Saturday, May 14, 2016
Mary Magdalene: Triplets of Redemption
As we have seen, the three women named Mary whom the Bible highlights as being especially significant in the earthly life, mission, and ministry of Jesus Christ are Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary of Bethany; and Mary Magdalene. The name “Magdalene” indicates that this Mary came from Magdala, a city on the southwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus stopped to preach (Matthew 15:39)
Mary, mother of Jesus, was the central figure in Jesus’ family, biologically related to Jesus as His mother. Mary of Bethany, along with her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus, were Jesus’ closest friends. But Mary Magdalene initially had no family or friendship ties to Jesus. Rather, she experienced the miracle of His healing firsthand, for she was the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2).
So it is with knowing Christ – some are blessed to be born into a Godly family of born-again believers serving Him (2 Timothy 1:5). Being surrounded by the Word, fellow believers, and church from a young age encourages the child to be saved (Proverbs 22:6). Others may not have a Christian heritage, yet God brings saved friends into their life to lead them to the Lord (Proverbs 17:17; 27:17; Mark 5:19). Still others have neither saved family nor friends, yet they realize the depths of their own depravity and that they are sinners needing a Savior (Psalm 30:3; Matthew 9:13).
Regardless of how we come to the Lord, it is an individual decision of faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Being associated with a Godly family or Christian friends is no substitute for our own personal salvation, which is why many “good” churchgoers are doomed to hell (John 3:18) unless they repent of their sins, accept Christ and believe in His completed work on the cross (John 19:30) as the only sacrifice that could pay for all our sins (John 1:29).
When we face Christ, we will do so alone, and we cannot claim any rights to Heaven by virtue of our family, our social circle, or our own good works (Ephesians 3:8-9). Only His righteousness, which is credited to our account the moment we trust Him, can wash away our sins by the precious blood He shed for us (Romans 3:25).
So Mary Magdalene represents the sinner who knows she truly has no merit apart from what Christ has done. She and other women were plagued by evil spirits, infirmities and devils before they met Jesus. After Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary, she became one of His closest followers, as did Joanna and Susanna, also mentioned by name among other women healed by Jesus who devoted their resources to His ministry (Luke 8:2-3). Once we are saved, may we also give Him freely (2 Corinthians 9:7) of our time, talents and treasure!
Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene and the others had followed Jesus, had ministered to Him in Galilee, and had come with Him to Jerusalem (Mark 15:41). But in contrast to all the movies showing Mary Magdalene intimately involved in all the key events of Jesus’ earthly life thereafter, the Bible does not give us any details of her ministry until we see her at the cross.
Mary Magdalene was at His cross, accompanied by Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s children (His disciples James and John). Mary Magdalene remained with His body at the cross, as Joseph of Arimathea laid it in the tomb, and she even remained by the stone after the tomb was sealed (Matthew 27: 55-61; Mark 15:40,47).
For her faithfulness, Mary Magdalene received a very special three-part reward -– she was among the first to see the empty tomb; she was the first to see the risen Christ; and He gave her the awesome privilege of telling His disciples that He would see them again!
At the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met with the angel of the Lord who had descended from Heaven, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. He had a face like lightning, clothing white as snow, and a terrifying appearance causing the tomb guards to fall down as if dead (Matthew 28:1-4).
Praise God for the angel’s good news: Jesus was crucified, but was no longer in the tomb, for He had risen! The angel told the women to fear not, but to go quickly, and tell his disciples that He was risen from the dead, that He would go before them into Galilee, and that they would see Him there. So the two Marys left the tomb quickly, ran toward the disciples’ meeting place, and were about to tell them when Jesus Himself appeared to them! And they came to Him, and held him by His feet, and worshipped Him (Matthew 28:5-9).
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, emphasizes Mary Magdalene’s role in his narrative of these events (John 20:1-18). She came to the tomb early, on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. This illustrates that Jesus is most likely to meet with us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33), giving Him top priority, even while the darkness of yesterday’s despair still lingers (Psalm 30:5).
When she saw the stone rolled away, she ran to Peter and John, and witnessed to them of what she believed to have happened: someone had taken their Lord’s body, for He was no longer in the tomb, and she did not know where He was. Whether or not they believed her, Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves (John 20:2-10), for her testimony had prompted their action. Even if we cannot directly lead someone to the Lord, our sincerity should stir them at least to consider what we have said.
In despair as she stood outside the tomb, Mary wept, stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. But she was not alone! Two angels in white, one at the head and one at the feet of where Jesus had been laid to rest, asked her why she was weeping, and then Jesus Himself, standing behind her in the garden, asked her the same question (John 20:11-13).
At first she did not recognize Him, and said that if He had taken Jesus away, would He please tell her where the body was, and she would claim it. It makes me wonder how often Jesus speaks to us through another person, and yet we fail to recognize His voice! But when He called her name, she knew Him to be her Lord, Teacher and Master!
Jesus instructed Mary not to touch Him, for He had not yet ascended to His Father, but to return to the disciples and to tell them that He was ascending to His Father and their Father, and to His God and their God! (John 20:14-18) How amazing that Jesus confirmed here that His followers are worshippers of the One Triune God (Colossians 2:6-10), His Father’s children, and joint-heirs with Christ! (Romans 8:17)
What an awesome blessing, privilege and responsibility for Mary Magdalene to be the first to see the risen Christ, to hear His voice, and to receive His commandment to tell others the Good News! Once we have our first encounter with the risen Christ by trusting Him as our Lord, Master and Savior, may we follow Mary Magdalene’s example of faith, obedience, and faithfulness!
© 2016 Laurie Collett