Friday, January 4, 2013

Gratitude

Gratitude

 

“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,  and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” – Luke 8:1-3

Gratitude is like the smell of an expensive perfume - you just can’t cover it up.  It’s an overwhelming feeling of being so thankful and appreciative that it fuels some action in the person whom it lives.  It is a form of love.  Mary Magdalene was one of those grateful people towards Christ. 
There are a couple of fallacies about Mary Magdalene to discount.  First, nowhere in God’s word does it say that she was ever a prostitute.  This was the claim of a Roman Catholic Priest, who is the only source found for this belief. It’s simply not in God’s word. Secondly, many believe because Lazarus’ sister Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with oil John 12, is the same Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus’ head in Matthew 26, and that this same Mary was Mary Magdalene. But in fact, there are seven Mary’s in God’s word and they are all individual Mary’s with their own individual stories.

What we do know about Mary Magdalene is that she had been demon possessed by not one, not two, but seven demons.  This woman had been entangled with Satan in the most horrible way.  Though the account of her healing is not given, we know that it was at Jesus’ hands she received it (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).  The rest of what we know about her we learn from how she lived after being healed.  She lived a life fueled by gratitude.
Luke 8: 1-3 says there were women who followed Jesus and his disciples from town to town as He preached, and as three are listed, it is important to note that her name is given first.  The women followed them for one purpose: to serve Christ.  It says they “provided for Him from their substance.” They took what they had to offer, and gave it freely to Christ.

But her acts of gratitude didn’t stop there with her daily service to Him.  John 19:25 says “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Three Mary’s were there that day, and one of His twelve disciples, John.  She was there, and watched as Jesus endured the pain of our sins, and hers. 
But that’s not the last we hear of Mary Magdalene.  In Mark 16:1 we read that after the burial of Jesus in the tomb, “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.” Her service continued even past Jesus’ death.

Did Jesus notice her gratitude?  Did He see what fueled her service?  Mark 16:9, which says “He appeared FIRST to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”  I don’t see any reason to believe that who He appeared to FIRST after His resurrection would be coincidental. 
When compared to the lives of Simon the Leper, the man blind since birth, the two freed from legions of demons in Gadarenes, the woman with the issue of blood, and all the others Jesus healed, the one thing that makes Mary Magdalene stand out is she had a heart of gratitude that kept her close to Christ.  She wanted to be where He was.  She wanted to serve Him.  She wanted to hear His voice. 

But if you want to hear what is in her heart, you have to hear her speak.  Watch her at the tomb of Christ as recorded in John 20.  The disciples had come, looked in the tomb and seen the body was not there.  They had seen the folded napkin, and they had gone home.
But not Mary.  Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.”(John 20:11).  She stood there crying, staring at the empty tomb, worried as to where they had taken Jesus’ body.

When the angels appeared to her and asked why she was crying, her words were broken by sobs as she says “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
Turning around to see Jesus, who she thought was the gardener, she says to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  

“I will take Him away”, she said, still willing to serve Him.
Then Jesus, with love in His heart, speaks her name, “Mary!”

Oh that we would all have the level of gratitude Mary Magdalene had for Christ!  There would be no volunteer sign-up sheets in our churches.  There would be no mission fields unmanned.  There would be no homeless, no hungry, and no loneliness around us. Gratitude like Mary’s may well be the most pure form of love to be found in the heart of man.

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