Made for More • Mary Magdalene

Made For More

Mary Magdalene

BITTERNESS is a demon in our life.  It leads us away from love and to a life of REBELLION against the ones we love and God.  Ironically, once we get far enough down that road, bitterness becomes OBSTINANCE in our lives.  We find ourselves too proud to admit what we have done to ourselves and others, too proud to admit we have wasted so many days of our lives and others, too proud to admit we are the wrecking ball of relationships and opportunities.  Bitterness robs us of any purpose other than vengeance, any purpose other than feeding the justification of anger and misery, any purpose other than destruction of love and peace.  Bitterness fuels rebellion against any purpose other than rebellion. It fuels it to such a level that it doesn’t take long to travel so far down the road of bitterness that the landscape has no view of anything else.

In the Bible, we learn about a woman whose name literally means BITTERNESS, REBELLIOUS, OBSTINATE.  She initially met Jesus in Galilee when he cast out seven demons in her life (Luke 8:2).  We don’t know the nature of these demons, but there is no doubt a woman filled with seven demons was a woman in bitterness, rebelling against love, joy, hope and a future; a woman entrenched in her obstinate determination not to live, clinging to her right to see herself, her life, and everyone else with skepticism and disdain; seeing life and relationships as pointless; seeing no hope in life, no good in herself nor anyone else.

But then, one day, she met Jesus, and in what we can only assume was a miraculous moment, she was free!  All the bondage and misery she clung to was a death that she had no intention of letting go of nor of allowing anybody else to rip it from her, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords did.  He showed no allegiance to her narcissism; He had no intention of submitting to it.  In a moment that testified of His power, He gave no option for the demons that imprisoned her, and He instantly and uneventfully cast them out!  It was as if midnight had suddenly become noonday.  She was now free; the old things had passed, and death as her life was no more because HE had made all things new!  This demonic woman was finally WHO she was made to be.  Her name was Mary Magdalene.

Most biblical scholars believe she became the leader of the women who followed Jesus.  From the moment of her freedom, the talent and strength to lead that had been directed at nothing but the destruction of her own life and everybody else around her was now directed to the mission of Jesus and the life He came to give, which is truly life and living! 

Mary’s labor and leadership were not ones of convenience.  The gritty woman of strength who had survived a lifetime of demonic oppression was now directing that grit and strength to Jesus and His cause of giving life instead of taking it!  Luke 8:3 says that Mary and the other women on her team used their means to supply the needs of Christ’s ministry.  They weren’t people who followed Jesus around to see the next miracle He would perform.  They weren’t consumers looking to be served, but rather because they had been and continued to be served by Christ with something truly powerful, life-changing, and not of this world, they could see no other option but to spend their lives serving Him and others!   Therefore, while Jesus and the disciples preached and engaged the masses, these women ensured the ministry had the funds and whatever else was needed to continue moving from town to town, announcing the Good News and bringing hope, healing, freedom, and life.

For three years, she walked with Jesus and those closest to Him.  A woman who once isolated herself by pushing out everyone who loved her, a woman who clung to bitterness, rebellion, and obstinance as if they were her friends, now had peace, love, and life to cling to. 

But it’s funny how the demons of who we used to be standing around the corner waiting.  You can spend months, days, or even years free from the bondage of your past, thinking that because you are no longer an enemy of God, you are no longer an enemy.  However, the realization will soon come that you, who were once an enemy of God, not only fighting against His authority but even fighting against the eternal life you truly longed for, now have become the target of one who treats you as an enemy.   The one who used to enslave you and the curse he kept you with now fights to destroy all that you have inherited in Christ.  It’s why Paul wrote,  

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

For Mary, the realization of that truth had to have been close by as she heard the crowds shouting in anger to crucify Jesus, as she watched the Man who brought life to her have the life beaten and scourged out of Him; as she watched Him die an agonizing shameful death on a Roman cross.  The demons of bitterness, rebellion, and obstinance had to have been lurking in her presence, seeking to use everything she was seeing played out in front of her as the reason to justify their return.

We don’t know if this was the case, but it's a safe bet based on what Paul wrote about spiritual warfare to the church of Ephesus.  Think about the internal war that must have been going on in Mary’s heart and mind as she watched the source of her life destroyed!  Looking at all four Gospels, you see how close she was to everything that happened.  Although she wasn’t directly beside Jesus at the cross, she still didn’t run away and hide.  Mark wrote, 

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. (Mark 15:40) 

After Jesus died, the Gospels tell us Mary continued to serve Jesus.  Luke wrote,

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:50-56)

After all the trauma of seeing their savior die and then helping bury him in a tomb, they had to spend the evening preparing the spices and ointments for the body because, by law, they couldn’t do it on the Sabbath.  But, if you’ve ever been through the death of a loved one, or for that matter any heartbreak, being busy isn’t a bad thing.  Busyness becomes a drug that distracts you from the pain and fear of what just happened.  

