Tag Archives: Mary Magdalene

God’s People, part 178: Mary Magdalene

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.

Paolo_Veronese,_The_Conversion_of_Mary_MagdalenePart 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

PRAYER
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.

The Search for the Holy Grail

Read 1 Corinthian 11:17-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 CEB)

The HolyGrailI just recently watched the film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” This has always been my favorite of the four films because it deals with Indiana Jones’ quest to find the Holy Grail. While I am sure most of you know what the Holy Grail is, for those of you who don’t the Holy Grail is the cup of which Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles drank from during the Last Supper. Indiana’s father (played by Sean Connery) had been searching for the Grail his whole life, but when he gets close to finding it he disappears. Indiana then picks up where is father left off in order to not only find the Grail but to also find his father.

Before embarking on the quest, Indy turns to his friend, Marcus Brody, and asks him if he thinks there is actually any truth to the legend of the Holy Grail. Marcus responded, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” This statement hit me in a way it never really did before. I think as a younger person, I never fully understood the profound implication of that statement; yet, as a grown adult and a trained theologian, the proclamation is actually a revelation of the nature of who we are in Christ Jesus. This is not just some Hollywood-contrived revelation, but is a revelation we find throughout the Bible.

When we think of the Holy Grail, we think of the Last Supper, we think of the Knights of the Round Table, we think of Indiana Jones, we think of Monty Python, and some may even think of Dan Brown’s controversial work of fiction, “The Da Vinci Code.” Almost always, the Holy Grail is thought of as an object, as the cup that held the wine (aka blood) of Jesus Christ. In the case of the Indiana Jones film, the cup itself was holy and had magical powers of healing and rejuvenation as a result of Christ using it it in such a holy moment in history. In books like the Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail is a woman (going back to Mary Magdalene) who carried on the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Again, like the cup, the woman is merely important because she’s bearing the bloodline of Jesus.

What I noticed was that, when thinking of the Holy Grail, we tend to lose the bigger picture for the smaller details. We lose the significance of the Holy Grail when we cheapen it to being a “cup” or a “womb” or anything else. Marcus Brody points us to a deep truth when he says, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” Indeed. Jesus didn’t hold The Last Supper in order to turn a cup into an idol. Also, to get caught up in the “married Jesus” debate is to completely miss the entire point of Jesus ministry and the Last Supper.

In the act of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood”, the disciples are taking Jesus into themselves and making him a part of their own identity. In other words they, in that sacred moment and from that time forward, become the Holy Grail…bearing the grace and the love of Jesus to all the world. Just as Jesus was the Son of God, we who believe in Christ and partake in Holy Communion as a public profession of our faith, take on the identity of sons and daughters of God. I am sure some of my Protestant brothers and sisters might be questioning if I am taking Communion a little too literally. While I am not, I would say that to question that is to miss the truth of the above.

Whether we believe in Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, or we believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a symbol of God’s grace and forgiveness for us, the fact remains that Holy Communion is a reminder that we are called to be the Holy Grails of Christ. We are called to be the vessels that bear Christ’s love in the world. We are called to be Sacramental and to be transformational. We are called to be agents of Christ’s grace and witnesses to the presence of God. Remember this the next time you partake in communion and be transformed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” – Marcus Brody in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

PRAYER Lord, I am your vessel fill me with your grace so that I may bear witness to your grace in the lives of others. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Good Friday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28 – 19:42

Good_FridayAN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT

I cannot believe that this has happened! Where is my friend, O Lord, that I may once again laugh with him? Where is my teacher, O Lord, that may one again learn from him? Where is my, King, O Lord, that I may lay down my palm branches in praise before him again? Hope eternal seems to have finally died.

Early this morning, the chief priests sent Jesus to Pilate who tried Jesus as a traitor. He put on a dog and pony show, a mock trial, feeding off of the crowd.  He patronized them and got them to give him the verdict that he would’ve come to anyway. Jesus was to be flogged, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified. They made his broken body carry the cross beam up to Golgotha. What a terrible, terrible day.

He looked so disfigured, so bruised and bloodied. His flesh was torn and there was blood everywhere. They even put a crown of thorns on his head, calling out in mockery, “Hail to the King of the Jews!” When they got him here to Golgotha, they laid his body down and drove nails into his hands and his feet and rose him up on the cross. I will never be able to erase the shrieking sounds of horrid pain and agony that came out of his mouth.

Wait a second…I believe he is trying to speak. Yes, he’s having a hard time, but he is trying to speak. “Forgive them…Father…f-f-for they know n-n-not what th-th-they do.” Even now, he is still forgiving. How can he forgive them for what they’ve done? Even in the face of senseless evil, he is showing the grace he always talked about. “My G-G-God, my God, wh-why have you f-f-forsaken m-m-me! It…is…f-f-finished. In…to your…h-h-hands…I c-c-commit m-my s-s-spirit.”

