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True Love

Date: Mar. 28, 2015

Author: Orlando Ocasio

John 20:11-18

Key Verse: John 20:18

“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

This evening’s passage takes place three days after Jesus had been brutally killed. Saddened by the whole event Mary makes her way to the place where they laid him to rest. Before Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb of Jesus where she was weeping now, her experience with Jesus’ death had been so surreal that it wasn’t until she found herself alone and grieving that she could really digest what had happened. Verse 1 tells us, that while it was still dark Mary went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Peter and told them that someone had removed Jesus’ body from the tomb and she didn’t know where they had put him. Mary must have been in deep pain and despair because of Jesus’ death. After witnessing that very traumatic event, her pain must have been eating at her soul. Maybe she was crying so hard, or was still in shock, because she witnessed her savior being crucified. The death of Jesus was so unbearable that Mary was driven to the tomb during the night hours (zero dark thirty) in the hope to reconnect with the one she loved. I can empathize with Mary, because I experienced something similar while I was serving in the Marines during the war in Iraq in 2004. I remember the day of the fire fight in Fallujah, it was so surreal, and I could not believe what was going on right before my eyes. I did not want to die that day so I prayed to God that I would not get hit, but just 20 min into the fight I was hit by a 7.62 round that struck my leg. Immediately I fell off the turret and into the Humvee. At that moment, I was struck with fear, overwhelming fear. I was thinking, “I’m going to die here.” And all I could do was think about my family and how I did not want to die, at least not on the battle field, not alone, not without my family. I was taken to the “animal hospital” in Fallujah, were I was patched up and laid with the walking wounded. All around me I heard the last cries of our brave Marines and saw how they carried their bodies in black bags, portable tombs. Later, as I was moved from where the wounded lay, I was put in a room by myself and it was there the reality of war struck me, and its evil face was staring at me straight in the eye. I could not believe what I had witnessed. I felt so violated, so close to death, and like Mary I too longed to go home and be in the arms of my loved ones.

So who was Mary Magdalene and why was she so heart broken by the death of Jesus? In the book of Luke, we catch a snap shot of Mary and who she is. Chapter 8 (verse 1-2) tells us that Jesus and his disciples were” town hopping” proclaiming the” good news” of the kingdom of God. Mary and some other women were traveling with Jesus and his disciples as a support unit for his Campaign: Operation Spread the Good News. These verses tell us about Mary Magdalene’s past and how she was possessed by seven demons. I could only imagine how she must have suffered being tormented by the demons; they must have led her into depression, a life without a purpose, a wandering soul. Jesus knew what kind of dirty sins Mary had committed and he was not disgusted with her because he loved her. Jesus’ unconditional love transformed a lonely “woman” into Mary, the one whom Jesus loved. His love brought her a supernatural joy that struck Mary’s heart so hard that it ravished her and opened her eyes to see that Jesus had set her free from her past. And by his grace she became a new woman and a vital servant in Jesus’ army. Mary would follow Jesus to the end. Even after his disciples abandoned him, in his last hour of death, Mary would stay with him during his crucifixion. Mary would be present at Jesus’ tomb and the first to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. And amazingly Mary would be the first to preach “The Good News.”

I’d like to introduce myself, I’m Orlando and by the grace of God, I’ve experienced the same kind of joy in Jesus as Mary did. Before he had shined his light on me I was in darkness. I did not know how lost I was or how dark my life was. But that darkness would be exposed by the grace of Jesus, my pain and sorrow my wounds would be heal by his wounds.

I was born and raised in the south west side of Chicago in a small community called “Little Village”. It is called Little Village because mostly all who live there are Mexican immigrants. My mother being one of them, and my father got a little lucky being from Puerto Rico. I have an older sister and a younger brother. For those who are not familiar with little village, imagine a piece of land filled with seeds that produce violence, drugs, and gangs that contaminate the innocence of childhood. Soon it would seep into my hearts as well, and with very strict father and an abusive mom I soon began to hang out with bad company, which led to experimenting with drugs, neglecting my studies, and eventually jail. And although, not much good can come out of Little Village, a lot of grace and mercy through our Lord Jesus can be found there just as it found me, and at the age of 17 at a corner bar, in the early morning while it was still dark, by the grace of God I was given a calling and invited to church by a stranger that soon became my friend.

