Sunday, April 13, 2014

P1 Mary Magdalene - A mourner transformed into a missionary

John 20:11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb

In yesterday's post we spent some time looking at the one element that demonstrates the credibility and power of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead - His post-resurrection appearances to His disciples.  We also considered what top Christian scholars have to say about this evidence - noting that the broad consensus supports the changed lives of the disciples as proof positive of Jesus' resurrection.  Finally we had listed 8 individuals or groups that experienced Jesus' post resurrection appearances, noting the following three elements in each occurance:

1. Desparate condition of the people before His appearances
2. Direct encounter with the Risen Christ appearances themselves
3. Drastic change that resulted from the appearances

The first person on the list that saw the resurrected Savior was a woman named Mary Magdalene. In today's post we aim to briefly tell her story and then detail her dire situation, Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to her and the resulting change.  We are calling this post and the next one after it: "A mourner transformed into a missionary."

Meet Mary Magdelene
The proflific writer Herbert Lockyer notes the following about Mary Magdelene: "She is mentioned about fourteen times in the gospels, and from the references to her we can see clearly what she did and how she did it. A striking feature in eight of the fourteen passages is that Mary is named in connection with the other women, but she always heads the list, implying that she occupied the place at the front in service rendered by Godly females. In the five times she is mentioned alone, the connection with with the death and Resurrection of Christ (Mark 16:9; John 20:1,11,16,18). In one instance her name comes after that of the mother and aunt of Jesus.  She stood close by the cross with these other women, but because of their relation to Jesus it would not have been fitting to put her name before theirs (John 19:25). No woman, however, superseded Mary in her utter devotion to the master."Mary Magdalene's place of residency had been the town of "Magdala" or "Magada" which is North of Jerusalem on the North western shore of the Sea of the Galilee.  The little city was known for its dye industry and some surmize that Mary herself may have had the ability to support the Lord in his ministries as assumed by her being named among the women who supported Jesus out of "their private means". (Luke 8:3) 

Mary Magdalene's devotion to her Lord and Savior 
Mary's discipleship or followership of Jesus can be traced to when she had been delivered from her demonic affliction by Jesus.  Simply put, her level of deliverance by Jesus explains her level of devotion to Jesus. Though we know but a faint outline about Mary Magdelene from the pages of sacred scripture, the one detail that does stand out is that Jesus had exorcised seven demons from her. Luke 8:1-2 states - "Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out." Mark 16:9 notes - "Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons."

So how bad off would Mary Magdalene had been, and why do the Gospel writers mention this Divine intervention by Jesus in her life? Jesus gives this interesting explanation of what happens when someone becomes afflicted in the manner Mary Magdalene was afflicted.  Matthew 12:43-45 records His words - “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it.44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

Mary's name, which in the Hebrew means "bitter, sorrow", captures the fact that here was a lady who knew tears, bondage and sorrow in her past.  We oftentimes do not know the circumstances that bring about a person's condition by the time we meet them.  All we do know is that in her human timeline the Savior met her, did a Divine miracle of deliverance and saved her.  With the nature of the deliverance being recorded twice in the Gospels as a major identifying mark of Mary Magdalene's life - we can see why her level of devotion would run so deep, especially in the wake of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.

Mary's discipleship in following Jesus to His cross 
Undoubtedly as we trace the Gospel records of Mary Magdelene's activity through the course of Jesus' ministry, we find most of those references pertaining to His cross and resurrection.  John 19:25 states "Therefore the soldiers did these things.  But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."  Here we see Mary standing at the foot of the cross, establishing her as one of the inner circle followers of Jesus along with the other Mary, Mary Jesus' mother and the Apostle John.  Wherever her Lord was - she was. 

Contrary to the unfounded accusations asserted by liberal scholars who will contend she was an illicit woman who had designs on Jesus - legitimate history and scripture know of no such evidence.  Mary Magedelene was an ardent follower of Jesus who wanted to be where He was out of faith that had birthed forth in her heart the moment He had delivered her. In order to be truly into Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, one has had to been made aware of how much Jesus brought them out of their sin and brokenness.  This is Mary Magdalene in her journey of discipleship from deliverance to her destination in seeing Jesus on the cross. 

As we said earlier, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus entailed three elements: Desparate situation, direct encounter and dramatic change.  For Mary Magdalene, the devotion and faith she exhibited in Jesus during His days on this earth, followed by the trauma of the cross rendered her shattered and heart broken.  We will close out this post by noting Mary Magdalene's desparate situation of mourning.

Mary Magdalene's desparate situation of mourning
As she witnessed with tears and grief the Incarnate God of Glory bleeding and broken on the cross - she saw all the more how much He was the source of her healing.  Following His crucifixion, we see Joseph of Arimethea taking the body of Jesus and laying it in his own tomb, guess who is there to both witness it and keep vigil - Mary Magdelene.  Matthew 27:61 "And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave." In the days following the burial of Jesus, we know from Matthew 28:1 records that Mary and the other women came to look at the grave.  

Mary's actions depict a woman whose soul had been ripped asunder.  She would not rest her weary eyes and her tears could not stop flowing.  Mary Magdalene is depicted at the tomb of her Lord as a woman in deep mourning.  It is certain that no comfort could console her.  She could never get over losing the Life that had saved hers.  Little did she know that upon her next pilgrimage to the tomb that she would find an unexpected scene that would forever alter her life, the disciples and multiplied millions of lives thereafter.  We close with the verse we started with in today's post - John 20:11 "But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb." What happened? Tomorrow we will continue in see what happens to Mary Magdalene. Find out in P2 of our study - Mary Magdalene - A mourner turned into a missionary.

More tomorrow.....
1. Herbert Lockyer. All the Women of the Bible. Zondervan. Page 100

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