Lordé─˘s Day 15, 2011
I was glad when they said to me, é─˙Let us go to the house of the Lord.é─¨
Lost but Found.
Horatius Bonar (1808é─ý1889)
é─˙Arte mirâ, miro consilio,
Quærens ovem suam summus opilio,
Ut nos revocaret ab exilio.é─¨ é─ţOld Hymn.
I Was a wandering sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherdé─˘s voice,
I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child,
I did not love my home,
I did not love my fatheré─˘s voice,
I loved afar to roam.
The Shepherd sought his sheep,
The Father sought his child,
They followed me oé─˘er vale and hill,
Oé─˘er deserts waste and wild.
They found me nigh to death,
Famished, and faint, and lone;
They bound me with the bands of love;
They saved the wandering one!
They spoke in tender love,
They raised my drooping head:
They gently closed my bleeding wounds,
My fainting soul they fed.
They washed my filth away,
They made me clean and fair;
They brought me to my home in peace,é─ţ
The long-sought wanderer!
Jesus my Shepherd is,
é─˘Twas He that loved my soul,
é─˘Twas He that washed me in his blood,
é─˘Twas He that made me whole.
é─˘Twas He that sought the lost,
That found the wandering sheep,
é─˘Twas He that brought me to the fold,
é─˘Tis He that still doth keep.
I was a wandering sheep,
I would not be controlled:
But now I love my Shepherdé─˘s voice,
I love, I love the fold!
I was a wayward child;
I once preferred to roam,
But now I love my Fatheré─˘s voice,-
I love, I love his home!
é─ţHoratius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878).
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, é─˙Woman, why are you weeping?é─¨ She said to them, é─˙Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.é─¨ 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, é─˙Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?é─¨ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, é─˙Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.é─¨ 16 Jesus said to her, é─˙Mary!é─¨ She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, é─˙Rabboni!é─¨ (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, é─˙Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, é─˛I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.é─˘é─¨ 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, é─˙I have seen the Lord,é─¨ and that He had said these things to her.
The interview between the Lord Jesus and Mary Magdalene immediately after His resurrection, described in these verses, is a narrative peculiar to St. John. No other Evangelist has been inspired to record it. Of all the accounts of the appearances of our Lord, after He rose from the dead, none perhaps is so affecting and touching as this. He that can read this simple story without a deep interest, must have a very cold and unfeeling heart.Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see, first, in these verses, that those who love Christ most diligently and perseveringly, are those who receive most privileges from Christé─˘s hand. It is a touching fact, and one to be carefully noted, that Mary Magdalene would not leave the sepulcher, when Peter and John went away to their own home. Love to her gracious Master would not let her leave the place where He had been lain. Where He was now she could not tell. What had become of Him she did not know. But love made her linger about the empty tomb, where Joseph and Nicodemus had recently laid Him. Love made her honor the last place where His precious body had been seen by mortal eyes. And her love reaped a rich reward. She saw the angels whom Peter and John had never observed. She actually heard them speak, and had soothing words addressed to her. She was the first to see our Lord after He rose from the dead, the first to hear His voice, the first to hold conversation with Him. Can any one doubt that this was written for our learning? Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, this little incident testifies that those who honor Christ will be honored by Christ.
As it was in the morning of the first Easter day, so will it be as long as the Church stands. The great principle contained in the passage before us, will hold good until the Lord comes again. All believers have not the same degree of faith, or hope, or knowledge, or courage, or wisdom; and it is vain to expect it. But it is a certain fact that those who love Christ most fervently, and cleave to Him most closely, will always enjoy most communion with Him, and feel most of the witness of the Spirit in their hearts. It is precisely those who wait on the Lord, in the temper of Mary Magdalene, to whom the Lord will reveal Himself most fully, and make them know and feel more than others. To know Christ is good; but to é─˙know that we know Himé─¨ is far better.
We see, secondly, in these verses, that the fears and sorrows of believers are often quite needless. We are told that Mary stood at the sepulcher weeping, and wept as if nothing could comfort her. She wept when the angels spoke to her: é─˙Woman,é─¨ they said, é─˙why weepest thou?é─¨é─ţShe was weeping still when our Lord spoke to her: é─˙Woman,é─¨ He also said, é─˙why weepest thou?é─¨é─ţAnd the burden of her complaint was always the same: é─˙They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.é─¨é─ţYet all this time her risen Master was close to her, with é─˙body, flesh, and bones, and all things pertaining to the perfection of mané─˘s nature.é─¨ (Article IV.) Her tears were needless. Her anxiety was unnecessary. Like Hagar in the wilderness, she had a well of water by her side, but she had not eyes to see it.
