The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
The Six Mary's
In the New Testament, “Mary” seems to be the name of choice for women over
any other names. There are six different Mary's.
Each of them possessed a distinct set of characteristics and virtues. Combined
together, they seem to portray the very characteristics and virtues that the Lord looks
for in His Church, the bride of Christ.
In biblical typology, woman in many cases portrays certain aspects of the Church.
Consider Eve, who was built out of Adam’s opened side and was made to be Adam’
s help-meet, she fore-shadows the Church coming into being through Christ’s
pierced side and is meant to become His bride.
Rebecca was selected to be Isaac’s bride for her kind-heartedness, diligence and
obedience, and she set off on a long journey back to meeting Isaac. The Church,
likewise, should be endowed with the kindness, diligence and obedience of the
Lamb, and she too, since the Day of Pentecost has been well on her way to meeting
her heavenly Isaac, Christ. And while journeying, the Holy Spirit, like Abraham’s
faithful servant, bestows upon the Church spiritual beauty, gifts, and revelation to
acquaint her with every nuance and detail of her beloved Christ.
In the New Testament, three Mary's received prominent placement while the other
three remained largely hidden. Their prominence, however, was not necessarily the
result of heroic deeds or faithful services; nor was the obscurity of the other three
indicative of inferiority or lackluster performance. In each case, the Holy Spirit has so
ordained it to show us something of the character of Christ that He desires for His
The six Mary's are: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany,
Mary the wife of Clopas (Jn. 19:25), Mary the mother of Mark (Act. 12:12), and finally,
Mary of the church in Rome (Rom. 16:6).
In Mary, the mother of Jesus, we see godliness, devotion, humility, obedience and
attentiveness. It was easy to see how she was a godly woman with deep devotion to
God simply by her being chosen to carry the Son of God. She was said to have been
“greatly troubled” by the salutation of Gabriel, the angel of God. Only those with a
humble spirit would react as she did when greeted with salutations worthy of royalty.
Her reference of herself as the “bondslave of the Lord” (Lk. 1:38) further confirmed
the humble character of this precious woman.
Humility is not naturally occurring in man; it is the very hallmark of the character of the
Lamb, and it has to be wrought into man through the work of the cross. Mary’s
humility must have indicated something of the Spirit’s dealings in her life which
produced brokenness. Humility is not learned from schooling nor is it acquired by
mimicking some man of God. It is a fragrance that comes only out of broken
alabaster bottles. It is often found in least noticed people and places – the ones
which the natural eye cannot discern and natural mind simply has no respect for.
One thing that made this Mary stand out is a repeated emphasis of her being a
While this is indeed a great sign and miracle given to the world to show the divine
conception of the Savior of the world, the spiritual significance and applicability of
being virgin is seldom considered.
A virgin signifies a new thing, something untouched, undefiled, a fresh start, a new
Unlike many prominent characters in the Bible, Mary did not own a royal or priestly
pedigree and did not reside in prominent cities; instead, she was a simple maiden
from a despised region – Galilee, and a city (Lk, 1:26) that, according to Nathaniel,
nothing “good” ever came out of.
It makes human, political, and religious sense that the Son of God, the King of Israel
should be carried by a woman of prominence and be given a proper birth befitting a
King, preferably in a royal palace complete with pomp and circumstance.
But the Holy Spirit favors simplicity of devotion, humility, and obedience above
outward pedigrees and pomp. By selecting Mary to be the mother of Jesus, and a
manger to be His birth place, the Holy Spirit is signaling a change in paradigm
turning from outward prominence to inward reality. Yet this seems to remain one of
the most difficult lessons for Christians to grasp.
Christians continue to be enamored by outward glamour and greatness as
evidenced in everything from building the grandest cathedrals, putting on the biggest
productions, to conforming to worldly ways such as self-promotion, publicity seeking,
Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit
is spirit” (Jn. 3:6), and this saying immediately baffled Nicodemus’ old paradigm.
The Lord was now doing a new thing, and it was a total mystery to the old mindset.
