Person and personality:
There seems to be a myth about Mary Magdalene that she was a prostitute or Jesus' wife or at least his girlfriend. Who was really Mary Magdalene? Many movies have portrayed her as a prostitute. Was she a prostitute indeed? Was it a mistaken identity? It seems Mary Magdalene is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament, but she is directly mentioned only during the Passion Week; crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It is only by inference that we know of her infirmity and deliverance (Mk 16:9; Lk 8:2). Her role climaxes in John 20:10 when Jesus appeared to her first after resurrection. Jesus had visited Magdala; also called Dalmanutha (Mk.8:10) after feeding the 4000 (Mt 15:39).
There were seven Marys in the Bible. Some were identified by their children like Mary the Mother of Jesus (Mt. 1:16; Mk. 6:3; Lk. 2:34), Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; Lk. 24:10), and Mary mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12). Others were identified by their place of origin; Mary of Magdala (Mt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; Lk. 8:2) and Mary of Rome (Rom 16:16). Some were identified by their husband like Mary wife of Cleopas and others by their brothers like Mary sister of Lazarus.
In those days, the people did not have surnames. They were identified by their professions; Simon the Tanner: built tents (Acts 9:43), major infirmity; Blind Bartimaeus; blindness (Mk 10:46), Simon the Leper; had leprosy (Mt. 26:6), political party; Simon Zealotes (Lk 6:15) or place of origin; Jesus of Nazareth (Mk.1:24), Judas Iscariot (Mt 10:4). On the same principle, Mary is called Mary Magdalene meaning Mary from Magdala.
Some people confuse between the woman in this passage (Lk 7:36-50) and Mary Magdalene. The former is not only different from the latter but also different from Mary the sister of Lazarus. The confusion emanates from the fact that both Lazarus’ sister and the woman wiped Jesus’ feet with their hair and poured oil on them, yet each had different motivations for paying their reverence. Mary the sister of Lazarus used spikenard oil to anoint Jesus’ feet after wiping them with her hair because He raised her brother back to life. On the other hand, the woman in Simon’s the Leper’s came in weeping, used her tears to wash his feet, used her hair as towel to wipe them, kissed them and then anointed them too with Spikenard oil from an Alabaster box for her sins. She was called the sinner (meaning someone with sin as profession). We always have some people we look down on as if they have been given to the devil forever. That was the case with this lady.
More so, Mary Magdalene and Mary sister of Lazarus Jn 11, 12 are two different ladies. Firstly, they came from different towns. While Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, the sister of Lazars came from Bethany. Secondly, it was Mary; the sister of Lazarus, who took spikenard oil, anointed his feet and wiped Jesus feet with her hair. The intriguing part is that both the woman who wiped Jesus feet and Mary the sister of Lazarus come from the same city Bethany. The only thing that peters out the contradiction is that by coincidence, the hosts of those feasts; Simon the leper hosting Jesus and the sinner woman and Lazarus hosting Jesus and Mary both live in Bethany.
The role of Mary Magdalene in the Bible:
The Bible infers that Mary had evil spirits/ pŏnērŏs / and devils/ daîmŏniŏn (Mk. 16:9; Lk 8; 2). The former has the equivalence of a spirit that makes you sick and act as a derelict, while the latter refers solely to a demonic being. That means; Mary Magdalene was possessed with demons that made her act as a mad or crazy person. So one day came her deliverance. She was among some of the people who benefited from the deliverance ministry of Jesus. Jesus still delivers today from demonic possession because He is the same yesterday, the same today and the same forever. Some of us are possessed with demons that make us physically and spiritually crazy. These, Jesus can still set free.
Faithful friend in need and deed (Mt 27:56) Mk 15: 42
To show her gratitude, she stayed closer to Jesus even when the male disciples had deserted into spider holes. Mary and the other women knew “to live is Christ but to die is gain” and so counted all as dung (Philippians 3:8). How many receive healing from Jesus and abandon him? How many after someone has helped them reward their good with evil? How many of us will be there when those who ministered life to us have problems? Folks learn from Mary Magdalene. She was a faithful friend unto the death of the friend who gave her back the life she now has (Mt. 27:62 Mk 15:47).
Mary played a very important role in the life and ministry of Jesus. She was a rich woman who used her substance for the Lord (Lk. 8:3). Despite her substance, she had little or no say in the decision making of the ministry. The word substance comes from the Greek /huparchŏnta/ meaning possessions. Immediately this contrasts with modern theology that urges faithfuls to give with credit cards. I still do not believe that God would have asked Abraham for a daughter knowing fully well that he had but two sons. The Bible urges us to pay tithes from our incomes (Gen 14:20; Deut 16:16-17; Num. 18:26). The widow would not have given to Elijah what she did not have (I kings 17:8-16). It is exploitative theology to urge Christians to give by borrowing. Possession is different from what we intend to have. And credit card giving is giving what we don’t have or intend to have. You can only freely give what you have received freely. Peter told the paralytic: “silver and gold I have none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Then Paul told the Corinthians: “ quote 2 cor 9: 7”
Finally, Mary plays the role of the watchman in the Old Testament. The watchman sees danger or good news and carries it to the king. Here Mary was commissioned to carry the good news of Jesus's resurrection to the rest of the apostolate. Feminists use this passage to say that God shifted the avant-garde of evangelism from men to women by appearing first to Mary and not Peter or any other man. Just as a reminder, Jesus did not send Mary to the world. He sent Mary to His brethren (Mt 28:10). She was the first to see what happened because she was the first to visit the graveyard or sepulcher that early morning (Mt. 28:1) Mk 16:1, 9). Nevertheless, considering the backyard role women had in the days of Jesus so entrusting such a responsibility to Mary was a recognition of her ability and importance in the spread of the gospel. This reveals that women are and should be partners in the work of the Lord.
However, among all the Marys mentioned in the Bible there is none that was married to Jesus nor was Mary magdalene a prostitute. Therefore, Mary played a vital role in Jesus’ ministry and her contribution in the work opens the door for other women.
Until then, let Mary Magdalene be a great example for us.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk