And Just like that, everything changed.
We don’t know a lot about her, and most of what we think we know is wrong. But we do know that she had a day when everything changed.
In the scripture that Amanda read for us was a description of those who were following Jesus on one particular trip. And it is there we read, He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;
We don’t know all the details, but Mary’s life must have changed the day that Jesus cast the demons out of her.
This is week three of: “The Day Everything Changed”.
And many of us can point to a specific date in our lives when everything changed.
The day we discovered the opposite sex didn’t all have cooties.
The day we fell in love. The day we had our heart broke. And all three of those days may have involved the same person, it may even have been the same day.
But, for most people, there is “That day”.
For a geeky kid named Alfred, that day happened in 1977 at California Polytechnic University.
Alfred was an only child, born later in life to his parents, and was sheltered through his childhood, which may have been why he was socially awkward.
For example, when he was 7 years old, a door-to-door salesman offered his mother the opportunity to enrol her son in guitar lessons . . . or accordion lessons. His mother bought him an accordion. An instrument that he fell in love with because nothing says the 1960s like an accordion.
At an open mic night at the university 18-year-old, Alfred played a 10-minute medley on his accordion. He claimed the medley covered every song ever written in the history of the world.
There was the potential for Alfred to be mocked and ridiculed, Instead, the opposite happened: The crowd went wild and his ridiculous music got a standing ovation.
For a kid who had spent his whole childhood either being bullied or ignored, that sudden validation changed everything.
That day, everything changed for the future architect.
Of course, you know Alfred as Weird Al Yankovic, and since that day, he has sold over 12 million albums, has been nominated for 11 Grammy awards and has won 5.
It was a day when everything changed.
So, back to our story. The story of Mary Magdalene
Let’ start with: Who Mary Wasn’t.
Do you have one of those names? You know a name you share with all kinds of people? I’ve always thought it must be strange to address someone by your name because I’ve never had to do that.
When I met Angela, there were I think five other Angelas at our college at the time. And there were only 150 students on campus back then.
When our kids were born, the popular names were Joshua, Matthew, Rebekah and Sarah. I used to joke that you could go out on your front steps at Beulah camp and yell for Joshua, Matt, Bekka and Sarah and get two-thirds of the kids on the campground.
I’ve never met another Denn. And no, my name is not Dennis, it is Dennison. And through the years I’ve been Denny for 19 years, Den for 15 years and Denn for 26 years.
Don’t do the math, it’s scary. And in all those years I’ve never met another Dennison or another Denn.
But Mary was one of those names, a name that was shared by a pile of ladies in the New Testament.
This Mary wasn’t Mary the Mother of Jesus, and she wasn’t Mary the Mother of James and Joseph, and she wasn’t Mary the Mother of John Mark, and she wasn’t Mary the wife of Clopas, or Mary from the Church in Rome, or Mary the sister of Lazarus. Or even the Mary who was simply identified as “The other Mary”.
She was Mary Magdalene.
And maybe you are thinking: I know who she is. And you are basing your assumption on the fact that you either read The Da Vinci Code or saw the movie.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, both of which I enjoyed, the hypostasis is that Mary Magdalene and not Peter was the head apostle.
That it was Mary whom Christ had entrusted his church with and Mary who was supposed to lead it. That she was removed from her position by Peter and the other apostles because they resented her leadership and that she had to flee to France in order to save her life. And it is in France that her descendants still live.
The book and movie also tell us that not only was Mary an important disciple of Christ’s but that she was also his wife and was pregnant with his child, a daughter named Sarah when he was crucified.
But here is a hint. If you are looking for the book in the library, it is filed in the fiction section for a reason. Because it’s fiction.
We don’t know a lot about Mary Magdalene we don’t know her occupation, the colour of her hair if she was old or young, homely or beautiful but of course that doesn’t keep people from speculating. It’s that old adage; never let an absence of facts stand in the way of a good story.
Around 200 years after the death of Jesus, the Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Phillip appeared for the first time. And each in their own way alluded to Mary being Christ’s chosen one to lead the church and how she was pushed from that position by Peter who usurped what rightfully belonged to Mary.
The problem being that the four Gospels that we have, were all written and accepted as the rightful account of Christ’s ministry 100 to 150 years before the so-called Gnostic Gospels were written. There is nothing in these other Gospels to lend them any creditability at all.
It would be another 400 years before Mary was to step into the spotlight again. In the year 591, Pope Gregory the Great in a sermon preached to a gathering of Bishops declared that the Mary of Luke 8 was indeed the sinful woman mentioned in Luke 7 and was actually a prostitute. If I had done that people would say, interesting theory Denn has, but when you’re Pope and considered infallible when you say someone’s a prostitute then they are a prostitute.