But Saturday was the sabbath, and they could no longer hide behind the work because no one was allowed to work.  All they could do on Saturday was sit in the emptiness with the voice of her past speaking in her ears!  You can imagine what the demons of her past might have been saying,

“Mary, we told you God does nothing but disappoint! See what loving God gets you. What good was it to spend three years of your life following this man around, this weak man who raised people from the dead but refused to do anything about those who wanted to kill Him? You invested everything you had into His ministry. You trusted HIM!”  

“Who does God think He is?  What has He let happen to me?  I finally had a purpose that mattered!  I trusted HIM!  I had hope!  I had meaning! Now what?? I’ve just spent the last few years of my life laboring for what? I’ve left my home and poured my entire life into something completely gone, into a person and mission that is now dead!”

Given the reality of the violent, unjust nature of Christ’s death, it would be no surprise at all if Mary was considering the bitter, rebellious obstinance of her past as something to return to.  At least nothing in that life was a letdown.  Everything in her past was predictable.  The pain and loneliness were hers and in her control!  She didn’t need anybody to fuel it and was good at keeping anybody from taking it.  Again, we don’t know if she had these thoughts, and we know she didn’t give in to them if she did. Still, it’s safe to assume the enemy was at work doing what the enemy does, and as such, this would have likely been precisely how the enemy would attack somebody who had spent their life under demonic oppression!

Finally, after a long day of having nothing to do but sit in grief, the opportunity to be busy again came as the sun rose on Sunday.  It was time to take the spices and ointments they had prepared to the tomb and anoint the body of Jesus with them.  As the women's leader, Mary would have likely got up before everybody and began to organize and get everything ready.  She may have even prepared some food for her and the other women to eat before they left to do their dreaded day's work in the graveyard.  

With, at most, just enough daylight coming over the horizon to light their path, Mary and the others headed out with all the supplies they needed to fulfill the custom of anointing the body.  The Gospel of John records what happened.

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." 

The other Gospels tell us Mary wasn’t the only woman who went that morning, but it appears she was the one who ran back to tell the other disciples what they found.   Her assumption was not that a random “somebody” had taken the body of Jesus, but her statement suggests they all had an assumed suspect.  She didn’t say “somebody” took the body of Jesus, but rather “they” took the body of Jesus!  Let me explain.  

The Gospel of John tells us the Jewish authorities requested the legs of those being crucified be broken so that they would not be alive on the Sabbath. The Romans generally wouldn’t have considered such a request because it defied the purpose of crucifixion, which was an extended brutal death that then left a dead decaying corpse on a cross for days on end as a public statement of power and authority of the Roman Empire.  The fact that the religious leaders had to request the action shows it wasn’t normal.  However, given that this sabbath was the main day of the Passover celebration and that the city had already been in tremendous turmoil, it’s not surprising that Pilot agreed to it.  

On the other hand, there is also no way the Jewish leaders would have agreed to have the body of Jesus honored in a ritual burial.  They would have expected his body to have been tossed into the trash heap outside the city or buried in a grave for the disgraced.  So, I would suggest the “they” that Mary and the disciples would have assumed to be the ones who would have taken the body would have been the Jewish leaders.  They would have likely assumed the Jewish leaders took the body of Jesus and put it somewhere Jesus could not be honored or memorialized and thus drive home the disgrace they intended.

Nonetheless, no matter who they would have assumed the “they” to have been, Peter and John didn’t discuss it.  They took off for the tomb. 

3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 

“Believed” what at this point?  Not that Jesus was resurrected, but what Mary had initially said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."  So, you can imagine that they went back home mixed with feelings of anger towards the “they” they assumed had taken the body of Jesus, as well as massive grief over all that was happening!  However, Mary didn’t leave the tomb.  She had had enough of being the strong one and had no intention of returning.  She would rather stand by the tomb alone and weep than go back to where the others had gathered.  But while she wept, she was ironically seemingly frustrated and possibly even angered by two angels.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." 

You can almost hear her saying that in anger as they ask what could have seemed to her as a stupid question! It wouldn’t have been shocking if she thought, “What do you mean, ‘Why are you weeping?’  Are you two the dumbest angels in heaven? And oh, by the way, where were you guys on Friday? Why didn’t you two latecomers do your job?”

Notice that she said, “MY Lord!”  His death is personal to her.  She’s broken not because of a mission gone but because of her Savior!  Jesus is the one who set her free from seven demons!   But more importantly, Jesus is the one she followed not because of what He did but because of who HE is! For these angels to ask why she was crying was stupid and offensive to her!

As a matter of fact, she was so disinterested and possibly even angered by these two angels that she turned away from them.  She withdrew, not fearing them but seemingly in broken anger!  She had no idea, mentally or emotionally, what was coming.  She was totally removed from any thought of it!  John records,

14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 17 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.'" 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"--and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)

He's alive!  The instantaneous darkness-to-light moment that occurred the day Jesus cast those seven demons out of her could only be surpassed by the instantaneous glory of what just happened!  In her broken anger and grief, as the demons of bitterness, rebellion, and obstinance could have very well been encircling her, she turned around and saw Jesus!

