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The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene

Scripture: John 8:1-12, Luke 10:38-42, John 12:1-8
Date: 11/04/2000 
The gospel according to Mary Magdalene demonstrates one of the most devoted disciples of all Scripture. She had an unflinching, total consecration to Christ. She is a symbol of how God saves us individually and as a church.
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Our message this morning is one that is very near to my heart. It’s a study in the Bible that I have been sharing with people for about fifteen years now. I call it “At Jesus’ Feet” or you might call it “From Shame to Song.” It’s the story of conversion and it’s the story of Mary Magdalene. If you were to ask me who is the most devoted disciple of Jesus. Well, first of all, if I were to ask people who is the most devoted disciple (I’ve done that) they’d typically list one of the apostles. Some say John, others say Andrew, some say it was Paul, but as I study through the Bible I’ve become more convinced that the most devoted disciple, and remember some of the ladies were disciples though they were not apostles, was Mary Magdalene.

You might wonder why I would pick Mary. She didn’t have any of the outward things that we often associate with greatness. She did not have the riches of Zaccheus or Joseph or Nicodemus. She did not have the wisdom of Solomon or the strength of Samson or didn’t have the courage of David or the things that we typically think of that would identify a person with greatness. But what Mary had that separated her from all the other New Testament characters was an unflinching, total consecration and devotion to Jesus. Now the interesting thing about Mary is that you always find her at Jesus’ feet and she’s often weeping. With one or two exceptions she’s at Jesus’ feet weeping. Now before I go any further, in the Bible what is a woman a symbol of? A woman is a symbol of the church. I’m going to tell you right from the beginning that I think Mary Magdalene is a symbol of how God saves each of us individually, that the different seven points where we find Mary are where we must find ourselves individually and collectively this is where we find the church.

Now the first story we find Mary is at Jesus’ feet in shame. Turn with me in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter eight. And I believe this woman who is caught in the act of adultery was Mary and this is Jesus’ first encounter. John 8:1, now you’ll notice it tells us that there is a woman who is caught in adultery. It never calls her Mary, but that’s okay. Other places in the Gospel of John he refers to Mary as a woman. Other Bible writers identify that it was Mary Magdalene. Now keep in mind, Mary was part of the New Testament church and as you read the Bible it says she had a bad reputation and this is a very embarrassing experience and it could be in order to protect her they identified her in this gospel story as “a woman” and so keep that in mind. “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” John 8:1 “Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and he taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought unto Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and He wrote on the ground, as though he did not hear them. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out…” I’m sorry. He stooped down… “as though he did not hear them.

So they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and he said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him first throw a stone at her.’ And again He stooped down and He wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing now in His midst. And when Jesus had raised Himself up He saw no one but the woman, and He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Has no one condemned you?’ And she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And He said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin not more.’” Now this was a very interesting, dramatic experience in the Bible where Mary meets Jesus. She’s caught in the act of adultery. The fact that she is caught in the act of adultery says there should have been two but because the man is not there implies this was a trap. Also the early hour of the morning. There was something very suspicious about this. Now you may or may not know but by the time of Christ the religious leaders had adjusted the Law of Moses so that a woman caught in adultery could be stoned still, but the man who was caught not only could be forgiven because they said, “Well, he couldn’t help himself. After all, he’s a man.” Now that’s not what the Law of Moses said. The Law of Moses said they should be stoned together, but they had adjusted the law so much that not only could he walk away, he could participate in stoning her. Isn’t that pathetic?

That’s how far things had degenerated. That’s why Jesus often condemned the religious leaders for putting their traditions in place of the clear commandments of God and trying to go with what would be popular rather than what was biblical. Now here is this woman who was brought to the temple. Can you imagine being more embarrassed? Caught in the act of adultery. That means that the church leaders came pouring into her private abode. There were eyewitnesses. Without her probably having time to get herself appropriately clad they dragged her through the streets of Jerusalem to the holiest place on earth and cast her at the feet of the holiest person who has ever lived. What a contrast to go from that situation to the presence of Jesus. I heard one pastor say that is actually the best place you can be when you’re in trouble is at the feet of Jesus. You know some people say, “I don’t go to church. I don’t go to the house of the Lord because I’m too sinful.” It’s in the house of the Lord, sinful though we be, we find pardon and so she was in the best place she could be at the feet of Jesus in the house of the Lord. Now they all stood around pointing and accusing. First of all, was she guilty? That’s never contested. She was guilty, guilty of adultery. What was the penalty for it? Death.

What’s the penalty for sin? And here these religious hypocrites stood around, probably had rocks in their pockets, ready to stone her and they thought they had Jesus in a trap he could not escape from. Their reasoning was if Christ says, Yes, Moses’ Law says stone her, they were prepared to drag her out of the eastern gate, stone her to death, then run to the Roman authorities and say, “You know Jesus is taking the prerogatives of Caesar. He’s pronouncing the death penalty.” And they were going to turn Jesus in because no Jewish authority had the right to pronounce the death penalty. That’s why the religious leaders had to take Jesus to Pilate to get him executed. Well, if Jesus said, “No, let her go. She looks like she’s sorry.” Then they’re going to say, “What? You don’t believe in the law of Moses?” and they hoped to incite a riot and take Jesus out and stone him. But they thought either way he turns, if he turns to the right, we’ve got him; if he turns to the left, we’ve got him. But Christ did the unexpected. First he ignored them. That really infuriated them.

