Mary Magdalene: Extravagantly Faithful
Mary Magdalene: Extravagantly Faithful
In her book, The Gospel of Ruth, Carolyn Custis James poses the thought “God is good for women”. That one statement has caused me to change the lens in which I look at women in scripture. By studying the life of Mary Magdalene through this new lens, a beautiful story emerged: God is good. God is faithful. God is good for all women.
Let us start by clarifying some of the errors around Mary’s identity:
What we know from scripture:
I love that Jesus was not afraid to be counter-cultural to the norms of the day. He invited women to be a part of his team. He saw the strengths women could play in being a part of his ministry on earth.
After that amazing encounter, Mary devotes herself to following Jesus during his ministry on earth. She would travel with Jesus and the disciples, listen to his teaching, develop a personal friendship, and witness his miracles. Mary would be a firsthand witness at the crucifixion, and she would sit with the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). She would be present at the burial as Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb (Luke 23:55). And Mary would be the first to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord” at the resurrection (John 20:18).
Don’t Miss Your Miracle
Mary’s story seems to deepen as it progresses. In John 20:1-10, Mary arrives early in the morning at the tomb, only to find it empty. As she races to inform the disciples of what she has seen, they did not believe her story. Typically, women were not considered a reliable witness during this time period. After finishing their own inspections of the tomb, Peter and John leave the scene, missing one of the most beautiful encounters in scripture.
Mary didn’t prematurely abandon the place where she would encounter the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. She wasn’t distracted and didn’t give up hope. That’s an important lesson for us today: Don’t miss your miracle because you abandon your moment prematurely.
This makes me wonder, how many times have I missed a beautiful encounter? How many times do I stop praying right before the miracle? Stop searching when the answer is right around the corner? Perhaps, I have discounted someone else when God wanted to use them in my life?
He hears your cries.
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away”. John 20:14-15
Why did Mary not recognize Jesus at the tomb? She had traveled with him and knew what he looked like physically. But Jesus was different (not just to Mary, but to the other apostles as well – Luke 24:13). How? When we look at the miracles of people brought back to life, it’s a “resuscitation.” The breath of life returns, such as in the story of Lazarus (John 11).
But Jesus wasn’t a “resuscitation,” He was a resurrection. He was a new creation…the same DNA but different. For example, if you plant an acorn, it will grow into an oak tree. The acorn and the tree have the same DNA, but they are very different in their physical appearance. The same was true for Jesus.
What was it that Mary recognized? She recognized his gesture and his tone. She recognized the way he said her name.
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (Which means my great Master). John 20:16
Jesus had been crucified, buried, and descended to hell. He had defeated Satan, taking back the keys to death, hell and the grave. He had released the saints from paradise, and, as he was ascending to the Father, he hears a friend on earth who is distressed. Jesus puts heaven on hold so he could attend to Mary. He pauses the ascension to give his attention to Mary.
Friend, your cries are not an interruption to God. When your pain stops you, your Heavenly Father stops for you! Jesus told the angels, who were ready to celebrate, to hold up while he attended to someone he loved. What? Who does that? Jesus does! And He can that for you too. He is not too busy for you. Your hurts are important to him. Just like Jesus stopped for Mary, he will stop for you.
I know Jesus did that for me. After losing a battle with a staircase and injuring my knee, Jesus sent a friend to stop for me and speak a rhema word of life into me my soul. I was feeling empty and depressed, but this friend stopped and turned her attention to my moment of need. God can send somebody to stop for you too. Or perhaps, God is calling you to stop for someone else in need; someone who you can speak those rhema words of life into their situation!
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” John 20:17-18
I love the way Heidi Strates, in her column “The Commissioning of Mary Magdalene”, sums up this verse:
“She is the first to ever preach the gospel of the risen Lord, and she does so without theological frameworks of the atonement, or impassioned calls to repentance. She has understood the good news in her heart – the moment of recognition, seeing with new eyes the Lord who has conquered the grave. And then, she simply tells what she has seen, and what the Lord has commanded her to say. “
Mary was extravagantly faithful to Jesus. She gave up everything to follow him all the way to the cross and the resurrection. Where did this faithfulness come from? Its roots go all the way to Mary’s understanding of Jesus’ love and grace that transformed her life forever. She went from a sick woman tormented by demons, to become known as the “apostle to the apostles”. Jesus was willing to change historical narratives when he treated Mary with respect, giving her a beautiful role in resurrection history.
Today, Jesus has a beautiful role for you to step into. He values who you are. If man is the crown to God’s creation, woman you are the jewel in the crown. You are beautiful and precious to Him. He hears your cry and will stop Heaven to attend to your needs. Do not let the enemy say, “Jesus will do it for others, but not for me.” You are not an exception to his love. He loves you!
Peace and grace,