The old mindset is accustomed to looking at and assessing things in outward,
religious or fleshly ways. The new paradigm is all summed up in a Person – Jesus
Sad to say, most Christians are still oblivious to the dangers of the flesh and operate
quite comfortably in the old fleshly realm. Spiritual work is often delegated not to the
spiritual, but to the most zealous or gifted. Problems in the church are not confronted
with prayers and seeking, but with committees and pocket books.
Bogged down with worldly and fleshly activities and religious zeal, the church is
reduced to nothing more than a religious corporation, and as such, it has to be run by
secular-minded CEO-types and managers who use worldly and humanistic ways to
solve problems, meet operational demands, and promote growth.
A while back, a dear sister in California seeking spiritual reality and deeper
fellowship lamented, “Christians in my church do not understand what I am saying; it’s
like I am speaking a foreign language to them….” And more recently, this same
sentiment was echoed in another precious, but frustrated, seeking sister in Texas.
This sad condition is true of the Church in general, and is due to a lack of
differentiating between the flesh and the spirit. Paul said, “A natural man does not
accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14).
The flesh can never be taught, trained or educated to understand spiritual things or
become useful in the hand of God. Left un-dealt with, it will not only hinder the proper
maturing of a child of God, it will cause him to wreak havoc in the church.
Closely related to the problem of flesh in the church is the “new wine” vs. “old
wineskin” problem. Many dear brothers and sisters caught in the institutional shuffle
do sincerely desire to follow the Lord and practice genuine church life. The difficulty
is they try to experience the new wine in the old wineskin. It simply cannot be done.
The life of Christ cannot be forced into a preprogrammed package of doing church
and made to conform to man’s rules and regulations. The Lord is having a new start
and doing a new thing. He is standing in “virgin” territory.
The Lord, in fact, had walked out of the established, but fallen, Jewish religion (old
wineskin) as the writer of the book of Hebrews keenly observed that “the bodies of
those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an
offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also that He might
sanctify the people through His own blood suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go
out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:11-13).
So, what is “virgin” territory? It is outside of old, traditional and institutionalized
church “camp.” It is where Christ is.
While today’s established and institutionalized churches have become the “camp” for
sure, the house church and many churches that forsook the traditional church on the
other hand may or may not be “outside the camp” either. To be perfectly candid,
many house churches, as well as many other well-intentioned churches that were
formed outside of denominational parameters, have become just as much (if not
worse than) a “camp” and as much an old wineskin. Some of them are nothing more
than institutional churches meeting in living-rooms or street corners instead of
The practitioners of these unconventional churches declare to have returned to New
Testament roots and blue-print concerning the way the church was done in the Bible.
This may well be true, however, it is not the accuracy to the blue-print that makes a
house of God authentic or desirable – it is the presence of the Lord that makes the
difference. When the Lord’s presence is gone, both the house and the biblical
intentions are but worthless “camps” and old wineskins.
Today, many seeking saints see something of the simplicity and spontaneity of the
early church from Acts chapter two. Immediately, they make duplicating the simplistic
church style their goal, and consenting to this form of gathering their one and only
criteria for fellowship with other believers. Sad to say, just like any other lop-sided
doctrines, practices and radical teachings, any time we put our focus on anything but
the Lord Himself, confusion, pride, quarrel and division will be the inevitable result.
We must learn to put our focus on the Lord. Any deviation from Him being the center
and basis for our fellowship puts us right inside of the very “camp” that we’re
desperately trying to get out of.
On the other hand, despite the best of intentions, genuine spiritual reality cannot be
assimilated in institutionalized parameters; it does not mean the Lord is not there
anymore, or that the Lord cannot bless His people there. Simply put, there is no
fullness of Christ – certainly not with all the programs, rituals, committees, activities
and pomp vying for people’s attentions, loyalty and affections.
Another significance of being a virgin is derived from the Hebrew word for “virgin.”
