“The Exchanged Life Message #1 – Preparation for the Exchanged Life” Ed Miller

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below which is also available for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com

Good evening, brothers.  It’s good to be with you again, and it’s our prayer that we’ll behold our Lord Jesus.  As we come to look in the word of God, there is one principle of Bible study that’s indispensable, absolutely indispensable, and we can’t take it for granted.  Our natural hearts usually take for granted that which is most indispensable, and that’s desperate when it comes to this book.  That indispensable principle is total reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit.  Only God can reveal God, and He delights to do it; He longs to do it.

Before we go to prayer, I want to share just a little verse to get our hearts in the right direction.  I think you are all familiar with the wonderful chapter, Ezekiel 36, because that is New Covenant from start to finish, and it’s all the grace of God.  Everything in there is unconditional and it’s all “I will, I will, I will, I will,” “I have sworn,” “I am for you,” “I will turn to you,” “I will multiply,” “I will cause you to be victories,” “I will vindicate My holiness,” “I will gather you,” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you,” “I will give you a new heart,” “I will put a new Spirit within you,” “I will put My Spirit within you,” “I will cause you to keep My statutes,” “I will cause you to walk in My ways,” “I will save you,” “I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it, not for your sakes do I this but for My sake.”  All the way through, and when you come to the end of all that New Covenant and all that grace, we read this verse 36-37, “This, also, I will let the house of Israel ask Me to do for them.”  So, He gives all the things He wants to do, and the last thing He says is, “I will let them ask Me to do that for them.”  Even though it’s all by grace, He said, “Ask Me.  If you want it, I’m willing to do it, if you will ask Me.  I will let you ask Me to do all of that.”  So, let’s just trust the Lord and ask Him to do what He longs to do.  Let’s pray.

Father, we thank You so much this evening for Your precious word and for the measure of the revelation of Christ that You’ve privileged us to see so far.  We pray, Lord, this weekend that once again it would be Your pleasure to unveil Yourself.  We do thank You for Your New Covenant heart, and all that You long to do for us, and we would ask now, this weekend, that You would fulfill that covenant for us.  Minister unto our hearts, we pray, and unveil the Lord Jesus in a transforming was to our hearts.  We do long to see Him, and we ask that by Your grace You would give us eyes to do just that.  We commit our meditations unto You in matchless name of our Lord Jesus.  Amen.

As I look around, I believe I’ve seen most of you before, and I think pretty much there might be couple that are new.  Let me just say two things by way of introduction.  Number one, you’ll see my Bible here and you’ll probably think, “How come he never opens that thing?”  Well, I have all the verses written down here in large print so that I can see the verses.  I have opened it.  And then you probably saw me come up with a big stack of paper.  Don’t get too frightened; there’s not much written on every page; it’s just so I can see it, and it’s for your protection, so I don’t go wandering.

I remember I was ministering one time, and we were in a little cabin and Dana was ministering, and some trucker with a big semi got lost, and so while we were singing and praising the Lord, this big old semi came pulling up to this cabin out in the woods.  Dana looked out the window and said, “Ed, your notes have arrived.” 

Let me share with you what is on my heart this weekend, and I pray that I have sensed the heart of the Lord in this.  The portion of scripture that I’d like us to look at is actually very, very large.  We’re only going to have time to touch on a small portion of a large portion.  If you think of it as a couple of acres of land, I’d like to show you that acreage, and then I’d like to go to one little corner and dig a little garden in that little corner.  You need to see the whole field in order to see the little corner that we’re going to dig, but I think by digging this little corner you will have an earnest of the whole field.  That’s what we’re going to do.

The large portion of scripture I’m going to take the text from covers forty-one days.  Some think it’s forty-two or forty-three, and I won’t argue for that.  I’m referring to the days between Easter and the ascension of our Lord Jesus.  I’m talking about those forty days.  Listen, please, to Acts 1 as I read the first three verses.  “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day He was taken up to heaven, after He had, by the Holy Spirit, given orders to the Apostles whom He had chosen, to these He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking to them the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  Those are the forty days, but we’re going to look at forty plus one, or two or three.  Where does the “plus” come in?  1 Corinthians 15:3, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scripture, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve, and after that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now; some have fallen asleep.  Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all,” verse 6, “as to one untimely born, He appeared to me, also.” 

