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Grown-Up Bible Stories

The Devoted One

The last few days represented total upheaval. Mary Magdalene had been an eyewitness to the defeat of the greatest display of God’s power yet known to humanity. She had seen no one less than the man she knew to be a prophet of unprecedented power die like an ordinary mortal. Actually, he’d died like less than an ordinary mortal. He’d hung from a wooden rack and died publicly as a condemned criminal. The soldiers that killed him had gambled for his clothing. He’d hung there, exposed and bleeding, gasping for breath. The crowds had stood around staring and mocking. Even Pontius Pilate, the occupation governor, had added his derision by posting a sign over the prophet’s head, a sign declaring him to be the king of her people. Of course the sign had been written in Latin, the official language of the Empire. But it had also been written in Greek, the universal language of the known world. Pilate had even seen to it that the mocking sign had been written in her own language, Hebrew, the language of the people of God. The criminals hanging from crosses beside him had thrown in their two cents worth, and it wasn’t friendly.

The man who had shown her God had died. He’d died with a crowd that hated him challenging him to tap into the heavenly power with which he’d astonished people like Mary. They dared him to come down from his cross. He’d hung there a man far too helpless for the great Son of God, yet he’d retained enough sense of authority to promise Heaven to a criminal dying beside him. The strange power he’d exhibited in life had been there for the faith of a dying felon. Of course, a dying bad man could be expected to grasp at any straw held out to him.

Mary herself had experienced the power that made some people believe that Jesus was the Son of God. She hadn’t always been a clean-living servant of God. That person was the Mary Magdalene who had been a follower of Jesus. There had been a day, and it hadn’t been so very long ago, when Mary was the exact opposite of a servant of God. Somehow she’d opened herself up to the devil and had been under the domination and control of seven demons. She hadn’t gotten there innocently. People who serve God in sincerity aren’t subject to takeover by the dark side of the spiritual world. In fact, one reason many people look with suspicion on stories of demon possession today is that so many of us live so far away from the strange religions that foster it. She’d either grown up in a cult or turned to one as an adult. She’d sold herself—or perhaps had been sold—to the devil through evil worship and found herself helplessly dominated by evil spirits. She’d wandered around like a madwoman, but driven by something worse than insanity.

She’d been a total mess, beyond help and beyond hope, until Jesus came and changed it all. We aren’t given the exact account of her transformation, but if it was like the other miracles performed by Jesus Christ, he’d simply spoken to the evil spirits and they’d left. Now, this formerly strange, scary, woman was a good, religious person and a follower of Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder that she spent as much time as possible among the crowds of admirers who followed him? Is it any wonder that she viewed him as the greatest prophet since Moses? Is it any wonder that she probably suspected him to be the promised Messiah, the Son of God Himself? The Mary Magdalene who had watched Jesus die did so as one transformed by his power.

And now she stood outside His empty tomb. In Old Israel, it was common to bury people, not in the ground but in caves. This cave, especially hand dug for a wealthy judge, had been appropriated for the body of the One who had set Mary free. Joseph of Arimathea, the politician turned donor, had also been touched by Jesus. Unlike Mary, who had nothing to lose, Joseph had kept his faith in Jesus a secret. Open faith would have cost him his position. Now the great crisis had occurred, and Joseph had come out of the woodwork to offer his luxurious future grave for the body of the One he’d admired from afar.

Mary had never been a secret admirer. She’d openly followed Jesus and done everything she could to help Him. Even this morning, three days after His death, she’d come with spices ready to embalm His body. She would have gladly embalmed Him prior to burial, but due to a religious holiday, the law had forbidden timely action. Three days late, she’d been prepared to find her way around the massive stone that sealed His grave. She’d been prepared to walk into that dark cave and open the burial shroud. She’d been prepared to face whatever smells and horrors she must, if only she could give the body the honor an ordinary body should receive. Mary was devoted. She had no better answers than did the eleven chief followers of Jesus who were hiding and doubting. She couldn’t explain how the One they’d hoped to be the Messiah had happened to die prematurely. She didn’t know what the future might hold. She just knew her love for this representative of Heaven. Mary remained, prepared to do her best even now that it was all over.

Mary had come to do her devoted best on a decomposing body. She’d come and found the grave open and the body gone. She’d heard the guys in white clothes make big claims. She’d seen the first evidence that Jesus had come back to life, but it hadn’t sunk in. It was all part of a bitter calamity. Her Lord had died by torture. He’d been given a hasty burial. Now, even His corpse had been denied her. It was total disaster that left her weeping outside an open grave on a springtime Sunday.

How long she stayed and wept, we don’t know. At last, she looked up and saw a man. She didn’t recognize him. Logic told her he was the groundskeeper responsible for the garden around the tomb. Maybe he’d cleaned the body out. Maybe he didn’t want an accused criminal buried in his cemetery. Maybe he knew who’d stolen the body. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be kind enough to let a grieving woman have a dead body.

He spoke to her: "Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" [Quotations are not necessarily exact unless accompanied by a reference.]

She asked for the body. She’d gladly take it off his hands.

He spoke but one word: "Mary." Her name. But He spoke it in tones like no one else could.

She fell at His feet. "Teacher!" Mary Magdalene had once again come face to face with the power of God embodied in Jesus Christ. Everything she’d believed Him to be had proved true and then some. She was the first human eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Jesus said, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (from John 20:17).

Of course, Mary carried his message to the rest of the disciples. Yet, we stop here. Mary Magdalene drops from the historical record shortly after this scene. Oh, she was doubtlessly among those who received the Holy Spirit in the upper room a few weeks later. She was doubtlessly among those giving the rest of their lives to Jesus the Son of God. But her role was no longer a prominent one. She wasn’t an apostle. She wasn’t going to be a minister or a famous martyr.

Still, Mary has a place in history that no other human being can claim. It was this Mary who loved Jesus Christ enough to want His dead body. It was this Mary who was near His grave in tears when everybody else was in disillusioned hiding. It was this Mary who was so devoted to God the Son that when He came back from the dead He took time to speak to her. He still needed to report to Heaven. He’d seen death at its worst and conquered it. He now had a right to all authority in Heaven and earth. The angels were rejoicing. The world was about to be turned upside down. The powers of Satan had been broken forever. The fact of the resurrection proved that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The greatest event in history had started. Jesus had risen from the dead with power to give new life and eternity to all who’d take it from Him as a gift. Before long, thousands, then millions of people would know His power in their lives. Jesus was leading the greatest transformation of all time, yet He paused to speak to a woman who but recently had been a child of the devil. Events to come would have dried Mary’s tears and turned them to joy anyway. But as her heart melted in devotion, the Son of God couldn’t leave her in grief. He came, en route to Heaven and claiming His eternal crown as it were. He came and spoke comfort to her heart. This act, too, is the glory of the risen Christ.

Two thousand years later, we still proclaim, "He is risen!" We proclaim it all over the world. Millions strong, the followers of Jesus Christ are spreading the news that He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who trust Him for it. Yet, amidst it all, He still knows each of us by name. He waits, wanting to speak to each individual. He wants to bring the power of God into each life as never before. He wants to call each of us by name, and bring to him or her the glory and the power of His resurrection.

We can’t expect the exact sequence of events that Mary experienced. Yet, the risen Christ is waiting for each of us to but turn to Him. He wants to bring the power of His resurrection into your life, just the same as He did for Mary. Are you willing?

Click here to find out how to turn to Jesus Christ: How to Have a Relationship with God

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How to Have a Relationship with God

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