St. Mary Magdalene (tr.)

Trinity 5, 2019

The Epistle – Song of Solomon 3:2-5; 8:6-7

The Gospel – St. Luke 7:36-50

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Another saint has arrived on our calendar. This time, though not in the Prayer Book, we must stop and pay special attention to her, as she is the patron saint of this parish.

 

St. Mary Magdalene. Mary of Magdala. Magdala was a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

 

With a person like Mary Magdalene we have to do a bit of studying and digging through the scriptures to get a picture that gives an accurate representation.

First to the things we do know and have no doubts about.

 

We first hear of Mary Magdalene in Luke chapter 8

 

“Soon afterward [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, [2] and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, [3] and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (ESV)

 

So, we know that Mary was one of many women who followed Jesus.

Jesus had driven 7 demons out of her, so at some point in the past she had been demon possessed. So, she was certainly a recipient of Jesus’ healing.

 

And, she is said to have provided for Jesus and the 12 “out of her means.”  So, it is thought she would have provided financially or with material goods like food and other needs.

 

She was dedicated to Jesus as many were after they had been healed by Him. There were some whom Jesus allowed to follow Him after He had done something for them.

 

Others He made them stay in their home towns so that they might be a witness to Jesus’ power to their community.

 

Mary Magdalene then disappears from mention throughout the ministry of Jesus until His crucifixion.

 

John 19:24–25

“…standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

 

So, Mary was an eyewitness to the nailing, hanging and death of Jesus.

 

Mark tells us, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where [Jesus] was laid.” …after the body had been taken down from the cross and entombed.

 

She then appears shortly later at the resurrection.

To get the best picture at this point of who came with Mary we have to look at all of the Gospels and combine the evidence.

 

Luke tells us that Mary was accompanied by Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “the other women.”  

Mark tells us that Mary also had with her Salome.

 

And of course, probably her most important privilege in the life of Jesus …that is being an eyewitness to His resurrection.

 

John 20:14–18

 

…she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

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.” [16] Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). [17] Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’” [18] Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (ESV)

 

Jesus urges her to do the more important thing than to stand there…He tells Her to go and tell the disciples that she had seen Him alive.

 

And she did so.

Mark even in his last chapter has Mary going to the disciples and telling them she had seen the Lord alive, but they did not believe her at first. They had to see it for themselves.

 

These are the things we are sure about regarding Mary Magdalene.

 

We get for our lesson for the Gospel today a passage from St. Luke, where Jesus is reclining at the table in the home of a Pharisee.

 

But here is all of the information we are given about this woman.

 

[37] And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, [38] and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

 

[39] Now when the Pharisee who had invited him, saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

 

Further down we read of Jesus telling the Pharisee, the owner of the house that this woman washed, took care of Jesus from the time He entered the house. The Pharisee did not attend to any of the usual rituals like washing feet, greeting with a kiss, etc.

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (ESV)

 

This is all we are told about this woman. She is not named. At some point later in the history of the Church - because Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices and perfumes - that she is thought to be the same woman here who took care of Jesus in the Pharisee’s house, perfuming Jesus’ feet.

 

She is called a sinner which doesn’t tell us it’s Mary Magdalene and there is no mention of anything else. This is written after the resurrection, so any of the other things we know about Mary could have been mentioned….but were not.

 

And then we have the unfounded, ungrounded craziness of the Davinci Code and Gnostic so-called “gospels” which tell us that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and they moved to France.  

So, she is obviously canonized for her privileged position of being an eyewitness and the first eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection.

 

She was a faithful follower of Jesus and a supporter of Him, His Disciples and His ministry.

 

The color of the Church is white, so she is not martyred for her faith.

 

We might add that she displayed a good amount of bravery. This is a time when women did not fare as well as men.  Her marital status is not told to us, but probably she was single.

 

After the other disciples of Jesus ran away during His arrest, Mary Magdalene stayed nearby.

She had enough faith in who He was that leaving Him at this point was not what she was moved to do.

 

Sunset was coming soon, so she was supposed to be inside before dark…it was the eve of the Sabbath. It was Friday afternoon.  

 

She chose rather to ignore the letter of the law and stay with Jesus as closely as possible. 

 

At the first light of the next day she is back at the tomb…not expecting to see anything unusual, but rather to perform the ritual attending to the body of a deceased person.

 

What she finds instead is the large stone rolled away from the tomb and the body of Jesus gone.

We can only imagine what would go through the mind of anyone, including ourselves if we were to go back to the site of the burial of a loved one and find the grave dug up and the casket open and empty.

 

There is a difference that might have played into all of this. Our loved ones are not like Jesus in that they did not perform miracles. …they did not raise others from the dead….they did not promise to rise from the dead at some later point either.

 

So, with Mary and the other women, this witnessing of the open tomb probably would have flooded their minds with much different thoughts.

 

He did talk about rising from the dead in three days. He did speak about seeing them again in a little while.

Mary’s canonization happened before there was a more official process.

She was considered a saint in the more technical sense of the word because she was a close follower of Jesus and the first person to see Him alive.

 

People who were healed by Jesus as Mary was, either came to Him if they could, cried out to Him if they couldn’t or someone like a friend or relative assisted them in getting to Jesus.

 

Even the paralytic who was lowered down through the roof tiles of the home to get to Jesus was told that his sins were forgiven and though it was his friends who got him to Jesus, it was his faith that Jesus commended.

 

Mary in some way early on, encountered Jesus, and He healed her. She became a follower sometime after that.

 

So, we commend her and admire her for her faith in coming to Jesus and trusting that He could in fact heal her.

 

She was generous with her wealth in that she assisted Jesus in His ministry. She was sacrificial in that she became a follower…most likely leaving a home behind if she even had one.

 

At a time when most people had very little and scarcity was all around, and females were even more vulnerable, Mary chose to follow Jesus even to the end of His life.

 

To be around Jesus would mean you were affiliated with Him and aligned with Him. You would suffer to some degree the same ridicule and disdain that He did and yet she stayed with Him.

 

We know this happened to St. Peter. At Jesus’ trial, people are recognizing Peter and saying, “Hey you are one of His disciples!”

 

Peter denied this, three times.

 

And at a time when the testimony of a woman was not held in very high esteem, Mary Magdalene is the one who sees Jesus alive and is sent by Him to tell the rest the Good News….and then men…male Gospel writers put her in the story…into the account as an eyewitness, defying the status quo of women being unreliable witnesses.

 

 

So, we give thanks this day for the life of Mary Magdalene, even though we don’t have a lot of information about her, we do have enough to be thankful for her.

 

We have some of the most important elements of being a follower of Christ:

She, like we, was forgiven of her sins. Healed of her infirmities and followed Jesus as far as she could in life.

 

We give thanks to God this day for those He has raised up and placed in key positions in the Biblical narrative.

 

We might in some small way envy her that she was privileged to have been close to Jesus…. but she is only ahead of us in time.

 

 

We too, through our faith in the risen Christ will one day see Him and Mary does now. Perhaps then we will learn more of her story on that day.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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