"How to Be Saved"
For the week of August 2, 2014
The Bible evidence concerning Mary is very sparse. But putting the desperate pieces together, scattered between the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, an amazing picture emerges. Mary had grown up in Bethany, a small suburb of Jerusalem. And evidently all had gone well for Mary, until one day something tragic happened. The Bible does not give us the details, so we do not know if it was rape or seduction, but we do know that someone violated her.
In the wake of this awful tragedy, Mary evidently lost all self-respect. She felt like nothing, going nowhere. It appears she may have run away from home, leaving her sister, Martha and her brother Lazarus. We do not know if she had living parents at the time. But it is clear that she wound up in Magdala, a small village several miles away. Thus she became known as Mary Magdalene.
Separated from her home, her family and everything that she knew and loved, Mary threw herself into the abyss. She became a complete basket case. The Bible says she became possessed of seven devils (Luke 8:2). The Bible only hints at the nature of Mary's problem, through the description of her critics analysis of Jesus' compassion: "Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, 'This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner'" (Luke 7:39).
Mary had been a great sinner. But one day she happened to meet the Saviour. And Jesus prayed for Mary, and a demon was cast out. As wonderful as that must have been it wasn't long before Mary knew she still needed more help. And Jesus, knowing her need, did not give up on her. He prayed for Mary again. Again Mary must have felt a measure of relief, but the problem wasn't completely solved. And Jesus knew it, so He prayed again, and again and again and again and yet again. Finally after that seventh prayer, Mary was completely healed.
We do not know if Jesus prayed for Mary seven times in one day, like Elijah on Mount Carmel or if He prayed for Mary again and again over a period of weeks or months. The important thing is that Jesus, the compassionate, patient, persistent, loving Saviour did not give up on Mary. He kept praying until Mary was made whole. Thus finally Mary was whole again. She knew it, and she was so very grateful to Jesus. Her heart overflowed with genuine appreciation for all that Jesus had done for her. And she wanted him to know that she was indeed very grateful. But how could she, a woman with a bad reputation, a woman with no social standing, a woman with no power, how could she say thank you to Jesus.
By and by it seems she got a bright idea. She had heard Jesus speak concerning his death. And unlike the twelve apostles, Mary believed him. Though I'm certain that her heart could not have understood what Jesus' death could mean, she determine that she would purchase some appropriate ointment, something fit for a king, and she would anoint his body to the burying.
So Mary goes to the apothecary to purchase the gift that she desired. Can you imagine Mary negotiating with the shop keeper? "I need something special, is this the best that you have?" "No, I do have another bottle it will cost you 100 pence." "O.K." says Mary, "but is this the very best that you have." "Who is this for Mary," I imagine the shop keeper asking. "I do have one more bottle, very precious; it comes all the way from the Himalayas; it's very costly. It will cost you three hundred silver cones. You don't . . ." "That's it," says Mary, "I'll take it." And with that she pays the price and heads for home.
Arriving home Mary places the precious ointment in a safe place and waits for the day that Jesus has spoken of, the day of His death. But by and by Mary has a change of heart. "If I anoint His dead body, He will never know how much I do appreciate what He has done for me." "He'll never know how truly grateful I am." Eventually Mary hears that her uncle Simon, (the one who caused her downfall), is having a party for the Master and she has another brilliant idea. "That's just perfect" says Mary. "I go to the party and anoint him there . . . before His death. Then He will understand how much I appreciate what He has done for me."
These are the approximate events that led Mary to kneel at the feet of Jesus, where she was no doubt startled by the sight of His unwashed feet. She had just anointed His head as a proper guest of honor should have been anointed. But then it seems a fountain burst forth from deep inside her soul and she washed the Master's feet with tears and dried them with the hair of her head.
These were the actions, the expressions of a heart that truly appreciated the gift of Christ. This appreciation constituted Mary's faith.
We have been told:
You may say that you believe in Jesus, when you have an appreciation of the cost of salvation. You may make this claim, when you feel that Jesus died for you on the cruel cross of Calvary; when you have an intelligent, understanding faith that his death makes it possible for you to cease from sin, and to perfect a righteous character through the grace of God, bestowed upon you as the purchase of Christ's blood (E.G. White, RH, July 24, 1888).
Thus we should understand that faith includes trust, but it's more than trust. And faith includes belief, yet it is more than belief. And faith includes a deep confidence in God, but faith is more than confidence. Faith is appreciation of the cost of salvation. As our lesson this week says: "The humble and broken heart, subdued by genuine repentance, will appreciate something of the love of God and the cost of Calvary" (E.G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 41).
Mary truly believed and her faith is what led her to a new life of appreciation and devotion. She was the last at the cross; the first at the tomb Sunday morning; the first disciple to see the risen Savior; the first to herald our risen Lord. Mary was first to sit at the feet of Jesus, the first to anoint the head of Jesus; the one of whom Jesus said, she "hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk. 10:42).