As of 2010, “The Da Vinci Code” is the best selling novel of the 21st century. It is one among several works of mystery fiction that have torn at the weaker fabric of faith among those who have claimed allegiance to Christ. At its best, “The Da Vinci Code” is what it claims to be: a work of mystery fiction. At it’s worst, it’s a tale that spouts forth blasphemy against the Holy Bible. One of the key components of many such books is the character defamation of Mary Magdalene in her portrayal as the romantic interest of Christ himself. “In the Da Vinci Code”, a descendant of Christ and Mary is discovered. It is found to be Mary who sat beside Christ at the Passover supper rather than the apostle John. Let’s take a look at the Biblical, factual, character of Mary Magdalene in the next couple of posts. Just who was this woman about whom so much has been lately postulated?
Well, as stated, modern writers have partnered with Hollywood to present to us the sensational new story about the hidden romance between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Many would even have us to believe that they were married; that indeed the weeping woman at the tomb of Christ was overly distraught because she was his widow. There is but one thing wrong with these hypotheses. There is not one shred of Biblical or historical evidence to support them. In fact, there is, inherent in the detailed description of the ministry of our Lord, much opposing evidence—so much that the very idea that Christ was sexually involved with any woman at any time is blasphemous. But the Bible student today finds much that is sensational about the life of Mary Magdalene. This woman, from the village of Magdala, was once possessed with seven demons. While we don’t know all about demon possession, we do understand that demons often made the people in whom they lived behave erratically, often screaming (Mk. 1:23), writhing and self-mutilating (Mark 5:4,5). The possessed often had to be physically restrained (Mk.5:4,5) and the demons apparently could use the mouths of their human houses to speak (Mt. 8:28-31, Lk. 8:27-31). Sometimes those who were demon possessed went about naked (Lk. 8:27). The possessed, as one can well imagine, became subjects of derision and were avoided by many in society. Barnes describes these evil spirits as “impure and unholy, having a delight in tormenting, and in inflicting painful and loathsome diseases.”* Sometimes those who were possessed went out from society and lived in caves or tombs to seek retreat and shelter (Mt.8:28-34). Our Mary was demon possessed. She was tormented, derided, and characterized by a type of insane behavior…until she met the Lord.
Mary was delivered from bondage by the One who had power over the Devil.
…and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons… (Lk 8:2)
Mark 16:9 affirms that it was Christ who had cast the demons out of Mary. Christ is the One, as well, who can take us from the torturous clutches of sin’s temporal consequences and its eternal torment. We need to reflect on the drastic change that occurred in the life of this woman on her day of delivery. She went from the darkest affliction to the purest affection. She changed from a tormented human to a human testimony. The insanity that was her existence suddenly changed to an eternal peace.
And Christ is still delivering. I am reminded of my friend Michelle, formerly a strip dancer. Scorned and denigrated, Michelle found her day of deliverance. She is a great worker in the local congregation I attend. I think of Marla, who left the casinos, the addictions of tobacco, and her passion for impure forms of entertainment, to become a devoted wife and mother with a steely determination to go to heaven. I think of Maria, my sister on a South American island, who confessed to me many of the sins listed in I Corinthians six, verses nine and ten, and then dared to ask if she, too, could be delivered as were those Corinthians who were washed, sanctified and justified (I Cor.6:11). And then there is me. Without His saving blood I am just as black as the vilest sinner. I desperately need the One who has power over Satan and death.
Praise God for his delivery from the power of Satan. While we are not possessed by evil spirits today as was Mary, we find ourselves bound by the shackles of Satan and sin until we come in contact with the Great Galilean.
Mary ministered to the Lord.
And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,
among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Mt. 27:55,56
What an amazing privilege to have been among the women who walked the dusty Galilean roads with Jesus. Oh, to have personally witnessed in one’s own flesh, the supernatural healing power of this Jesus! To have come to understand after that cleansing the source of the power! To be able to wash the feet of Diety! To have him in one’s home for lunch, bring along His water flask as he traveled through the villages, find shelter for him among those villagers, or just to sit down on a grassy hillside and be enthralled as he taught simple, yet profound lessons about the lilies or the sparrows as one who had authority (Mt. 7:29)!
