Read John 20:1-18
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.” (Luke 8:1-3, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 178: Mary Magdalene. Who was Mary Magdalene? Her name is one that is world-renowned. Everyone, Christian or not, can tell you who she was at least on the surface. Most would tell you that she was a woman follower fo Jesus, one of the most prominent women to follow Jesus during his lifetime. Most would call her a dear friend of Jesus’ and even a disciple. Most would correctly place her as one of the women present for Jesus’ crucifixion and death, as well as one of the women to witness his resurrection.
Many would also inform you that she was a former prostitute and/or adulterer and that Jesus had forgiven her of her sins and from that point she became a devoted disciple. They would tell you that she was the one who nearly got stoned to death for committing adultery and that Jesus saved from death. Of course, while the first half of the description is true, the second half found in this paragraph is patently false. It is a conflation of Mary Magdalene and the woman caught in adultery.
What’s more, the idea of her being a prostitute is nowhere to be found in the account of the adulterous woman, nor in any of the accounts we have on Mary Magdalene herself. That is another conflation of Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. Sadly, Mary’s name has been dragged through the mud over the course of the last two millennia and it is time that we right that wrong. There is no reason to believe that Mary was a prostitute or an adulterous woman, so, we should NOT believe that.
Here’s what we do know about Mary. Mary got the name Magdalene in the same way that Jesus got the name “Nazarene”. In other words, Magdalene was not her last name; rather, Magdalene refers to where she was from. Thus, Mary Magdalene actually means, Mary of Magdala (an important fishing town in Galilee). Beyond where she was from, we also know that she was a person of wealth. In fact, it says in Luke 3 that Mary, along with other well-to-do women, were actively supporting Jesus’ ministry. Thus, Mary was not merely following Jesus, she was financially supporting him.
Beyond that, Mary was a sinner, like all of us, who wrestled with demons…LITERALLY. It says in Luke 8:2 that Jesus had driven seven demons from Mary Magdalene and, it seems, that encounter changed the trajectory of life. She was no longer merely Mary of Magdala, but Mary the follower of Jesus.
What’s more, we can say that Mary Magdalene was the Apostle to the Apostles. She is the first one to whom Jesus appeared following his resurrection, and he sent her to the Apostles to proclaim his resurrection to them. The very word Apostle, apóstolos in Greek, literally means “the one who is sent”. Thus, Mary was sent to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to them!
Here’s what Mary’s story tells us. God chooses imperfect people who have demons to be his representatives here on earth. Where’s the Good News in that? Simple, we’re all imperfect people with demons! Each of us have something we need to be delivered from and, more importantly, each of us needs to be delivered of SIN and DEATH. Jesus exorcised the demons in Mary and that experience transformed her into the unlikeliest, and yet the most fervent, of Apostles. Without Mary Magdalene, there might have never been a Christianity.
That’s Good News and there’s more Good News where that comes from. You, too, are being called to preach Christ’s resurrection to all people. You too are being sent, despite all of the imperfection and hangups you have. You are being called to go out into the world and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to as many people as you can. You, too, have been called to be ambassadors of Christ and his kingdom.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I have seen the Lord” – Mary Magdalene, John 20:18
Lord, thank you for Mary Magdalene and her witness to us. Use us in the same way you used her, so that we may become just as faithful in our witness of you to others! Amen.