The Apostle Paul mentioned the post resurrection appearances of our Lord Jesus that took place during the forty days, the forty days from His resurrection to His ascension.  Then in verse 6 he says, “Last of all, He appeared to me, also.”  Evidently, he is referring to the Damascus Road experience.  If that’s so, the accepted Bible chronology of that is about 37 A.D.  In other words, it’s about seven years later.  He lists those who saw him during the forty days; James saw Him, and Peter saw Him, and Mary saw Him, and Thomas saw Him, and five hundred people saw Him.  He lists them, and he puts himself in the list, even though it’s seven years later.  He said, “Last of all He appeared to me, as well.”  That’s where I get the extra day.  The forty days plus this day, some say that this revelation took two or three days; he was blind for three days.  That’s where they say it’s maybe thirty-two or thirty-three days.  You can take that however you want it.  I want to look at that period of time.

Let me show you how large that field really is.  During those forty-one days, our Lord Jesus appeared twelve times—six times to individuals and six times to groups.  It’s true, about several of those appearances we don’t have much information about.  For example, we know He appeared privately to Peter.  That’s all we know; we know He appeared to Peter.  Maybe there is instruction in that.  When a person has denied the Lord and is being restored, maybe it’s none of our business what took place; maybe that’s just between them and the Lord.  I’m sort of glad there’s not much information given there.  He appeared to his brother, James, and that’s all we know; we don’t know much about that appearance, either.  He appeared to five hundred at once.  There are some ideas when that happened but nobody is sure.  Some people believe He appeared to five hundred different people who were not all in one group, but all over the place, and He appeared at one time as a foretaste that “every eye shall see it”.  I don’t know.  We know He appeared twelve times.

Some of these appearances He gives great detail.  Clearly, on a weekend like this, we can’t look at twelve different appearances.  Before I focus on that small corner I want to dig, I want to share with you three suggestions.  Why did He appear at all?  Why didn’t He just go up to heaven and send the Holy Spirit, and then go on with the program?  How come He had to appear twelve different times?  What is that all about?  Let me make three suggestions.  I’ll mention the first two and then we’ll leave it.  I’ll mention a third, and that’s where we’ll be this weekend; that’s our little garden, that third suggestion. 

Let me mention the first two.  The first one we’ve already read.  It’s in Acts 1:3, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days.”  King James says, “Many infallible proofs.”  Kenneth Wuest says, “Many indubitable proofs.”  The New English Translation says, “Many ample proofs.”  One reason He kept appearing is to prove that He wasn’t dead, infallibly, by many infallible, many convincing, many ample, many indubitable proofs that He is not dead, but He’s alive.  Now, it’s true that He only appeared to the elect.  Acts 10:40-41, “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is to us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” 

I speak as a fool but if it had been me I wouldn’t have appeared only to believers.  Again, I think I would have knocked at the governor’s door and said, “Hi, Pilate!  Do you remember Me?”  That’s what I would have done.  Or I would have gone to Herod’s palace, “I’ve come to return your robe.”  He didn’t do that.  I would have gone to the Praetorian guard and said, “Remember when you put a blindfold around Me and spun Me around, and you threw Me from guard to guard and you beat My face, and you said, ‘Alright, if you can see through that blindfold, then tell us who hit You.’”  “I did see through that blindfold.”  See, I would have done something like that.  I would have come to the proud Pharisees and I would have gone to the priest’s house and I would have gone to the counsel of the Sanhedrin, and I would have showed up at Annas’ door or Caiphas’ or something like that.  But our Lord Jesus is wiser than I am and He appeared to His children.  He said that He appeared because He wanted to prove that He was alive. 

We sort of read these things la, la, la.  Many of His disciples needed infallible proof that He was alive.  They took it hard; they were broken.  The women just couldn’t stop weeping.  Mark 15:47 says that they were watching when Jesus was taken down from the cross.  According to Matthew 27:61, when the great stone was rolled in front of the grave, the women just sat down there and they just wept until the sun went down.  They were broken.  Peter tried for six months to keep Jesus from going to the cross.  That’s when Jesus had to rebuke him and say, “Get behind me, Satan.”  Remember in  Luke 24, the Emmaus disciples, when Jesus showed up, verse 15, “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began travelling with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.  He said, ‘What are these words you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’  And they stood still looking sad.”  Why did they look sad? It’s because they were sad because He was dead.  Luke 24:21, “We were hoping that it was He who was to redeem Israel.”  “Our hopes are gone; He’s dead.  We were hoping, but He’s dead.  We have proof; we saw His body.  It was mangled.  We saw it.  We saw them take Him down.  We watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anointed His body; we saw Him put in the grave.  He’s dead. It’s over.  We were wrong.  He’s not Messiah.”  That’s one of the reasons He kept showing up, and He kept appearing.  He’s not dead.  What a joy they discovered when He showed up!  Remember how the Bible says that Jacob’s heart revived when he learned that his son was not dead but alive, exalted to be Lord and the bread of life for the whole world?  Do you remember the joy in his heart?  See, that’s what happened.  For forty days the news began to spread, “He’s not dead.  He’s not dead.  He’s alive.  He’s not dead!” 

