St. Mary Magdalene
Dear friends in Christ. Today is the day set aside by the Church to remember Mary Magdalene. She is called in Scripture, literally, Mary the Magdalene, which means that she is Mary, the one from the town of Magdala, on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mary is listed among the many women who followed and supported the ministry of Jesus and His apostles [Lk. 8.2]. What makes this significant is that women did not normally follow Jewish rabbis. We also know about Mary that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. By that she experienced both Jesus’ love and power. She definitely had great reason to recognize that Jesus is the long promised Savior who would destroy the devil and his kingdom, sin and death; and she experienced first-hand Jesus’ mercy and compassion, since purely out of His love, without any merit or worthiness on her part, Jesus showed this great act of rescue and deliverance.
In that sense Mary Magdalene is really a picture of each of our Lord’s Christians. Each of us has experienced both Christ’s love and power. In great power Jesus came to each of us in the water and word of holy baptism claimed us as His own, expelled Satan and his claim over us, freed us from his tyranny, washed away our sins, and brought us into His holy family. Jesus came to us poor sinners solely out of His mercy and compassion on us; not because of any great merit or worthiness on our part but solely because of our great need.
As St. John writes [I 4.19]: We love because He first loved us. Mary both dearly loved the Lord and confessed her faith that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God by supporting His ministry. We do the same thing as out of faith and love of our Lord we pray for the Church, for the spread of the Gospel, for our congregation and support it also with our offerings that others too may experience that same love of the Lord that we have.
1. That love that Mary had for Jesus was a firm, bold love that confessed her faith in Him. We see Mary at Jesus’ crucifixion as Scripture records [Mt. 27.55ff.]: There were also many women there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, among whom [was] Mary Magdalene. A short while later that day we read that Jesus was buried and Joseph of Arimathea rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Just a few days later we come to the events of our text: On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark—for that final act of love for Him who had shown her such mercy and compassion, namely to prepare Jesus’ body properly for burial—and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and cam to Simon Peter, and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him”. Throughout, we see the faithful diligence of Mary’s love—even to the very end. As we see in our text, that faithful, diligent love for Christ is never misplaced—and, in fact, Christ crowns that love.
It was Mary’s love of Christ as the One who had shown her great mercy, who had cast seven demons from her, who by His Holy Spirit worked true faith in Him as her Savior; in this great love flowing from faith Mary loved and served her Lord. But as diligent as this love was, it was still faulty; it was still imperfect; it was still tainted with human weakness. Mary’s version of the Easter account at first is: “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him”. That was the result of her following her own assumptions and speculations and not paying attention to our Lord’s clear word. How often Jesus had spoken about His upcoming betrayal, arrest, beatings, crucifixion and resurrection. Certainly at least on some of those occasions Mary was there and heard Jesus. Certainly Mary had heard the OT prophecies of the suffering but also exalted Savior.
Here too St. Mary Magdalene is a picture of the Christian. We know our Lord. We know that our God is the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that He is working everything for our good. We know that He is truly in control of everything. We know that we are in His gracious loving hands. We know that in Christ we are reconciled to God and He is our dear heavenly Father. We love our Lord, our gracious Triune God greatly. Our trust and certainty of our salvation is in the Son, Jesus Christ. But what so often happens? As soon as things get a bit tough, as soon as things don’t go as we think they should go, or as swimmingly as we think they should, we so easily say “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him”, that is, I think God is no longer in control or has forgotten about me; I think He has become my enemy; I am not sure of my salvation. I love Him, but what happened? Like Mary, this is all the result of our own assumptions and guesses. We should know better, but our love for the Lord is often faulty. We are both saint and sinner at the same time. As saint, we love our Lord and trust Him; as sinner, we often fall prey to doubts and despair as we do not pay strict attention to our Lord’s word. That’s why in all of life’s trials and changes we must learn all the more to turn to God’s holy Word; to learn even better to search the Scriptures. Then faith will be renewed and strengthened, which will flow into even greater love.
But again, we are Christians. As Christians we love our Lord. And like it did with Mary, that love flowing from faith, was a diligent, faithful love. Yes, it may have been weakened and faulty at times but in love Mary continued on; she did not give up on her Lord Christ—her love of Him drove her on. That’s what we next read in our text: But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. It all seemed helpless and hopeless for St. Mary Magdalene as she stood outside Jesus’ tomb weeping; but her love of Christ compelled her to look into the tomb perhaps to see whether it really is true or was just a bad dream. In other words, she keeps looking. Love intensified her search. She persevered in her looking and eventually found her Lord Jesus—alive.
