22 July 2021Luke 8:1-3
The twelve were with him, as well as some women… (vs 1b-2a)
Today is the feast day of Mary Magdalene, an important figure in the gospels, who is mentioned by name more frequently than most of the male disciples. Three of the gospels identify Mary as a witness to the crucifixion (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; and John 19:25); Matthew and Mark also name her as one of the women who saw where Jesus was buried (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47) and all four agree that she was amongst the first to witness the empty tomb. In Matthew (28:8f), Luke (24:10) and John (20:2) she is one of those who takes the news of the risen Jesus to the other apostles. This has given her the designation ‘apostle to the apostles’ in some Christian traditions. Mary had staying power.
Over the course of Christian history, Mary became almost a cult figure in art, literature and media; she has often been portrayed as a prostitute, although there is no evidence for this in the gospel narratives. The error has its roots in the 6th century AD when a series of Easter sermons by Pope Gregory 1 treated Mary Magdalene as the unnamed woman mentioned in Luke 7. All this detracts from what we do know of this woman, which is little, but interesting.
Only Luke includes this particular mention of Mary Magdalene as one of a band of women who travelled with Jesus, having had seven demons driven out of her. (This is also mentioned in the longer additional ending to Mark’s gospel – 16:9.) With her in this extended group of disciples are other women from whom evil spirits had been driven out, or illnesses healed. Also named here are Joanna, Susanna "and many others who provided for them out of their resources". If Mary is considered as one of these women, it would suggest that she was a relatively wealthy woman who made the choice to travel from place to place with Jesus and the band of disciples in their mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
No other information about this transformative experience is related. We can imagine, however, that Mary Magdalene had good reason to recognise the power, love and goodness of God made known in Jesus.
- Do you find it a helpful practice to pause on certain days in the church calendar to remember particular figures? If so, why? If not, why not?
- Luke often emphasises the role played by women; how do you respond to the idea that the original band of disciples was not merely 12 men?
- Are there ways in which your story and your resources can be used to proclaim the good news?
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. (Psalm 63:3-4)