Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mary Magdalene Got a Bad Rap

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Around 1320 AD the Catholic Church labeled Mary Magdalene a prostitute and that's what most people think of when they hear her name today. In reality there's no proof in the Bible that she was a prostitute.

The only things we know for sure of her early life is that she was from the city of Magdala and that she was possessed by seven demons. We can guess at a little bit more. Since she was free to travel with Jesus and the disciples she was probably unmarried. Possibly because her parents were unable to find her a husband due to that pesky demon possession. Nothing like a spinning head to put off potential suitors.

Her family was probably prosperous because she was able to help support Jesus’ ministry with her “substance,” in other words her finances. Despite being financially secure she had a tragic background. I can’t imagine the darkness and torment of demonic possession. While it prevented her from ever having a “normal” life, in the end, I think the things she went through gave her a unique perspective.

The most amazing thing about Mary Magdalene is not her past. It’s how she responded to Jesus when He delivered her from bondage to her demons. She was one of those rare people who know true gratitude.

Most people have not yet learned how to be truly grateful. We either downplay what has been done for us by justifying, excusing or down playing our prior actions and plight. Or we say thank you with our mouths, while we distance ourselves from the person who helped us. In our heart of hearts, we resent their knowledge of our weakness.

Did you ever hear the expression: “They bit the hand that fed them.”

We don’t like to feel indebted.

It’s a normal response to dislike it when other people know our weaknesses. It’s why many people won’t apologize to others, it would mean admitting that they might have been wrong about something in the first place.

Mary Magdalene was different. Her need for a savior didn’t inspire embarrassment or shyness. Jesus’ delivering her inspired in her devotion, loyalty and service.

From the day of her deliverance she sought only to please Jesus and to serve Him in any way she could. Jesus gave her back the life that had been stolen, and from her heart of thankfulness she turned that same life back over to Jesus.

She became one of the women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples and helped to meet their needs. She was there during that last tense week of Jesus’ physical ministry on earth She knew that the Pharisees were plotting and that those who followed Jesus were in danger. When the soldiers came and took Jesus the apostles ran away and hid

But Mary ran to where they were keeping Him

She was there at the Cross.

She was there when Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus took Jesus’ body, and she followed them to the tomb.

She was the first to return with spices to anoint Him for proper burial.

And she was the first to realize that He was gone from the tomb.

She ran for the apostles and they came to see for themselves.

In despair, the apostles returned to their homes, convinced soldiers had taken his body and hidden it. But Mary stayed at the tomb weeping. She didn’t understand exactly what had happened. All she knew was that someone had deprived her of being able to offer that one last service to her Master

When two angels, disguised as men, asked her why she was crying, she said, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him.”

Then Jesus, himself approached her and he also asks her why she is weeping. Thinking that he must be the gardener she begs him to tell her what they’ve done with Jesus’ body. If he will just tell her she will come and take the body and care for it properly.

It’s not until he says her name that she recognizes her Savior, resurrected and transformed.

She falls at his feet calling him “Rabboni,” which means Master or teacher but expresses the highest level of reverence.

Jesus then sent her to tell the apostles what she had seen and heard. Do you see what that means?

Mary Magdalene was the first to spread the Gospel--the good news that Jesus had risen from the grave.

What a privilege.

What sort of gratitude do we possess?

Is it the kind that says a polite thank-you, but refuses to acknowledge that we have any kind of obligation in return? Maybe we recognize the obligation but resent it?

Or do embrace the Savior and seek to serve Him in every aspect of our lives?

What better time than Thanksgiving to examine our hearts.

Is our gratitude lip service or does it spring from deep within. To the point that it shapes who we are?

In the Old Testament they had special procedures and times for people to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Under the new covenant we no longer offer animal sacrifices. The way we show our thankfulness is through our giving: finances, time and effort. Through our attitude, in the way we reverence the things of God and the people of God, and in our praise and worship.

In what way do you most show your thankfulness?

