Let Love Go
LET LOVE GO
Mary must have thought it was the cruelest joke in all of history. The Gospel of John tells us that Mary Magdalene was there at the foot of the cross watching her Lord and her hope die, naked and ashamed on a cross. She had already endured so much tragedy, so much grief, so much loss, all she wanted to do was give her teacher a proper Jewish burial. She couldn’t do that on the Sabbath, so she came to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week. It appeared to her that it wasn’t enough for Jesus’ enemies to shame him with the most gruesome death imaginable. Now they had robbed his grave and denied him a proper burial. They had denied Mary her chance for closure, her chance to say goodbye to her Lord and her teacher. They had spat on her love and her grief. Mary ran to get the disciples to show them this terrible news. After they had seen the empty tomb Peter and the other disciple, most likely John, left the tomb, but Mary remained and wept. The deeper the love the deeper the grief and Mary’s love was deep and her tears would not be satisfied by a short visit to the empty tomb. Mary stood there at the empty tomb and she wept for her friend. As Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus, Mary wept for Jesus. And Mary wept with such grief that it was unbearable for her.
There is much speculation as to who exactly Mary Magdalene was and what her relationship to Jesus was. The entire premise of the popular fiction book The DaVinci Code is that Jesus and Mary were married and had children, and the Catholic Church spent centuries covering it up. But there is no evidence for that in the scriptures or in history. And it is more a commentary on our culture than it is on the Bible that we can’t believe that Mary could have such intense love for Jesus if she were not romantically involved with him. Mary tells us why she loved Jesus. He was her Rabboni, her teacher. In a society where men didn’t even look women in the eye, in a society where Rabbi’s would not teach women, Jesus saw Mary’s heart. He saw that she was hungry for every word that comes out of the mouth of God, and Jesus had no problem teaching her all the Father had taught him.
Another theory that goes around that maybe you have heard of was that Mary was a prostitute. Even in the movie entitled Risen, Mary was portrayed as a prostitute. But there is no evidence for that. Why we think that is true is because in Mark and Luke it says Jesus delivered Mary from seven demons (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9). And we think Mary must have done something really bad to be delivered from seven demons. But maybe it wasn’t about what Mary did but what the world did to Mary. Maybe it was because Mary lived in a society that was cruel to women as our society is still cruel to women today. Maybe Mary was dealing with everyday demons and maybe that is what bound her.
Sometimes It is not the breath of the wound it is the depth of the wound that allows the Devil to bind us. The Roman soldier lashed Jesus with a whip leaving long scars. But it was the nails that held him hanging on a cross. The wounds of the nails were not as large but they were far deeper. Sometimes wounds that the world thinks are insignificant drill deep into our hearts, they are our everyday demons, and they hurt our hearts.
Jesus delivered Mary from her everyday demons. If someone did that for me I would love them with a love deeper than any ocean. The deeper the love the deeper the Grief. This is the principle we teach in our Grief Share ministry and I have seen that at work the lives of many.
One of the most moving services I have experienced during my time here at Calvin Presbyterian Church was not my idea but the idea of Kate Wilson, our director of music. She wanted to celebrate All Saints Day, a day in the church where we celebrate those Saints who have gone before us, those saints who have gone to be with the Father. For that service we lit candles at the front of the Sanctuary, one for each loved one we have lost, calling out their names as we lit them. I didn’t expect that service to be that moving. But as people kept coming forward, as the candles kept being lit, and the names kept being called out, I felt the immensity of what was happening. One of our Elders, who serves in the navy, lit at least thirteen candles for all the sailors she has known personally who have laid down their lives for our country, who have laid down their lives for their friends. I felt a deep love in the sanctuary, a deep grief that made the air thick. And I felt that we were surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, saints who have gone before us urging us onward to through off every weight and the sins that clings so closely, and to run the race set before us, following Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the shame of the cross. (Hebrews 12:1) If you feel shame today Jesus has endured the cross for you. I see in my Spirit that as Mary wept a thousand candles burned around her, the incense of her love for her Lord, calling down the angels. And she is desperate as we are desperate in our grief. And she sees a gardener and she asks him where have you taken him? I am not looking for hope, I am just looking to get by, I don’t expect a miracle. And then Jesus called her by her, as he calls us by our name. He says, “Mary.” And her eyes were opened and her sorrow turned to joy and she cried out, “Rabboni”, which in Aramaic means teacher. And apparently she did what any of us would do if we got to see our loved ones again. She holds him. Perhaps she hugs him. Jesus says something that scholars have puzzled over for centuries.
Jesus tells Mary to Let Love Go.
This seems cruel to us since most of the reason we want to go to heaven is to be with our loved ones again. To hold them and never let them go. It seems cruel to us that Jesus would stop someone he loved from embracing him, since this is what we spend our entire lives imagining will happen one day. Why would Jesus do such a thing? He is Risen that that is good news, amazing, incredible, Earth shaking, world changing news. But because he is Risen Jesus tells us there is even better news.
The Good news this Easter is this. Christ is Risen and has made His Father our Father, his God our God, so we can let love go.
What the Trinity says to us is that the Holy Spirit comes to be our comforter. He has sent To provide a presence for when those we love die and are not present.Jesus comes to us to be our friend, to encourage us onward to greater works. And God is our Father because he knew the Devil’s plan was to destroy life, but while he could destroy life he could not destroy love, because God is Love and Love never ends. He made a plan that we would not be orphans. That in this great communion is all the love we will ever need. And He himself wanted to give us the Love of a Father, the Love of a Mother, the love of a brother, the love of a sister, the love of a friend, poured out into our hearts, all the love we will ever need.
In Jesus’ darkest hour, as Jesus prayed in the Garden, where he sweated blood and he prayed to the Father that the cup may pass from me, but not my will but thy will be done, in that night, when all his friends had fallen asleep and abandoned him, Jesus called out Abba, Father (Mark 14:36). And in your darkest hour, in your deepest pain, in your broken family, when your heart is pierced with a thousand nails, you can cry out Abba, Father as well.
He says he will come to us (John 14:23). He will embrace us as a mother hen (Matthew 23:37), he will wrap his wings around us (Psalm 91:4), and his kindness, and his tenderness will heal our hearts and our bodies, his perfect love will come and cast out our fear, our everyday demons. The good news today we are no longer slaves to fear (Romans 8:17), we are no longer orphans (John 14:18) , we are children of God, we have an inheritance, for this is our Father’s World, it is not the Devil’s world, it is our Father’s world, it is not a world of pain, it is a world of hope and glory, if we are willing suffer with him, for it says for the joy set before him he endured the shame of the cross, and when we endure the shame we shall find joy. Glory be to God, Glory be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are not beggars, but we are children of God with a hope. We can let love go, in time we can let love go, for as the scriptures say love never ends.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.