Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles

July 22 is the feast day of St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles.  It is also my birthday, so I feel a special affinity for this brave woman.  Mary Magdalene was the first preacher of the Gospel.  She testified to what she had seen, this crazy story that the tomb was actually empty and  that Jesus had risen from the dead. I draw on her strength when I am feeling like I just don't have it in me to preach.  And I remember Mary Magdalene running to the disciples crying, "I have seen the Lord!"   It was a simple sermon, yet it meant everything. I draw on her strength when I feel like the deeply entrenched patriarchy of the professional clergy is too much to bear.  I hold Mary Magdalene in my heart every time I step up to the pulpit to preach.

Here is her story from John 20:11-18,

 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene was the first preacher of the resurrection!  In one of my first Bible classes at seminary, we learned that if a woman was actually named and described in the scriptural texts, she was extraordinarily important. We don't hear much about where Mary Magdalene came from, or how she came to be a follower of Jesus.  She is not a prostitute like so many people think. 

In the other Gospels, she appears primarily at the time of Jesus' death and at his empty tomb. 

Matthew 27:56-61, Mary Magdalene and other women sitting vigil at the death of Jesus, sitting at the tomb after the burial

Matthew 28:1, Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb, presumably to tend to it with spices 

Mark 15:40-47, Mary Magdalene sitting vigil at the death of Jesus and participating in the burial

Mark 16:1 (shorter ending of Mark) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James go to the tomb to anoint Jesus.  They witness the empty tomb.

Mark 16:9 (Longer ending of Mark) We hear that Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene (from who he had cast out seven demons) and she goes out and tells the good news to the disciples

Luke 8:2, We hear that Jesus has cast seven demons out from Mary Magdalene, and that she, alone with Joanna and Susanna, helped to provide resources for Jesus and the disciples 

Luke 24:1-11, Mary Magdalene and the other women are again at the tomb with spices.  But they find it empty.  They remember the words of Jesus and run to tell the disciples, who do not believe them. 

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