They start to say, “We caught her in adultery! What do you say?” And he sees this poor woman. You know he looked past all of these pious hypocrites and he thought about this poor, trembling soul who was embarrassed and humiliated expecting to be executed and his heart went out to her. He had no patience for these hypocrites and so he, without, he didn’t even look at her at first. He didn’t want to intensify her embarrassment. He knelt down and on the marble floor of the temple, there was always dust from the traffic of the people, he began to start etching in the dust some cryptic words. No one knows exactly what the Lord wrote. We can surmise that he either wrote the Law again. When God writes something it’s important. First of all, there’s only three records in the Bible of the Lord himself writing anything. He wrote the law with his own finger in stone to represent how enduring and unchanging it is. He wrote judgment on the halls of Babylon in those burning letters and here he’s writing in the dust and you can probably guess that he was writing either the law again or which would be similar the sins of her accusers and as they stood there saying, “What do you say? Come on! We want an answer. We demand it. What’s your teaching?” he continues writing and they’re starting to pay attention to what he’s writing. He stands up, dusts off his hands and then he says, “He that is without sin among you let him first cast the stone at her.” Then he kneels down and he begins writing again. Now their eyes begin to focus and they see that Christ is writing out their secret sins with great detail, and as though all the on-looking crowd that is waiting to see what Jesus is going to say can now read and interpret that they are the ones responsible.

Their mask is peeled away. Their hypocrisy is exposed and the Bible says, “Being convicted.” Now don’t underestimate the power of that conviction. Here they brought her in virtually naked to the temple in the presence of Jesus and she’s humiliated. Now they feel naked because Christ is looking right into their souls. And “beginning at the eldest,” don’t miss that. You know in Ezekiel 9 when the judgment of God falls on the leaders in the house of God it says “beginning with the ancient men.” Beginning at the eldest. Why them? They’ve lived longer. They have the longest record probably, right? “Beginning at the eldest even unto the least they went out one by one.” You could hear them dropping the rocks that they had used to, they had brought prepared to stone Mary. Until finally there’s nobody there except the spectators and Mary is alone and now at this point she sees that everybody is gone. She stands up, and Christ stands up. You know someday Michael will stand up and he proclaims judgment when he stands up. And Christ, you know what his judgment is for Mary? First he says, “Where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” and the ones who had brought her are all gone. She says, “No man, Lord.” And I think there’s implied in that statement a question. No man, they don’t have a right.

They were sinners, but what about you? And he says, “You are dismissed on a technicality. Your accusers are gone.” I’m speculating and reading between the lines a little bit here. You have to give me some liberty. And he says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Now was Christ saying adultery is not a sin? No, he calls it a sin. He says, “Go and do not sin what you did anymore.” He calls it a sin. Isn’t the penalty death? Did Jesus come to say it’s okay to commit adultery or to break the Sabbath or any other of the Ten Commandments? Obviously not. When he says, “Go and sin no more.” What the Lord is saying is, “You are free to go. I am going to take your sin. I am going to take your penalty.” And Mary I believe understood that as nobody else. From that moment on she became his most devoted follower. Now when you read the Bible you can understand that Mary she’s often called Mary Magdalene. Sometimes she’s called Mary of Bethany. I believe they’re the same Mary. Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same Mary and I’ve got some Bible evidence for that. It tells us here first of all both were evidently women of means. If you study Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany, both of them are women that had substance. Both were called Mary. Both were unmarried. Both had bad reputations. Both were always at Jesus’ feet, often crying and neither of them are ever mentioned in the same story together. So we have strong evidence that they were the same person. It’s possible that Mary Magdalene was, she had a brother named Lazarus and a sister named Martha that lived in Bethany. They became very good friends of Jesus. Jesus and the apostles were often entertained at the house of Martha which wasn’t very far from Jerusalem.

It was a great place for the Lord to get away from the preaching and the crowds there in the city of Jerusalem. Bethany wasn’t too far away from also Bethlehem where he was born. It was not far from the Mount of Olives. It was actually on the slope of the Mount of Olives that overlooked Jerusalem. And it was a haven for Christ and his tribe of apostles often when he was in the area. Martha may have had a big home. She liked to entertain; as you read the Bible you’ll find that out. Mary, something happened in her youth and this younger sibling, she’s called Mary Magdalene because there was a town up by the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. It was a Roman resort. It was the Las Vegas of Galilee. And the historians tell us that these Roman soldiers would take their R & R up at Magdala and the ships with prostitutes and with wine and musicians these Roman barges would go out on the water and they could hear them in their drunken revelries and orgies out on the ships off of Magdala at night. And so when someone says “Mary Magdalene” no one else is called Magdalene there in the New Testament. It’s like saying Mary of Vegas. Okay? You’ve got the connotation here? And so she had been up there but it was often common that these prostitutes would follow the crowds. During the Jewish feasts they went where the people were. She had come down to Jerusalem. That’s why she was caught in the act of adultery in Jerusalem. Well, after this encounter with Jesus where he forgave her she wanted to turn her life around.

