Even when it comes to something as righteous and holy as
serving God we just can’t help ourselves.
We’re humans and it’s in our nature.
We serve to gain. There’s got to
be some kind of reward or payoff or we’re not interested. How do I know we all serve to gain? How many of us are willing to serve God
anonymously or behind the scenes? It
seems to me we can’t help but tell people when, how, where, and why we serve
God. Somebody ought to know how
dedicated, faithful, and sacrificial we are, right?
But then on Easter morning we are confronted with Mary
Magdalene. Clearly, in John’s Gospel
next to Jesus he wanted the focus on Mary that morning (John 20:1-18). Paraphrasing, here is the story as John
relates it. Mary goes to the tomb of
Christ while it is still dark to finish the task of properly anointing the body
for burial since the arrival of the Sabbath cut that task short on Friday. Finding the tomb empty she runs to the
Apostles to tell them. Peter and John go
to the graveyard to see what she is talking about. Empty.
They leave and go back home. Mary
steps back into the tomb and is greeted by two angels. Upon turning around she
sees a third man and assumes he is the gardener. When He speaks her name she recognizes Him as
Jesus. He tells her to go back and tell
His disciples that He will soon be ascending.
There are a couple of things about Mary that really put most
of us to shame. To begin with, she comes
to the tomb in the dark. No one will see
her and pontificate on her faith, love, and devotion to Jesus. Second, there is going to be no reward on the
table if she is able to fulfill her task (anointing the body with spices). In her mind, Jesus is dead. In other words, Mary Magdalene comes in the
darkness to perform one last act of ministry to a dead Messiah! Obviously, she is motivated by love and
devotion. Would to God that was our
motivation as we serve Him today.
We sing, “I Serve a Risen Savior.” Mary goes to serve a dead Messiah. Do we serve a risen Savior because He’s alive
to grant all our requests, recognize all our good deeds, and acknowledge before
others all our many sacrifices on His behalf?
Mary goes to serve Jesus in death.
After the Apostles leave the tomb and go home John says she
stood outside weeping. Do you know why
she was weeping? It wasn’t because her
hopes and dreams for a restored Israel were shattered. It wasn’t because she mourned the loss of the
One who had delivered her from seven demons.
And it wasn’t because she realized that without Jesus around she would
be forced back into obscurity, despair, and maybe even sin. No, Mary Magdalene wept outside the tomb of
Jesus because someone had robbed her of her last chance to directly serve Him
(or so she thought). Even when she
mistook Jesus for the gardener she said, “tell me where you have laid him, and
I will take him away.” She wants to
personally retrieve and return the body of Jesus to the tomb. By herself.
Here is a woman who was convinced Jesus was dead but still
believed her calling was to serve Him.
Where, then, are all the tears for all the wasted and ignored
opportunities that the Church has had for centuries to minister to A RISEN
SAVIOR?! Mary was sure He was dead and
still wanted to minister to Him. We are
sure He is alive…and don’t have the time?
Don’t miss the irony in John’s story of Resurrection. Two of the elite three Apostles come to the
tomb to look. They see nothing and go
home. Yet the woman who came to secretly
minister steps into the same tomb probably just minutes after the Apostles left,
and sees two angels and ultimately Jesus Himself! Observe equals nothing. Minister equals everything.
Don’t we know why Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of
God…”? Because that’s where God is and
where He is is the opportunity to minister.
What this really all boils down to is this: does God exist to bless me
or do I exist to minister to Him? If I
exist to minister to Him I will find a way, like Mary. If He exists to bless me and it appears He’s
not around…we may as well go home like Peter and John did.
Serve God not because “He lives” and will reward you for
it. Serve Him because “you live” and
that is what you are created for.
Ray Rooney, Jr.