This morning I taught the St. Alban’s Guild of Women about Mary Magdalene. It’s always a blast to teach those women. They have so much experience in the life of the church, I see this as my opportunity to be present with them. Over the course of three months, I am making presentations on three different women from the Bible: Mary, the mother of our Lord, Mary Magdalene, and Ruth.
Today I started with the innocuous question, “What have you heard about Mary Magdalene?” The floodgates opened: she was a prostitute, she was married to Jesus, she was Jesus’ lover, she was an apostle, she was a disciple, etc. etc. Thankfully, in the midst of this hearsay and rumor, one gem of a comment stuck out: “She saw the risen Jesus.”
The New Testament mentions Mary Magdalene thirteen times, and twelve of those are either at the cross or the empty tomb. The thirteenth, in Luke 8:13, mentions her along with Susanna and Joanna as women who accompanied and provided for the twelve.
Here is where I would like to cut through the centuries of speculation. What matters most is that Mary Magdalene was a witness to the crucifixion and resurrection. Many ancients even called her the “apostle to the apostles” because the risen Lord sent her to witness to the eleven that he had indeed been raised (John 20:1-18).
What does Mary Magdalene more honor? If we conjecture on her sexual status or proclaim that she was a witness to the resurrection? I’m no feminist, but I think I know which is greater. (Here is a marvelous sermon preached by Bishop N.T. Wright along those lines.)
It was clear that Jesus was sending Mary Magdalene to “his brothers.” But who is Jesus sending you to? If you have been to church and have received communion, then you have experienced the risen Lord. To whom will you go?