22 July 2017

Luke 8:1-3

“He went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 63:1-8


In some parts of the global Church today, Christians are remembering particularly the life and example of Mary Magdalene. Mary appears in all four Gospels and is distinguished from the other women who share her name by the appellation 'Magdalene'. This is not a surname but refers to the town from which she came, Magdala. This was on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the north of modern-day Israel.

Mary Magdalene plays a very important part in the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. She is among the faithful women who remain with Jesus during his crucifixion (John 19:25), she helps with his burial and anointing (Luke 20:55-56), and is one of the first to encounter the risen Christ (Luke 24:1-10). John's Gospel tells us that she alone went to the empty tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning, and had the vital task of telling everyone else the good news of the resurrection (John 20:1-18).

Mark's Gospel gives us some tantalising additional information about Mary, saying that she was among the women who used to follow Jesus and "provided for him when he was in Galilee" (Mark 15:40-41). However, it is today's few verses from Luke that alone give us any information about Mary before the events of the crucifixion. Apparently, she and the other female followers of Jesus were vital in providing the financial resources for his missionary work (verse 3).

The references in the Gospels to Mary make clear that she was an important woman in the life of the Early Church, and that her example was widely respected. There is no evidence to link her to the unnamed woman in Luke 7:36-50, nor to believe she was ever a prostitute, nor to assert that she was especially sinful. Like many passages in Acts and the letters of Paul, this one is a very important reminder of the vital - and sadly often overlooked - role that women played in the ministry of Jesus and the life of his Church.

To Ponder

  • What might you learn from the example of Mary Magdalene in our Gospels?
  • Why do you think the role of Mary, and the other women who followed Jesus, has not perhaps been given as much recognition as it should have been by the Church?
  • What might this passage reveal about the different roles we are called to play in following Jesus?

Bible notes author

The Revd Geoffrey Farrar

Geoffrey Farrar is currently a Methodist presbyter in the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit of the Methodist Church, where he has pastoral charge of three churches in the Watford area. He trained at Wesley House in Cambridge and has recently completed an MA in Ancient History with the University of Trinity Saint David.