He Knew Her By Name

The unthinkable has happened: Jesus has been crucified, as you can read in Matthew 27. Let’s read Matthew 27:45-54                                                                                                      From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave Him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God.”

Among those watching His crucifixion were some women disciples, as you can read in Matthew 27:55-56                                                                                                                   Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb and a big stone was placed in front of it. One of the women disciples named Mary Magdalene had seen all of that, as Matthew tells us in Matthew 27:61                                                                                                                    Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

Early in the morning, on the first day of the week, this same Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb to take care of the body of her Lord, as you can read in John 20:1                                Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb bringing with her all that she needs to take care of her Lord’s body. She has not yet quite decided how she can remove the heavy stone from the tomb but she is fully confident that, once she gets there, somehow she will be able to do so. But then to her shock and horror someone has been on the scene before her and has already removed the stone! This can only mean one thing: the body of her Lord is no longer there. What is she to do now? Let’s read John 20:2 to find out what she does next                           So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put Him.”

Mary Magdalene knows this tragic news is too much for her to bear by herself so she goes to find Peter and John to tell them about the loss of the body of the Lord. The two men listen to Mary Magdalene. They are not quite sure if they can believe her. After all, it is still very early in the morning. Therefore, it is possible that Mary accidentally went to the wrong tomb. So they decide they better go and check things out for themselves. They know Jesus is dead and it is not possible for Him to leave that tomb. Moreover, His tomb is very secure for the stone in front of it is really very heavy. It takes supernatural strength to remove that stone. Neither they nor Mary possess such strength. How Mary could even consider going there to take care of the Lord’s body all by herself is something they cannot really understand. However, this is not the moment to bring that up for she is too distraught about the situation. And so Peter and John go to the tomb, followed by Mary, as you can read in John 20:3-10
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked at the strips of linen lying there but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes.

As soon as the two disciples get to the tomb, they realise that Mary Magdalene is right: the stone has been removed and there is no body to be seen. Strangely enough, the strips of linen as well as the burial cloth are there and everything is very neatly folded up. But the body of the Lord is not in sight! They do not know why. Nor do they know what to do about it. Suddenly, they realise that they have left home in such a hurry that they have not had any breakfast so they better get home for some breakfast. After all, there is no point in hanging around the tomb since there is no body to take care of. At least that is what these two disciples decide. But what about Mary? Does she go back home too? No, for Mary cannot leave the place where she knows the body of her Lord and Master has been laid to rest. He was and is everything to her for He had set her free, as you can read in Luke 8:1-3
After this time Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary called Magdalene from whom 7 demons had been cast out; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Suzanna and many others. These women were helping to support them by their own means.

Jesus had done for her what no other man had ever been able to do for her, including the religious leaders: He had set her free from a number of demons. We do not know how long these demons had afflicted her nor do we know the manner in which they bothered her. But we do know that which is most important: she was delivered from these demons. The fact that this is specifically mentioned may well mean that it had been a significant event in the ministry of Jesus, and it most certainly was a significant event in the life of Mary Magdalene. It seems very likely that she had been to many of the religious leaders to ask them for help in her predicament but no one had been able to do anything for her. Then Jesus appeared on the scene and He had been able to do what no one else had been able to do for her: He had set her free from her demonic oppression. That would have filled her with great joy and gratitude for it was only then that she had begun to live the life God always intended for her to live. She was determined that no family member, friend or neighbour, would prevent her from doing so. She was going to follow her Lord and Saviour no matter where He would lead her. Consequently, she had become a disciple of Him following Him everywhere He went. Her new lifestyle would have gone against the rules for women in Jewish society for, in Jewish society, women’s lives were regulated by Rabbinical teachings. These teachings restricted the lives of women to their homes and forbade women to study the word of God. But Mary Magdalene had met Jesus and He had completely transformed her life. This had given her the courage to put aside many of the restrictions that Jewish society had placed on her for Jesus had loved her, had given her dignity as a woman, had shown her that she was a daughter of Abraham and, therefore, worthy to receive the blessings of God. So, regardless of any opposition she may have faced from family, friends or neighbours, she became Jesus’ disciple and followed Him all the way to the cross and on to the tomb.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ then, like Mary Magdalene, He has liberated you from the restrictions society may have placed on you and He has restored your dignity. And you too are a child of Abraham by faith, as you can read in Galatians 3:7                           Understand then that those who believe are children of Abraham.

Moreover, you are blessed, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3                                                   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, you too are to follow Jesus daily, as Mary Magdalene did. Of course, this may not mean that you are to physically leave home as she did. However, you are to leave home in a spiritual sense. With that I mean that you must make Jesus your priority in everything that you say and do, being determined to please Him in every way rather than trying to please your family, friends or neighbours. Your family, friends or neighbours may well be opposed to you following Jesus, especially when it involves you being set free from restrictions society may have placed on you. Jesus explained this principle in Matthew 10:37-39                          Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

You may not have needed to be delivered from seven demons as was the case with Mary Magdalene but, no doubt, Jesus has delivered you from your sinful condition and you have received a new life in Him. You may even have followed other gods in the past but they could not do anything for you. However, having met Jesus you have received eternal life and God wants you to obey Him every day of your life.

