Witnesses To Christ: Mary Magdalene / Easter Sunday

Luke 24:1-12

Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,

When I say the word orchestra, you probably picture woodwinds, brass, and strings. But one orchestra is made up of kids who play instruments made out of trash. It’s called the “Recycled Orchestra of Cateura” (in Paraguay). Cateura is not really a town. It’s actually a slum built on a huge landfill.

Every day, about three million pounds of waste is dumped in Cateura. Many families eke out their existence by scavenging trash from the landfill to resell, and kids get pulled out of school to help. To be honest, there is nothing in Cateura. What there was most was drugs. A violin, like many in the orchestra, is made out of cans, wooden spoons, and bent forks. One of the ensemble’s cellos uses an oil drum. A teenager plays a saxophone made out of a drainpipe, melted copper, coins, spoon handles, cans, and bottle caps.

Several years ago, a short video was made. The hope was to raise $175,000 to make a full-length documentary. Not only did they raise the money, but the video also went viral. Since then, the Recycled Orchestra has performed all over the world. The group plays Mozart, Paraguayan folk music, even Frank Sinatra.

God makes music with misfits. That’s what Easter is all about! God loves to make music with misfits! I’m a misfit. You’re a misfit. We’re all misfits! We all fall short of God’s will and ways. But fellow misfits, it’s time to make music!

What do I mean? The biblical orchestra is made up of the most unlikely musicians. Peter is a first-chair trumpeter. He denied Christ, three times! Paul plays the violin. But there was a time when Paul played a religious thug and persecuted Christians. And the guy on the harp? That would be David. Womanizing, bloodthirsty, yet repentant David. Today, on this Resurrection Day, we add another person to the misfits who make music. Her name is Mary, Mary Magdalene.

Mary begins as a mess. Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out (Luke 8:2). There are five Marys in the New Testament, which is why this one is identified with “Magdalene.” Magdalene isn’t even her last name. Magdalene refers to her hometown, a little fishing village on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee called Magdala.

Luke tells us that Mary had been demon possessed, with seven demons, the biblical number for a complete set. Can you imagine being that messed up?

Here’s how it happens. We all have had compulsion to prove that we do anything. We begin a job or a task or a class with high hopes and high endeavor. I’ll show them! I’ll be the best! Also, something called, intensity. We arrive early. We stay late. We give it all we’ve got. Even morphing in subtle deprivations. To keep going, we begin to deprive ourselves. Maybe we stop exercising, stop getting enough sleep, or stop reading our Bible and attending church. We pick up bad eating habits. More donuts will do the trick! It’s all distorted thinking. We tell ourselves; Things will get better after I finish this project. I’ll get back on track with my family after tax season or after this business trip. I’ll come back to Church when the pandemic is over. Then, of course, there’s the heightened denial. People close to us begin to see what we can’t see. We have less joy in a hobby, in a sport, or in life in general. We’re often tired. We begin watching too much TV.

Disengagement. Life becomes a checklist of things to do. One thing after another. We live for vacation, and then vacation never lasts long enough. Observable behavior changes. People who don’t know us see that something is wrong. Our survival strategies become unhealthy: too much internet, too much eating, too much sleeping, too much shopping, too much caffeine. We become robotic. We just go through the motions. We play the part, we put on a face, but we’ve got nothing left in the tank. We hit rock bottom. We internalize everything. We stop talking to anyone. And we feel as though we’ve got at least seven demons.

We can all get in a mess like Mary. We can all get down, depressed, and hit rock bottom. Did you know that 20 percent of all people on disability are on it because of severe depression? Did you know that despite being the richest nation on earth, the United States is, according to the World Health Organization, also the most depressed nation on earth? Did you know that in the last decade, depression among American teenagers has increased 200 percent?

For many years, the Chevy Nova was a successful American car. But the Nova didn’t sell well in Mexico. For a long time, there was an urban myth that it was because in Spanish the word Nova means “no go.”  And though this myth is used as an example of marketing folly, it sums up life sometimes, doesn’t it? No va. No go! We hit rock bottom with no way up. No va. No go. That’s Mary’s mess and ours as well. And music? Music? We have no song to sing!

Mary was down, but her Messiah had lifted her up! Jesus lifted Mary up from her pit of seven demons. That’s why Mary Magdalene followed Jesus all the way to the cross to watch her Savior bleed and die.

Mary’s Messiah is your Messiah too. His face is caked with spit and blood. His throat is so dry He can’t swallow. His voice is so hoarse He can hardly speak. To find the last time moisture touched His lips, we need to rewind the clock twelve hours to the meal in the Upper Room. Since drinking from the Passover cup, Jesus has been betrayed, condemned, mocked, beaten, and crucified. No liquid has quenched His thirst. The Savior has no song to sing!

That’s how things stand just before dawn on Sunday. There had been so much hope, so much promise. But now, it had all come to what? Nothing! Nothing! The famous Rabbi? Dead. His disciples? In hiding. Other followers? Scattered. One of them, Judas Iscariot, even killed himself.

Mary Magdalene gets up early on Sunday to anoint Christ’s dead body. But the body isn’t in the tomb! Mary breaks out crying. She tells her story, first to Peter and John, and then to the angels, and now, for a third time, to a man she thinks is the gardener. Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away (John 20:15).

 Mary. The voice is unmistakable. Mary. No one ever said her name with such tenderness. Mary. She looks up and, in sudden recognition, cries out, Rabboni! It’s Jesus. It’s Jesus! He’s not dead. He is risen from the grave. He’s alive. Christ is alive!

Emotions flood Mary’s heart, can you imagine? She goes from from the depths of grief and sorrow to the heights of joy. Just when it appeared as though it was all over, to the shock and surprise of everyone, the Father raised Jesus bodily from the dead. Mary’s song, better, her symphony of celebration, starts with great joy!

Mary’s music is a five-word song: I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). Lord isn’t just a polite way of talking about Jesus, like Sir or Mister. With Lord, Mary is saying, I have seen God, the King of the universe. I have seen the One through whom and for whom all things were made. I’ve seen the One who is coming again, riding on the clouds, as King of kings and Lord of lords! That’s why Thomas’s confession parallels, when he says these words: My Lord and my God!

What’s it all mean? It means that there’s more to our lives than what we think. It means that there’s more to our story than what we see. It means that there’s more than just death and taxes. Christ’s resurrection means that, just like Mary Magdalene, we have a song to sing!

Remember? God loves to make music with misfits! It’s time, it’s high time, for all of us misfits to make some music! I’ll take the tuba. You take the trombone. You take the tambourine! And you? What instrument will you play today?

One thing’s for sure. We have a song to sing! And we sing it with our lips and with our lives. What’s the song called? Our song has six words? What are they? I know that my Redeemer lives! Amen.