Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Obedience Leads To An Encounter


This message was preached at Word Of Grace Church on May 22nd 2022  by Christy Thomas via zoom. For the audio & video please click here.  To listen to the worship please click here.

Obedience Leads To An Encounter

As a church, we are a few weeks before Pentecost.  We are in a season of meditating on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus! Last time we were served wonderfully by Sunder who spoke on Peter. This morning let us look at Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 28: 1-9 (He is Risen) Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone [a]from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciple’s word.
The Women Worship the Risen Lord 9 And [b]as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
Let’s begin by looking at who Mary Magdalene is

In Luk 8:1 After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;

This brief description of Mary Magdalene comes after the story in Lk 7, where a sinful woman anoints Jesus with an alabaster jar of perfume and wipes his legs with her tears. Jesus defends her action by reminding the Pharisees, that he who is forgiven much will love much, and he who is forgiven little loves little.

Mary Magdalene's love for the Man who cast out seven demons from her was so much that all the four gospels mention her name along with a few other women, who were present with Jesus during his crucifixion and on the day when He rose from the dead.

These women were not just present at His crucifixion as spectators but were ministering to Him. Mk 15: 40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, 41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

1.      Mary Magdalene was ministering to Jesus.
The word ministering is taken from the Greek word- diakonos, and is both a noun and a verb.  Since it is a verb, there is a call to action in it! The word means to denote "any subordinate acting under another's direction;" So, if we have to minister to Jesus, then that would mean we come under His direction!
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus ministered to Jesus by parting off a substantial amount of their wealth to ensure that Jesus was sealed in a tomb where no one else was laid, which was present in a garden. It helped accomplish so many of God's plans:

A.     Jesus was born of a virgin, and He was laid in a virgin tomb. So, this ensured that when He would be raised to life, there would be no doubt whose body it was that was resurrected!
B.     Man’s fall came about in a garden, so Man’s redemption also came forth from an empty tomb in a garden!
Only wealthy people Like Joseph of Arimathea could afford a virgin tomb. They were willing to part of their wealth to serve God’s needs. So, Like Mary Magdalene and the other men and women who ministered to Jesus, let us each challenge ourselves to minister to the various needs of the church.

Jn 13: 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 Jn 3: 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
When we operate out of a heart of love under the direction of Jesus, we truly become His ministers!

When my wife Esther gave birth to our son Jason, it was during the first month of lockdown. Post-delivery Manesh, Shoma and the JoJo’s hosted us for 2 weeks, during a time when people were hesitant to host people. That is a demonstration of love at work! To remind you all of the situations during the first lockdown, when we decided to come back to our house after 2 weeks, our own society officer opposed our entry saying we were coming back from the hospital and it was unsafe.
By the way, haven’t we all at Word of Grace ministered to either by prayer, food or just some good companionship? So, in the first point, we saw how we can minister to Jesus.

2.     Mary Magdalene rose early in the morning to rush to the tomb with the other women.
Jesus was Mary Magdalene and the other women’s first priority. They rushed to the tomb in the hope of embalming Him. They got there even before the disciples. Because she was forgiven and healed much, she loved much to make Him her first priority. That in a way describes how God loves us:

Rom 8: 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Rom 5: 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God values us so much that He sent Jesus to die in our place so that we could be reconciled to Him.

So how do we respond to His great love for us? By putting Him first in our relationships, talents, time and finances. Are we as passionate about Him as we were when we first came to faith? We each have the opportunity to demonstrate that He is first in our lives by coming first for set-up and clear up when we open to meet physically in June! Let us endeavour to be the first to register and attend the remaining In-Depth Discipleship Training organised by the church.

Mt 6: 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Lk 9: 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Another wonderful example from Mary Magdalene was that she went with fellow believers. This is so consistent with what the Bible teaches us about being in the company of believers:

Heb 10: 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We need one another, especially in times of trouble and need. Towards the end of April this year, I felt my heart was overwhelmed with the cares of the world. During our last Micro GYM in April, I was so blessed by what Sushil shared when he reminded us that we needed to fix our eyes on Jesus completely-not one eye on Jesus and another elsewhere looking for a solution. I would not have found this course correction if I had decided to be alone!
Around March 2020, I got so dejected in my faith journey that I stopped reading the Bible and having my quiet times in the morning. This went on for a year! When WoG church started the discipleship training, Esther and I were not even interested in joining, had it not been for a personal call and encouragement from Colin. The discipleship training got me back on track. So, you see, we need each other. We all have busy lives, let us not neglect to be in fellowship. In our hot pursuit of a dream job, a car or a house, let us never neglect our spiritual growth.  We have so many Micro GYM happening at different time slots on different days, can we seek God and join one?
Thus far, we saw how we can minister to Jesus and how we can make Him first in our lives.

