Lessons from Mary Magdalene

John 20:10–18

[10] Then the disciples went back to their homes. [11] But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. [13] They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” [14] Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” [16] Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). [17] Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” [18] Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

In High school, I took a bunch of music classes. Music theory, music technology, choir, and others. I took all those music classes. I passed all of them. I still remember a lot of what I learned. The different notes, how chords work, all those different shapes and symbols on sheet music. I know how to use basic recording equipment. The only problem is that I can’t play music, I can’t look at a piece of music, sit down at an instrument and play it. My actual music skills consist of knowing where a “c” is on piano, 3 chords on a guitar and I remember the tabs for a couple star wars songs. I have the head knowledge but when I actually put that knowledge to practice there is a gap. There is a gap between my head and heart, my desire to play music. I want to be able to play guitar, I know how they work, what the strings are, but I can’t play them. 

Maybe you know a lot about something. You can tell me all about the “Science” of something but when it comes to actually getting down and doing that thing, you simply can’t. It’s not for a lack of knowledge but a lack of skill. Maybe you have a gap between your head, your knowledge, and your heart, your desires for habits.

Mary Magdalene is just like you and me in this regard. She spent a lot of time with a teacher she really loved. She sat at his feet. She was taught by him, but yet when that knowledge needed to turn into action, there was a gap. There was a gap between her head and her heart. 

Jesus had been crucified and buried. We just celebrated this last week with Easter. He had risen, the tomb was empty. Peter and John ran to the tomb ahead of Mary and saw it empty and ran off, trying to figure out what had happened. Mary stayed. She stayed and wept. Her savior, her friend, her teacher, was gone. She didn’t know where he was. 

She is feeling far away from her teacher and friend. He is not there. She says multiple times in our text that she wants to know where Jesus is. She is looking for Him. If we look at Mary, we will see that you and I are like her in a few ways. 

  1. Mary was a sinner who had her Sin exposed by Jesus.

We are told in Luke 8 and Mark 16, that Mary, at one point had seven Demons cast out of her. Her sin was great. We don’t know all the details but Jesus cast all seven of the demons out. He took her sin, exposed it, and cast it out of her. She no longer had seven demons, but she had a savior whom she loved and adored and learned from.

Jesus does the same to us. He takes our sin, exposes it, and deals with it. That is the work he did on the cross. The passive obedience of Christ. He justifies us. He went to the cross as a payment for our debt: 

Romans 3:23–25

[23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Our sin had torn our relationship with God and through Jesus, exposing our sin, showing us our need of a savior, Jesus redeems and reconciles us. That is what he did for Mary and that is what he does for us. He takes our sin, exposes it, deals with it, forgives it. Mary is a forgiven sinner and so are we.

  1. Mary Knew what Jesus said and taught

Luke 10, tells us that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. She knew what he said, she knows what he claimed. She had heard him say that he would be raised on the third day. She knew he said he was going to die. She had the head knowledge.

I am sure I could ask you guys about stories in the Bible, or what Jesus said, and you would probably get it right. You know the stories. You have head knowledge. And that is a good thing. We should know it, we should know songs, and stories, and verses. 

But just like my musical training, if I want to play music, I can’t just have the head knowledge about music, but I must practice and practice and practice. I need to sit at the piano and play a bunch of notes poorly and slowly and over time I will get better at. 

We should know all about the bible, who is who and what happened. But that head knowledge is most beneficial when it translates into heart knowledge. Mary knew all that Jesus had taught, that he would be raised on the third day, yet she still searched for his body in the tomb. 

  1. Mary had a disconnect between her head (knowledge) and her heart (actions)

Mary searched for Jesus. She looked for him. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be. She asked the angels, she asked Jesus, who she didn’t recognize, where Jesus’s body was. She wanted to honor her teacher, who wasn’t there. She longed to be with him again, even if he was dead. She longed for her teacher and friend. So she searched. 

In a lot of ways, she is like a lost sheep without a shepherd. Her teacher was gone. She felt hopeless. She was alone. She wanted to sit at his feet and hear him once again. She was lost without him. So she searched.

She should have known this would happen. She had heard him say that he would die. She heard him say that he would be raised on the third day. She should have remembered that as she saw the empty tomb! She should have been calling out for Jesus! Yet she wept, looking for his body. 

Mary is lost. There is a gap between her head and her heart. But like a lost sheep whose shepherd calls out her name, she is comforted when the Good Shepherd calls her by name. “Mary”. She searched for Jesus, her friend, teacher, and savior. She searched and found not a distant Jesus who is dead, but a living savior who has conquered death.

If I want to learn how to play music, I cannot just study music theory, I can’t just know the ins and outs of the science behind music. I need to sit down at a piano and practice. I’ll play all the wrong notes at first, but If I keep it up over time I can get better and better. 

I cannot be content just knowing about Jesus. What he said, what he did. I need to let that “head” knowledge change my “heart” my action, my life, my habits. So Often I say things like “I know I should read my bible or I know I should pray…” but I don’t. Often I have a disconnect between what I know and what I do. 

I need to learn from Mary here. Even If I don’t fully understand what I am doing. I need to search for Jesus. I need to take action in order to draw near to him. Mary searched for Jesus, even though she thought he was dead, and she found a risen savior. 

We need to take action. We need to search for Jesus. We need to look for our shepherd. A good shepherd will search for his sheep. The Good Shepherd will show up. 

As we learn to seek him out, in prayer, in Bible reading, in journaling, or any other spiritual discipline. It may be awkward. It may be hard. Learning to play the piano means that you start by playing all the wrong notes. But over time your fingers learn where they are supposed to go, your ears know how it is supposed to sound. It becomes second nature.

When picking up the Bible for the first time or praying, it may be hard to focus, it may be challenging to pay attention, or know what to say.  I have found that journaling my thoughts helps a lot in this area. When we draw near to him, he draws near to us.

Seek him out, search for him. He will show up. It will be awkward. But it will be good. Draw near to him, he will draw near to you. Learn to play the piano.

But it doesn’t just end there. Mary searched for Jesus. She drew near to him. But what does Jesus ask her to do? He tells her to Go, to not cling to him. To go tell others that he is risen, that he is alive, that we are united with him. That his God is our God, His father is our father. So as we seek out Jesus, and draw near to him, we need to be going and telling others about Him, we need to go and proclaim who Jesus is and what he has done. 

Draw near to him. And help others do the same. 

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