Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary. Show all posts

Holy Week: Resurrection

Touch Me Not, Minerva K. Teichert

Mary Magdalene is among my favorite women in all of scripture. She is blessed with a personal interaction with the resurrected Christ that any disciple would love to have, as told in John 20:

 11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

12 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.

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? 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.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; 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; and to my God, and your God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

The Greek in verse 17 properly translated from Greek doesn't mean to refrain from touching me yet. It is better rendered as "Hold me not," to refrain from holding me, which you are already doing. Mary Magdalene threw her arms around the Savior, greeted him enthusiastically and without restraint. She had received an undeniable witness of the Resurrection not just with her eyes, but with her own hands. She was the first person after the death of Christ to have such a witness.

She was not the only one to receive such a witness ahead of the apostles. There were multiple women who then saw Jesus after their interactions with the angels at the garden tomb. From Matthew 28:

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is arisen, 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, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

These women also received an undeniable witness by touching Christ. They could not know with a greater certainty that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When they did as they were instructed by the angels, to tell the Twelve what they had seen and experienced, the Twelve didn't believe them. They did not trust the women as reliable sources of truth.

From Mark:

 9 Now when Jesus was arisen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

From Luke:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

And because of that refusal to listen to the women in their lives, the women who were closest to Christ and who had received that witness before them, they had to wait until they got all the way to Galilee to see him. Which really is incomprehensible when you consider that he walked with them to on the road to Emmaus and none of them recognized him. He had to baby step them into being able to see him, then cajole them by eating something in front of them, and eventually break down what they were seeing for them in scriptural terms for them to finally receive the witness, the truth the women already had. (See Luke 24:12-48)

In almost two thousand years, this has not changed as much as it should have by now.

Believe women. Believe our words. Believe in the power of our faith. Believe in the gifts and talents God has given to us. Believe in our potential. Believe in our ministries. Believe our leadership. Believe in us the same way Christ believes in and trusts us.

What happens to church that dishonor and disgrace their women by withholding this love and trust from them?

They have the fullness of truth and power withheld from them, their access to Christ curtailed, the same way the Twelve did. And in the Book of Mormon, Ether 12 explains why:

12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.

It's not just faith in God that matters. It's also the faith we have in ourselves and in each other. When that faith falters, no one can help us, not even the perfected and resurrected Christ. If we want to be in a condition where Jesus Christ CAN help us, it requires us to confront and dismantle our own unconscious biases, the disrespect and prejudice we hold for other people. There is no room for any of that in the kingdom of God, and that spiritual deprivation begins here and now, on Earth. It will last as long as it takes us to do the work to overcome that way of thinking.

Where is the power of Jesus Christ on this earth today? It's in many places. Wherever there is love, wherever there is compassion, wherever there is faith in the future, wherever there are sincere souls who see wrongs and are trying to make them right, there is Christ. And it stands to reason, and shouldn't go without saying, that the power of Jesus Christ is in the hands and hearts of women.

What does learning the lessons of the past, the lessons in the ministry of Jesus Christ this Easter?

Among many of the valuable lessons that others will teach today, let this one be included: Believe, and believe in, the women who serve him.

A Meditation on Deliverance

O Come, O Come Emmanuel...

The words of a hymn embedded deep into my heart from rehearsals so many years ago, seemingly in a different lifetime.

And ransom captive Israel...

The plea embedded forever onto the walls of my heart. A fervent prayer, echoing into eternity from every direction.

That mourns in lonely exile here,

A refusal to succumb to the will of those who should've been trustworthy, and were not. Cleaving to the light of my own candle, whose shining into the darkness reveals and condemns it for what it is.

Until the Son of God appears.

I shall not walk in darkness because He is here. He is always here. He cannot be separated from me.

Rejoice...

My birth rite. My joy belongs to me, is mine to claim, no matter what happens.

Rejoice.

A commandment with a promise to me.

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Forever.



It has been six weeks since my bishop of my current ward has removed access to the sacrament from me and my family. There was no disciplinary council, no judgment passed, no conditions of repentance extended. We were handed an ultimatum to come back to church in person, with the unvaccinated and unmasked, and told there would be no alternatives given. Expose yourself and those you love or go without. Those were the instructions given to me during tithing settlement.

Nothing has changed. No divine retribution given. No change of heart. The situation as it stood then remains the same. Every word of warning I gave to him about the perils of lifting restrictions too soon, of moral cowardice in the face of certain death, has come to pass. Omicron has revealed itself and will fell millions across the world like a scythe to a harvest.

That does not mean deliverance has not come for me.

