Sunday, August 2, 2009

Would the Real Mary Magdalene Please Stand Up?

August 2, 2009
Mark 16:9-11

It was 1988, and I was in my second year of college

  • We were on a campus that brought in all forms of art - ACES
  • Every presidential candidate that year
  • Lectures by famous people
  • And then there was the movie
  • People lined up in protest outside the showing on campus
  • It was The Last Temptation of Christ

The movie in part portrayed the subject of today’s biblical character: Mary Magdalene

  • In the movie she is a prostitute turned around by Jesus
  • And then in dream sequence, she and Jesus are married and have children together

Sounds like a more recent movie, doesn’t it?

  • The Davinci Code worked on the same sensationalistic story
  • The same underlining assumptions about who Mary Magdalene was

But would the real Mary Magdalene please stand up?

What we know from scripture is far from the tabloid type stories of her we find in the movies

So, would the real Mary Magdalene please stand up?

Mary Magdalene

  • From the town of Magdala – on the Sea of Galilee near Tiberius
  • That’s where she gets her name “Magdalene”
  • Mark and Luke record the fact that Jesus healed her from seven demons
  • As a result of her healing she becomes a disciple of Jesus
  • She uses her “resources” to support Jesus’ ministry

We get confused because there are three women of scripture that have been fused into one woman throughout history

  • Mary Magdalene, the one healed of the demons
  • Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, who anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume
  • The sinful woman of Luke 7 who anoints Jesus’ feet with her tears and with oil, the dried them with her hair
  • Pope Gregory the Great fused these all together
  • And in that we have our confusion
  • This Mary Magdalene has been cast a prostitute – sinful woman
  • And there is speculation about her closeness to Jesus in ministry
  • Artists have raised the question of whether or not they married

The real Mary Magdalene stands up at the death & resurrection of Jesus

All four gospels agree that Mary is at the death of Jesus

  • When other disciples fled
  • Mary and the other woman followed
  • Many women ministered to Jesus on his way to the cross
  • Many women followed and stayed
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene are the only women named
  • Mary Magdalene stood there on that awful day
  • She stood with Jesus’ mother at the crucifixion
  • She watched and prayed as Jesus suffered in pain
  • There was not another place she wanted to be
  • She stood weeping as Jesus breathed his last breath
  • Even though it was dangerous to be associated with Jesus
  • Even though it was risky to stand publicly with him, Mary Magdalene was there

Mary Magdalene was there when Jesus was taken from the cross

  • In three of the four gospels, the women are there at the burial
  • In two of the four, Mary Magdalene is named

Mary Magdalene walked with Jesus

  • Through his ministry
  • To his death
  • And to what all believed would be his final resting place
  • Mary Magdalene was a woman devoted to Jesus
  • She had a boundless love for him
  • She was endlessly grateful for the healing he had done in her life
  • And she was devoted to Jesus until the end

It was the same boundless love, endless gratitude and faithful devotion that led Mary Magdalene to the tomb that first Easter morning

  • All four gospels agree on this important detail
  • Mary Magdalene was among the first at the tomb
  • She probably could barely wait for the sun to rise
  • She came with love and gratitude and devotion to do that last thing that she could for Jesus – prepare his body with spices
  • Now the gospels differ on the details
  • Much like four different people describing the same accident scene will tell the same story with slight variations depending on their vantage point
  • While the details differ, Mary Magdalene is first on the scene in all the gospels
  • We have two of those accounts read this morning
  • Mark’s gospel has Mary witnessing to the disciples
  • But they fail to believe her good news of Jesus’ resurrection

John’s gospel has the beautiful, intimate account of Jesus and Mary

  • After a time of grief because the body is lost
  • Mary encounters a person she supposes is a gardener
  • That person is actually Jesus
  • And when the gardener speaks her name “Mary”
  • Mary Magdalene knows immediately that it is Jesus
  • Her boundless love, endless gratitude and faithful devotion to Jesus enable her to recognize her Savior

Remember that Mary Magdalene is a disciple

  • In other words, one who learns from Jesus, follows his ways
  • So as his disciple, Jesus gives Mary Magdalene disciple-like instructions
  • Go and tell!
  • Jesus make of Mary Magdalene the first post-resurrection evangelist
  • She is charged with going to the other disciples and telling them the good news
  • Beyond the resurrection, Mary Magdalene continues in her boundless love, endless gratitude and faithful devotion to Jesus, now Risen Savoir.

Jesus asks of us the same as he received from Mary Magdalene

  • Boundless love, endless gratitude and faithful devotion
  • It is an invitation to walk with Jesus in his ministry, through his death, and beyond his resurrection
  • Our love, gratitude and devotion is demonstrated best when we, like Mary Magdalene, go and tell others about Jesus
  • May we continue what Jesus began in the real Mary Magdalene

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN

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