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Mary M

Sermon, Sunday July 23, 2017

Mary Magdalene, Acts 13:26-33, John 20: 1-2

Luke 8:1-3After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

I know a woman who has a large tattoo of Mary Magdalene on her forearm. This woman has come through a painful, largely drug induced, sexually promiscuous, young adulthood where she rejected her very stern religious upbringing. Jesus saved her and gave her a new life and hope. He also called her to a life-long task. This woman has ended up in the vocation of Pastor in the Lutheran church in the USA.

The woman I know is a lot like Mary Magdalene. Who or what would you value to tattoo on your body?

Mary Magdalene is unique in God’s story. But she also the same as any of us Christians: another trouble-filled sinner saved, loved, included and named as important to the mission of Jesus by Jesus; and all of this when Mary M and we had no claim to anything except more pain, heavy spirit, judgement and a hopelessness eating up our bodies.

But, like all of us she was made unique: a Jewish woman who traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She was personal witness to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Within the four Gospels she is named at least 12 times, more than most of the apostles.

She had trouble. Luke says seven demons had gone out of her (Luke. 8:2).

Mary stands out in the telling of the crucifixion of Jesus. She is right there through it all.

More uniquely still, Mary M was also present two days later, immediately following the sabbath, when, according to all four Gospels, (Matthew 28:1–8, Mark 16:9–10, Luke 24:10, John 20:18) she was, either alone or as a member of a group of women, the first to see and swear to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. She was the first to greet the new age!

It is no wonder that Mary became the prominent representative of all the women who were co-workers with Jesus – Joanna, Suzanna and the many others who supported the work of Jesus.

It is interesting that during the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was regarded by the Western church as a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman. That is totally unfounded in the Bible.

It is also interesting that Dan Brown of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ fame, and several movie makers; especially Denys Arcand, the writer of “Jesus of Montreal” (1989), have cast Mary in the role of Jesus’ secret lover. That is nowhere attested to either. Who would want the facts to get in the way of a good story!?

We do know one thing about her. Mary knew what it was to carry around the heavy load of spiritual oppression of some kind.

“Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out…”(Luke 8:2)

What does carrying seven demons around in your body look like? I don’t really know.

I know what it is to experience the darkness of depression, the panic of anxiety, the despair of self-hatred, the sorry of regret. These things make me next to useless to anyone. When you are close to spiritual darkness in some form you just cannot see. And that is the worst of it, I reckon. Everything is the same. Everything is grey. Everything, even the good things and the best people are lifeless to you and you to them. It is awful for everyone – the one in the dark and the person in the light who can see you are in the dark.

These kinds of days are bad enough. But to actually experience demonic oppression and even possession? That must be worse. I have come across it in others. It is debilitating, scary and very sad.

I have felt the presence of evil, and it is, or should we say, he is dark and dangerous. I have seen people completely without any hope, and joy; without any resilience that their faith used to bring. When I see this it makes me angry at evil and wonder about the Lord and what he is up to or if he is up to anything!

We may not have seven demonic spirits in our soul. But all of us have what Paul calls the Old Adam clinging to us still (Romans 7). We all have our pain, our regrets, our trouble, our brokenness and weakness. We all have our old ways clinging on to us, our hearts desires overtaking us.

Often we don’t seek or want light, life or a mission either. We don’t want to be gifted by Jesus and we don’t want his commissioning. Why? Lots of reasons. But maybe generally because if we receive his healing and freeing words of acceptance, we will have to give up the things we moan and groan about. And if we receive his commissioning we will have to do what Mary did, follow, do, speak, act on what has happened to us.

What helped Mary follow, speak, do? What brought her enough joy to continue?

It was not a seminar of 7 ways to be a better person or more brain power or more physical health or more personal power or positive thought. It was meeting Jesus personally and staying in earshot. That is where Mary always is in the gospels – in ear shot.

Mary experienced what has to happen for all of us. She had a personal appointment with Jesus and she was changed from within by his forgiveness and love.