Here is the great lesson we learn from Mary; here is why she is an example to us—her faith flowed into love, a love that was faulty but a love that persevered in seeking out Christ, and which Christ in grace crowned.
Christ’s Church, each of His dear Christians, continues in love to seek out Christ when He seems to be absent. We have His holy word and promise that He will never leave or forsake us; that He is with us always; that He is always here with His good gifts of forgiveness of sin, life, salvation. Solomon [Song 3.1] describes the Church’s, the Christian’s diligent searching for Christ, the One Whom we love, this way: I sought [the One I love], but I did not find Him. “I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; in the streets and square I will seek the One I love.” I sought Him but I did not find Him. The watchmen who go about the city found me to whom I said, “Have you seen the One I love?” Scarcely had I passed by them, when I found the One I love. I held him and would not let Him go... Just as Mary’s love was not misplaced as she looked for Christ, neither is ours. Mary didn’t know where to turn to find Jesus whom she thought was dead. But Jesus tells us precisely where we can find Him—in His holy Word and Sacraments. When it seems Jesus isn’t with us, that He has forsaken us, let us run to His holy Word and Sacrament. There we find Him; there we find His promises and His gifts and blessings that He brought about by His life, suffering and death. There we are assured of them and actually given them. As we daily remember and return to our baptism, there the hand of faith takes once again the gifts and blessings God has given us in baptism and reclaims them. In the Sacrament of the Altar we not only find Jesus with His gifts but He also gives us His very body and blood with the bread and wine. Our diligent love is never misplaced as it drives us to look for Christ in His holy word and sacrament.
2. The glorious thing for us is the same as it was for Mary: Christ wants to reward that love. And looking into the tomb Mary
saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She tuned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, The Teacher).
First through the angels and then by His own mouth Jesus tries to direct Mary’s thoughts, Woman, why are you weeping? Jesus is saying that she has no reason for crying; she should open her eyes to see and hear the truth as she is surrounded by evidences of the resurrection—the empty tomb, the burial cloths, the angels. Mary’s diligent love is not misplaced as she keeps seeking Jesus; even though it is a faulty love, Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away, Jesus in grace rewards it. Jesus calls to her, Mary! Here we see His love and care for each individual soul. Here is the voice of the Good Shepherd calling to Mary [Is. 43.1]: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine; because as Jesus says: I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and My own know Me. Dear Christian, as we, like Mary Magdalene, in love keep seeking Jesus even when, and especially when we don’t know or feel His presence; as we keep seeking Him in His holy word and Sacraments, He will in grace reward that love and seeking. Just as He did not reveal Himself to Mary by the splendor of His divine Majesty but by His simple call Mary, so too in His outwardly humble word and sacrament, He will call to us and as a reward of grace, crown with every heavenly gift and blessing our love of Him that sought Him out. Just as Mary’s joy when she found Jesus was greater because she in love had sought out Jesus for a long time, so too when in times of trial Jesus rewards with great comfort and blessing our love and searching for Him in His holy word and sacrament. He will give us the right help, comfort, guidance, assurance that we need. The reward of grace that Jesus gives us makes the anxiety and wait all the more worth it as He richly rewards that love for Him that seeks Him out.
What a great thing love finds as it seeks out Christ. Our text: Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and Your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that He had said these things to her. In love Mary doesn’t want to lose Jesus again so she holds on to Him. But Jesus tells her of an even greater way that He will always be with her all His dear Christians—by ascending into heaven. By ascending into heaven and making full use of His divine power and majesty Jesus is fully with all of His dear Christians no matter where they might be; He is then closer to us than He was with His disciples during His earthly ministry. In spirit and by faith we touch, embrace and are more closely united with Christ than His disciples were to Him during His earthly ministry. With Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection and ascension we have a God who rescues us from all evil and saves us for His heavenly kingdom and has by Christ’s merit become our loving Father. May the Holy Spirit continually open our spiritual eyes that we may see with joy that the Savior is with us in love, faithfulness and grace! Diligent love of the Lord that seeks Him out is never misplaced but is in grace richly rewarded. What a marvelous picture St. Mary Magdalene is of all Christians and may we follow her diligent love in seeking out Jesus. INJ