INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN OF THE BIBLE Mary MAgdalene Part One
IN PART ONE OF THIS two PART SERIES ON Mary MAgdalene, WE WILL DIG INTO WHO Mary WAS, her role in Jesus's ministry, THE CULTURAL, SOCIAL, AND POLITICAL HAPPENINGS DURING THIS TIME, AND REAL TALK ABOUT Mary's life in the bible.
WHO WAS MAry Magdalene?
Mary Magdalene was a female disciple of Jesus who followed Him during his time of ministry in Israel.
Although often confused, Mary Magdalene was not Mary the mother of Jesus or Mary from Bethany, the sister of Lazarus or Martha.
The first mention of Mary Magdalene in the Bible is Matthew 27:56
Chronologically, the first time Mary is mentioned when Jesus is telling the parable of the sower [Luke 8].
We know Mary as “Mary Magdalene”, but Magdalene is not her name, just an indication of where she was from: Magdala.
Magdala was a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee
In Hebrew, Magdala means “tower” [מגדל]
Magdala is a well preserved city that archeologists have been able to study thoroughly. Based on historical documents, archeological artifacts, and the well preserved architecture of the city, we know that Magdala was a town whose economy thrived on fishing and the textile industry.
Some theologians believe that Mary was able to follow Jesus’s ministry, support Him financially [Luke 8:2-3], and go on the road with Him and his other disciples because she and or her family were connected with the garment industry in Magdala.
The Bible does not specify if Mary was married or single. We also aren’t told her age or profession.
Because Mary was following Jesus with his other disciples, it’s likely that she was unmarried.
Many churches and traditions have taught that Mary was a prostitute or even Jesus’s wife, but there is absolutely no Biblical evidence supporting those theories. Many people have associated Mary with the “sinful woman” mentioned in Luke 7:37, but there are no indications or implications that that woman is Mary Magdalene.
One of the only reasons people have associated the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:37 with Mary Magdalene is because Mary is mentioned for the first time in Luke 8, following the story of the “sinful woman” and Simon. It would be very odd however if Luke would have only identified the woman in Luke 7 as the “sinful woman” and then proceeded to mention Mary Magdalene by name, and identify her as the woman Jesus cast 7 demons out of, a few verses later if they were the same woman.
Mary was afflicted by 7 demons, which Jesus cured her of [Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9]
Mary was among other women who were disciples of Jesus that He had healed. Luke specifically details that the other women, Susanna, Joanna, and as Luke says, “many others” were also afflicted by evil spirits and illnesses.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE world during mary's life? CULTURALLY, POLITICALLY, HISTORICALLY:
Mary, Jesus, and his disciples lived in Judea, a territory in Palestine [a region between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River].
The Roman Empire had control over Palestine along with Asia Minor, Egypt, Syria, and Greece, and the whole Mediterranean.
[Modern day Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Northern Morocco, Northern Algeria, Northern Tunisia, Northern Libya, Northern Egypt, Jordan, and small parts of other modern day European surrounding the Mediterranean.]
The Romans governed their territories via kings, Roman governors, or “puppet kings” who were allies of the Roman empire. Marcus Pontius Pilot was the governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’s death.
Religious freedom was allowed
Tiberius Caesar Augustus was the Emperor of the Roman Empire at the time
Roman religion practiced the belief that people and everything around them had spirits. They believed their ancestors watched over them, and there were many gods and deities that ruled different areas of life. Roman gods were worshipped in temples. When Rome took over Greek colonies, they adopted some Greek mythological beliefs into their religious system and their gods became more centered on emotions and feelings like love, hate, and jealousy.
People residing in Judea were required to pay taxes to Rome and follow Roman law.
If Jewish religious leaders found someone breaking Jewish law, they could punish them accordingly. If a person, however, broke Roman law, they would face Roman punishment [i.e. the reason Jesus was crucified and taken to Pontius Pilot; the religious leaders presented him as treasonous to the Roman empire]
There were a handful of political groups that wanted freedom from Rome, like the Herodians and Zealots, who occasionally performed demonstrations in acts of rebellion. Overall, there was high tension between the Jews in Judea and the Romans who occupied the region.
Simon, the disciple of Jesus, is recorded in the Bible as being a Zealot [Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13]
In the patriarchal culture of Jewish Palestine during this time, it was highly unusual for a rabbi to have female followers as mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. Palestinian Hebrew women were treated very poorly and were not valued as equals.
In Jewish Palestine men could divorce their wives for any reasons, big or small, but women weren’t allowed to divorce their husbands for any reason.
Women were treated as second class citizens and generally regarded as weaker and less intelligent and of less value than men. Because of the systems of marriage and women’s lack of political, educational, and social rights, it was common to view women as property.
Hebrew women had very little property rights. In the very rare occasion they inherited property from their fathers, any male heirs would have first picked. If no male heirs claimed the land, the woman’s husband would manage the property or estate.
It was a highly debated, controversial topic, during this time in history, among Jewish leaders if women should be educated in the Torah [the Jewish Holy text: the first five books of the Bible]. Generally, only Rabbi’s wives were educated.
