Sermon May 24, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1446    Click here for audio worship.

May 24, 2020 John 20.1-18

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“I Have Seen the Lord!”


20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So 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.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 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.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.


  • Mary’s Morning


Today I want to explore what it might have been like for Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday. We do not know much about Mary outside of a brief word in Luke eight, but each gospel speaks of her presence at the tomb. This is one way I imagine that first Easter for Mary Magdalene.



It was early Sunday morning, long before the sunrise and Mary Magdalene had not slept more than thirty minutes at a time before troubled dreams woke her again. Her heart was deeply troubled. Her mind confused by the events of the past three days. Her Lord, the man who had redeemed her and taught her and cared for her, had been crucified. The horror and humiliation of such a death was enough to crush everyone who saw it or heard about it. But Mary had a deeper connection to Jesus than most because of what He had done for her. Her life was, at one time, one of torment and pain, abandonment and shame, but after Jesus...after Jesus, her life was brand new, joyful, whole, free, and all together lovely. It made the contrast of Jesus’ death all the more tragic and all the more traumatic.

Perhaps her inability to sleep was something about a spark of hope that this could not be happening, that there must be more. Perhaps there was something at work in her spirit that recalled the words of Jesus, something about His death and resurrection. She could not remember in the night...but something drove her to go out into the darkness. Something compelled her to risk being out in the darkest hours. She kept imagining that she could hear Him call her name as He had done many times...Mary.

The moon was full. There was an odd stillness in the night. The stars were bright. She walked to the tomb as the darkness evaporated enough to see the path and find her way, hoping, unknowing, yet pulled. Then she saw it. The stone. It was not where it was supposed to be. It was rolled away. Why? When? Who? She did not know what to do at first. So, she ran. The sun was beginning to rise but now is was not the darkness obstructing her sight; it was tears. Even more that that, confusion and question.


  • Race to the Tomb


Mary rushed back to tell the others. Her heartbeat raced, her anxiety rose, and she ran like she had never run before. Her speech was heavy, gasping for breath as she reached the disciples with the news….“They have taken the Lord...

out of the tomb,

and we do not know where… they have laid him.”


She looked to Peter and the others who were unsure. But her voice sounded like a cry for help. They looked back at Mary not really knowing what to think at first. But she gave them “the look”! You know that look that says you better do something and do it now! So they got up from where they had been waiting and they ran to the tomb to see what Mary had seen.

Mary probably tried to run back with them, but she could not keep up. John got there first, then Peter, then the others. They all saw the tomb empty and by the time Mary arrived, the disciples were starting back to their homes. They did not know what to think because they still did not get it. They did not understand the Scriptures or the words Jesus had spoken, that He would rise from the dead.


  • Mary Weeps


Mary stayed at the tomb while the others left. She began to cry again. Mary saw something inside the tomb but she could not quite understand because it looked like light shining from within. There is no light in a tomb. She took a deep breath and managed enough courage to go in. Sitting at either end of where Jesus would have been were two angels. They were dressed in white, glowing, glorious, and they looked toward Mary,

“Woman, why are you weeping?” She spoke the same words she had said to the disciples just a short time before. As she wiped tears off her cheek, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” She did not think to ask them if they might know; all she thought was to leave, to search for Jesus’ body.


  • Mary”


As she stooped out of the tomb she saw a gardener, she thought he might have been caretaker of the tomb. At this point she did not know what to think. He asked her the same question as the angels, why are you weeping? But he added a second question, Whom are you seeking? Now, this time, she thought to ask if this person knew where they had taken Jesus. She needed to know, desperately. Then the gardener, whom she had not recognized, spoke her name, Mary. Mary. It sounded so deeply familiar. It reminded her of the first time He spoke her name when He drove out seven demons (Luke 8.2). In a flash she remembered this incredibly familiar voice that had spoken her name many times since that demonic deliverance and she realized that Jesus stood before her calling her name again. Mary. Her tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy.

She almost could not speak again, not from running back and forth from and to the tomb, but from astonishment and joy. Mary. She heard her name over and over in her head. Her name rang in her ears and resonated in her heart. All she could do was call out, “Teacher!” “Rabboni!” But in her mind she was crying out, “It’s You! It’s You! It’s You!” She reached out to touch Him but He stopped her and told her to go tell the others. She looked into His eyes hardly believing what she was seeing; she nodded her head and did as He commanded. She started running again!



  • I Have Seen the Lord!”


As she ran hundreds of thoughts also ran through her mind. “What will I tell them? Will they believe me? I do not care what they believe! I have seen the Lord! I have seen the Lord! He lives! He is risen!” She remembered Jesus’ teachings. She remembered the Scriptures. She remembered everything. When she got back to the disciples they were gathered together again. She had a second announcement for them, only this time it is not just about an empty tomb, but a living Lord. She was once again out of breath, but this time her voice was not hindered by wind, but it was paced by great and wonderful news. “I have seen the Lord! He was outside the tomb. I did not know it was Him at first, but I thought a gardener. I asked if He had taken Jesus so that I might take the body away, but He did not say, He did not answer. Instead...O blessed day! He spoke my name. Mary, He said. Mary. I knew the voice right away. It was Jesus! He spoke my name. He called me by name. I know it was Him. I can never for get that voice. I have seen Him! He told me to give you this message: that He must first ascend to the Father. That’s all He said, my name and that message. I have seen the Lord!”




We do not know a great deal about Mary Magdalene. But what we know equally among the gospels is that she was a witness to the resurrection of Christ. “I have seen the Lord!” What we know is that she was the first to proclaim the good news that forever changed the world and our lives and so we share her message – I have seen the Lord! He lives! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.







  June 2021  
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