Wednesday 15 April 2020

Mary Magdalene

 The Christian Church worldwide has just celebrated Easter, with the glorious story of the resurrection of Jesus.  Today I want you to share with me the story of the most prominent other person involved that first Easter Day, Mary Magdalene

When Jesus was taken to the Cross Mary stood with His mother to watch the awful scene, remaining to see Him placed in the tomb. She was first back at the tomb on Easter morning when of course she found it empty. On Saturday after the Sabbath had concluded, she purchased spices because she hoped to anoint his dead body, she ventured through the darkness to the Garden Tomb, expecting to finish the job of anointing the body of Jesus. Unable to deal with the situation, she ran to tell the Apostles Peter and John when she found Jesus’ body had gone, who then went and confirmed her story.

Mary Magdalene was last at the cross and first at the tomb. This is a high honour that can be said of none of the men who followed Jesus who just went back home.

Mary was too distraught to leave the scene not realising Jesus had risen, but who indeed would ever have imagined a dead man rising back to life? She went on believing even when she didn’t understand.

When someone we love dies suddenly, we don’t really know how to deal with it. Those of us who have been through such a time can understand how Mary must have felt. She loved Jesus as she loved living and she was a loyal supporter. Death does not destroy or end love, it just takes another form.

As she stood there weeping, two angels in white were sitting in the place where Jesus had been and asked her why she was crying. She told them it was because Jesus had been taken away, and then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus, she thought He was the gardener. She wanted to know where the body had been removed to so she could go and carry it back, ignoring the fact she did not have the strength to do so or a place to put it.

Mary never took her eyes off the tomb which is why she did not at first recognise Jesus. But the tomb or grave is not where our loved ones are, that is just where the worn out body is, the real person who has been a follower of Jesus is with him in heaven.

When Mary heard Jesus call to her, ‘Mary,’ she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher) and she wanted to cling to him. She recognised Him and went to embrace Him, but He told her to stop clinging to him. Perhaps she knelt down and wrapped her arms around his feet so that he would never leave. In Jesus, Mary had found a man she could love and trust. But she was clinging to that which she must give up.

Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."’

Jesus told Mary to go and tell the disciples, and all who claim to be Christians are expected to do what Mary did, and proclaim their faith. 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”

It became for Mary to be the first Christian witness and this is the very essence of Christianity, to be able to say you have met the Lord. A lot of people can say they know about Jesus, fewer can say they have met him and he is now part of their lives.

Jesus came to Mary in a personal way and will do to all who sincerely seek him. For over two thousand years the hearts of millions of men and women have been touched and they have realised that Jesus can be with them as they face life’s burdens.

All believers do not have the same degree of faith or hope. It is however a fact of life that those who turn closely to Jesus will find most of his Spirit in their lives.

We find in this story that fear and worry is pointless. How often are we anxious and upset about something when there is no real need? Pray for patience and faith and let God act in his own good time.

Although Mary Magdalene plays an important role in the life of Christ, we know surprisingly little about her. Mary came from the fishing village of Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. She was one of a group of women who became followers of Christ during his earthly ministry. She and the other women joined themselves to Jesus and his apostles and followed them from village to village; offering financial support and helping them in various ways, so as a wealthy woman she may have been a business woman.

Before she met Jesus, she was totally enslaved by demonic powers, but Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary. How she got into this sad condition the Bible does not say and it does no good to speculate. But we may be certain that if one demon is terrible, seven demons must be seven times worse. No doubt her condition was well known to others. Perhaps she acted in such a way as to cause these wild stories to circulate. There is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate wild speculation she was an immoral woman, or married to Jesus. Whatever it was, it caused her to love Jesus deeply, accept Him as Lord and Saviour, and made her vow to follow Him wherever He went.

When Christ set her free, he liberated her from the evil impulses that had kept her chained figuratively and perhaps literally. She is living proof that those whom Jesus sets free they really are freed.

There is a lesson for all of us in this story. Our Lord can be close to us even if we cannot see Him. It is often the case when we feel abandoned and sad He is closest to us, so we must trust that He never will leave us to face life without Him. People tend to give up on God too quickly and feel they can face life in their own strength only to find they fail miserably.

Perhaps Jesus did not want Mary to recognize him at first so that he could teach her an important truth. She had to learn that he is always present even when he is invisible to us humans. From this we learn that our Lord is often closest to us when we feel the most alone. Many times while going through a dark valley, we think God has abandoned us, but if only our eyes could be opened, we would see the Lord walking with us every step of the way. Just because we don’t see him doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

Christ bestowed great honour on her because she loved him so deeply and so devotedly. Strident feminists make claims that Christianity is anti-women, but clearly remember it was to a woman Jesus first revealed himself after his resurrection, and to be the first Christian witness. It was to another humble young Jewish girl also named Mary that God bestowed the white rose of virginity with the red rose of maternity, and women have been treated and adored ever since in Christianity in a way no other religion can claim. We encourage our women to display their beauty, not hide it.

Mary had loved Jesus in life, now she loved him in death. She served him in life, now she meant to serve him in death. She was there at the tomb, alone, because death could not destroy her love, and Jesus acknowledged such love.
We make the claim that the empty tomb is the greatest proofs of the Resurrection, yet Mary wept, and bishops today still doubt.

Jesus would soon ascend to the Father to take his place at the right hand of God. From there he will intercede for his followers and will be with them and comfort them through the Holy Spirit. He will be closer to them in the future than he has been in the past. If he stays on the earth, his ministry will be limited to the few who see him face to face. He must leave the few so he can save the many, which includes all of us who follow him today. On that day Mary could touch him. Once ascended, we can all have his presence through faith and prayer and worship.

We are called to do as Mary did—to run and tell all who will listen that we have seen Jesus! And we can say to Jesus, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.

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