Saturday, March 30, 2013

"That" Woman

Of all the women in the Bible, the one with whom I identify most is Mary - the one from Magdala, the one out of whom, the Bible says, Jesus cast out seven demons. The one who was considered a 'sinner' - some say an adulteress, even a prostitute.

She was "that" woman.

"Husband - are you ogling 'that' woman?"

"No sweetie, go and play over there. You don't want to get close to 'that' woman." 

"Ladies, let's cross to the other side of the road. 'That' woman is walking on this side. We all know what she does." 

Her reputation crucified by her past actions, Mary was used to being ostracized by women and shunned by the religious elite ... and she was used to the rest of the men (single or not) looking at her like she was a piece of prime filet mignon they wished they could afford. Some of them could. Perhaps they did.

She felt used up, dirty, evil, worthless, rejected. She would never be accepted by the religious community; she'd stopped trying. Nobody had ever befriended her for who she was - only what she could do for them. 

Until she met Him. 

He didn't look at her with lust, the way the men of the village did. And he didn't treat her with disdain like the rest of the rabbis did. 

He accepted her. Maybe ... though she wondered how it could possibly be ... maybe He even loved her. Not in an erotic kind of way - but more like what she had always wanted her own father to love her. Tenderly; as if she was a treasure to be protected and cherished.

He liberated her on the inside with that love. In a single moment, and in the months that followed, He released her from years upon years of torment from her inner demons. 

Hope, gratitude, and all the love she had dared not give, sparked within her. 

She abandoned her former lifestyle, and joined the growing band of His followers, which included people from all social levels, including Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, sitting members of the Sanhedrin, the religious elite - who knew? But that was the thing about Jesus, she thought to herself. It didn't matter who you were or what you had done - He loved you. He was always thrilled to see you.

Before long, because she was there all the time, she was in the inner circle, and well-known to the disciples and to the women who followed Him. It was strange - and wonderful - to be treated like a valuable member of a group that was closer than family. She was acutely aware of who and what she had been. She marveled that she was so warmly welcomed by all who surrounded this amazing Rabbi - whom she called 'Rabboni' - 'My Great Master.' It was the highest esteem that her language could afford.

"He who has been forgiven much," Jesus told a curious Pharisee one day, "loves much." 

Mary loved much.

When Jesus was arrested and crucified - words could not express her grief. He was her life, her heart. She could not imagine how she could ever go back to her former life after He had touched hers so profoundly.

She found herself turning to them: to His mother, and to Mary of Bethany, Lazarus' sister. Together, they made plans to honor His body with the traditional embalming spices and linens; He'd been buried so close to sunset, the beginning of the Sabbath, that there wasn't time to do a proper job. 

It was those two women - those two very respectable women - with whom she went to carry out the solemn task. They wondered how they could ever manage to roll the stone back from the door of the tomb when it took several men to do it before. 

Perhaps the soldiers would help. 

But - the soldiers weren't there. And - shock of shocks - the stone WAS rolled away! 

Tremulous, they peeked inside - and saw a man sitting there in a pure white robe. They listened incredulously as he told them that Jesus wasn't there anymore - that He was alive! "Go and tell His disciples." 

The other two Marys - each touched by the miraculous power of God in their lives - were amazed and joyful, and ran as fast as feet could fly to tell the eleven who were left - and in hiding - what they'd seen and heard.

But 'that' Mary couldn't bring herself to believe. Jesus' crucifixion was too fresh. She was convinced that this was some kind of cruel joke, that someone had taken His body and made off with it. She stayed outside the tomb and crumpled to the ground, distraught, as billows of grief overcame her. 

And then He was there. As soon as He spoke her name ... she KNEW it was Him.

"Rabboni!" she cried, still on her knees, and clung to His feet, deep sobs of joy and relief pouring out of her as she did. 

His first appearance after His resurrection wasn't to the religious elite. It wasn't even to the disciples, and as a matter of fact, He'd not even seen His Father yet. He stopped in the garden outside the tomb that early morning for one reason and one reason only. 

Because it was her. Because she was 'that' woman. 'That' woman ... who had learned to love ... with all of her heart.

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