Matthew 24:14c (part 2)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 24:14c (Holman) And then the end will come.
Second’s theme for this year’s (2015) World Missions Conference is “Surrender”, from Galatians 2:20, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”.
Missions lives by surrender. At any moment, we must surrender to what God may be leading us to do that day, even if it is something we never had any notion of doing. We often live the Christian life like the boy who kept shooting his arrows at a target, but missed every time. Finally, due to frustration, he shot at a blank wall and drew a target around the arrow.
The call to be on mission is a call to surrender our will to His will every day. Our duty is to be open to His possibly new, different plans for us.
Mary Magdalene illustrates what we must do. She was faithful in her salvation-transformation, in supporting Jesus financially, and at the cross.
She showed amazing surrender at these three points, and once Jesus died, could have drawn a target around her arrow, but surrendered again. On Sunday, she visited Jesus’ tomb (John 20:1). It was dark, there had been an earthquake that morning, and unfriendly Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb (MT 27:66; 28:2). Despite the danger, Mary could not be deterred. By bringing spices and tears she showed that this rejected man was still loved.
Her life had become a pure spiritual romance of devoted love to Jesus. Loving Jesus is the only thing that makes surrender to Him repeatedly occur.
Often we measure success by what we are doing well at a given time. Deeds can become more important than love. When this happens, surrender becomes less important. If what we are doing is successful, why worry about considering doing anything else? Why give up a successful self-made target for another target? Beware letting successful deeds replace loving surrender.
A legend is told of when the favorite wife of Shah Johan died. He was devastated. Her title had been “Pride of the Palace.” To honor her he built a temple that would serve as her tomb. About 20,000 workers built it between 1632 and 1653. One day during construction, his leg bumped a wooden box. He ordered the workers to throw it out, having forgotten it was his wife’s coffin. He forgot his love for her and became obsessed with the building.
However successful we feel we are for God right now, do not draw a target around our arrow. Keep the door open for Him, if He wants to, to move us toward another errand where He has drawn a different target for us.
At the tomb, Mary’s mission of mercy became a nightmare of horror. The cross had been agony enough, but now she thought foul violators had stolen the most sacred thing she could conceive. Jesus’ body was gone.
This was a dangerous time for anyone connected to Jesus. Showing concern for the corpse of a crucified criminal could be punished. Had Mary chosen to, she could have turned and run back to Galilee as fast as she could.
None would have faulted her had she decided to draw a target around her arrow here. She had already done above and beyond the call of duty, but because she had a surrendered heart, rather than run away, she ran for help.
Peter and John investigated the crime scene, decided nothing more could be done at the tomb area, and left. Mary could have left with them.
She had done enough. No one would have thought less of her had she left. She could have drawn a target around her arrow, but felt another step of surrender was needed. Mary stayed there alone. Love did not let her leave.
Mary was traumatized, sobbing. Her whole world had crashed into a cold dark empty grave. She had lost not only Jesus, but also His dead body.
The corpse at least gave focus to her love. Losing the body meant losing all that was left to love. If a loved one is gone, love re-directs toward reminders of the beloved – a picture, ring, letter – anything can fast become precious to love. For Mary, this “something precious” was Jesus’ body.
Her grief forced her to do something. She never forgot that God’s will for her was a moving target. We know she had to have missed it often–no one is perfect–but she refused to stop pursuing it. Salvation wasn’t enough, supporting Jesus financially wasn’t enough, standing at His cross wasn’t enough, visiting the tomb wasn’t enough, staying there alone wasn’t enough.
I think Mary had done enough, but she felt she had to do more. She could have drawn a target around her arrow with no twinge of conscience, but surrender was in her soul. She never drew a target around her arrow.
Her eyes blurred with tears, Mary thought she saw the gardener, and offered to give Jesus’ body a decent burial. She could not do this. She was too weak to carry a body and had no place to bury it. Love sees no difficulty, deems itself omnipotent, and always thinks it can do more than it really can.
Mary persisted. Surrender refuses to sit down and wring its hands. His body had to be somewhere. She was determined to find it. Mary’s love refused to give up. At this moment, Jesus said “Mary” in a way that broke the shackle binding her heart. In one word filled with a world of love, Mary recognized the old familiar accent. It was a precious moment, the pinnacle of her life with Jesus. She could have for sure drawn an arrow and target here.
But no. One more assignment remained. Jesus gave Mary detailed instructions regarding how she was to convey the news of His Resurrection.
Mary had grabbed hold of Jesus. Determined to never let go, she was holding on to Jesus for dear life, but He told her she needed to release Him.
Someone had to go tell the good news. Jesus deserves loving worship, but is to be shared as well as adored. Let’s not clutch Jesus selfishly. Share the good news. Imitate Mary. Knowing Jesus was her Master, she obeyed totally and immediately. In other words, she surrendered to God’s target again. She left Jesus in order to go tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
We revere Mary because she never quit surrendering. Transformation wasn’t enough, supporting Jesus financially wasn’t enough, standing at His cross wasn’t enough, visiting the tomb wasn’t enough, staying there alone wasn’t enough, nor were seeking the body, or clinging to it. Surrender! Surrender! Surrender! Surrender! Surrender! Surrender! Surrender!
Then came the reward. Appropriately, this climactic moment is the last time the Bible mentioned Mary. This was her highest glory: she was the first to see the resurrected Lord, to hear the resurrected Lord, to talk with the resurrected Lord, to hold the resurrected Lord, and to carry the news of the resurrected Lord. She was the Apostle to the Apostles, the first missionary to tell them of Jesus’ Resurrection. Nothing better was left to say about her life.
Her refusal to quit surrendering was her key to success. What about you and me? Did we draw an arrow and target somewhere along the way?
I wish I could convey to us as a church Mary’s urgency. We must never be satisfied with targets we have drawn around our self-made arrows.
John and Mary Gaston were missionaries to China. They deeply loved Jesus and each other. Mary was often sick, but begged John to continue his preaching trips in China. She told him that was why they came to China.
One day a doctor said Mary had to go to a warmer climate or die. John hired workers, took a boat, and started down the river to friendlier weather.
On the way, Mary said, “John, aren’t you glad we obeyed the Lord and came to China.” Unable to look at her due to tears, he said, “I’m glad, Sweetheart.” Seeing trees on the bank, Mary asked to rest a bit in the shade.
John carried her and laid her down. She said, “John, I can’t go further. Listen to me! God brought us here. I want you to promise me you will stay, and not go home. Go back and preach to these people.” After this, she died.
The helpers, not wanting to see death, topped a hill and left John alone with Mary. With none to help prepare the body, read Scripture, sing a song, or say a prayer, John dug her grave with an oar, and gathered wild flowers to put on the grave. He called the workers back. As they started down the river, John said, “No! Not down the river, but up the river to fight and preach for the cause of Christ.” Let’s not draw targets around our self-made arrows. No matter the cost, keep surrendering to God’s new targets and arrows for us.