Monday, September 30, 2013

What Mary Magdalene Teaches Us About Conversion and Loyalty

During Jesus' mortal ministry he spent most of his time in Galilee.  In Galilee he gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), healed the sick (Matt. 8), called and ordained his Twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13-19), and rebuked the winds and the sea during a storm (Matt. 8).  Matthew 9:35 tells us that "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people."  Luke 8:1 agrees, "he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him."

At some point during his traveling he entered the city of Magdala, teaching and healing, and came upon a woman named Mary who had a terrible affliction.  The record tells us that he healed her of seven devils (Luke 8:2).  Jesus' healing power came upon those who had faith in him, and many times he said, "Thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matt. 9:22, Luke 8:48)  or "Thy faith hath saved thee" (Luke 7:50).  Therefore, it is likely that Mary of Magdala had heard of Jesus, probably heard him speak and/or seen him heal, and believed that he could take away her affliction.  And so it was for her.

The joy and relief she must have experienced was surely profound!  In fact, not only did she become another individual witness of Jesus' power to heal and that he was indeed the Messiah, she also became a disciple of true devotion.  She is among the women, named and unnamed, who "ministered unto him of her substance" (Luke 8:3).  And not only while Jesus ministered in Galilee, but she followed him from place to place in order to take care of his physical needs (Matt. 27:55, Mark 15:41).

It is recorded that she was near the cross when Jesus was crucified (Matt. 27:56, Mark 15:40, John 19:25) and also at the burial, so grief-stricken she could but sit against the sepulcher (Matt. 27:61, Mark 15:47).  Her devotion and gratitude was such that she did not abandon her Lord during the darkest moments.  She did not turn away and seek safety for herself.  She witnessed his death and his hasty burial, always near him.

Why Weepest Thou?, by Liz Lemon Swindle
In her piety and faithfulness to her Jewish customs, she had to wait until the Sabbath was over before she could minister to his body and provide a proper burial.  So, "as it began to be dawn toward the first day of the week" (Matt. 28:1) Mary Magdalene and other women, at the very first moment possible, hurried to the sepulcher.  The different accounts vary in the exact chronology of events, but in all cases, Mary hurried, it turned out, to find the sepulcher empty and the body of her Lord, Master, healer, teacher, and friend, was gone.

In John's account, Mary stood outside the sepulcher weeping over this further source of heartbreak (John 20:11).  Couldn't she at least have his body to gently care for before the tomb was permanently sealed?  The enemies had already claimed victory by having Jesus crucified, could she not at least provide him the dignity of a good burial?  Her love and loyalty is evident in her continued attempts to be near him, or at least, where she had last seen evidence of him, longing to continue to care for him as she had for some months or years prior.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, "the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty."  Mary of Magdala was loyal.  She was loyal because she loved the Savior and knew what it was like to be redeemed from an awful state, and now, from the events of the previous few days, she knew that it was by a terrible price.  She knew that healing from affliction could come by his word and his hands.  And she never turned away from him or failed to serve him, all the way until the end of his mortal ministry.  She literally followed him as a true disciple.

Christ and Mary at the Tomb, by Joseph Brickey
It is both fitting and wonderful that, on that sacred morning, Mary was the first to see the risen Lord even before he had ascended to the Father (Mark 16:9, John 20:14-18).  She recognized his voice when he called her by name and responded with meekness and humility calling him, "Rabboni; which is to say, Master" (John 20:16).

There is no further mention of Mary Magdalene but her story is one that can inspire us to seek the healing power of Christ, become personal witnesses of his atoning power, and then follow him forever after.  Our love will be crowned by our loyalty to him.  And then our faithful discipleship will someday be crowned with a sweet and joyous reunion with him, as our triumphant Savior.

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