St. Mary Magdalene 2018

St. Mary Magdalene
July 22, 2018
St. John 20:1-2, 10-18

In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The reason we observe Saints’ days in the Lutheran Church is so that we can remember how God, in His mercy and grace, has dealt with sinners in the past. Saints on earth are not without sin. Saints were real people with real problems and real sin. But they were also men and women of faith, who trusted in the all-atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. They are models for us of what it means to be a Christian—repentant sinners with trust in Jesus for forgiveness. They can also be commended for the good, outward works that they performed as they sought to live like Christians. In this way they are important for us as heroes and role models of the Christian life.

Except for Mary, the mother of our Lord, no other woman in the New Testament receives the attention from the Evangelists that Mary Magdalene does. Magdalene is not her last name, but rather a description, an adjective. It is like the name “Jesus Christ,” with “Christ” being a description of who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the Messiah. But it is even more like the name: Joseph of Arimathea, without the “of.” She is called Magdalene because she came from a town called Magdala, which is near Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus would have gone through that town many times during his time near the Sea of Galilee. Andrew, Peter, James, and John would have grown up and worked near there.

But Mary is not known primarily because of where she came from, but for what the Lord did for her and later what she would do for the disciples. Both Mark and Luke record that Jesus cast out seven demons from her and that afterward she became a follower of Jesus and supported His journeys from her own means (Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2-3). However, all four Gospels record that she was the first one to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection, and she was the one who announced the resurrection to the Apostles. Any time all four Gospels record an event, it’s worth special note. Some Church Fathers have also named her as the woman who wept over and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair at Simon the Pharisee’s house. The one who was a notorious sinner. There is some doubt concerning her identity as Mary Magdalene, because Luke doesn’t name her in that account.

“It is also the tradition to think [that she was] Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. Whether this is the case or not, cannot be proven from Scripture, though it is in no way contrary to Scripture. The piety of our fathers found this story so moving, the woman so emblematic of themselves in their sorrow over sin and joy over forgiveness, that she had to have a name and a larger role in the life of Our Lord. It was easy to speculate that these three women might be the same woman. Indeed, a common thread runs through them all. Mary Magdalene was freed of demons and saw the resurrected Lord. Mary the brother of Lazarus saw her brother’s resurrection and was eager for the day of her own. The penitent woman who anoints the Lord’s feet exhibits joy and confidence in His work and in the Day to come.”[1]

But for our purposes this morning, let’s just consider the accounts that mention her by name. Although two Gospels mention the exorcism as a parenthetical, almost a brushing remark, this is really a significant event in her life. She was burdened by the devil and evil spirits in a real, tangible way that hurt her and made her life miserable. Jesus stepped into her life and relieved her of this pain and suffering by casting out those seven demons. This is representative of our life before coming to faith in Jesus, and even a fitting example of how we struggle and suffer with sin even after becoming Christians.

We don’t normally stop and think about non-Christians this way and we definitely don’t typically think about un-baptized babies this way, but this is the reality. It is clearly taught in Scripture and confessed in our Lutheran Confessions. Prior to coming to faith, a person, no matter how old or how young, is by nature, at odds with God. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This means that everyone born according to nature, is brought into this world at odds with the kingdom of God—born in sin. Our Confessions clearly say that “Since the fall of Adam, all human beings who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin. This means that from birth they are full of evil lusts and inclinations and cannot by nature possess true fear of God and true faith in God….this same innate disease and original sin is truly sin and condemns to God’s eternal wrath all who are not in turn born anew through baptism and the Holy Spirit.”[2] This is the serious truth about sin and about those outside the Christian Church. They are apart from God, at odds with God, even against God. This is how we all were before coming to the faith and being Baptized.

·         Baptism no light matter.

·         It actually makes Christians

·         It drowns the old and gives birth to the new

·         It establishes a saving relationship with God

·         It changes the life of the person; they even act differently.

The life after baptism is a life of learning the baptismal realities by attending church, reading scripture, learning how to live as a Christian, etc.

St. Mary’s exorcism by our Lord is a picture of baptism. The devils are cast out and faith in Christ is established. Mary believed that Jesus was the Christ and her life after the exorcism was consistent with that. She followed Him, loved Him, supported His work out of her means, followed Him to the cross, came early to His tomb to care for His body, conversed with the risen Lord, and took that message of resurrection and hope back to the disciples.

That is what Christians do. This is the story of your life in Christ. You are born anew in the waters of Holy Baptism. You have been exorcised of the devil and all his works. You believe in Jesus as your Savior, having faith implanted in you by the Holy Spirit. You were set on the path of the Christian life, hearing and learning God’s Word from parents, Sunday School teachers, Christian friends, and Pastors. All of you are at some point on that road, whether newly baptized, or mature in the faith. You are being nurtured and brought up in that faith. You continue this throughout life by coming to church, surrounding yourself with Christian family and friends, praying, reading Scripture, doing good works, helping your neighbor, confessing your sin, receiving forgiveness, and passing the message of salvation on to your children, your friends, and those God has placed around you.

Thank the Lord for preserving Mary’s story for us to encourage us in the faith.

In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.

[1] Petersen, 2007.

[2] AC, II.

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