The Spiritual Journey of Mary Magdalene

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13 NKJV)
Mary Magdalene is an interesting character. In every gospel, she is mentioned by name in some way, shape, or form relating to Christ. Her spiritual journey is chronicled in the Gospels, from when she is caught in sin to when she receives redemption. Her journey is one that is shared by many, whether exactly or generally, and through her journey, we see the steps of our own spiritual journey.

The verse quoted above is from Jesus speaking while at Simon’s, who was a Pharisee, house. Mary had just anointed Jesus’s feet; many were in dissension with her act, but Jesus, seeing her love and worship defends her. But this is not where we first see Mary. We first see her being dragged against her will to Jesus, for she had been caught in the act of adultery and the Pharisees wanted to know what Christ would do with her. They said, “’Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:4-6 NKJV). The Pharisees had no love for Mary. They didn’t want to see her redeemed and quitting her life of sin. They only sought to condemn her in order to magnify themselves and attempt to accuse Jesus. The trick was this: if Christ said to stone her, they would have questioned reputation of being forgiving and loving. Had he told them to spare her, they would have accused Him of going against Moses’s law and that would be punishable. But Christ did something remarkable; “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:6, 7 NKJV). Although the Bible is silent on what Christ was writing, tradition says that Christ was writing the sins of the Pharisees in the dirt. In this encounter Christ exercised mercy to one who should have been stoned, and He exposed the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

Mary is introduced to Jesus and her first experience with Him is mercy. Isn’t that usually how we first meet Him right before we accept Him? Think for a second on how you first realized just who Jesus is and what He did for you. That moment could have been during a Bible study or when someone gave you a tract. And it need not be a first time introduction. For example. I’ve been Seventh-day Adventist for nearly all my life, and I feel like I didn’t realize who Christ is until I came to college. Regardless of how we meet Him, we see how sinful our lives are in comparison with His righteousness. But in spite of our sins, He shows us mercy, and our awe of him begins to grow.

Of course, Mary did not become perfect in that initial meeting of Christ. She still had her faults. In Matthew 26 and Luke 7, we see the accounts of the anointing at Bethany. Mary desired to worship and show her love to the One who had forgiven her of her sins, therefore, she bought the most expensive fragrant oil she could buy to anoint Jesus with. After anointing Him by pouring the oil on His head, she bowed at His feet and was so overcome with emotion that she wept. With her tears she wet His feet, and with her hair she dried them. This was Mary’s act of worship, her manifestation of her love for Christ. Yet those around her smirked and scolded her for buying such a costly item when she could have given the money to the poor. But Jesus saw her love and said, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” (Matthew 26:10 KJV). Again, when everyone around Mary was condemning her, she found love and mercy in Jesus. He extended forgiveness to her and she went on her away with strength and reassurance.

Notice that this is the second time that Jesus forgives Mary of her sins. In the next chapter, Luke 8, the Bible says, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.” (Luke 8:2 KJV). To give further explanation on the importance of this fact, turn to Matthew 12; “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45 KJV). Mary fell back into sin multiple times, some times may have been worse than others. But she came back to Christ each time and He healed and forgave her. Such an action is a lesson for us; the best thing for us to do when we are ensnared by sin is run towards Jesus, not to run from Him. She and other women continued to minister to Him (Luke 8:1-2), and whenever He visited Bethany, Mary made sure to sit at His feet, regardless of her sister Martha’s scoldings (Luke 10:38-42). In this stage, Mary is growing her relationship with Christ. She is in His presence as much as she can be, she listens to Him, and drinks His every word; she has found “that good part, which will not be taken away from her”. When we run towards Jesus and experience His love for us, we desire to be with Him more and more. We want to keep listening to Him even though others mock us. We long for the Sabbath hours to be a little bit longer so we can bask in His presence. Such is our growth in Christ when we keeping running to Him, seeking forgiveness and love.

