“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
King James Version
“How God treats sinners who repeatedly fail.”
“Soon afterward, Jesus went on through towns and villages, preaching and bringing the Good News of the gospel of the kingdom of God. And the twelve apostles were with Him. And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases; Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled.”
“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself.”
J. I. Packer
“I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings, there’s nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you.”
A few years ago, my niece Bethanie asked me to help her put a résumé together. She was applying for a new job and wanted to present herself in the most professional way possible. Working to help her assemble facts about her life was a good experience for me because I began to do a little research on what is important when someone is trying to put their “best foot forward.”
Bethanie’s final résumé told where she was born and went to school. It gave her educational and job experience. We highlighted her accomplishments and honors. And to show she was well-rounded we told a little about her hobbies outside of work. Along with her warm personality and a well-written and truthful résumé, she made a great impression and was hired by the first company she interviewed with.
Now let’s just say your résumé starts out like this:
Name: Mary (very common at that time in history)
Address: Magdala (A coastal city)
Work experience: Unknown
Educational Background: Unknown
Health: Possessed by 7 demons
Do you believe you could impress anyone with a résumé that looked like that? I know I couldn’t. Let’s even go one step further. What if someone came to your church and wanted to be a member and this was what they told you about themselves. Do you think everyone would be thrilled to admit Mary of Magdala into the ranks? And what if you had a guest speaker at your church and Mary wanted to sit on the front row? Don’t you think someone might worry that she’d have one of her “demon” attacks right in the middle of the service and embarrass everybody? Let’s be honest, the thought would cross my mind!
And yet – when Jesus gathered a group of faithful followers – disciples – around Him, those who traveled with Him from city to city and town to town, His group included a tax collector, a bunch of rough-neck fishermen, a doubter, a betrayer, a rich woman, a poor man, and a devil possessed woman who kept being visited again and again by the evil one. The Bible says that 7 times Mary had to have Jesus cast out the evil spirit that plagued her mind and tried to destroy her life.
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Mary fell back under the power of the evil one because of her own willfully sinful behavior or if it was a demon that kept attacking a weak soul. Whatever the problem, Mary fell under the spell of the wicked one over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again! Yes! Seven times! And I want to assure you, if Mary had needed Jesus’ healing power eight times – He would have been there to touch her life again. That’s how God treats us when we repeatedly fall. As long as we keep calling out to Him, He will come to us! Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t give us a license to sin freely, knowing our God of love will forgive. Because, as we have already learned, sin is a corrosive agent that destroys anything it touches. However, if through weakness we are overcome, take courage from these words of Jesus, recorded in John 6: 37, “I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me” (John 6: 37, The Good News).
Jesus never turned a deaf ear to Mary’s cry for help. Instead He lifted her up out of a pit of despair. And He kept doing it – even 7 times!
In his book, The Road to Daybreak, Henri Nouwen writes so poignantly about the relationship Jesus had with Mary. Especially at the end of His life on earth when He came to a garden to meet for one last time with this precious woman whom He had repeatedly delivered from the power of evil. Here’s how the scene of Jesus coming to the garden to meet Mary is described:
“When Jesus calls Mary by her name, he is doing much more than speaking the words by which everybody knows her, for her name signifies her whole being. Jesus knows Mary of Magdala. He knows her story, her sin and her virtue, her fears and her love, her anguish and her hope. He knows every part of her heart. Nothing in her is hidden from him. He knows her even more deeply and profoundly that she knows herself. Therefore, when he utters her name he brings about a profound event. Mary suddenly realizes that the one who truly knows her truly loves her…
I can see what a healing moment this encounter must have been. Mary feels at once fully known and fully loved. The division between what she feels safe to show and what she does not dare to reveal no longer exists. She is fully seen and she knows that the eyes that see her are the eyes of forgiveness, mercy, love, and unconditional acceptance.”
Isn’t that wonderful? And isn’t it just like the Son of God, the reflector of our Heavenly Father, to show us how God treats us when we repeatedly fall. He forgives, shows mercy and love, and “unconditional acceptance.” In the words of Patrick, the ‘Apostle of the Irish,’ “I was like a stone lying deep in mud but God that is mighty lifted me on top of the wall.”
There is Nothing That Cannot Be Redeemed
“No one can put together what has crumbled into dust,
but you can restore a conscience turned to ashes;
you can restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope.
With you there is nothing that cannot be redeemed;
you are love, you are Creator and Redeemer;
we praise you singing: Alleluia.”
“Precious in God’s sight you are,
divinely made in God’s delight,
endowed with beauty woven deep within,
brighter than the darkest sin.
Wondrous in God’s sight you are,
though fallen deep, though fallen far,
still full-graced to reach the stars,
to break all chains and burst all bars.
Beloved in God’s sight you are,
whose laser vision probes the years,
who knows the pain, the lonely fears,
and weeps before your hidden tears.
Claimed in God’s sight you are,
who jealously formed you of His seed.
None can claim your special place
or rob you of your given grace.
Free in God’s sight you are,
to rise in rainbow’d glory,
to claim the God-light in your soul
and tell the world your story.
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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