Tag Archives: Holy Week Meditations for 2012

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Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

This is the seventh and concluding post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts. Annette and I, as well as the staff here at Desert Stream Ministries, wish you a deeply blessed Easter. He is Risen!

Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

Why was Mary Magdalene the first disciple Jesus entrusted with His resurrection? According to John’s Gospel, Peter and John raced to the empty tomb but could not comprehend Christ resurrected.

Both John the Beloved and Peter the Rock saw evidence but did not see. After hearing countless prophecies from Jesus, ‘they still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead.’ (Jn 20:9)

Peter and John left the empty tomb and went home, perhaps too weary and overwhelmed to grasp the truth. One can see and not see. Jesus entrusted this sight to Mary Magdalene. How strange for her. She wanted the powerful disciples to make sense of the empty tomb. She bid them come and they left, disoriented. Mary lingered at the tomb, weeping.

She wept and lingered there. That was her great gift, this evidence of intimacy with Jesus. For what else better defines intimate reliance upon another but weeping and lingering? Love alone provokes tears for another; love alone compels us to wait, to abide, to linger. These simple expressions of intimacy—tears and lingering—are the basis for her authority.

From her first encounter with Jesus, washing His feet with her tears as the Pharisee looked on aghast, to this last recorded encounter at the tomb, Mary wept. She embodied a tender and profound dependence upon Jesus. In brokenness, she clung to Him; His holiness absorbed her shame and transformed Mary into a radiant, radical disciple.

Naked surrender to Jesus—a gift of her more responsive gender and of her heightened vulnerability to false intimacy—made Mary trustworthy. She knew her cure. Lustful men had only served to fracture her, to take pieces of her; religious men then condemned her for it. Only One gave her form, made her whole. Jesus’ life became hers.

God chose an ex-prostitute to bear witness of that Life—the Resurrection–the most important event in human history. Are you beginning to understand why the Roman Catholic Church named her the ‘Apostle of the Apostles?’

Mary’s life with Jesus testified: with Him, she could do anything. When He died, she discovered the painful corollary: without Him, nothing. That’s why the grief. Grief grounded her at the tomb. Hope sustained her.

She had nowhere else to go. So she waited at the tomb, weeping and lingering. Here we see the deep broken ground of her heart, awaiting reunion with the Beloved. Her response to two angels concerning her tears is telling: she was not awed by them but concerned only about Him—‘Someone took Jesus away—where is HE?’ (Jn 20: 12, 13)

Then Jesus appeared to her, glorified and not yet apparent to Mary. She asked Him to tell her where Jesus was so she could retrieve His body from the hands of temple robbers. He spoke her name, opened her eyes, and reclaimed her life with His raised one. (vs. 14-16)

Reunion. Grief transformed to joy. My hunch is she wanted Him, desired only to be with Him, to weep with gratitude and linger with Him, alone. Jesus dethrones her desire. Instead of extending comfort, Jesus commissions her: ‘Don’t hold onto Me. Tell my brothers!’ (v.17)

I think of thousands of peers and friends around the world whose lives mirror Mary’s. Most know deep brokenness. Surrendered to Jesus, they in turn know Jesus well. He is their integrity, their wholeness. Will we hear Jesus’ words afresh this Easter? Will we, grateful for every sin He has assumed, every wound He has won, every cross He enables us to carry, not hold onto Him? Will we rather, empowered afresh with the Spirit of His new life, run with Mary and proclaim from our depths: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v. 18)

Will we stop waiting for someone else to do what we alone can do? Will we stop deferring to ‘important’ disciples but rather ask Jesus to make us faithful witnesses? To proclaim how Life has subsumed our brokenness and set us free?

I urge you this Easter: follow Mary’s example. Rise up and reveal His new life through yours. Easter has enlisted you as a member of the Magdalene Army.

‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back…

You will spread out to the left and to the right; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth, and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His Name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth.’ (Is. 54: 2-5)

He is Risen

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 6

This is the sixth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 6

Mary Magdalene wept and lingered at the Cross. The Man who had become her life died. His death rocked the earth, split the temple, and broke her heart. The tears of repentance and gratitude with which she had washed His feet became a flood of grief. She watered His nail-split feet. Apart from Him, she could do nothing. She had nothing; His life was hers. She filled the void with tears.

He had founded a new life in her. Now grief grounded her, kept her near Him. When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus transferred Jesus’ body to a tomb, she followed Him there. Did the myrrh and aloes with which they embalmed Him remind her of the perfume with which she had so boldly baptized Him unto His death a few days earlier?

Lingering gives one time to remember, to allow the life that has passed to speak once more. Perhaps Mary recalled His words:

‘I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. A woman giving birth has pain, but when the baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a baby has been born into the world. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again…’ (Jn 16: 20-22)

She wept and lingered at the empty tomb. She remembered. Deeper than her grief was her trust in the One who promised to return. How? When? Who can know? Grief kept her from racing away, from returning to the old life, from despair. Grief grounded her and freed her to linger. The Spirit broods over those who wait and remember and weep. Sometimes hope can be conceived only in broken, still ground.

‘Even in darkness, light shines for the upright.’ (PS 112:4)

Perhaps Mary recalled these words:

‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I put my hope. More than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchman wait for the morning.’ (PS 130: 5, 6)

‘Who have I but You? Earth has nothing I desire but You. My flesh and heart may fail, but You are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.’ (PS 73: 25, 26)

The other disciples went home, confused, disoriented, worn out. Mary Magdalene waited. She lingered and wept at the tomb for hours, hours became a day then another. She was poured out, like when she first washed His feet with her tears, or when He cleansed her with a mighty deliverance, or when she broke open the perfume on His head. She remembered Him being poured out on the Cross, the flood of blood and water. He gave everything to her. She remembered.

She was His—where else would she go? She waited alone at the empty tomb, an empty vessel whose hope lay only in a few words. But those words were His. She recounted them and they sustained her. Trust sweetened her grief. She waited.

Jesus' crucifixion. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872)

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 5

Jesus' crucifixion. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872)

This is the fifth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 5

Weeping and lingering were the earmarks of Mary’s authority. These are the signs of holy intimacy; tears of gratitude spilt while abiding in His love, and tears of grief over the loss of love.

Mary Magdalene witnessed that loss at Calvary. God entrusted her, along with Jesus’ mother and a couple other women, to abide with Jesus as He was led to the Cross. They had followed Him from Galilee to Golgotha ‘to care for His needs.’ (Matt. 27:57) Unlike the others, these women went the distance with Jesus.

Mary was among the few who did not abandon Him. She lingered, she waited; we can assume that she made every effort to console Him. Yet in the end, her efforts were futile. Imagine the frustration; she could do nothing to stave off His suffering. To behold Him hemorrhaging, His wounds fanning out like fissures upon His crimson body, and she powerless! Before His tormentors and His torment, she could only weep.

Perhaps a parent witnessing the agonizing death of its child, or a spouse attending to the passing of a lifetime partner can begin to grasp Mary’s suffering.

The difference? Jesus was her Savior. She believed He was ‘I AM.’ She staked her life on it. She could say authoritatively with the Psalmist: ‘His unfailing love is better than life’ (PS 63:3)—better than the old misbegotten one—‘His Mercy has given me the only life worth living!’

Everything He had became hers; in turn she had surrendered her life to Him. He had become her life. When the temple and earth cracked at His death, so did her foundation. Her life was built on His, and He died.

Meditating on John 15: 1-8, I thought of Mary: He was the vine, she the little branch. He delivered her from her old life and its demons; He pruned her. He filled her with holy love, made her clean through the many Words of life He spoke to her. She had become a fruitful expression of divine love. She knew that ‘apart from Him she could do nothing.’ (Jn 15: 5) Then He died.

You can say that she knew He was going to die and that she had faith for resurrection. Maybe she did. But nothing could have prepared her for his shocking end and the only natural conclusion one can draw: He is gone.

