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“Don’t hold on to me ...... but go”3 weeks ago
In this week’s Blog Esther McCafferty (our Intercessors’ Network Facilitator) keeps us on an Easter theme as she explores the moving encounter between Mary Magdalene and the risen Jesus in the early morning of the first Easter Day. What a moment that was! And what a commission to be the very first person to pass on the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Esther asks whether we be trusted to be faithful and active in prayer to discern what the Risen Lord is revealing to us?
Mary Magdalene had come, bowed down with grief & loss because of the events of the past week, yet full of purpose, to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices to complete the earlier work of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. No doubt she couldn’t sleep, so comes while still dark, and she is shocked to see the tomb open and mistakenly concludes that Jesus’ body has been stolen. She is confused and thrown off balance at this devastating discovery. It’s not what she expected to see and hear! She seeks help from John and Peter to find the body so she could complete her mission. They come to the tomb but “still don’t understand from Scripture that He had to rise from the dead”, and Peter and John go back to where they were staying without telling anyone. That’s not meant to happen....
Mary’s practical devotion had accompanied and provided for Jesus on the road, with a group of women; she had been healed of seven demons, so in gratitude she became a faithful follower to the end. Mary is left alone, crying, outside the tomb. She has the courage to look inside – twice she is asked “Why are you crying?”- once by the angels, then a bystander, who she wrongly assumes is the gardener.
She then recognises the voice calling her name,“Mary” – such personal comfort in her distress. “Teacher!” she exclaims, “It’s you, you are ALIVE!” Overwhelmed, she naturally wants to throw her arms around Him (sound familiar? being kept apart from family and friends in lockdown?).
But Jesus is firm but gentle: “Do not hold on to me. I’ve finished my work on earth and I’m going home to Father to continue our work. I’ll always be right alongside you in a new relationship with “my Father and your Father” and the promised Holy Spirit "who does our praying in and for us", "interceding for the saints in accordance with God's will." Wow! What an honour: "The One who died for us - who was raised to life for us - is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us!" (Romans 8:27 and 34 NIV & The Message). And Jesus continues to call intercessors to bless little, local and ordinary churches, through His Spirit’s ministry of ReSource, for renewal, discipleship and mission. Interested to find out more? https://www.resource-arm.net/posts/61/what-me-an-intercessor Join us in praying for the interviews on 19th April for the appointment of the next Director of ReSource).
A New Commission
Instead of holding on to her past experience of Jesus, Mary is given a new commission to go to the disciples to share her present encounter with the risen Lord – “He is ALIVE, I've seen Him, He called my name and this is what He told me.” The old chorus puts it so well: “You ask me how I know He lives – He lives within my heart.” Are you and I ready to go and do likewise?
Mary was transformed, which led to her being comforted, seen, heard, believed, accepted, empowered in a whole new way. She was already a leader of the women who followed Jesus; she now becomes The Apostle to the Apostles! We would not be here today if Mary hadn’t obeyed. In her disorientation she could have said I’m not up to it, send John or Peter, wait until....
The Lord of Surprises
My experience of retirement just over 2 years ago from full-time ministry has been rather like this - “hold lightly” to past ministry - be prepared to "let go and let God" lead into a new calling, a fresh anointing for this new season of life. So many wonderful new things have opened up, while building on transferable skills and experience, connections and partnerships! eg. churchyard clearance, teamwork to create a safe place of beauty, prayer, fellowship and mission; coordinator of two major online fundraising events for the church Toilet Fund; volunteer staff for ReSource as Facilitator for the Intercessors Network; with my husband Peter, fostering puppies as part of their early training to do life changing work as a Guide Dog; local and global community engagement and transformation through the local Rotary Club.
Jesus chose to appear to Mary, rather than to John; he chose a woman, so undervalued in the society of the day, one of the forgotten ones, on the edge, in the shadows. He could trust Mary to allow her undivided devotion and zeal to shine through and impact others. No longer could she be sidelined and silenced.
He is still the Lord of Surprises, breathing new confidence, new humility and new power into His church. What prophetic words and pictures is the Spirit giving to your church? Can we be trusted to be faithful and active in prayer to discern what the Risen Lord is revealing to us?