Friday, 29 April 2011

::Mary Magdalene - forever faithful to her Lord ::

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I would like you to imagine that it’s a very hot day, hot and dusty, the midday sun is beating down on your back, the streets are busy, packed with people on all sides of you. You feel uncomfortable, you can hardly move, your mouth is dry, the walls are coming in on you, you are afraid. The heat is becoming unbearable and the crowds around you are making it worse because you can’t move. The temperature is high as is the mood of the crowd, they are pushing, they are excited, they are angry, they are spoiling for a fight. There is shouting, swearing and jostling - you are afraid of falling, you are afraid of being hurt, you are afraid of being found out. You allow yourself to be pulled along down the narrow streets and alleyways. Soldiers with whips and swords are standing on guard, lining the market place, waiting for trouble, ready to kill, wanting to shed blood. But the one you love the most is just in your sight and your love for him is stronger than your fear, your love for Him gives you the strength and the courage to press on. In the midday heat you climb the steep hill-side; your heart is beating because of the heat, because of your exertion, because of your fear. But your determination to be with the one you love during His final moments is stronger. No matter what you see, no matter what they do to Him, no matter how much it hurts to watch, your love for Him is greater; your loyalty to Him is greater your desire to serve Him until the very end is so much greater.

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How many of us would be so fearless, so resolute, so constant? Remember Jesus’ answer to the question, ‘how do I inherit eternal life’, which was: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' Mary Magdalene lived this scripture, and no more than in this moment when she followed Jesus to the cross with the other women - she was a remarkable woman. A woman of great courage, of great faith and of great gratitude. Her actions, her constancy and her determination are an example to us all and teach us so much about how we should live our lives as followers of Jesus.


Mary Magdalene is to me, one of the most interesting and inspiring people that followed Jesus. She was the leader of a group of women disciples who were present at the cross, when the male disciples had fled in fear and gone under-ground. During a recent Tenebrae service as I was praying and listening to the gospel I thought about how lonely Jesus must have felt when all the people he trusted and loved had let him down. Judas had betrayed him, the disciples slept when he asked them to pray with him and Peter, his closest and most beloved, denied him three times. What was worse was that he knew that they would let him down. I thought about how much it hurts when your friends let you down and I thought of how much this must have hurt our Lord, it made me feel so sad. Then I remembered Mary, she didn’t let him down - she was there supporting him in his final terrifying moments. She witnessed the most horrific events on Calvary. It must have torn her apart, she must have been petrified, grief stricken - but she stayed, she stayed because she loved Jesus, she couldn’t bear to see him die alone – no matter what the cost may have been to her own life, he was more important to her – she couldn’t bear to let him down. Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus, She was there at the end and she was there at the beginning. The beginning that would transform the World.


What a great honor God bestowed upon Mary in permitting her to be the first to witness His resurrection! The gospel of John describes Mary going to the tomb at first light that first Easter morning, how she saw that the stone had been rolled away and that the cave was empty, and how this made her weep. Mary rushes to find Peter and John to tell them, they return to the tomb with Mary then they return to their own homes.


But Mary stayed, she is alone, she is heartbroken she is probably even afraid, then someone asks her why she's crying. She says, 'they have taken my lord's body and I do not know where it is'. The figure says her name. And then she sees Jesus. She is overwhelmed with joy. He tells her that she must go to the others and tell them that he has risen from the dead. What an amazing moment. Jesus stands before her and in this one moment, Mary's experience changed the future of Christianity – she is the first one to proclaim that Jesus didn't die – he was raised from the dead. It is Mary who first declares this wonderful news. It is Mary who Jesus commissioned to be the first messenger of His resurrection. It was Mary who was given the job of spreading the good news. What an honor to be the first to herald the resurrection! This was her reward and what a reward it was.


Yet this remarkable woman has not been remembered for her faith or for her courage or her constancy. The Mary Magdalene that most people bring to mind is quite a different woman. In art, she's often depicted as semi-naked, or an outcast. In fact most people know her best as a sinner and a prostitute. In Ireland Laundries were opened in her name, where the inmates were called ‘Maggies’ and endured terrible physical and mental abuse and working conditions in order to serve their penance. They were incarcerated in these prisons for also being outcasts in society. Mary has even been linked to Jesus romantically with suggestions that they were married. However, there is no evidence for any of this in the gospels.


I believe that there is much that we can learn from the life of Mary Magdalene. As I have researched her, I believe that through her life we not only learn what Christ can do for us, but what we can do for Him. When Jesus healed her, His great love and compassion toward her completely changed her life and led Mary to become a faithful, sacrificial follower of Jesus. So grateful was Mary for her deliverance, that she practiced her faith by following Jesus and ministering to Him and his disciples. Her gratitude and love manifested itself in her devotion to Christ right till the very end of his life. The reward for her faithfulness was to be the first person to herald the good news.


Mary Magdalene owed much, gave much, loved much and served much. She is a wonderful example of a woman whose life was poured out in response to God’s extravagant grace. Mary Magdalene loved Jesus deeply - though Mary Magdalene has been often misunderstood, she can teach us how to love Jesus deeply.


So what can we learn from Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus?First, we can learn determination, diligence and patience. She was the first one to the tomb that first Easter morning. When Mary arrived at Jesus’ tomb, she was stunned. The huge rock, which was supposed to seal the tomb, was gone. Immediately, she went to go get help, thinking that the body had been stolen. After the disciples came and saw it for themselves, they went back home. Only Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb, she would not give up she was determined, she was persistent, she remained constant, she waited and she was rewarded. Sometimes we give up on God too quickly. I know I do. I pray and I pray and I ask God to help me , and then when I don’t hear an answer immediately I think that God has ignored my prayer, I think my prayers are not strong enough they are not good enough or that I don’t deserve my prayers to be answered because I am not good enough.


