Scripture references: Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1–11; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1, 9;
Luke 8:2, 3; 24:1–12; John 19:25; 20:1, 2, 11–18 Bible Search Tool
Date: a.d. 30
Name: Mary [in the Hebrew “Miriam”, meaning “rebellion”]
Magdalene [mag-de-LEE-nih; “from the town of Magdala”]
Mary Magdalene is mentioned more frequently in the Gospels than any woman other than Mary, Jesus’ mother. We know her as a woman Jesus had released from the domination of seven demons (Luke 8:2) and who had become one of His most devoted followers. Along with other women, among them Joanna and Susanna, Mary had provided funds to support Jesus and His disciples as they ministered (Luke 8:3). This suggests that Mary had independent means, either by inheritance or by business.
The Gospel writers also place Mary near the cross when Jesus was crucified, and Mary is given an extremely prominent role in the account of Jesus’ last moments. Mary was present at the cross and at Jesus’ burial (Matt. 27:56), and was one of the first to discover the stone had been rolled away (Matt. 28:1). Mary and the others hurried to tell Peter of the resurrection, but Peter had not believed them (Luke 24:10–12; John 20:1–3). Mary then returned to the tomb, where she became the first to see and hear the resurrected Christ (Mark 16:9).
Mary’s relationship with seven demons (Luke 8:2). The New Testament frequently mentioned possession or oppression by demonic beings. It is clear from Scripture that those who engage in occult practices are particularly vulnerable.
Possibly the most suggestive New Testament passages on this theme are Matthew 12:43–45 and Luke 11:24–26. Each records Jesus’ warning about unclean or evil spirits. Jesus spoke of such a spirit going out of a man and then returning to find his life “ ‘empty, swept, and put in order’ ” (Matt. 12:44). The evil spirit then enters with “ ‘seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there’ ” (Matt. 12:45). The key words are “ ‘empty, swept, and put in order.’ ” The individual described has done his best to put his life in order, but he himself is empty. There is no presence of God to fill the inner life. Without God’s presence, the individual is vulnerable to other spiritual beings.
Whatever led to Mary’s demonization, when she met Jesus she was firmly in the grip of evil spirits. However, the most powerful evil spirits are powerless against the Son of God, and Jesus cast them from her. Once freed by Jesus, Mary no longer was an empty being. Her whole life was redirected toward Him.
Luke notes that “He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of thekingdomofGod” and adds that “the twelve were with him, and certain women.” Here Luke specifically names Mary Magdalene, as well as Joanna and Susana “and many others.”
Jesus’ twelve disciples had left their occupations to join Christ in His ministry. Luke tells us that it was primarily women who provided funds to buy food and other necessities. Early Jewish literature makes it clear that well-to-do women were frequent contributors to well-known rabbis and their students. Mary Magdalene was apparently well to do. She was so committed to Jesus that she not only followed Him as a disciple herself, but she also helped support His other disciples.
When the Gospel writers listed those who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, the only man mentioned was John. Yet a number of women—among whom were Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene—were featured. The experience in the Garden had demoralized the male disciples, and they had fled fromGethsemane. The specific mention of named women reminds us that the women held fast to Jesus and would not let Him go to His death alone. Despite the pain they felt, despite their doubts and fears, Mary Magdalene and the others were there for their Lord.
Mary Magdalene was commissioned twice. First, she and the other women who came to the tomb that first Easter morning were told by angels to “go quickly and tell his disciples” (Matt. 28:7). This they did. Mary Magdalene was mentioned first when Luke listed the messengers who hurried to the apostles—and her words were dismissed as “idle tales” (Luke 24:11) by the men.
That the disciples did not believe Mary should not be attributed to the fact that she was a woman. The disciple Thomas, nicknamed “Doubting” Thomas, did not believe the other ten male disciples when they announced that they, too, had seen Jesus after the resurrection. It was not the reliability of the witnesses that caused doubt; rather, it was the incredible nature of the news they bore.
The reaction of others to Mary Magdalene’s news does nothing to change the fact that she was chosen to be among the first to hear God’s good news and the very first to see and speak to the risen Lord.
It’s all too easy to be saved by Jesus and then go our own way. We’re faithful when we need His help, but then our prayers lose their intensity. Mary never seemed to lose her intensity. She was healed of demon possession, and from that point on she never wavered in her commitment to Christ. Mary loved her Lord, not with a passion that would burn out, but with unceasing intensity. May we all be like Mary in this.
MARY, THE MOTHER OF JAMES AND JOSES
Scripture references: Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1–11; Mark 15:40, 47; Luke 24:10 Bible Search Tool
Mary was a common name in the first century—shared by many of the women Jesus knew. This Mary was one of the group of faithful female disciples led by Mary Magdalene who was present at the crucifixion, who prepared spices to bind to Jesus’ body, and who first heard from the angels at the garden tomb that Christ had been raised from the dead.
It is likely that she was the same Mary identified in John 19:25 as the wife of Clopas; however, we don’t have any other definite information about this “unsung” follower of Christ. It is the same now. Just because our actions for Christ are unsung by the world, Jesus KNOWS who is His Own, and remembers each and every one.
THE HEMORRHAGING WOMAN
Scripture references: Matthew 9:20–22; Mark 5:25–34; Luke 8:43–48 Bible Search Tool
We only meet the hemorrhaging woman for a few brief moments, but we know much about her. She had had an issue of blood for twelve years. That condition made her ritually unclean, so that she could not be touched by her husband, or share in the annual worship celebrations so important in Judaism. She could not go into the temple court, light the Sabbath evening candles, or participate in the Passover meal. She would have hovered, as a ghost in her home, there and yet not able to participate in any of the religious rituals, or to touch her other family members.
The woman had tried desperately to find a cure. Mark bluntly reports that she “had suffered many things from many physicians” and “had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26). Over and over, this woman had likely felt brief moments of hope, only to be cast deeper into despair.
Yet despite a dozen years of disappointments, she had not lost her faith in God. Undoubtedly the stories about Jesus had fanned her faith even more, for when she heard Jesus was in the city, she set out to find Him, thinking, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:28).
It’s uncertain why this woman did not approach Jesus and ask for help rather than reaching out anonymously to touch Him. Perhaps she didn’t feel worthy of bothering the miracle-working Teacher. Perhaps she was too ashamed of her unclean state to speak of it in public. Whatever the reason, it was not lack of faith that kept her from speaking to Jesus. This woman had far more faith than most—although hers was a private faith.
So she touched Him. And “immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction” (Mark 5:29). Her private faith had prevailed. From that moment on, all that she had lost was restored. That one moment spent with Jesus changed her life forever.
The story doesn’t end there. Jesus sensed that healing power had flowed from Him, and He stopped. He turned to the crowd that pressed in around Him and asked, “ ‘Who touched My clothes?’ ” (Mark 5:30). Fearful and uncertain, the woman fell before Him and told her story. What relief must have flooded her soul as she heard Jesus say, “ ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction’ ” (Mark 5:34).
We may wonder why Jesus stopped to call the woman before Him. On the one hand, it may be that Jesus acted for the woman’s sake. Her private faith had healed her. However, only when she had spoken publicly of her need and of Christ’s grace did she hear His confirming words, “ ‘Your faith has made you well,’ ” and “ ‘Go in peace.’ ”