“But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.” – (Isaiah 43:1)
Rita and I decided some time ago to disconnect our cable TV service for several reasons. With the corona virus and accompanying stay at home orders we were forced to get creative with our entertainment, and turned to internet streaming services. We have two, Hallmark Now and a service named Pureflix. The latter is a combination of faith based programming and family friendly offerings including some old TV shows. Many shows we don’t find particularly interesting, but we found a one that is very worth our time.
The series is called The Chosen. We discovered it through a recommendation from a believer by the name of Rachel Starr Thomson who writes some works of her own. There is only one season available at this time, but it’s our great hope the producers will be able to complete the rest of the eight seasons that are planned. The Chosen tells the story of Jesus and His ministry as based on the Gospels, but does it in a way that makes the story come more alive. There is an element of dramatic license, but it’s done in a way that is respectful and consistent with the written word. If you haven’t seen it I would highly recommend you do whatever is necessary to do so. It helped me to see the Gospel accounts and the people in them in a very different way.
The first episode is powerful out of the gate. Of all the characters introduced in the episode, the one I found most intriguing was Mary the Magdalene. We get bits and pieces about her in the Gospels but little of her background other than Jesus had cast out seven demons from her. She is a favorite Bible figure of mine because she seemed to ‘get’ Jesus even before his disciples did. Her heartbreak and subsequent overwhelming joy at the empty tomb are some of my favorite moments of the Gospel story, but I have to admit to struggling with understanding the scope of what Jesus had done for her that resulted in her fierce love and devotion to Him.
I got to see it here. When we first meet her as an adult, she is a demon-possessed prostitute named Lillith that’s prone to violent outbursts and episodes of instability. She’s aware of her condition and is resigned to it only growing worse with time. She attempts to ease her pain with drink, which changes nothing. She’s without hope and at one point becomes so despondent as to consider jumping from a cliff into the sea to end it all. But the sight of a dove flying over brings her back to the bar where she meets a man. She tells him to leave her alone and attempts to leave. But something extraordinary happens. He follows her and calls her by name- her REAL name, and her town of origin. He then speaks the words of Isaiah not as a mere quotation but as a statement of authority. He tells her she’s been redeemed and claims her as his own. At this point she is released from her captivity and the demons are gone. It’s a powerful image and I challenge you not to be moved by it.
Dramatic license aside, it presents a picture of Mary Magdalene and the magnitude of what Jesus did for her. Her life was the picture of hopelessness. She’d been written off by the religious authorities as irredeemable and unsalvageable. She had no one who cared, no one who could or would help. One of the Pharisees is even quoted as saying, “No one but God could cast out these demons.” But Jesus found her, and called her by name. Not the name the world had given her, but her OWN name. The name she had been given at birth. The name that we all know her by. He set her free and then he gave her a new name- Mine. Jesus redeemed her and sealed the transaction with His own death. Mary was distraught when Jesus was crucified, even more distraught when she saw the empty tomb, thinking he’d been taken away. She lost the One who loved her, who she claimed as Lord. But her tears turned to joy when she heard her name and recognized the voice that said it. Joy comes when Jesus calls your name.
I write this to encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith. We have the joy and hope of knowing One who knows us by name and has made us His possession. But my prayer is this will somehow make it to someone who has lost all hope and knows no joy. One who’s been written off by the world. One who the world has named Worthless, Hopeless, Unloved, Addict, Loser, or worse. One who may pray another day won’t come because it will be just as bad or worse than the last one. One who’s convinced that no one cares. Because I have some really Good News you need to hear and I want you to hear it. So please listen.
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter what the world calls you. Jesus is looking and waiting for you. He knows you by your real name, not the false ones the world uses. If you’ll come to Him, he’ll redeem you, make you brand new. He’s already paid the price of your redemption. He loves you and wants you with all His heart. No longer will you be Worthless or Unloved. He’ll call you Valued, Loved, Precious. And best of all, He’ll call you His.
“See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)