Mary's Spiritual Measurements - John 20 (Part 1)

Robert E. Surgenor

THE RESURRECTION of Christ not only authenticated His ministry; sealed His redemptive work; and marked the beginning of His glorification; it also afforded public proof of God’s acceptance of His sacrifice; and provided the absolute assurance of our resurrection. We may also say, that it caused John to pen some very valuable truths in his gospel for our meditation and enrichment.

I am moved at John’s tender record of a woman who had experienced as great a deliverance as any. Mary, of Magdala, looms before us and John pens seven interesting things about her in chapter twenty. She is mentioned by all of the gospel writers and twelve times we find her described as, “Mary Magdalene. The name of her village means, “Tower,” and if there was ever a woman disciple of Christ that towered in her appreciation of her Lord, it was Mary of Magdala.

In our sevenfold consideration of her we will consider how she measured up to divine standards. In doing so, as you read, you can take it upon yourself to see how you measure up? Can any of us measure up to the standard of Mary of Magdala? Let us continue reading and search honestly our hearts and see.

(1) Mary’s Priorities. “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre.” Why? Simply because that is where the Lord lay. Not only was it the first day of the week, but the Lord was the first person in her thoughts. As far as Mary was concerned, there was not one responsibility of life that took priority before attending the Lord. Let us ask ourselves, is that the case with us? Remember, He is in the midst at every assembly gathering. Am I there if at all possible? It is interesting that there are saints that nothing hinders them from reporting to their employer day after day, but oh, what trivial things seem to keep them from attending the assembly meetings. It is amazing! What are my priorities?

(2) Mary’s Preparation. Joseph and Nicodemus had done all that they could in preparing His body for burial. The godly women said in their hearts, “We will do more!” Yes, nothing is too good for the Lord! There are some that sit back in the assembly and say, “There are more capable people in this assembly than myself that are doing things for Christ, so let them go to it, I can watch.” Not these women! They are not simply bystanders. They did not seemingly have the wealth that the two men had, but what ability they did possess, they were very ready to use it for their Lord. To them, the Perfect Servant’s body lay in the tomb and they as humble servants were going to do all that they could to provide that body even a richer burial. Mark, the servant, tells us, “When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him” (16:1). I’m sure that it was a costly affair to them. Luke tells us that they “prepared” the spices (24:1). Anything worthwhile, done for Christ, is costly and requires preparation.

I am appalled at some of our gatherings at the breaking of bread. Yes, many are there, but are all prepared? Has there been the quiet time Saturday evening of soul searching, confessing, and meditation on the word to obtain some “sweet spices” for our Lord? It is time consuming and thus costly. One cannot be running here and there, or playing games and be an effective worshipper the next morning. We know the language and we can rise and go through the motions with intelligent expressions, BUT, where are the prepared sweet spices? Is it true that instead of being mighty we have become mechanical? May we all search our hearts regarding this failing amongst us.

(3) Mary’s Passion. It is interesting to note the tenderness of this dear saint towards her Lord. John records, “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping” (John 20:11). Hers was the pain and grief. She is now in a state of mourning. There is no checking of her tears. The disciples had gone away to their own home (vs.10), not Mary. She believed that the worst had happened, the stealing of the body. She confesses the reason for her tears. “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” (vs. 13). Ignorance occasioned the tears. We are not ignorant as she was, but is there anything that will produce tears from us? Yes! Intimacy. As Isaac Watts so touchingly wrote:

Thus might I hide my blushing face,
While His dear Cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

How long has it been since your soul was so touched over the sufferings of Christ that you were compelled to weep? How close, dear one, is your intimacy to Him?

(4) Mary’s Perplexity. Mary’s ignorance of the whereabouts of her Lord’s body produced frustration of mind. The atmosphere was uneasy, her spirit was deeply troubled. How different today. We have a divine record that brings hope and peace to our souls. There is no doubt in the believer’s mind as to the whereabouts of our blessed Lord. The place of honor and power are His, expressed in the fact that He is sitting on the right hand of God. Mark testifies; “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (16:19). Peter preached to Israel, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted” (Acts 2:33). He spoke to the Jewish rulers, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour” (Acts 5:31). Stephen at his martyrdom saw “the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Paul mentions the same fact to the Roman Assembly (8:34); the Ephesian Church (1:20); the Colossian saints (3:1); and four times to the Hebrews (1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). Peter sums it all up testifying, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:22).

Today, instead of frustrated souls we have fixed souls. Why is that? Simply because we have One who has been made higher than the heavens and One to whom all power in heaven and in earth has been given (Matt. 28:18). Nothing can happen to us by chance or by accident. There is no such thing as “luck,” whether bad or good. No brethren, all is in His unlimited and unparalleled control. We are in His hand, eternally held. Ours is the privilege to be constantly, “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). An old sister had the following text hanging by the doorway in her home.

If you want to be distracted - Look around.
If you want to be discouraged - Look within.
If you want to be delighted - Look off unto Jesus.

It is sad to see some of God’s dear children expressing frustration. If only they would grasp the fact that their Lord is at the right hand of God and is in full control. True, He allows trials for a multitude of reasons. Some trials are allowed to strengthen us, or to correct us, or to punish us. There are even trials that give us the opportunity to glorify Him in a remarkable way and thus gain a greater reward. There are also trials that cause us to feel, in a deeper measure, our dependence upon Him. Job rightly said, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Thus knowing the supreme position of our risen Lord, we have the confidence that all is well. Laying hold of this not only helps the blood pressure, the nervous system, and the stomach, but it gives us a tranquility of mind that surpasses anything this poor world knows anything about. Well may we take the exhortation given to the Philippians. “Be careful (over-anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:6,7).

Until we meet next month, in the will of God, may the Lord help us to measure up to this devoted soul who had her priorities right, which produced, in her life, sweet spices and tears for her blessed Redeemer and Lord.