J. T. Mawson
The grace of the Lord Jesus was active towards all who came to Him when He dwelt here among men, but He seemed to have had the greatest consideration for the women. They are "the weaker vessels" and were not of much account in the estimation of the men. They had a proverb in those days, "Better burn the words of the Law than teach them to a woman," and even to this day in the Jewish Liturgy the men give thanks to God that they were not born women. But in contrast to the proud spirit of man the Lord stooped to the weak, the despised, and the neglected, and the greater their need the greater was His compassion for them.
When He saw the weeping widow following the corpse of her only son to its burying, He was moved with compassion, and never before had a great sorrow been so swiftly soothed as hers, when He said unto her, "Weep not." But power and authority were in Him as well as compassion, and He came and touched the bier and the funeral procession stood still, arrested on its march to the grave. Then He said to the young man, "I say unto thee ARISE; and he sat up and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother." He might have claimed the life that He had restored; He might have said to him, "Follow Me," but He did not. He knew that the lad was his mother's only support and hope, and He gave him back to her (Luke 7:11-15). — Such was Jesus!
The woman of the city could have expected nothing but scorn and rebuke from the Pharisee and his guests; then why did she venture across his threshold? Jesus was there and the grace that was in Him drew her to His feet, and that same grace broke her heart and moved her to repentance and saved her from herself and her sins. With what wonder she must have listened as He talked about her, and approved her conduct and held her up as an example to the proud man at the other end of the table. She had been a great sinner, but He spoke even to her, for He would not let her go away without the comfort and assurance that only His voice could give; and what wonderful words she heard, never would the music of them cease to sing in her soul. "Thy sins are forgiven. Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." No wonder she loved much, for of all the people at that dinner, and of all those that crowded round the door of that house, she, the most despised and sinful, was the chiefest object of His gracious consideration that day (Luke 7:36-50). — Such was Jesus!
The woman who had been long plagued with the issue of blood was hopeless of any cure and bankrupt of all her resources. Who would care for her, the victim of a loathsome malady, robbed of all her charm and wealth, and a burden to her relatives? But Jesus came to the town where she lived her unhappy life, and at the sight of Him faith awoke within her, and she said, "If only I could touch Him!" She knew that she might touch Him, her heart told her that He would not resent it, and He knew what was in her heart; and in response to her outstretched hand He healed her of her plague.
She would have gone away satisfied with that, but He would not permit it. He intended that she should carry into her brighter future, not the effect of His power in her body only, but the knowledge of His deep personal interest in her which would be an everlasting link between her soul and Him. So she saw His face and heard His voice, saying unto her, "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace" (Luke 8. 43-48). — Such was Jesus!
It is not hard to understand the agony of Jairus and his wife as their little daughter, their only child, lay at the point of death. The Lord Jesus was their only hope, and the father sought for Him and besought Him to come and heal her. While He tarried on the road the end came and she died. But at last He came to the house of sorrow and death, and taking her by the hand said, "Maid, arise," and she arose straightway. No wonder that her parents were astonished at that word of power and so bewildered that they seemed incapable of action, or was it that in their joy at receiving their only child alive again they forgot all else? He did not forget, He knew her needs and cared for them, and she but a girl! Did He ever use His power without revealing His heart? "He commanded to give her meat." Even the mother did not realise in her wonder and joy that the child needed food, but He did, He was more considerate for her than the mother (Luke 8. 49-56). — Such was Jesus!
Hear the indignant words of the ruler of the synagogue as he cries from his pulpit, "There are six days in which men ought to work; in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath Day." What had aroused the man's wrath? A poor creature bowed down with a sore infirmity had dragged herself to the synagogue on that Sabbath, for Jesus was there. For eighteen years she had suffered, bound by Satan, and never once during those weary years had she been able to raise herself to look at the heavens above her. What cared the great man in the pulpit for her? She was only a woman, unattractive, deformed, a cripple. But to the Lord she was a daughter of Abraham, a needy woman held by Satan's power, an object of mercy with longings for deliverance from the fetters that bound her. He interrupted the service for her sake, He broke in upon its miserable formality and called to her. He singled her out and addressed her personally in that crowded congregation, saying, "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity." And He did more, He laid His hands upon her, not one hand but both, and immediately she was made straight and glorified God (Luke 13. 11-17). — Such was Jesus!