Or sometimes I when I have asked God to intervene in a situation and it doesn’t happen right away when I want things to happen, I decide to take the matter into my own hands and I try to solve the problem myself, usually with disastrous results. That’s because I have been impatient, I haven’t trusted I haven’t waited on the Lord for his perfect timing. I should have kept praying, strengthened my faith and trusted God. I always remember a friend sharing with me many years ago, she said that sometimes God says yes to our prayers, sometimes the answer may be no and sometimes he wants us to wait. Mary Magdalene waited on the Lord. She waited and she didn’t let anything deter her from what she was seeking. She wanted to see Jesus even though it looked impossible, even though she didn’t get an immediate answer, even when her friends gave up and went home - she stayed, Mary had faith and she trusted God- she waited on the Lord. In his timing he rewarded her, he came to her he blessed her. He will do the same for us too.


We can also learn about enthusiasm and passion from Mary Magdalene. Once she realised that that she was speaking to Jesus and not a gardener, once Jesus had told her to go share the news of his resurrection, nothing could stop her from telling others. Mary was so excited she could not keep her enthusiasm, or her passion or the Good news to herself. She was bursting at the seams to share the best news she had ever heard. Her Christian witness continues to direct people to Jesus today. Mary's message that Jesus is alive, is for us all, for us all to search for, to understand and experience and above all else share with others.
How many times have you been overflowing with enthusiasm to share some good news? How often do you want to ring or text your nearest and dearest and tell them about something wonderful that has happened to you – you just have to share it, it burns inside you – the joy that it brought you has to be shared. My best friend and I often text each other when we have found a bargain, or something we have been looking for, for a long time or when God has blessed us – we can’t wait to share the good news with each other. That’s the kind of enthusiasm that Mary Magdalene had about Jesus’ resurrection. Seeing Jesus, risen from the dead, was the best thing that ever happened to her she couldn’t keep this news to herself she had to share it, she had to celebrate, just like the woman in the gospel that found her silver coin.


So why is it that we can so easily share news of a family event or a trip or good book, but we are often afraid or nervous about sharing the best news of all - the news of Jesus’ resurrection? What matters more - a film with a good plot or Jesus overcoming death once and for all? What matters more – a really good day out at the seaside or the Son of God coming back to life? We have witnessed the same event that Mary Magdalene did. We know that Jesus was raised from the dead. We know we are freed because he broke the bonds of death once and for all. I text my best friend and tell her about Gods blessings because she is a believer, would I be as ready to send the same text to one of my friends who doesn’t follow Jesus? I know its hard, I know its frightening, but we can put a spin on the day at the seaside or the bargain at the sales – we can share this news and we can add – ‘what a blessing’ to our sentence. We can start to sow the seeds of Gods blessings in the hearts of those who don’t yet believe. We can share good news, we can share prayers answered and we can encourage others – we just need to be brave, we just need to ask Jesus to come into our lives to make us burn with passion – my best friend often reminds me – ‘are you are God pleaser or a man pleaser Helen?’ It stops me short and makes me think – I know who I want to please, I know who I want to thank, I know who I want to praise and it isn’t any man. She also reminds me that we are asked to be a fool for Jesus. The disciples may have thought Mary a fool for waiting by the tomb for Jesus. But she didn’t care, her faith in him was stronger and she waited – she was a fool for Jesus, sitting by an empty tomb, waiting.


I have decided to be a fool for Jesus this week, I am going to tell someone about the good news, I am going to ask God to give me an opportunity to share my faith with someone else. I want to be a God pleaser will you join me? Will you be a fool for Jesus?

3 comments:

  1. Bless you! A powerful word. Love and prayers, B

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  2. Hey Helen what an interesting post, things I haven't thought of before, I did enjoy reading it.

    Yes, it can be difficult at times to step out of our comfort zone and to speak up about our faith, but what a privilege it is to tell others that they can have a personal relationship with God. That he does exist and still works might miracles in this day and age.

    Through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling with in, I am encouraged daily to be about my Father's business. Read on to Acts where Jesus commanded the disciples to wait for the 'promise of the Father, which ye have heard of me' Acts 1 v 4............
    On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2 v 4 they received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. A wonderful God given prayer language which is still being poured out today........evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within a person. I received the Holy Sprit and spoke in tongues when I was 10 years old then baptised by full immersion as the Bible says we should be. I pray daily in tongues, God understands what I am saying and the peace, comfort and strength this gives me is far beyond anything man can offer. Knowing that I am right in his sight and have been obedient to his Word is everything to me.

    It is in this strength and through faith that I feel able to speak to others and share what God has done in my life and tell them how they can receive the Holy Spirit as talked about in Acts.

    If they want to think me a fool, then yes, I can be a fool for God, nothing would be more satisfying.

    So Helen, you have made me think about a few things and I just realised that you posted this quite some time ago, but obviously I haven't popped over here for a while...............

    I'm so glad Blogger is playing nicely now, so I could comment....

    Claire X

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  3. Helen- what a beautiful and deeply thought provoking message. Mary was such a strong person- a lady of great faith. When we were in Ephesus, Turkey- we visited the place where Mary lived with John the Baptist after Jesus died. I was so humbled to be there- walk where she had walked.
    I admire you for your dedication to your calling. Thank you for your insightful words--
    Vicki

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It is my prayer that my words may be of some comfort or may bless you in some way...I love to hear from you and your journeys...every blessing H