Mark 16:9-14 9 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
After Jesus rose from the dead on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week which we call Sunday, He appeared to the women who went to the tomb. Mary Magdalene was among those who saw Jesus. The book of John gives a more detailed account of her encounter with Jesus:
John 20:11-18 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
It is easy to judge all of the followers of Jesus for their unbelief and their hardness of heart. How could they not believe that Jesus was going to rise from the dead when He had clearly told them? How could the apostles not believe the report of the women who saw Jesus risen from the dead? Jesus did rebuke them for not believing but there was not a single person who understood beforehand. He rebuked everyone equally and no one was better than anyone else.
It is easy for us as Christians to be frustrated when we see the sin in another person and ask the question, “Why will they not repent?” “Why do they not understand that what they are doing is a sin against God?” “Why do they not believe the Gospel that we can see so clearly?” “Why can’t they see their wickedness before God and believe in Jesus Christ who came to save them?” We can just as easily struggle with other born again Christians who have not yet overcome certain sins in their lives or who are unwilling to believe certain Biblical truths that we now know clearly. “Why can’t they believe?” “Why are they still struggling?” We need to be constantly reminded of the work of God in each of our lives. Without the Father drawing us to Himself and the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus Christ to us we will never repent, we will never believe, and we will continue in our sin.
All of us have hearts that are hard, even if we personally know Jesus Christ. We are all like every single one of the apostles and the women also who would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. But what is fascinating is how Jesus responded to each and every person whom He loved and appeared to. He restored them in the perfect spirit of gentleness. He loved them perfectly back to Himself. For Mary Magdalene, all He had to say was her name and she responded in love. She clung to Him and would not let go- with all of her heart she loved Him.
Our time in this world is a life of great urgency and at the same time great patience. No matter how long we may live, it is but a moment in light of eternity. We are only given so much time to respond to the Gospel message when we have the opportunity to hear. If we do not, and rather harden our hearts, we will be lost forever. There is an urgency in our response and yet at the same time Scripture calls us to “count the cost.” No one is expected to respond immediately as the Gospel message must be clearly examined and understood. Dogmatism is to believe something blindly without actually knowing what you believe. There is an urgency and yet there is patience as God waits for us to respond to Him. Jesus’ public ministry in Israel only lasted three and a half years. This wasn’t very long to hear Jesus in person and yet you could repent and believe in Him after He ascended into heaven as the Apostles continued to preach the Gospel to the Jews. But then in A.D. 70 Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans. There was great urgency and yet great patience in how God responded to the Jews.
The same applies to our spiritual growth. We are given a limited amount of time to grow in holiness after we surrender our life to Jesus Christ. There is much change needed for all of us to reflect the glory of God and the Holy Spirit acts with great urgency and at the same time with great patience in the heart of every true believer in Jesus Christ. We cannot become complacent and neglect our relationship with God. We cannot think we have arrived when there is so much more to be known and discovered and experienced in the Word of God. There are so many changes that we need to make in our lives to honor God with all of our being. There are so many challenges that we face in our day to day lives and it is so difficult to always respond in a manner that is pleasing to God. We must respond with great urgency when God speaks to us and yet He continually shows us great patience. We must urge other Christians to respond quickly to the Truth of His Word and at the same time show great love and mercy when they fail to do so. Why? Because our hearts are also hard, and at other times very responsive. We are all slow to learn and yet God can quickly accelerate our obedience and love to Him.
We all need to pray that we will be quickened by the Spirit of God. In the three days associated with Jesus’ death and resurrection there was an amazing amount of transformation that occurred within each of the followers of Jesus. The three years of following Jesus was to prepare them for these three days where all that was important was to be ripped out from under them. It would appear that they would all fall and collapse under the sheer weight of the cross that Jesus had to bear. And yet their faith remained; their foundation was secure. Jesus rose from the dead. He removed the hardness of their hearts which struggled to believe in Him as He had spoken to them. Do you understand this great urgency and yet this great patience?
Pastor Murray Hack
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