It has been thought and said that He treated the woman of Canaan with a strange harshness when He appeared not to hear her cry for mercy, but that was not so. She cried to Him as the Son of David, she a woman of the accursed race. "Cursed be Canaan," had been said of old, and such was the corruption and iniquity of that race that Israel was sent into the land to exterminate it. If He had acted towards her as Son of David He must have rejected her plea, she had no claim upon Him under that title. As the Son of David He was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But she would not go without the boon she sought, and He would not send her away empty as the disciples urged. She knew that He had what she had longed for, and He held the blessing in reserve for her until she took her true place before Him. A crumb from His table would make her a happy, a blessed woman, and He had for her her whole desire and exceeding abundantly more than she could ask or think. It must have been one of those moments of great joy to Him when He said to her, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt"; and her devil-possessed and sorely vexed daughter was made whole that very hour (Matthew 15. 21-28). — Such was Jesus!
There was Simon's wife's mother who lay sick of a fever, and no wonder, with such a headstrong, impetuous son-in-law. "And anon they tell Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up." When He entered that inner chamber the moanings of the sick woman ceased and as He took her by the hand her pulse steadied, her temperature slid down to normal; she was instantly calmed. One touch of the sympathetic but almighty hand changed everything; contact with Jesus assuaged the fever, "and He lifted her up." He did not leave her in a state of helplessness, and there was no period of convalescence. His touch and His look were enough; whatever had troubled her and induced the fever troubled her no more with Him at her side. She stood up, the fever gone and ministered unto them" (Mark 1. 29-31). — Such was Jesus!
Of all the women of the Gospels that appear and pass with one mention only, not one commands our interest more than the woman of Sychar, for the Lord's way with her shows us how He prepares a soul for blessing; and He made revelations to her, ignorant and degraded, and a Samaritan though she was, that He did not make to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
What a day that was for her when she came to the well, as she used to come daily to draw water, and met the Shepherd of her soul. He was there before her, waiting for her in the midday heat, and He being wearied by His journey sat thus on the well — a wearied man and hungry and thirsty withal! But His need was the opportunity and the way of approach to her. It was not merely to open the conversation that He said to her, "Give Me to drink." He needed the cool water from Jacob's well, He who had created the mighty Amazon and every river on earth! But this woman had not the grace of Rebekah who at the like request from Abraham's servant said, "Drink my lord," and hasted and let down her pitcher upon her hand and gave him to drink (Genesis 24). Her sinful life had destroyed her womanly sympathy, and her racial prejudice had hardened her heart and she preferred an argument to a kindly act. Only the patience of the Lord and the grace — wonderful grace! that was in Him could deal with such a case as hers.
He spoke to her of God, and of God's gift of living water, which for ever satisfies the thirst of those who drink. He was revealing to her what God is, but that revelation did not and could not illuminate her dark soul until He had exposed what she was. He had to probe her sinful life; the light shone until all things that ever she did lay bare before her eyes, yet such was His grace that she did not fly from His presence. He spoke to her of the Father and at last He revealed Himself to her, and that revelation revolutionised her, she was a transformed, a converted woman from that hour, and a witness to the Christ who had blest her.
The disciples came and marvelled that He talked with the woman, and well they might for the grace that made Him do it was marvellous. That grace looks for no merit in its objects, but blesses them because of what it is itself. They besought Him to eat, for they knew how weary and hungry He was when they left Him to buy meat but an hour before; but He said to them, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." In blessing that woman whom all men despised He had been rested and refreshed. The Shepherd had found His sheep; the Father had found one of the first of those worshippers who would worship Him in spirit and in truth, and the Father and the Son rejoiced together. — Such was Jesus!