What thoughtful Christian can fail to see, that we have here a faithful picture of many a believeré─˘s experience? How often we are anxious when there is no just cause for anxiety! How often we mourn over the absence of things which in reality are within our grasp, and even at our right hand! Two-thirds of the things we fear in life never happen at all, and two-thirds of the tears we shed are thrown away, and shed in vain. Let us pray for more faith and patience, and allow more time for the full development of Godé─˘s purposes. Let us believe that things are often working together for our peace and joy, which seem at one time to contain nothing but bitterness and sorrow. Old Jacob said at one time of his life, é─˙all these things are against meé─¨ (Gen. xlii. 36); yet he lived to see Joseph again, rich and prosperous, and to thank God for all that had happened. If Mary had found the seal of the tomb unbroken, and her Masteré─˘s body lying cold within, she might well have wept! The very absence of the body which made her weep, was a token for good, and a cause of joy for herself and all mankind.
We see, thirdly, in these verses, what low and earthly thoughts of Christ may creep into the mind of a true believer. It seems impossible to gather any other lesson from the solemn words which our Lord addressed to Mary Magdalene, when He said, é─˙Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.é─¨é─ţNo doubt the language is somewhat mysterious, and ought to be delicately and reverently handled. Yet it is only reasonable to suppose that the first surprise, and the reaction from great sorrow to great joy, was more than the mind of Mary could bear. She was only a woman, though a holy and faithful woman. It is highly probable that, in the first excess of her joy, she threw herself at our Lordé─˘s feet, and made greater demonstrations of feeling than were seemly or becoming. Very likely she behaved too much like one who thought all must be right if she had her Lordé─˘s bodily presence, and all must be wrong in His bodily absence. This was not the highest style of faith. She acted, in short, like one who forgot that her Master was God as well as man. She made too little of His divinity, and too much of His humanity. And hence she called forth our Lordé─˘s gentle rebuke, é─˙Touch Me not! There is no need of this excessive demonstration of feeling. I am not yet ascending to my Father for forty days: your present duty is not to linger at my feet, but to go and tell my brethren that I have risen. Think of the feelings of others as well as of your own.é─¨
After all, we must confess that the fault of this holy woman was one into which Christians have always been too ready to fall. In every age there has been a tendency in the minds of many, to make too much of Christé─˘s bodily presence, and to forget that He is not a mere earthly friend, but one who is é─˙God over all, blessed forever,é─¨ as well as man. The pertinacity with which Romanists and their allies cling to the doctrine of Christé─˘s real corporal presence in the Lordé─˘s Supper, is only another exhibition of Maryé─˘s feeling when she wanted Christé─˘s body, or no Christ at all. Let us pray for a right judgment in this matter, as in all other things concerning our Lordé─˘s person. Let us be content to have Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and present when two or three are met in His name, and to wait for the real presence of Christé─˘s body until He comes again. What we really need is not His literal flesh, but His Spirit. It is not for nothing that it is written, é─˙It is the Spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing.é─¨ é─˙If we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we Him no more.é─¨ (John vi. 63; 2 Cor. v. 16.)
We see, lastly, in these verses, how kindly and graciously our Lord speaks of His disciples. He bids Mary Magdalene carry a message to them as é─˙His brethren.é─¨ He bids her tell them that His Father was their Father, and His God their God. It was but three days before that they had all forsaken Him shamefully, and fled. Yet this merciful Master speaks as if all was forgiven and forgotten. His first thought is to bring back the wanderers, to bind up the wounds of their consciences, to reanimate their courage, to restore them to their former place. This was indeed a love that passeth knowledge. To trust deserters, and to show confidence in backsliders, was a compassion which man can hardly understand. So true is that word of David: é─˙Like as a Father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth those who fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.é─¨ (Psalm ciii. 13, 14.)
Let us leave the passage with the comfortable reflection that Jesus Christ never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As He dealt with His erring disciples in the morning of His resurrection, so will He deal with all who believe and love Him, until He comes again. When we wander out of the way He will bring us back. When we fall He will raise us again. But he will never break His royal word: é─˙Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.é─¨ (John vi. 37.) The saints in glory will have one anthem in which every voice and heart will join: é─˙He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.é─¨ (Psalm ciii. 10.)