This year- I decided to make a valiant effort at reading my way through the Bible. Currently, I am in 2 Samuel, but I also decided that I wanted to spend the entire year reading through the gospels at the same time. Tonight I was finishing the book of John and as I read through the resurrection, I was gripped by the role of Mary Magdalene during this last scene of the gospel. While Peter and John perceived the empty tomb to be the fulfilling of Jesus’ promise to rise again, Mary is stricken with grief. As a follower of Christ, I’m sure she heard the promise of His resurrection, but during this time, she is so broken hearted at his death that she cannot grasp that hope. She is a typical woman- she has followed her heart, her passions and her beliefs and risked everything for them. At this moment, she is lost.
But she becomes the first individual to see Jesus alive.
Mary represents so many of us. She is a sinner who was so lost in a sinful, evil world that she never could have credited her righteousness to her own good works. Her possession by a demon is no different than today’s drug addicts, alcoholics, teen cutters, adulterers, depression sufferers, girls with eating disorders, victims of abuse or rape, criminals or victims of bullying. What these people all have in common is bondage, whether it be through addiction, bad choices, chemical imbalances or circumstances beyond their control, they are weighed down by the chains of shame, fear and guilt and on their own, they can never be free.
But Jesus came to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).
There is nothing quite like experiencing the freedom that comes from faith in Jesus. Freedom that is so real that it can almost be touched. It is felt, seen and experienced over and over again. It is the kind of freedom that brings joy and laughter back into a broken heart, the kind of freedom that reunites and restores broken families, and the kind of freedom that ignites a passion that becomes fuel for the world changing fires. Mary understood this kind of freedom. And it was for Mary and for millions of others like her that Jesus came.
So when Jesus appeared to her, it was not to comfort a broken heart, or simply because she was still present at the tomb. Jesus appeared to Mary because Mary uniquely needed Jesus. She was nothing without Christ, and she knew it. Her act of surrender through the washing of Jesus’ feet with perfume was her way of showing Christ that He was her identity, her worth and following Him was her life’s sole purpose. She knew she needed Jesus. Her acknowledgement of this need is what set her apart, and what I believe gave her the opportunity to see Jesus first. She was the very reason Jesus died and rose again and Jesus wanted to prove to her that she was worth it all.
In Galatians 5:13 Paul writes that we are “called to live in freedom.” What chains are still holding you back and keeping you from living in your freedom?
Do you believe that you are worth dying for?
Freedom is not earned, it is given. You simply have to choose to live in it.