I Have Seen The Lord

Pastor Rachel Livingston 

 I. A Visit From Mary Magdalene

Let me tell you about the day that my life changed! It changed forever! The day my whole world was transformed! The day my life was never the same again! And I believe that what I have seen can transform your life as well.  Because I have seen the Lord.  And he has shown me his power over life and death! And because I have seen Jesus, he has told me the good news of his resurrection, and he tasked me with sharing it with whomever I meet.  I have seen the Lord! And if you cannot tell, I am brimming over with joy, I am so elated.  I honestly can’t control my emotions right now.  But let me back up and take a breath, let me breathe in and breathe out, (breathe in and breathe out) so that I might calm myself down –  so that you can hear me, and hear me well, so that you can understand everything that I am saying as I tell you about how my life was changed.  Because my story, my witness, if you listen closely can change your life as well.  It shapes the foundation of our faith and shows us what Jesus has done for us.  I’m telling you, I have seen the Lord! And because of it, life will never be the same for either of us.

So, just to give a little info about myself, my name is Mary, and I come from the land of Magdalena, some people call me Mary Magdalene, to identify me from Mary from Bethany or the other Mary.  But honestly, other than that, you don’t really need to know too much about me, my name may not even be of much substance here, because although I appear in this story, I am not the main character, all of the things that happened are true and shape our faith, whether I am there or not.  And honestly all the things that happened to me, could happen to any one of you, so you can put yourself in my place in this story.

Okay, so I know that there are many rumors about who I am, and what was located in my past, what I did before and what my profession was – none of that is of importance. I chose to ignore those rumors, because the reality was that as soon as I met Jesus, my previous life was unimportant, I was given a new slate and every sin that filled the past was wiped clean.  You see Jesus saw me when no one else did, he saw my heart, he looked at me and saw deep within my heart, he knew me better than I knew myself.  I knew that he was my Lord, and that his ways had the ability to change the world.  Because when the rest of the world cast me out and overlooked me, when they passed by me without acknowledging my existence, Jesus saw me as a human being with worth.  Even when the male disciples, overlooked me and my presence as someone who was genuinely trying to learn from our great teacher, Jesus, it was our Lord Jesus, that saw me as a person of worth who was also a disciple of his way.   But it wasn’t just me, Jesus saw the lepers who were cast out of the community for decades, he fed the hungry, and stopped to heal the blind and the leper. For so many people, as the world had defined them by their ailment, Jesus instead saw them a child of God with worth.  Jesus taught us so many things that changed our lives, that showed us how to live out the faith that we had been taught throughout our lives.  Jesus came not to replace the law but to fulfill the law, and to show us what it really meant to live as people of faith in relationship with God.  I followed him and his male disciples, because I knew that what he was teaching, I had to learn, because it was different than anything I had ever heard, and I was sure that it gave me life, it made me come alive.  Life was different than that drab gray life that existed before Jesus.  There was the deep, dark and gloomy life before Jesus and there was life with Jesus. And let me tell you, they were drastically different.  My God, I am thankful that Jesus came into my life. Because he showed me that God loved me! And that Jesus was interested in my life and my witness, my story.

 II. The Crucifixion

Jesus made such a change in my life, and you can only imagine how I felt when they had taken my Lord away, when they accused him of wrong-doing and sentenced him to death.  I tried to creep to the side so that no one would notice my being or my interest, so that I can see what was happening, where they were taking him, and what the Empire was planning to do with him.  I just had to see my Lord.  But what I saw was horrific and scarring; his torture was put on display for all the world.  A torture that wasn’t just for Jesus, but a psychological torture of all the people who watched, saying keep in line and don’t challenge the structure and the rules, otherwise this will be your fate.  And oh, how his agony hurt, the blood that flowed from his body.  What they had done to him, no one should endure.  His wounds made it very difficult for anyone to recognize him.  He who had known me so well, who had seen me, who had looked through my eyes and saw the very depths of my soul.  And here I was, standing there afraid to make eye contact with him, nauseated by the gory mess they had made of him with his wounds and bruises, that I could not bear to look upon him.  They whipped him harshly that his skin was hanging from his body as the whip tore into his skin over and over, the soldiers beat him until the muscles of his torso were purple, black, and blue from the bruises he endured, his body was hunched over from enduring such pain, and you can see in his eyes the weight of all that he was enduring.  He was turned into a bloody mess, and at the sight of him my stomach turned, sorrow welled deep within my soul, and wanted to scream to let out all the emotions.  But Somehow, I held it all in, but it tore me apart on the inside.  I was angry, I was sad, I was afraid, I was torn apart, because the one who made me feel such love, the one who saw me was experiencing such agony. 

And even though they had beaten him to a pulp, they had him march to the place called the Skull, carrying the tool of his execution on his back.  But he could not carry it the whole way. A man from the crowd, a man who was a Cyrene named Simon, helped him carry it the rest of the way.  And when they had reached the hill the soldiers nailed him to the cross, they hung him high and stretched him wide.  I saw him struggle to breathe and the blood ran from his head as they pressed a crown of thorns on his head.  It was just so agonizing to see him in all the pain he was in.  I could not bear watching, but I also couldn’t bear to turn myself away.  As onlookers watched, he said “Father forgive, them for they know not what they are doing,” he spoke to the criminal on the side of him and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He spoke to his mother and the beloved disciple and said, “Mother Behold thy son, son behold thy mother.” He cried out in agony as he yelled, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” And when his mouth got dry, he exclaimed, “I thirst.” His breathing got heavy, and with great strain he said, “It is finished.” And as his breath became shallow and barely present, he said, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” and he breathed his last.  The world must have known the great horror of what we endured because the sky went dark and the ground shook.  Who knows, maybe I imagined it all because surely my life was gloomy and dark because of what happened, and my life was rocked at the core. And a void was left in my heart as the only one who saw me, the only one who valued my existence was gone. 

