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Mary Magdalene, Follower of Jesus

By Sandi Bradford

Sandi has been involved in directing graded music programs, teaching ministry, and prayer ministry to moms. She currently supports her husband in his ministry as general secretary of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri.

If one was asked to list the followers of Jesus, the first names to come to mind would probably be Peter, James, and John. But what about Mary Magdalene? Would she be on the list? In reading through the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is named as one who traveled with Jesus. Luke 8:1,2 states, "Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases." Not all of the women are named, but Mary Magdalene is listed with the specific description "from whom seven demons had come out." Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus. Let's reflect on her journey.

Mary Magdalene was probably a wealthy, single woman. Because her name was frequently listed first, one could conclude that she was seen as the leader among the women. Imagine the changes she experienced since Jesus had cast out the seven demons! She was living a life free from the bondage and ravages of demonic forces. The community of followers, to which she now belonged, must have been a far cry from the isolation she would have experienced before.

Jesus' mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene are described as standing "near" the Cross. Their love for Jesus drew them close to Him, regardless of their fears.

There was a grateful generosity that came from each of these women. They were eager to support and serve Jesus "out of their own means" (Luke 8:3). It was not unusual for a Jewish rabbi to receive gifts from grateful people, but it was unusual for them to travel with him. Not only would these women have had the privilege of giving financial support but also of following Him and caring for His needs.

Obviously, if they were that closely involved with Jesus they would also be students of His teaching. This is supported by the angel's statement to the women at the tomb saying, "Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again" (Luke 24:6,7). The gospel writer follows up with the editorial comment:"Then they remembered his words" (verse 8).

Though nothing is recorded about the women accompanying Jesus on all of His travels, Matthew and Mark note that Mary Magdalene and other women came to Jerusalem with Jesus on His fateful trip. These women may have even been a part of the triumphal procession into Jerusalem. Nothing is specifically known about their whereabouts after arriving in Jerusalem until the women are described as standing "at a distance" watching Jesus be crucified. It is interesting to note that in John's gospel, Jesus' mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene are described as standing "near" the Cross. Their love for Jesus drew them close to Him, regardless of their fears.

It was Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" that remained at the site of the Crucifixion after the disciples and the crowd had dispersed. Think of the time it would take for Joseph of Arimathea to be granted permission to take Jesus' body from the cross, purchase the linen cloth, transport His body to the garden tomb, and wrap Jesus' body in the 75 pounds of spices brought by Nicodemus. The two women followed the men to Joseph's tomb, remaining there until the burial customs were completed and the large stone was rolled across the entrance of the tomb. Perhaps Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had been

concerned that Jesus' body would be thrown in a mass grave as was often done to crucified Judean victims by the Roman soldiers. Or worse could have been the fate of the body if it was not buried in accordance with the Law: "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse" (Deuteronomy 21:22,23). One cannot imagine the helplessness both Marys felt as they observed the burial process being carried out by two strangers.

All the Gospels record the women going to the tomb. Mary Magdalene is again the first name in the lists of women. She was the one who would guide the other women to the tomb, their purpose being to anoint Jesus' body with spices. The compulsion to care for Jesus was so strong that the women were willing to defile themselves in touching His dead body, for they knew that the Law stated "Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days" (Numbers 19:11).

Think of it! Of all Jesus' followers, Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Lord after His resurrection.

The various Gospel accounts record the women approaching the open tomb and seeing angels who exclaimed, "He has risen from the dead." They were told to go to the disciples and tell them that Jesus had risen from the dead and would meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:7). Mary Magdalene and the women left the tomb and reported to the disciples all they had heard and seen. The disciples did not believe the women "because their words seemed to them like nonsense" (Luke 24:11). In the Luke and John accounts, Peter and John responded by going to the tomb, but found it empty with only the linen cloth in evidence. Later that evening, John describes them as behind "locked doors for fear of the Jews" (20:19).

It was Mary Magdalene who returned to the tomb. She remained there weeping until she is asked, "Woman, why are you crying?" In her consistent love and care for Jesus she responds, "If you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him" (John 20:15). Jesus calls her by name, "Mary," and she recognizes His voice. She calls him "Rabboni," a name she had probably used many times interacting with Him as her teacher and master. Jesus commissions her to "Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (verse 17). The heart of Mary Magdalene was so full with love for Jesus that though given the great proclamation to announce to the disciples, her first words were: "I have seen the Lord" (verse 18).

Think of it! Of all Jesus' followers, Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Lord after His resurrection. Not only was Mary Magdalene the first to see Him, but she was the person to whom He entrusted the message of the Resurrection. In a society which gave no legal status to the testimony of women, Jesus chooses a woman as the first witness of His resurrected body and the proclaimer of His message.

At this season of remembering Jesus' death and resurrection, may we reflect on our devotion as Christ's followers. Like Mary Magdalene and the other women, may we serve Him generously and consistently, no matter the cost. May our hearts prove faithful in the hardest of circumstances. May we always remain available. May our spirits be quiet to hear and recognize His voice, and may we find our greatest joy in being in His Presence — to see and touch Him.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible New International Version ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.