For the next few weeks, I want us to look at some of the characters of the Easter story. We often bring them to life for this season and miss the life lessons they offer. Some of them have become simply characters and we miss that they are real people who chose to follow a real Jesus for various reason and each of their lives can give us a growth lesson.
We are starting out with someone whose story was most distorted from the truth. Dan Brown the infamous author of a series based from the “DaVinci Code” in my opinion a series of anti-Christ books, I call them anti-Christ because they deny the very deity of Christ and are complete fiction. However, because of biblical ignorance, people have taken his words as fact (over the Bible because they have never really read the biblical accounts. Andrew Lloyd Webber in his rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” also strayed from the biblical truth to create a caricature of today’s featured person creating a romantic relationship with Jesus…who am I talking about of course it is Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene….The truth of her life is so much more powerful than stories that rob her of who she really was….
The first we read about Mary is this…
Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
- From this passage there are a few conjectures we can make….
- Mary had been in bondage by seven demons…we don’t know what those demons were how they came to control her but we do know from her great love and faithfulness to Jesus that she was extremely grateful to be free.
- She had considerable wealth, she was supporting Jesus’ ministry with her own resources. She was not married, so we assume whatever business she was in, she was able to continue in that to support Jesus on a regular basis (prostitution would not have been a business she would have been able to continue in after coming to Jesus) or she was a widow whose husband had left her a considerable sum, (prostitution, during this time, was not a business where she would have been able to build and save wealth)
- She was most likely older based on the women she hung out with
- Before Christ
Before Christ, Mary was in darkness in bondage and once he came into her life and set her free, she understood what the darkness was like and was willing to give her all, to make sure those who were in darkness might see a great light of hope and truth….but that didn’t mean life was always easy regardless of how great your faith…
- How did Jesus affect her life
To gain a greater focus and to understand how she is an example that we can learn from, let’s turn to John 20.
We know Mary had not run from the fear of Jesus’ crucifixion, in fact she helped Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. If we combine all of the Gospel accounts Joseph and Nicodemus took down Jesus’ body and Mary and Mary went with them to the tomb. Then they left to purchase spices and prepare Jesus body for burial but they had to stop because one of the two Sabbaths (feast of unleavened bread would begin at sundown, Saturday sabbath would be later) happened so they had to wait…then we pick it up from there
John 20:1, 2
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Her Lord had died, a most horrible and dishonorable death. A man of peace and love who delivered her completely from her bondage. He had the power to heal her, to open blind eyes, deaf and mute, ears and lips. She saw him conquer death in Lazarus, hatred and prejudice with the Samaritans and Romans. She could have thought the vision and hope is dead why bother? What good has my support been for these last 3 years? Was this all a hoax? But she was faithful, to what she thought, was the very end, when others gave up, Mary was there through His last breaths and even when all hope was gone.
Just as a side note to the story, who did Mary run to? Simon Peter, the one who had betrayed Jesus, gave up on Him was the most boisterous of all the disciples, the one who next to Judas, had fallen the hardest….
Some here today have fallen pretty hard, you have blown it, you have believed because of this, God’s dream for you is gone but that is just not true. God looks on the hearts of everyone and sees where you are, sees your brokenness and wants to remind you…Go and sin no more and allow Him to restore the dream, your life, and His hope for you!
Now getting back to Mary…what else do we know? Let’s read the rest of the story
Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Please understand this…what happened here? Mary looks in the tomb and sees two angels, we assume she saw the grave cloths and face covering laid folded as Peter and John saw but she also sees two angels seated, one at the head and the other the foot where Jesus had been laying.
How deep was her grief? What are you grieving? Do you realize you are grieving something?
Be honest with yourself about your grief. Be honest with the Lord about it too…then the Lord can do something about it!
Grief can be a blinding thing especially when dreams and love are interlaced. Grief can also be a healing thing as Jesus said, Blessed are they that mourn for they will be comforted. In the process it is hard to see Jesus…
Are you mourning the loss of a relationship either through death, broken relationship, distance, kids growing up?
Are you mourning the loss of a dream, circumstances have happened that make it appear that your dream is dead with no possibility of survival or worse someone else has taken your dream?
Are you mourning the loss of a job? A job loss doesn’t just threaten financial security, but a loss of dreams, and relationships
Are you mourning the loss of your health, your youth? Watching the days behind grow greater than the days ahead of you and your body is now paying bills that you wrote checks for in your younger days!
Two angels appeared to Mary and she didn’t question, Maybe a miracle happened. These angels could not understand why she was crying, this was all part of God’s plan that Jesus had told them all about….her grieving even blinded her from seeing Jesus!
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
Once again, she is asked why she was crying…both Jesus and the angels were trying to get her to think it through. I think they were both saying I know what you are seeing is tough. I know how you feel right now is difficult but think with us for a second….what did Jesus say?
When we are in our greatest trials, our greatest struggles Jesus understands completely but his desire is not for you to stay there but to walk in freedom. When your heart is broken, when the future looks dark and hopeless, the question is still the same, what did Jesus say? What does His word say to you? What prophetic word have your received what preaching/teaching have you listened to that you can stand on….there is always hope with Jesus.
Mary was so blinded with grief she didn’t see, she couldn’t see, but there is a promise Jesus made and He kept it as He will always do for you…
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Jesus called Mary by name and immediately the grief was lifted and she was set free. He knows you, you are the one he loves the most. Please realize he knows you better than anyone, loves you more than anyone has ever loved you. In your darkest hour, He will call you in a way that gets your attention to remind you, you are loved
In a moment her shattered soul is healed, her shattered world is remade. Jesus knew her name, called her by name, as He does all of us and reminds her who He is, the resurrector of dead things, the bringer of life to everything, the keeper of every promise.
He will do the same for you…He will take you through your mourning to healing to being free, being healed, delivered, expecting great dreams again because you are His child!
Then a seemingly odd thing takes place…
John 20: 17
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Jesus is teaching her that he will no longer be known by sight or touch but in a precursor to the ascension…he is reminding her that those who follow Him must know him by faith…then Jesus challenges her
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
Coming to the realization of the truth of Christ’s promises, the reality of His resurrection, energized her with an excitement for the truth and bringing others to that truth…Jesus recognized that and sent Mary to change the world!
We say we have met with the risen Christ. We say He has freed us from sin and death – well who would know? Who have we told? Is it not about time we told those we love? Is it not about time we actually told people this wonderful news?
Before Jesus… Mary was bound in darkness, without hope
Coming to Jesus… she committed to Him 100% giving her all, she became braver than most
When her dream was stolen, she didn’t totally give up but pursued still