Close to Jesus, she was freed of all her demons. Around Jesus and his mates she was gifted a freedom and joy beyond herself. With him she was had a future and a community to whom she belonged. With them and him she had a mission and a drive and a name and status. “Mary, go speak”, Jesus says. Sinner Saint Mary, now sent saint, Mary”.

I am praying that this is how it is for you today as you gladly name yourself, “Christian”. I pray that if this is not you that it will be soon. I pray you meet him again and again and stay in earshot with the rest of us. I pray that we are a community who lives on him and is a vehicle for him to make more Mary M’s.

We know his personal and communal forgiveness every week here. We receive his body and blood here. He is still Jesus and he is still alive and there are plenty of Mary’s here. We sing with her and the angels.

I pray that you know in your bones that you are sent by him to dine with the sinners and the saints to be him to them.

See the forgiven Mary-sinners sitting around you. We are better together in him and for each other.

Our message is simple. ‘I have seen the Lord!’

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:17-18)

So, who would you tattoo on your arm? Better still, who would you speak about when given the opportunity?

It takes a Mary M to tell them. It takes a community or Mary M’s to support each other in the telling of him.


Read all three bible texts and any notes your bible may have about Mary Magdalene.

Here are some facts on her….

Marys in the New Testament

Mary (Mariam in Aramaic) was a very common name in New Testament times, held by a number of women in the Gospels. The reception history of Mary Magdalene has been greatly affected by different interpretations that biblical references actually refer to her, beyond those where she is identified by the additional name “Magdalene”. Historically, the Greek Orthodox church Fathers, as a whole, distinguished among what they believed were three Marys:

  1. The Virgin Mary, mother of Christ

  2. Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus Luke 10:38–42 and John 11 John 12.

  3. Mary Magdalene

In addition, there were Mary, the mother of James and Mary Salome.

In the four Gospels, Mary Magdalene is nearly always distinguished from other women named Mary by adding “the Magdalene” to her name. This has been interpreted to mean “the woman from Magdala”, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Luke 8:2 says that she was actually “called Magdalene”. In Hebrew Migdal  means “tower”, “fortress”; in Aramaic, “Magdala” means “tower” or “elevated, great, magnificent”.  Interpreters since the time of Saint Jerome have suggested that Mary was called Magdalene because of her stature and faith, i.e. because she was like a tower.  But some interpreters consider the name to refer to a towering hairdo, and believe that Mary Magdalen may have worked as a hairdresser.

In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is also referred to simply as “Mary” at least twice.

Mary Magdalene’s name is mostly given as  Maria, but in Matthew 28:1 as Mariam, both of which are regarded as Greek forms of Miriam, the Hebrew name for Moses’ sister.

During Jesus’ ministry

After that, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out—and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.— Luke 8:1–3

Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9 say Jesus cleansed her of “seven demons”. Some interpret this as meaning that he healed her from mental or physical illnesses. The statement in Mark is part of the “longer ending” of that Gospel, not found in the earliest manuscripts, and which may have been a second-century addition to the original text, possibly based on the Gospel of Luke.

During the crucifixionMatthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, John 19:25

It is at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection that Mary Magdalene comes to the fore in the gospels. Uniquely among the followers of Jesus, she is specified by name (though not consistently by any one gospel) as a witness to three key events: Jesus’ crucifixion, his burial, and the discovery that his tomb was empty. Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 and John 19:25 mention Mary Magdalene as a witness to crucifixion, along with various other women. Luke does not name any witnesses, but mentions “women who had followed him from Galilee” standing at a distance.[Lk. 23:49]

After the crucifixionMatthew 27:61, Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1

In listing witnesses who saw where Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea, Mark 15:47 and Matthew 27:61 both name only two people: Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” who in Mark is “the mother of James.” Luke 23:55 describes the witnesses as “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee.” John 19:39–42 mentions no other witness to Joseph’s burial of Jesus except for Nicodemus. Mark 16:1 says “…Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.” The connection with the earlier Anointing of Jesus, and his remarks then, was one of the arguments used in favour of the “composite Magdalene.”

