The story of Magdalene is about a life restored to relationship and purpose.
Mary Magdalene (original Greek Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή), or Mary of Magdala, was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important female disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", [Lu 8:2] [Mk 16:9] She became Jesus' close friend and most prominent during his last days, being present at the cross after the male disciples (excepting John the Beloved) had fled, and at his burial. She was the first person to see Jesus after his Resurrection, according to both John 20 and Mark 16:9
Mary has been used by various groups historically to their own ends.
The two pictures of Mary Magdelene – the Holy Saint – The Prostitute
The Roman western church in around 550 AD – following papal teaching identified Mary with the woman of ill repute (with no direct proof) and said that the 7 demons represented the 7 deadly sins which meant that she was a prostitute whom Jesus had saved. She is depicted with loose, red died, hair – often in a state of lascivious undress in many classical paintings. She is the image of the reformed sinner. Of course this also works as a misogynistic interpretation of discipleship – she was unsuitable to be in any position of authority, especially over men.
The Gnostic unorthodox teachings of 200-300 AD that spun off the gospel used her in another way. They presented her as a great spiritual leader who, in contrast to the bickering and self-seeking men, was able to receive direct secret messages from the risen Lord to instruct the apostles. The subservience of women in the Hebrew culture was thrown off in such groups. Those western traditions of female gods and priestesses – often with a sexualised spirituality, have produced a convenient hook for the neo-gnostics to exploit.
None of this is present in the Gospels of course. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather round them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
In the Gospel this is a much more personal story. This word “Mary” is the powerful catalyst for the breakthrough of the resurrection in this story. Its a story about...
- Failing to recognize the risen Jesus:
- Mary's devotion:how personal?
- Absorption in grief:makes her unable to see resurrection life
- Fixed expectation:things presumed impossible are hard to perceive
- Jesus calls her name.
- Name: Jesus knows I'm here – my situation. - your situation
- Name: Jesus knows my story – my state and why – your story
- Name: Jesus accepts me: “My Father and Your Father” - you
- The light dawns on Magdalene:
- Recognition: the presence of the living Jesus is experienced personally.
- Grasping: its all about “me”- I want to hold on to this.
- Sending: she is sent on duty to the others
It doesn't matter to Jesus if you are male or female, old or young, slave or free. Jew or gentile, saint or sinner. What matters is that you grasp that He knows you – accepts you – calls you. And that you respond in faith and obedience.