Being widowed or divorced would make surviving extremely difficult.
The religious leaders of this time were rabbis and temple priests.
Jewish people were required to pay a temple tax as well as a tax to the Roman government.
There were also two prominent sects of Judaism practiced. The Pharisees and Sadducees were constantly in conflict with one another over the Torah and Mosaic text.
Jesus’s teachings and instructions were in great contrast to the law-centered, often legalistic practices of the religious leaders at the time.
Mary IN THE BIBLE
In the first chronological mention of Mary, she is introduced as the woman who Jesus healed from seven demons. Mary, and the other female disciples with Jesus, were all detailed as having been healed from “evil spirits and diseases”[Luke 8:1-3].
Some Biblical scholars believe this means that the demonic spirits were causing mental and or physical illnesses to the women. It’s unclear exactly how Mary had been affected by the demonic spirits, but we can gather some ideas based on other encounters in the Bible where Jesus healed people from demonic oppression and possession. Demonic affliction caused people:
Seizures, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, uncontrollable screaming
Loss of control and extreme violence
It’s assumed that because Mary is the only one Luke noted as being affected specifically by seven demons, she was afflicted the worst.
Because of the ways women were viewed and treated in Jewish Palestine, Jesus’s treatment of women and their involvement facilitating His ministry was a huge, revolutionary contrast to the culture of His time.
LEt's talk Mary Magdalene
Mary is only mentioned by name a few times in the Bible, but her legacy is incredible. She was a deeply afflicted woman, and we don’t know how the demons influencing her afflicted her exactly, but we know that it was worse than the rest, and based on other scripture about the horrors of demonic influence, it was probably pretty terrible on her body, mind, and soul.
We don’t get to hear the details of the story of Jesus healing Mary from the seven demons, but we can see that it transformed her life and led her to be a faithful follower of Jesus. If you look at the other stories of the Bible that detail demonic affliction, the victims were out of their minds, experiencing seizures, and being influenced to hurt themselves or others. They were experiencing literal hell. But, Jesus saved them from their afflictions and they were all instantly healed. And the demons not only left, they immediately fled in fear because they knew the powers of God had absolute authority, power and triumph over any and every power in hell.
Imagine being Mary: maybe for you her experience is really relatable. You are out of your mind. Your body is experiencing deep pains and medical issues. You are out of control, in literal ways. Your life seems desperately hopeless. No one can help you. No one knows the deep, dark, horrendous things you endure on a daily basis. The burdens that weigh hard on your tired soul are too heavy for you or anyone else to move. Something or someone owns you. Maybe everyone has given up on you. You have no chance. And then, Jesus comes. Jesus; the Lover of your soul, the Savior of the world, the Son of God who can do anything and overcome any battle. He is loving, He is kind, He is faithful, He is gentle, He is patient. He knows your hurts, your struggles, your afflictions, your sins, and the ugliest, muckiest, dirtiest, worst things about you and still He picks you up, dusts you off, embraces you, and saves you; not just your body, mind, ailments, and afflictions but your soul. He is the only one that owns you now, and He gives you freedom. Jesus gives you a new name, a new hope, a new future.
Hebrews 6:19-20 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. …”
2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
He has no conditions; all Jesus wants is your faith in Him. Jesus doesn’t say “I’ll save you if you do this or that”, or “I’ll take back my salvation if you sin or mess up or end up back here in this dirty pit”. Nope. Jesus just saves you, loves you, and promises no one, no powers of hell, no sin, and no mistake can ever take you from His everlasting love.
Galatians 2:16 “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
John 10:28-29 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
Romans 8:38 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus takes your burdens.
Matthew 11:28- 30“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus gives you His peace that passes all understanding.
Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
You thought there was no way out, no hope, no life for you, no purpose, no ease from your pain, and then Jesus shows up and saves you, heart, soul, body, and mind. Psalm 116:1-9 “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord:“Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary;when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears,my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lordin the land of the living.”
Whether or not you experienced the physical or mental healing of Jesus, you can relate to Mary’s healing of her broken and lost soul when she found Jesus because that is all of us: broken, lost, no hope, no future, drowning in sin and Jesus saves you, knowing it all. He thought of you on the cross, knowing your sins and worst secrets, but He loved you so much that He stayed on so He could pay your penalty and save you through His resurrection. Mary experienced the newness of life in two different ways. Jesus healed her and cast out seven demons from her, and she got to experience life again. Her physical and mental burdens were lifted. Mary also experienced new life trusting in Jesus. Her soul was not only unafflicted thanks to Jesus’s divine authority and healing, her soul was forever saved and was secure in Jesus. She accepted Him as her savior, and she could begin healing her bruised and battered soul because she had the eternal promise of the true Doctor, the Great Physician.
What are physical, mental, or emotional ways God has healed and saved you? What can you praise Him for today? What are some of the things you love most about Jesus? When Jesus gave you the free gift of salvation, what do you remember your reaction to be?