Alright, hold that for a moment.  There’s a second reason, I think, He kept appearing.  It’s expressed in Matthew 28:18-20 but especially verse 20.  I’ll read the whole thing.  “Jesus came and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you.’”  And then He said this, “’And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”  You see, those forty days were sort of a transition period, a transition between a visible, physical Savior, and someone who is going to be with them in an invisible way.  They had to get used to that. “Lo, I am with you always, (even though you can’t see me, even though you can’t touch me, I’m with you).”  Literally it is, “I am with you all the days.”  In other words, there will never be a day in your life and never be a day in my life when He’s not with us.  See, they had another problem.  After they learned that He was alive, and He’s not dead, He’s alive, and He sits down with them and breaks bread; they see Him and He’s alive; He’s gone, He’s not dead, He’s gone.  They’re walking down the street together and He’s there, and all of a sudden He’s not there.  They’re in a room and all the doors are closed and He shows up and He’s there; and then He’s not there; He’s gone.  He kept disappearing.  He’s not dead; He’s just gone.  For forty days He’s here, He’s not here, He’s here, He’s not here, He’s here.

It came to a climax on the fortieth day.  You remember the record.  Acts 1:6, “They had come together saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time that You’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’  And He said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the epochs which the Father is fixed in His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.  You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, even to the remotest part of the earth.’”  Now note this, brothers, “And after He said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on and a cloud received Him out of their sight, and as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them,” and you remember the message of the angels,   “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Put yourself in their shoes.  “He’s not dead!  He’s NOT dead!  He’s alive!  He’s gone.  He’s here, He’s not here, He’s gone.”  And then this one day, “He’s gone,” and a cloud comes and takes Him out of sight.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Don’t think they weren’t waiting for Him to show up again.  They were.  That’s what they had been doing for forty days; “He’s here, He’s not here, He’s here, He’s not here.”  I don’t know what those ten days were like.  I know the Bible says that they were to gather in Jerusalem and they did, and they were in the Upper Room and we have a record of that.  We have no record of their conversation.  I think it went something like this, “Anybody see Him?  Did He show up?  Peter, did you see Him?”  “No.  Last time I saw Him a cloud took Him out of sight.”  “How about you, Andrew?  Did you see Him?  Thomas?”   He’s gone, He’s gone, He’s dead, He’s not dead, He’s alive, He’s gone.  Day one, day two, day three, week one, and I think they concluded He’s gone for good.  I think that’s what they were thinking. 

But you know the record, wonderful day of Pentecost, the promise of our Lord Jesus to send the Lord in the Person of the Holy Spirit, and in that moment they entered into a discovery; He’s neither dead nor gone, but He’s alive, and He’s alive in me.  What a day!  What a discovery that they made that day; He is neither dead nor gone, but He’s alive and He’s alive in me; He’s neither dead nor gone but He’s alive and He’s alive in you; He’s neither dead nor gone but He’s alive and He’s alive in us.  Glorious, glorious gospel.  Although He’s been sitting at the Father’s right hand, He’s not far away.  If fact, any closer He could not be; He’s in your heart and He’s in your life.  He’s in my life.  That new relationship, God in me, God in you, that He’s neither dead nor gone, but that He’s very much alive and very much present and is now indwelling us by His Spirit, that was new to them.  We just sort of slap on all that we’ve heard and all that we know.  For them that was brand new.  They were used to sitting at His feet and looking at Him and hearing Him teach.  They were used to having Him break bread.  They were used to putting Him in the boat.  They were used to Him going down and going to sleep in the boat.  They were used to sitting on the grassy field there and being fed by fish and loaves.  They were walking in the grainfields with Him on the sabbath day.  They were used to that.  But that One, that same One that walked is now living inside of me?  That’s new, and they had to be prepared for that.  So, I’m suggesting that the third reason of why He kept appearing and disappearing during those forty days, one is to show that He is not dead, and one is to show that He is not gone, and one was to prepare them for the new relationship.  They had to be prepared for a brand new relationship.  How do I relate?  How can I have union with, how can I enjoy this One who is neither dead nor gone, but now alive, and alive in me?  I’m suggesting that each of these appearances laid down a great principle of preparation.  He had to get them ready for that.

