Introduction Detlef Stegen
We thank the Lord that we can gather this morning. May it be a time where we can experience the Lord speaking to our hearts. It is wonderful to be part of the church and what God is doing. No one is excluded. See to it that your life is right in order to be fashioned into that which is approved of by the Lord. May the Lord reach his purpose for us today.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus'[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. John 20:1-16
Women played an important role in the Lord’s ministry. The Lord specialises in people who are weak, cast out and sick. This text opens the door to who Mary Magdalene really was.
She came to the tomb when it was dark. She was worried about her Master. It was only when Jesus mentioned her name that she recognised Him. Look at her heart, it was totally part of that which God was doing. All their experiences may have bewildered them and the Lord realised that they did not understand but He did not give them clarity immediately. Only when He opened their eyes, they understood.
The Bible says there were some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled; Johannah, the wife of Herod’s household manager; Susanna and others who provided for Him out of their property and personal belongings.
Mary’s problem was that she had been demon possessed. One’s heart goes out to such people when one sees the circumstances they live in. Jesus specialised in these people and His heart went out to those who suffered and were oppressed by the devil. Mary came from Magdala, a thriving business and fishing town located on the Sea of Galilee. She was a businesswoman who was somehow possessed by seven evil spirits. Mary is mentioned more than most of the apostles written about in the Word of God. The Lord saw her need. The Lord knows you and me. We all need Him. We all live by Him. Can you imagine the torment and suffering this woman went through? But the Lord made everything new in her life. Never underestimate what people have experienced if they come for help. The Lord knows their suffering and He delivers them. The Lord set Mary free. This must have revolutionised her life. Do you understand why Mary lived as she did? She knew from whence she had come and where the Lord had taken her to. She knew that she was saved and set free. That was all she needed.
Somehow Mary must have opened the door and allowed the demonic powers in, possibly through her family. Do not take sin lightly. Do you want to end up like Mary? You will end like her if you take sin lightly and compromise. You will be influenced whether you like it or not because you opened the door. When Mary was saved, she was saved to the uttermost, not like you who confess your sin over and over. The Lord has come to save and set us free.
These days I heard a story of a young lady who stayed here at the Mission for some time. There was hope that she might meet this Christ. She returned home but it did not take long and she was wearing trousers. My wife says that when she came to the Mission, nobody had to tell her what to do, she knew. When you meet that saving Christ, you know what to do because Jesus has told you. This young lady also wears shorts. This very lady sings in church. She stands in front and sings about Christ. Which Christ? What a disgrace when you live one life and sing another. This is where you confuse things. It should be either one way or the other way. Do what you want, say what you want, but if you leave God’s ways you will suffer the consequences.
Mary had seven spirits. Seven is a mystic, complete number. In other words, Mary was completely dominated by these spirits. Her suffering and pain were great but the Lord saw and He knew that He had to help her. She was possibly despised and ostracised by society but the Lord embraced her. Church fathers and even John Bunyan, suggest that the seven demons could have been seven deadly sins. You say that you are not demon possessed but possibly some of these sins are ruling your life:
1. Pride. Pride is the beginning of the end. Pride is so subtle. You can have a pious pride which you do not see or even recognise.
2. Envy. It is one of the roots of many evils that enters a person’s life. Pride and envy go hand in hand. You build your own castles which lead you into a lost state. You envy Reverend Stegen and you think you can say and do as he does. (David Kydd related that he once lay hands on a certain lady as Reverend Stegen had done and the evil spirits in that person entered him.
3. Anger. Anger destroys what has taken a lifetime to build. Anger does not make a person better but a hundred, thousand times worse.
4. Spiritual slothfulness. Your work might not be what it should be because you are slothful. Spiritually it is the same. You take things lightly. When you have sinned or have made a mistake, you do not see it. Suddenly you see things differently to how you saw things before. Something has entered your life because you did not watch and pray. In the past you would wake up at night if God reminded you of something and you would write your sin down. Now you no longer care. You live for weeks and months with sin in your life.
5. Lack of self-control. Self-control means to control yourself to the uttermost. That cell phone – you know in your heart where your feelings will take you without self-control.
