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A Closer Look at Mary Magdalene

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

Happy Easter! This is a stand-alone study in honor of the most important holiday Christians celebrate. For more Easter content, you may also wish to read the blog at www.Comfort-Cafe.net/blog titled Easter Fashion where we examine Easter fashion and spirituality.

He is risen! Halleluia!

Ruth

©2015 Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: ruthywood@gmail.com.

resurrectionWho was Mary Magdalene? The Bible reveals little; however, we know that she was from Magdala, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and that Jesus cast out seven demons from her (Luke 8:1-2). Luke 8:3 says that she belonged to a group of women who followed Jesus and supported his ministry out of their own means. She was present at the crucifixion, observed where they buried Jesus, and the following morning returned with spices. At the tomb she speaks with an angel and then is the first to encounter the resurrected Lord. When she delivers the good news to the disciples, they do not take her seriously.

Her Past

From oral tradition some believe that Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute. The Biblical text does not substantiate this teaching. However, some kind of trauma history is not unlikely. A missionary friend of mine involved in rescuing hundreds of women from brothels in China told me that it is very common to see demonic activity when these women first come to their safe house. Most of these women are slaves and have been terribly mistreated. There is a connection between pro-longed, severe abuse and demonic oppression. Regardless of the nature of Mary Magdalene’s past, at the least we can assume horrific trauma from the torment inflicted by seven demons. Similar to the woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair at Pharisee Simon’s house, Mary Magdalene loved much because she had been rescued from much.

The First

Mary Magdalene is most notably known as the first person to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection. I’ve always found it particularly comforting that the Lord chose to appear to several women before he came to Peter and others. Jesus knew that, as a woman, Mary Magdalene would not be considered a credible witness. Nevertheless, He entrusted her with the message to “go tell my disciples.”

By appearing to Mary Magdalene first, Jesus elevated all women, addressing inequality between the sexes. Certainly in heaven we will no longer chafe under the curse and its divisive role between men and women. But when Jesus sent a woman, not a man, to become the first messenger of the best news ever delivered, we catch a glimpse of “all made right.”

Parallels

C.H. Spurgeon drew some interesting spiritual insights from Mary Magdalene, a few thoughts excerpted here (edited for contemporary reading):

  • Was it not most appropriate that a woman should be the first to see the risen Savior? She was first in transgressing—let her be first to receive justification [supplied by the work on the cross].
  • In the garden, woman was first to create man’s misery—let her, in that other garden, be the first to see Him who restores our happiness.
  • She takes the apple of that bitter tree which brings us all our sorrow; let her be the first to see that mighty Gardener who has planted a tree which brings forth everlasting fruit!

Most Faithful

In the accounts about Mary Magdalene, we see a bold and courageous woman. She stood watch at the crucifixion when most of the other disciples had abandoned their Lord, she stayed at the tomb after Peter and John left, and she pleaded with the Gardener for Jesus’ body. One reason why she saw Jesus first is because she was there. And she was there because of her seeking heart. Of all the disciples, male and female, Mary Magdalene was quite arguably His most passionate, devoted, and faithful follower. In my opinion, she would outrank James and John for that coveted kingdom seat at the right or left of Jesus!

Complete Devotion

Mary Magdalene is inspiring because of how deeply she loved Jesus. Her heart belonged to Him and Him alone. We get the feeling that only Jesus brought purpose and meaning to her world. In light of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion, the last stanza of Bach’s hymn, O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, comes to mind:

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.

Bible Study:

Read Mark 15:40 and John 19:25. Who were the women who witnessed the crucifixion? How close did they get to the cross?

Read John 20:1-18. Outline the order of events for Mary Magdalene.

Read this short monologue of Mary’s thoughts as she deals with Jesus’ crucifixion and comes to the empty tomb. Then choose one of the following three ways to interact with the Easter story: (1) Write your own thought monologue for Mary Magdalene; or (2) choose another disciple and write out things that might have gone through his or her mind; or (3) imagine yourself in person at the crucifixion and resurrection. How might YOU have reacted? What concerns would have been uppermost in your mind?

What has touched you most about Mary Magdalene? In what ways does she inspire you in your relationship with Jesus?

You may wish to write a prayer of thanksgiving around the Easter story.

Reference:
C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon on Mary Magdalene
http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols10-12/chs625.pdf
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