Mary Magdalene fulfilled Jesus’ words in John 12 when He prophesied His death, and ours, at Calvary: ‘Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it remains alone…Whoever serves Me must follow Me; for where I am, My servant also will be.’ (Jn 12: 24,26)

Mary went to Calvary with Jesus, weeping and lingering there. When He died, she died too. Mary knew that the servant is not greater than the Master.

Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Jesus Christ, watched by the apostles. Original Artwork: Engraving by W Greatbach after the painting by Rubens. (Photo by Spencer Arnold/Getty Images)

Intimate Authority Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Jesus Christ, watched by the apostles. Original Artwork: Engraving by W Greatbach after the painting by Rubens. (Photo by Spencer Arnold/Getty Images)

This is the fourth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.


Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene, in her recognition and reliance upon her Merciful Deliverer, became authoritative in holy love. Tears of remorse became gratitude. Peace, love and joy dwelt in her depths now. Degradation and accusation became distant relatives that she could refuse.

You could say that sexual brokenness, surrendered to Him, made her strong. Her weakness invited His power; whenever tempted by the old kingdoms, she had only to draw near to Him. Her gender made a difference here. She possessed that beautiful responsiveness which Jesus, the whole Man, cleansed and ignited with holy love. He became her center; His pure, strong light lit her from within.

Her redeemed womanhood, combined with her moral vulnerability (we are usually not delivered from all susceptibility to our pasts), forged a dependency upon Him that was qualitatively different from that of the other disciples. While other men had shamed and fractured her further, Jesus’ presence set her free. Her wholeness was bound up in His life, her holiness in the intimacy they shared.

In gratitude, she gave all that she had to Him. That is evident in another extravagant display of worship. Mark describes her anointing Jesus with oil, breaking open an intensely fragrant and expensive bottle and pouring it over Him in front of everyone! Like the Pharisee in Luke 7, Jesus’ band was not impressed by Mary’s slavish, wasteful ‘worship.’ (Mk 14: 1-11).

Mark’s account differs significantly from Luke’s. It takes place just prior to Jesus initiating His Holy Supper with the disciples. Luke recounts Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and with oil, but Mark describes Mary anointing His head, a sign of familiarity with Him. She knew Him now, and like any devoted woman, understood what Jesus’ male friends didn’t. Jesus was going to die.

She was anointing His body for His death. In the old kingdom, Mary must have used such oil to enliven her customers. She saved the best for last, to inaugurate the New Kingdom opened to all through the Cross. Mary had surrendered all to Him and Jesus redeemed it all, even the tricks of her trade, to fulfill His purposes.

Marvelous to me is her obedience in light of the social shame she still provoked. ‘Some were indignant’ (v. 4); the scorn started early on with the Pharisee in Lk 7 and continued with Jesus’ disciples until the end. ‘Once a bad girl, always a bad girl…’ The traditions of men endure, even in the twice-born. The beauty of Mary? Shame never stopped her. She endured the shame for the joy set before her, the gift of knowing Him intimately and loving Him extravagantly.

What is costly worship for you? What do you offer Jesus that is often misunderstood by others and yet gives glory to Your Creator and Redeemer? I think of my peers with histories of same-sex attraction (a hard enough disclosure) who audaciously testify that Jesus is setting them free from its domination (harder still to confess in our gay-friendly age). For every ‘Amen’, that witness of Jesus’ redeeming power provokes a shake of the head or even a warning to not damage someone by giving them false hope.

What do you offer publicly to Jesus that is costly, fragrant, and scorned? May Mary’s worship set you free to worship Him with renewed audacity.

‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for Me…I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mk 14: 6, 9)

forgive

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 3

This is the third post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 3

Intimacy with Jesus made an ex-prostitute the bearer of the most important event in human history.

God entrusted a woman, not one of the 12, with Christ’s resurrection. That’s why the Roman Catholic Church names Mary Magdalene the ‘Apostle of Apostles.’