The word “virgin” is an important word in the Old Testament. It is a symbol for
singleness of heart and purity of devotion for God’s people. When Israel strayed from
this singleness and purity and followed after idols, it was said she played the “harlot”
– one who is diametrically opposite of a virgin.
A masculine form of this Hebrew word means “shielded from sight,” hence, a hidden
one. A virgin is a “hidden one.” Unfortunately, such a concept hardly crosses the
mind of most Christians. We have been so conditioned by worldliness and our flesh
to pursue glitter and fame and outward excitement, we don’t realize what the Lord
desires of us is that we be the hidden ones.
A hidden one is a person who “dwells in the secret place of the Most High” and
“abides under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1). As the Psalmist implies, a
hidden one is a person who ceases from struggles and strife and simply “dwells” and
“abides” in Christ. Make no mistake, the ones who dwell in Christ are not passive as
being slothful. Quite the contrary, the hidden ones win the battles and take the
spoils. Every time.
The Lord Jesus Himself came and showed us how this was done. He became the
“one grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died.” And out of His death, victory and
fullness was brought into being. Genuine victory and spiritual fullness are integrally
connected with death. Without the laying down of our soul life, there is no possibility
of victory and fullness.
To most Christians, fullness of Christ is either a foreign concept or relegated to the
sweet-by-and-by. They are easily satisfied with a nice little Sunday sermon and a
little fuzzy feeling in the pit of the stomach; a little personal involvement in service
would be icing on the cake! More advanced Christians attend a lot more meetings
and busy themselves with extensive ministries.
Little do they know, neither scenario comes even remotely close to fullness of Christ.
Fullness of Christ is a result of bearing the cross.
Consider this first Mary, for the sake of travailing to bring forth Christ, she was willing
to endure the shame of premarital pregnancy and incur the potential wrath of Joseph
and possible divorce!
Bringing forth Christ will always be associated with travailing, the dealings of the
How many Christians are willing to go through painful travails to bring forth the
character and fragrance of Christ within? May this be a constant reminder to those
who desire to come into meaningful church life: where the cross is free to operate,
fullness is never far behind because the cross produces the character and fragrance
of Christ. Conversely, the most spontaneous and scripturally-correct church is
altogether vanity, if the cross is not a reality!
Concerning the cross, most Christians cringe in fear for its apparent association with
suffering and pain. This is a most unfortunate and enemy-inspired misconception.
The cross is Abba’s way of maturing us, His sons: “For those whom the Lord loves
He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives…God deals with you
as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:6-
7). It is the very means He employs to produce the golden character of Christ within
us to bring us into fullness. It is the ultimate way of bestowing His blessings upon His
children. It is His way of conforming us to the image of His Son, Christ. It is His way
of preparing His bride to matching Him inwardly in character, thoughts and feelings.
Ironically, most Christians look for shortcuts to reach spirituality by circumventing the
cross. Let me humbly submit, the ultimate “shortcut” to spirituality IS the cross! Every
time the cross is circumvented, we have to repeat the same lessons until we are
willing to lay ourselves down in total surrender. And the longer we postpone our
lessons, the costlier the price we’ll have to pay – let’s learn from the “wise virgins,”
and take the warning from the “foolish virgins.” And let’s take heed to the Israelites’
40-year wandering in the wilderness.
Finally, with Mary the mother of our Savior, it was recorded that she “pondered” over
the salutation of Gabriel (Lk 1:29), “treasured up” all the sayings of the shepherds
“pondering” in her heart (Lk. 2:19), and again, she “treasured up” all the things about
Jesus in her heart (Lk. 2:51).
Without a doubt, Mary is an attentive listener. A sure sign of a spiritual person is one
who listens more, talks less. A multitude of words almost always betrays the
shallowness of the heart. As James wisely points out, the tongue is harder to tame
than the wild beasts.
It is safe to say, no spiritual servant of God who ever graced the spiritual landscape
did not learn to have the tongue dealt with. It is also safe to say that Mary must have
allowed the Holy Spirit to deal with her in the area of speech.
