He Appeared to the Perfect Sinner

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. Mark 16:9

This morning at 5:30am, we held our first sunrise service, called “Easter on the Prairie.” What I thought would be a small sleepy crowd, turned out to be over three hundred energetic, full-of-faith, hardy, bundled up, Colorado folks, with a hunger to worship Jesus.

The sun rose at 6:13 am, breaking through the clouds, and enveloping all of us with warmth and joy, the worship team sang a traditional hymn and we were all reminded that Christ comes to perfect sinners. Yes, perfect sinners.

Mark does a most intriguing thing with the resurrection story, different from all the other gospel writers; he focuses his story on one person—Mary Magdalene. She is the first one to come to the tomb and find it empty (vss. 1-5). She is the first one to understand that something has happened that just might be the resurrection of her Lord and Savior (vss. 6-8).

On that same day, “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene.” Jesus appeared to Mary first. Such a distinction in the first narrative of Christ is alarming when one considers the rest of the passage. Notice something with me. Our passage continues, “…out of whom He had cast seven demons.” Jesus had cast out of Mary seven demons.

Throughout scripture, the number seven is considered the number of perfection or completeness. (For example, on the seventh day, God finished his creation work and rested (Genesis 2:2), Pharaoh, in his dream saw seven cattle coming up out of the Nile (Genesis 41:2), Samson’s sacred Nazarite locks were braided into seven plaits (Judges 16:13), seven spirits of God (Revelation 3:1), etc.) The number seven represents fullness and completion.

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out. Is not Mark describing her as the complete sinner? We will never know this side of heaven what Mark meant exactly, but it is within theological boundaries to say that Mark may have wanted to describe Mary as the perfect sinner. Mary just might have been the most notorious woman in the group.

Mary could have been the “Most Complete Sinner” in the city! For all time, she is remembered for her sin, etched into scripture. Her sin has defined her. Or is it only a footnote to something deeper?

Mary is not only known for her noteworthy sinfulness, she is now known as the one whom Jesus first appeared. Is not her sin only a footnote to the new distinction—Jesus appeared to Mary. She is forever remembered for being the one who took the journey first to the graveyard, who traveled with only one other companion, Mary the mother of James, to the tomb seeking Jesus…and she is the first to find him.

Jesus appeared to Mary. The perfect sinner meets the perfect forgiver! She is changed forever. Mary, the most complete sinner, has met Jesus, the most complete savior.

Jesus didn’t first appear to Simon, Matthew, or John. Jesus didn’t choose to appear first to any of the twelve men whom he had called to follow him. No, Jesus chose to appear first to a notorious sinner, a woman with a reputation, held in low esteem. The great forgiver has appeared to the great sinner.

Isn’t that the point of Easter? The chief of forgiveness appears to the chief of sinners. Mary sought him because she loved him. Mary went to the graveyard, she faced her shame, she knew her guilt, and he appeared to her.

This Easter, face your shame and He will appear! If you follow Christ, your sins won’t go unpublished. But they will only be a footnote. Jesus wants us to take the masks off. Mary knew her sin well, but she encountered Christ because she faced it all and he met her there. Run to the tomb with all your sin and Jesus will appear with all his love.

On the Road,

Steve

The Road Less Traveled