Going through the Suffering to see the Resurrection

Mary Magdalene, Susanna and Joanna:  Luke 8:1-3

(From Snapshots Session Two)

Jesus traveling through the cities and the villages. Proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. Through Galilee one foot in front of the other.

And with Him? The 12. And women. Not just any women.  Some who had been healed of evil spirit and infirmities. Dr. Luke even lists them for us:

>>>Mary, called Magdalene

Seven demons had gone out. What does that even look like? Can we wrap our heads around what that must have been to live that way?

This woman whose life has been changed so dramatically now follows with the group. We don’t know a lot about her. We assume she is single at this point- possibly widowed but wealthy. We can make these assumptions from the scripture provided.

What we can’t assume are things that have woven their way into tradition or popular literature:

>No, she is not married to Jesus. Neither did she have His son.

>No, she is not a prostitute.

>No, she is not the woman who poured ointment on Jesus’ feet.

She is from a fishing village, Magdala. It was known for the dried-fish industry and the urban character of the village. It was also known for the immorality of the inhabitants- a place strongly Hellenized (Greek influence) and quite prosperous by 60AD when a hippodrome found its way into the city to provide a venue for horse races. From such a city, Mary emerges.

>>>Joanna

Wife of Chuza. Probably lived in Herod’s palace- after all her husband was the household manager. She was wealthy.

Seems odd that one so important in Herod’s palace would allow his wife to travel with Jesus. Shocking almost. But then much about Jesus and those who traveled His path were shocking.

This Herod- not to be confused with the Herod of Christmas story fame. This was Herod Agrippa, the son of the Christmas story Herod. We could perhaps call him the Herod of Easter story fame as he would play a role in that drama to come.

 >>>Susanna

Probably wealthy and single. And that is all we know.

And other women. Unnamed. Some scholars speculate they might have been disciples’ wives.

Then we have the phrase that burst forth.

“Provided for them out of their own means.”

Another version puts it this way

“Helping to support them out of their own means.”

To serve. To minister. Actually, where we get the word “deacon.” These women did what the first deacons did.

And I suppose we pause here. Jesus valued women. Highly. He believed in them. In their ability to minister. He allowed that. For them to minister out of their own means. Out of their own generosity. Meeting the needs of Jesus and His band of followers.

Literally this phrase means “kicking up dust” because they are “on the move.” It is an active, practical way of caring for the needs of others as God guides. It is ongoing. Not a single generous move. But one that continues and continues and continues. . .

These women left behind lives of privilege and wealth to follow the one who had transformed their lives. They left behind the worries of what people would think. What they would say. They left behind the unnecessary baggage and instead their load became lighter.

When your life is changed what seems necessary changes.

We don’t hear from these women again until the cross.

“Many women were there [at the cross], watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt. 27:55-56).

There they stayed at the cross. While the disciples dispersed, they stayed. Watching. Waiting.

If there ever was a time to run this was it. Did they wonder what had become of all of this they believed? The money spent, the miles traveled, the heart given. . .

They didn’t run. They stayed. Through the suffering.

And when He died. They stayed. They watched as Joseph carried Jesus’ body to the tomb and they watched to see how his body was laid in it.

Only then did they leave. To observe the Sabbath. To prepare spices and perfumes.

And they came back.

Mary Magdalene. Joanna. Others. When they arrived- the tomb was empty.

These women who stayed through the suffering. . . saw the resurrection.

Mary Magdalene, of who seven demons had scattered at the word of Jesus, heard his words once again. And she saw. Him.

She ran to the disciples uttering the words, “I have seen the Lord.”

———–

Truth be known we all want to run. When we see the suffering before us. The suffering- a character flaw that should be fixed- a marriage rift- a kid out of control- an unhealthy friendship-a financial decision. We want to push it away. We want to curl up in a ball and pretend we never saw it.

And if we do. If we give into the pushing away, we will never see the resurrection. The deeper faith that comes from following through the suffering. The resolution one way or another to the crisis that looms. The character molded and remade to reflect Him. The chiseling and perfecting of our faith.

Embrace the suffering. Wait. Watch. One foot in front of the other. The resurrection, the hope, will come.

Advertisements

Dear Downton Abbey Addicts (and others),

IMG_0112

One quote from last night’s episode (Season Three, Episode Two) keeps swirling in my mind:

“You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling. Being tested only makes you stronger.”

It reminded me of Romans 5:3-4, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

And it is quite true that suffering, times of testing, trials do make us stronger.

Or bitter.

And that is the choice that our fictional Edith must make. Will she become stronger? Or bitter?

It also doesn’t escape me that poor Edith was not a bit kind to her sister. . . and often we do reap what we sow. That her character is so deeply rooted already in a bit of bitterness. Jealousy. Disappointment. Although progress had been made toward improvements in those departments. . .

This was to be her shining moment. And it crumbled. In front of the entire village.

I am reminded as I replay that quote over and over in my head that nothing is that simple. And yet it is. Choose stronger or choose bitter. The choice is simple. The doing. . . not so much.

Moment by moment. Each day re-choosing. Taking captive every thought. Having faith that there will be that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It isn’t easy.

Thinking that many of us are dealing with our own crumbling of dreams. And we, too, have choices to make.

Choose to rejoice in the suffering.

Signed,

Your Fellow Downton Addict