So the women pulled him off the cross, covered him in burial spices, wrapped him in burial clothes, and laid him a tomb. My heart was broken, and I was determined to visit the only man who saw me in life, in his death every day.  So, I went to the tomb the next day and I wept.  I didn’t know how long I would keep up this practice, but I knew for now the only thing that made sense was to visit his tomb daily, and weep.  So, I went again on that Sunday morning.  But something about that day was different.  I was horrified as I saw that the stone had been rolled away, I feared the worst, my heart was pounding, my palms got clammy, I knew that something was wrong, and I feared the worst.  I knew that someone had taken him, so I had to tell someone.  I ran straight to Peter, and he was with another disciple, you know the one, the one whom Jesus loved.  I ran to them so fast that I almost fell over as I reached them, and I had to catch my breath.  Once I was able to catch my bearings, I told them that Jesus was gone, that the stone had been rolled away, and someone had taken him.  They had to see it for themselves, so all three of us ran back to the tomb.  The men entered the tomb and were so overcome that they staggered out with pure shock on their face, and went away completely silent.  The stumbled away in shock, and I was left alone outside the tomb crying, on my knees, “Where is my Lord? Where have they taken him?” My heart was completely shattered to pieces.
The irony of it all is that Jesus taught us so much, and we tried to take in all the things that he taught us, but there was just so much that we did not understand.  Jesus told us that we will weep and mourn, but that the world will rejoice.  He said that our pain will be turned to joy, he said that we will have pain, but that he will see us again and our hearts will rejoice.  But we didn’t understand, we didn’t see what he was telling us.  Maybe if we listened a bit closer, we would have seen it coming.  We would have known that his death was just a momentary thing that we had to sit with in the now, but that new life was coming on the other side and that death could never hold his body down. 

III. He Met Me In The Garden

In that moment, I was left outside the tomb crying, my world was upside down, I couldn’t see straight, tears filled my eyes and I didn’t know up from down.  And as the tears fell from my eyes two people sat before me, but there was something different about them, they had such beauty but there was something so glorious about them, the radiance from them was indescribable.  They asked me why I was weeping.  And I still could not focus on them, because I was still so overcome with sorrow. So, I said, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” I didn’t know what was going on  and my world was flipped upside down.   And then a man came up to me and asked me again why I was weeping.  I couldn’t see him, for I only saw the sorrow that was in my eyes.  My world had shattered, and I couldn’t see anything, only my pain and my sorrow.  It’s funny, because as I was deep in my sorrow, I could not see this man. I had dismissed all parts of him.  I assumed that he was the gardener.  And stuck in my sorrow, I could not see him. But this was the man who loved me so, the man who saw me, the one who loved me, the one who saw to the very depths of my soul, the man who affirmed my existence.  How could I ignore the man who loved me so. “Sir please tell me what you have done with my Lord.”  My eyes were still hazy and filled with tears, and I was bent over with sorrow, kneeling on the ground.  And that’s when I heard it, “Mary.”  He called me and it was like the dark clouds began to roll away, such peace filled me.  And that’s when I saw him.  He knew me and he saw me.  I saw him and I saw the love in his eyes and I knew.  He was no longer dead.  On that third day, he had risen from the dead.  He had conquered death and brought us new life.  He told us so many times and now it all made sense.  He was once dead, but now, now he was alive proclaiming new life with all power in his hands. I was overjoyed and wanted to hug him, but could not because he had not yet ascended into heaven.  He told me to spread the news, and I just had to tell everyone.  I have seen the Lord and my life has been transformed.  I have seen the Lord and things are different for the whole world.  I have seen the Lord and the grave could not hold him.  I have seen the Lord and death did not keep him down.  Death oh death where is your sting. I have seen the Lord and he has torn down the power of death.  I have seen the Lord and he has made all things new.  I have seen the Lord and there is new life for the whole world.

One thing I have seen from Jesus is that he knows us by name, he knows us intimately and he loved us so much so that he offered himself up for our sins, he took on our iniquities, that we might be reconciled back to God and find new life.  But what I also see is that in the midst of death, in the midst of turmoil, in the midst the dark cloud hanging over, in the midst of an empty stomach, in the midst of money coming up short, in the midst of your humanity being denied, in the midst of the world not making sense, in the midst of pain and heartache, in the midst of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we are assured that through Christ there is life on the other side.  Because Jesus has called us by name and stripped the control that death had upon us , it has released the shackles of  death that have kept us bound.  Because of Jesus, because of his death and resurrection we have relationship with God and we live in the promise of the newness of life.  So, we know that new life is in us now, but even in the darkest hour of death, we know that there is hope in the newness of life on the other side.  This means that God has granted us with new life through Jesus Christ and because of that we must offer our lives to Jesus Christ by making his ways our ways.  We must love one another, serve one another, affirm one another, and see each other for who we are all children of God. We are to be concerned about the poor and give affirmation to those who have been rejected by society.  In Christ there is a transformed life.

And I know it to be true.  I have seen the Lord.  And because I have seen it, I know that death is not the end of the story.   I have seen the Lord and because I have seen him, I know that death could not hold my Savior.  I have seen the Lord and because of that, I know that there is new life for both me and you. I have seen the Lord, and I know I have. And because of that we have the gift of new life on this blessed Resurrection Sunday. So let us share this gift of the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.  Because He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed. Amen.