She went maybe to Martha and her brother Lazarus and said, “I’ve met Jesus.” She may have introduced them to Jesus. We don’t know, but evidently somehow they met the Lord and they started spending time in the home of Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. And so there was this trio of siblings; Lazarus who we know Jesus raised from the dead, Martha who was a workaholic constantly busy serving, and Mary who had this scandalous past reputation but ended up becoming a most devoted follower of Jesus. Now you might wonder what is the symbolism of the religious leaders there in the temple ready to hurl stones at this woman caught in adultery. A woman represents what? Casting stones is something you do when you’re casting accusations. How does the Lord feel about us when we begin to talk about the problems in the church? First of all was Mary guilty? Does the Lord like when we become the accuser of the brethren? You know recreational sport for a lot of Christians is to talk about the faults of the church or the leadership. How does the Lord feel about that? Do you want the Lord to write your sins? It’s something we should take very seriously. God did not appreciate that these men were pointing their finger at Mary and talking about all of her faults. I know the church has problems. I probably know more than most of you, but I know that in spite of all of its problems, defective and enfeebled though she be, the church is the object on earth upon which God bestows his supreme regard. Something else that I think is interesting to notice. God wrote the law in stone, but he writes the sins in dust. Stone is unchanging. Dust can blow away. And so though our sins are recorded they can be forgiven, but the law is not going to change.

Well, they began to spend time together in Martha and Lazarus’ home, and I’m going to jump now to the second time when we find Mary at Jesus’ feet and that would be at Jesus’ feet in sorrow. Some of you know the story in the Gospel of John, chapter 11. The Bible says Lazarus became sick. Martha and Mary were engaged in trying to help Lazarus recover. They sent a message to Jesus who may have been back up by Galilee preaching, “Come, your friend that you love is sick.” And Jesus did not come. He said to his disciples, “This sickness is not unto death.” Finally when he got the last message Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep but I’m going to go that I might wake him.” Well, when Martha and Mary watched their brother stop breathing they were devastated because they had known at this point Jesus had already raised several people from the dead. They had sent a message to him saying, “The one that you love, your friend Lazarus, you know you stay in our home. We’re not just part of the crowd. We are intimate with you. We have a relationship with you. He’s sick. Come at once!

We know you have the power. You’ve raised the dead before. You’ve healed the sick before.” And he didn’t come and they were bewildered and finally they had to make preparations and they secured a tomb and several days went by, the body began to decompose, the funeral was in full swing. The funeral used to last several days in the Jewish culture. They had these hired mourners. And while they’re at the house maybe resting between mourning sessions a messenger comes and says to Martha, “The Master is here. He’s outside. He doesn’t want to attract attention.” Martha runs out of the house and she finds Jesus and she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Your brother will live again.” She said, “I know he’ll live again in the resurrection at the last day.” This is a great story because it makes something very clear. When is the general resurrection? The last day. And Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He clarified for her that he had the power to raise whenever he wanted. And then he went… She goes and she calls Mary.

Mary comes. She again falls at Jesus’ feet weeping. And you’ve got her weeping at Jesus’ feet in behalf of her brother that is dead. Now they knew that the Lord had raised the dead before but nobody that had been dead that long and when Christ finally came to the tomb and he said for them to roll away the stone even Martha protested. She said, “Lord, are you aware of what you’re doing? I know you can raise the dead, but those people had just died. He’s been dead four days and there’s going to be an offensive odor.” The stench of death was already in the air. And Jesus said, “Trust me.” Now this is only time in the Bible when it records that Christ, not the only time in the Bible, it’s the shortest verse in the Bible and one of the few times that it records that Christ wept. He also wept over Jerusalem. Why was Jesus weeping? He was getting ready to raise Lazarus. Christ is weeping here for all of those who have died and for all of those who have mourned. He saw the people weeping. He saw Mary weeping and he groaned in his heart. For one thing he groaned because of their unbelief. He groaned with the whole creation that’s groaning and travailing because of the penalty for sin and all those who have not taken advantage of Jesus’ sacrifice. They gained hope. He said, “Roll away the stone.”

Finally Martha nodded to the men who maybe had put the stone in place. They take the levers, they heave the stone aside, they go gagging away from the entrance as the stench wafts out. And Jesus lifts his hands to heaven, he addresses the Father and then he says, “Lazarus, come forth!” And they hear a stirring inside there and everybody begins to gasp. They’re horrified as they see this mummy looking creature fill the entrance of the cave. And then Jesus said, “Loose him.” Don’t miss that. He was still, he was alive but he was still bound and everybody else was running back but I expect that Martha and Mary ran up and they unraveled the grave clothes that were binding their brother. The Bible says, “And he who died came out bound both hand and foot with grave clothes and his face was wrapped with a cloth and Jesus said, ‘Loose him and let him go.’” Now what does this mean? Mary is at Jesus’ feet. Who does Mary represent? First she’s in the church at the feet of Jesus in shame because she’s caught, she’s guilty and she receives forgiveness. Now she’s at Jesus’ feet and she’s praying for her dead brother that the Lord would raise him. We need to spend time at Jesus’ feet praying for our brothers and sisters that are dead in trespasses and sins. The Lord through his word can raise them and then after they’re raised he says, “Loose them.” When he gives them life they may be hearing the Holy Spirit and still be bound with the cords of their sins. Christ not only came to give people life, to open their eyes, but he came to set us free.