After the resurrectionMatthew 28:1, Mark 16:9, Luke 24, John 20:1

In Mark, Matthew, and John, Mary Magdalene is first witness to the resurrection. John 20:1 names Mary Magdalene in describing who discovered the tomb was empty. Mark 16:9 says she was accompanied by Salome and Mary the mother of James, while Matthew 28:1 omits Salome. Luke 24:10 says the group who reported to the disciples the finding of the empty tomb consisted of “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them”. In Luke 24 the resurrection is announced to the women at the tomb by “two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning” who suddenly appeared next to them.

The final chapter of Mark’s Gospel contains two narratives relating to Mary Magdalene: firstly that along with Mary the mother of James and Salome, she was advised by “a young man dressed in a white robe” that Jesus had risen, and given instructions to tell Jesus’ disciples — and Peter — that he was going before them into Galilee, but through fear they told no one; and secondly, in the longer ending, that Jesus appeared “first” to Mary Magdalene (alone), who then related his appearance to “those who had been with him”, but they did not believe her. The occurrence of these two different accounts is one of the factors contributing to the theory that Mark 16:9–20 is a later addition to the Gospel.

John 20:16 and Mark 16:9 both say that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene, with no mention of others. In Matthew 28:9, Mary Magdalene is with the other women returning from the empty tomb when they all see the first appearance of Jesus.

The first actual appearance by Jesus that Luke mentions is later that day, when Cleopas and an unnamed disciple walked with a fellow traveller who they later realized was Jesus. The longer ending of Mark describes the same appearance as happening after the private appearance to Mary Magdalene. According to Luke “the apostles”, and according to the longer ending of Mark “those who had been with him”, did not believe Mary’s report of what she saw. Neither Mary Magdalene nor any of the other women are mentioned by name in Paul’s catalog of appearances at 1 Cor 15:5–8, which he begins with “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve”.

The Gospel of John[11:1–45] [12:1–8] and the Gospel of Luke[10:38–42] also mention “Mary of Bethany”, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary and Martha are among the most familiar sets of sisters in the Bible. Both Luke and John describe them as friends of Jesus. Luke’s story, though only four verses long, has been a complex source of inspiration, interpretation, and debate for centuries. John’s account, which says the sisters had a brother named Lazarus, spans seventy verses.

Among the women who are specifically named in the canonical gospels, Mary Magdalene’s name is one of the most frequently found, appearing 12 times, always, except for Luke 8:2, in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew 27:56, the author names three women in sequence: “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s children”. In the Gospel of Mark, the author lists a group of women three times, and each time Mary Magdalene’s name appears first. In the Gospel of Luke, the author enumerates the women who reported the tomb visit: “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them.” In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, Mary Magdalene is placed after Mary of Clopas.

According to Carla Ricci, “The place she [Mary Magdalene] occupied in the list cannot be considered fortuitous”, because over and over Mary Magdalene’s name is placed at the head of specifically named women, indicating her importance among the followers of Jesus. Ricci sees the significance of this as strengthened by a comparison with the lists of the twelve apostles, in which Peter occupies the first position, an indication of his importance.

Mary Magdalene does not appear in any other book of the New Testament apart from the Gospels. While she may have been among the women mentioned in Acts 1:14, she is not mentioned in the epistles of Paul the Apostle or the other epistles.

Share you overall sense of Mary and her relationship with Jesus.

I suggested she was like any other Christian in the sense that she had a personal encounter with the risen Lord and this changed her whole life. She stayed in earshot of him all the way long and became the first one to meet him after the resurrection and the first one sent to tell all the others about the good news of resurrection. how are you like this too?

if you could ask Mary one question what would you ask?

If you could say one thing to a person who has no idea who Mary Magdalene was, what would you tell that person as a result of this short study?


From the Daily Prayer for Mary Magdalene Sunday

Almighty, ever-living God,

  your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ

  made Mary Magdalen the first herald of Easter joy.

Grant that, following her example and her prayers,

  we may, in this life, proclaim the living Christ,

  and come to see him reigning in your glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

  one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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