6. Sexual feelings and behaviour.
7. Covetousness, a greed for material possessions, money or position.
The rich young man in Matthew 19 had many possessions given to him from above. He was blessed. He asked the Lord a wonderful question, “Lord, what should I do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.” The man replied that he had done so. Can we say this? Lord, I have kept all you commanded me to do. Are we not like this young ruler? We grow up here, we keep everything we are taught, we are good children. We are taught His commandments. We are taught to confess our sins. You are able to say that you have seen a counsellor, you have even apologised to your mother because that is what you have been taught. But the Lord said to the rich man, “Young man, you know what is in your heart, those riches – sell everything you have.” Jesus hit the nail on the head. Sell everything. The riches were not a sin in itself but that was too difficult for him to leave them. We need to experience the Lord. How? Speak to the Lord Jesus as this ruler did. Ask Him and He will give you an answer. The Lord has possibly spoken to you and said, “My child, I want you here.” You have been a good child; you have done everything that is right. But the Lord says, “No, I want you to be here or there or to do this.” But you run away from it. Mary was different. She knew she had a problem and needed deliverance. The young man said, “I have got everything. I have done it. I have kept everything.” Do you see the difference? A person who experiences the Lord sees what is in his heart. Riches and money in themselves are not evil but you make them evil because you make them part of your life. You cling to worldly things such as your clothing and appearance. The Lord places His finger on these things and says, “My child, I am not happy with this.” Riches create cliques. If you are not part the group, you are nothing. Mary was rich but she served the Lord using her possessions. What these women had, belonged to the Lord. People think they will enter heaven through good works but the Bible does not say this. When the Lord saved these women from their past lives, they immediately got busy with what they had to do. They recognised their calling. They knew what God had called them to do and they served the Lord while He was here on earth.
When I came to the mission as a young boy, one of the first things I was asked was, “What is your calling? Why are you here? What are you going to do here? Why have you come here?” I was told to pray and return with an answer. What has God called you for. What is your duty? I said, “I am going to preach.” Well, I had to preach to the avocadoes first. It must be seen how you live before you preach to others. You come here but you do not really fit in anywhere. What is your primary calling? What has God told you? This makes the difference. That is why Mary’s life looked like it did. She knew that she had to serve the Lord and His disciples. Is your calling to walk up and down and speak to every Dick, Tom and Harry all day? Friends, that is not a calling, that is your own idea. I cannot understand how you can get up in the morning and you do not know what to do. You have a calling and that is God’s work. You are on a mission station. Our calling is God’s word. You say that you are looking after your babies but there are many other babies here. What have you done for them? You talk about the druggies and this and that. They are at the right place. You are at the wrong place. What is your calling? Tell your counsellor what your calling is. Even if you are a granny you should know what your calling is. Otherwise you are here but you should not be here. Why has Lord brought you? You go up and down, you do this and that, there is no urgency, just slothfulness. You lie snoring in bed; you are too lazy to get up but you complain about the food. The kitchen women are like Mary, but you snore your life away and yet you have the guts to complain about the food. Who has gone to the ‘Marys’ and thanked them for giving their lives to serve Christ and for what they are doing? We do not know what they are doing because we do not notice it and we think they are not so important. Remember, it is not the great things I do or think I do; it is that glass of water that I am prepared to give to the next person which the Lord says He will not forget.
Mary experienced the Lord. Look at the way in which she did things. When everybody was gone and she was left alone, she cleaned the kitchen, she did this and that. That is how I imagine her. That is why she could sit at the grave. All you can do is talk, talk, talk. The Lord says, “Take a broom, sweep the floor.” Oh, no – that is not my job, that is not my calling. The Lord says, “Pick up that piece of paper.” You respond with, ” These people who throw things on the floor!” Why? They throw things on the floor for you to understand God’s voice and pick it up. This Mary was faithful because she knew she was saved. If you are saved, you have no time to hang around speaking nonsense and lies.
Mary reached a point in her life where she saw the Lord in a different way. She saw the betrayal of her Master. She saw Him standing before Pilate. She heard the lies that were spoken about Him because man did not understand. (You do not understand, this is why you speak so much, otherwise you would have shut your mouth.) She saw the flogging, the crown of thorns on His head, His bleeding body, she was there. The circumstances worsened. Finally, she heard the sentence – crucifixion. It must have been a painful experience because this very Man had helped her. She followed the procession to Golgotha. She saw Him crucified and lifted up on the cross. Things worsened even further. Maybe she hoped that He would climb down off the cross. These scenes must have been indelibly imprinted on her life. The Lord died before their eyes.
Who would remove the body? Joseph of Arimathea came and Nicodemus; there may have been others too. They solved that problem for them. You are never alone. If you are with Christ’s body you are never alone. So, they took Him down and Mary followed this funeral procession to the tomb. In the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’, you get the sense that she was one of the last to experience His death but the first to experience the resurrection.
