Monday 23 July 2018

Bible Book:

“Mary, called Magdalene” (v. 2)

Luke 8:1-3 Monday 23 July 2018

Psalm: Psalm 63:1-8


Mary Magdalene is remembered by many Churches on 22 July. Including her in our lectionary within the theme of “holy things, holy people” leads us to reflect on how the companions of Jesus in the gospel are more than just 12 men.

Mary ‘of Magdala’, a village near Tiberias, just inland from the Sea of Galilee, is present at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:40; John 19:25), burial (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47) and resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1). Her most significant Gospel appearance is John 20:11-18 when she meets the risen Jesus, mistakes him for the gardener and he opens her eyes by speaking her name, suggesting a depth of personal relationship, and finally she is sent to tell the disciples. Her role as messenger arguably makes her the first evangelist or the first missionary.

Prior to this involvement in the key scenes of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all we know about her is from today’s passage. Mary is one of the named women who are “with him” (v. 1) alongside the 12 disciples. The information is sparse, though there is more about Mary than the others, and the fact that she is listed first, here and elsewhere, suggests that she has some form of recognised priority, similar to Peter amidst the male disciples. We can glean that Mary and the other women have received Jesus’ ministry, responded to his call, and serve as living exemplars of Jesus’ teaching on faith and wealth.

The women have all “been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” (v. 2). Indeed, Mary has been released from seven demons. This may not be a literal description of the exorcisms which she experienced, but a hyperbolic description using the Jewish number for completeness, emphasising the severity of her demonisation (see Luke 11:24-26). Some traditions connected Mary Magdalene with the immediately preceding account of a sinful woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Matthew 7:36-50), but there is no evidence for this in the text, nor for many of the other speculative ideas which often accompany her name. Even without these embellishments, Mary has a powerful testimony, having been released from demonic possession to now becoming a leading follower of Jesus, and also giving up her financial resources for the common purse of the disciples (verse 3). That she and the others had personal wealth at their disposal makes them remarkable women for the time; that they shared it out with a wandering rabbi and his disciples, joining them on the road, is extremely unusual. An important aspect of holiness is the reflection of God’s grace and glory for others to see; for this holy life story of Mary Magdalene, and the way she followed Jesus to the cross and beyond into the new dawn, we give thanks today.

To Ponder

  • Think about your own story of faith – why do you follow Jesus?
  • Who are the disciples that you travel alongside? Be careful not to forget anyone.
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