many women were there beholding from afar, who had followed Jesus
from Galilee, ministering unto him: among whom was Mary
Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother
of the sons of Zebedee. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the
other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre... Now late on the
sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the
week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the
"And certain women who had been healed of evil
spirits and infirmities: Mary that was called Magdalene, from
whom seven demons had gone out" (Luke 8:2).
"But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping:
so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she
beholdeth two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one
at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto
her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they
have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and beholdeth
Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto
her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing
him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou hast borne
him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him
away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith
unto him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Teacher. Jesus
saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the
Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto
my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. Mary
Magdalene cometh and telleth the disciples, I have seen the Lord;
and that he had said these things unto her." (John 20:11-18).
all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with the
women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." Acts 1:14.
A very simple word is in my
heart for this moment. It is impressive to notice how frequently
Mary Magdalene is referred to, how much she is kept in view. She
is found in every one of the Gospels and undoubtedly was included
with the women of Acts 1:14, and hers is a place of considerable
significance and value. We cannot but ask why she should be kept
so much in view, should be mentioned so much by name. It is no
accident; it is not just good enough to say that all these
apostles who wrote these records were evidently impressed with
this woman and the others, and that they found in writing the
story of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, that they
could not just leave these people out. I think we have to go
deeper than that, believing that the Holy Spirit has something in
mind if these records are inspired by Him, and we look to see
what that something might be.
Beginning at the end, we find
that Mary Magdalene was the first of the witnesses of the
resurrection of the Lord. In these meditations we have been much
occupied with witnesses. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me"
(Acts 1:8). The first witness, the first representative one of
the risen Lord to testify that He was alive, He was risen, was
Mary Magdalene. It seems to me that she stands here to indicate
the service of the new dispensation, the service of Christ —
to be a witness to Him, to represent Him. This service of the
Lord begins with her, and why? The thought that is in my mind is
just this: that here is the service of the Lord again. And what
is it that lies right at the heart of the service of the Lord,
what is it that really makes a witness, a representative, what is
it that constitutes this testimony in person to the risen Lord?
— and I think Mary Magdalene answers the question for us
very simply but very forcefully. The dynamic, the power, the
essence of the service of the Lord is a passionate devotion of
love to His Person. That is simple, but fundamental.
In the first place you find her
a woman in great need — need of deliverance, of salvation,
of mercy, of grace — a woman in great trouble and distress,
and the Lord saves her out of all her troubles. From that time
she is never far from Him; she is one of a band of such women who
follow Him everywhere and minister to Him. Then in the last scene
she is there with our Lord’s earthly mother standing some
distance from the cross, watching, grieving, in those last hours.
She is, perhaps, the last or one of the last, to leave that
scene. Then she is the first back at the sepulchre; before
daybreak she is back there watching the sepulchre, breaking her
heart. John 20:11-18 is perhaps one of the most moving stories in
the New Testament. The cry of her heart — "Sir, if
thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him."
Then Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said,
"Rabboni, Master!" Is not this all the embodiment of a
personal love for the Lord, a mighty personal love for Himself?
And it is out of that that her witness springs and that she
becomes the first preacher of the dispensation.
It is out of that that the whole
of the true ministry of Christ through the whole dispensation
springs. That is the nature of it. We can say it in a few words
and quite simply and although it is brief and very simple, let us
nevertheless seek to recognize the supreme importance of this,
that the service of the Lord is not in the first place going out
to do things, or to say things, to propagate doctrines or truths
or interpretations, to set up movements or fellowships or
churches. The service of the Lord is the spontaneous outflow of a
personal love for Himself. And when you move on to the day of
Pentecost, and from then on, it is just that.
It would seem that the coming of
the Holy Spirit was a baptizing of believers into a love of
Christ, for from that moment of the Spirit’s coming, they
had nothing to talk about but the Lord Jesus. They were just full
of Him! Their conversation was full of Him, their preaching was
full of Him, their witness was just all concerning Himself, and
it was ever so. It was so with the great apostle of the Gentiles
— Paul. "God", he said, "was
pleased to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the
nations" (Gal. 1:15,16). "The love of Christ
constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14), "The love of God
shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom.
5:5). That was the dynamic of service.