Some people think he came just to forgive. He also came to liberate us. Amen? He said, “Loose him.” Now who does… Jesus doesn’t go unwrap Lazarus. He says to Mary and Martha, “You loose him.” So the responsibility for the church is we must spend time weeping and pleading at Jesus’ feet that he will give life to our brothers and sisters that are dead in trespasses and sins. Do any of you have family or friends or siblings that are lost? That are dead? Sometimes you’ve maybe thought… I’ve got some friends and family that in my own quiet moments I think it’s hopeless. They’re so cynical. They’re so far from God, they are dead and they’ve been dead. They stink, they’re decomposing like Lazarus. This story is in the Bible to give us hope that if Jesus can raise Lazarus, that he can give new life to our loved ones who may seem hopeless. Amen? But Mary spent time weeping and praying at Jesus’ feet to that end and we too must invest time. There are people who may not be saved because we do not ask. Have you ever thought that? You and I not only have a privilege. We’ve got a responsibility to intercede on behalf of the lost and this is what Mary is doing. Not only praying but then loosing him. When the people come to the church, the church (Mary) has a responsibility to help them break free from the things that bind them. Amen? Even after they’ve found life there’s still growth.

Third place we find Mary at Jesus’ feet is in study. Now you can turn with me in your Bibles to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11. Luke, chapter 11, and this is where we find this familiar story. At Jesus feet in study. I’m sorry it’s Luke chapter 10, verse 38. “Now it happened that when He entered a certain village He came to a woman named Martha who welcomed him into her house. They had a sister called Mary who also sat at Jesus feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” Some have wondered if Martha was helping to prepare for the feast at Simon’s house later that day and that’s why she was busy with much serving. “And she approached him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’” Now you have the picture? Martha is rip-snorting around the house and she’s preparing and serving and getting stuff for the apostles who might be hungry and Jesus is sharing parables and he’s teaching and Mary is sitting at his feet gazing into his eyes spellbound with the teachings of the principles of the kingdom. And Martha, she is not hearing Jesus. All she knows is that she is doing more than her share of the work in serving the Lord. She was so preoccupied with serving the Lord that she didn’t realize what the priorities really are. Mary whose life had this sordid past and she was still learning to follow the word, she needed that time at Jesus’ feet to get her roots down.

You know one of the big mistakes that I’ve seen happen is somebody comes to the Lord, they’ve got a desperate background, and as soon as they join the church and they’re baptized people say, “Oh good! We need help.” And so they take them and maybe put them in the Sabbath school department or working with the children or doing something where they are not able to come in and hear the word. Especially baby Christians need more regular feeding than those of us who are adults. We can go 40 days and 40 nights, but a baby needs regular meals and you nurse a child more often, the milk of the word. And here Mary was a baby and she needed the word. Martha had become so busy with serving the Lord… I said that wrong. Martha got distracted so much with the work of the Lord, she forgot the Lord of the work. And there are those of us who think that there’s a substitute that somehow because we’re busy serving the Lord that there’s some salvation merit in that. It’s much more important that we have a relationship with the Lord than that we serve the Lord. Jesus is going to declare to the lost, “I don’t know you,” and they are going to say, “But, Lord, we went teaching in your streets and we cast out devils and we took care of the potlucks and we taught in the children’s division and we…” I don’t mean to take it too close to home, but there are some people who are so preoccupied with doing the work of the Lord they forget the Lord of the work and Jesus will say, “I don’t know you.” We need to have a knowing relationship.

That needs to be the priority. The service is important and you all know how much we strive to find people to fill the different departments. We all need Martha’s, but Martha needs time at Jesus’ feet too. And Jesus said to her in Luke 10:1, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing…” How many things? “…one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken from her.” I’m not going to tell her to stop hearing the word so that she can go out and start serving me because what you really needed was to hear the word. She needed to hear the word because that’s what where the relationship comes from. That needs to be the priority for each of us as Christians.

Then we find Mary at Jesus’ feet in sacrifice. Now you know the story. You can find this not only in the Gospel of John, chapter twelve, I think I’m going to go to our scripture reading that was in Luke chapter eight and here we find in Luke chapter eight, verse 36 one of the Pharisees asked him, Jesus, to eat with him. This could be the same meal that Martha was scurrying about to prepare. “And he went to the Pharisees’ house and he sat down to eat and behold a woman in the city who was a sinner…” Who was this? The other gospel writers tell us it’s Mary Magdalene. Here it just calls her a woman that was a sinner. “When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisees’ house she brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and she stood behind at his feet weeping and began to wash his feet with her tears and to wipe them with the hairs of her head and she kissed his feet and anointed them with fragrant oil.” Now I want to stop right there.

First of all, some of you maybe have this picture in your mind that Mary was at Jesus’ feet and she’s crying and trying to drip the tears on Jesus’ feet and wash his feet with the tears that way. They’ve done some archeology in the Promised Land and they’ve found all these little glass vials and they had these gentle lips on these jars and doing some more research they found out these were called tear jars. How many of you have heard of this before? And people used to believe that tears were sacred because it was a symbol of their sorrows and when a person was mourning or crying they had a flask like you and I have in our medicine cabinet. When we have a headache we go and we pull out our Tylenol or Ibuprophin. They would get their tear flask and they would catch their tears because they thought that they were sacred. Mary had this bottle of tears because of all her sorrow and repentance from her life and she had saved it. And here Jesus is at this feast and it was customary that the people’s feet be washed but they neglected to wash Jesus’ feet. Something else I need to interject here, Jesus had told the disciples, and incidentally this is probably the last week of Christ’s life, Jesus had told the disciples many times, he said, “I’m going to Jerusalem.

