Mary Magdalene – Nana Yaw Aidoo

Nana Yaw Aidoo

One of the oft-mentioned names in the New Testament is Mary Magdalene. According to Glenn Pease, the name Mary Magdalene is mentioned fourteen times in the Gospel accounts. This means she is named “more than any male follower of Christ except the three in the inner circle—Peter, James, and John” (Pease). What is interesting, however, is that though her name is frequently mentioned in the Gospel accounts, very little is said or known about her. This has led to many unfounded speculations about this respectable woman. For example, there is the speculation that she was married to Jesus Christ. An author by the name of Dan Brown wrote a novel entitled The Da Vinci Code, and in it theorized that not only was Jesus Christ married to Mary Magdalene but that He had children by her.

Then again, there is the speculation that she was a prostitute. This is based on the assumption that she was the woman described as a sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with fragrant oil (Luke 7:37-39). The idea that this woman was Mary Magdalene began with the Roman Catholic Bishop Gregory the Great in A.D. 591 (Simpson). Some Protestant groups in addition to the Roman Catholic Church added strength to this idea by establishing homes to help women who had been overcome by prostitution and calling these homes Magdalene asylums or Magdalene laundries (Wikipedia).

However, the truth is that there are simply no grounds for the position that the woman of Luke 7:37-39 was Mary Magdalene. Louis Matthews Sweet’s article in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entitled “Mary” (pgs. 2001-2006) is a very detailed discussion of this issue for anyone who might be interested. Commenting on Luke 7:37, A.T. Robertson wrote:

It is false and unjust to Mary Magdalene, introduced as a new character in Lu 8:2, to identify this woman with her. Luke would have no motive in concealing her name here, and the life of a courtesan would be incompatible with the sevenfold possession of demons.

There is also the possibility, as argued by Adam Clarke, that the sin of the woman in Luke 7 was not prostitution at all but idol worship (see Clarke’s Commentary on Luke 7:37). Notwithstanding, there is no indication that the woman of Luke 7 was Mary Magdalene. It could be her, but it is highly unlikely that it is, and there is simply no hint in the Bible to that end.

Of all the references to Mary Magdalene in the New Testament, only two speak of her past (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:1-3). According to the Bible, she was part of a group of women who were exorcised of demons by Jesus Christ, she of seven. And apart from Luke 8, every other reference to this woman was in relationship to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though little is said or known about her, there is enough the Bible says about her that is noteworthy.

Mary Magdalene is set forth in Scripture as an example of faith, loyalty, and devotion. From the very moment her name is mentioned, she was always at the side of Jesus Christ. She was by His side from His preaching tour in Galilee through His passion in Jerusalem. So loyal and devoted was this woman to Jesus Christ that when all the apostles and male disciples of Jesus Christ had gone into hiding for fear of the Jews, very early on the first day of the week after the Lord’s death, even while it was still dark, she, alongside other women, arose to go and properly prepare the dead body of her Master. The love that Mary Magdalene had for Jesus Christ, her faith in Him, and her loyalty and devotion were greater than her fear of what the Jews would or could do to her.

When she realized that the Lord’s body was not in the tomb, she went to inform Peter and John. After they left, she remained at the tomb and wept. Why was she crying? Because she thought thieves had stolen her Master’s body. Even when Christ did her the honor of being the first to witness His resurrected body, she thinking He was the gardener of the garden where the tomb was, said: “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away” (John 20:15 NKJV). Alas, the Lord had resurrected and she, realizing that fact, wouldn’t let Him go but for the fact that He wanted her to deliver a message. Of all people, Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons, was the first to see the resurrected Christ and was the first to be trusted with the good news that Jesus Christ had arisen from the dead.

Mary was thus empowered and honored by the Lord. The religion of Christ is the only world religion that empowers and honors women. Mary Magdalene evidently received this honor because of her faith, loyalty, and devotion. Why was she this loyal and devoted? No doubt her loyalty and devotion were as a result of her gratitude for what the Lord had done for her. Of her great loyalty and devotion, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Everything leads us to suppose that she had no one near who claimed her personal care, and having a little income, she resolved to devote her life to listening to the Man who had delivered her from her terrible disease. A wise resolve. Happy was she to be allowed to hear his gracious words and see his mighty deeds. She not only listened to him, but she followed him. Whoever might turn away, the Magdalene was always close at his side. Through floods and flames, if he was pleased to lead, she had resolved to go. In addition to this, we are told that she ministered unto him of her substance. That bag which Judas carried would always have been empty had it not been for this woman of Magdala, and for the wife of Herod’s steward (and perhaps Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus), but these generous hearts, knowing that the labourer is worthy of his hire, were glad to contribute of their temporal goods to him who so greatly enriched them in spiritual things. So, Magdalene gave herself, her ear, her foot, her heart, her substance, her all to Jesus.

The life, faith, loyalty, and devotion of Mary Magdalene teach us a lot about what it means to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. The lessons we learn from this great woman include:

First, the lesson that when the Lord does something for us, we must be grateful. Gratitude is a virtue, but ingratitude is a vice. One of the soul damning sins the Bible speaks about is ingratitude (cf. Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:2). That the Lord requires gratitude from His followers is seen in his question to the Samaritan ex-leper: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18 NKJV). When the Lord does something for us, we must show gratitude to Him. We can show our gratitude by materially supporting His work (cf. 1 Cor. 9; Gal. 6:6) and by being absolutely committed to Him through thick and thin as did Mary Magdalene. Jesus Christ said in Luke 14:26-33:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Just as Mary Magdalene was saved by Jesus Christ from demons, we who are Christians have been saved by Jesus Christ from our sins (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). And just as she showed her gratitude by supporting the Lord’s work and being fully committed to Him, we must show our gratitude by supporting His work and being committed to the Lord.

Second, the lesson that perfect love casts away fear. All the followers of Jesus Christ were in danger of being witch-hunted by the Jews after the death of Christ. The apostles knowing this went into hiding. Apart from John, there is no indication that the apostles of Jesus Christ witnessed the death and burial of Christ. Not Mary Magdalene. She was there at the cross of Christ, she was there at His burial, and she was there at His resurrection. Her love for the Lord drove away any fear she had for the wicked Jewish leaders. In this woman is exemplified the words of the apostle John: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19).

We would do well as followers of the Lord to emulate the life, faith, loyalty, and devotion of Mary Magdalene.

Works Cited

1. Pease, Glenn. “Mary Magdalene.” Faithlife Sermons, Last modified 2014, Accessed July 4, 2022.

2. Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Power Biblecd, Full Version, Windows Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2006.

3. Simpson, Dave. “The First Christian Preacher – A Sermon About Mary Magdalene.” The Un expected Pastor, Last Modified 2018, https://theunexpectedpastor,com/2018/07/24/the-irst-christian-preacher-a-sermon-about-mary-magdalene/. Accessed July 5, 2022.

4. Spurgeon, Charles. “Mary Magdalene.” The Spurgeon Center, Accessed July 6, 2022.

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