The love of Christ is so powerful that it can reach anyone, anywhere at any time. Today, I am going to share the story of a woman with a troubled past, but who personally experienced the transformative power of God's love. The story is so fascinating that it forever stands as a reminder that God's love can reach us no matter where we are in life.
You may know her as Mary, Mary of Magdala. When piecing together the vital facts about this woman's story as revealed in the four Gospels, we learn that she had earned the title "a sinner" (Luke 7:37). The context in reference suggests that she had a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. She is also the Mary of Magdalene discussed in Mark 16:9 as the "one out of whom (Jesus) had cast seven devils." But we know more about her than this. Looking at the evidence, we see that the woman who anointed Jesus' feet in Luke 7:37, 38 was the same one described by John as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha (11:1, 2).
This means that Mary--Mary of Magdala, the sinner--came from a good home in Bethany, one of Jerusalem's better suburbs. Her brother was the highly respected Lazarus, and her sister Martha had earned a reputation for being a super hostess. Mary probably had as happy a childhood as any girl in Judea. That is until Simon the Pharisee, who was Mary's uncle, seduced her. Jesus' parable in Luke 7:40-47 seems to implicate him as the man who had originally ruined her life.
Research shows that young girls who are led this way regularly lose their self-respect and are frequently plagued by severe emotional problems. It is also common for them to keep the secret locked up in their hearts, where the poison of abuse can cause hopelessness. But what could Mary do? Judean social circles had very little compassion for a young girl caught in such a tragedy. Perhaps this is why she chose to flee to the village of Magdala in Galilee--as far away from home as she could go. It was in this village that Mary took a nose-dive into the depths of despair and degradation. A young, intelligent girl raised in a good home, now plunged into all-out immorality.
But in Christ, Mary found something different. He cared for her. His love was not self-interested. Unlike other men she had known, he wanted nothing from her. His influence on her awakened childhood dreams. In His presence, thoughts dawned that she was more than a thing to be discarded; she was a person.
The powerful love of Jesus had started to rebuild Mary. Hope began to arise. Her self-respect was being restored, one interaction at a time. But Mary would need the help that Jesus came to offer. Two of the Gospel writers characterized her as having been possessed by "seven demons" (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9)! Mary would indeed struggle with demons to overcome. Christ's prayers would deliver her, but each time she would fall back into sin. Even Christ's own disciples became impatient with her. This is evident from the way Mark tells the story. I can almost hear them saying, "Let her go--she's had it. Don't waste any more time on her!" But Christ would not let Mary go. He well knew the circumstances that led to her poor decisions and difficulties.
Perhaps you can identify with Mary's experience. You decide to turn your life around. All goes well for a time. But some powerful temptation knocks you down. And no fall hurts like the one that comes after you think you are converted. With Mary, it was the love and patience, and perseverance of Jesus that inspired Mary to get up again, to keep trying. Then it happened. The seventh time Jesus prayed for her, she was delivered. The last demon was cast out. The last root of unbelieving despair.
Mary now realized the power of love as revealed in the gospel. She now realized what it meant to be saved--saved from the penalty and the power of sin. Christ had loved her. He had believed in her. He saw in her what no other man did. And the power of His love transformed her life forever.
It's no wonder we see her resurface during the final days of her Savior's life, with an outpouring of heartfelt appreciation for her deliverance and restoration. It's no wonder that Mary seeks the best possible gift from the best apothecary in town. From that alabaster box came a precious ointment that Mary would pour on her Savior--ointment that would cost Mary three hundred denarii, a worker's wage for a full year. Yet this gift represented her love and gratitude for the only Man who ever valued her, the One who restored her sense of self-worth. His love had reached her just where she was...and she would never be the same.
Friend, you are the beloved of God. Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite soul away. Take courage today. He will not reject any who come to Him penitent and believing. Freely will He pardon all who come for forgiveness and restoration. He did it for Mary. He will do it for you. Let's pray this prayer together:
"Precious Jesus, I am inspired when hearing about Your patience with Mary. When no one else believed in her, You did. I am thankful that, although You know all my secrets, You love me still. Like Mary, I too, have made decisions that I'm not proud of. But today, I bury those mistakes in Your love. May Your love wash away my guilt, my shame, and all my fear. You can have it all right now. I trust You. In Your name, I pray, Amen."
Praying for you--Pastor DL