Mary Magdalene is a woman whose story has been conscripted throughout church history. She has been depicted as a prostitute, prophetess, mystic, celibate, passive helpmate, feminist icon, and the mother of Jesus’s child. “How the past is remembered,” writes James Carrol, a theologian and historian, “how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus Offers Second Chances
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.
a woman called
It’s not clear where Magdalene’s wealth came from. Scripture is vague on that point, as it is with many of her details. The city she came from, Magdala, was a wealthy and culturally advanced town. Her money could have come from family or from her own work. Its source is unclear and not the focus of the story. What is clear is that she is a woman with a past, a woman Jesus healed, and a woman who was devoted to her savior and gave what she had. When Jesus called, she followed.
Scripture tells us that Magdalene followed Jesus during his earthly ministry after he healed her. She went from broken to whole and she was unleashed to follow Jesus. She was a witness to the words he taught and also to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. She was present through it all. Where the twelve disciples were, there was Magdalene along with the other women who followed.
mary on a mission
During Jesus’s time, he welcomed women into his ministry. We’ve seen it in his interaction with his mother, Mary, with the sisters Martha and Mary, the women he healed, the women he spoke to, and the women he called to bear witness and testify to his identity. Because of what Jesus had done for Mary Magdalene, she was able to minister to others. In Matthew 27, we see her with Jesus’s mother at the crucifixion. We often undervalue ministry of presence to stand with someone in the darkest of moments and support them in the midst of pain. Mary Magdalene was the loyal friend who stood by a broken-hearted mother who was helpless in stopping the humiliating and undeserved death of her son.
We also know she was one of the first people to run and go tell people Jesus was risen from the grave. She had such a place of connection with Jesus and privilege of getting to be the first one to carry the gospel. That was a long road to go from demon possessed to the first one to carry the gospel, but that’s what Jesus does to us. He changes everything.
You may feel disqualified to follow him because of your past, but as we see with Mary Magdalene, Jesus restores.
Watch Session Five
Jesus Gives Hope
What are some myths that you once believed? What was it that helped you decipher myth from truth?
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