Vol 6:4 (April 1960)
Scripture Reading John 20:1-18
Wonderfully saved by Christ, Mary Magdalene was deep in her devotedness to the Lord, evidenced in that she was the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. Though there is much in her to commend, we will first consider —
For mistakes she made in spite of her unquestioned devotion to her Saviour. And many of the Lord’s followers are still making the same mistakes. Perhaps we have made some of them.
The first mistake was that Mary thought Jesus Christ was dead, being unaware that He had triumphed over death and the grave. She came thinking that He was the victim of death, when in reality He had vanquished that dark foe. Believing Him dead, she looked in the wrong place for her Lord. The best she hoped for was to find His body. Yet, think how hopeless would be our lot if her hope had been realized (1 Cor. 15:17-19). How often God gives us something better than our hopes!
Mary’s second mistake was that she thought that she could anoint the body of her Lord. Little did she realize that He had received a greater anointing; that even then His garments were filled with the fragrance of heavenly myrrh, aloes, and cassia. On the other hand, Mary of Bethany, evidently believing the Lord’s predictions of His own death and resurrection, anointed Him before He died and made no such attempt afterward.
Are we ever too late in acts of devotion which we intended rendering to our Lord?
A third mistake was that Mary thought the Lord’s body had been removed from the tomb and concealed elsewhere. Rashly leaping at an unwarranted conclusion she unwittingly gave a false report: “They have taken away my Lord.” Little did she realize that His body was no longer in the hands of man; but that He was Himself the One who held the keys of death and hades in His mighty hands.
Mary made a fourth mistake as she wept in deep sorrow when she should have been filled with rapturous rejoicing. She was soon to discover that her tears were utterly needless. How many of us have sobbed when we should have been singing, have mourned when we should have been rejoicing! None of us dare be too critical of Mary.
Her fifth mistake was that she mistook Christ for the gardener. Blinded by tears, she did not recognize the Blessed One. Many, like Mary, do not recognize the Lord in the presence of sorrow and bereavement. Let us pray that our tears, whether needless or necessary, may wash the film of earth from our eyes that we may the better behold the Lord and praise Him.
Still another mistake was that Mary fancied that she could become the custodian of Christ’s body; little knowing that in resurrection He is the keeper of the bodies of His saints.
The seventh and last mistake of Mary was that she thought the former earthly relationship could be continued. Mary would hold her Lord as she had formerly known Him. She did not apprehend the new relationship into which He would introduce His own, as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”
Having noted these seven mistakes of Mary, we will consider, in the second place, that
They Were Mistakes of the Head and Not of the Heart
They were a result of her failure to fully apprehend what the Lord had said concerning His death and resurrection. But, for that matter, neither had His most intimate disciples, Peter and John, grasped what He had said. There was no excuse for them in view of His repeated predictions of His passion and resurrection. They had failed to enter into His thoughts in spite of all the privileges which had been theirs, such as having been called His friends (John 15:15). Even the chief enemies of Christ had remembered these predictions, when they besought Pilate to seal and secure the tomb lest His disciples should steal away His body and report that He had risen as He had prophesied (Matt. 27 : 62-64) .
Mary sought ignorantly, ‘tis true, but she sought with her whole heart. Love for Christ brought her to the tomb, the last place where she had seen Him. Love kept her there, lingering where He had been. Without Him, Whom her soul loved and adored, life was as barren as the grave and as empty as the garden sepulchre. Her heart was absorbed with Christ. He was everything to her. She sobbed because her heart was breaking without its object.
The reason for her great love was that she had experienced a great deliverance. Seven demons had been cast out of her by her Lord. Once she had been completely in Satan’s dominion. Now she was free. She had been forgiven much, therefore she loved much.
God wonderfully overruled her mistakes for her blessing and ours. It is noteworthy that no word of rebuke fell from the lips of the Lord when He made Himself known. He saw her heart and measured its devotedness to Himself.
In the third place, it is well to note—
She did not give up her search because of discouraging circumstances. She did not become occupied with her home and return to it. Peter and John, even though they were convinced that the Lord was risen, returned home and did not seek Him. Mary, on the other hand though not assurred that He was risen, lingered where the Object of her love had been.
Then too, she was not so occupied with the angels that she forgot her Lord. So far as Mary was concerned, the lines of the hymn were true:
“No angel could His place have taken,
Highest of the high tho’ He.”
Some today are more concerned with angelic beings and departed saints now in heaven, than they are with the Lord in Glory.
And Mary did not permit even death to break her devotedness to Christ. Observe how she speaks of Him to the angels: “They have taken away,” not merely “the Lord,” but “my Lord.” In life and in death He was hers. She would never surrender her claim to Him.
May we consider in the last place
An Unmistakable Manifestation of Christ to Mary
The Lord Jesus is not far from any heart thus taken up with Him. His approach to Mary was gentle, gracious; and in the hour of her deep sorrow He addressed a simple question to her: “Woman, why weepest thou, Whom seekest thou?” It was not that He did not already know, but He would tenderly make her heart vocal.
Mary’s answer betrays the condition of her heart. Thinking Him to be the gardener, she exclaimed: “Sir, if thou have born Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Notice the three “Him’s.” She uses no name, assuming that even the gardener would know of Whom she spake. Christ so filled her heart and mind, that she assumed that He must fill others as well.
Then we see a beautiful example of the Good Shepherd calling His own sheep by name (John 10:3), as He uttered the one word she had so often heard from His lips: “Mary.” With what intonations of familiar grace the word was spoken. Her response was immediate, and also but one word. In (publicly) reading this passage, I have wished that I could put into that word all the pent-up devotion and adoration of Mary, as she exclaimed in a burst of full recognition: “Rabboni,” ( Teacher ) .
Denying a continuance of the former relationship, as we have already seen, the Lord then gave her a commission: “Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God and your God.” Of this commission’s content, J. N. Darby forcefully says: “A work had been accomplished that placed Him, as Man and Son always, with the Father in glory, Man in this blessed relationship; but it was a work of redemption that set His own, redeemed according to the value of that work, in the same glory and in the same relationships as Himself. And this was based upon the sure foundation of that work, in which God Himself and the Father had been fully glorified, and had made Themselves known according to all Their perfections (Compare John 13:31, 32, and 17:4, 5). According to these perfections, the disciples are introduced into the position and according to the relationship of Jesus Himself with God. This was the necessary fruit of the work of Jesus; without this, He would not have seen of the travail of His soul.”
In avoiding Mary’s mistakes, God grant that our hearts may be like hers, filled with deep devotion to our risen Lord and Saviour.