One of the biggest temptation – and stumbling – for one who is zealous and gifted is
the propensity to talk a lot. Usually, one who talks a lot either thinks highly of himself,
or is insecure about something. On the flip side, one who talks little may simply be
due to his lack of eloquence or timid nature, and not his genuine spirituality either.
How we need the Lord to deal with us in our undisciplined speaking. May the Lord
help us learn to “ponder over” and “treasure up” the things of Christ in our heart. May
the Lord deal with our heart and tongue, and make us attentive listeners like Mary.
May the Lord grant us grace to take up our cross and follow Him outside the camp
and into “virgin” territory. May the Lord speak to our hearts through this first Mary and
make us His true “hidden ones.”
Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany
These two Marys have been well portrayed and quoted in many wonderful messages
and writings, but somehow, we never seem to get enough of these two precious
women. They did not leave us with eloquent words, epic-making acts, sound
doctrines, or heroic deeds. They left us something far deeper than mere doctrines or
In fact, what they did do seemed opposite of the doctrinal minds of the disciples.
Mary of Bethany incurred the wraths of the brothers by breaking a costly bottle of
perfume and “wasted” it on Jesus. Doctrinal minds reasoned that the precious
ointment could fetch much in the market place and be useful in ministry to the poor!
Instead, these two Mary's are like the “garden enclosed” and “fountain sealed up,”
reserved for their Beloved Bridegroom (SS. 4:12). They emit a rare fragrance from a
hidden valley of spices tucked away from the prying eyes of a curious but
Perhaps one of the most tragic losses of the Church today is the loss of her
fragrance. The breaking of the alabaster bottle vividly illustrates the need for
brokenness without which it is all but impossible to emit the fragrance of Christ. And,
instead of being a hidden valley of spices, the Church has plunged into the world and
carved out a gigantic statue to be reckoned with in politics, commerce, entertainment
When the Church consorts with politics, commerce, entertainment and religion to
raise her own notoriety and status, brokenness and fragrance are a distant
It is interesting to notice that both of these Mary's brought spices to Jesus. Mary of
Bethany anointed Jesus with a costly alabaster bottle of pure nard for His burial
before the fact. Mary Magdalene prepared and brought spices intending to anoint
Jesus’ body after the fact.
Spices are an important element in worship. Since the inception of the nation of
Israel, “spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense” have been an
important part of the worship of God (Ex. 25:1-9). When Jesus was born, Magi
traveled from afar to worship Jesus bearing articles of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Worship is perhaps the ultimate expression of intimacy with God. While all the
disciples were clamoring about, Mary alone drew near and knew the Lord’s heart,
and broke her treasured alabaster bottle of perfume to anoint Jesus in preparation
for His burial (Jn, 12:3, 7). She was a worshiper bearing spices.
Not only was the Lord immensely satisfied with her fragrance, He decreed that
wherever the gospel was to be preached, what Mary of Bethany did for Him would be
mentioned in memory of her (Mk. 14:9).
Frankincense and myrrh, among others, are taken from incense trees that have been
wounded to facilitate the issue of resin. After the resin hardens and crystallizes, it
becomes the prized incense which, when harvested and burned, releases its sweet
In like manner, worshipers are those who have allowed the Lord’s dealings to inflict
“wounds” in their soul life so that incense can form. Allow me to again offer this
reminder: the true “shortcut” to spirituality is to allow for the cutting of the cross in our
lives to produce fragrance.
Herein lies a little-noticed secret, only those who have submitted to the Lord’s
dealings, evidenced by brokenness, have fragrance to emit – these are the true
Many are those who go to “worship services,” but seldom have they any spices to
offer. A worshiper brings spices to a gathering. Again, allow me to submit, it’s not
as much a matter of doing church the right way as what one brings to a gathering.
Have we allowed spices to form in our lives? Do we give off the aroma of Christ in a
gathering? Dear saints, what kind of scent do you bring to a fellowship?
