Women of the Bible

The Tomb as a Picture of Mercy

I invite you to push down gently on the brake of your hurried life.  

Slow down and relish Mary Magdalene’s mysterious experience of mercy, captured by her friend John:

John 20:11-14  11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb12 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…

Three subtle surprises meet Mary at the tomb.

First, Mary found that angels of mercy appear in the presence, not in the absence of her emptiness.

Her friends Peter and John looked into the tomb with tearless eyes and saw nothing!

As the story goes, Peter and John ran off leaving her alone at the empty tomb of Jesus.

Standing there alone and feeling empty, her tears began to well up and run over.

Was she weeping as she remembered the seven evil spirits that abused her, and the day Jesus mercifully drove them out of her heart forever?  

Were her tears drawn from the recent well of witnessing her Savior’s shameful and painful death?

As hot tears flow like a fountain over her bloodshot eyes and cascade down her cheeks, she stoops to look into the tomb for Jesus.

Have you ever lost something dear to you?  A wallet?  A treasured ring?  The keys to the car? 

Even though you have searched in a certain spot without finding the object, you keep looking in the same location with desperation to find what you have lost.  

While looking and looking and looking through the waterfall of her tears, like a rainbow-- two dazzling angels appear!

Why do we attempt to escape our pain and sorrows?  Her vision happened in her sorrow.

Second, Mary found that the posture and position of the angels resembled the Mercy Seat.

The ancient ark of the covenant-the throne of God- featured one brilliant angel at the head and one at the feet facing each other.

The so-called “mercy seat” was between the angels.  

The mercy seat was the meeting place between God and man.

But there was one hitch for a meeting to materialize.  

Sinful humanity could only meet with the Holy God after the sacrificial death of an innocent animal took place.

Remember that Mary had seven evil Spirits.  The rarely-read book of Leviticus tells us that the blood of the innocent substitute had to be sprinkled seven times onto the mercy seat.

Without the punishment for sin symbolized and dramatized in the life-giving blood of another, God would not meet with man.

Jesus’ lifeless body had acted as the mercy seat between the angels.  

God solved the problem of our alienation by removing His wrath by means of a substitute sufferer.

Jesus absorbed the wrath of God on the cross diverting our deserved penalty and atoned for our sins.

Jesus was Mary’s mercy seat and she desperately wanted to meet with God again.

Thirdly, Mary found that turning around changes everything.

Not finding Jesus in this mysterious tomb of mercy, she turns around.

Surprise! Mercy himself stands smiling upon her.  Mercy cannot be entombed.

Could it be that the secret of surviving suffering is not the removal of the circumstance but the turning toward the merciful one?

The mystery of Mercy, her Messiah is not lying dead like a cold slab of blood-stained stone.

Instead, he is alive and standing as the meeting place between God and man forever.

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

The Day Her Heart Stopped Shaking

I heard the loud, dull, continuous sound before I felt it.

It scared me a little at first.

Before I could connect the sound to the source, the twitter of a tremble nipped at the edges of my awareness.

Sitting in my blue recliner, the audible rumble morphed into a vibration that began to oscillate underneath me.

Earthquake?

I had experienced many of those in California but the emotional aura created by the rhythmic rippling remained eerily unfamiliar.

Fear began to cage me in as the ground began to quiver and shake with growing throbs of kinetic intensity.

As my heart fluttered from fright, my eyes spotted the cause of the convulsion.

Through a window, I saw a yellow bull-dozer romping to and fro at a nearby construction site.

The earth shook as it scooped up and then plopped heavy rocks back to the earth with a drumbeat of thumps.

This new knowledge halted my heart from shaking even though the ground underneath me continued to move.

My experience reminds me of a story.

Do you remember the story of Jesus meeting the woman with the shaking heart?

You know.  The sinful woman caught half-naked and wholly exposed in the very act of adultery.

Jesus’ best friend John describes the details in the eighth chapter of his biography.

Two earthshaking observations about this dear woman have the power to still our shaking souls.

·          First, Christ alone holds the key to the cage of our shame.

John tells us that it was early in the morning when she was caught and brought to Jesus.

He was sitting at the temple and teaching a big crowd as the sun began to brighten the world.

The self-righteous “teachers” shoved her into the very middle of the crowd to teach her a lesson.