Brothers, what I’d like to do this weekend, here’s our little garden, and that’s a big chunk of scripture.  We can’t look at all of that, so I’ve selected several records, and we’ll look at the principle, how does this prepare me to have union with the indwelling Christ?  And then how does this prepare me, and so on?  I’m going to be speaking this weekend, and I’m going to give it the title, because what they learned when they learned that He’s neither dead nor gone but very much alive and alive in them, they learned that there was a new life, an exchanged life.  See, we’re so often thinking about the Christian life as a change.  It is not a change; it is an exchange.  That’s what they needed to be prepared to learn.  We’re going to be talking all weekend about the exchanged life.  We’re going to look at several stories and each one takes us closer and closer.  He doesn’t spell it all out in the first story.  He just introduces it, and then He gives a transition to the next story, and then He lays out another principle.  By the time we’re done, it’s all laid out.

Let me mention the stories we’re going to look at, and then we’ll begin looking at them.  I want to look at Mary Magdalene because she’s first.  I just think that’s important; she’s first.  So, at the end we’re going to look at, “…last of all, He appeared to me,” because he’s last.  So, we’re going to look at that.  But I want to show you how our Lord’s appearance to Mary Magdalene laid out the great principle of how can I be prepared to relate to the One who has come, His life in exchange for mine?  Then, I’m going to group a few of them together.  I want to look at Thomas and the Emmaus Road and the Upper Room: not everything, just the big principle.  We’ll look at that, but I am most anxious, brothers, to get to this, “…last of all He appeared to me.”  So, we are going to do two lessons on “last of all”, one to explain the exchanged life and one to illustrate it.  Because he’s last, that’s final preparation.  The last thing anybody needs to know in order to relate to an indwelling Christ is spelled out in that experience.  That’s why that’s last.  It’s not last literally, because He appeared to John after that, and so on.  So, that wasn’t last, but He said, “Last of all…,” it’s last because it’s final. He’s going to prepare us and prepare us and prepare us, and the final preparation is this; nobody can relate to the indwelling Christ without this preparation.  So, may God help us!  You know where we are and you know where we are heading.  This is what we’d like to look at this weekend.  So, pray for me as we look at it, and pray that our hearts will really enter into this preparation.

I’m going to start with Mary Magdalene in John 20:1, “Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.  So, she came and ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and said to them, ‘They’ve taken away the Lord out of the tomb.  We do not know where they’ve laid Him.’”  I’m going to jump over the foot race there between John and Peter and jump down to verse 10, “And so the disciples went away again to their own homes but Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping.  So, as she wept she stooped and looked into the tomb and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying.  They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’  And she said to them, ‘Because they’ve taken away my Lord and I do not know where they’ve laid Him.’  When she had said this, she turned around and she saw Jesus standing there.  She did not know that it was Jesus.  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’ve carried Him away, tell me where you’ve laid Him and I will take Him away.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘Mary,’ and she turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni,’ which means teacher.  Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I’ve not yet ascended to the Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and to Your Father, to My God and to your God.”’  Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and that He had said these things to her.”

Now, before I show you the appearance of the Lord Jesus to Mary and home in on that principle of preparation, if you have the New American Standard (I don’t know about the other translations), but if you have that you’ll notice an asterisk in John 20:1, and it said, “Mary came…,” and there is a little star, and then it says, “It was dark…,” and then there is a little star.  And then it says, “She saw the stone…,” and there’s a little star.  Well, if you look in the beginning of your Bible where it explains those things, it will tell you about the Greek historic present tense.  We don’t have that in English, but they have it in Greek, and so they tried to mark it.  In other words, it’s past tense; it was dark, she came, but actually the way it’s written is, “She is coming.”  It’s present tense even though it happened, because God wants us to enter into this and get involved and put on the shoes, “It is coming.”  You’ll see that asterisk in verse 2, in verse 5, in verse 6, in verse 12, in verse 13, in verse 14, in verse 15, in verse 16, in verse 17, in verse 18.  He’s making a point of it, and he’s telling it so that you enter into that, “And Mary is coming, and Mary is talking to Jesus, and Mary is running back to the house, and Mary is coming, and Mary is crying,” even though it’s, “Mary cried, and Mary came, and Mary ran,” it’s present tense.  I just want to point that out.  When you see that, the Holy Spirit is saying in a special way, “Make this present tense and enter into this.” 

Having said that, it’s important to know who Mary is, and I’m speaking spiritually. You know that Magdalene was not her last name; we don’t know her last name.  It’s not like Mary Smith and Mary Jones and Mary Russell; it’s not like that.  They say that Magdala is the place that she lived; that’s her hometown.  It’s like Jesus of Nazareth.  My name would be Ed Waterbury, Waterbury, Connecticut, you see.  We don’t know her last name, but because everybody knows her as Mary Magdalene, that’s what she’ll be this weekend.