I’m going to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. I’ll be executed and I’ll rise the third day.” The disciples said, “Oh, that must be some cryptic message he’s giving. We don’t know what he’s talking about. It’s symbolic. It’s spiritual” because Jesus so often mixed up what they thought were literal and spiritual. He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” and they started looking in the lunchbox to see if they’d brought leaven on the boat. And so they thought, “Well, he doesn’t really mean this. He’s going to ride a white horse into Jerusalem and kill all the Romans and we’re going to sit on the throne and rule with him!” But Mary heard it. Mary remembered that day in the temple where she was supposed to die and he said, “I don’t condemn you.” And she I think understood an unspoken communication, “I’m going to take your place.” Knowing that Jesus would die, that he said it so plainly, she took her life savings. You know I understand prostitutes in Las Vegas can make $2000 a day. She took this great amount of money and she went and bought a gift that was reserved for kings. It was a mixture of myrrh and spikenard that was very precious and she not only anointed his feet with the ointment, but she took the bottle of tears which represented all of her sorrows and she anointed his feet with her tears. Now what do feet represent in the Bible? You know the Bible says that your feet represent your direction. “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet…”

The Bible says, “If your foot offends you, cut it off.” It means the direction of your life. We have foot washing. It’s like a mini-baptism because our feet become soiled as we walk in this world. Gotta get the barnacles scraped off the ship periodically. When Jesus’ feet were washed by Mary’s tears his feet were bathed in the sorrows of the church. He’s called the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. She washed his feet with her tears then she not only put the ointment on his feet, she poured the remainder of the contents in another story (This story is found four times in the gospel, three times. I’m sorry.) on his head. <> Jesus anointed him. You know the Bible says when David was chosen as king, when Saul was chosen, when Jehu was chosen as king that they anointed them with this precious ointment reserved for kings and when those at the feast, first they began to smell this aroma and they said, “What is that?” and they looked and… you see back in Bible times when a woman began to, when the servants would wash the feet they went outside the circle. Now I’ve got a picture here that sort of illustrates that. You see they would sit in a reclining position. Their feet went off the table and were hanging off. And here Mary came and she starts to create this spectacle where she is crying. The Bible says that. She is pouring her tear jar on his feet and she’s anointing them with this flask and while all this is going on they smell the fragrance and the conversation begins to hush.

Everybody is looking. Just loud enough so people could hear Judas, he realizes that there is this special gift. He doesn’t like Mary. Her sincerity is a constant rebuke to his hypocrisy and the only one who probably got along well with Mary is Matthew because he was a tax collector and you know they said the tax collector and the publicans used to know each other. But she didn’t like Judas and I don’t think Judas liked her. And Judas says, just loud enough for everybody to hear, “What a waste of, what a waste of means. This is a year’s wages and how dare she squander it like this.” And Jesus without identifying Judas rebuked him and said, “You’ve always got the poor with you but she has anointed me for my burial. What she’s done will always be remembered.” Furthermore when she’s washing Jesus’ feet she then pours it on his head anointing him as both priest and king. He’s getting ready to die. Mary, the church, anoints him. The disciples didn’t think to anoint him as their king. Oh, they praised and called him King of the Jews and they put the palms and the clothes as he marched into Jerusalem but Mary she anoints him as the sacrifice, as the king, as the priest before he dies. And they all, they gasp when they see because for someone to be anointed as king in the Roman Empire was seen as a revolt and they wondered if this would get back to the Caesars or get back to the Roman authorities. And so here she is weeping at his feet. Now there something I don’t want to rush past.

In our story in Luke Simon who is the one hosting the event, also known as Simon the leper, it says in verse 40, Luke chapter 7, “He thought within himself…” It says this in verse 39 actually, “…if this man was a prophet he would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him for she is a sinner.” Well, what did he think he was? And Jesus knowing what Simon is thinking, he addresses it and he says, “Simon, I’ve got something to say to you.” He says, “Say on, Master.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii’s. The other owed 50.” Are you reading along with me? I’m not putting everything on the screen because I want you to use your Bibles, okay. “‘They had nothing with which to repay. He freely forgave them both. Tell me therefore which of them do you think will love him more?’ Simon said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ He said to him, ‘You’ve rightly judged.’ Then he turned to the woman…” Now I suppose Mary is beginning to feel embarrassed getting all this attention. “‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet. She has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet since the time I came in.’” There are only two records in the Bible of anyone kissing Jesus. Judas was presumptuous enough to kiss the face, and he betrayed him. Mary kissed his feet and she was content to serve him. The Bible says the least will be the greatest and the greatest will be the least. I believe that in the final reward Judas Jesus said, “Woe unto him who betrays the Son of Man.” He’s going to have the lowest place, and Mary perhaps will have the highest place.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Lord distributes rewards. “You did not anoint my head with oil but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say her sins, which are many…” We’re not contesting that we can be great sinners and be forgiven. We’re not contesting that the church has much sin. But Jesus does say, “The sins are forgiven.” “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much.” Now is it important to love the Lord before you are forgiven? No, “just as I am.” You love the Lord because you are forgiven. That’s very clear. The Bible says, “We loved Him because He first loved us.” She was forgiven in the temple. She didn’t love him when she first met him in the temple. She didn’t know him, but when he forgave her then she loved much and that’s why she’s serving him now lavishly is because of that great love. “To whom much is forgiven the same loves much.” Now what is Jesus saying to Simon? Some people think this means that we need to go out there and go on a crime spree and become serial killers and do all these heinous crimes and terrible sordid things and then repent and then we’ll love the Lord and be devoted disciples like Mary.

