• Canon Paul Black, Rector

A woman with a unique role in history

In the church’s calendar on Sunday, we will honour the life and witness of Mary Magdalene who was a disciple of Jesus and one of a group of faithful women who followed and supported him from their own resources – see Luke 8:1-3.

We know from Luke’s gospel that Jesus healed Mary from some ailment. Luke says that Jesus cast out seven demons from her. Seven is the biblical symbol for wholeness or completeness. We don’t know from what ailment she was healed – whether it was physical, spiritual or psychological.

But after Jesus healed her, like so many people we read of whom Jesus made whole, we know that she was determined to follow him. John tells us that she was among the women who journeyed to Jerusalem with Jesus for the last time.

The most important thing about Mary Magdalene, however, was what happened on Easter morning when she went to the tomb with some other women. Mary is the only one identified in all four gospels as a first witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Each of the four gospels paints a different portrait of that first Easter. However, it is in the Fourth Gospel that we have the most dramatic picture of Mary Magdalene – see John Chapter 20. She was alone at the tomb after Peter and John had visited the empty tomb and fled.

John tells us that Mary stood alone outside the tomb weeping. When she looked into the tomb she saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. They asked her why she was weeping. She replied, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him’.

When she said that she turned around and saw an unknown figure who asked her again, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary then recognised the unknown figure as her Master. The risen Christ told her not to touch him. She then went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord.

Mary is a figure of great encouragement, hope and bravery. In the early church she was called the “Apostle to the Apostles”. She stands out as a woman in a world of men with a unique role in Christian history. She is a reminder of how fundamental women are in God’s plan of salvation.

Her story is also one of new beginnings and transformation. Mary Magdalene, whose life was dramatically turned around, is a reminder to us of the new start we can make in our own lives at any time.

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