As far as the record goes, there are fourteen different references to Mary Magdalene in the Bible.  Though there are fourteen references, there are only three stories, and a couple of them are pretty short.  When she first met Jesus, we have that story.  When she stood at the cross, we have that story, and this one, Easter Sunday morning, when Jesus meets her.  Now listen, please, to Luke 8:2, this is the first record, “And also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses, Mary, who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.”  So, the only record we have of her is that she had seven demons in her body.  Now, “He that is forgiven much, loves much,” and she was forgiven a lot.  She had seven demons.  I consider Mary Magdalene one of the largest lovers of Jesus in the Bible record.  She loved the Lord Jesus.  This is a saved woman.  Seven demons and she is delivered; she had been set free; she has been rescued; she has been redeemed of seven demons.  It’s a little bit unfortunate that chapter 8 and chapter 7 are so close together.  The reason I say that is because in chapter 7 we read about an immoral woman, and remember she fell at Jesus’ feet and poured the ointment and wiped His feet with her hair and tears, and so on?  Because chapter 8 and chapter 7 are so close, they say, “That’s the same woman, so Mary Magdalene was that immoral woman.”  We don’t know that; it’s not clear.  I’m not suggesting that someone with seven demons might not have low moral standards.  I’m quite sure if you have seven demons, you are capable of anything.  I don’t know.  I’m just saying to give her the benefit of the doubt.  We don’t know.  We know she has been wonderfully delivered because she had seven demons.

But we’re concerned with Easter morning, John 20.  She was given the highest honor that anybody on the planet ever had.  Here’s what I’m saying.  This could only happen to one person.  It couldn’t happen to two; only one.  Somebody had to be first.  Somebody had to be first to see His form.  Somebody had to be first to hear His voice.   Somebody had to be first to get a commission from Him, and Mary Magdalene was given that privilege.  I read this little rhyme; I don’t know who wrote this poem:

“Not she with traitor’s kiss her Master stung

Not she denied Him with unfaithful tongue.

She, when Apostles, could danger brave.

Last at the cross; earliest at the grave.”

That’s Mary Magdalene.  How does our Lord Jesus by His appearance to Mary lay down in scripture the first preparation?  He’s neither dead nor gone; He’s alive, and He’s alive in you, and you need to relate to Him.  May God help us!

I want you clear on the fact that Mary loved Jesus very much.  She’s not rebellious, and she’s not a backslider.  She’s got to get a few things straightened out, but she’s not a backslider.  If anybody wants to get it right, she wants to get it right; she loves the Lord Jesus.  She has been set free by the Lord Jesus, but she’s not yet prepared to have union with an indwelling Savior.

Love of the Lord Jesus and gratitude is not enough.  I think we’ve all been educated by the Spirit of God enough to know that it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done; it’s by grace.  Nobody here that I know, nobody in this room would say, “I’m going to work my way to heaven.”  You aren’t going to say that.  You know that it’s not by works, but you might have been burned like I have been burned when someone says, “It’s not by works.  You can’t earn God’s favor.  It’s out of love and gratitude.”  Let me give an illustration.  Suppose I were to say, (and maybe you’ve heard this illustration because I’ve given it in several places, I can’t remember where anymore), or God were to say to you, “If you can lift this two thousand pounds over your head, you can go to heaven,” how many here think they’d win heaven by that?  What if He said, “Alright, you can’t earn grace.  Do it just because you love Jesus; just do it out of gratitude and just do it out of a thankful heart, for all that He’s done for you.  It’s the motive of your heart.”  Do you have any more ability to lift two thousand pounds because you love Jesus?  See, that’s what people were telling me and that’s what I thought.  They said, “No, don’t do it by works.  You can’t earn it.  Do it because you love Jesus.”  You are just as powerless to do it because you love Jesus as you were when you tried to earn your way.  “Do it out of gratitude; do it because of all He’s done for you.”  You need an exchanged life, and that’s what Mary needs, as well.  She is now going to be seen moving out of love, out of gratitude, out of her own life, and, oh, it’s so desperate to see her. 

One reason that Mary means so much to me is because reading her story is like reading my diary, my biography, looking in a mirror.  I have been burned so many times, the way Mary was burned here.  Mary is a sincere lover of Jesus, and she had been truly redeemed, but she’s not ready, and she needs another deliverance.  We need to look at that.  From what does a sincere lover of Jesus need to be delivered, so that they can be prepared to relate to Him?  I believe the answer is John 20:16&17, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary,’ and she turned to Him and said in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni,’ which means teacher,” now verse 17, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me; I’ve not yet ascended to the Father.  Go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”’”  I think that in that verse, “Don’t touch Me,” and the NIV says, “Do not hold onto Me,” I think in that passage we have the principle that we’re looking for.