I remember the first time I came to UBF. Everyone was very welcoming, the message was engaging, and they had an orchestra that was composed by teenagers which played beautifully, there is where I met Missionary Daniel yang, a small Korean man but a giant at heart. Through his shepherd heart and one to one bible study Daniel became a spiritual father to me, through whom I came to know Christ, and in 1997 he opened his home for me where I would live there for a short while. One day as I attended worship service, Pastor Ron was giving a message. I’m not too sure what the message was, but that day my calling was complete, as I prayed, out of nowhere it hit me, I am a wretched sinner, but more than that Jesus became my savior. He opened the eyes to my heart and allowed me to see the potential in me through his redeeming love. I was born again in Jesus and my self-esteem soon grew strong. I was the product of my neighborhood but I was no longer a prisoner there. Jesus broke the chain that bonded me to a sorrowful life and gave me a joyful one through his powerful word. I soon became a reliable and trust worthy young man. Missionary Daniel and Debora would help me find a job and a place to stay. I enrolled in a community college and I began to share with my friends the word of God. However, after a few years of mentoring through their love and patience for me, I decided to join the U.S.M.C. I respectfully left my teacher and church to pursuit my happiness. Through this decision our Lord Jesus would reveal his mercy and redeeming love for this sinner.

Through Mary’s transformation, we can see how much Jesus loves his children and how his grace and power brings healing, peace and joy to our lives. So why is Mary weeping outside of Jesus’ tomb? Doesn’t she know that he’s going to the father as Jesus has told them? Were Jesus’s signs and miracles not breathe taking and enough to convince Mary that he is the Son of God Almighty and so powerful that death has no grip on him? Was she not freed from seven demons and experience supernatural Joy to live a new life in Jesus? Then, why is Mary outside the tomb weeping? Take a look at verse 11, “Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb.” After Jesus’s death, Mary was completely heartbroken. Jesus was everything to her. He was all she needed but now he was gone. So it would make sense that Mary would be looking for Jesus in the tomb. But who can find joy and love in a tomb? The teacher who led the way with his radiant light, who had compassion on her, seemed weak and over powered by the dark deeds of unbelievers. (Like Superman with kryptonite) This left Mary very wounded, confused and empty. Why, because she did not have a full understanding of Jesus resurrection. Before Jesus was killed, he told his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid, you heard me say, I am going away and I am coming back to you. If you loved me, you would be glad, that I am going to the father.” (John 14:28) Jesus had also forewarned his disciples about the anguish and the joy they would experience after his crucifixion and resurrection, “Very truly I tell you”, “you will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A women giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:20) Mary was going through the grieving process. You see, when you eat with someone and sleep, play, work, cry, and laugh together for several years, you share a tight bond with them. But hers was even more than that, when you leave your old life for a new one, living for the same cause, going into battle with them sharing the same victories and defeats it made that bond much stronger. And when Jesus died all her joy was gone. She was left in despair and grief, but Jesus said that soon her grief will turn into joy. Like a caterpillar crawling on its belly gets transformed into a soaring beautiful butterfly, Mary’s sprit would be transformed from sorrow to joy.

