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Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”  When Mary first saw Jesus standing in front of her, it is perfectly understandable that she may not have realised He was Jesus as you read the verses from John 20:10-15.  After all, the last time she saw Him was when they carried His mangled body from the cross covered in blood with skin and flesh hanging off Him in the evening.  Not only that, it is difficult to imagine how He would look like when the last time you saw Him was in such a mangled state.

The situation of John 20:10-15 is no ordinary situation; it is certainly not one you’d expect in your daily routine.  So understand the state of mind that Mary Magdalene was in.  She had run to an empty tomb, saw and was spoken to by angels, ran back to the disciples, then ran back to the tomb again to be spoken to by the two angels asking her a stupid, exacerbating question, “Woman, why are you crying?”  From her perspective, that must be one of the most vexing question she could ever have to answer, “What do you mean why am I crying?  My Lord is missing, His body is gone.  Is it grave robbers?  Is it the soldiers and Pharisees?  Is it a cruel joke or is it truly the miracle?”  You are breathless, you are tired, you are challenged and you are exhausted, you are Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning and angels are asking you, “Woman, why are you crying?”  Suddenly, a noise behind you, so you turn to see a Man standing there and He asks you the same question:  “Woman, why are you crying?  Who is it you are looking for?”  Mary’s mind goes for the most logical, safest, emotionally least taxing answer to the question, not daring to think He could be Jesus, nor daring to think this is another angel who would tell her that Jesus has arisen like the other two had just done earlier.  She answers His question, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”  See that the thinking set the message and the proposed action, and this is from Mary herself, she who had listened well enough to have taken the initiative to anoint Jesus just a few nights ago.

Likewise, it is and can be for you and me that, despite all our listening and all our initiatives, we can and almost certainly will face situations in the days of distress as perplexing as that which Mary faced on resurrection morning.  Situations that will challenge all your senses and your grasp on reality, and that is the key point for you to learn, elect.

You see, the safe, sound and logical thinking that the elders have ground out to you so that you believe sensibly, expect logically and hope minutely, is that your thinking is always conditioned to consider what you see and reduce it to the lowest possibility.  And if even Mary, who had never been restrained by the wisdom of church elders, could only think that she was looking at the gardener who could tell her where Jesus’ body has been taken, then rest assured, you and I will, in our thinking, consider only the lowest and worst possibilities of the situations that will confront our senses, that which we see, hear and feel in the midst of all that we have been subjected to.  If you read verses 14-16, you will see that Mary turned first towards Jesus and saw Him, and thinking He was only the gardener had already turned away again, so that when Jesus said to her, “Mary,” she turned toward Him… 

When our thinking is set automatically to accept only the lowest possibility, often we will turn away to look for other answers.  Mary did it, and so does every single one of us unless the discipline we apply to ourselves is not only to what we say or do, but rather, how and what we think and therefore imagine.  There are those who say and do what is righteous before men, like the Pharisees who do everything just for show, and then there are those who say and do nothing, but just sit there thinking like a useless idol – lazy hypocrites, the two worst possible combinations.  It takes disciplined, wilful thinking to be neither, but rather, letting your words and actions reflect your thinking, and your thinking govern your words and actions so that your thoughts, words and actions are one, as God is One.  A man who says and does what he thinks as well as governs his actions and words by his thoughts is a man of truth and self-control, and if he does this all for the glory and honour of the one who sent him, then truly, he is a man of truth with nothing false about him.  Herein lays an insight into the type of Person God is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are One and Ones whose thoughts govern what They say and do as much as what They say and do reveal Their thoughts and always, always, for the glory of the One who sent Them.

So then, pause now on your journey and see that every word and action of Jesus is governed by the mind of God and reveals the mind of God plainly.  There is nothing hidden.  Only our stubborn refusal to believe in the goodness and openness of God is what causes us to fail to see and understand the motives of God.  God really is that open to be known by His people, as He displayed when He spoke to all of Israel from Mount Sinai by His action and His words.  God showed Israel what He had in mind about their relationship, open, unveiled and without a thick curtain to separate them, nor the need of the blood of sacrifices to open the way to the audience.  It was Israel who rejected God’s openness, not God who shut Israel out of His presence.