It’s almost not fair because in Matthew 28:9 we read about the women after Mary separated from them, and they went on their way, and they saw Jesus, and the Bible says that they fell down at His feet and embraced His legs and embraced His feet.  He didn’t say to the women, “Don’t touch Me,” but to Mary He said, “Don’t touch Me.”  And then in Luke 24:39 when He appeared in the Upper Room, He said, “See My hands and My feet; come, touch Me.”  “You can touch Me; put your hand in My glory wound.”  You know in John 20:27 He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger and reach out your hand and touch Me,” but to Mary He said, “Don’t touch Me.” 

I reject much of what I’ve read about that.  The idea of two ascensions, I don’t think so.  They say, “I’ve not yet ascended,” and they say, “Well, He ascended and then He went up and He came down and He went back up again.”  I can’t make that my own.  I can’t accept what the commentator Paulis says, “Christ was still suffering from His crucifixion.”  Listen to this, “Do not lay a finger on Me, for My wounds still smarts.”  No, we won’t go there.  One of my commentators said, “Well, Jesus was alone with Mary, and that doesn’t look good; that’s a bad testimony, ‘Don’t touch Me because it’s a bad testimony.’”  That’s not what it’s about.  Some would suggest that Mary had immoral feelings and suggestions toward the Lord Jesus.  The Greek word is very powerful here.  According to the Lexicon it means “to fasten oneself”, “to hang on”, “to grip”.  Christopher Wordsworth, the Greek scholar, said, “The Greek word not only forbids clinging as an act; it forbids clinging as a habit.  That’s the word.  Mary had been clinging to Jesus as a habit in the flesh, and Jesus was saying, “I am now ascending to My Father, and there is going to be a new relationship; you can’t cling to Me in the flesh anymore; there’s going to be a new relationship, and it’s not in the flesh but it’s in the spirit.  It’s kind of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “From now on we recognize no one according to the flesh, and even though we’ve known Christ according to flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.”  Jesus was correcting this lover of Jesus to prepare her for that new relationship that she was going to have.

I think it would be helpful to describe her present experience, so that we can see what she is being delivered from.  In other words, we’ll just look at her story; we’ll look at her life.  As we look at it we’ll see a graphic illustration of someone clinging to Christ in the flesh.  For the sake of analysis, I’ll break it down into principles, and I’d like to show three things it means to cling to Jesus in the flesh.  We’ll just take her story. I’ll tell her story; and she was doing this and she was doing this, and she was doing that, and she needed to be delivered from doing this and this and this, so that she could be prepared to have a different kind of relationship with One who is neither dead nor gone, but alive, and alive in her.  May God help us see this!

What does it mean to cling to Christ in the flesh?  Let me state three different principles.  Number one is this, illustrated by Mary; the focus was on her love for Him.  The focus was on her serving Him.  The sadness was that she could do that without His life because to her He was dead.  So, she could serve Him without His life.  In her thinking, He’s dead.  So, she begins to try to do exactly that.  Another way to say it is that Mary, at that point, had come to the cross but hadn’t gotten beyond the cross.  You see that illustrated in Mary’s life.  She didn’t get beyond the cross.  That’s all she knew, and because that’s all she knew, that’s all she expected.  She expected to see Him exactly the way she had already seen Him.  The last time she saw Him He was dead, and that was her full expectation.  Luke 23 says, “Mary was watching when they took Him from the cross.”  She followed, the Bible says, when they anointed His body and put one hundred pounds of ointment on Him.  She saw that.  She knew the crucified Lord, and on that Sunday morning that’s exactly who she was looking for.  Let me word it another way, same truth; Jesus was dead to Mary.  If you are going to serve someone who is dead to you, you are going to have to use your own life because you can’t use His because He’s dead to you.  So, she’s now serving out of her own life and experiences; she’s attempting to because she loves Jesus, and she’s thankful because He delivered her from seven demons.  She’s very much in love with the Lord; she’s been redeemed and has been saved and she wants to serve Him. 

Again, verses 1 & 2, “On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb and it was still dark, and saw that the stone had already been taken away from the tomb.  She ran and came to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and said, ‘They’ve taken away the Lord out of the tomb; we do not know where they’ve laid Him.’”  Mary wasn’t alone; those other women were there, too, but John homes in on Mary, and it’s clear that she was expecting to find a dead Savior.  In verse 13 she tells the angels the same thing.  In verse 15 she tells the Lord Jesus the same thing.  She doesn’t know it’s Him, but she tells Him the same thing.  Jesus appears and she doesn’t know who He is.  Commentators try to explain that and say, “Well, He appeared in a different form.”  Is that why she didn’t know Him?  Somebody else says, “Well, she was crying and her eyes were filled with tears, so she didn’t recognize Him because she’s looking through blurry eyes.”  Someone says, “No, it’s because it was still dark.  It was early morning and she didn’t know who He was.”  And someone says, “He appeared by the wall in the shadows.” 