Is Jesus saying that you’ve gotta go out there and have a terrible, dirty testimony, repent and come back to the Lord and then you’re gonna be a real enthusiastic servant of the Lord or is Jesus saying everybody is a big sinner. Those that have a concept of how big their sin is, they love much. Simon who was a leper Jesus had already healed. That’s why he’s called Simon the leper. He didn’t realize what a big sinner he was and I wonder how did he know about Mary’s reputation? Maybe he had firsthand knowledge and here he is judging her. He somehow felt self-righteous. He said, “Well if the Lord was really a prophet, he’d know who and what manner of woman this is that’s touching him because she’s a sinner.” What did he think he was? We’re all sinners! Are there any big sinners in church today? Let me see your hands. Everybody ought to raise their hand. There are no little sinners because it doesn’t matter how miniscule you might think your sins are they were big enough by themselves to put Jesus on the cross. There are no little sinners and if you think you’re a little sinner then you’ve got a little concept of the Savior and how much he’s suffered for you. Mary understood the gravity of her sin but she also had tremendous appreciation for the one who would take her place and if we understand, for those who really understand how much we’re forgiven, those are the ones who love much. Would you like to love the Lord more? Then we need to pray that prayer of David and say, “Lord, search me and try me and see if there be any wicked way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting.”

Next we see Mary, point number five, at Jesus’ feet in surrender. She’s at his feet as he hangs on the cross. You know the Bible is interesting. The apostles all forsook Jesus when he was crucified. John began to follow. Peter followed from a distance. The Bible says the apostles “stood afar off” watching the events of the crucifixion. But somewhere as those six hours wore on, are you aware Jesus spent seven hours on the cross? Study it for yourself. Six hours alive on the cross, one hour dead as Joseph got his body. Seven hours on the cross; six hours suffering, one hour resting. It’s an interesting? But they stood afar off, but you read in the Bible it says in John 19:25, it just gives me chills to think about, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus…” We sing that hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus.” It’s our closing hymn today. “There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopus, and Mary Magdalene.” There she is at Jesus’ feet, standing at his foot, weeping at his feet as he hangs on the cross.

Now what does this say to you and me as Christians? First of all, we as individuals need to spend time at Jesus’ feet beholding him at the cross. “It’s at the cross, at the cross were I first saw the light Where the burden of my soul rolls away.” It’s at the cross that we see God’s power of love and Satan’s love for power. At the cross is where real conversions take place. There’s a statement from Desire of Ages page 83, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point and let the imagination grasp each scene especially the closing ones. As we thus twelve on His great sacrifice for us our confidence in Him will be more constant. Our love will be quickened. We’ll be more deeply imbued with His Spirit. If we would at last be saved we must learn to the lessons of penance and humiliation at the foot of the cross.” We, like Mary, the church collectively and you individually need to spend some time at Jesus’ feet as he’s on the cross. You know I sometimes wish that we could all be right now transported back two thousand years and really see what happened at the scenes of a cross. We would never be the same. And know as you watch him suffer up there that he could stop it at any moment. The Father could stop it at any moment. The reason that they went through with this tremendous sacrifice is because the Lord is shouting to you and me how much he loves us. And when we could see how much we love him or he loves us and how much our sins have hurt him we would be inspired to be more consecrated. What we need is a better picture of Jesus on the cross. Amen? But we don’t leave him there.

The Bible tells us that Mary was also involved in placing him in his tomb. The Bible tells us “and he, Joseph of Arimathea, bought fine linen and took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen” and then it goes on to tell us “and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn and out of rock.” He provided his own tomb. The Bible says, “He made his grave with the rich.” “…and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher.” Now the women were involved. The Bible tells us, “And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.” Now that phrase that “they observed the tomb” does not mean that they stood back as spectators. This is point number six. Observed means oversaw. Joseph bought the linen. They hadn’t the spices yet. Remember they came back Sunday morning to finish anointing him, but they did have the linen. And then they wrapped his body. And you know I have a colorful imagination but as I see those closing scenes when it says the women saw the Greek word is they oversaw. That means they took care of it. They implemented it. They didn’t just stand back and watch. I think that as they wrapped the body of Jesus. Oh, it must have been very difficult for Mary the mother of Jesus. Simon had prophesied that a sword would pierce her own soul. This was that day and maybe she was wrapping his head. But somehow I think that Mary was wrapping his feet as they put Jesus in the tomb. What do you think, friends? So here you’ve got Mary at Jesus’ feet and she’s serving. And it doesn’t mean you only serve when it’s fun. She’s serving with a broken heart, but she’s serving. She was willing to follow him wherever he went because there was this complete devotion which brings us the next point.