Mary’s surrender to Christ was marked by weeping and lingering, two earmarks of loving another with all one’s heart. Such sustained intimacy gave Mary authority. Such reliance on Jesus gives us authority.

Mary’s life also demonstrates how Jesus exchanges our false attachments for His faithful, unfailing love. False intimacy is no match for His Mercy. And false intimacy can be a degrading and cruel master. God wants to elevate our sexuality to the level for which He intends it—the authentically human in which our desires are subsumed by a passion for Himself and thus transformed.

No easy or tidy task. False intimacy dehumanizes us and the enemy of our souls fights hard to keep us bound. Satan rules a kingdom of unrealities that seems real enough to seduce us until it cripples our capacity to overcome evil with the good. The face of Mercy in Jesus Christ shines on us then picks a fight with that kingdom. Mercy takes hold of our hearts and asks each of us: who will you serve?

Weakened by devotion to the sensual gods, subject to the scorn of the Pharisee without and within, our change seems hopeless. But God’s Kingdom in Christ is true, and is thus far more powerful than the silky illusions of our enemy.

In the sexual arena, I have witnessed deliverance—the clash of one Kingdom overcoming the lesser one—occurring after relationship with Christ is established. Like Mary, we need to know Him first, to trust His advocacy amid the shame of our weakness and religious judgment. And He needs to know that we will serve Him alone. He does not want to purge a house that has no intention of staying true to its owner; Jesus knows that demons return 7-fold to the fickle home. (Lk 11: 23-26)

He is faithful. Relying on Him alone, we cooperate with the Master as He thoroughly cleans house from the ungodly residue left by our false intimacies.

Mary exemplifies this. After she lingered with tears at Christ’s feet next to the Pharisee and joined the disciple’s band, Jesus delivered her of seven demons. (Lk 8:2)

Intimacy invites deliverance. We recognize Him and we rely upon Him, going where He goes, and He in His powerful mercy, cleanses us. I love the ease and naturalness with which Mary’s deliverance must have occurred. The closer we get to Him, the nearer we come to freedom, even from dark and destructive things that are so familiar we do not even recognize them as evil.

We must never romanticize or trivialize false intimacy. It is costly. Sexual violations of all sorts invite unclean spirits to lodge themselves in our depths and to hide there. But when we realize as Mary did that Jesus is not going to reject us and that our cure lies only in nearness to Him, then we will be unafraid to come into His Presence. We will not be shocked at the cleansing He has yet to do!

Annette and I each experienced significant deliverances from unclean spirits long after our walk with Jesus began. Mine involved familiar spirits tied to longstanding exposure to pornography, hers involved a spirit of control that she relied upon after the devastation of rape from an adult relative when she was 4-years-old. Our ‘Kingdom clash’ occurred willfully and prayerfully with the help of trustworthy, discerning saints. After the tussle, we each had a new authority to choose Life and to resist mental and moral strongholds that we had tolerated.

We must not be afraid that our residual brokenness will contaminate Christ or His community. We just enter in as Mary did—looking for every opportunity to worship and serve Him. He knows our hearts. We can know that no matter how broken and yes, still unclean we may be, He will deliver us!

The key is not coming under the Pharisee—the accusing, critical gaze. Like Mary, we must exercise courage to come as we are, our ragged, divided hearts intact, and cast ourselves upon His merciful feet. Like Mary, we must learn to weep and linger there. Our deliverance will come, is coming, will come!

Leanne Payne says it like this: ‘In seeking only Him who is our righteousness we begin to see more clearly and purity of heart and life ensues…Jesus assures us and we know most certainly that He will remove the wheat from the chaff, that He will transform the desire where and when necessary, and that He will elevate it to higher places when our perception of His will for our lives is too low.’

Deliverance strengthens our reliance upon the Deliverer, and grants us a godly fear of sin and spiritual darkness. We should have a holy regard for the kingdoms of this world, especially those we have participated in. We remember Mercy, the grace He gave us to know Him and to follow Him alone. We become a people of One House, One Kingdom, united with Christ. Where else can we go, how else can we live? He alone has the keys to life.

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