Happy Thanksgiving from all of the Inkies to you and yours.


  1. Mary had nothing in life she valued more than Christ, so she had no second thoughts about following him or giving up her life. She was desperate.

    We are so un-desperate, aren't we? I feel ashamed but I know that God doesn't want me to feel that way. Just to draw closer and put so many lesser things aside. I'm thankful He loves me despite myself!

    Awesome post Lisa. Happy Thanksgiving to you, to all my Inky sisters, our friends, followers and families.

  2. I really liked this post. I had first heard that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute but one day when I looked in the Bible to verify such, I could find absolutely nothing. I think a lot of people have made up things about Mary over the years, even going so far as to give a romantic link with Jesus. I don't think many people understand the true gratefulness of being saved.

  3. What a unique idea for Thanksgiving, Lisa. Love it. While I know Jesus never sinned, I can't help but think he and Mary Magdelene must have had a very special and close friendship. I imagine she brought his human side much comfort in his hard times. Remember, she was the first one he spoke with after his death.

    There is some historical evidence that Mary went on to be an apostle in her own right. I think the church might well have overlooked Mary's role as a founder of the church due to her gender.

  4. Deb, I think you hit the nail on the head. We substitute stuff for relationship. Both with people and with Christ. Painful as it is, in some ways a recession is just what we need.

  5. Thanks, Adge. A lot of people hear she was a prostitute and never bother to investigate any further. Whether she was or not, Jesus did an incredible thing for her when he freed her from the life she'd led up to that point.

    His compassion is amazing!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Dina, I think you're probably right. Her gender kept her from getting more recognition for her contribution to the church. Luckily God knows. Her reward is secure!

  7. Beautiful post, Lisa. I have always had a fondness for Mary Magdalene and have a small icon of her and Jesus at the tomb on Easter Sunday. When I look at it, it reminds me to love Him with my whole heart, just as she must have. She was thankful, devoted, and Jesus was her everything.

    I believe there are all sorts of legends about her spreading the Gospel to France! I could be wrong but I believe I read that somewhere. Regardless, she was a faithful woman and a true inspiration.

    Lovely, Lisa. Thanks so much. I pray you're all having a wonderful day, full of family, friends, and love!

  8. Thanks, Susie. I can just see her gentle spirit of service among the Celts and Gauls of France. What a contrast ! And even Paul didn't make it that far from Jerusalem.

    Hmm, the stirring of a story just poked the back of my mind. Must ponder!

  9. Thanks Lisa. I've never thought more of Mary Magdalene than what was presented in the Bible. No Bible studies on her. No fiction or non-fiction books on her. She was just there for Jesus.

    And now I see her in a totally enhanced light. Thank you for showing her to me like this.

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

    Anita Mae.

  10. Anita, here's a link to an Angela Hunt book on Mary Magdelene. I actually bought it but ended up giving it to my pastor's wife for her birthday. I still want to get it for me.

  11. Loved this post, Lisa. I never thought about it before, but I guess this means Mary Magdalene was the first evangelist. What a cool thing!

    A happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone out there in Inky-land :+}

  12. Love this post. Especially the line about that "pesky demon possession" thing. Yeah, I imagine that was a turn off!
    Love, loyalty and faithfullness are what the symbols of the Irish claddagh stand for.. They really suit Mary and this gives me some great thoughts to ponder...

  13. Thanks, Anita Mae. I find it really easy to forget that the characters in the Bible were real people, with all the flaws, and foibles and gifts of humanity. It's nice to be reminded every once in awhile. Or to get a new perspective. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  14. Jen, I love it that she was given that honor! And I don't believe for a minute that she stopped spreading the message when she'd told the apostles!

  15. Cheryl, I like the parallel you draw with the Claddagh!

  16. Fabulous post, Lisa!

    To think of what Jesus freed Mary could she not have become emboldened to tell everyone about her Savior?

    I never thought of her as being an evangelist. But, wow!


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