How did the women respond to the grace that was in Him? It is not recorded that ever a woman spoke a hard word about Him; even the wife of pagan Pilate would have saved her husband from the guilt of condemning Him, if he had hearkened to her; and tears flowed down the faces of the daughters of Jerusalem when He was led away to His crucifixion. But what of those whom He bound to Himself by His grace and made His disciples? Some of them had been "healed of evil spirits and infirmities." Amongst these was Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils — she was not a woman of the streets as is popularly supposed, hers was a worse plight than that — a sevenfold malignant Satanic power had enslaved her and Jesus had set her free — and with her there was Joanna the wife of Herod's steward, and Susanna and many others — we are not told from what particular evils they had been delivered, but they joined together with the Magdalene in the happy grateful service of ministering to Him of their substance. They had something to give and they gave it to Him willingly and joyfully. Rich men came and ministered to Him in His death, but these women of substance cared for Him in His life (Luke 8. 2, 3).
We read that "every man went to his own house, Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives." There was not a man in all the city of Jerusalem that said to Him at nightfall, "Sir, Thou art a stranger in the city and weary with the labours of the day, come home with me and rest Thee for the night." The mountain cave was His refuge, and the cold earth His bed. The men shewed Him no hospitality, but there was a certain woman named Martha who had a house not many miles away, who when she came to know Him received Him into her house, and served Him with devoted love!
The women stood by the cross when all the men who had protested their devotion to Him had fled away, except John. The women were the last at His sepulchre on the night of His death and the first there on the morning of His resurrection, and to them He revealed Himself alive, before any of the men knew of His resurrection. And Mary Magdalene was chiefest among those women and the first to see Him.
But there was one woman of whom special mention must be made, and that because the Lord commanded it. He said of her, "She hath wrought a good work on Me . . . She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying. Verily I say unto you. Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." She had sat at His feet and heard His word, she had brought her sorrow to those same feet and He had wept with her. Yes, Mary had seen His tears! How beautiful He must have seemed to her that day as she looked into His face and learned that His sympathy was greater than the greatest sorrow could be. And now she bent at His feet again and poured upon them the costly contents of her alabaster box. That "pound of spikenard" would have distinguished her among her acquaintances. It was the sort of thing that those eastern women kept for the greatest day of their lives. She might have poured it on her brother at his death, but she did not, much as she loved him. She had kept it for the feet of Jesus, well knowing that He was going into death. She had not used it for her own distinction. An eloquent writer has said, "She loved her Lord more than her own beauty," she loved Him more than she loved herself. The pouring out of the Lord's life for us was the supreme sacrifice, and next to that comes that that Mary of Bethany did. Her act of adoring devotion is bound up with the story of His great sacrifice by the Lord's own command, and to be spoken of wherever that story shall be told.
It was waste in the eyes of the disciples, it was "very costly" in the eyes of the Holy Ghost, who has recorded the act. What she did shows what the Lord's love can do in the heart of one who knows it. It made this Mary forget herself, and risk the criticism and scorn of her friends who did not understand. The world had nothing for Him but a cross of shame and the death of a felon, and she only of all His disciples realised this. To her henceforward Mary was nothing and Christ was everything; she would seek no distinction where He was dishonoured. She wanted no place in a world that did not want her Lord.
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We wonder at that devotion which we but feebly understand. But why should we wonder? If we see Jesus as Mary saw Him, and know Him as she knew Him, we shall cease to wonder; her act of loving devotion will not seem extraordinary to us, but we shall bow with her at His sacred feet and pour out our hearts' adoration and surrender ourselves there. And the frowns and criticism of brethren, who think themselves more practical and wiser than we, will not disturb us at all.
What a triumph for our Lord over all the subtlety and wiles of the devil was this. He had succeeded in Eden in seducing the woman from her allegiance to her God, but now how complete was his defeat. The Lord found in the women of His day the most fitting vessels for His mercy, and the truest devotion to Himself. And why should it not be so to-day?
The first person in Europe to bow in full surrender to Jesus was a woman. Her heart was opened to attend to the things that Paul spoke of Him, and these things included the great facts that He "died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried and was raised again from the dead the third day according to the Scriptures." "For when we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5. 6, 8).
To Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and many another Mary since their day Christ has been everything and all. Christ and His cross!
"Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,
Christ the beginning, and the end is Christ."