Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Inspirational women #4: Mary Magdalene    (8/2/2009 1)

In the last couple of weeks we've looked at some inspirational women from the Bible: so far they've shown us the importance of perseverance, wisdom and humility. This week we're looking at faithfulness—and who better an example than Mary Magdalene?

But first, we need to get past the red-light question! Poor Mary has been much misrepresented. Somehow, she's often been described as having been a prostitute, a theme eagerly picked up and painters and movie-makers. But there's nothing in the Bible to say this was the case. And whatever Dan Brown might weave into his plots, there's no evidence to suggest she was ever Jesus' wife, either!

That's who she wasn't. So what about who she was?

She was probably a good friend of Jesus and the disciples, because we know from the book of Mark that she and a few other women had accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem (where he was to die) to ‘care for his needs'. Doesn't it seem likely that only family or close companions would have made this 65-mile journey with him? Plus, we know from John that these women included ‘Jesus' mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene'. Surely, to have travelled alongside Jesus' own mother and aunt, Mary must have been a close friend?

This group of women was present in Jerusalem when Jesus underwent his trial and crucifixion. It must have been a horrific time, enough to try even the strongest of characters. Even the apostle Peter, to whom Jesus entrusted the foundations of the church itself, lied three times and pretended not to know Jesus.

Yet Mary, a woman we know considerably less about than Peter, was completely faithful. By the time Jesus was hanging on the cross, she must have known there was nothing she could do—so she simply remained with him. She stayed there until he died, and the sky split apart.

And she continued to be faithful after he'd been placed in the tomb. She and the other Mary appeared to have kept watch there for a time—perhaps not knowing what else to do with themselves, perhaps guarding his body. On the Sunday (Jesus died on the Friday), she went down to the tomb again before it was light. The book of John tells us that she found Jesus' tomb empty—and was horrified. So she ran to find a couple of the disciples (including Peter, again) and told them. They came running, had a look, saw it was true… and then they went back home again!

But Mary, once again, remained. She stood at the tomb and wept for this further attack on Jesus. Because she remained, it was to Mary Magdalene that the angels then appeared and spoke. And when she looked behind her—possibly looking away from the brilliant light of the angels—she saw the risen Jesus.

Mary hadn't had it easy: she'd travelled a long way to Jerusalem, witnessed Jesus' execution, hung around at the tomb, and thought thieves had stolen his body. But her faithfulness had its reward. Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the most incredible event in the Bible: the resurrection of Christ.

Who do you love this much? Would you have done what Mary did? Would you be faithful to God to the end... and to a new beginning?

Pray: Lord, you said: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." You have promised to be faithful to me, so help me to be faithful to you. Instil faithfulness as an important value in my life - that I might offer it to others as well as recognising and valuing it in them. Amen.

Think about: How faithful are you in relationships - do you stand alongside others, even when there is literally nothing else you can do for them? Faithfulness doesn't mean standing by people regardless of how they behave, but it's an essential part of a healthy relationship. How do you practise faithfulness at work, in friendships, in marriage, or in parenting?

Challenge: Read the passages about Mary Magdalene in the book of John. When you've read the first page (chapter 19), click the arrow to move to the next page, and read to the end. What impressions do you form of Mary?

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