This week, we’re going to meet another Mary found in the Bible. She is known as Mary Magdalene and she sure had a checkered past! But did it stop her? Did her past keep her from stepping out into her God-given destiny? Let’s find out together.
Who was Mary Magdalene? What qualifications did she have that allowed her to walk with Jesus? Was she a scholar, a prophetess, or something else? It’s been rumored that she was a woman of ill-repute, a prostitute. However, what I have discovered in my research of Mary Magdalene was that this rumor may have been created by Pope Gregory the Great to more fully illustrate the forgiveness found in Christianity. Others, admittedly on the feminist end of the spectrum, surmise that this may have been done to minimize her in what was a patriarchal society. Regardless of the reason, there is no evidence of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute found in scripture. There are indications that she may have been of some financial worth and was one of the women that supported Jesus and the disciples in that manner.
What we do know is that Mary of Magdala was a demonically possessed woman prior to her encounter with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus cast out seven demons from her.
“He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene from who he had cast out seven demons.” Luke 8:1-2 NLT
Can you comprehend the struggle within this woman’s soul? She was possessed by seven demons, but when she encountered Jesus, He immediately and completely stripped that away from her. She came to him tortured and tormented, sick and ailing and Jesus restored her. You can be sure people had a thing or two to say about her behavior while she was under the control of seven demons. I bet she was the talk of the town. Did she allow the criticism from her past to hold her back from following Jesus? No, not at all. She boldly followed Him.
Mary Magdalene was forever changed after her encounter with Jesus. Her gratitude is evidenced by the fact that she followed him, supported him, nurtured and cared for him from the moment of her freedom from her demonic past to His crucifixion on a hill, to the tomb from which He arose, and beyond.
“And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee” Matthew 27:55-56 NLT
Mary Magdalene watched as Jesus was crucified. She sat across from the tomb as His broken body was laid inside and the stone rolled in its place to seal the opening (Matthew 27:61). As I read this, I realized that this is how we women are. Our love for those that are important to us supersedes our desire to turn away from the pain. I’m sure she didn’t want to watch Jesus being tortured and crucified, but how could she leave Him to go through that alone. She couldn’t. It was imperative to her that when He looked out from the cross, He would see love reflected from her eyes to His. She couldn’t walk away from Jesus, no matter how hard it was to stay. She had to be there to care for Him in any way she could, even if that meant just being a kind face among the angry mass at the cross or being among the few that watched over His body until it had been laid to rest.
At sunrise that Sunday morning after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, and Salome arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled aside. As the women entered the tomb, they saw an angel that told them Jesus wasn’t there. He had risen! The angel instructed them to go tell the disciples that He had risen. The women were shocked and fled. Yet, they were also filled with joy. They didn’t just flee in fear, they rushed to obey. They ran toward what the angel was calling them to do – spread the Good News (Mark 16:1-8).
The women would tell the disciples and those around them that the tomb was empty. Peter and John would come and view the tomb and leave in wonder, but the women remained there still trying to take it all in (John 20:1-13).
Then scripture tells us something amazing! Jesus appeared to the women (Matthew 28:9-10) and addressed Mary Magdalene directly.
As John 20 continues, it tells us of Mary Magdalene’s final encounter with Jesus. At first, Mary doesn’t recognize the Lord. Perhaps blinded by her tears, she mistakes Him for the gardener. But Jesus speaks to her and she then realizes who she is talking to.
The Lord instructs the women to deliver a message to the disciples that He will meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10) before He ascends to the Father (John 20:17). With great respect, John’s account clearly states that Mary Magdalene was the deliver of this message to the disciples (John 20:18).
Well, I have a better understanding of her now and I hope you do too. Without a doubt, we know of her only because she walked away from her past. You see, Mary Magdalene could have just continued in her life letting her past determine her steps. She could have remained possessed by the demons that held her captive, and if so, we would have most likely never heard of her. She would have missed out on being the first to witness the appearance of the risen King. However, Mary reached out to Jesus, she trusted in Him to make everything right within her. She allowed the Lord to throw her past out and make her a new creation in Him. She would no longer be known as a host for demons, but as the Apostle to the Apostles. Isn’t it time we stop letting our past get in the way of our future and follow the Lord wholeheartedly so that we may complete the mission He has laid out for us. Today, I’m stepping into my destiny and not letting my past haunt me anymore. How about you?
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT – New Living Translation
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Women’s Study Bible: New Insights for all God’s People by
The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus’ Most Misunderstood Disciple by Meera Lester