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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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)

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Reunion

‘He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.’ (Mk 16:6)

Resurrection is reunion: Jesus, torn from His Father, now returns to Him. Evil demanded payment: crucifixion, the vast distance between God and God.
Love crossed over that gap, conquering sin and death.

Resurrection is the ultimate Father/Son reunion.

Every Easter, God extends to us a fresh invitation to reenter that reunion.
Jesus descended into hell to get us out of there.
He rose again into perfect union with His Father, that we might join Him there.

His reunion with the Father becomes ours, His triumph over sin and death becomes ours. The afflicting power of our ‘sin-sickness’ no longer prevails;
the sheltering, empowering love of our Father does.

Resurrection insists on it.
‘The resurrection of Christ is a sign of God’s purpose and power to restore His creation to its full stature and integrity.’ Alister McGrath

Resurrection ‘lays the foundation for a completely new life, a new order. In Christ, we become completely different men and women in the very depths of our beings.’ Christoph Blumhardt

Through His cross, Christ grants us a share in His suffering; how much more does He, the risen Christ, delight in granting us full rights and privileges as beloved children of the Father?

Jesus has transformed the burning sand into a pool, the cross of suffering into reunion with our Heavenly Father. May His triumph be ours this Easter—full of the same comfort, confirmation, and confidence that Jesus now shares with His Father.

Rejoice!

Isaiah 35
“The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly, and shout for joy…
Strengthen the feeble hands, and steady the knees that give way;
Say to those with fearful hearts: ‘Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution to save you.’
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs…
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it: it will be for those who walk in that Way…
But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

‘You will go out with joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands…’ (Is 55:12)

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight that what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Marriage is Male and Female

Gender matters in marriage. As we saw yesterday, the distinctly masculine and feminine dimensions of marriage reveal something about God to us, His very image revealed on the earth.

Let us explore this further. Marriage involves the joining together of two distinctive parts: male and female. Wholeness requires ‘otherness. The oneness of body, soul, and spirit that marriage embodies requires essential maleness and femaleness. There is no one-flesh union apart from the two genders becoming one.

Marriage is not just about friendship and intimacy. It is about the sexual merger of maleness and femaleness. Or according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, a sexual re-merger. My favorite author on the topic of homosexuality, Robert Gagnon, writes:

“The creation story in Gen. 2:18-24 illustrates this point beautifully. An original binary, or sexually undifferentiated, adam is split down the side to form two sexually differentiated persons. Marriage is pictured as the reunion of the two other halves, man and woman.

This is not an optional or minor feature of the story. Since the only difference created by the splitting is the creation of two distinct sexes, the only way to reconstitute the whole, on the level of sexual intimacy, is to bring together the split parts. A same-sex erotic relationship can never constitute a marriage because it will always lack the requisite sexual counterparts, or complements.”

Marriage is exclusively the domain of two becoming one. At core and in essence, that involves the joining of male and female. The comprehensive sharing of life in marriage is founded on bodily union. And that union, as we have seen, is made possible only by the sexual complementarity of man and woman.

I will explore that theme of wholeness in two halves further. Suffice to say, ‘gay’ marriage is a contradiction in terms. To seek to become one with the same gender undercuts the Creator’s unwavering intention for marriage. That involves ‘otherness’–male and female.

A wise-man said: “The corruption of society begins by a failure to call things by their proper names.” ‘Gay marriage’ is a fundamental contradiction in terms. To validate a misnomer is to contribute to the corruption of California.
Vote YES on 8. Honor Marriage for the Good of All.

“Help us see things as they are, O God. Raise up the foundational truth of how You see marriage. Open our eyes to the good of man for woman, woman for man.”

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