I’ll tell you why she didn’t know who He was.  I know why.  It’s because He was standing there.  She didn’t expect Him to be standing; He’s dead.  That’s why she didn’t know who He was.  She was expecting a dead Savior.  If He appeared laying on the ground, then she would have believed it.  I think she would have been thrilled if she saw a body lying in the bushes.  That would have made her happy because that’s what she was looking for. 

Brothers in Christ, I don’t know if you can enter into this, but I’ve stood where Mary stood that day, in the presence of a living Savior that I didn’t know was a alive because Christ was dead to me, and I loved Him and I tried to serve Him out of my own life and experience.  I was all wrapped up in His finished work.  You could ask me about Christ crucified; I would have told you.  “I know what He did and I know how He died.  It’s a finished work; when I die, I’m not going to hell and I’m going to heaven and I’m going to be with the Lord.”  I think we’ve all been there and attempted to cling to Christ in the flesh by focusing our love to Him, happy to serve a dead Savior.

Hold that, please.  Let me give a second characteristic, clinging to Christ in the flesh.  Not only having sort of a creedal grip, a theological, “I know He’s dead, and I know the cross, and I know what He did for me,” but she’s trying now to explain everything apart from His life, “I don’t need His life to explain what’s going on.”  So, she begins to rationalize and figure everything out.  I don’t know what the angels looked like when they appeared to her.  According to John 20:11-13 they were pretty bright and shining when they appeared to the other women, and they were frightened.  When they appeared to the soldiers, they fell down as dead.  It must have been a very dramatic thing.  But when Mary sees the angel, it’s like talking to a mailman.  It’s not dramatic.  I don’t know if they changed their form for her or what, but she just can’t get past the cross.  She doesn’t recognize His voice and she’s explaining everything, and because she doesn’t need His life to explain things, she gets it all wrong. 

For example, the stone was rolled away; is that good news or bad news?  The stone is rolled away.  That’s good news, but not to Mary; that’s bad news, “They’ve come and they’ve stolen it and they’ve taken Him away.”  The stone rolled away threw her away into absolute confusion; she absolutely missed the point.  She’s not getting anything spiritual here; that should be good news, but the only way it would be good news is if the life of Christ explained it; you need His life to explain the stone rolled away.  If you don’t have His life, you are going to miss it; it’s going to be bad news.  The only explanation that could have brought peace to her would have been His life.

Brothers, let me just try to apply that, and then move on.  If your Christian life can be explained in terms of you, if you don’t need His life to explain what is going on in your life, if you can see the mark of the tools, “This happened because of this program,” “This happened because of these spiritual disciplines,” “This happened because I did this or I went there or these resources were given or this…,” if you can explain it, you haven’t understood the indwelling life of Christ.  When he does it, the only explanation for your life is His life.  It takes God to explain a Christian’s life.  If your neighbor looks at your life and says, “Well, they like friends and I like friends, only they like religious friends.  They like songs and I like songs, only they like religious songs.  They like to gather and I like gather, only they like to gather with religious people.  The like to eat and I like to eat, only they like to eat with Christian people.”  If they see your Christian life as just a religious hobby, and they can’t say, “The only way I can explain that life is God,” see, that’s what Mary needed.  Right now she’s not understanding, she’s trying to serve a dead Christ, she’s trying to live out of her own resources, she’s trying to explain everything and everything is rational and she doesn’t need God to explain it.  She can explain it by some philosophical influence or by her own strength or favorable environment, or whatever.  May God help us to get beyond this!

Let me give a final illustration and we’ll wrap it up.  This is actually the chief evidence of clinging to Christ in the flesh.  Clinging to Christ in the flesh is not only not needing His life to serve Him, and not needing His life to explain things, but she didn’t need His life for the power and the strength to serve Him.  When I look at Mary’s life, she’s trying so hard out of love and gratitude; everything she did, according to the record, ended up in the trash heap.  If you talk about somebody spinning their tires, this dear, dear saint who loved Jesus….  I have to admire her.  I have to admire her on the level of earth because in John 20:1 she got up early while it was still dark.  Some Christians have a hard time doing that.  Just that much, getting up early for Jesus, that’s what she did; she got up early for Jesus.

