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Biographical Sketch Directory Index

Mary Magdalene


        At first she did not recognize Him. But when He said her name she knew Him instantly. Mary Magdalene had knelt beside Christ’s cross during those long, fateful hours at Calvary. Although the ordeal had been ominous and exhausting, she rose early on the first day of the week and went to His tomb while it was still dark. When she discovered He was not there, she broke down and wept. Mary was so desperate to give the tortured body of her beloved Lord a proper burial that she pleaded tearfully with a groundskeeper, even offering him money, to take her to Him.

     But the man to whom she spoke wasn’t a groundskeeper. He said only one word, and she knew He was Jesus of Nazareth. He said, "Mary." She responded in turn and said, Rabboni, a Hebrew word meaning "teacher." The two shared a sacred moment outside of the tomb when Christ revealed Himself to her. Mary was the first person to see the risen Lord, a priceless reward for her unyielding devotion.

    Jesus’ crucifixion was a political spectacle of monumental proportions. When others distanced themselves from Him, fearing for their lives, Mary remained faithful. Some historians believe Mary was present in Pilate’s Hall, where she heard the religious leaders demand His blood and pronounce His death sentence. She followed Him as He drug His own cross through a mass of wrangling onlookers and witnessed His violent crucifixion. "There were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness" (Isaiah 52:14). Although most of His followers, including the disciples, ran away fearing for their lives, Mary never left His side.

     Her courageous devotion was inspired by profound gratitude for the love Christ had shown her. Until Christ touched her, Mary was a desperate woman who lived in lonely anguish. She was tormented by seven demons. Although we do not know the nature of the demons—whether they afflicted her with illness, insanity, or immorality—we do know that such an outcast woman in first-century Israel would have been contemptible. In her village of Magdala, located about three miles from Capernaum on the coast of Galilee, a woman of questionable moral character would not have been tolerated. Christ’s unconditional love and concern for Mary, despite the stains of her frailty, are a striking illustration of His boundless love for us.

     Through the eyes of eternity, Christ found enough worth in Mary’s broken condition to forgive and heal her. No religion aside from Christianity could accommodate such a story of redemption. If judged by the customary standards of her day, a woman of Mary’s character would certainly have been stoned or even killed.

     All of us who know Christ have been redeemed by Him in the same powerful way as was Mary. Our own salvation is no less a miracle than hers. And yet our response to God’s saving grace can be vastly different from hers. After she was healed, Mary became an ardent supporter of Jesus and the 12 disciples. She used her own money to help finance their ministry and spent her days traveling from city to city ministering to them. (Luke 8:1-3) She became one of Jesus’ most devoted followers. Her commitment to Him never waned—even at Calvary.

     If you had been present at Calvary, would you have wept at the foot of the cross? Or would you have watched the crucifixion from a safe distance, positioning yourself on a hillside where you easily could have escaped had the violence escalated? Would you have gone to His tomb, or left as the others did?

     Perhaps the reality of Christ’s sacrifice is wanting in your life. If ever you have felt unloved and distant from God, you can be sure Mary experienced the same feelings. But she overcame spiritual darkness by reaching out to Jesus and allowing Him to heal her. When His grace had been confirmed in her life, she clung to Him. Her tenacious commitment yielded blessings beyond measure. Jesus paused from eternity’s business to say her name. In doing so He reassured her of His everlasting love for her.

     Christ knows your name too. But when you distance yourself from Him, you miss out on countless blessings. If you are not too ashamed or too afraid to surrender your life completely to Christ, you may hear Him call your name.

     "I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day"