Lenten Devotional Series: The Women Who First Followed Jesus
“Putting Our Faith in the Healer”Read and pray through Luke 8:1-3, Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41
Introduction | We are walking together through the Church season of Lent. Lent, which means “springtime or renewal,” began to be observed by the Body of Christ sometime during the 4th century. The period of Lent spans forty days (not counting Sundays) modeled after Jesus’ time fasting in the wilderness before beginning his earthly ministry. Lent is a sacred time of remembrance, renewal, and spiritual preparation in our journey of faith with Jesus.
Over these next few weeks of Lent, we invite you to take up the practice of reading and reflecting on the women who first followed Jesus. We all know that the four gospels specifically emphasize the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to “Come and see.” But there are several women who also follow Jesus as he teaches, heals, offers miraculous signs, and purposefully makes his way towards first, offering himself on a Cross, but ultimately rising to a life beyond death.
Each week we are going to look more closely at one of these women so we can better appreciate what they each saw in Jesus and how they learned to follow his lead with their lives. Each Tuesday, I’ll provide an overview and some brief reflection on the life of each of these women. Each Thursday, one of the female members of our staff will offer their own personal reflections as to the life and witness of each of these faithful women. Each Saturday a Lectio Divina prayer exercise will be provided to reflect more deeply in the Spirit in terms of each week’s devotional theme and focus.
Reflection | It is so easy to forget God’s goodness, grace, and forgiveness. I forget to recognize the continued work he does in and through me. Most of all, I forget to recognize the healing that he has worked in my heart through some of the most difficult circumstances in my life, as well as the sinful tendencies of my own human condition. What I realized as I read about Mary Magdalene, is that healing is beyond our earthly condition. The power of Christ and his healing upon Mary Magdalene shows us that a disciple of Christ cannot help but continue to pursue their Savior even after healing has been done. It demonstrates that even though sin still plagues this world, there is ultimate healing, ultimate restoration in Christ and in heaven. Mary Magdalene’s discipleship reflected what it looks like to live into the redemption that Jesus offers as she continually chose to live in the presence and power of Jesus Christ. What I want to dive into today are the ways we can misunderstand healing.
The restoration and healing Jesus offers us is quite different than the healing we think of here on earth. What we think of as healing is that which takes away painful, difficult, or afflicting conditions, rather than that which restores what was meant to be. The healing of physical conditions, or even healing of broken relationships, that we witness in the Bible and even now, offer us glimpse in the ultimate healing and restoration we will have with Jesus one day. Still, if we look at healing only in terms of taking away a condition, we will miss what we are being truly given: the everlasting life that reunites us with our Creator as we were always meant to be. It is our misinterpreted views of healing, of miracles, that can leave us feeling jaded. Jesus did not perform miracles to remove conditions and then move on because His work was for eternity not the temporary. His healings of people were signs of who he was and, by knowing Jesus, these people’s lives were transformed and redeemed. During Jesus’ time, there were misunderstandings to his acts of healing, and even today we misunderstand it. When we misunderstand healing, we misplace our faith. When we misplace our faith, we place our hope far more in the healing, rather than in the Healer.
There is not a lot written about Mary Magdalene, as Pastor Chris explored in his Tuesday devotional. She is one of the most misrepresented and falsely portrayed women within the church. She is erroneously labeled as a prostitute, a woman caught in adultery, and often misidentified as other women in scripture. In my experience, these interpretations of her have kept her from being viewed as a follower of Jesus. This misplaced version of Mary Magdalene has created and perpetuated a harmful bias that negatively impacts not only her image but also followers of Jesus, especially women, generation after generation. Long-lived biases about women have informed how both men and women interact and intersect with women in the scripture and women in ministry. At times, we cannot relinquish our preconceived misinformed knowledge and what we “think” scripture is “supposed to be” saying causes us to miss the forest for the trees. Consequently, this leads us to cast women aside in the larger story of scripture and ministry, especially if they lead lives we do not deem as “pure” or “satisfactory”.
As a result of this massive overlook, we lose out on the rich and powerful testimonies women like Mary Magdalene have to offer to the larger story of redemption in Christ and their experiences of what discipleship looks like.
What we do know now is that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute or adulterer. Nevertheless, if she were either of these, would she be counted as less than or discounted by Jesus? Would God not pursue a relationship with her? Would her sins be too great according to our standards? Conversely, would we ascribe the same scrutinous eye to King David? David who was an adulterer, a murderer, and yet, the man we hail as “a man after God’s own heart”. Would we say that his sin was worse than that of Mary Magdalene?
The beauty of the healing–the redemption that Christ offers–to Mary, David, and all of us–is that through it, God removes the power of sin over our lives; the same sin we all suffer and succumb to equally and which separates us from true relationship with God. Jesus offers us full restoration in the Kingdom to come, far beyond our narrow views as humans. You see, sin is sin. Lying, jealousy, adultery, murder are all sins equally separating us from God. We cannot ascribe a weight or measure that discounts the very grace that God offers us. Astonishingly, even with the sin plaguing us, the glorious news is we have ultimate healing from sin, death, and darkness! Our ultimate healing is secured, in Christ, through the power of his death and resurrection!
Furthermore, what we do know of Mary Magdalene is that Christ’s healing had a transformative impact upon her life. She was healed of seven demons by Jesus and her response to his redemption upon her life was to follow him in ministry, alongside the 12 disciples. She stayed in relationship with Jesus, even after healing had been done, even after the condition had been removed. I contend that she stayed with Jesus, following him, because she knew where restoration–her ultimate healing–lay, and that was only with Jesus. The same is true for us today.
We can try to put our own spin, our own bias, upon what a follower of Jesus looks like, forgetting that Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus. Mary Magdalene was just as much a disciple as the 12 men who followed Jesus, and she should not be written off because she stands as an example of discipleship today. If we were to write her off simply for falsified claims of a sinful nature, the rest of the disciples, as well as us today would suffer the same write off. By pursuing a relationship with Jesus, she demonstrated what his healing should do to our lives as disciples; it should change everything! She was changed, she was given a glimpse into the restoration to come through her healing and redemption then, and she knew it was because of Jesus! Healing is not about resolving a condition, healing is about restoring a person back to God, as it was meant to be from the start before the Fall of humanity. Relationship with God is what we are created for.
Healing, ultimate restoration of our sinful, broken, separated lives is God’s endgame for this world and for his people. When I think of ultimate healing, true restoration, and redemption, I think of the words of Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I think of these words and the promise they hold every day for me because of Jesus, and it brings me to tears because Jesus changes everything. Jesus has changed my life and He continues to transform me and pursue in ways I cannot even describe. As we continue to walk this Lenten journey, may you think about the beautiful promise of the future from Revelation 21, and live into it here and now! Amen.
Consider & Discuss | How do you view healing? Have you had times in your life where your focus was more on healing rather than the Healer? What healing are you in need of currently, and how can you lean into the Lord for it?
What biases do you have that may be the result of misinterpretation or misrepresentation? How would your approach to scripture be different if you acknowledged those biases and worked through them with God?
Prayer Focus | Jesus, thank you for your healing. Thank you for pursuing restoration over resolution when it comes to our ultimate healing. May whatever remains unhealed within me, in my situations, in my current season, remind me of my need for you and your love for me. It is hard to grapple with pain, disease, and heartache but may your presence and your sacrificial love be a healing balm to our wounds. We look forward to the day when we are forever with you, where you will wipe away every tear and death shall be no more. Amen.
Lead on, Lord Jesus, lead on!