Mark 16 says they brought spices to anoint the body of Christ.  I don’t know how much sleep Mary got that night.  I don’t know what is involved in getting spices ready.  I don’t know how much sleep she got that weekend, and maybe even longer than that, but I know she worked hard because she loved Jesus and she’s getting things ready and she’s going to anoint the body.  She’s never going to use that service.  I don’t care how much time she put in; she’s never going use it; He doesn’t need the spices.  She’s doing a service that is never going to be applied to the Lord Jesus.  John 20:2, “She ran to Peter’s house.”  According to the record, basically, it was something like this, all of the women come on top of the hill and they look down and they say, “Oh, the stone is rolled away,” and Mary goes, “Ahhh, they’ve taken it away,” and she takes off that way, and they go down, and that’s when they met the angel and that’s when they left, but she just said, “I’ve got to run,” and now she runs to Peter’s house.  So, she’s up all night, she’s working all night, she gets up there in morning, and now she’s running, and she runs all the way to Peter’s house, and they say, “They did what?” and Peter and John take off, and Mary is behind them.  She’s running and running and running and she’s crying and she’s sad and she’s weeping, she’s crying, she’s tired, she’s exhausted.  Why?  Because she loves Jesus and she’s serving Him with all of her might and she is getting drained because she’s doing it out of her own life and she’s trying to serve the Lord who she loves and set her free.  John 20:15, “Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?’ She supposed Him to be the gardener and she said, ‘Sir, if you’ve taken Him away,’” and now she’s accusing Jesus of hiding Jesus on her.  Before she said, “It’s them; they did it,” whoever “they” are; it’s always “them”, “they did it,” but now Jesus is blamed because she can’t find Jesus.  Did you hear what she said?  Dear Mary, you got up so early and you worked so hard and you got so tired and you’ve run your little legs off and you spun your tires and you got a service in your head that you are never going to apply, and it’s all because you love the Lord Jesus.  Now listen to you, Mary, listen.  “Show me where you’ve laid Him and I’ll take Him away.”  Yeah, right! 

I don’t know how much Mary weighed.  I get the idea she did a lot of running; she’s probably in pretty good shape.  I don’t know how much she weighed, and I don’t know how much Jesus weighed.  I guess He’s average weight.  I know this, that when they wrapped Him and anointed Him, there was one hundred pounds extra of spices, two hundred to three hundred pounds.  Mary says, “Where did you lay Him?  I’ll take Him away.”  Can you picture that?  Can you picture Jesus being lugged away by Mary, the lover of the Lord Jesus?  She’s so tired and she’s so weary and she’s so weak.  She’s been up all night and working her head off, working with others, getting up early, running her dear little legs off, coming back, crying her eyes out, and now she wants to burden herself with Christ; instead of Christ carrying her, she wants to carry Him.  Don’t think that can’t happen.  Christians are doing that all the time. 

For seven years in my life I was lugging around a dead Christ, carrying Him to school, carrying Him to work, carrying Him to church, carrying Him to the prisons, carrying Him to the nursing home.  I had no clue that it was His life, that He wanted to come in and that out of His life I could serve Him.  I had no clue, and that His life would become the explanation of my life, I had no clue, and that His life would be the energy and the strength and the source of my service to Him.    Alright, we end here.  Jesus said to her, “Mary,” and she turned around and she said, “Teacher,” and she got taught something in that moment.  You know what a name is for; that’s you, it’s you, this is about you.  In a moment she had the flash, “He’s neither dead nor gone, but He’s alive.”  The last words we hear of Mary in the scriptures is, “I have seen the Lord,” and with that she walks off the pages of the Bible.

Principle number one, if we’re going to be prepared to have union with an indwelling Christ, someday, some way somehow, we’ve got to come to the place where it’s only about seeing the Lord.  It’s not about ministry, it’s not about service, it’s not about anything else.  We come to that place; now that is preparation number one.  He appeared twelve times.  That doesn’t get it; that’s just the start.  I’ve got to see what He showed Thomas, and I’ve got to see what He showed at the Road to Emmaus, and I’ve got to see what happened in that Upper Room, and I’ve got to see, “Last of all, He appeared…,” and what that’s all about.  How am I prepared?  Number one, you can’t cling to Jesus in the flesh; you need His life.  When God prepares His people to have that union, it starts here.  They have come to the place where they say, “Teacher, I just want to know the Lord.”  That’s it; that’s the beginning.  You are getting closer.  Then we’re going to move into that revelation.

Brothers, may God help us this weekend.  You probably heard it all your lives.  If you are not settled in it, may God teach you this weekend, “What is this exchanged life and how can it be real in my life?” because I promise you this, He is neither dead nor gone, but He’s alive, and He’s alive in you.  Let’s pray.

Father, thank You for Your precious word.  Thank You for this dear sister and her testimony, and how you set her free in a moment from her life by showing her Your life.  Do that for us, we pray.  Prepare us to have this intimate union with the indwelling Savior.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.