She’s now at his feet in song. Can you say amen? It doesn’t leave us in shame. The story of Mary is one of going from shame and it takes us and transitions us all the way to song. You know when you study the scenes of the resurrection it’s very interesting. The Bible says that the first one that gets to the tomb is Mary Magdalene but the tomb is empty. Christ has already resigned. The only witnesses of the resurrection of the enemies, the Roman soldiers and they were of course terrified. The angel came down, it was like lightning, the stone is rolled away. I sort of picture this: Gabriel takes the stone, he doesn’t roll it away. He heaves it and it cracks off on the side somewhere. And the soldiers seeing this they’re terrified and the light is blazing from this chamber of the tomb. The form of Christ comes out. You can understand how overwhelmed with fear and terror the soldiers would be. The dropped their armor and they fled. Shortly after this Mary gets to the tomb. Christ is risen, but he’s hiding. I don’t know a better way to put it, friends. He’s there. He hasn’t yet ascended to heaven because you go to the gospel of John in chapter 21. When Mary does find him, Jesus says, “I’m not yet ascended to heaven.” So Christ has risen. Mary Magdalene comes. She goes away.

She tells the other women that she meets, “I went to the tomb. He’s not there.” The other women come back. When you compare the gospel stories this is the only scenario that works. Mary gets there. He’s not there. She goes and she finds the other women. They all come back together. They find the tomb is empty. They go to tell the men that are in Jerusalem just around the wall so it’s happening very quickly. Jerusalem is just outside of the city or rather the crucifixion scene was just outside of the city. They go to the upper room. Peter and John run full speed to the tomb. They get there. Still no one sees Jesus yet. They all leave. The women leave. Everyone leaves except Mary. She stays there. She doesn’t leave. She gives the report, but she doesn’t leave. And finally after Peter has come and gone, John the disciple of love has come and gone, his own mother has come and gone and Jesus is off hiding in the bushes or behind a tree somewhere. He is in the garden. You know the Bible says that sin began in a garden and God was looking for Adam and Eve in the garden. The solution to sin takes place in a garden too. It’s interesting that Jesus waits until everyone is gone and then Mary stood outside the tomb and she’s weeping and then Jesus comes up to her and she thinks that he is the gardener. Her eyes are swollen. She’s been crying all weekend. She can barely see. Christ maybe had a hood or turban on and she didn’t recognize him at first. The last thing she expected was to see him alive.

She thought that maybe because he had been buried in this rich man’s tomb that maybe someone felt that he wasn’t worthy and they carried him away and she says to this man she thinks is the gardener, “Sir, if you’ve taken him away, tell me where you’ve borne him and I’ll take care of his body.” She won’t leave. Look at that devotion. She says, this feeble, I’m not saying she’s feeble but you know probably a slight, pretty woman she’s going to carry away the form of Jesus. Didn’t know how but she would take care of it because she had love. “Tell me and I’ll take care of him.” And then he says, “Mary.” She recognized that voice because the Bible says seven times before she had heard that voice expel and evict demons that had entered her. Isn’t it interesting it calls her “Mary Magdalene out of whom were cast seven devils.” The Bible says “a righteous man might fall seven times and rise again.” The Bible says “six things are an abomination unto the Lord, yea, seven things are an abomination unto him” and it identifies you’ve heard of the seven deadly sins. But here Mary has seven devils cast out like the church that means she’s given complete victory. That’s what it means. She years that name, that voice again, “Mary.” She looks up.

She says, “Rabboni!” and she falls at his feet and she grabs his feet to worship him and I don’t like the King James Version here. It’s not accurate. It says he said, “Don’t touch me.” It actually reads, “Do not cling to Me because I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and tell them I ascend to My Father to your Father, My God and to your God.” Now you know, friends, that is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Christ waits until Peter, James, John, his own mother have come and gone from the tomb because he is waiting to have a private audience with a prostitute saved by grace. And when everyone else is gone, to punctuate for us, to underscore for us that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, he takes somebody who’s got a terrible reputation, a woman to less, and in that culture that’s really a statement, and he gives the message of the resurrection to Mary. And he says, “I’m going to give you the good news.” So here she sees him alive. The first one to have the privilege to see the victory of the gospel is a prostitute saved by grace that others would not let even touch them. He says, “Now, Mary, I want you to be the one to share the good news.” You ever had good news and you’ve asked if you could tell it? It’s a privilege to share good news. And Jesus waited until everyone was gone.

He says, “Mary go tell Peter, James, John, go tell all of them that I’m alive, that you’ve seen me, that I’ve revealed myself to you.” You know the Lord is telling us that if he could do that for Mary then there’s hope for each one of us. If I was in charge I never would’ve orchestrated things the way Jesus did it. If I was in charge of the resurrection you know what I would’ve done? If I was Christ I would have come forth from my grave and I would’ve first gone maybe to the religious leaders who had condemned me and said, “Aha! Here I am! Now what do you think? You killed me, but I’m alive.” Or I would’ve gone to Herod’s palace who had been mocking me with the purple robe and the thorns and beating me and said, “You want to see a sign? How’s this? I’m alive!” You know I would’ve done things completely different, but Jesus he waits until everyone is gone. He’s so meek and so quiet. He waits until the Roman soldiers are gone and Peter, James, and John, his own mother are gone and he reveals himself to Mary and you think, “Why would he do that?” Because she was the one who would not leave.