As Mary looked inside the tomb she saw two angels in white, seated were Jesus’ body had been, one at the head the other at the feet. They ask her, “Woman why are you crying”? “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Although the tomb was not empty, Mary’s heart was. To add insult to injury, Mary did not see Jesus’ body. Not only was she dealing with Jesus’ death, now she had to deal with the theft of his body and that only made her more sorrowful. Mary was so desperate to find Jesus’ body that she could not even see she was talking to angels. It seems like the angels are Jesus’s personal escorts to heaven rolling out the red carpet, or maybe they’re his body guards, or maybe they just came to help Mary vent. (Like psychologists, “Can we help you unpack this?”) The angels ask her why you are crying. Mary’s reply was basically saying, “You have got what you wanted, you killed an innocent man, and now give him back.” She thought the angels were the ones who took Jesus’ body. Then as she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, somehow she did not realize it was Jesus. Just like the story “Foot Prints” when the storms of life come pounding down on us it can be overwhelming. We feel as though we are alone, and often think that the single path of footprints in the sand are ours, but later we realize all along they were Jesus’ foot prints as he carried us. Mary does not see that she is surrounded by celestial bodies. That Jesus and his angles are sharing her pain. Mary is so blinded that she can only see her pain, because the fact is that death, the thought of death, or cheating death is daunting, it is easy to feel overpowered because death blinds our ability to see beyond it. Death sets boundaries that does not allow us to transcend to the unknown were Jesus is, it stripes you down to the bones, and robs you of your identity. When death comes knocking at your door with the face of pure evil, it can rattle any hope you might have had, your faith maybe shaken, your joy maybe taken and soon the darkness is your friend. Unless, we have resurrection faith, we can’t walk by faith and not by sight.

We see that Mary found joy in Jesus, but when Jesus was crucified Mary’s joy was taken from her, her identity in Christ was stripped. She was no longer “Mary,” but “Woman” perhaps just like before Jesus healed her. He asked her, “Woman,” why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Does Jesus not know why Mary is crying? And why is he regarding her as women, is Mary being put back into general population? Maybe Mary’s demon of despair has crawl back into her. Mary was once again demon possessed, she was totally blinded. I believe Jesus is addressing the demon here that is why he called her woman instead of Mary. When Jesus asked, “Who is it you’re looking for?” I believe he is saying, “I have risen, I defeated death.” He was perhaps resting there after a great battle for our sins, so he is telling the demon, if you are looking for a dead son of man, you will be disappointed because I won the battle. I’m just taking a break before I go to the father; I am getting dressed to see my father. (His dressing room) It was Mary that was dead, not Jesus, Jesus was telling Mary, “look closer it is me.” In a sense the tomb was Mary’s tomb. Mary went to visit Jesus at his tomb, but in fact, it was Jesus visiting Mary at hers, (Now that brings life and Joy!) Even though Jesus is the Son of God, he can relate to people and before he would ascend to his father in heaven and complete their joy, he going to restore Mary’s broken heart and bring it back from the dead.

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him. Zombie Mary in her deep distress believes that she can regain her Joy by holding on to Jesus’ body. She has even convinced herself that she is capable of retrieving the body by herself if she only knew where it was. Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Suddenly she turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni! Which means teacher, Mary hears the voice of her shepherd and it frees her of her dark rider. Mary shouts with Joy at the sight of Jesus as if her hero has returned back from a battle. John 10:3 helps us understand what just happened. It says, “The gate keeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all of his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” When Jesus called Mary’s name it awakened her and immediately her pain and agony was gone. The gruesome images that robbed her of her joy and peace, the same images that probably led her to the tomb, were erased from her heart and mind at the sight of Jesus, The hurt and violation she must have felt in the dark hours of the night were she helplessly laid inconsolable, were gone. (Mary’s most have been jumping for joy, as if she was playing in “The Price Is Right.” For we are made right when Jesus paid the price for our sins.) Her emotions most have been out of control. She was standing in the presence of the Lord Almighty. Like a child being in the same room with their favorite celebrity, or a wife whose husband has gone off to war and is now in the arms of her beloved, Mary must have wanted to tackle Jesus to the ground, like when a dog sees his master. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A women giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:20-23) Mary has seen the Lord and her sorrow turned into Joy.

Through Jesus’s death and resurrection no one could ever again rob Mary of her joy. How is that possible? As we heard earlier from Dan, Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Through his wounds Jesus would restore the relationship between God and man. God’s deep love for his children would be bestowed on Jesus, and his death would bring us peace and Joy. When Jesus laid down his life to free us all from the power of sin, this showed us just how much he loves us. “Greater Love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (John 16:13) Not only that, Jesus reassures his disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:18-21) When Mary realized that Jesus overcame death, that he was alive, she was no longer afraid of death. Because Jesus was alive, she too would be alive and no one could take this joy away from her. Jesus is the Father’s Son and when the Father looks down and sees the people who believe in his son Jesus, The Father rejoices and loves us like his own. When we believe in the promise of Jesus, we no longer have to live in sorrow. We can believe that he lives, and because he lives we can also live. We don’t have to look at Jesus’s death as a loss, but as a gain. We have gained a savior because he died for our sins and by his wounds we are healed.

