Seeing the Risen Christ

TEXT:   John 20:1-18

“Christ is risen!” is God’s Word of Life and Truth changing the word forever. John’s gospel opens with the Word becoming Flesh-Life-Living in Jesus. The gospel culminates with the Word coming to life again – Christ is risen and lives again.  We cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

John 20:1-18 – Christ is Risen! – Christ is risen indeed!

Early 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. So she ran 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.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. 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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).  Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my [disciples] and say to them, “I am ascending [to my Father and your Father,] to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’;  and she told them that [Jesus] had said these things to her.

This is the glorious gospel of the Risen Jesus Christ.

Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed!

How many times have we proclaimed “Christ is risen!” this Easter Sunday? “Christ is risen!” is God’s Word of Life and Truth changing the word forever. John’s gospel opens with the Word becoming Flesh-Life-Living in Jesus. The gospel culminates with the Word coming to life again – Christ is risen and lives again.  We cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Every Sunday is a little Easter. This Sunday is the Great Easter for Christians.  The most glorious celebration and the reason for our being – personally and communally. If God hadn’t raised Jesus from the dead we wouldn’t exist, at least not as church, Christ body.  Jesus would be barely known rather than the best known person in history.

God’s refuses to give up on people created in God’s own image. So God became human in Jesus. The word for that is Incarnation. Incarnation is a big theological word meaning “God in carnality” (Ron Rolheiser, 3/29/13).  Carnal, a word we connect more with sex than God, is the full physicality of being human. Jesus is God’s way of life and love. The Way of Jesus threatens the powers that be who kill Jesus — that is crucifixion.  When humans kill Jesus God still refuses to give up on us and brings life out of death. The word for that is Resurrection.  God will not let the ways of death have their way forever. God’s Prince of Peace reigns, not the principalities and powers.  Mostly we don’t know that yet, because we forget to look for the Risen Christ. We know the world looks more like principalities and powers than the Prince of Peace.  Our eyes have to be trained – transformed! – to see the risen Christ with Easter eyes.  Not an easy task. Not our own doing.

This Easter Sunday Mary Magdalene is our guide to see the Risen Christ. The next two Sundays of Easter other disciples will be our guide to see the Risen Christ.
But it begins with a woman, which is highly instructive in itself. For all their differences, all four gospels tell us that women first went to the tomb. Mary Magdalene proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord!”  That was Mary’s cry of revelation and transformation. Mary received Easter eyes and saw the Risen Christ.

But do we see the Risen Christ?
Do we keep looking in the empty tomb or do we look around and see the Risen Christ?  Do we cry out in despair and grief: “They have taken the crucified Jesus out of the tomb?” Or do we cry out in joy and revelation, “I have seen the Risen Christ?”  Witness the gospel again and see how Mary received Easter eyes to see the Risen Christ.
Mary went to the tomb while it was still dark on that first Easter morning and finds it empty. She runs and tells two disciples who run back and confirm an empty tomb then go home.  Mary returns to the tomb watching and weeping until she sees two angels in the tomb. The angels ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She replies, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” An unrecognized person appears and also asks: “Woman, why are you weeping?” But the unknown one asks a second question, “For whom are you looking?”

That still is our question: “For whom are you looking?”
Mary thinks the unknown one is the gardener and pleads, ‘If you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ What happens next? The unrecognized one calls her name, “Mary!”  Hearing Jesus call her name she sees and calls in recognition of the Jesus the Teacher.  Mary’s death-colored eyes are transformed into Easter eyes. The Risen Christ tells Mary to go and tell what she has seen and she joyfully obeys. This Easter Sunday Mary Magdalene announces to us, “I have seen the Risen Christ!” Mary helps us answer “For whom are you looking?” and receive Easter eyes.

If we do not see the crucifixion we cannot see the Risen Christ. We cannot gain Easter eyes unless we know who is being killed that God is raising to new life. Last Easter Richard Rohr  summarized it well: “The cross is the standing statement of what we do to one another and to ourselves. The resurrection is the standing statement of what God does to us in return.”  Forty six years ago this week Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a defining sermon in New York. King saw who was being crucified and the Risen Christ; he knew who he was looking for.  He dared to tell the truth about moral and spiritual blindness. Connecting poverty and war he said, “The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” For daring to see with Easter eyes King was “crucified” exactly one year later.

Twice on Good Friday we witnessed Jesus crucified. In the evening we heard Luke’s gospel of Jesus’ crucifixion here in this place. At noon we heard John’s gospel of Jesus’ crucifixion in public worship at the federal building. A banner revealed “Drones Crucify Children” giving witness to Jesus’ crucifixion in our time. In a symbolic action simulating a drone strike some of us “died” on the federal building plaza.  Walking from the drone cross with blood on our hands we “died” at the cry, “drone strike!”  As I lay “dead” on the cold plaza, I could hear people walking by going about their business. Suddenly a small voice interrupted all efforts to remain blind to blood-covered death by drones.  I heard a child’s footsteps and voice declare, “That guy is dead!” I heard no adult reply. Larry Scheffler later shared his observation watching all who passed by our dead bodies.   The only people who dared to notice the dead were children; adults went about their business.

The Risen Christ calls our name so we proclaim, “I have seen the Risen Christ!” We have heard God’s Word and see the Risen Christ anew this Easter. Come to the Lord’s Table to receive the body and blood of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Here our Easter eyes are nourished to truly see and be the body of the crucified and Risen Christ