This precious woman, Mary Magdalene, has received much attention over the years. Books have been written about her and movies have been made. Some of what is said of her is true, but much of it is presupposition at best and a blatant lie at worst. It is not my intention to study every detail of what we know—or think we know—about Mary Magdalene. Rather, I want to look at one day in her life—the day Jesus spoke her name and changed her life for the second time.
In the Garden
The setting is a garden. The time is early Sunday morning, before dawn, just days after the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus had died on the cross and was hastily buried in a borrowed tomb in anticipation of the Sabbath. As soon as the Sabbath was over, three women came to the tomb with herbs and spices to properly dress Jesus’ body for burial. But there was a problem. There was no body! The stone that sealed the entrance had been rolled away to reveal an empty tomb! Jesus had told His followers that He would rise again on the third day, but they were too grief-stricken to remember, or perhaps they simply were not ready to believe it was possible. One way or another, no one expected to find an empty tomb.
Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples, and two of them, John and Simon Peter, returned with her to the tomb to see for themselves. When they saw the empty tomb, they looked around a bit, then went back home and locked the door. Evidently the other women had already left as well, for Mary remained alone at the tomb weeping. And this was not just a silent weeping, but hard sobs, wailing out loud in bitter grief, the kind of crying that would make her eyes grow puffy and her vision blurred.
As she wept, she looked inside the tomb again and saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had recently lay. They asked her why she was crying, and she answered them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Did she realize they were angels? My guess is no. In nearly every instance when an angel visited someone with a message, he began with “Fear not,” presumably because the appearance of an angel is a dreadful thing. But Mary needed no such comfort. She was not afraid of the angels, perhaps because she could barely see them through her tears.
It’s obvious she could barely see Jesus, as you’ll see in what happens next. For as soon as Mary responds to the angels, she turns around, and there stands Jesus Himself, yet she supposes Him to be the gardener. Even when He speaks to her, she doesn’t recognize His voice right away, so great is her grief.
But then He says one more word: “Mary.”
A Spoken Name
The Lord Jesus speaks her name, and immediately Mary recognizes Him and is comforted. What her friends could not do, and what the angels could not do, Jesus does by merely speaking her name. Was it in the way He said it? Did He have a special way of addressing her that no one else used? Or did He simply supernaturally open her eyes to understand the truth of the resurrection? What love she must have heard in the utterance of her name! What compassion! What a connection of His soul to hers!
We often speak of how precious the name of Christ is to the believer, but did you know that your name is precious to Him?
God said to Moses at the burning bush, “You have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name (Ex. 33:17).
God gave the following words of comfort to His people by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, “Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine.”
Isaiah 45:3 And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.
Isaiah 45:4 For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name: I have surnamed you, though you have not known Me.
So you see, God is a personal God who desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us. We do not come to God corporately; we come one at a time. I am not a number to God. I am not even a face to Him. He knows me by my name. What is more, He knows me by my first name. Our relationship is deep, and personal, and intimate. Or, at least, it can be.
Notice the following verse, in which Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.
John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
Notice that He does not say, “My sheep hear My voice, and they know Me.” No. He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them.” We learn to recognize His voice and respond to it. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more sensitive we become to His voice. But He knows every detail about us from the beginning. How? Because He made us. We are flawed, and yet He loves us. We made ourselves His enemy, and yet He made us His friend. Wow!
A New Name
A few minutes ago I stated that God knows you and me by our first names. If that isn’t amazing enough, consider this: God has given us a new name, a nickname, if you will, a special name chosen by Him for you and for me.
Isaiah 62:2 And the Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory: and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; To him who overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he who receives it.
Many spouses and bosom friends have pet names for each other that they only use in private. These names have special meaning for them that no outsider could comprehend. When you have a secret name between you and one other person, it forms a special bond. I’d like to think that’s the way it is with Jesus and me, and the special name written on that stone.
A Written Name
Philippians 4:3 And I entreat you also, true yokefellow, help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.
God the Father has a book called the Book of Life. In that book is the name of every man, woman, boy, and girl who has ever trusted in Christ for salvation. Is your name in that book? Let me tell you with great assurance that once your name goes in that book, it cannot be erased or blotted out. Once saved, always saved. Jesus Christ died once for all, that we might live eternally with Him.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white clothing; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.
Sadly, many have died whose names are not written in the Book of Life. Notice in the verses below that the Bible does not say they are blotted out, but that they were never written in the book in the first place. These are the people who rejected God’s simple plan of salvation. They tried to come to God their way, but there is only one way to come to the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship Him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
These next two verses state clearly everyone’s eternal destiny. If your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you will enter into heaven. If your name is not in the Book of Life, you will be cast into the lake of fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. There is no purgatory, no holding place, no second chance after death. There is hope for you while you live. There is a choice while you breathe. After that, you must face the consequence of your choice.
Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no way enter into it [heaven] anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie: but they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
This next verse is a warning not to alter the Word of God in any way, either to add or to take away. This warning is not so much given to the apostates, for they would tend to reject the Bible in its entirety. Those who would seek to pervert it by changing a little here and a little there are generally folks who claim to be Christians. But since no one’s name will be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life, it can only be concluded that a person who would distort the message of the Word of God never had his name written in the Book of Life to begin with. He may have thought he did, but he thought wrong.
Revelation 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Compare this to the parable Jesus taught:
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone that says unto Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out demons? and in Your name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.”
For eleven years I thought I was a Christian. I had prayed the sinner’s prayer, I got baptized, attended church regularly, told others how they could be saved, sang in the choir, and even attended Christian school. But one night, in the quiet of my bedroom, the Holy Spirit showed me that although I knew a lot about God, I did not know Him personally. If I had died that night, I would have gone straight to hell, taking all my head knowledge and “good” works with me. You see, my “sinner’s prayer” from years before had been motivated out of pride, not conviction. But now I was sorry for my sin, and ready for the charade to be over. Immediately I knelt down and begged the Lord to forgive me of my sins and to save me. In His mercy, He did just that. That was over 29 years ago, and my relationship with Jesus gets sweeter every day.
What about you? Like Mary Magdalene, have you heard the Lord call your name? Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? If not, I’d love to help you. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more.
Next week: The Woman with the Alabaster Box
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