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Mary Magdalene

John 20:11-18

(John 20:11-18 NIV) but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb {12} and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. {13} They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." {14} At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. {15} "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." {16} Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). {17} 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.'" {18} 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.

A Preliminary Aside

We are told that Mary Magdalene is the one from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. This poses a problem for modern readers of the Bible, for it is the commonplace of our culture that demons do not exist. But one must remember:

(John 8:44 NIV) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan desires us to believe that demons do not exist; therefore the Bible must be false. Of course, it’s OK to believe in “New Age forces”; “native spirits” and any number of other such things. (The introduction to The Screwtape Letters is excellent on the subject). Satan wants materialists -- who believe in magic.

The demons, on the other hand, have a different opinion of things:

(James 2:19 NIV) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

They are under no illusions. Their view of Jesus is quite orthodox:

(Mark 1:23-27 NIV) Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, {24} "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" {25} "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" {26} The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. {27} The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him."

They know him to be the Christ -- and tremble. With materialists, Satan lies about their existence. With those who cannot be so convinced, he uses power:

(Mark 5:2-13 NIV) When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. {3} This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. {4} For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. {5} Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. {6} When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. {7} He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" {8} For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" {9} Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." {10} And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. {11} A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. {12} The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." {13} He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Such were the kinds of spirits which afflicted Mary Magdalene.[1]

The Effect of Deliverance

If we are to understand the effect that deliverance from such a thing had on Mary, we must see it in an allegorical light. Her deliverance from demons is like our deliverance from sin. Her deliverance was a strong one, and here a famous principle comes in to play:

(Luke 7:47 NIV) Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Mary has been set free from the demons. Christ has set us free from our sins. But what does that phrase, “set free from our sins,” mean?

·         It can mean that we don’t have to save face any more. We can say, “yes, I’m a sinner. I was wrong. Forgive me.” We can say it knowing that our Lord commands forgiveness for the repentant -- and freely gives it. No longer need we let our pride trap us into continuing sin.

·         More than that: it means we have help in overcoming those sins. We are not alone in our struggle. Indeed, we have the mightiest of allies!

·         It also means -- for those for whom the word “duty” has not lost its meaning -- that joy replaces fear as a motive.

{Class discussion!}

Mary Magdalene’s response to freedom

Mary Magdalene shows us what Jesus meant:

(John 8:31-36 NIV) To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. {32} Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." {33} They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" {34} Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. {35} Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. {36} So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

She has been set free; Christ has placed no demands on her but has simply removed her shackles. How does she react?

·         It is fairly obvious that she is grateful. She was no doubt thankful. The greatness of this woman is measured, however, by actions, not words.

·         She goes beyond gratitude to devotion. We see this in two ways:

·         First, there is her financial support.

 (Luke 8:1-3 NIV) After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, {2} and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; {3} Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

·         Next, we see in this passage that she, and the other women, followed Jesus about. Mary stuck close by Him -- indeed, as close as she could possibly have done. She is mentioned seldom in the New Testament, but we see her listed as being

·         at the Cross (Matthew 27:56)

·         at the burial (Matthew 27:61), and

·         the first to see Him after the Resurrection (John 20)

This is her secret: devotion. Mary is devoted to her Lord. This caused me to begin to query the relationship between devotion and Lordship.

Devotion and Lordship -- the Principles

Many of us “wish” we were more devoted to Christ. By examining Mary Magdalene’s life, we can see three principles of devotion by which she lived - and which serve as example for us.

The Pearl of Great Price

(Mat 13:45-46 NIV) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. {46} When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Mary did not just wish Jesus well; she committed her entire life to Him. She followed Him around. She helped support Him. By her every action, she placed Him first -- to the point that nothing got in the way.

Faith, not Sight

(2 Cor 5:7 NIV) We live by faith, not by sight.

Even when hope was gone, Mary went to the tomb. She was completely and utterly hopeless -- but still devoted. How many of us are devoted to our Lord when we can see how He might rescue us from today’s mess -- but despair when our own minds can’t see the path?

Freedom in Devotion

There are three forms of “I have to:”

·         “I have to” because someone puts a gun to my head.

·         “I have to” because it’s my sad duty to do so. I don’t like it, but I’ll do it.

·         “I have to” because it’s the joy of my life.

“It” is rarely the true joy of life; “something” doesn’t last as a source of joy. The right “someone” does. That’s what Mary has found.

The Rewards of Devotion

We often think of devotion as being unrewarded selflessness. Our Lord understands our feeble minds much better than that (He made them, remember?)

If we seek the Pearl,...

(Mark 10:28-31 NIV) Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" {29} "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel {30} will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. {31} But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Are we willing to leave everything, to seek the Pearl, and take Jesus at His word?

If we walk by faith.....

(Heb 11:6 NIV) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Note the underlined passage. Faith is explicitly declared to be rewarded! But there is a greater reward.

If we are freely devoted....

(John 1:12-13 NIV) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- {13} children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

If He becomes the joy of our life, we become the children of God, both now and in the age to come. Not just His servants; not just His friends; His children. Now, if we (being sinners) take such good care of our earthly children, what will he do as our Heavenly Father?

[1] I ignore, for the purposes of this discussion, the Catholic/Protestant controversy over whether or not Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. The issue is an old one, and hotly debated -- with much misinformation -- on both sides. For example, the teacher’s materials prepared for this lesson by Eastside clearly state that Barclay’s commentary calls Mary a prostitute, going into great detail about it. Barclay says no such thing. He barely alludes to the traditional view in one slight instance.

The controversy stems from either a) identifying Mary with the woman taken in adultery (John 8), or b) confusing the two anointings of Jesus. The best that can be said is that Mary might be such a woman. The worst that can be said is that the dispute is not a model of Christian charity.

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