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‘I have seen the Lord’

Alice Smith

Head of Mission at CAP. Essex resident with a nomadic heart.

CAP’s Head of Mission, Alice Smith, reflects on what seeing God looks like in the Bible and in our world today. 

(average read time: 5 minutes)

In the Bible, seeing God is a different experience for everyone – Moses and the voice from the burning bush (Exodus 3), Paul and the flash of light on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), Lydia’s conversion and the baptism of her household (Acts 16). That’s still the case today. Sometimes, we have to wait until the time is right to truly see him.

The gospels are full of examples of people, both believers and non- believers, seeing God. One of the most powerful is Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples at the resurrection. It provides an amazing insight into how we might react to divine good news and tell others what this means for our lives as we encounter the risen Christ.

John 20 gives us a detailed account of Jesus’ disciples finding the empty tomb and assuming his body has been stolen. Among them is Mary Magdalene, no doubt devastated by what had happened to her Lord and Messiah over the days leading up to the crucifixion. John’s gospel gives more details of the situation, which is so shocking that Mary runs back to tell the other disciples.

On hearing the news, Peter and John run to the tomb to see if what Mary has said is true. She follows behind, watching their reactions from afar. As they too see that Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb, she is distraught. Then, Jesus comes and speaks soothing words of comfort to her. Thinking he’s a gardener, Mary unknowingly questions Jesus as to where the body of her Lord has been moved.

Eventually, he reveals himself to be the risen Christ and tells her to let the others know what she has seen. We see this in John 20:18, which says, 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.’

Today, we face deep uncertainty. Despite the return to normality as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the world watched with fear and anxiety as horrific events began to unfold in Ukraine back in February, and conflict continues across the world. None of us are exempt from the struggles that today might bring.

As people concerned with justice for those most in need, we might lean towards taking immediate action and meeting the needs in front of us as soon as we can. In many cases, this is the best course of action, acting purposefully and practically in the name of God. But different issues require different solution.

There’s a reminder in Mary’s behaviour that we might consider. We can’t underestimate the value of taking the time to wait and reflect with God. The resurrection is the hinge of hope for our world. Remaining in a place of wonder and worship is an important part of how we move forward and let God’s justice and righteousness prevail.

This is especially true when we consider the integral part that evangelism plays in the priorities and passion of Christians Against Poverty. CAP is an organisation with a story to tell. It’s a story of people who have been freed from agonising debt, and of churches who have been equipped to meet the needs of their community, like Lowe Church who you read about elsewhere in Lifted. It’s a story of families welcomed into their local churches and introduced to Jesus, and of individuals taking small steps of faith, growing in confidence and wondering what life might be like with Jesus.

These are stories of hope and joy, and it is a privilege for us to be able to see God at work in this way. It can take weeks, months, even years of walking with others to build relationships before being able to truly say, I have seen the Lord’.

Mary Magdalene had been journeying with Jesus for many years. She followed him as he travelled and taught, healed and challenged – all the way through to that final week leading to his death on the cross. But here, at the empty tomb, having waited and wondered, she encountered Jesus. That long wait for his words and his triumph over death wasn’t in vain, and propelled her to go and spread the good news that Jesus is risen!

Just like Mary, CAP’s approach is to see and expect God at work in the world, wherever we are and in whatever we do. It’s not the Church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has the Church.

We know that he goes before us and we’re following his lead, guided by faith into homes and circumstances with significant, long-term needs. Conversations open up because God has brought our church-based teams into contact with families and individuals at just the right time for them. You’ll have read Paul’s story elsewhere in Lifted – and he affirms this, saying, Life Skills came along at just the right time.’ It is God who speaks, soothes and sends. We get to partner with him, see that in action and celebrate it. Paul is now sharing with others that he too has seen the Lord.

We often hear from our partner churches who, through difficult and challenging circumstances, have been confident enough to continue sharing their experience of Jesus with others. They joyfully say, I have seen the Lord’, and pray for the Holy Spirit to move people closer to God.

We know that, with the support of people like you, God has put the Church and CAP in the lives of people at just the right time. Just as Mary Magdalene did outside the empty tomb, we wait with faith and hope, mindful of God’s plan and grace in all that comes our way. That wait surely makes the light of the Lord all the brighter when it appears.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
‘Rising poverty is pushing churches like mine to their limit,’ says Ruth. ‘Please help us meet the growing need.’

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'