Can you see her?  Look into the mirror to find her. 

We are all surrounded by a leering crowd of shameful sins.  Like rattling skeletons in the corner closets of our heart their shaming eyes stare into us.

         The lidless eyes unblinkingly search us as shame shakes our hearts.

Knowing that Jesus holds the key to condemnation, the stone holders scream to him so all could hear-- “She was caught and the law commands us to stone her. What do you say?!!”

As they grip the heavy stones in their dirty hands Jesus keys the cage of her shame by looking away from her.

His pure, brown eyes look down to the ground and he fingers the earth instead of pointing out her sin.

She is free from the only gaze that has the lasting power to punish her guilt.

·         Second, Jesus asks the only question that stills a shaking heart.

John tells us that Jesus stood up to the men as they clutched their stones with a death-grip.

He leaned in, looked them all in the eye and said: 

“Throw your stone of shame only if you have a heart that is not quaking from the shame of your own sin.  Throw it!”

He gracefully averts his eyes from them, bends down, and points his finger of shame to the earth.

And the trembling begins.

One by one each shameful sinner surrounding this dear woman drops his heavy stone.

I can hear the thuds and feel the tremors under the soles of my feet.

Jesus and the woman with the shaking heart stand alone and we hear them say these words: 

"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"   She answers, "No one, Lord."

Jesus tenderly adds, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

Like a mother rocking a restless baby, his graceful words rocked her shaking heart.

All became still.

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

Four Ways To Be Like the Woman Who Became a Well

Get it while it’s hot!

Grab it before it’s gone!
 

We all scurry along towards the tug of drinking in the next best thing.

I do it too.  Why am I still so thirsty?

Our hearts are dry sponges. They seek to soak something into them that will deliver a sense of satiation.

I’m reminded about a story starring a woman at a well.  Check out the details in John 4.

Jesus offers her magical water.  

Shocked and surprised at his thirst-quenching offer, she decides to become a well.

How?

First:  She began by sponging Jesus in.

Jesus created a safe and soft place to shower her with dignity and decency.  He knew her sins and sufferings.  She had tried to cure her thirst with six different men. Jesus still wanted her, even though he had every right to shame her.  Grace oozed out of Christ and into the secret corners of her guilty, withered, exhausted heart.

How was she like a well?  

A well bubbles up from below by means of its connectedness to deeper springs of water.  Now that her heart was connected to Christ she was ready to share.

Are you connected to Christ?  Before you can be the face of Christ in the world you must first soak in the shining approval of his face toward you.

Second:  She leaves her water pot.

This action is intriguing.  A water pot acts as a reservoir.  It receives and captures water.  

She leaves her water pot, darts into town and shares-- “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?”

How did this reaction resemble a well?

What does a well actually do?  A well is not just a reservoir or receptacle of water. It is more like a gushing, babbling river.

A river receives water and shares it downstream.

Notice that she did not share a program or a church or an idea.  These are all good things but she did not start with sharing these “water pots.”

She bubbles and babbles the words “Come, see a man…..Can this be the Christ?”

Maybe I act more like a stagnant reservoir instead of a rushing river because I fail to share Jesus.  Do I want to share Metro North Church, Presbyterianism or programs more than Christ?

Those are all water pots.  I need to leave them be and babble more about Jesus.

Third:  She just could not keep Jesus to herself. She had to share him.

How is this like a well?

Did you know that a well will actually dry up if it does not get ladled out and shared with the thirsty?

When you drink Jesus, you simply cannot keep him to yourself.  

John chapter 1 tells of Andrew meeting Jesus and then sharing him with Peter.  

We always share that which slakes our deepest thirst.  

Fourth:  She does not say “Go and See” but instead says
“Come with Me.”  

“Come with me and see.”  

How is this like a well?

A well gently invites others to voluntarily lower their bucket and drink for free.

Just as Jesus was not pushy or pressuring with her, she expresses an invitational approach to sharing Jesus.

I’m an overly aggressive person when I’m excited about something I really love.  I want others to love what I love…now!  

A well waits.  It bubbles and gushes and sparkles until a thirsty soul wants to drink.

I’m so thirsty.  Christ is living water. 

Will you leave your water pots next to mine and join me in becoming like the woman who became a well?

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church