“Seasons Illustrated” blogger “Sara Laughed” presented an excellent discussion of this Woman of Valor. Here are some of her words that helped me have a new appreciation for Mary Magdalene:
We don’t know very much about Mary Magdalene first-hand. Instead, we hear a few facts about her life in retrospective and are left to fill in the blanks. The first we hear of her is in Luke 8:1, when Jesus is traveling through the cities and villages, “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). With him are the disciples and “some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,” including “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:2). What we know of Mary’s past, then, is that she was a woman who struggled with illness and evil until she encountered Jesus, and that after he healed her, she spent her life following him.
The next we hear of Mary Magdalene is at the time of the death of Jesus in Mark 15. Jesus has been convicted, mocked and belittled, and crucified. At the time of his last breath, the centurion watching the crucifixion says, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). We read that the women watch from afar, Mary Magdalene among them. The pain and anguish that these women must have felt is unbelievable. They likely believed that this was the ‘end’ of the story; but as we know, it is only the beginning.
After Jesus is wrapped in linen and brought to the tomb, Mary Magdalene and another Mary see where Jesus was laid and sit opposite the tomb (Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61). The following morning, they go to the tomb to anoint him with spices when they find the tomb empty (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, John 20:1). When they see the stone was rolled away, Mary runs to Simon Peter and “the other disciple” and cries, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2). The disciples, not understanding that Jesus would rise again, returned to their homes; but Mary stayed, weeping, and Jesus appeared to her (John 20:8-14):
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:15-17)
Mary listened, running to the disciples. And she told them, “I have seen the Lord,” and repeated his words to her.
Though there were several women who followed Jesus and participated in his ministry, Mary Magdalene is the best-known, likely because she was the first named and the first person to whom Jesus appeared after the Resurrection. Like Mary of Nazareth and Elizabeth, who we have studied in previous weeks, Mary Magdalene recognized the divinity of Jesus. Unlike those two women, she came from a place of immense darkness, and then devoted her life to following Jesus, literally walking beside him as he journeyed from city to city. How is Mary Magdalene’s story a metaphor for our own journeys with God?
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