He thought, “The only way I’m going to get her out of here is to tell her I’m alive.” Any of you ever read that story about a little dog called Greyfriars Bobby.” Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue did this story for years. It’s a true story about a little terrier and he had this old shepherd master named “Old Jock” is what they called him and Old Jock died and the little terrier watched as his master was buried in Greyfrier’s Churchyard Cemetery and nobody paid attention that when the funeral was over and everybody went back to their business the dog stayed there. And a few days later the dog came into the baker’s house and they said, “Isn’t that Old Jock’s dog?” And they gave him a biscuit and a bone and he went back and disappeared. And pretty soon they followed him and found out that every day he was spending all day rain or shine parked on his master’s grave.

Finally one of the church deacons built a little dog house for him. For the next fourteen years that dog spent every day at the grave of his master because he knew, “This is the last place I saw him. I’m not going anywhere until I see him again.” And you know they buried the dog in the church cemetery, as sort of something they normally don’t do, because of the devotion. And now there’s a statue that’s over there in Scotland, if you go, to Greyfriars Bobby, a little dog, that devotion of a little dog. Look at me. I’m embarrassed. Here I am all puddling up because I’m moved by the devotion of a dog. But it makes me think of Mary’s devotion. She would not leave. That was the last place she had seen him. They had laid his body there Friday afternoon and she says, “They have taken away my Lord...” She doesn’t say the Lord. She says my Lord. “…and I don't know where they’ve laid Him.”

You know, wouldn’t you like to have that kind of experience with Jesus? You need to follow him like Mary. Notice in the Bible the different places, let’s review it again very quickly, where Mary, the stations where we find her at the feet of Jesus. She’s at his feet in the temple finding forgiveness in shame. She’s at his feet praying for her dead brother in sorrow. She’s at his feet listening and learning in study. She’s at his feet in giving sacrifice there in Simon’s house. She’s at his feet beholding as he hangs on the cross. She’s at his feet in service as they plant him in the tomb. Then she’s at his feet worshipping him and then later proclaiming him as the Savior. You know what else is really wonderful about this story? The last time you hear Mary’s name mentioned in the whole gospel is after Jesus commissions her to tell the whole world. You never hear about her again. She was probably in the upper room but her name is never uttered again. The last image that we’ve got of Mary is her heart singing and she’s running as fast as she can to Jerusalem to tell them that he’s alive. And that’s what the message of the church is. We’ve gone through these different positions of conversion experience.

We are so thankful for being forgiven for our sins that we want to serve and we want to behold him and we want to surrender to him; we want to intercede that others might be saved, but the last thing is that Mary is going for Jesus. First she comes just as she is, a prostitute caught in adultery. Last we see her going to proclaim him as a resurrected and soon coming savior. Amen? This is the story of salvation. Not only is it what we go through, it’s what the church needs to go through. We need to spend more time at Jesus’ feet. We might need to spend more time weeping at Jesus’ feet. There’s too much doctrine in the world today about this giddy sloppy-agape doctrine that Christianity is supposed to be a carnival. Christianity is about salvation from sin. It’s about turning away and repentance and confession. There’s some serious things there. Then the song and the joy comes after we know Jesus is alive when we’ve been forgiven and cleansed from our sins. Would you like to have the experience of Mary? Then we like Mary need to spend time at Jesus’ feet especially as we behold him on the cross. We love him because he first loved us. Turn please in your hymnals to 303. This is one of my favorite hymns. “Beneath the cross of Jesus I feign would take my stand” and if that’s your prayer stand with me as we sing 303 in our hymnals.

Beneath the cross of Jesus I feign would take my stand, The shadow of a mighty rock Within a weary land; A home within the wilderness, A rest upon the way, From the burning of the noontide heat, And the burden of the day.

I take, O cross, thy shadow For my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than The sunshine of His face; Content to let the world go by, To know no gain nor loss, My sinful self my only shame, My glory all the cross.

In a moment we’re going to pray and before I pray I just want to extend the appeal a moment longer. Some of you may be feeling this battle going on in your heart, the spirit and the flesh, your pride and your need at war with one another. If you hear the Lord knocking, don’t tell him, no. You’ll never be sorry you said yes to Jesus. You can still come right now. Is there someone else? Some of you have been struggling with the decision to be baptized. You can come now because you want to be. It doesn’t mean that we won’t talk and pray with you first. It’s your decision. But if you’d like to come even with your doubts, come now and bring them to Jesus. Come just as you are. Let’s pray together.

Father in heaven, Lord, I believe today that in its essence we’ve heard the simplicity of the gospel that all of us are big sinners and you are a big savior and we marvel at your love for us because we are so unworthy, but we are so thankful, Lord, that you can take our lives just as you did Mary. You can turn us around and the gospel story is how you take somebody who is a sordid, sinful prostitute like Mary and you turn her into a virgin in your eyes and then commission her with the good news and make her pure. Lord, I pray that we can be among those who are found without spot and wrinkle because of the blood and the mercy of Jesus. Bless each of these people today especially those who have come forward with whatever their respective needs might be. Fill them with your Spirit. Help them to enjoy and experience that cleansing. And those who are making decisions about being part of your people in baptism give them the courage to take a stand. Help them know that there never will be a day when following Jesus is popular or politically correct. Help them to put you and your word as the priority in their lives. Bless us as our meetings continue and I pray that you’ll fill this church as a congregation with your Spirit as we follow Jesus from shame to song. In his name we pray. Amen.

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Daniel: A Reader's Guide by William H. Shea

Daniel: A Reader's Guide by William H. Shea
God's Promises




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