Listening for Easter's Promise

Taken from a Red Rock News Article (Mar 29, 2024)
Rev. Dona Johnson | March 31, 2024

The Essence of Christianity is

“I have seen the Lord”


It’s Sunday morning, it’s the third day since Jesus  hung on the cross and died a painful death (Gospel  of John 20:1-18). Those who loved him were still in a  state of shock. They were most likely still numb  wondering what they will do next, how they might  live their lives without him. But in the midst of all  this grief and uncertainty, there was one astonishing  moment in time when only one person in the whole  world, one person walking the planet who knew the  good news he’s alive. This ultimate “breaking news”  would forever change the course of human history.  For that one brief moment, this one person was the  first one to witness Jesus’ resurrection. Of course  this one person was Mary Magdalene or Magdala.  The name Magdala in Aramaic means “watchtower”  or “strong tower.” If you remember, Jesus had drove  out of Mary seven demons and healed her of a  demonic trauma. This miraculous healing sealed  Mary’s faith of and fidelity in Jesus. The whole Jesus  story hinged on what Mary would do with the truth.  Would she cherish and keep it to herself or share  with others and become what some have called her  “the apostle to the apostles?  

        Mary’s faith was a strong tower. She was the  first one to reach the garden tomb while it was still  dark on Sunday morning. She was the first one to  see the stone rolled away and the tomb emptied. As  she stood in the garden in front of Jesus’ tomb, her  eyes soaked and clouded with tears, she saw who  she thought was a gardener. Then the gardener  called her name, “Mary!” Mary recognized the tone  

his voice. She had heard this voice before. Suddenly  her heart burst inside and she cried out, “Rabboni,”  which means teacher in Aramaic. As she reached out  

to grab hold of him, Jesus said, “Don’t touch me.” He  wasn’t being unkind. There was no need to cling to  him. Immediately he sent Mary back to the disciples  with the message that what he had so often told  them was now about to happen—he was alive. He  was on his way to his Father and Mary came with the  news, “I have seen the Lord.”  

        Mary’s message is the very essence of  Christianity, for a Christian is essentially one who can  say, “I have seen the Lord.” Christianity does not  mean knowing about Jesus. It means knowing him  intimately, knowing his character, knowing his  unconditional love for humanity and his heart of  justice for the poor, the sick and oppressed. It does  not mean arguing about him it means meeting him,  listening for his voice. And when you meet Jesus for  the first or the thousandth time, you experience the  real presence—the incarnation of Jesus Christ. 
        The resurrection is the centerpiece of  Christianity. As N.T. Wright has said, It’s how God chose to demonstrate that all the biblical  prophecies, the claims made during Jesus’ ministry,  which reached their climax on the cross, were true.  “The resurrection demonstrates that the cross, so far  from being seen as the failure of Jesus’ messianic  mission, was its crowning achievement.”  

        So as Christian congregations gather this  weekend in Sedona and around the globe to  celebrate and worship Jesus who is alive, they look  beyond death and the grave and rejoice in the new  life God continues to offer the world. No doubt,  Jesus won the war on sin and death. Now it is left to  Jesus’ followers, empowered by his Spirit, to put into  effect his achievement by means of boldly claiming  and sharing with all the world, “I have seen the  Lord.”  

Prayer: God of all mercy and grace, your only Son’s  death and glorious resurrection have delivered us  from the power of death and redeemed all creation.  Grant that we may no longer look for the living  among the dead and instead daily die to sin and rise  to newness of life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one  God now and forever. Amen.