“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.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The worship of Mary and Abel

Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection. There in the dusky darkness of the cemetery garden she first met two young men at His sepulcher. They showed her their sympathy. Angels, the protective hornets of God’s kingdom, sympathetic to fallen human sorrow? Yes, only if that sorrow has surrendered up its rebellion, as Mary had received from Jesus. Any child of Jesus is a friend of theirs. But, knowing she sought their Prince, why did they ask her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” I think it was to hear her heart-broken confession for her Master. The angels fiercely enforce obedience to God and they know that obedience flows from a contrite and broken spirit. She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.”

Within minutes of this heart confession, she found Him whom her soul longed for and it brought her a flood of relief.

How did Mary get to be so earnest a disciple of Jesus? Was she born particularly holy? Was she simply a naturally “devout” woman, as much of the Christian world believes? Actually, she was born a rebel like us all. That rebellion ended her up on skid row, a sinner selling her body in the red light district of a town far from home.

If she wasn’t born “devout”, how did she get so devoted to Christ? It came from Jesus accepting her brother’s invitation to spend the afternoon at their home. As Mary found Jesus so friendly and His teaching so kind and inviting, she completely ignored her normal assistance of Martha. She found in His disinterested gentleness someone she could truly trust. And in that deepening trust a connection was born that could not be defaced, even during later years of running the streets of ill-repute.

Mary found a self-worth from Jesus that all the lustful men of Galilee couldn’t give her. Christ’s self-sacrificing character stood out in clear distinction to all the lustful Jews and Romans, and also the other rabbis and moral people. Self-sacrifice drew from her a trust she had never before felt. His love and trust in her awakened faith and brotherly-love for Him, and self-worth from His selfless attention and genuine care for her. And His lessons from the Holy Scriptures were full of loving-kindness of God and righteousness that entered easily and straight into her heart and conscience.

Mary’s experience with Christ parallels that of Abel, son of Adam. Abel fed on the same kindness and mercy in Christ that Mary saw. The Holy Spirit was given to him as tears streaming, he buried his head on the lamb slain at his hand for his sinfulness. Through the Spirit he saw a loving Friend in heaven, as he discerned self-sacrificing love.

But his brother Cain failed to obey the Lord God’s injunction to offer up that which would teach him the self-sacrificing love of God. Thus Cain couldn’t learn self-worth from God’s love for him. This left him wide open to accept Satan’s substitute—self-worth based on subjecting others to his will. When Abel didn’t follow his elder brother’s example in the worship service to the Creator, Cain felt miffed. And as he saw God disregard his offering, but his younger brother’s offering accepted, he grew angrier and angrier.

Cain’s fallen nature demanded respect and honor and power. His self-made offering was not able to extinguish the natural desires of the human race. To Cain’s deluded self it was obvious that the close relation of Abel to heaven was an alliance working to humiliate him and destroy his first-born right of superiority over his siblings. This we gather from the Lord’s appeal to Cain, “Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” (Gen. 4:7). Cain’s self-worth was really based on self-exaltation. His worth came from knowing how many people he could control.

But God’s admonition to Cain was not a temptation for him to demand dominion over Abel. Christ was telling this wayward child that if he would conform to the heaven-given order of worship, as Abel had, and learn acceptance and love from heaven, then he, too, would have what Abel, and Mary, had obtained—a deep self-worth, a humble self-worth; not through self-exaltation, but self lost sight of in God’s love—which makes the best kind of ruler and guardian.

“Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” Cain’s worth would grow out of self-forgetfulness, a life hidden with Christ in God. Otherwise for him, like the multitudes on earth, “sin”―oppression, persecution, murder―“lieth at the door.”


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