On Easter morning when it was still dark, the Bible says, Mary rushed to the tomb. Look at a person who loves the Lord? They have no time to point fingers and find fault. If things are wrong, they sit down with the Lord and find out why things are wrong, they do not find fault. But finding the tomb empty, she ran to tell Peter and John and they all ran back to the tomb. She possibly lagged behind but she trotted along until she reached the tomb again. When the disciples found it empty, they returned home. The greatest event had taken place – the Lord died and had risen- but they had gone home, to their surroundings, their families, their businesses. Could it be that at the greatest event, you will depart for home?
Mary stayed there alone.
The Song of Solomon says I sought Him whom my heart loves. I asked the watchman but they could not help me. I went further (do you hear this spiritual talk? Maybe your life is ruled by watchmen, not the Lord) but as I passed the watchmen, I found Him whom my soul loves. Watchmen are needed. We cannot live without them, but have you gone even further and found the One whom your soul loves?
Mary stayed alone. She did not move from there. She wept. Have you even cried about your sin? When she saw someone, she thought it was the gardener. That is a sermon on its own. We despise gardeners, don’t we? What is a gardener? A person does not know much is sometimes put in the garden. She asked, “Sir, if you have taken Him, where have you put Him?” When God works, He often uses something and someone we despise. Maybe He uses an uneducated person, an African whom you think is nothing and you kick up dust. Maybe a white man speaks to you but you hate white men because you say it is us ruling now, why should a white man speak to me. Jesus may use something that you despise. The gardener suddenly spoke to her. He just said, “Mary.” She could not see or recognise at first but suddenly she saw the Lord. Has He mentioned your name? Those who have grown up with this gospel know everything but that is not what it is about. When last has God spoken to you? When last could you say, this is what God has taught me? Like the rich young ruler, you are so good, you are good for nothing and so pious! You need Christ. Mary’s eyes were opened. Are your eyes open? You argue and find fault because your eyes are blind but hers had been opened.
Allow me to read something to you that I read today.
The chariots of God are tens of thousands. Psalm 68:17
But Lord, they do not look like chariots. They look instead like enemies, sufferings, trials, defeats, misunderstandings, disappointments, unkindnesses, juggernaut cars of misery and wretchedness that are only waiting to roll over us and crush us into the earth. But they are chariots; chariots of triumph in which we may rise to those very heights of victory for which our souls have been longing and praying. Earthly chariots are subject to the laws of matter and may be hindered or overturned; God’s chariots are controlled by spiritual forces and triumph over all hindering things! “Tens of thousands” says the text and although our spiritual eyes may not as yet have been opened to see them, all around us on every side they must be waiting for us. “And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17
The king of Syria was unable to see the chariots, nor could the servant of the prophet see them. But the prophet himself sat calmly in his house without fear – his eyes had been opened to see the invisible. Now, what he asked for his servant was, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Open our eyes that we may see!
Springs in the Valley, L.B. Cowman, p224
The Lord opened Mary’s eyes and she recognised Him. One of the greatest sermons was given to a lady who was faithful, honest and upright. The Lord said to Mary, “Go and preach – tell my brothers what you have experienced.” Where did Mary come from, what was Mary? The Lord saw her love and sent her to tell others. He rewards her for her faithfulness and commissions her to preach.
Suddenly however, a veil falls over her life and nothing more is said of Mary after this. What a wonderful life! The Lord wants to do this for us. I believe she was at Pentecost where she received power from on high. Her life showed she was ready to receive the Holy Spirit. She did not need to ask, the Lord knew, her life made her a co-worker. Her life proved it. History says she became a missionary for about 30 years in southern France. My logic says possibly that is why the Huguenots came from there, they were the fruit of her life. We do not know.
We must hear that voice; our eyes must be opened and we must not take it lightly.
Albu van Eeden
Allow me to add a remark about our calling. Do not be surprised if you need to die daily to yourself in order to fulfil your calling. I have been involved here for 40 years and during the 9 years in which I was prepared for my calling, I had to die to myself every day to such an extent that I asked the Lord whether I was still on the right track? Is this really my calling? That is why, when the time came to sacrifice everything to be in the Lord’s work, it was no problem for me anymore because I had died to whatever the world could have offered me. I do not want to paint a dark picture which sounds morbid and depressing but do not be surprised if, in order to fulfil your calling, you must die to yourself daily. Some people lose their calling because they are not willing to die. The director of this mission, Reverend Stegen, once said from the pulpit that he could not remember a single day in his life where he did not have to die to himself.