I am a woman not unlike Mary Magdalene. I am a woman who is grateful for what has happened to her since I had an amazing encounter with Jesus Christ. I have been delivered from alcoholism and drug use, the occult, a debilitating disease, and abusive relationships. I have been set free to love and serve and live in peace. I love Mary Magdalene’s story because of my story.
Mary Magdalene is mentions ten times in the New Testament. Her last recorded words are, “I have seen the Lord.” Of all that is spoken about her, this encounter with the resurrected Christ is the pinnacle of her story. What happens when her story becomes true of us and our heart’s cry is, I have seen the Lord? I have seen Jesus for who he really is? The disciple John wrote about Mary’s encounter at the empty tomb. Later he would write about his own heavenly encounter with the resurrected Christ. Jesus’ words to John in the vision on the island of Patmos, gives greater insight into Mary’s encounter. She sees Jesus before he ascends into heaven. John’s heavenly vision shows us a glimpse of Jesus Christ now.
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'” Revelation1:12-18 NIV
Mary Magdalene woke early and went to the tomb. Her intention was to anoint the body of Jesus; her teacher, leader, and friend. Mary had a close personal relationship with Jesus. She had traveled with him, heard him teach, and saw him heal. His death devastated her. She witnesses the crucifixion, she stays with his body until it is taken away, and witnesses Jesus being placed in the tomb. Interrupted by the Sabbath, Mary returns later to properly handle Jesus’ body. Her devotion to him was expressed in her desire to serve him even in death.
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
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.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, ‘Woman, 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.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
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.” John 20:11-18 NIV
The gospel of John describes what happens when the intent and devotion of Mary’s heart collides with the reality of the empty tomb and the resurrected Lord. Mary receives the first revelation of the risen Christ by encountering Jesus at the entrance to the tomb. She left him in the grave, but now finds it empty. She runs to tell the other disciples. After they have come and gone, a bewildered Mary remains not comprehending what has transpired. Peering into the tomb and she sees the two angels seated on each side of where her master’s body was laid, a picture of the arch of the covenant. The angels tell her Jesus is not here, he has risen. Then Jesus reveals himself to this woman of faith, not his close disciples. He calls out her name, Mary, and with that, she recognizes him. Falling to the ground, she holds onto Jesus’ feet.
It is Mary’s honor to be the first witness of the miracle of the resurrection. She is a woman whose heart to serve is fueled by the gratitude that she has from being set free of seven demonic spirits. Jesus chose a woman, a daughter of eve, to bring the first revelation of the victory of salvation and restoration. Jesus is making all things new as he rose from the grave victorious over sin and death. Mary’s encounter makes her new, forever changing her. In her transformation, Mary’s relationship with Jesus shifts from an earthly familiarity to a heavenly bond. Encountering the risen Christ, Mary enters into the Kingdom of God that her Lord spoke so often about while he walked among his followers.
Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church writes about the exchange that takes place not only Mary’s life, but in the lives of all those who receive the revelation of the risen Lord. Revelation is what happens when truth plus experience collide. It becomes undeniable truth. It calls for action.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV
In his letter to the church at Philippi Paul speaks of his heart’s desire concerning the resurrected Christ and how this translates into new life. He writes:
“I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. ” Philippians 3:10-11 NIV
The key here is the word know. Paul is saying he somehow attains resurrection from the dead by knowing Christ and participating in his suffering. What does that mean? What does that mean for you and me?
When Mary hears Jesus’ voice, she recognizes it, she falls to the ground, holding on to his feet. Jesus was dead and now he is alive. At that moment Mary knows that she knows, that she knows, that all that Jesus says about himself is true. My moment was like Mary’s moment. I realized that Jesus is who he said he is. I was a spiritual seeker. I studied world religions and sought after spiritual experiences. After ten years I became very weary. I was looking for a true teacher, someone trustworthy to follow. I was looking for truth. God chose to reveal Jesus to me on Good Friday, April 5th 1985 at three o’clock in the afternoon. The scriptures tell us:
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46
God wants me to know, that I know, that I know, what Jesus says is true. God did that for me by revealing Jesus to me on Good Friday at the very moment commemorating the time when he said it is finished. My sin debt was paid when he took his last breathe. All I needed to do was commit saying, yes, Jesus is the true teacher that I have been seeking and I want to follow him. Jesus is who he says he is, fully God and fully man. He came to live a perfect life and to die in my place. See, I was never interested in heaven. I wasn’t seeking a reward. I didn’t think I had a sin problem. I just had something inside of me that wouldn’t leave me alone. It was something that said, isn’t there more to life. I wanted more. I had lived in rebellion against God for fifteen years. I wanted truth. I wanted something real. I got way more than I asked for. I received not just heaven as a promise to come, but like Paul the ability to know Jesus more on earth and to live in the power and promises of God, here and now. I wanted a teacher and I received the Creator of the Universe who for a time walked in his creation so I could know him. In knowing him my identity shifts, God sees me through what Jesus accomplished for me, not what I could do for myself. In my best efforts to be spiritual, I became an alcoholic. In my rebellion, I became caught up in lies.
If you can’t shake that feeling that there is more to life, pray that God will show you who Jesus is. The Bible says that “There is no one righteous, not even one” Romans 3:10 (NIV). You need to know him; you need to receive what he has done for you. You need to be willing to follow him no matter what, at all costs. It starts with a simple prayer.
Dear Lord Jesus, come onto my heart. Forgive me of my sins. Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You for dying for me. I believe You rose from the dead and You are coming back again for me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God, and a boldness for You. Thank you for saving me and loving me.
Barker, Kenneth, general ed. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985.