Matthew 25:37-40 puts me in the picture:
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
I can set the table for the King of Kings. I can sew His clothes or go to the prison and speak words of hope to Him. When He is sick, I can take him chicken noodle soup and when He is hungry, I can take a loaf of homemade bread and a bag of groceries. Let me never be too busy or self-absorbed to minister in the spirit of Mary Magdalene! May my children grow up knowing that needs of others take precedence over selfish desires. May they take it for granted that our family will stop whatever we are doing to take care of the emergencies of our family in the Lord. When our children complain about the forfeiture of an outing due to an unexpected need in the body, may we open our Bibles to Matthew’s judgment scene and elevate the occasion of sacrifice to the divine privilege that it really is. “We are going to the hospital today with Jesus!”… “We are taking Jesus to the mental health center today!”…” We are getting to give Jesus a ride to services.”… “Jesus is coming over to talk about problems in His life.”
It is relevant to notice also that Mary gave of her substance in this ministry:
… and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,
and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance. Lk.8:2
The Greek word for ministered in this passage is a form of the word we translate deacon. It means to be a menial attendant, to wait upon. The original language for substance means property or possessions.** The fact that our ministries to Jesus today should consist of substantial material sacrifice cannot be overlooked. The commission of all we have to his glory is required of Christians today. We should be willing to part with any material possession that can be used for His glory. The text indicates that Mary was a financial supporter of the ministry of Christ. Our financial support is still needed for His ministries.
For some time, in my daily prayers, I have prayed the following: “O God, I am so thankful for your material blessings in which we bask. We are rich! Help us, Father, to use these blessings for your glory. But if they ever get in our way of serving you faithfully, just please take them away from us. We want to go to heaven!”
It is a prayer that has strengthened my resolve to never let the pursuit of things get in the way of my responsibilities as a keeper at home. It has made decisions about ballgames versus Wednesday night Bible studies seem simple. It has constantly called me to more faithful stewardship. I want to give substantively to the ministry as Mary did.
Mary stayed till the end.
When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. Mt. 27:59-61
That progression to the foot of the cross had been a grueling and sorrow-filled climb. Mary had followed the Lord from the halls of Pilate to the hill of Golgotha. She watched the agony of the cross from a distance. She felt the earth move under her and witnessed the tearing of the rocks (Matthew 27:50-56). She was present when the centurion at the foot of the cross made the good confession: “Truly this was the Son of God.” She and the other Mary followed the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as he laid the body of the Lord, wrapped in clean linen in his freshly hewn tomb. She watched as Joseph rolled the stone over the opening of the sepulcher (Matthew 27:56-61).
I recently had a study with a woman who was contemplating becoming a member of the body of Christ. She was unashamed in asking me just what would be required of her family. “Would we need to be there at every service? My kids have a lot of practices and games and our youngest really has a strict bedtime. The older two have loads of homework. Wednesday nights would be really difficult for us. I just need to know what kind of commitment we would be needing to make.”
I recall an elder in the church in one of the places we lived. Through every sermon, he constantly looked at his watch. He became visibly upset if the service exceeded the hour. I have observed, in some congregations, an exodus of a large number of people after the communion is served, but before the final song and/or prayer.
Somehow, I don’t think Mary was looking at the sundial. I don’t think she was wondering if the commitment from here on out would require more time and money. I don’t think she was thinking about how nice it would be to get home and wash her tired and dirty feet that had climbed the hill to Golgotha. I don’t imagine her thinking about what was for supper or whether there would be time before the Sabbath to go shopping at the market. In short, she was the kind of disciple that willingly stayed till the end. Are you?
Mary kept the law.
And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.
Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. Lk. 23:55,56
The One who came not to destroy, but to fulfill the law was subjected at last to the Hadean realm. His body was lying in the borrowed tomb of a rich man on a hillside near Jerusalem. The adrenalin from the events of the preceding day and night had to have been flowing through the veins of Mary as she left the tomb and went home. But she was a woman who kept the commandments in all circumstances.
I think it’s worthy of note that Mary was a devout law keeper, especially in view of the fact that chief priests and Pharisees, those who had been so condemning of the Messiah, for His healing on the Sabbath (Lk. 13:14), were now going about the business of meeting with Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea, setting a secure watch and sealing the stone to secure the body of the Lord of the Sabbath…all on the Sabbath day! The Lord of the Sabbath was just resting on the Sabbath. He was about to prove once and for all, his lordship over it.
May we delight in His commandments (Ps. 119:35), realizing that his mandates are His mercy, His commandments are His compassion and His will is born of His Wisdom.
(to be continued)
Much of this post taken from “Power Lectures, 2009,” edited by Wade Webster, Southaven, MS; 2009 (article by Cindy Colley)