There is nobody to anoint with burial spices and ointments, but quite the opposite; there’s a living Savior to serve and proclaim!  There’s no tomb to grieve over or hide in, nor death to once again put on and be enslaved by because Jesus is alive!  There’s no reason to feel betrayed or bitter at Jesus, no reason to rebel against God thinking He failed, nor to live a life obstinately opposed to loving or being loved by others—Jesus is alive!  You could imagine Mary thinking, “I’m not putting death back on as my life because death has been defeated.  There’s no empty tomb to stare at and wonder with regrets, but a living, breathing Jesus standing right before me who just called me by my name!”

The demons that may have encircled Mary on Saturday, trying to find their way back into her life, now had no path or opportunity. The death they longed for her to live in was defeated and defeated so big that there was no tomb to tend to! There is no reason to return to this tomb because He is alive!

When she returned to the disciples to report what she had seen, she ran back as one who knew she had not been called to a life of grief and death!  She had been made for more and wasn’t going back!!

So, listen, are you tending a grave made by your own actions, or maybe it’s a grave that somebody else made for you by their actions?  Are you living your life staring at the empty tomb of regret, regret for what you wished you would have done or not done; what you wished would have been done or not done to you?  Are the demons of bitterness causing you to turn towards rebellion against God?  Are you finding it more challenging to love and be loved?  That’s not living!  That’s life tending a grave, and the irony is that if you believe in Jesus, it’s a life tending a grave He not only came out of, but He brought you with Him!

The Bible says, 

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  (Colossians 3:1-2)

You were made for more than what sin and the pointless purpose of this life could ever offer.  You are made for more than what the curse of sin presents now and the guaranteed future of your body in a grave one day.  You were made to walk with God forever!  You were made to know and live in his love and life.  Christ died so we could be set free from the curse of sin and death, a grave we are born in.   If you are in Christ, you have been reborn into His life, Glory, joy, peace, and purpose.  I was not made to stand staring at a life that looks like an empty tomb, but one filled by GOD HIMSELF! I wasn’t made to stand by a tomb; I was made to GO live and proclaim HIS LIFE!

Now, to those of you who might think Mary’s story ended with her going off and starting some big, huge ministry and doing all kinds of great things written about in history books—she didn’t!!  Most scholars believe she ended up living in Ephesus with John, and even that’s conjecture.  Being made for more doesn’t mean we will now have greatness in the tomb of this world!  Why would God save me to spend my life tending the grave of the standards of this world?  GREATNESS ISN’T DEFINED BY MY ACCOMPLISHMENTS; IT IS DEFINED BY HIS!!!  I have been made an eternal child of God by what HE HAS DONE!  I have been GIVEN greatness!  I have been GIVEN resurrected life!  

Challenge: Are you tending a grave or living in His life?

More Information on Mary Magdalene:

“Mary Magdalene = Mary = Bitterness; rebellious; obstinate; (root = trouble; sorrow; disobedience; rebellion). Greek form of Miriam = Their rebellion. Magdalene = Tower, castle.”

Mary Magdalene, or ‘of Magdala,’ mentioned first in every listing of Jesus’ female disciples (Mark 15:40–41, 47; 16:1; Matt. 27:55–56, 61; 28:1; Luke 8:2–3; 24:10). She therefore seems to have been the leader of a group of women who ‘followed’ and ‘served’ Jesus constantly from the outset of his ministry in Galilee to his death and beyond. Matthew and Mark acknowledge them only immediately after Jesus’ death, but Luke mentions their presence with the Twelve in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (8:1–3). Here Mary is included among the many women who provided for Jesus’ ministry from their own means and among a smaller number ‘healed of evil spirits and infirmities.’ That she was healed of some serious affliction is expressed by describing her as one ‘from whom seven demons had gone out’ (v. 2). She is foremost as a witness to Jesus’ death according to all four Gospels (Mark 15:40–41, 47; Matt. 27:55–56, 61; Luke 23:49, 55–56; John 19:25), to the empty tomb (Mark 16:1–6; Matt. 28:1, 6; Luke 24:1–3, 10; John 20:1–2), and in receiving the news or appearance of the risen Christ to tell to the disciples (Mark 16:6–7; Matt. 28:5–9; Luke 24:4–10). According to Luke the women’s testimony was not believed but was later vindicated (24:11, 22–48). According to John 20:11–18 the risen Jesus appeared first to her and talked with her about his coming ascension (v. 17). … She rivals Peter in that she receives revelations from the risen Christ to pass on to the rest of the apostles.”

“Mary Magdalene, St. A follower of Christ out of whom He is said to have cast ‘seven devils’ and who ministered to Him in Galilee (Lk. 8:2). Later she stood by His cross at the Crucifixion (Mk. 15:40), with two other women discovered the empty tomb and heard the angelic announcement of His *Resurrection (Mk. 16:1 ff., etc.), and was granted an appearance of the Risen Christ early on the same day (Mt. 28:9, Jn. 20:11 ff.). At least since the time of St *Gregory the Great, W. tradition has identified her with the ‘woman which was a sinner’ who anointed Christ’s feet in Simon’s house (Lk. 7:37), and with Mary the sister of *Martha, who also anointed Him (Jn. 12:3); but the Gospels give no real support to either identification and they have now been abandoned by the RC Church.”