It wasn’t that Gregory had anything against Mary; he was simply using her for an illustration of how Jesus can change your life. I’m not sure the sermon had the effect Gregory was hoping for because we are told a Magdalene cult spread throughout Europe.
The French were so taken with Mary that they made her French. Around 1260, a Dominican monk published the Golden Legend, which claimed that after Jesus’ death Mary had fled Jerusalem and ended up in southern Gaul. Her spirit, the story said, protected France, although she must have been on vacation between 1914 and 1945.
Later the Catholic Church apologized and in 1969, declared that for the first time in 1400 years Mary should not be thought of as the sinful woman of Luke chapter 7. I guess you’re only infallible while you’re still alive.
And then in 1988, Pope John Paul II called Mary Magdalene “Apostle to the apostles” in an official church document and noted that in Christians’ “most arduous test of faith and fidelity,” the Crucifixion, “the women proved stronger than the Apostles.”
Mary was once again cast in the role of a fallen woman in 1972 in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar when she sang: I don’t know how to love him.
At different times in history, Mary of Magdalene has been identified as Lazarus’s sister, the “sinful” woman mentioned in Luke 7 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 that would be the entire “Cast the first stone” story, but there is no evidence for any of those theories
So, now that we know who Mary wasn’t, let’s look at: Who Mary Was
If you were to look in the Bible for Mary Magdalene, you would find twelve instances recorded, all in the four Gospels. We know that she was from the community of Magdala, which was located on the Sea of Galilee.
Today, it is a tourist site, but here is a picture from 100 years ago. I know, not much of a village, it’s actually no longer exists as a community.
In Luke 8:1-3 we read He took his twelve disciples with him along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
So, from that one passage, we know that Mary followed Christ as a disciple and that Christ had delivered her from seven demons.
But, we don’t know what those seven demons were, and if anyone tells you what they were, they are simply speculating. Read my lips; we don’t know.
What we do know is that it was a life changing experience for Mary. Because she began to follow Christ, and she began to financially support Christ.
The next time we see Mary is at the cross, Mark 15:39-40 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome.
But her devotion didn’t stop at the death of Jesus. After he had been taken from the cross, and buried, as soon as it was possible, this happened Mark 16:1 The next evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices to put on Jesus’ body.
And in John 20 we are told that she was the first person to see Jesus after the resurrection, and then she went and told the Apostles. The story is found in John 20:18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
And that is all we know about Mary. We know that Jesus changed her life and she, in turn, committed her life to him.
Was she romantically attracted to him? Ladies, you could answer this better than I could.
Jesus cared about her. He delivered her from something that had control over her life. He set her free. He was sensitive, and he was single. What do you think?
Did he reciprocate? There is absolutely no evidence that there was a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
In an era when wives were usually identified by their husbands, Mary the wife of Clopas or Joanna the wife of Chuza, Mary was never referred to as Mary the wife of Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 9:4-6 Paul is defending a minister’s right to marry, and he writes, 1 Corinthians 9:4-6 Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife along with us as the other disciples and the Lord’s brothers and Peter do?
Don’t you think it would have been a compelling argument for Paul to have said, “Hey, even Jesus had a wife.”?
Now, put yourself in Jesus’ spot. You’re dying on the cross, you look down and see your wife Mary in the crowd and you say. . .?
According to the Gospels, nothing. You take the time to entrust your mother to John, you make sure that your mom is taken care of, but you say nothing, zip, nada to your wife. No “I love you”, or “I’ll miss you”, or “it’s going to be alright.”
So, no, there is no evidence that Jesus and Mary were an item.
The question remains, how did everything change on the day that Mary met Jesus?
Well, let’s go back to our scripture: Luke 8:1-2 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;
First of all, that It Changed her Direction
In this passage, we discover a couple of things. We discover that Mary was following Jesus. And that was the result of an encounter that she had with him when he cast seven demons out of her.
We have no idea what those demons were.
In the message when he cast Mary as a prostitute, Pope Gregory said, “What did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?” So, Gregory surmised that the Seven Demons were simply a metaphor for the seven deadly sins. But he was just guessing.
But that may be the allure of Mary Magdalene, she was just like us in her struggles.
James Carroll wrote in the Smithsonian Magazine “The image of Mary Magdalene gives expression to such tensions, and draws power from them, especially when it is twinned to the image of that other Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Christians may worship the Blessed Virgin, but it is Magdalene with whom they identify.”
And while we don’t know exactly what or who Mary was delivered from, one thing is clear and that is after she was delivered Mary became a follower of Jesus.
