“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

John the apostle and Mary of Magdala

This may not be fully confirmed, and may sound like pure conjecture; but from piecing together the evidence, I believe what I write to be true.

John was the youngest in Christ’s family of disciples and the very first called by Jesus to be trained to establish the church. He was also the first and last disciple to begin the new dispensation, which would carry the torch of truth about God’s character until the end of earth’s history. Being the least in age and in life experience, John had the insecurities that come with adolescence and the strong desire for acceptance retained from childhood. This timidity in the group of men, and especially in the presence of the Messiah, awakened all of his senses. That keenness of awareness and longing for acceptance enabled him, in a deeper way, to discern in Jesus what the others failed to see—a deeper love than mere peer friendship, a purpose beyond simply the overthrow of the Romans, a purely unselfish yearning to help more than just for those of His own nation and His own kind.

John saw in the demanding expectations of His master a justice that was different from that in all others. None he had ever met displayed the strength of manhood mixed with the innocent joy of a child. Surely this was the Son of God. Justice and mercy came out in every look and word and action. Love, pure and constant, was his teacher for 3 ½ years. John was captivated and sold. Subconsciously and consciously, he copied everything he saw in his wonderful new Master.

Mary came into the picture probably early on during those 3 ½ years. Lazarus was one who also detected the love in Jesus that John had seen. Drawn to Christ, Lazarus, the elder brother in that male dominated society, brought his two sisters to meet Jesus. Mary was the youngest in the family.

Jesus often visited their home. When dogged by the traps of the duplicitous priests and Pharisees, the weary Man of sorrows made His way to the loving home of Lazarus. At other times, when His unbelieving brothers left His soul in anguish, He would go where they were not—to the warmth and mutual trust of this unique family of siblings.

Mary immediately formed a close bond to the new friendly traveling prophet, and loved to sit and hear His stories and lessons. Mary was the gregarious type and made friends easily. But Mary was so trusting and outgoing that it led her into associations which were unhealthy for her. Over time a so-called boyfriend led her into sexual promiscuity; and once that happened she felt so dirty that she couldn’t go home to her upstanding brother and sister. Also rumors would fly quickly and she didn’t think she would be welcome back in that town anyway. So deeper and deeper Mary got into prostitution, making a living at it. She moved to a town of questionable reputation because that’s where all the business was. The rumors flew anyway, and Mary of Bethany became known as Mary of Magdala.

But one day crowds of people came to Magdala, and among them the itinerant preacher friend of her brother. From a distance, she heard His lessons and stories again, with their same loving appeal as when she sat at His feet. Drawn to His love, she was soon right in His presence, just like she had in her old home. Yearning for the clean life and heart breaking to know Jesus’ acceptance again, she waited in line to speak confidentially with Him. He prayed for her, and all her sinful life came pouring out of her broken heart, as she confessed it all. Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven, and the devil of rebellion fled from her. She promised Him she would leave her filthy lifestyle and live a life worthy of God, and Jesus passed on to another town.

But, her friends immediately came over again, and soon she fell back into prostituting herself. After awhile the itinerant Preacher came to town again, taught and healed and appealed again, and Mary found His love irresistible again. Again she confessed her guilt and shame and Jesus prayed for her. Again she broke and resolved to leave the life of harlotry. But the day after her reconversion, her pimp came back and wooed her again into her old life of sin.

But Christ wasn’t finished yet with Mary. He saw in her a pearl of great price, though marred by sin. Six times He came to Magdala and each time Mary was reconverted and justified, and accepted by heaven. But six times, Mary backslid.

Finally, came the fateful evening when she received a costumer who was a well-dressed, high ranking member of the moral part of society. But in the dark of early morning her residence was raided by the religious gestapo and she was hauled off to jail. Later she was dragged out of her dungeon cell and taken to the tabernacle. Surely she was on the way to be sentenced to stoning. They pushed her into His presence, the pure Jesus who she dreadfully revered and loved, and to whom she had so many times promised, with all her heart, to be good and pure—and there she stood, face in hands, frozen in fear and shame. Then came those unforgettable words, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

Not only was she embarrassed beyond words to be in His presence, but now she saw that her misconduct was being used to trap her beloved Master. They must have known how much He loved her, and could use that to their advantage. Now she was about to be stoned; but worse, her best Friend faced arraignment also, because of her.

The religious leaders had thrust Him into being her judge and executioner. So He spoke His verdict and sentence. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Mary cowered, believing that He must pass judgment against her; she surrendered to His righteous justice. But no stones came. When she looked up all those men were gone. Jesus had somehow made them all go away. Then His most wondrous words of justice and mercy flowed out, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Gratitude, wonder, and humility filled her from head to toe. Her heart broke again deeper than ever before. The last vestige of pride left her in the light of her horrible foolishness which almost cost the life of her beloved Master and most trusted Friend. The demon of rebellion and promiscuity left her again, never to return. From that day on, Mary Magdalene lived forever indebted to her Lord and her savior from sin and from death. Her life completely changed and she became His most devoted follower, surpassing her brother and even His disciples. She, out of whom was cast seven devils and had been as filthy as seven prostitutes, now was a fresh, new child of heaven, loved by God as if she had never sinned.

Of the four gospels, John mentions Mary more often than the other three gospel writers put together. In the feast at Simon’s house, when Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her tears because she foresaw His soon entrapment and execution, John is the only gospel writer to give her name. Matthew, Mark, and Luke leave her anonymous and faceless.

Based on the evidence, I believe John wrote so much about Mary because his gospel of Jesus included, in off-hand style, a loving memoir to the wife of his youth. No one else could love and ignore the ingrained cultural stigma of one so forever polluted and defiled as Mary had been. Together, their holy matrimony was a follow-on to so many of the marriages with questionable wives who made up the holy line of the Messiah: Jacob and idolatrous Rachel, Judah and Tamar, Salmon and Rahab, Boaz and Ruth, David and Bathsheba, Solomon and his Shulamite wife.

After the other apostles had all died martyrs’ deaths, this holy couple reigned from Jerusalem as king and queen of the new Israel, loved and honored by the wide-spreading church. Theirs was a living object lesson of redeeming love; theirs a model and example for all the Christian homes, and the welding of Pauline doctrines and his martyrdom into the hearts and wills of the early church that would defy all the power of the Roman bloody persecution games.

John and Mary, surrounded by the infant church, exemplified Christ’s fulfillment of Isaiah chapter four.

“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.
In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”

John, a living type of Christ, and Mary, a living type of the church, together in the tightest bond of love, were like incense rising to the holy place where Christ ascended and gave gifts to men, the benediction of God resting on His people.


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