My covenants remain. The clarity of vision of how to proceed has not faded from me. As Mary stealing into the night with the Son of God, fleeing to Egypt to spare his life from Herod, funded by the kindness of strangers. Step by step through an unforgiving desert, to greet an unknown future on the other side of Sinai.

She is a survivor. I will learn from her, placing my feet where she trod. The loneliest walk in human history because no one has ever born a grief greater than hers. No one has ever been responsible for so much. I am in good company with her.

Be the solid ground beneath my feet in the wilderness. Prepare for me a table in the presence of my enemies. Hide me in the pavilion and set me upon the rock. Strengthen my heart against all fear. Bring their malice to an expected end.

Emmanuel: A Closer Look at the Birth of Christ

Studying the Christmas story is something I've never had much occasion to do in my life. Growing up, Christmas was more about time with family than any sort of real religious sentiment. Now that my husband and I live far away from both of our families, deciding how to celebrate Christmas is part of creating our new family identity.

Behold the Lamb of God by Walter Rane


In my effort to find a deeper meaning and purpose in Christmas, I began with a closer look at the birth of Christ. Although I've read the story a few times, I've never given it the close analysis that leads to revelation before. And even if I had, it's only now that I've been a newlywed for some time that certain details catch my attention.




The familiar story as told in the Gospels is one of a young woman named Mary. She is visited by an angel and told "thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." (Luke 1: 31) She responds in faith, submitting to the will of God, saying,"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Verse 38)

At this point in time, she was betrothed to a man named Joseph. He was a carpenter who, like Mary, was born in Bethlehem but was now living in Nazareth. Susan Easton Black goes into a great deal of detail of what their betrothal would have been like in her talk from BYU Education Week 2009. It's called The Road to Bethlehem. It sheds a lot of light onto what that phase of Mary and Joseph's life would have been like.

She describes how their betrothal would have begun with a formal engagement ceremony, after which Mary and Joseph would have been considered husband and wife. They would not have lived together, and it was during this time that Joseph would have built a house for them. Once that was finished, their engagement period would end and they would be formally married in front of the entire community. 

Until then, it was Mary's family's responsibility to protect her reputation. She would be veiled and escorted in public, and as far as every other young man around her was concerned she was already married.




Mary takes a trip to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant by a miracle with John the Baptist. They stay together for several months, and by the time Mary returns she is undeniably with child.

Joseph has a choice. He can "put Mary away," which means to end their engagement. (Matthew 1: 19) He has already decided this is what he will do. For him, it's only a question of whether to do it publicly or privately.

If he does it privately, it becomes nobody else's business but their own. He need not give an explanation to anyone, they simply break off their engagement. But if he puts her away publicly, he would essentially go to the elders in Nazareth and accuse her of being unfaithful. She would be accused, her family would be shamed. Because she would no doubt be convicted, they likely would have convicted her of adultery and would have grounds to execute her by stoning.

Putting away a woman publicly existed entirely for a man to save face. He could present himself to the community as one who cared about the law, and he would not have been questioned by anyone. But to condemn a woman to death requires a vindictive spirit which clearly Joseph does not have. He decides to put her away privately, no doubt sparing her life.

Joseph is a man of great faith, and has the spiritual gift of dreams and visions. He dreams he sees an angel, who delivers him a message: 

Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1: 20-21

Joseph decides to continue with their engagement, The story does not pick up again until Joseph is returning to Bethlehem to be taxed, and he brings Mary with him, "his espoused wife, being great with child." (Luke 2: 5)

Notice then that they still aren't married at the time Mary gives birth. She is also "great" with child, which has always troubled me. Why on earth did anyone think it was a good idea to make a woman that pregnant walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem? According to Google Maps, the walking distance is 136 kilometers (84.5 miles) and would take 36 hours of straight walking. At 4 miles a day, you'd make it there in 21 days.

When they arrive, they can't find anywhere to stay. Because it's tax season, there are likely many people who are visiting in the city. Depending on when they arrived, there may not have been any room for them in the homes and inns. But there's an element to this story that seems to have escaped people's attention today but certainly wouldn't have back then.

Mary and Joseph aren't married, yet Mary is pregnant. I don't know how "cohabitation" was looked upon in ancient Israel, but I doubt it would have been favorable. Did people turn them away because they didn't want a "fallen" woman giving birth in their house? Perhaps that's why Luke states specifically that "there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 7, emphasis added)





Because Christ was born at the Passover season in April, the shepherds would have been out in the fields with the sheep. The stables built for them in the sides of caves would have been empty. This is where the Good Shepherd was born, in a place meant to protect the flocks. No doubt it gave Mary and Joseph the privacy they would have desired for such a sacred event.

