In HER Shoes… Who really was Mary Magdalene?

After our fascinating study on Rahab, we move on to another fascinating character: Mary Magdalene. I’ve got to be honest – my knowledge of Mary Magdalene is probably shaped more by musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar or even by the Da Vinci Code novels than any real study of her.

Our first verse is from Luke, and is the first time we hear about Mary Magdalene.

There is absolutely no doubt that Mary Magdalene becomes one of Jesus’s closest followers. After his crucifixion, she is ready to anoint his body properly for burial. Instead, she is one of the first to witness the risen Christ. Surely, she is an incredible figure. Yet there seems to be a sense of shame about her. She is often confused with Mary of Bethany (Mary and Martha) or the “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus with perfume.

Healed from possession

Instead, we are told that she is a woman who has been healed by Jesus. Seven demons had gone out of her. We presume that Jesus drove these demons out of her. Let’s just imagine that for a moment. Possessed by seven demons? That is absolutely terrifying. Perhaps this is why she was such a source of shame and scorn.

A woman of means

Yet further on in the verse, we are told that, with two other women, she provided for Jesus and the disciples. So she was a woman of means. A woman of significant means, if she could help to provide for Jesus and the disciples. We don’t know if she had her own business or if it was family money, but she was certainly fairly wealthy.

Not only that, but Mary Magdalene is listed first out of Jesus female followers – a pattern that is repeated in later accounts. This implies she is the most important of his female followers, and perhaps a leader amongst them.

A woman transformed

Let’s go back to the idea that she was possessed. A significantly wealthy woman, possessed by seven demons, so clearly traumatised. She’s healed by Jesus. As a result, she becomes his devoted follower, supporting his ministry financially and travelling with him, staying close to him through his death and resurrection.

That’s an incredible transformation – a real example of Jesus’ amazing power to transform lives.

Honestly? I know we’ve got Mary Magdalene wrong. She was not a shady figure who didn’t know how to love Jesus. Instead, she was a woman whose life was transformed by the healing power of God. She became one of his closest followers, and perhaps, in looking at how Jesus treated Mary Magdalene, we can see something of how he loves us too.

Next week

Next week, we look at Mary Magdalene at the cross: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25. I really hope you can join us for the discussion.

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