Guest Post: Excerpt from an Easter Sermon
by Liz Johnson
(Liz Johnson is the mother of four and resides in Northern Indiana. She has a BA in International Development and is two postage stamps away from being a certified doula. This post is adapted from an Easter talk she gave in Sacrament meeting.)
Whenever I think of Christ being lifted off the cross, His mortal work on the Earth finished, and being prepared for burial and entombment, I can’t help but think of His loyal followers and how they may have felt at the crucifixion of their Lord. This man – whose life had been prophesied for generations and whose birth was foretold by prophets of old was there – in flesh and blood! He had walked with them, healed the sick, made the blind to see, raised a man so dead that “he stinketh” back to life. He had performed miracles of all varieties, spent time with all classes of society, and bestowed forgiveness on even the most vile of sinners. This mortal son of Deity, whose power seemed to defy all reason and all rank, had been brought before the civic justice of the day, wrongfully convicted, tortured, and then put to death right in front of his loyal followers. How devastating must it have been to see a man so powerful in the ways of God be so defeated and victimized by mere mortals?
Was there even any hope to be had? We know that his followers had been taught of the resurrection – Martha proclaimed her faith that her brother, Lazarus, would rise again in the resurrection not long before Christ’s crucifixion. They had witnessed the miracles throughout His life and had expressed unwavering faith in His power and glory. But who could save their Lord? The man who had saved the beggar, the adulterer, the leper, and the friend – who would save Him now? With His crucifixion, they had no Lord to call upon to come raise Him from the dead as Lazarus was raised. Could their faith have endured on this, the blackest of all Fridays?
And then, seemingly to add insult to injury, when Mary Magdalene came upon His garden tomb early Sunday morning, she found His grave vacant, apparently vandalized and plundered by those who had despised her Lord. I can only imagine the bitter feelings she might have felt – was it not enough that they had taken Him, pounded nails into His hands & feet, plunged a sword into His side, and crucified Him with common thieves? They couldn’t let Him rest in peace, but had to desecrate not just His life, but His resting place as well?
And we read in the book of John, Mary “stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”
And she turned away from them, and saw another man whom she presumed to be the gardener standing in front of her, who asked her the same question – woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? And Mary, in her humility and meekness, apparently wishing the offenders no ill will but simply wanting to restore her Lord to His resting place, said, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”
And Jesus Christ – the risen Lord – said unto her, “Mary.”
And in that moment, Mary’s grief, her pain, and her hopelessness – all were cast aside. Christ had risen, and in doing so, He showed the world that Christ’s power on Earth was not His alone, but the power of an Almighty God. He had not just overcome death, but had taken upon himself the sins and the sorrows of the world. In this moment, he didn’t just appear resurrected – he cast out Mary’s pain, healing her from Friday. His Atonement was complete. Indeed, Sunday had come.
I have experienced this kind of a Friday in my life – everything has fallen apart, the very foundation of my faith seems to have been shaken, and the despair is almost more than I can bear. Things seem like they can’t get worse, and there is no hope to be had, and there is no balm in Gilead. I question whether my faith can endure. And yet I add my testimony to that found in the book of John: no matter our grief, no matter our desperation. No matter our pain, Christ has born our burdens alone so that we don’t have to. Cling to your faith, cling to your hope, cling to the Savior – because Sunday will come.
The resurrection is so fundamental to our faith, and yet when you think of it, it’s a rather radical concept. Indeed, President Faust said that “the idea that one who has died can live again was so unprecedented, so foreign to all human experience, that even the Apostles, who had been told it would happen, could hardly believe it. When Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary (the mother of James), and the other women told the Apostles that they had seen the resurrected Lord, “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”
There are many who still consider the story of a resurrected Christ to be just that – a story. An idle tale. In fact, even Thomas, an apostle of the Lord, doubted the reality of the resurrection until he could see the resurrected Savior with his own eyes. And those who lived in Christ’s time indeed had the benefit of seeing the resurrected Lord. They could touch the marks on His body, hear Him talk, watch Him eat. In today’s world, we are asked to believe the words of those who lived before us, who testified of the living Christ. We are asked to rely on senses other than sight and touch to receive confirmation that Christ lives, and there’s no doubt that this revolutionary concept might be a hard pill to swallow for some of us. Truthfully, it’s a concept I have grappled with in my own life. Yet it’s my conviction that Christ does live. He died on the cross and rose again, and the reality of this resurrection is a free gift that He gave to all of us. I have not seen the resurrected Lord with my eyes, and I have not touched His hands with my own, but I have felt the confirmation of the Holy Spirit with a surety that is as vivid as any other physical sensation I’ve experienced, and I know that Christ lives, and that He is our Redeemer. He lives, and like Him, we together with all of mankind, will live again. Sunday has, and will continue to, come.