The confines of the tabernacle came after, yes, after Israel said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”  It was Israel that forced God to come into their midst and meet with the high priest in secret with much pomp and ceremony.  It was God who just wanted to dwell openly in their midst, no tent, no walls, no Holy of Holies insulated with 36 tonnes of gold, just a Cloud that could be blown away by a gentle breeze!

At John 20:10-18 is revealed not just the rendezvous of Mary with Jesus, but the openness of Jesus and the Father!  You can see now, and I hope you do, Mary was not looking at Jesus who had just got out of the tomb and had been hiding behind some bushes waiting for an opportune time so He could have a secret cuddle with Mary.  Jesus had already gone to the Mount at Galilee, and realising that no one was coming, had gone back Himself, yes, Himself, to see what was holding them up.  Finding only Mary, He told her, “Go instead to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’”  And when the other women turned up, Jesus said to them, “Greetings.  Do not be afraid.  Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me.”

Jesus may have told the Parable of the Wedding Banquet to the Pharisees and chief priests, as He was teaching in the temple for the last time, about the king sending his servants to bring in the guests who are invited.  But the reality is that the King Himself had to go and see why those invited had not come, not once, but twice, as He came back to the tomb to tell the women and then to the locked room to where they were hiding that evening.  Now you can see and recognise the frustration and the humiliation of the situation for Jesus because you are no longer thinking of the lowest possibility of the situation that Jesus spent resurrection day hiding from the disciples and came to them at supper time.

Just as the Hebrews thinking was always towards the worst and lowest scenario and possibility after they were delivered from Egypt, so likewise it is the habit and fault of every person whom Jesus has called to Himself.  If Mary could only think that the Man standing in front of her was the gardener who could show her the dead body of Christ, Mary, the listener and doer of the word, whose actions are forever linked to the Gospel wherever it is preached, so then can you and I.  Is this to condemn us?  No, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  Rather, be encouraged and be of good courage, courage to dare in your thinking that which you see and hear in front of you is the manifestation of all your dreams, hopes and prayers come true even though you have just come through and are in a challenging situation.

To listen to Jesus and practise His words, obey them and put them into action, is merely practice and preparation so that you may fulfil the conditions of John 15:7 that His words do abide in you and you do abide in Him, so that whatever you wish and will will be done.  Ask yourself, “Would Mary have been wishing that Jesus was alive that morning, hoping against hope?”  It is not written, but the Holy Spirit can make it known to you.

Now, the days of distress that are approaching fast are no different to the three days of extreme distress that Mary and the others had experienced, except they all still had a home to go to, families and even a career.  Yet, not one of them after three days was able to think correctly, not even Mary in this sense, in taking that which they were confronted with to the highest possibility of the fulfilment of His word.

John and Peter did not think to go on to Galilee once they had seen for themselves that the tomb was empty, no, they went home.  Even Mary was not able to think that the Man asking her why she was crying could possibly be Jesus or another angel so that she might have said, “Jesus, is that You?” or “If you are an angel, tell me where Jesus is,” or “Is it true what the others are saying?” (Meaning the other two angels)  Neither did any of the disciples to whom Mary went and told, “I have seen the Lord,” and the things that He had said, think to get up and go to Galilee for themselves to see what the fuss was all about.  They ran here, ran there, looked, saw, pondered, but not one dared to think that which is the best possible of all scenarios was really unfolding before their eyes and ears.

