Mary of Magdala: Involvement with Jesus

Mary’s first encounter with Jesus was as a deeply troubled, severely afflicted woman, in the grip of and suffering from seven demons. We can only imagine how desperate her family had become in their desire to see her healed, and freed of her disorder. Though Jesus’ reputation as a healer and miracle worker was swiftly spreading, people of that day felt the same cautions we do today when something seems too good, too impossible, to be true. Yet desperate people flocked in droves around Jesus, at the nadir of their wretchedness, knowing Jesus was their only hope. Jesus was Mary’s only hope.

After that first powerful, life-changing meeting, Mary became a life-long supporter and disciple of Jesus. She not only played a large role in financing His outreach, she also accompanied Him on at least some of His speaking tours.

Mentioned fourteen times, in all four Gospels, Mary was a prominent member of Jesus’ inner circle of 120 adherents. When she is listed among the women who were devoted to Jesus, her name is almost always placed first, seemingly implying she was first in service, first in support (only once is she listed after other names—Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Jesus’ aunt).

It seems Mary became a part of Jesus’ larger circle of supporters early on in His public ministry. For possibly nearly all of the three years Jesus evangelized, taught, baptized, healed, and freed people, Mary was there to quietly learn, serve, and facilitate out of her own means.

Mary came with Jesus and those who had come to know and love Him, on His way to Jerusalem for the last time, to celebrate the Feast of Passover. Refusing to abandon Jesus in His darkest hour, all four Gospel accounts describe Mary’s faithfulness and courage, remaining with Jesus, at the foot of His cross, until His death.

  • Mary, along with a few other faithful women, watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lowered Jesus’ body from the cross.
  • She took note of what spices and precious oils they brought to embalm Jesus’ body.
  • Following from a distance, she and the other women marked where Joseph and Nicodemus interred Jesus’ body.
  • Knowing the Sabbath was about to begin, Mary, and these few devoted female disciples, determined purchase and bring the rest of the spices and ointments needed to complete Jesus’ embalming.
  • They remained and kept watch as the temple guards and Roman soldiers arrived to seal the stone rolled across Jesus’ grave.

What really happened the day Jesus rose from the dead?

  1. At the soonest possible moment, 4:45 a.m., just as dawn was breaking on the first day following the Sabbath, Mary, along with Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Salome the mother of James and John, hurried to Jesus’ tomb, carrying all the necessary supplies to complete His burial.
  2. At 5:15 in the morning, sudden and severe aftershocks rumbled through the countryside, following the major earthquake the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet they were undeterred as they carried their burdens of precious spices and oils to the Garden tomb.
  3. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus had been raised to life in that moment. Angels were rolling back the great, sealed stone to Jesus’ tomb, and the entire detail of Roman soldiers and temple guards were falling on their faces, temporarily immobilized by terror.
  4. Quickly recovering, these frightened men ran back into the city of Jerusalem to the temple mount where Pilate had temporarily headquartered himself and a garrison of soldiers. The temple guards went to the priests, the soldiers to Pilate, to report what they had seen.
  5. Mary had begun running ahead of the other women to ask one of the guard to roll back the stone—did she think her status as a wealthy and prominent citizen of Magdala would perhaps persuade them? But when she arrived, no one was there, the stone was already rolled away, and Jesus’ body was missing.
  6. In horror, Mary sped back to where Peter and John were staying, to tell them the awful news.
  7. Not long after, perhaps 5:30 in the morning, the other women, Joanna and Mary mother of James, completed their walk from Bethany and arrived after sunrise. They also found the stone rolled away. 
  8. Of course, they entered the tomb and found it empty. As they stood there, emotionally overcome by the disappearance of Jesus’ body, an angel appeared to them with an amazing, hard-to-believe message for the disciples.
  9. They quickly agreed to deliver the angel's news, and immediately headed back to Jerusalem.
  10. But, Peter and John had already heard an alarming report from the breathless and distraught Mary of Magdala.
  11. Together, the three of them ran back to the Garden tomb to verify her fears. It only makes sense that Peter and John got there far ahead of Mary, who had already run the distance once, and was spent from physical and emotional exhaustion. When she finally got back to Jesus’ burial site, Peter and John had already arrived, assessed, and returned to Jerusalem.
  12. Alone in the empty tomb, it seems Mary of Magdala was utterly devastated, and could not control her anguished and heaving sobs. It was in that moment, when she had once again reached the nadir of heartache and despair, Jesus would draw her out from her darkness and into the sweet light of freedom and life.
  13. The apostle John later wrote that an angel called out to her and asked her why she was crying? She must have looked up, startled, thinking she had been wholly alone. And she must have followed the angel’s gaze to someone standing behind her…
  14. Still focused on her own profound sense of grief and loss, Mary mistook Jesus for the gardener, and demanded he show her where Jesus’ body had been taken. It took only one word—her name in His voice—for Mary to realize here was her Lord, her Savior, her Beloved Jesus.  (More on this in the next blog)