Many of us have at least heard the name Mary Magdalene. Or know bits and pieces of her life through Bible stories. But in taking a closer look at this faithful follower of Christ, we can learn so much more and be challenged by her courage and faithful devotion to Christ.
In biblical times, it was very common and expected for women to be treated as “less than.” That’s one reason that the miracles of Christ healing women, spending time, reaching out, sharing truth with them, is so important today. And why the life and story of Mary Magdalene being delivered and set free by Christ, giving financially to His ministry, lingering at the foot of the cross in His final moments, visiting the empty tomb after His death, and being the first to see him again after the Resurrection, remains so very significant.
Jesus showed great respect and care for women. He broke the barriers of social expectations. He tore down walls of injustice and prejudice. He came to heal, forgive, and set free. As believers, He commissions us for His service, men and women alike, to share Truth with a broken world.
Here are seven interesting things from Scripture to help us know more about Mary Magdalene’s life and ministry and what we can learn from her today:
1. "Magdalene" is the name most likely used to describe where Mary was from.
According to what we can see from the verses mentioned about Mary, it is probable that she had lived in Magdala, a name meaning “tower,” and a thriving fishing town on the coast of Galilee, where Jesus was known to had traveled. It was common in Bible days for people to be called by the town they were from, such as Jesus of Nazareth, Simon of Cyrene, or Mary of Bethany. Through time, Mary of Magdala, became better known as Mary Magdalene. Due to questions of her past, links to a difficult or dark history, the name Magdalene has been often been associated with prostitution or adultery. But though Mary was delivered from 7 demons by Jesus, we don’t know the actual details of her previous life from Scripture, only where she was from. There is no Bible reference suggesting that she was involved in prostitution or an immoral past.
Truth: Every part of our lives is significant to Christ. Where we are from, the timing of our birth, our families, journeys, and pathways. He knows our way, He knows our name, and He is able to take any past of shame and difficulty and use it for great purpose.
2. Mary Magdalene is probably best known for the fact that she had been set free from seven demons by Jesus. (Luke 8:2)
As mentioned above, the demonic activity in her life has led some to believe through the years that this must have been associated with prostitution, adultery, or sexual immorality. But there’s no scriptural basis for this, only that she had been healed by Christ. She could have suffered from mental illness, sickness, epilepsy, or other conditions that demon activity had been linked to with other Bible stories during Jesus’ time of ministry. The number seven is often associated with “completeness” and this may suggest that Mary’s suffering and struggle was quite severe. It’s interesting to note that out of the many people who Jesus healed that are talked about in Scripture, she is one of the few whose actual name is mentioned.
Truth: Jesus sets us free and gives our lives great purpose as we live for Him. The enemy does not have the final say over us. God’s power is always greater, and He will release us from the grip of darkness and use our story for good to help others.
3. Mary Magdalene traveled with and financially supported the work and ministry of Jesus and His followers. (Luke 8:2-3)
Because she is listed along with several others who were known to be wealthy, it is likely that she too was able to help fund the needs of the ministry. There is no mention of family ties, parents, age, and responsibilities from her hometown in Scripture. Because Mary was free to travel and minister alongside Jesus’ followers, it is thought that she had no home or family obligations. As many of us are aware, women were often treated very differently in social status of that day. So this was probably difficult to do, though it did not prevent her from serving her Lord and God’s people.
Truth: Jesus is a strength restorer. He holds all power. He heals and then calls us to move forward. He brings us into places of ministry where He can use the gifts He’s given to bless and help others.
4. Mary Magdalene has been associated with the story of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with perfume and wept before Him. (John 12:1-8)
This account is mentioned in all 4 Gospels but Mary Magdalene is never mentioned. Only Mary (of Bethany) is mentioned, or as one version says, an “unnamed woman” who had a past of sin. Through history, Mary Magdalene’s name became linked with the story. But there is no evidence to support she is that same woman. The correlation may have also come from Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion and loyalty to Christ throughout his years of ministry, and from the fact that she came, along with others, to the tomb to anoint his body for burial. (Mark 16:1)
Truth: No matter what you face, His heart is forever towards you. He gives you hope and a future. He sees, He hears, He knows your way. And He promises to be with you always. You are powerful, you are called and redeemed. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is.
5. Mary Magdalene was a leader among believers, and she, along with other women leaders, faithfully supported Jesus' ministry.
We see her important role among Christ followers of that day in that her name is usually listed first when in a list of names in Scripture. In the Bible, this often points to the most prominent characters of a particular story or passage. The only exception to this can be seen when her name is listed along with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and other close relatives (John 19:25), which would be expected according to cultural and social customs of that day. Mary’s name was mentioned 12 different times in the NT. And unlike other women is Scripture, she is not linked to another person such as “the wife of, the daughter, the mother of…” She is simply Mary Magdalene, follower of Christ.
Truth: The most important name to be known by is the name of Christ. There is no greater calling but to be His follower and to lead others to know Him more. Mary didn’t seek to be known or recognized, she didn’t allow the culture and social views of women prevent her from serving her Lord. She was faithful and strong. She was wise and led well.
6. Mary Magdalene was among the group of women who were at the foot of the cross, and also with those who came to the empty tomb early the morning and found that Christ was risen. (John 20:1)
It is clear, that throughout Christ’s ministry, Mary was a strong and faithful supporter. She was one of the few who did not flee when he was arrested and suffering. She was there, her presence at the foot of the cross. And again, she was there, going to the tomb. And when they found the stone rolled away, the Bible says, “but Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…” John 20:11. One thing is clear from her life and it challenges us today, Mary loved her Lord and was a faithful follower. When all around them was seeming to fall apart with the trial and death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and these other key women rose up strong and stayed faithful to the end.
Truth: We are reminded through Mary Magdalene’s faithful walk, even through difficult times, that Jesus chooses to work in us and through us, to reach a broken world. If you know Christ as Lord and Savior, you carry His hope, you carry His message. He’s called you to share it, through a life of love, through your words, and actions.
7. John 20:10-18 tells us that Mary Magdalene is the very first one to whom Jesus appeared after the Resurrection, commissioning her to go and tell the others.
Jesus loves, calls, and commissions us all to serve Him, men and women.
Truth: The life of Mary Magdalene compels us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Her life and journey remind us that Jesus sets us free and gives our lives great purpose as we live for Him. The enemy often works hardest where he knows one may be used greatly for God’s purposes. He will try everything to hold us back, to drive us down, or away from God. Mary Magdalene had seven demons, but the enemy did not have the final say. Nor does he now, in our lives. Christ healed her, freed her, and equipped her to tell many others of His power and truth. And He is at work in our world still today. As believers, we can be assured that God’s power is always greater, and He will release us from the grip of darkness and use our story for good to help others.
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/DebbieWebbMcDaniel, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives. Find her also at http://twitter.com/debbmcdaniel and http://www.debbiemcdaniel.com.
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