There’s a scene in the movie The Gospel of John that has stuck with me. It’s a very brief interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene that really speaks to me.
Jesus is walking through a crowd of people who had recently experienced the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He’s talking to them, explaining that He is the Bread of Life, the Bread promised from Heaven. At one point during His message, He stands in front of Mary Magdalene. She’s dressed with heavy eye make-up, cheap and flashy jewelry and silky cloth. The implication is that she’s just become acquainted with this man that the people are talking about.
Jesus puts His hand on her shoulder, and looks at her directly, saying, “Everyone whom the Father gives Me will come to Me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me” (John 6:37). This woman, who some say was a prostitute, looks at Him as one captivated. He speaks so differently than any other man has ever spoken to her. And this is the point where I saw something cool. Looking at Him, she blinks as if stunned, and then for a brief second, leans ever so slightly towards Him as if to receive a kiss. A small gesture with huge meaning.
Of course Jesus doesn’t respond in kind, but He also doesn’t show her contempt. He just continues His message to the people. So why does this mean so much to me? Well, when we come to Christ, we usually respond to Him as we have responded to others in our lives. In life, our role models and responses merge to develop our habitual ways of interacting. We become our choices of response.
In this movie depiction, Mary responds to Jesus just as she had probably responded to every other man, while also being caught up in her extreme admiration for Him. Men in her life probably wanted one thing from her. Jesus was a man and she was giving Jesus what other men wanted. It was just normal for her. But Jesus was not like any other man, as she would learn. He was kind and did not condemn her. Her commonplace response was going to be challenged by Him. He was showing her a new kind of Man; a Man who didn’t want to use her.
When we come to the Lord, we come with what’s comfortable and familiar. This doesn’t necessarily equate as what we want, but rather what we are used to. If we have always known abuse, we will expect Him to be abusive. We just move down our well-worn paths. We are creatures of habit and respond habitually. We expect Jesus to respond the same as everyone else has.
Life trains us to respond in certain ways, so it’s just common to respond to Him in these ways. And it’s up to Him to show us differently. He is not like all the other men. He’s not going to be the same and we will be changed at His hands.
Mary was made different. She fell in love and then was shown what Love really looks like. Jesus wasn’t going to be to her what everyone else on earth had been. He would not only change her concept of love, but her perception of herself as well. This is what the Lord does. He takes the bruised and the broken and makes them whole. He removes the errant thoughts by demonstrating another reality. He not only shows us what love is by loving us, but He also makes us begin to love ourselves. As we take His Life, we gain His view of everything, including ourselves.