If such is your thinking, then what of your imagination, which is the fruit of your thinking?  What were Peter and John imagining about what was the fate of Jesus’ body as they went home?  After all, when they first heard the women deliver the message of the angels, they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  A person’s words will only seem like nonsense to you based on what you think and what limitations you place on your imaginations, either lowly or high.  It is easy to think and imagine the worst of all situations; you do not need to be saved, born again, baptised in the Holy Spirit, called, chosen or elected to think and imagine like that.  It is difficult to think and imagine for the best at all times without losing your sanity and not be found a person suffering from delusions.  Indeed, many who are overly optimistic as you might think, are also highly gullible and therefore deceivable.  You need look no further than the recurring stories of Christians being clearly deceived of their monies by those who sell them overtly optimistic investment opportunities.  You see, I am not speaking of optimism, and neither has the Lord even spoken about optimism. 

Your thinking that can run to the highest possibility in the Lord is not optimism; it is faith in the One you know, not the One you believe.  Having faith in the One you believe does not make sense, for you are adding faith to faith only.  It is when you have faith in the One you know that it makes sense and is the correct application of faith without optimism.  Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.”  He was teaching them to believe in God whom they knew.  The Hebrews know, they do not believe, that they were delivered from Egypt by their God with great signs and miracles, and their God gave them the land of Canaan.  They do not believe it, they know it.  Likewise now, your thinking must be set aside, ‘holy’ unto the Lord, and that holiness begins when you become one who worships the God you know, not the God you believe.  Likewise, when you become one who is listening to the One you know and not to the One you believe, you have become holy in your thinking concerning Jesus, which are the thoughts and the thinking of one who is listening to the One you believe.

You see, Mary and the other women were told by the angels to tell the others to go to Galilee, angels they did not know, but nevertheless they recognised them as angels, so then they delivered a message of faith from ones they believed.  However, the second message of Mary and the other women was not from One they believed, but from One they knew, Jesus Himself.  It was when Mary was looking at Jesus based on a message from ones she believed in that her thinking was not as high as it could have been.  However, once she recognised Him, the One she knew calling her, “Mary,” the response was markedly different.

It is difficult and will always remain difficult for your thinking to be rightly placed if you are listening to one and ones you do not know or recognise, even though you may believe them or want to believe them.  And this then is the key to the discipleship of your thinking.  You can never get your thoughts, thinking, imaginations, and the wishes and desires that flow from them, if you are listening to the one you believe in but do not know.

Neither can your desires be correct when you are only worshipping the One you believe in and not the One you know.  You see, all who are called by the Father to have faith in Jesus for their salvation have also been given the right to come to know the One they have put their faith in.  Just as all who believe will have eternal life because of their faith, that same eternal life is to give them knowledge of the One they have believed in that they may know Them also.  Indeed, I remind you, eternal life is not that you may come to believe in God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, but that you come to know Them.

Just as the Jews are different from the Samaritans in that they worshipped God whom they knew and not God whom they believed, likewise, we are to come to the place where we are listening to the One we have come to know and not just believe in.  All other faiths listen to and practise the words of the one or ones they believe in, but a believer in Christ through discipleship is changed into one who listens to and practises the words of the One he has come to know and there is no limit to this knowing.

It goes from being able to recognise His voice to knowing His word so that not only can you test the content of a message from Him by context, but also by the tone.  You can also test if an action is by Him or not by Him, that is, you know Him and you continue to increase your knowledge of Him until you also know what He is thinking, what His thoughts are and what His ways are.  He has told the Hebrews plainly, “As the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

If the eleven had really come to know Jesus and God who sent Him, they would have not asked this question:  “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  God would not need to send His only begotten Son to restore Israel’s kingdom, for any judge or prophet with power could do that.  No, for the Son to be sent, then it must be a task worthy of the Son.  But then, the questions you ask, the questions we, you and I, ask God reflect the way we are thinking and more than that, reflect what we know of Him.  Those disciples were still so preoccupied with their heritage that they couldn’t ask a better question.  Mary was so flustered from that morning that she couldn’t ask a less sensible, more optimistic question. 

Here is the paradox, there is an optimism in God, but it is not an optimism based on faith but rather based on knowledge.  That is why Paul wrote to us concerning the God and the Christ he knew:  Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  You see, Paul wrote, we know, not we believe.  So when he wrote:  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Our true act of worship is when we worship Him because we know Him, not because we believe Him, and we offer our bodies in practice of His word because we are listening to the One we know, not believe.