Let’s now return to the story of Mary Magdalene. Peter and John have gone back home but she remains at the place of the tomb. However, her Lord and Saviour is no longer in the tomb. What is she to do? Without Jesus she is lost and without hope. So, feeling hopeless, she begins to weep. But she does something more and it is something which does not make any sense in the natural, as you can read in John 20:11-12                                                           But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent to look over 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.

Mary does something which is not very logical for, after all, she has already looked in the tomb and knows that it is empty. This has been confirmed by Peter and John. Why then does she look again? Is she hoping against hope that her Lord’s body will miraculously reappear? That is not what happens. But what happens is something so much more wonderful than Mary Magdalene could have ever imagined. It begins with her seeing two beings she has not seen before: two angels. Very likely, they will have been there when she looked inside the tomb the first time. They will as well have been there when Peter and John looked inside the tomb. But somehow she and the other two disciples had not seen them at that time. However, this time she is allowed to see them. Had she left with the other two disciples she would have missed seeing the angels. And these two angels are somewhat mystified as to why she is crying, as you can read in John 20:13-14                                                                                                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 round and saw Jesus standing there but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

Obviously, the angels have a very different perspective on the situation but, after all, they are angels and not human beings. So Mary Magdalene tries to explain to them why she carries so much grief. As she is talking to the angels she turns round and sees another person. He must be the one who can help her find the body of the Lord for it does not seem the angels can do much for her. This man begins to speak to her, as you can read in John 20:15-16             “Woman”, He said, “why are you crying? Who are you 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.”

Mary stops crying and filled with hope turns to this “gardener” for she is convinced that He will be able to help her find the dead body of her Lord. She knows, of course, that her Lord is dead for she has personally seen Him hang on a cross, being taken off the cross, and placed in a tomb. And this man does not even have to help her carry the body around. No, she will take care of the body once she knows where it has been placed such is her love for her Lord. But then the “gardener” speaks again and everything changes for Mary. Let’s read John 20:1  Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned towards Him and cried in Aramaic, “Rabboni, which means “Teacher.”

This man, this “gardener” knows her by name. The moment she hears him say her name she knows she is not speaking to the “gardener” for there is only one Person who calls her by her name in the way she hears it: her Lord and Saviour. She does not know how He, who had only so very recently been crucified and buried, can be alive. But she does know it is true! And she is not going to let go of Him ever again. At least that is Mary’s plan. But Jesus has an assignment for her, as you can read in John 20:17                                                              Jesus said, “Do not hold on to Me for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to My brothers and tell them, “I am returning to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”

Jesus has to go to the Father to let Him know He has accomplished His mission. And Mary Magdalene needs to tell the other disciples that the Lord has risen. And that is what she does, as you can read in John 20:18                                                                                               Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord”, she said. And she told them that He had said these things to her.

In obedience to Jesus’ words, Mary Magdalene goes and finds the other disciples. What a story she has to tell them for not only did she have the privilege of seeing two angels, she had the privilege of seeing the Lord. And it was not a hoax. No, it really was the Lord she had seen for He had called her by her name as only He could and she had touched Him so she knows she has not been dreaming. She explains as well that the Lord has gone to His Father to tell Him His task has been accomplished and that is why He is not here in Person. Mary’s joy is restored to her: her Lord has come back to life. It is true, He has gone away again and she does not know when she will see Him again. But this one thing she knows: He is alive and because of Him she too will live.

God equipped Mary Magdalene for the task He had for her so she was able to do what He had for her to do. Likewise, God has a task for you to fulfil and He will you equip you for your task by providing you with His spiritual gift or gifts so you will be able to do what He has for you to do, as you can read in I Corinthians 12:4-11                                                                          Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues. All these are the works of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.

Please remember that, whatever the Lord wants you to do, He wants it to be based on love, as you can read in I Corinthians 13:1-2                                                                                         And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of Prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

You can read about the love that God wants you to love others with in I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of you. He desires to display this kind of love as part of the character of God, or the fruit of the Sprit, through you, as you can read in Galatians 5:22-23                                                                                                          But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Mary Magdalene allowed God to use the circumstances in her life to develop Godly character in her so God could use her for what He had prepared for her to do. God was able to do this work in her and through her because Mary Magdalene had developed a very intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus. Therefore, she knew His Voice and was willing to be obedient to whatever He had for her to do. Likewise, God wants to develop Godly character in you, this fruit of the Spirit, through your circumstances so that God can use you to minister to others in whatever way He has designed for you. Please remember that this can only happen as you develop an intimate relationship with Jesus by reading God’s word and prayer, and by being obedient to do whatever God calls you to do.

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