After Jesus is born, Mary had to go through a period of purification for seven days because she gave birth to a son. On the eighth day, her son would be circumcised. She would be ritually "unclean" for another 33 days. Then she would have to offer up a young lamb as a burnt offering and a dove as a sin offering. But in the case of one who was too poor to offer a lamb, another dove could be offered instead. (See Leviticus 12)

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
Luke 2: 21-24
Turtledoves are the offering of someone who is destitute. Because we know Joseph had a trade, and was well-respected enough in the community that he was permitted to marry, we know he must have been a person of a certain degree of means. I don't suggest he was wealthy, because we don't know that to be true. But beggars didn't marry, and no self-respecting family would give a daughter to someone who could not provide for her.




But Joseph and Mary, if they weren't beggars before, are certainly beggars now. The reality of their circumstances, although existing only between the lines, seem rather clear to me for the first time.

Both of their families appear to have disowned them, for at least some duration of time surrounding the birth of Jesus. They have not been permitted to marry, likely because of the suspicion in the community around Mary's pregnancy. The thought that someone would take it upon themselves to see justice was done against Mary would be consistent with the treatment we see Christ receiving in every other season of his life. I find it likely that Joseph weighed what danger was posed to Mary against what risks she faced in a long journey, and still thought it better to remove her from Nazareth.

Mary has no dowry to offer, because they have not yet been married. That she has nothing to offer to this trip makes me wonder, for the first time, if her parents knew who she really was. Did they disown her? Did she tell them she would give birth to the Son of God? Did they believe her? Or did they condemn her with everyone else in their village?




Luke 2 says that "when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth." We could interpret that to mean that they left within 2 months of arriving in Bethlehem. But we know this not to be the case because of the timing of the Wise Men coming to worship him, and the details added by the account in Matthew.

Matthew 2 begins by stating that "when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem." (Verse 1)

Bethlehem was where they headed, and Bethlehem was where they found Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The star leading them there appeared on the night of his birth. Depending from whence in the east the Wise Men have come, the journey could cover several hundred miles and take several months. By the time they arrive, verse 11 informs us that Jesus is a "young child," and the family is now living in a "house."

They did not return to Nazareth right away. They left behind everything, at least for a season--all of their possessions, their families, their associations, everything that Joseph had been building for them. We might think that the first one to seek the life of Jesus was King Herod. But there is reason to believe that an untold number of people had already tried--and failed--to prevent the Son of God from coming into this world.

Matthew does not reveal whether Joseph and Mary returned with Jesus to Nazareth before going to Egypt. Because Luke tells us they did, we may think it might have been for a short time--possibly a visit. Matthew's timeline suggests that they left from Bethlehem to Egypt, and only returned to live in Nazareth after Herod's death.

What does all of this change about Christmas for me?

What I have disliked most about Christmas is how I see people use it as a reason to do once a year what they really should be doing all the time. People try to polish things up at this time of year to make them look nice for pictures, and let them go again immediately after it's over. It's a stressful build-up, a prolonged period of pretending, and an even more depressing let down. From start to finish, I have simply wanted no part of it.

Realizing that the Christmas story, when you really look at it, is a messy story about a family trying to find peace when they are up to their eyeballs in problems is very reassuring to me. Not because I like to see people with problems, but because I know it's honest and real when the struggle is present. And when you see the story for what it really is, it makes the way we celebrate Christmas seem ridiculous by comparison.

The Christmas story, when you really dig into it, is not a happy story. It is a story of two people who are trying to cope with a responsibility that is completely beyond them, while everything around them in life is falling apart. And exactly because of that incredible responsibility, that Life which has been entrusted to their care, they somehow manage to have hope in spite of all fear.

And it's not because of anything they are doing. They seem to be making things up as they go along. Their hope comes from Christ's very presence in their lives, even though he's a helpless baby. Knowing who he is, that God has kept his word to send the Messiah--this is the source of their peace.

Some people want Christmas without Christ. But they also want Christmas to be a time of peace. They want what never was, and never can be.

They see the disconnect between his perfection and their imperfection, and assume he can't know anything about their lives. If only they could see how wrong they are. Jesus Christ comprehends the needs of every person, exactly because his circumstances were awful.

He comprehends exactly how bad life can be, and how much we need someone on our side to make things right. Because he comprehends the cruelty in people, the unfairness in life, he doesn't want us to go through it alone. He wants to love us when we feel unloved, or even unlovable. He remembers us when we feel forgotten. He sees us when others pass us by. He hears our cries for help when no one else is listening.

There may have been no room for him and his family in the inns of Bethlehem. But at Christmas-time, may we always make room for him in our hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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