Rescued Through God’s Grace: Mary’s Story

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Rescued Through God’s Grace

Mary’s Story

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Rescued Through God’s Grace: Mary’s Story

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Many are not aware that the words translated “save” and “savior” in the Bible can refer to more than ultimate salvation in the spiritual sense. The original Hebrew and Greek terms (and their variations) also have connotations of “rescue” and “deliver”—to save in an immediate sense, to rescue from dangerous or hopeless circumstances or situations.

Both God the Father and Jesus Christ are called our Savior in the Bible, and rightly so. We cannot receive God’s gift of salvation by grace without Them. But we should also consider that They are our Rescuers and Deliverers from hopeless situations during this life. 

Sometimes we must be rescued and delivered from desperate situations before we can move forward on the path toward God’s spiritual salvation. We encounter a number of such individuals in the Bible.

A woman in desperate need of rescue

Miriam, a Jewish woman living in the first century, was one such person. Better known to us today as Mary Magdalene, she lived in the small fishing village of Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee about a five-mile walk from Capernaum, where Jesus Christ lived after relocating from Nazareth.

We know little about her background. We don’t know her age, we don’t know whether she was married or single, we don’t know if she had children, we don’t know what ultimately happened to her. But we do know that she desperately needed to be rescued.

Mary, you see, was possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9 Mark 16:9Now 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.
American King James Version×
; Luke 8:2 Luke 8:2And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
American King James Version×
).

Today in our supposedly enlightened age it’s easy to dismiss demonic influence and possession as some kind of superstition or misunderstanding of mental illness rooted in myths. But the Bible is firm on the existence of a very real spirit world paralleling and overlapping our own and inhabited by evil, fallen rebellious angels—the chief of these being Satan the devil.

At times, as Scripture shows, demons may inhabit human beings—leading to bizarre, unpredictable, dangerous and often self-destructive behavior. What was Mary’s life like in this condition? We aren’t given the details, but under the best of circumstances it must’ve been a kind of living hell. We sometimes speak of the lives of generally unstable people today with such phrases as “a train wreck,” “off the rails” or “a disaster waiting to happen.” And no doubt this was her life.

Demon possession makes a person dangerous, delusional and difficult in ways the average person can’t begin to comprehend. This is evident in biblical examples where individuals possessed by demons mutilated themselves, threw themselves into fire, tore off their clothing, randomly shrieked and screamed, and lived in tombs among dead, decaying bodies. The picture is understandably bleak, because such people are no longer in control of their lives and actions. More than anything, they need to be rescued!

A powerful rescue and the grateful response

The Bible doesn’t tell us when, where or how, but Mary was rescued. Jesus taught and healed in the towns and synagogues all around Galilee, including casting out demons. No doubt He visited Magdala, and no doubt people from Magdala made the short walk to Capernaum to hear Him teach and to be healed. Somewhere during that time Mary the demoniac became “Mary . . . out of whom He had cast seven demons” (Mark 16:9 Mark 16:9Now 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.
American King James Version×
; Luke 8:2 Luke 8:2And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
American King James Version×
).

Jesus was a living example of grace in action, and in that grace He first became Mary’s Rescuer and then her Savior in the ultimate sense. In her grateful devotion she became one of His most dedicated and loyal followers. Notice what the Gospels tell us about her:

• She was part of the group that followed Jesus from place to place, which included her and several other women who “were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:3 Luke 8:3And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered to him of their substance.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

• Faithful to the end, she was a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial after most of Jesus’ male disciples had abandoned Him and fled (Matthew 27:55-61 Matthew 27:55-61 [55] And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him: [56] Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children. [57] When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: [58] He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. [59] And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, [60] And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. [61] And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher.
American King James Version×
).

• After Jesus’ body was entombed, she was one of the women who bought and prepared spices to anoint His body (Mark 16:1 Mark 16:1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
American King James Version×
).

• She and some other women were the first to come to the tomb, where they saw the stone rolled away and an angel told them to go tell the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead (Mark 16:2-7 Mark 16:2-7 [2] And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. [3] And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? [4] And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. [5] And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. [6] And he said to them, Be not affrighted: You seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. [7] But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you into Galilee: there shall you see him, as he said to you.
American King James Version×
).

• She told the others this dramatic news, but they didn’t believe her (Luke 24:9-11 Luke 24:9-11 [9] And returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. [10] It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things to the apostles. [11] And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
American King James Version×
).

• She was the first of Jesus’ followers to whom He appeared after His resurrection from the dead (Mark 16:9 Mark 16:9Now 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.
American King James Version×
; John 20:11-17 John 20:11-17 [11] But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, [12] And sees 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 to her, Woman, why weep you? She said to 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 said to her, Woman, why weep you? whom seek you? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, Sir, if you have borne him hence, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. [16] Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned herself, and said to him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. [17] Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
American King James Version×
).

Of the many individuals we encounter in the Gospels, Mary is one of the very few of whom nothing negative is written—other than the fact that at one time Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. But even that is simply stated as a way of differentiating her from the several other women named Mary in the Gospel accounts. In no way is that meant to impugn her character.

In the story of Mary we see a wonderful example of the working of grace. Through circumstances beyond her control, she was in a dire and desperate place. Jesus recognized that and delivered her from that demonic possession and influence in a loving act of mercy and grace.

In her gratitude (a word rooted in grace, in the sense of returning benevolence for benevolence received), she became a devoted follower of her Rescuer whom she came to know as her spiritual Savior, Master and Lord. As a result, the Gospel writers hold her up as a role model for all others who have been recipients of God’s gift of grace. We, too, should be devoted followers, dedicating our lives to serving the Giver of so much good to us—just as Mary did!

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