There’s an episode in season two of The Chosen that has stirred up some controversy. It features Mary of Magdala who has been spectacularly redeemed by Jesus in one of the most moving moments of the whole series. However, this time she is triggered by seeing Romans and remembers a painful memory from her past. She ends up going back into her old life for a bit, running away from her new life.
The question people ask is “Was Jesus not enough?” or “Did the salvation not take?”
I think to say that once we are delivered from sin we never go back to it or that once we are saved we never struggle ever again is to deny the reality of the world we live in. We still have the old temptations to go back. When the future looks confusing and bewildering, it’s easy to run back to something that’s familiar, even if it’s bad for us.
Jesus didn’t die to make us perfect people — or even good people. He died to make us redeemed and forgiven people. He died not just for the sins in our past but for the sins we will inevitably commit as we struggle to live out our new identity.
I can say for myself that I am not a good person. I have lived too many times out of fear instead of faith and out of selfishness instead of stedfast loyalty. I know what to do and don’t do it, and I know what not to do and do it any way.
I love the definition of a saint as not one who is good but one who has seen the goodness of God time and time and time again. I am not good but I am holy because God in Jesus has taken up residence in me and lives in me, flawed as I am. I am beloved.
We will all have prodigal moments, but the Father will always be waiting with open arms to receive us back once we come to ourselves again. We will all lose our way, but Jesus will call us by name and bring us back.
I still love the idea of the thief on the cross in heaven being interrogated by the angels. He may not know the correct terminology or the perfect answers to questions about doctrine, but when they ask him why he is there, he will say, “Because the man on the middle cross said I could come.”
So I think that Mary could have strayed, but Jesus’ love was far too strong for her to stay away. And she found a welcome on the way back, as do all prodigals who come home.