The Woman of the Resurrection

Most of the women in the gospels are known by their connection with a man: a husband, a father, even an employer. Mary of Magdala, a woman characterised by her connection with a town, had no such status.

Her story begins on the west bank of the Lake of Galilee, just south of Capernaum, in the town of Magdala. King Herod’s first wife had been called Mary. The name became popular and was given to a baby who grew to be the most famous of Jesus’ women followers.

When she first met Jesus, Mary was possessed by seven devils. To be described that way can only suggest the mixed bag of evil — mental, spiritual, and physical — which must have been Mary’s experience. She was a woman who had tasted all the bitter dregs of the evil that life had to offer. A woman who became a social outcast.

The New Testament records four steps in Mary’s spiritual growth. First her healing. Whether the demons from which Mary was freed were spiritual, mental, or physical matters very little. For an insight into that event, we need only to look at the difference between Legion — the man healed of demon possession in Gadarea — and the quiet man, clothed in his right mind, who sat afterwards with Jesus.

Those who knew Mary recognized that the destructive forces which had previously been so powerful, had lost their grip on her. The change in her was so dramatic that, for the rest of the gospel writings, she was still described as, “Mary Magdalene from whom he had cast out seven demons” (Mark 16:9).

Mary’s healing led to a social healing — a step into community. It must have been something of a risk to have Mary of Magdala, the woman who had seven devils, identified among your close followers. But Mary became part of the community of men and women who followed Jesus of Nazareth — named always first among the women as Peter is first among the men. She was always there to care for Jesus and his followers. Maybe she cared for the food, the laundry…who knows. The important thing is that she was part of the group. Grateful, like so many women throughout the pages, simply to be near Jesus and his followers — to belong. Even if that meant, as it did for all of them, the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and to Calvary.

On the Sunday after Jesus died, Mary was the first to come to the tomb. She came believing that her relationship with Jesus was finished. All that was left now was to care for his lifeless body. All that was left was to do the only job left: to prepare his body for burial and final separation from those he loved. The demons of discouragement and depression must have hovered near.

Then came the final step in Mary’s healing. To her amazement, Mary met Jesus — alive and well and calling her by her name.

Mary’s natural reaction when she saw Jesus was to cling to him, deriving comfort from his physical presence. But Jesus, it seems, was looking to the future. He offered another step in Mary’s healing — a new phase in her commitment to him.

Jesus called Mary to give the news of his resurrection. In a world where a woman’s testimony was invalid in a court of law, Jesus appointed her as his spokeswoman. As she wiped her tears, Jesus kindled a new fire of hope in Mary. He roused her to find new resources within herself. He gifted her with a new task, a new mission, a new voice.

It didn’t stop with Mary. Jesus’ last gift to Mary is the Easter gift to us all: the gift of new ways of being and doing, the gift of growth into new hope, a new mission, a new life.

All of us may know in our own lives the Easter message of Mary Magdalene: the Lord is Risen. He is Risen indeed.

Further Reading: The Women of the Passion

Helen Pearson is a counselor, psychotherapist, writer, and trainer from Wokingham in England and a longtime elder of Newbold Church. She and her husband, Michael, run a website, Pearsons’ Perspectives, where this and similar articles can be found. It is reprinted here with permission.

Photo by Debashis Biswas on Unsplash.

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According to the author, “Mary was possessed by seven devils…mixed bag of evil — mental, spiritual, and physical…A woman who became a social outcast…The demons of discouragement and depression must have hovered near…Then came the final step in Mary’s healing.”

The Bible does not allude to any of the above evil attributed (attached) to Mary Magdalene. No one can prove from the Bible that the sinful woman who had anointed Jesus was either Mary of Bethany or Mary Magdalene. Adventist Church is the foremost in tarnishing the name of this respectable woman who followed more closely than His ordained disciples. Pope Gregory 1 (540-604 AD) was the first to teach that Mary was that sinful woman:
“She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord’s feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer’s feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance” (Pope Gregory the Great (homily XXXIII), 591 A. D). But serious Bible scholars have always rejected this view.
It was one of the most disputed issues during the Protestant Reformation which Ellen White seems to have ignored. Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples (1455-1536), French reformer had been the first to stand against this unbiblical view of her her:

“That doctor [Lefevre] had advanced that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalen, and the woman who was a sinner, spoken of by St. Luke in the seventh chapter of his Gospel, were three different persons. Greek fathers had distinguished, but the Latin fathers had confounded them. This terrible heresy of three Magdalens set Beda and all his crew agog; Christendom was thrown into commotion about it; Fisher, bishop of Rochester, one of the most distinguished prelates of that age, wrote against Lefevre, and the whole Church declared itself then against an opinion which is now admitted by all Roman catholics…" (The reformation of the Sixteenth Century, J. H. Merle D’ Aubigne, pp. 532, 533, 1844).

Ellen White endorsed the view presented by Pope Gregory: “The one who had fallen, and whose mind had been a habitation of demons, was brought very near to the Saviour in fellowship and ministry. It was Mary who sat at His feet and learned of Him. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious anointing oil, and bathed His feet with her tears. Mary stood beside the cross, and followed Him to the sepulcher. Mary was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Saviour” (DA, p. 568). She goes further stating that her uncle Simon the leper led her into this sin (prostitution). She was followed by Robert J. Wieland (1916-2011), Morris Venden, Doug Batchelor. Who are we to believe, bible or these writers?

This was what Cunningham Geikie (1824-1906), whose book Ellen white had used for her Desire of Ages, stated the following: "Never perhaps, has a figment so utterly baseless obtained so wide an acceptance as that which we connect with her name. But it is hopeless to try to explode it, for the word has passed into the vocabulary of Europe as a synonym of penitent frailty…Who Mary was, or what, no one can tell, but legend, with a cruel injustice, has associated her name for ever with the spot now sacred to her, as the lost one reclaimed by Jesus” (The Life and Words of Christ, p. 471, 1880).

The Catholic Church cleared her of this stigma: "…and it was not until the reform of the Roman calendar in 1969 that the Catholic Church declared that the Magdalene of the New Testament was not the penitent sinner of Luke’s gospel” (Rachel Elizabeth Jones, Mary Magdalene as Counter-Heroine: Late Middle English Hagiography and Social Order Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of PhD in English Literature, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University, March 2013). What about Adventists, the people of the Book?

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WHAT? Didn’t you see everything fairly and accurately substantiated with proper and powerful biblical verses??? :roll_eyes: (Well, I should say “verse,” not “verses”…)

This is what I mean when I say that Adventists need to learn and practice the Sola Scriptura principle. Otherwise…

As I say, Adventists can’t think “out of the boox.” The red “boox.” … … :wink: :sunglasses: