HER NAME MEANS “TROUBLE AND SORROW”
The name “Mary” occurs 51 times in the New Testament and is taken from the Old Testaments names of Miriam and Mara, which mean “bitter.” The root of the name “Mary” is derived from the notion of trouble and sorrow. Being a common name during this time period, this Mary was distinguished from all others by being referred to as “The Magdalene,” which identifies her as being born in Magdala, a thriving city on the coast of Galilee about three miles from Capernaum. The city of Magdala was known for its primitive textile factories and dye works. While it is only speculation, it could be that Mary Magdalene was connected in some way with that industry, which would have enabled her to help support the ministry of Jesus, as she was known to have done.
There is nothing in the biblical record about Mary’s family life. The Bible does not list her parentage, any family members, her marital status, or her age. The gospel accounts of her life suggest that she had no family obligations, thus freeing her to follow Jesus in His traveling ministry.
FROM DEMON-POSSESSED TO DEVOTED DISCIPLE
While many equate Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman of Luke 7:37 or the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3, there is not the slightest evidence in the gospel narratives or in the writings of the early church fathers to support the claim that Mary Magdalene had ever been a woman of ill repute. What the Bible does tell us about her is that she had been possessed by seven demons, which probably caused her to have bouts of insanity, and that Jesus cast them out of her (Luke 8:2).
Being delivered from her tormenting captors, Mary became a disciple of Jesus, to whom she showed great love and devotion. Along with other women, Mary gave both personal and financial support to the ministry of Jesus, following Him from place to place in His missionary activities.
A LEADING WOMAN IN MINISTRY
Mary Magdalene is mentioned 14 times in the gospels and from that record we can compose a sketchy profile of her life. It is worth noting that in eight of the 14 instances that she is mentioned, Mary is named in connection with other women, of which she is always named first. This would lead us to believe that she occupied the place at the front in service rendered by godly women. In the five times she is mentioned alone, it is in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:9; John 20:1, 11, 16, 18).
Forever faithful to her Lord, Mary Magdalene was among the last at the cross to witness Christ’s death and, following Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus’ body would be laid, she was the last to leave His tomb after night had fallen. Intending to honor Christ by anointing His body with spices and perfumes, she was the first to visit the tomb on resurrection morning and the first to carry the news that Jesus had risen from the dead.
JESUS HONORED HER
What a great honor God bestowed upon Mary in permitting her to be the first witness of His resurrection! The gospel of John tells us best of what happened that day. Mary was at the tomb at first light that first Easter morning. How surprised she must have been to see the stone rolled away! Peering in the cave she saw that it was empty, which made her weep. After finding the grave empty Mary rushed to find Peter and John and blurted out, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” (John 20:2). Peter and John went to the tomb with Mary and found that she told them the truth, and then they “went back to where they were staying”(John 20:10). But Mary stayed. It was then, after speaking to two angels, that Jesus revealed himself to Mary.
After comforting her, Jesus commissioned Mary to be the first messenger of His resurrection. He told her to tell the disciples Jesus’ words: “‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God’” (John 20:17). What an honor to be the first to herald the resurrection!
WHAT MARY CAN TEACH US
There is much we can learn from the life of Mary Magdalene.
- We can see just how much Christ can do for someone. He delivered her afflicted, tormented soul and healed her, leaving her a changed woman.
- We not only learn what Christ can do for us, but what we can do for Him. His great love and compassion toward her completely changed her life and led Mary to become a faithful, sacrificial follower. So grateful for her deliverance, Mary practiced her faith by following Jesus and ministering to Him and His disciples out of her financial means and taking care of their physical needs. Her gratitude and love manifested itself in her devotion to Christ.
- Christ’s work for Mary Magdalene and her loving ministry to Him constitute the type of elevation of woman to the rank of friendship with man. She was no longer to be considered a slave or servant, but his co-worker and equal, capable of accepting equal responsibilities and sharing equally in the results.
Mary Magdalene owed much, gave much, loved much, and served much. She is a wonderful example of a woman whose life was poured out in response to God’s extravagant grace.
QUESTION: Mary Magdaline – What was her role in Jesus’ resurrection?
The role of Mary Magdalene in Christ’s resurrection began from her very first appearance in the Gospels. She became a tenacious follower from the time Jesus exorcised seven demons from her (Luke 8:2, Mark 15:41). Perhaps of a well-born family, she, with other women of wealth, expressed appreciation to Jesus through their generous financial support. They accompanied Him and His disciples as often as their family and social obligations permitted. Her emotional and spiritual attachment to Jesus naturally strengthened as time passed. However, any innuendo suggesting a physical relationship between them is flagrant blasphemy of God’s Son, who recognized only a spiritual family (Mark 3:31-35).
Mary Magdalene’s role in Christ’s resurrection grew by her devotion to Jesus during His six hours on the cross. Following the entourage from Jerusalem, she remained on site until His death (Matthew 27:55-56). That aside reeks of integrity, given the ferocious loyalty with which women have always supported the spiritual life.
Mary Magdalene’s role in Christ’s resurrection became certain by her, and the other women’s, loyalty to Christ’s corpse. They accompanied Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to the garden and sat opposite the tomb as the man lovingly placed the precious body inside. With the rest, they plunged into grief-stricken despair as servants rolled the stone in place (Matthew 27:61). Devastated beyond tears, they returned home to prepare spices and perfumes to embalm the body after the Sabbath (Luke 23:55-56).
Mary Magdalene’s role in Christ’s resurrection became inevitable when she and other women took their spices to the tomb at dawn Sunday morning. Their remarkable action-adding to the rich man’s superfluity of seventy-five pounds their own store of spices-proved that love can never do enough for its object.
Mary Magdalene’s role in Christ’s resurrection reached its ultimate expression in her personal rendezvous with Jesus at the tomb (John 20:10-18). However, it seems that the meeting revealed more than the emotional, sentimental message of the hymn In The Garden.
Luke 24:1 and the following verses record their initial visit to the tomb, where the angels questioned their search for the LIVING among DEAD mortals. In a monumental distinction, they specifically spoke of Christ’s bodily resurrection – not the removal of His corpse from the tomb. They even underscored it by referring to Christ’s promise of resurrection. The women’s remembrance of Christ’s words obviously didn’t translate into understanding.
Leaving the tomb, the women told all the apostles generally (Luke 24:9), and Peter and John particularly (John 20:2), that THEY, that is, the angels, had taken Christ’s body, but no one knew where. The energized John and Peter raced for the tomb (John 20:3-9). After inspecting it, they left.
John 20:10 recorded Mary Magdalene’s return to the tomb after the men left. Nevertheless, despite angelic eyewitness affirmation of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s promise to rise, and her witness to that, Mary stood outside the tomb, weeping. She forlornly bent over and looked inside, where her adjusted eyes saw two angelic beings and heard their assurance of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus meanwhile appeared, stood close to Mary and asked the reason for her tears. Drawn to the voice, she turned to see; but temporarily blinded by weeping and the bright morning light, she didn’t recognize Jesus. Only when He called her name did Mary KNOW that Jesus lived and stood beside her.
Mary’s reluctance to accept the Master’s resurrection reflected the adamant skepticism in every disciple. And while the empty tomb raised questions and hopes, it took the personal, visible appearance of Jesus to convince the disciples, Mary Magdalene included. This is evidence of integrity. The hard-headed men and women in that generation weren’t interested in believing an illusion. Jesus had to indisputably prove that He lived after being buried. In another mark of integrity, once He proved it, they believed it with a dogged perseverance they never surrendered.