A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to plan and lead the under-11s children’s work at one of our Sunday morning celebrations. One of the great advantages of serving in this way is that you often receive as much through the planning and delivery of the session as do those who it is meant for. This is true for community groups, Bible study or prayer groups, youth, children and all sorts of settings where we can serve. If we still had the task of putting out the stage and chairs on a Sunday morning I would have included that too!!
So the week’s teaching was about Mary Magdalene and the older children were encouraged to draw up a cartoon storyboard of the moments in John 20 where Mary went to the empty tomb and encountered the risen Jesus. There were four different scenes that they could draw, colour and crayon in. There are some pretty good artists in our kids!
One of the reasons for doing this was to help them enter the ‘story’. However, it’s not a story in the sense that it is made up; a figment of John’s imagination. John is recording this account of Jesus and Mary as an event that really took place and not only does John want to re-tell the story, he wants us to get up really close; in a way to re-live those incredible moments.
In his devotional book on John’s gospel1, Richard S Briggs says of this account,
‘John is the master storyteller, telling you the most masterful story of all time, and he wants you to feel the sheer wonder of it. Relive the sense of discovery: run to the tomb with him, with Peter, with Mary. “Come with me!” he pleads. “Come with me and I will show you the moment when it all exploded into life”.
As the children drew their storyboards, it reminded me that through her encounter with Jesus, Mary’s story had been brought into a greater and much more hope-filled story.
We’re not given much detail of Mary’s past, however the gospel writer Luke records part of Mary’s story. He tells us that Mary had come to follow Jesus because he had cast seven demons from her.
‘The twelve were with Him, 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…’ Luke 8: 1-2
Her past seems to have been a troubled one. Her ‘story’ had not been simple. The truth is that we all have a ‘story’. It may not have been the same as Mary’s and yours won’t have looked like mine, nor mine like yours. Yet the wonderful truth of the gospel is that, like Mary, we are brought into a greater story. The true and better story of Jesus and his grave-busting, death-defeating love and power.
In just a few days, our next in-person Alpha Course begins. One of the amazing things about the Alpha Course is that you realise that every guest has their own ‘story’ too. It might be experiences of growing up, their hopes and dreams, things they have done or things that have been done to them, sometimes it’s the difficulties and disappointments they’ve experienced in life.
For some of those guests, it’s on Alpha that they come to see that Jesus in his kindness, wants to bring them into his story. It’s one that says whatever our past, we can encounter love, acceptance, forgiveness by meeting him and receiving him into our lives.
So as we begin this next Alpha, will you pray for those that will be coming? Will you invite that friend that you think would really benefit from it? Or perhaps you wouldn’t consider yourself a Christian. Will you sign up for this Alpha and find out more about why Jesus wants to meet you in the same way as he met Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, 2,000 years ago?
1 Jesus for Life: Spiritual Readings in John's Gospel by Richard S Briggs
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