Each month I put together a devotional for the women who serve in the worship ministry at our church. I decided to turn this month’s devotional into a blog post. I hope you’re encouraged through it!
Source of Joy
Last month we looked at Hannah’s faith in the Lord and her amazing perspective. She recognized that her joy is not determined by her circumstances. Her joy was rooted in believing that God is good despite her circumstances and trusting that His will would be best in her life.
Fast forward God’s story to John 20:15. Another woman is found weeping – Mary Magdalene.
Who is Mary Magdalene?
From her name most believe that Mary is from Magdala. We also learn through the gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene and many others followed Jesus and his disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem. As Mark records the crucifixion details he mentions this.
”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. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.”
– Mark 15:40-41
Why Would She Have Followed?
The gospels suggest that she and many others were disciples of Jesus. While Jesus had his inner 12 disciples with whom he spent intentional time and taught specific things too, he had many disciples. He was their teacher – this is confirmed in John 20:16 when Mary Magdalane calls to Jesus saying, “Rabboni!” This means teacher. Jesus spent time pouring into his inner 12 disciples who would become the leaders of his church, but all who followed Jesus then and all who follow Jesus now are his disciples. He is our Rabboni!
The Bigger Picture
There are a few other mentions of Mary Magdalene in scripture. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2-3 tell us that prior to her encounter with Jesus she had been possessed by seven demons! Jesus cast these demons out of Mary Magdalene.
How Would You Feel?
If you were in Mary Magdalene’s shoes, how would you feel?
You are helpless against seven demons who control you and in a moment this man Jesus changes your life and sets you free from the torment and bondage of demons.
I don’t know about you, but I would have followed Jesus too! Saying “Thank you” would never seem to be enough!
“Soon afterward he (Jesus) went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their means.” – Luke 8:1-3
Mary Magdalene and other women who had been healed by Jesus followed him and his disciples and provided for Jesus as he did his ministry to others. They followed Jesus to Jerusalem out of gratitude for what he had done for them – He healed them!
Where Was Her Joy?
Mary’s joy was found in serving Jesus, her healer, her savior. Out of the overflow of gratitude she felt for Jesus she followed him and served him.
On Friday Jesus was brutally beaten, publicly humiliated, and crucified on a cross.
“But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.” – John 20:25
Mary Magdalene, along with Jesus’ Mother, and his beloved disciple, John, and some of the other women who followed Jesus stood by horrified as they saw their Rabboni unjustly executed. He had done nothing wrong. He was perfect – like a spotless lamb!
Perhaps the most notable fact about Mary Magdalene is that she was among the first to see the resurrected Christ.
Read John 20:1-18
We don’t know for sure why Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognize Jesus at first. Some say he was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable so she didn’t know it was him. The text tells us that she was weeping; I know when I cry I avoid eye contact with people. I’m in a vulnerable state, trying to cope and deal with the emotions I’m feeling. She hears someone ask her why she is crying and assumes he is the gardener.
But then Jesus says her name, “Mary.”
I love this picture of intimacy between Mary and Jesus. She recognizes the voice of her healer and calls out to him joyfully, “Rabboni!”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 6:23
The reality is that the cost for sin is death. Wages in the form of a blood sacrifice must be paid to erase the debt of sin. In Leviticus 16 God gives instructions for how to pay for the sins of the people.
Read Leviticus 16:5-10, 15-16, 20-22, & 34
The priest would make a sacrifice for himself so that he would be clean before God and then he would sacrifice a goat for the people. To paint the picture of grace even more clearly God asked for a second goat called Azazel. In verses 20-22 we see that the sins of the people are transferred to the second goat. The debt of sin is not on the individual person’s tab, but all the debt incurred because of sin is put on the tab of the Azazel goat. One person brings this goat out into the wilderness where it inevitably dies. No one needs to carry the guilt of their sin, it has been physically removed from the people. This sacrifice was required once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people.
When Jesus died, none of his disciples understood at the time, but he HAD to die. He is the spotless lamb that was the final sacrifice to pay the sin debt of the world. We can accept the “free gift of God” which is “eternal life” in heaven through our understanding and believing that Jesus Christ is the one who paid our debt through his death and rose again, proving his deity. All who believe in Jesus as their Savior are freed from the bondage of sin. While on this earth sin will remain in us, but it no longer has control over us when we turn to Jesus’ supernatural strength to combat our sin nature.
Where Is Our Joy?
Mary Magdalene understood this concept well. Jesus had freed her from the bondage and control of demons already. Now she would be free from the bondage and control of sin. She didn’t have to live a life separated from God, she could have a relationship with God. Perhaps more importantly, God, who loves Mary Magdalene, could have a relationship with her. Because God is Holy and without sin, he can not be in the presence of sin. Because Jesus paid the debt owed for Mary Magdalene’s sin, God could now have a relationship with her.
Our joy is found in the same place as Mary Magdalene’s joy! Through Jesus we can have a relationship with God!
Can you relate?
While we probably don’t have literal demons that we are in bondage to that control us, are there “demons” in our life that we need Jesus to free us from?
Hope in Jesus
Do you know that Jesus can set you free?
Read Galatians 5:1
Read 2 Corinthians 1:10
Read Colossians 1:22
Read Hebrews 9:15
I Will Follow
Read Luke 8:1-3 again
Why did Mary Magdalene follow Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem?
How have you responded to what Jesus has done for you?