The last time we see Mary Magdalene is at Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. In every single Gospel, there is some mention of Mary, whether specifically or generally, at the scene of the crucifixion; the scriptures are Matt. 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, and John 19:25. She was with Christ from the time she met Him until He rose from the dead. In fact, in her sadness at His death, she was the first one at the tomb on Sunday morning. After resting on the Sabbath the day before, she hurried to His tomb to perform the last burial preparations. But, of course, the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and Christ revealed Himself to Mary. Thinking that someone had stolen His body, she was distressed and mistook the resurrected Jesus for a gardener. But not until He had said her name did Mary recognize who it was, for who else had could say her name with such love and compassion? Jesus first revealed Himself to a once broken woman who was still getting to know Him. Not to His disciples or to the religious leaders or the Roman guards. But to one whom society deemed unworthy to touch Him, to one who truly worshipped Him with mockers all around her. Seeing Christ’s love for her is beautiful, and to know that He loves us the same way is more beautiful still. This may be the last time we see Mary, but it is by no means the end of her spiritual journey. She is human, and I’m sure she continued to fall and continued to run towards Christ for all her life. But that’s what a spiritual journey is, it’s one that never ends. We constantly learn more about Christ and keep getting ever closer to Him. And when Christ comes again to take us to our heavenly home, we will have eternity to continue our never-ending journeys and to get know God. Personally, I can’t wait to continue getting to know Him face-to-face.

 

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God’s Unchanging Love

July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

“God is love.” 1 John 4:16.

That’s how Ellen White begins the first book in Great Controversy series. And in my opinion, that’s the best way to begin it. Many people may forget or choose to ignore or not know that God’s motive behind everything He does is love. His love is infinite, long-suffering, and unconditional.

So why would sin be permitted? (this is also the title of the first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets) If God is an ever-loving God who desires that no disharmony or harm come to His creation, why would He allow sin to come into the world? That’s a typical question asked by many and, I do admit, myself at times. Just seeing or hearing about all the evil that goes on in the world makes you wish that somebody or something could make it stop. And I’ve heard people saying that if they were God, they would immediately wipe out all of the evil in this world.

According to Ellen White, and also several other people that I’ve heard from sermons and Bible studies, love is the answer. When Lucifer sowed the seeds of doubt and deception in heaven, he brought discord to the normally harmonious heaven. Lucifer is the one who brought sin to our world; because of his selfishness and his desire to rise to the top solely to have everyone worship him, he brought discord to heaven and sin to Earth. Now for the angels who had never heard anything like the deceptions that Lucifer was feeding to them, they had no idea what would become of Lucifer’s rebellion. Was he right to challenge God’s authority? Would he make a better ruler than God? Had God destroyed Lucifer and his followers straight from the get-go, the other angels would not have known which way was right and doubt would forever be in their minds. So out love for the angels and for Lucifer (God, in His long-suffering love wants Lucifer and his followers to return to Him), He allows Lucifer to carry out his rule.

Well then, why for so long? For us humans, time is finite. Our average lifetime is about 70-80 years; in that timespan we experience a lot of things – birth, family, love, hate, death, friendship, pride, envy, excitement, sadness, anger, happiness, the list can go on. So of course for us, 6000-odd years is a long time to let Lucifer rule and carry out his deception. But remember, God is infinite. To Him the past, present, and future are the present to Him (the best analogy to Him being infinite that I’ve heard is reading a book). 6000+ years is nothing to God let alone 70-80. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Psalm 90:4. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8. To God, it’s like it was yesterday when Lucifer rebelled. And again, it is out of love that God allows Lucifer to carry out his plans. Even if with our finite minds we can’t quite perceive why, we must still trust in God and his infinite love.

Another concept covered a bit that I found interesting is that of free will. God is love, and out of love, He gives His creation free will. As Ellen White says, “God desires from all His creatures the service of love – service that springs from an appreciation of character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” (P and P, 35). Forced obedience is not of God and it’s not in His character. How can you love someone whom you obey against your will? And how can Someone whose character is based on love force his creation to obey Him? Voluntary obedience comes from love from both the ruler and the subject. In the fall of Lucifer, you see that he and the angels he deceived did indeed exercise free will. They had a choice, and they took it. Again, had God simply destroyed them immediately, He would be going against his loving nature. Letting the consequences of their choices speak out would make it clear to all of creation which way is the right way.

Again love is the basis of this great controversy: “The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin, is also a demonstration of God’s unchanging love” (33). Love is the backstory, the driving force, the main thing to remember. And how quickly we tend to forget.

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