Mary might have wanted to hold onto Jesus with all her might. In her mind there was no way she would be letting go of Jesus, but Jesus would make her joy complete by commanding Mary to be the first to spread the good news. So Jesus tells her in verse 17. “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and you’re God.” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord! This must have been a magical moment for Mary. Her body was once the domain of demons but now she was demon free by the resurrection of Jesus, proving that he is the Son of God. This reignited Mary’s hope to eternally be with her Lord, delivering a supernatural Joy that struck Mary’s heart. (Shouting, I have seen the Lord!) This reinforced the teaching of Jesus and gave life to his words and promises. Through the good news of his resurrection Jesus has granted Mary access to be the first to see the risen Christ, permeating Great Joy in Mary’s heart which no one could ever take from her. Mary realizes that Jesus death on the cross was a beautiful gift of love from God the Father. A gift that brings life, a gift that was sprayed with the blood of Jesus that carries the sweet aroma of life. A fragrance that opened Mary’s eyes and heart allowing all the teachings of Jesus to make sense. As a token of his love for Mary, Jesus gives her the privilege to break the news to his disciples. After seeing Jesus resurrected Mary has a sense of closure. She was able to put the past in the past and look forward with a new attitude of hope.

Like Mary who was lost and then found and restored by Jesus only to become sorrowful, I too had been found by Jesus and restored. Jesus took me from nowhere and made me his child. However after I found joy in Christ, like a poor man who was given a million dollars and I wanted to run with it to find pleasure in the world. I felt a sense of confidence and desire to become someone. I was rehabilitated and rejuvenated and felt the need to mend things with my family and make them proud of their son. I wanted to show them that by the grace of God I was a new person, and that I can make good choices. I never sat down to map out my life, never knew what I wanted to be, but then I made the decision to become a Marine. As gung-ho as that may sound, it came with a price. Which meant, stripping you down and giving you a new identity? Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps.” I went from a rebellious teenager, to a born again Christian, to a filthy minded animal with low morals. (To now a messenger) (Who wants to join the Marines? j/k). ( With a clean body, of course.) As bad as this is going to sound, not only is the quote true, but back then I loved the new me. The comradery that is established in the Marine Corps and on the battle field appears to be unbreakable. I opened my heart wide to the corps, and boy did I fall in deep. After two painful tours in Iraq, I would put that love to the test, when I choose to use pot to cope with the stress and the wounds I received in combat. Shortly after, I popped positive for Marijuana. As a result I was discharged with “OTH - Other than honorable.” Because of that, I lost everything that I was hoping for. In an instant my identity, my new found glory, was stripped and I was nobody again. They humiliated and dishonored me and kicked me out because of my mistake and it hurt so much. Since then I became deeply wounded and very angry. Before I had been physically wounded on the battlefield but now I had been wounded emotionally which has been harder for me to deal with. The Marine Corps crushed me to the bone and put my glory and identity as a marine in a tomb. But my stubborn hear continues to revisit the tomb in hope to regain that glory once again. However I realize that the corps should no longer be a reminder of my sorrows, or where my glory rested, but rather a testimony of Jesus’ love form me. He is using my wounds to turn my attention to him. I no longer have to carry this heavy cross anymore because Jesus has already carried my cross and has paid my debt in full. Through his death he has paid my debt and through his resurrection he has given me hope. If God can heal and use a demon possessed woman like Mary for his glory, then God can also heal and use a filthy minded marine like me for his glory. I thank God for his grace upon my life because he sent Monica to be my wife and pillar to lean on. He even blessed us with two wonderful boys, Orlando and Noe’. Although I can not forget about the past, however I can look forward to a bright future with my wounded warrior and Savior Jesus. It won’t easy, but by the grace of God I believe it’s possible because he lives.

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