And not just one of the many who followed Jesus but as Robert Cargill, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review wrote, “She was named in the Gospels, so she obviously was important. There were apparently hundreds, if not thousands, of followers of Jesus, but we don’t know most of their names. So the fact that she’s named is a big deal.”
Not everyone who encountered Jesus ended up following Jesus. And not everyone who started following Jesus continued to follow Jesus.
Jesus knew that what he offered wasn’t for everybody. He never promised that it would be easy, or that everyone would embrace it.
It wasn’t a bait and switch where he promised one thing and delivered another.
Listen to his words from Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
Years ago, when we had a number of people leave Cornerstone, I was reminded that in my self-pity I shouldn’t feel all that special.
At the time I had the opportunity to spend some time with David Mains, not the 100 Huntley David Mainse, but the Chapel of the Air David Mains.
And I was pouring out my heart to him about people leaving, he reminded me of the story in
John 6:66-67 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
But while some chose not to follow Jesus, and some of those who choose to follow him later chose to walk away, for Mary it was a decision that changed the direction of her life.
And that is what following Jesus is supposed to do. It’s supposed to change your direction.
That’s why Jesus used the metaphor of a new birth, to indicate a new beginning.
Paul in his writing to the church in Corinth reminds them of the importance of that in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
But not only did Mary’s encounter with Jesus that day change her direction, It Changed her Devotion
Mary’s encounter with Jesus changed what she valued in her life. You might recall the end of the passage of scripture that Amanda read this morning.
It was actually the main point that Luke was trying to get across. Luke 8:2-3 . . . Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
If you ever wondered how Jesus could afford his ministry, here is a clue. Think about it. Here were thirteen men, travelling around the country side, teaching and healing. But they had to have food to eat and places to sleep. And God didn’t just give Jesus a heavenly visa card.
Instead, Jesus’ ministry was supported by people who were devoted to his vision and ministry, just like those who support the ministry and vision of Cornerstone.
In this case it was supported by Mary and other like-minded women. Mary knew the impact that her encounter with Jesus had in her life, and she was willing to make sacrifices so that others could have the same opportunity.
That’s why Jesus said, Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Jesus was telling us that our treasures were an indication of where our devotions lay, that our giving was the barometer of our soul.
Mary’s heart was in Jesus’ ministry. But it went deeper than simply a financial commitment. If we look back at the events that happened on Good Friday we find two divergent accounts.
The first deals with the behaviour of the twelve, and so we read in Mark 14:50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.
We understand that Judas betrayed Christ, and Peter denied Christ with his words, but the other ten denied Jesus in their actions.
But not everyone ran. In all four of the gospel accounts, we read about those who were still there, who chose to demonstrate their devotion to Jesus with their presence that day. Here is how John records the event. John 19:25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.
Not only did Mary walk the walk and talk the talk, but she walked the talk and talked the walk. And it didn’t stop with Jesus’ death.
Mary was committed to Jesus and his vision, and it would have been so easy when she saw the death of Jesus to conclude the maybe the dream had died as well. To walk away disappointed and disillusioned.
But two days after we had seen Mary at the cross the story picks up in Mark 16:1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body.
And at the end of the story, Mary’s encounter with Jesus didn’t just change her direction and her devotion, It Changed her Destiny
Now understand, we don’t know where Mary ended up. If anyone tells you they do, they are just guessing.
The last we see her was when she rushed to find the Apostles, and we read in John 20:18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
We don’t know if she was with the believers on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. We don’t know where she was when persecution broke out against the church in Acts Chapter 8. The bible tells us nothing, but that hasn’t stopped legends and myths from trying to fill in the gaps.
One story says that Mary was put into a rudderless boat along with other Christians and set adrift to die. However, the boat made its way 3600 km, across the Mediterranean Sea where it finally ran aground in Southern France. That’s just a guess.
Another legend said that she was married to John the Apostle, and they were the couple at the scene of Jesus’ first miracle, at the wedding in Cana. That’s just a guess.
In the Eastern Orthodox church, it is taught that after the resurrection she lived as a companion to Jesus’ mother. That’s just a guess.
When I was preparing this message, I thought about what I had read in the book of Romans. It’s there that Paul writes, Romans 16:6 Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.
And I thought; maybe Mary ended up in Rome when the believers were scattered in the book of Acts. I have no proof or really any reason to think that, other than that’s the way my mind works. But you know what? That’s just a guess.
We may not know where Mary spent the remainder of her life, but we do know what Jesus promised those who followed him 2000 years ago, John 14:1-2 Jesus said “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”
Mary’s destiny was to spend forever with the one who not only changed her life but also changed her eternity.
And that promise is as real for you today, and it was for Mary then.