As mentioned before, Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with fragrant ointment before
His crucifixion, Mary Magdalene attempted to anoint Him with spices after
crucifixion. Though missing her opportunity to anoint Jesus, Mary Magdalene was
said to be the one whom the Lord “first appeared” to (Mk. 16:9) after His
These two little sisters both attained a “first” in their lives: Mary of Bethany first
anointed Jesus for burial; Mary Magdalene first saw Jesus in His resurrection. And,
guess what, both women had spices!
Even though Mary Magdalene missed the opportunity to anoint Him first, she was a
person fragrant with spices nonetheless. Anytime there is a person filled with
fragrance, rest assured that the Lord will personally appear to attest of his/her
preciousness. The fact that Mary Magdalene had “seven demons” cast out of her,
and she became a yielded vessel proves that she learned from her “wounds” and
surrendered her life to the Lord a fragrant incense.
When Mary of Bethany broke her alabaster bottle of perfume, the house was “filled
with fragrance of the perfume” (Jn. 12:3). Does the fragrance still “fill the house” in
the place where you gather?
Mary the Wife of Clopas
Little is known about this Mary except that she is a disciple of Jesus, and she stood
along with other women and witnessed the crucifixion of her Lord. It is easy,
however, to see that she must have been a courageous woman being a wife and
perhaps a mother of children. At a tragic event where most of the apostles-in-training
have scattered and fled for dear lives, this woman having a family of her own chose to
stand by the Lord with the other women. And the fact that she was hardly mentioned
in the divine record, therefore NOT a “leading sister,” did not keep her from stepping
into the frontline of spiritual battle.
When push comes to shove, it is in times like these that the heart is truly revealed.
After all, Jesus has been with His disciples for three and a half years teaching them
and showing them numerous miracles and signs. But in the face of danger the
prominent disciples and soon-to-be apostles are nowhere to be found; except a few
women, among whom is one hitherto unknown sister named Mary, the wife of
Clopas! And Mr. Clopas himself in all likelihood may not even have been a disciple.
Apparently, there is something far deeper than knowledge here; all the disciples have
the same knowledge about the Lord. Some might even have had greater revelations
about the Lord – Peter certainly did. But where are those with knowledge and
revelations at Jesus’ crucifixion? Could it be that the Holy Spirit is trying to show us
something about lives laid down? At a time when the forces of Darkness rage and
roar, and everyone is looking for anyone who has any connection with Jesus to inflict
harm, this little-known sister steps right out of the shadows to be a silent testimony of
Jesus and to support the other women – life laid down.
A small group of women banding together in support of each other and standing
against the tide…lives laid down…. Isn’t this a picture of the Church?
More likely to be found in today’s churches, however, are men and women banding
together for various other reasons – doctrines and practices, for example; and how
about social, race and culture? There is even a “Cowboys Church.” Wow! Allow me
to reiterate again: anytime we focus on anything other than the Lord, we lose the
standing as His testimony.
May the Lord grant us a desire to band together with other brothers and sisters who
are not looking to themselves, their pet-peeves or even to the church, but to Christ
and Him only. Looking to ourselves will weaken our testimony. It is no accident that
the brothers, signifying strength, have all fled at the crucifixion. The church, typified by
woman, is meant to “look away unto Jesus”; anytime we look unto ourselves, we will
be plagued by weaknesses and fleeing every which way but to Him.
Mary the Mother of Mark
This dear Mary brought up her son in the Lord. Nothing is quite so dear as a mother
nurturing, teaching and training her child to become a godly young man.
There is a real need for mothering in the church these days – mothers who know how
to nurture, train and discipline children, and mothers who have big hearts to love and
care for others as their own. The great Apostle Paul had just such a “mother”; she
was the unnamed mother of Rufus in the church in Rome (Rm. 16:13). Paul fondly
called this lady, “his (Rufus’) mother and mine.”
Mary’s home was also one of the gathering places for the church in Jerusalem.
King Herod had put James to death and laid his hands on Peter intending on
harming him also.