O dear God. I think he has died. His head just dropped to his chest and his body is slouched and lifeless. O, my Lord, could you have abandoned your servant in his hour of need? Couldn’t you have done something, anything, to bring life back to your Son? Why are you so silent in his hour of need. Why are you hidden behind the dark veil of clouds that ominously loom above us? “You have seen, O LORD; do not be silent! O Lord, do not be far from me!” (Psalm 35:22)

REFLECTION

Can you imagine the pain and the suffering that Jesus felt in his last hours on earth? Can you imagine the feeling of abandonment, hopelessness and loss? Can you put yourself in the shoes of Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and watched her teacher, who numbered her equally as among his disciples, slowly suffocate to death and succumb to the brutality that was mercilessly inflicted upon him? Can you put yourself in the shoes of his mother who was left to do the one thing that every parent hopes will never pass…to bury her son?

We all have moments where this world seems to deal blows that are far too much for us to handle. We have all had our share of darkness, doubts, and despair. We have all tasted the bitter flavor of Sheol, in one way or another. We have all found ourselves staring down into the pit, wondering if there is any hope of escape.

Let not your heart be troubled, for there is hope.  The story does not end with Sheol, the story does not end in death. Just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so too are we resurrected him.  And the beauty of it is that you do not have to wait to die to share in that resurrection. You can experience the new life God has awaiting for you right here and right now. You can inherit the Kingdom of God in this life as well as in the next.

All you have to do is surrender all of yourself to God and breathe in the hope, the healing and the wholeness that comes in knowing that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Die to the despair and hopelessness that this world has to offer. Die to the inner trappings of the minutia we find ourselves caught up in and take a long, deep breath.  Breathe in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Breathe in the life that God is offering you and carry that life, and the good news of it, to those in need around you.

PRAYER

Take this moment to meditate and pray.

 

Disciple

Read Luke 8:1-3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1)

Mary MagdaleneIn the film that came out a little while ago, Son of God, the story of Jesus of Nazareth was chronicled. It started off with Jesus walking toward the Sea of Galilee, heading to its shores to recruit a certain fisherman by the name of Peter. From there he gathered up more disciples, twelve in all. Of course, Jesus also had many followers who followed him around from place to place as he traveled the Galilean countryside.

In this film, they actually have an extra disciple. Now, I bet you are pausing here and questioning: “An extra disciple? If Jesus had an extra disciple there would’ve been thirteen disciples, but the Bible clearly says twelve.” But you did hear me right. In this film, the extra disciple was a woman by the name of Mary of Magdala (also known as Mary Magdalene). In the film, they show her following Jesus around, handing out the loaves and the fish, sitting in on his lessons to his disciples, and even questioning him on how they should pray. “Mary Magdalene,” you might be asking, “wasn’t she the prostitute who followed Jesus and ended up witnessing his resurrection at the tomb on Easter morning? How could she be considered a disciple?”

If you are questioning that I would like to pause here for you and explain. Mary Magdalene is often mistakenly identified as a prostitute; however, if one reads the Gospel accounts you will not find such a description of her anywhere. The most one can find of Mary, prior to her knowing and following Jesus, is that she was among the women whom Jesus “cured of evil spirits and infirmities.” In fact, the author of Luke says that Jesus had cast “seven demons” out of her (Luke 8:2).

Luke’s Gospel, which was the third one written (circa 80-90 C.E.), is the only Gospel to mention that Mary was possessed by demons, so it is hard to tell whether or not Mary was known for being demonically possessed in the time of the earlier accounts of Mark and Matthew (Note: Mark 16:9 also mentions that Mary was possessed by seven demons; however, Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition to Mark and not in the original manuscripts), or if it is a later addition to the story. Regardless, Mary was certainly not a prostitute and was certainly a close follower of Jesus as she is mentioned as such multiple times throughout all four Gospels.

With that said, being a follower does not necessarily make one a disciple. Disciples were students, and thus as Jesus students the disciples had greater access to the Jesus than the mere follower did. They learned from him, they aided him in his ministry and they were given an inside look at his parables and at Jesus’ messianic plan. While the Gospels do not explicitly name Mary as a disciple of Jesus’ in the formal sense, they do show her being among the women following Jesus. Not only that, but she and the other women were supporting Jesus’ ministry with their resources (Luke 8:3). What’s more, it is to Mary Magdalene and the other women, that Jesus reveals himself to immediately following his resurrection. It is Mary and the other women who first get the command to go and tell others of the Good News (aka Gospel) of Jesus’ resurrection.

Again, while the Gospels may not explicitly call Mary a disciple, I feel there is little doubt she was. The Gospels, ALL FOUR OF THEM, have Mary being the first witness of the risen Christ and the first one to spread the Good News to the rest of the disciples. If Mary, in a time when women were considered little more than property, can be considered a disciple of Christ, who can’t be? That is, indeed, the GOOD NEWS! Jesus Christ has risen and ALL are called to be in on what he’s about to do next! ALL are called to be a part of his messianic plan of redeeming the world and returning it back to a paradise where all creation lives in love and peace! Are you ready for what God is going to do? Be like Mary and respond to that call!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

PRAYER
Lord, I wish to be your disciple. Teach me all that I need to do your work in this world. I give to you my time, my presence, my treasures, and my all. Amen.