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Understanding the Significance of Life

By Marlene Houk

Burke CountyMarlene Houk Burke County

“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” John 20:18

The purpose of each person who crosses my path in life, each disappointment and wild joy, each goading and angry jab thrust at me – is to call me to the Lord. Sometimes I run to Him, tears streaming from the jagged wound in my soul. Often, I stomp around in circles, fuming and ranting, slinging bullets of truth to the nearby stones and trees and wishing my enemies stood in their places. But, my spirit belongs to my Savior, and He calls me gently to remember our relationship. Eventually, I tuck myself under His wings and rest in His Word.

Mary Magdalene, whose story of cleansing from devil possession and discipleship to Jesus, appears in all four gospels in the New Testament. She met many people on the road of her life. But the One who transcended all others was Jesus. He delivered her from a prison of torment and led her into the light of His presence. As I follow her trail 2,000 years later by reading her story over and over, her significance unfolds in a breathtaking panorama of truth. As I age, both physically and spiritually, my heart soars within my despair as truths from her life transform my thinking.

Mary Magdalene herself was significantly prominent in the Gospels. Writers of the first four books of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded her actions and words in 1,544 words.

Beyond her story, the frequent reader may gradually gather a list of Mary Magdalene’s significance in being first from several perspectives.

  • first in the list of the women who beheld Jesus on the cross afar off

Matthew 27:55-56

  • first listed at the tomb after the stone was rolled into place

Matthew 27:60-61

3) first at the tomb on resurrection morning, Mark 16:1

4) first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection, Mark 16:9

5) first person to tell the news of Jesus’ resurrection, Luke 24:10

I love Mary Magdalene’s divinely appointed place of firsts in the Gospels because she illuminates Jesus. The reflection of His glory in her helps me to know Jesus better. Her reactions to Jesus’ healing and her devotion to Him shed light on how He treats women, and, by inference, how he treats me. He granted her the honor of being the first to tell the disciples of His resurrection. She, who had walked with Him and the other disciples through life shows me today how Jesus honors those who walk with Him.

But her walk often led through the valley of the shadow of death as King David describes in Psalm 23. The Gospels mention sepulcher 30 times, and one of those times describes Mary Magdalene crying at the tomb. She had misunderstood the significance of the empty tomb and was crying over her lost expectations, over her idea of a better life, and over her dreams. We do that too. What is Mary telling us about changing our mindset when reality does not meet our expectations?

Understanding the significance of Mary Magdalene’s messages to us includes her directive to change our definition of success, fulfillment, joy, and reality. We follow her as she walks through the new definition by realizing three things.

First, God is in charge of our successes, failures, fulfillment, joy, and reality. How ironic that the entire Roman government, who ruled the known world at that time, fell helpless at the mighty power of God to resurrect Jesus. Reality became subject to God. Women walked into the empty tomb while hefty soldiers lay immobile. The Holy Spirit blew the wind of understanding the significance of the empty tomb, and the rush of truth dried her tears. When we understand Who reigns, no matter the iron grip of enemies, our soul calms and truth dries our tears. We may feel as Herbert Lockyer described Mary Magdalene after the miracle of her devil cleansing, “Her deranged and nerve-racked mind became as tranquil as the troubled lake Jesus calmed.”[i]

Second, Jesus redeems our disappointments. He turned Mary Magdalene’s wailing into worship and her confusion into commitment. She sat, utterly hopeless and defeated by the empty tomb, believing the distorters of truth—the Roman government—had stolen His body. But, when Jesus appeared, the truth dawned in her soul, and she ran to tell the disciples the amazing news of His resurrection. Her disappointment turned to delight, and she learned a tremendous spiritual lesson to look beyond life and understand the significance of her experience at the empty tomb. When life tumbles us into the pit of despair, look up toward the light of His truth to be delivered from misunderstanding current events.

Third, no matter how significantly earthly storms dominate our lives and seem to be immutable and unsolvable, eternity brings closure. Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb and collapsed in helplessness. But, just beyond her thinking the brilliant light of Jesus’ resurrection catapulted her into a glimpse of glory as she realized she would be with Jesus for all eternity. How her heart must have leaped in joy as the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:17 radiated throughout her soul, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Prayer: Dear Jesus, in this new year, please help me to understand that the significance of my life events—whether sad or happy—point to you. Amen.

[i] Book: All The Women of the Bible, page 101, Zondervan by Dr. Herbert Lockyer, R.S.L.


Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at

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Blue Ridge Christian News covers Avery County, Burke County, McDowell County, Mitchell County, Yancey County, and Madison County in North Carolina, and Christian news from around the country.