22 July 2016

Luke 8:1-3

"Mary, called Magdalene" (v. 2)

Psalm; Psalm 63:1-8


Mary was a common name at the time of Jesus. There were several Marys who played a part in the gospel story. It is not always easy to be sure which Mary is talked about at any given time in some of the stories recounted in the four Gospels.

Luke identified the Mary of this story as Mary of Magdala, a woman who had been exorcised of evil spirits. She was one of the women who accompanied Jesus in the course of his Galilean ministry and then travelled with him to Jerusalem. These women are identified later as witnesses to the burial of Jesus and first witnesses of the empty tomb (Luke 23:55 - 24:10).

Only Luke acknowledged such a central role of women in the ministry of Jesus, women who were with Jesus right through his ministry. And only Luke named this core group of women, a naming which was in some ways comparable to the naming of the core group of men found in each of the four Gospels. Naming them was important to Luke because the recording of their names showed that there really were actual, known women who exercised this special role, close to the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

In each case where Luke identified such women by name, Luke put Mary Magdalene at the head of the group, as though the leader of the women disciples. The Church has singled her out on this day of the year for her leading role in the ministry of Jesus and her closeness to Jesus himself - and because she was a forgiven sinner, much loved by God.

This was one of the major themes which Luke adopted in the writing of his account of the ministry of Jesus, the much loved repentant sinner. But it does not mean that it is right to identify Mary of Magdala with the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with oil in Luke 7:37, a few verses prior to our passage today.

To Ponder

  • Who are the women deeply significant in your life and faith journey?
  • How does this acknowledgement of Mary Magdalene and the other women help you to see the ministry of Jesus in deeper fullness?
  • What implications does this have for the role of men and women in the life of Church and society today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr David Calvert

David is a retired Methodist minister whose active ministry included a mixture of circuit ministry and theological education..