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Good Words 1860
Woman's Noblest Attitude


A PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE GOSPEL HISTORY.
(Continued from page 35.)

These women were drawn to Christ by an attraction more than magnetic, He had a double claim upon them; He had signalised His power and mercy in freeing them from some of these distressing maladies with which sinful humanity is righteously stricken. "The Twelve were with Him, and certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities." But unlike the nine lepers whose hearts the cleansing of their loathsome flesh left all unhealed, the hearts of these dear women had been won to their blessed Benefactor, and clung to Him. Thus they owed to Him their souls, even more than their bodily health; and this, as it drew them to Christ, drew Him to them. The "infirmities" were just the ordinary maladies to which mankind are subject; the "evil spirits" were those demoniacal possessions, the reality of which, however mysterious, it is impossible to deny, without destroying the authenticity of the Gospel History. Three of these women are specified by name, as samples of the company. First "Mary Magdalene, out of whom had gone seven devils;" ["Went," says our version, and quite rightly, but these aorists, when intended to express a fact of prior date to the time spoken of, are better rendered by pluperfects.] next Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward;" then "Susanna;" but besides these there were "many others," i. e. 'many other healed women,' on whom Jesus had the same claim as the three just named.
Four Maries appear in the Gospels: the Virgin—-mother of our Lord; the sister of Lazarus and Martha; the mother of James (the less) and of Joses (Matt, xxvii. 56); and this Mary Magdalene, too often unhappily confounded with the pardoned penitent who washed the Saviour's feet with her tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head (Luke vii. 37, &c.) Besides that the name of that sinner saved is not given, while "Mary Magdalene" is never introduced but with this designation, there is not the slightest evidence that there was any connexion between Satanic possession and the moral character of the possessed. It may be difficult to explain how "seven devils" had either gone into her or out of her; but to conclude from this that she had been leading an infamous life till Christ rescued her, [As Olshausen, and other moderns, with many, many of older date incline to do, and even Trench to a certain extent.] is not only quite gratuitous, but inconsistent with some of the facts. [With the fact, for example, that one of the most desperate cases was that of a hoy (Mark ix. 17, &c), whom nothing warrants us to regard as previously and superlatively wicked; and as little his noble-minded father. Though we freely confess the difficulties that surround this subject, analogies more or less pertinent, from known facts in the moral system, might be suggested. But to deny their preternatural character, is the most desperate way of loosing the knot.] As to her deliverance, the likelihood is that the Lord had, as in so many other of His miraculous cures, prepared the way for it by acts fitted to awaken and deepen her faith in Himself; so that the consciousness of restored health would carry along with it the consciousness of a glorious revolution on her whole inner nature, drawing her to her wondrous Healer with bands of love. Accordingly, a close and constant attendant on the Saviour do we find this Mary Magdalene—that is, "Mary of Magdala," a little town on the eastern shore of the Sea of "Galilee," (as "Nazarene" means, 'belonging to Nazareth,') a designation intended probably just to distinguish her from the other Maries.

"Susanna," the third name here introduced, appears nowhere else, and here only by her name, which is thus immortalised; for ''wheresoever this Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done," in ministering to the Lord of her substance, '' shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." [Mark xiv. 9.] The central figure in this portraiture is "Joanna," the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward"— the same Herod (Herod Antipas, son of bloody Herod the Great) who put the Baptist to death, and with his men of war set Jesus himself at nought, when sent to him by Pilate. That the steward of such a man would differ very greatly from himself, is not likely. But if he did, he was to be pitied, in the establishment of so godless, and cruel, and licentious a wretch. That he was even friendly to Christ we have no evidence, unless it be in the fact that his wife was not hindered from following out her own religious inclinations. What these were, we are left in no doubt. Here she is in the Redeemer's train, with other debtors to His healing grace. How beautiful is such religion in high station, and in a household steeped in reckless impiety, and tyrannous pride, and coarse licentiousness, and there as a bright, burning flame of love to Christ!

Here ends this particular story, but not our acquaintance with these Galilean women. On three subsequent occasions they reappear in the History, and they are precisely the most anxious and exciting scenes in our Lord's history, the scenes in which clinging, self-disregarding affection might be expected to come out—at the Cross, the Burial, and the Resurrection of Christ.

On the apprehension of Christ, all His disciples forsook Him and fled; but our Galilean almoners go to the Cross with Him in a knot; as if a dear acquaintanceship between them had been formed on that memorable Galilean tour, which each succeeding demand upon their attachment to Him had only ripened into a closer and more heavenly fellowship. "Many women were there" (says Matthew) ''beholding afar off, which had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him, among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children," (i.e. Salome). "There were also" (says Mark) "women looking on afar off; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less, and of Joses, and Salome, who also, when he was in Galilee, had followed Him and ministered unto Him; and many other women which came up with Him from Jerusalem." So that the party had swelled as matters became more critical with their Lord. Luke, having recorded in, its proper place the facts to which Matthew and Mark thus remarkably allude, makes but this passing allusion to them when he comes to the crucifixion: "And all His acquaintance, and the women that had followed Him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things." [Luke xxiii. 49. We have here one of the most striking of those "undesigned coincidences" amongst these three independent narratives, so valuable as illustrations of their truth. If we had only had the first two Gospels, we should never known what was meant by "the women that had followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee." They merely allude to it as a fact well known to their first readers; but our passage in Luke makes all clear.]

Second, His Burial. "And the women also, which had come with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid." "Mary Magdalene," in particular, "and the other Mary (the mother of Joses), sat over against the sepulchre, and beheld where He was laid:" for what purpose is plain from the next words: "And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath-day, according to the commandment." Blessed women! To you the Saviour is as dear in the tomb as when ye ministered to Him in Galilee; and as ye were the last to leave the spot, so, as soon as the Sabbath is past, ye are the first to return to "the place where the Lord lay." This is the third and crowning occasion on which these women reappear in the story of their Lord's life—His Resurrection. "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, toward the first day of the week, cometh Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, and Salome, and certain others with them, unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they bad prepared;" and better still, '' their own spikenard sending forth the smell thereof." Finding the stone rolled away, and the grave open, and supposing her Lord's body to have been carried off, Mary Magdalene, separating from the rest, runs with the heavy tidings to Peter and John, who hasten to the sepulchre, Mary following. Brief is the stay of those two apostles, but Mary lingers. They, convinced by what they saw on entering the tomb that "the Lord was risen indeed," "went away again unto their own home; but Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping," not having reached the spot, probably, till the two bad left it in another direction. In her absence the resurrection had been announced in sublime and transporting strains to the other Galilean women by an angel. But for Mary Magdalene a higher privilege was reserved. On her return, as she " stood weeping, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain;" as if they would say, Come, see the narrow space where the Lord of glory lay!" Woman (they ask), why weepest thou?" Nothing daunted, she at once replies, " Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." Dear disciple, strong in faith and beautiful in affection for thy dead Lord! He is risen indeed, though not to thee. Yet to faith and love He is her Lord still. § "And when she bad thus said, she turned herself, and seeth Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" Why not at once disclose Himself? He will hear from her own lips one last expression of invincible attachment, and then He will do it. "She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, If thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." Borne whom? She says not. She can think of but One, and doubts not she will be understood. "I will take Him away." Wilt thou, dear, fragile woman? But it is the language of sublime affection, that thinks itself fit for anything, if once in possession of its Object. It is enough. Our Joseph "can no longer refrain Himself." "Jesus saith unto her, Mary!" It is not now the distant "Woman." It is the familiar name, uttered with all the wonted manner, and bringing with it a rush of unutterable and overpowering associations. "She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni! which is to say, Master!" But words are cold, and she hastens to clothe her feelings in action, but is checked. "Touch Me not," said the First born from the dead, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God, and your God." Old familiarities must now give place to new and more awful, yet sweeter, approaches.

Thus was Mary Magdalene honoured to be the first that saw the risen Redeemer. To A woman was this given, and that woman was not His mother. Nay, the evangelist is most emphatic upon this point: ''Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils." (Mark xvi. 9.)

And now, after reading all that the Gospels tell us of these Galilean women, methinks I hear some of their sex saying, 'Happy women! honoured women!' Well, I join you here. But some will add, 'Would that I had been there, ye Galilean women, to have enjoyed with you the ineffable satisfaction, the delicious privilege of laying my little all at the feet of your Master and mine !' In this, my sisters, I join you not.

There are two reasons why I dare not envy those happy women, who, in the days of His flesh, were honoured to minister to Christ of their substance, and why I think ye do ill to do it. But the picture itself is enough for the present. The reading of the picture, in its deep intent, must be reserved till another opportunity, if the Lord will. Meanwhile, let it print itself upon our hearts, and then haply it may speak for itself.


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