Those who fellowship in a large church listen to a pastor they believe.  Those who work with their fellow disciples listen to the One they know.  You see, Jesus never confided in His believers but in His disciples, and to them He said, “Don’t you know Me… even after I have been among you such a long time?”  Jesus spent time with His disciples, especially Philip, not just to teach them, but so that they would come to know Him as He knew them.  Discipleship, the making of disciples, was commanded by Jesus so that we would come to know each other and Jesus Christ who sent and called us together to be His body, and to know God who chose us to be His temple.  Even demons have the wisdom to only fear and respect those they know and not strangers who spout great and impressive words and drop names, for to the seven sons of Sceva who would say, “In the Name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out,” one said, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 

Jesus said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.  So be on your guard.  I have told you everything ahead of time.”  Being on guard is not being in fear, but rather being ready to repulse, challenge and stop any intrusion.  Jesus didn’t tell us about false Christs and prophets so that we’d live in fear of them and their signs and miracles, but rather, so that we would be ready at all times to test them, challenge them, and repulse them, just like the church at Ephesus who were so good at it they even tested those who claimed to be apostles but found them to be false.

You see, if you know the One who saved you, if you know the One in whom you place your faith, you have no fear and you can never be deceived.  It is only when you believe the one you placed your faith in that you can be deceived.  Just ask any pastor who has invested their building fund in schemes that promised returns of 30% or more, which were promoted by so-called ‘men of God’ and ‘elders’ of churches, whom they do not know, and you will see what I mean.

To be fair to Mary, you and I have the benefit of hindsight, and so we have been given much more than they; the same goes for the early disciples.  So when we appear to be criticising them, we must always remember much more is demanded of us and we face days far more challenging than theirs.  Why can I say this?  Because the Lord said so, not because some prophet prophesied it.  Once you learn to listen to Jesus whom you know, you will never have to listen to anyone else whom you do not know.  You will and can also listen to your fellow disciples (not fellow believers), whom you have come to know, but the words of another who comes in the Name of Jesus, the Name of Christ or of God, whom you do not know, really are distractions that add nothing to what you need to know.

Learn not to be distracted or distressed by the words of those you do not know, even if they share the same faith by their profession, for hypocrites love to deceive by what they say and do, but rather, come into the closeness of the Lord such that you begin to think the way He thinks and come to a place where you know His thoughts and anticipate His thoughts.

Listening to any person and putting his words into practice is the surest way of coming to know a person.  Again, ask any pastor who has placed his building funds into the investment schemes of those ‘men from God’ with their promises of high, easy returns from the kingdom of Mammon, who listened and put into practice the words he heard, signed the contract and handed over the money, and a few months later he got to know those men from Mammon well.

Your devotion to the listening and practicing of the words of Jesus can only lead you to one place, a place where you no longer believe Jesus as much as you know Jesus.  And if that is your testimony, then surely anyone who recommended that you listen to Jesus and practise His words truly had your best interest in their mind when they gave you freely what they received.

That then is your confidence as you boldly and unashamedly confront all and sundry to listen to Jesus and practise His words, without cost, without charge, without price, giving freely what you have received.  For the very result and effect of listening to Jesus and practising His words have had on your life speaks and displays what you are thinking of those you are teaching, testifying and instructing.  Their response to you is irrelevant, if they are grateful, it does not add to your knowledge of Jesus.  If they are ungrateful, it does not take away from your knowledge of Jesus.  Thus, you learn to continue to admonish, teach, rebuke and correct with great patience, not because they respond, but because you know the One who sent you. 

The response of the disciples made no difference to Mary and the women, they knew whom they had heard, seen and touched.  Even though this may appear speculative, but don’t you think it is perfectly reasonable to assume Mary, having delivered her message, then left them and went to Galilee alone?  What do you think, elect?  Who knows—God knows and if you ask, He might care to tell you.

 

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