She writes,
“There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath,
And what thou art may never be destroyed.”
These lines encompass the promise of Easter, the promise of salvation. There is no room for Death, for Christ has defeated death. His sacrifice on the cross has washed us clean of sin and the promise is completed with his resurrection. Bronte’s description of God, thou are Being and Breath. God as the creator breathes life into all things and never is that more apparent, never do we feel more alive than on Easter morning. It is a powerful allusion to the Holy Spirit and the redemptive work that occurs in the world. Being and Breath. And what thou art may never be destroyed, God is eternal. God’s promise to us, manifest in Christ is eternal. The promise of the resurrection is that we will spend eternity with our creator. We are sure in the power of Christ to change lives and to make all things new again. For he can never be destroyed.
Friends after Easter nothing is ever the same again. How can it be? Christ is risen, he is alive and he is calling to each of us. This is the Good News of Easter, after seeing the risen Jesus, nothing will ever be normal. If the Jewish leaders of the day thought Jesus was a problem before they had him killed, they have another thing coming now. Jesus our Saviour is on the loose! And with a radical love that knows no bounds he calls to us and he calls to the world! For death has lost its sting and death will be no more!
This is the power and the meaning of the resurrection and in our gospel reading from John once again we receive the teaching and the expectation that Jesus has for our lives. We are called to go out and be Christ’s witness to the world to the events that have taken place today. We should not keep silent. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his victory over death are not to remain a secret! We must go out and minister to the world. To call each one that we meet by name and to proclaim that we have seen the Lord! Amen.