Peter was miraculously set free by an angel and led out of the maximum security
prison. He wasted no time and headed straight for this Mary’s home. Now think with
me for a moment, Peter was married and had his own home. It was in the middle of
the night when he was delivered. Why would a married man of Peter’s spiritual
stature make a beeline for a sister’s home in the middle of the night?
Acts 12 tells us that a prayer meeting was going on at this Mary’s home. But how did
Peter know it, unless this was a regularly scheduled gathering of the church? It is sad
that some dear brothers and sisters split hairs over regularly “scheduled gatherings”
vs. “spontaneous gatherings.” Such majoring in the minor and minoring in the major
have caused many heart-breaking splits in the family of God.
So, in this Mary we have a precious sister with a big heart to love and care for the
saints. And she is burdened for prayer.
There is no way to raise up a child in the Lord except on her knees. One can imagine
the amount of tears she must have shed while bringing up Mark in the way of the
Lord. Bringing up a child in the Lord has to be one of the most awesome ministries
in the eyes of the Lord!
There is also no way to further the advancement of the church except on her knees.
The church simply cannot go on without prayers. Whether a church has the Lord’s
anointed presence and blessing, one need look no further than its prayer meetings.
Every spiritual reality starts on the knees.
Mary’s home is very literally, a “House of Prayer.” Isn’t this what the House of God,
the church, is supposed to be?
Mary of the Church in Rome
At last, but not least, we come to Mary of the church in Rome.
Concerning this precious sister, Paul commented to the saints in Rome saying, “she
has worked hard for you” (Rm. 16:6).
Many Christians have a misconception about working for the Lord. Zealous and
gifted believers tend to charge head-long into so-called “ministries.” There is usually
no lack of efforts, and they may even have fruits to show forth their labors.
With Mary of Bethany, we are told that her sister Martha complained to the Lord
about her sister’s lack of service, but the Lord highly praised her for her inactivity!
Here in the church in Rome, this Mary “worked hard,” and received Paul’s praise.
Caught in an apparent dilemma with two Mary's occupying two opposite ends of the
spectrum of work, shall we play it safe and side with Jesus – since He can never be
wrong – and say, “Christians should not work”? Then the Lord and His entourage
would not have had dinner served to them that night at Martha’s house. Many
Christians zealous for work indeed use this line as excuse for their busy Martha-
Truth be told, the kind of work that the Lord is looking for is where He does the work
in, through, and out of us. Andrew Murray said it well, “In God and man working
together, there is nothing of the idea of a partnership between two partners who each
contribute their share to a work. Rather, the true plan is that of co-operation founded
upon subordination” (None But The Hungry Heart).
The soul must learn to yield to the chastening hand of the Lord and have its natural
energy dealt with before finally resting in the Lord allowing Him to wield this soul as a
ready instrument for His work.
An Old Testament picture comes to mind and illustrates the point perfectly. The
priests are not allowed to wear any garment made out of wool. They can only wear
linen garments, because wool generates sweat which is a sign of curse. God’s
servants do work very hard, but they are not to generate any sweat. The only way this
is possible is to let the Lord Himself do the work in, through, and out of them.
All the truly spiritual servants of God throughout Church History have the same
testimony: He did it all. The only role we are privileged to play is to allow the Holy
Spirit to deal with us so that we can become a channel for God’s work and blessing
to flow through.
For this to happen, we must be vessels that have been prepared. Our yieldedness to
His dealings determines our usefulness as His workers.
Mary of the church in Rome shows us just such a picture. Yes, she worked hard, but
she didn’t sweat. So, work as hard as you can, dear fellow-laborers, but let’s remind
each other, “don’t sweat!”
Our Bridegroom’s coming is near; He is preparing His bride, the Church, to be like
Him in inward character conforming to that of the Lamb. He is looking for
overcomers who, incidentally, are referred to as “virgins” in the Book of Revelation.
These six precious "virgin" Mary's have much to show us in this regard.
May the Lord grant us grace.
March 11, 2006