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Mary Magdalene

John 20:18

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord! And she told them what He had said to her.” (HCSB)

 In the lyrics to the 1971 Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Tim Rice intimated that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were more than just friends. Today, a runaway best-seller The Da Vinci Code, goes much further than the Rock Opera.  Though I haven’t read the book, I have glanced at a few reviews and thumbed through an electronic copy of it on Amazon.com.  According to the critics, it is a well-written piece of fiction.  I underscore the word fiction.  One editorial review describes it this way “A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ.”  On page 244 of the book, the author, Dan Brown claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.  This assertion, just like the intimation made by Rice in his Rock Opera is void of any valid biblical, extra-biblical or historical evidence.  Karen Leigh King, a Harvard professor says, “there’s no historical information whatsoever that either of them was married, let alone to each other.”  

 In his book, Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine, Bart D. Ehrman, chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the issue by careful examination of extra biblical and historical material and says, "This view that Jesus had an especially close relationship with Mary has its ancient roots in some of our second and third-century sources, such as the Gospels of Philip and Mary...(though I should emphasize that even in these sources Jesus is never said to be married to Mary...)." 
(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
 
I’m not thrilled with the kind of speculation these fictional works cause, except there they become the darkness that sheds light on the truth.  Mary Magdalene wasn’t Jesus’ wife, but she was an amazing woman.  

 Mary Magdalene was a generous supporter of Jesus’ ministry. Luke 8:2 says “and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her); [3] Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herods steward; Susanna; and many others who were supporting them from their possessions.”  (HCSB)  

 Why was she generous?  I don’t know all the reasons, but I suspect she gave much because she’d received much.  I have no idea the torment she experienced under the control of the evil spirits that possessed her, but I do know that she was grateful to God for her deliverance.  She gave out of gratitude for what she’d received.
 
This morning you can pick up your 2004 contribution receipts at the back.  When you do, check it over for accuracy.  See if it accurately reflects what you gave.  But do another accuracy check—see if it reflects your gratitude for what God has done for you.

Generous people impress me, how about you?  Rick Warren, the Author of The Purpose-Driven® Life sold over 20 million copies of his book in 2004.  He didn’t simply tithe on his income.  In fact, he kept a tithe for himself and gave 90% of it away.  Naming him one of the “People who Mattered in 2004,” Time Magazine said “he led by example.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 In many ways success is the greatest test of all because of how easy it would become to be derailed from your purpose and seduced by the trappings of wealth. It is one thing to talk about finding a purpose, but quite another to remember your purpose while you’re preparing a budget.  No doubt Rick is living his purpose, and because of that, he is truly a wealthy man.  In Matthew 19:21 Jesus said “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (KJV)  Following Jesus is more important that accumulating stuff.

 Generosity isn’t just for the rich. Inmates in Canada have given c$4200.00 toward the Tsunami Relief, a great sacrifice when you take into account that prisoners are only able to earn c$6.90 a day. Diane Russon, a spokeswoman for Correctional Services of Canada said, "Regardless of the amount, the idea that they're actually caring about (someone) other than themselves, and making the effort and the donation, is pretty remarkable," (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Generosity isn’t always measured in the amount of the gift as much as it is by the size of the sacrifice.  Remember the Widows’ mite, “And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. [3] And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: [4] For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:2-4 KJV)

 Mary was generous, but that wasn’t her only appealing trait, she was also faithful.  In Mark 16:25 we find her at the foot of the cross when the Roman Soldiers crucified Jesus.  It says, “Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mothers sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”  Most of Jesus’ disciples weren’t there—but Mary Magdalene was.  She was at the cross, and she was among the first to know he rose from the grave. 

 Mark 16:1 says, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him.” (HCSB)

 Whenever I read this text, I think about a sermon I heard my Dad preach when I was just a boy. In the sermon, he emphasized that the extraordinary events of life are usually enjoyed by those who are willing to give themselves to the ordinary tasks of devotion. 
 
The three ladies came to Jesus' tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus' remains with spices. Jewish law prohibited them from performing these tasks immediately after his death, because of the prohibition against working on the Sabbath, so they delayed going to the tomb until the Sabbath was over. 
 
Where were his disciples? We know John was at the crucifixion, but we don't know where the others were. Why wouldn't those who were the closest to Him be there to take care of this unpleasant task? Why would they leave it to these women? 

 Even if the duty was beneath their stature, shouldn't the men have come to roll the stone away so the women could fulfill their obligation?  These three women are prototypes of Christian service. They were get-it-done people with a whatever- it-takes attitude. They were faithful. 

 The result of their work is greater than the sum of their labor. Because they were faithful to be in the right place in the right time, they were the first to hear of Christ's resurrection and the first to bring the good news to others. But before they did, they saw Him, face to face. 

  Mary was generous; she was faithful, and she proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our text today says, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord! And she told them what He had said to her.” (John 20:18 HCSB)

 In Church in Emerging Culture:  Five Perspectives, Frederica Mathewes-Green writes “Our effectiveness as witnesses is tested not on the public stage but by our private daily conduct People will respond to our words, when they see them in our lives.”  (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 To another person healed from demon possession, Jesus said, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." (Mark 5:19 NKJV).  Mary was a credible witness to the resurrection because of the way she conducted her life.  Her words were true, but so was her lifestyle. 
 
Jesus healed her and she was grateful.  But her gratitude didn’t stop with words, she was a generous giver—a giver of her money and her time.  She was faithful to serve Jesus even when the going was tough.  She stood at the foot of the cross and was willing to do the dirty work of anointing his body with spices after He died.  Because of her generous spirit, she was at the right place at the right time and was one of the first to know that Jesus rose from the grave and one of the first to be able to proclaim the glorious message to others. A message they believed, because of the integrity of her life. 

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