Relationships – Jesus and Mary Magdalene

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

  • Luke 8:1-3

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

  • Mark 15:42-47

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

  • Mark 16:1-11

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

  • John 20:11-18

A Quote

[Mark 15:40-41]: ”Some of these women had earlier been at the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). By then, unable to watch Jesus’ suffering at such close range, they were ‘looking on from afar.’ Their sympathetic loyalty was in sharp contrast to the disciples who, except for John, were nowhere to be found. Mary Magdalene. She was from the village of Magdala, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, hence her name. Luke notes that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). She is usually named first when the women who followed Jesus are listed. This may suggest that she was their leader. Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses. She is distinguished from the other Marys by the name of her sons. ‘James the Less’ (called ‘James the son of Alphaeus’ in Matt. 10:3) was one of the Twelve. Salome. The wife of Zebedee (Matt. 27:56), and the mother of James and John … These women had been with Jesus since the days of His Galilean ministry, traveling with Him and the disciples, caring for their needs (cf. Luke 8:2, 3).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

From Luke 8, we confirm what is in Mark, that Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus.  The only personal knowledge is that Jesus healed Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene was one of many women who followed Jesus.  At one point, Jesus sent out 72 in His name and they cast out demons and performed other miracles.  Some of these would later fall away in that they could not understand Jesus’ teachings, but there were still more than the Twelve.  Many women are listed, but there were even more.  Mary Magdalene was one of them, and these women helped, serving the disciples, the Twelve plus others not mentioned.  We know there were others not mentioned.  When Judas hung himself and the eleven decided who was to replace Judas Iscariot, they chose the replacement among those followers who had been with them from the beginning.  Matthias was chosen to be the twelfth apostle, but in stating his selection in that way, there must have been more.

Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Savior, Jesus.  Previously, it had been angels who showed themselves.  There are only twelve references to Mary Magdalene, all in the gospels, and almost all dealing with the women who went to the tomb.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

Much more than Jesus and the Twelve, there would be a lot of meals to fix, clothing to mend, clothing to wash, etc.  I am not being Twenty-First Century sexist, but in the first century, these tasks were probably done by the women and with the positions of some of these women, monetary support may have come from them, with Judas Iscariot holding the money purse (and pilfering some of it).

I feel that Rev. MacArthur’s comment about Mary Magdalene being the leader is an inference due to her name often being listed first, but all four gospels mention Mary Magdalene being at the tomb.  With Mary Magdalene being the first to see the risen Jesus, this might lift her status to first among the list of women also.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

The greeting to Mary by Jesus was a single word, “Mary.”  She replied, “Teacher.”

There is no evidence of any relationship beyond that.

The secular world wants to invent a romance, but there was none.  A good teacher, and Jesus was the “Good Teacher,” would know the names of the students, pupils, trainees. I taught for thirty years in industry, and even for a 2-3 day class, I memorized all the trainees’ names, and I made sure that I had the spelling right for the diploma.  Jesus had Mary Magdalene helping within the throng of people who followed Jesus probably ever since she had been cured of demon-possession.  Jesus would know her name.

But Mary had been healed by Jesus.  It seems she dropped everything to follow Him, but one gap to fill might be that her means of making money was now gone like the woman possessed by an evil spirit in Acts 16:16-19.  Gratitude is enough, but with nothing to hold you to your home…

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

The witness of a woman was considered suspect in the first century.  Jesus appeared to a woman, Mary Magdalene.  At first, the women, including Mary Magdalene, saw the angels.  They became frightened and did not wish to speak to anyone, but then Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene to tell her it was proper for her to act as a witness.  We might use an inference here that among those women, Jesus knew that Mary Magdalene was the most courageous.  She was the one who would not stop and reconsider.  She was the one who would follow through and complete her mission to tell Peter and the disciples.  (Peter being singled out as a signal that his denial of Jesus had been forgiven.)

We must also recognize that we can have a meaningful relationship with the opposite sex without it becoming a physical relationship.  People continue to make something out of this relationship that was not there.  “Mary” “Teacher” is not the conversation of lovers.  When I walked through the church the second time after my wife passed away, a half dozen ladies wanted to hug me.  They embraced me out of sympathy.  In none of these Scriptures does it say Jesus even hugged Mary Magdalene, but as Teacher and follower, there was a strong relationship.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
  • Not blindly trust our buddies from our youth as advisors and there may be emotional ties that make their advice sound better than it is.
  • Understand that good cannot compromise with evil.
  • And sometimes you have to weather the storms, both in the home and in the world of public opinion.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  We should never be caught up in the secular world’s fanciful scenarios. We each need a strong relationship with You.  We can become intimate with You spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, without it ever being physically.  But, Lord, when I see You face-to-face, I may not want to see anything else ever again.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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