Now, that is simple and it works
in two ways. All activity, work, and what is called
"service" for the Lord, without that behind it, is
lacking in the true power of fruitful service, but if that is
there, we cannot help being the Lord’s servants. Nothing can
make us true servants of the Lord but a personal passionate love
for Himself. Nothing can substitute that. But given that, there
is no need for any kind of human ordination, an ecclesiastical
setting apart. You are the Lord’s servant right enough if
you have an adequate love for Himself in your heart. It will be,
it will work out. All our value to the Lord depends upon the
measure of our heart-love for Himself. That is all. There is
nothing profound about that, but it is testing.
We may do many things, like the
church at Ephesus later on. It did many things, but the Lord
said, "I have this against thee, that thou hast left thy
first love" (Rev. 2:4). And in effect He said: There is
no justification in your lampstand remaining, it is merely an
empty profession, an outward vessel without the inner Lord, the
inner light. And unless this original first love is recovered, it
is mere profession, doing many things, but the thing which
justifies our existence is that love and only that. Nothing but
that love will keep us going. It is the power of endurance
through the years, and it is an awful thing to come to a
Christian life which has got to be kept up without that love for
the Lord in the heart. It is only that love that really makes the
Christian life possible under all the strain of the years.
I am quite sure that in the case
of the apostle, with all his suffering and all he had to meet,
the thing that kept him going was that flame of love in his own
heart for the Lord Himself. Through the suffering, nothing but a
strong love for the Lord will keep us going.
And so, without adding any more
to that, I simply say to you and to my own heart, what you and I
need is a recovering, reviving, an increase. Whether it be that
we have it or have lost it or have never had it, what we need is
this mighty flame of love for the Lord Himself, not to be just
professional workers, servants of God in some professional way.
No, what we need is that love for Himself to be intensified and
out of that everything else will come, and apart from that, the
Christian life is a miserable thing, a burden to bear, while love
for the Lord makes us witnesses.
So Mary Magdalene just comes to
us with the greatest of all lessons. She stands there, the last
at the cross, the first in the resurrection, the first witness of
the dispensation. It is a woman. Now, of course, you can take
that wrongly, you can take that technically, and say of course
that at once justifies women’s ministry and women having
first place. I have nothing to say against women’s ministry,
but what I believe the Holy Spirit means here is that women in
the New Testament represent the affectional side, the principle
of affection, of love and devotion and service in terms of love.
That is what the women are there to represent and it seems that
this woman gathers it all up. But you see the background —
heart devotion to the Lord which produces her marvellous
ministry, her representative ministry for the dispensation. For
her ministry was representative of the dispensation — that
which produced this ministry and this representation was her own
heart-sense of indebtedness to the Lord for His grace. And what
ministry is of value which has not got that behind it? Paul says,
"I am debtor" (Rom. 1:14) and that is the
dynamic of his ministry. Mary Magdalene would say, I am debtor, I
owe everything to Him!
If you and I come into a lively
and sufficient sense of our indebtedness to the Lord for His
marvellous grace to us, we will be witnesses right enough, we
will serve the Lord right enough. Oh, then, for a revival in our
hearts of the sense of our deep indebtedness! Of course, you have
to be patient with the simplicity of this word, but I think it
touches the centre of things, however simple. Do not let us be
concerned about things at all. The matter about which we
have to be concerned is our own heart relationship to the Lord,
that heart devotion to Him. The Lord save us from having anything
of a Christian life that is less than that which simply is
abiding in that attitude of love — "Master!
Rabboni!" I do not think we can ever reproduce the accent,
the tone, in which Mary uttered that word at that moment. It was
the come-back of a heart that was breaking over her Lord, now the
floodgates are opened. I wish that we could get the accents of
the two, when the Master said, "Mary!" You cannot catch
it, but you can imagine something. And in the familiar tone she
had heard Him address her before, she caught the tone and said,
"Master! Is it you, Master?" The depths of that! I do
not want to be sentimental, but there is something there which
indicates this, which leads to the possession of the first note
of the dispensational service. The whole dispensation, the whole
age, is gathered up into this woman in what she represents. All
service to the Lord springs from this — Master! In that
sense, "You are the one with whom everything for me is bound
Well, the Lord speak more than
my words can say on this matter.