3.      Mary Magdalene and the other women focused on Jesus and not on the obstacle

Mary Magdalene and the other women rose early in the morning to rush to the tomb so they could embalm his body. Their focus was Jesus, without discarding the fact that they had obstacles to surmount. They had three obstacles-a physical obstacles, human authority and human power. But none of these was an obstacle for our resurrected Jesus! Praise God.
Material obstacles don’t stand before a resurrected Jesus. Like we saw last Sunday, all mountains that we are waiting for God to remove will be cast into the sea. Let such a faith arise among us to see the material obstacles we are facing falling before the resurrected Jesus! Your material obstacles may be a lack of finances, maybe you don’t have a personal means of travel or chronic illness.  Human authority doesn’t stand before a resurrected Jesus.  You may have received a negative word from any human authority-your doctor, lawyer, parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, loved ones, etc. But remember, His words can outweigh them all! And finally, no human strength can overpower us. You may fear the reaction of your loved ones if they discover you are attending church and are in love with Jesus. He will deliver us from them all!
Okay, so we have seen how to minister to Jesus, make Him our first priority and focus on Him rather than our obstacles!

4.      Obedience leads to an encounter with Jesus

After overcoming all these obstacles, Mary Magdalene and the other women are greeted by angels and finally, Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus Himself.

Mat 28: 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciple’s word.9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So, they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The Bible says that when they encountered the resurrected Jesus, they held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. What an amazing description and picture of worship. It is such a privilege for each of us to belong to a church that worships the Lord in spirit and in truth. We have so many such opportunities as well here through the Living Room on Thursdays and the Sunday morning worship. Unless we have a heart change like Mary Magdalene and the other women, we will worship the wrong things. So, I encourage us to surrender our hearts in glad submission to the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon says it this way- “Saints running in the way of obedience are likely to be met by Jesus. Some Christians travel to heaven so slowly that they are overtaken by follies or by faults, by slumber or by Satan; but he who is Christ’s running footman shall meet his Master while he is speeding on his way.” (x2)

Rm 12: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Jn 14: 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

How they obeyed quickly and fearfully. We all want to live a blessed life, right? The Bible does promise us so many blessings which we wish we could experience all at the same time! There are some extravagant blessings contained in the Bible in Deuteronomy 28:1-13 like God setting us high above all nations, of us being blessed in our country and city, our children and jobs being blessed, blessings when we step in and out, our enemies being defeated and running away from us in seven ways! But all this comes in response to obedience. And that’s where we need God to change our hearts. It is a battle between our will and doing His will. A battle I am often struggling with myself.
Like Mary Magdalene and the other women let us seek God’s strength to obey His word quickly and fearfully.

An Invitation of grace:

Mt 28: 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 

Through the angels, the women received a message from Jesus which they had to deliver to the disciples. We can look at this as Jesus sending out an invitation to his disciples to come and meet Him. We can learn 2 things from this grace-filled invitation-

i. His invitations are filled with grace. The disciples had completely failed Jesus. He had every right to be done with them, but in grace, He extended this kind invitation to them.
ii. When Jesus invites us, He remembers them, fulfils His invitation and wants to reveal Himself to us. He goes before us to the appointed place and waits there for us to present Himself to us! That my friends is love.

He extends that same invitation to us today. We may find ourselves like the disciples to have deserted Him, or we may have been carried away by the cares of this world or by our career/financial ambitions, or have become weary of out Christian walk, or may find ourselves battling secret addictions, or struggling to change our thought patterns and behaviours, struggling financially, our family or relationships may be falling apart, we may be walking around wearing a happy mask but crumbling inwardly, whatever. Today, He is holding out the same invitation to each of us to come and meet Him.
Let us surrender our hearts to Him in obedience.

Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again),  Spirit-filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking church in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that has people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the Great Commission into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service.  Word of Grace is a part of a wider international family of Churches called RegionsBeyond.To know more about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.  

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