Who Are You Looking For? by Rev. Richard Hasselbach
Karl Matter retired from the Marine Corps at the rank of colonel after a lifetime of service to his country. Karl saw action in Desert Shield and Desert Storm; he served on General Mattis’s Senior Staff and was deployed around the world throughout a long career. Of his many accomplishments, though, he was proudest of his family: Karl’s daughter Lauren was the light of his life, and she loved him too. Wherever he was deployed, she would write to him. During Desert Storm, she sent him a text that read: “Daddy, I have Jesus in my heart.”
In a collision with a tractor-trailer when she was thirteen, Lauren sustained severe head injuries which impaired her decision-making ability for the rest of her life. Through her adolescent years, Lauren made some bad choices: she got involved with drugs, and that led to legal trouble. Things began to look up, though, when Lauren started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She had been clean and sober for more than a year when, in a moment of bad judgment, Lauren relapsed, overdosed and died. The light in Karl life went out. What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for Karl Matter?
Karl's crushed spirit and bitter tears are not unlike Mary Magdalene’s as she went to the Lord's grave early on the first day of the week. Jesus had transformed Mary: he healed her, he taught her, and she was devoted to him. She believed, as did the other disciples that he was the promised prophet like Moses. They were sure Jesus was the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory. In a matter of days, though, those hopes were crushed. Jesus was betrayed by a friend; arrested; condemned; tortured; dragged through the streets; publicly executed on a Roman cross. It was a painful, humiliating, and slow death.
The Romans crucified criminals to make examples of them. The cross warned others: “if you don’t want to end up like that guy, don’t act like him.” The crucifixion sent Jesus’ frightened disciples into hiding! Just a few, like Mary, remained to be close to his spirit a little longer. After such a death no one thought Jesus was the Messiah, he was just another failed prophet. God’s Anointed wouldn’t end up on a cross.
Mary went to the tomb that Sunday morning wanting to be close to her friend one last time. Seeing the tomb open and empty horrified her: the only reasonable conclusion she could draw was that grave robbers, or his enemies had stolen Jesus’ body, further defiling it. Pain heaped upon pain.
She ran to Peter and John to report the horror. When they went to the tomb, everything was as Mary said: Jesus’ tomb was empty, the burial linens were lying on the ground, and the body was gone. Peter was bewildered; John “believed” something but he didn’t quite know what. They went home leaving a brokenhearted Mary, tears streaming down her face, alone.
Looking into the tomb as she wept, Mary saw two white-clad figures.“Woman,” one of them asked her, “why are you weeping?” She said: “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they put him.” Mary turned and became aware of another in the garden who asks her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it that you’re looking for?” Thinking him to be the gardener she answered: “Sir if you’ve taken him away, let me know where you put him, and I will get him.” No questions asked.
One word transformed her life and with it all of history: “Mary.” The Good Shepherd calls his sheep by name, and they know him! They hear his voice and follow, and he gives them eternal life.” She recognized Jesus Immediately. “Rabboni,” she said, “My great teacher.”
“Don’t hold on to me,” he told her. He still had work to do, and so did she: “Go to my brothers.” The Greek word used here is Apostello, a verb meaning “to send forth.” Jesus sends Mary to bring the Good News to his “brothers.’ Mary left that cemetery a different woman she knew that the one who died lives! There was no doubt after Friday that Jesus had died; now she has no doubt that he lives.
Lee Strobel, a Harvard-educated lawyer, journalist, and skeptic, a set out to write a book debunking Christ. After painstaking research, Strobel concluded that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most historically well-documented events of the ancient world. The evidence: his, frightened disciples, who ran from Jesus to save their lives, were transformed, in a matter of days, into courageous evangelists. They weren’t afraid of Rome, Pilate, or the Temple authorities. They weren’t afraid of beatings, imprisonment, or death itself. What changed them? They encountered the Risen Lord. Death had no power over him, or them. “Those who believe in me should live even if they die. And those who live believing in me will never die.”
We weep because we of death in all its manifestations: we cry because of our losses, grief, and pain. We weep because nothing permanent, in time all things pass away. Death touches every life, and we can cling to nothing.
Who is it that you are seeking? We want to live in this world filled with loss, and we seek that which gives our lives and time meaning. Could it be that what we seek is standing right next to us, unrecognized? Only the Risen One can console us and comfort us and restore all that we have lost. Jesus holds it all for us. The moment we believe in him everything in our life is transformed: our love, our friendships, our families. In Christ we are a new creation; Jesus’ resurrection is his promise that we, who believe in him, will also rise, and that life wins! Always!
Karl shared Lauren’s diary with me: it was filled with love for her family and loved ones, faith in God, and genuine struggle with the darkness of drugs and addiction. There was a prayer on every page. On one page she wrote: “Lord, I don’t want to go back to the nightmare of drugs; if I do I don’t want to come back.” She belonged to the good shepherd. Death could grasp her, but not defeat her. Even though she died, she lives.
Why weep? The One we are looking for abides with us always!