Jump directly to the Content

Mary Magdalene

Meet the real friend and follower of Jesus.

Was she the wife of Jesus, the mother of his children, or the Holy Grail, as The Da Vinci Code claims? Or the repentant prostitute of Jesus Christ Superstar, throwing herself at the Master's feet and singing, "I Don't Know How to Love Him"?

According to Scripture, Mary Magdalene was none of the above. And more than the above.

We find her story in all four gospels, where she's mentioned by name 14 times—significant, since many women of the Bible are nameless.

Here's her eye-opening, one-line biography: "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" (Mark 16:9). Possessed by Satan, she was repossessed by Christ, then privileged to witness his resurrection. Oh! She has a story, all right—but not a scandalous one.

The Many Marys

So how did we get so off the mark on Mary Magdalene?

Well, she was from Magdala, a town known for vice and violence. Additionally, there are seven Marys in the New Testament: Mary Magdalene; Jesus' mother; Clopas's wife; Mary of Bethany; John Mark's mother; a diligent worker; and James and Joses' mother, who's also called "the other Mary."

Two thousand years of art and literature haven't helped her cause. Mary Magdalene often is depicted as the unnamed prostitute who washed Jesus' feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50), or the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), or as Lazarus' sister—who was from Bethany, not Magdala—who anointed the Lord's head with costly perfume (Mark 14:3-9, John 11:2). Fascinating women, all—but not our Mary M.

The real Mary Magdalene led the faithful sisters in financing the Lord's work "out of their own means" (Luke 8:3) and following Jesus wherever he went.

For her devotion alone, Mary Magdalene serves as a fine role model for twenty-first-century believers. Follow her to the tomb on Easter morning, and you'll learn the greatest lesson Mary M. has to offer.

Go And Tell

When Mary Magdalene "saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance" (John 20:1), she hurried to Jerusalem and convinced Peter and John to see the empty tomb. I might have started with a lesser disciple, but this leader among women went right to the top. Clearly they respected her, because they wasted no time running back with her.

Finding it empty, the two disciples returned to their homes, while Mary remained weeping outside the tomb, unwilling to abandon her Lord. Such faithfulness was soon rewarded. Two angels in white appeared, followed by a stranger whom she mistook for a gardener, until the moment he spoke her name: "Mary" (John 20:16).

Her response was immediate. And it wasn't "Honey" but "Rabboni!" The meaning is "my great teacher," and the nature of their relationship is clear: teacher and student, leader and follower, but not husband and wife.

Before he returned to his heavenly home, Jesus had an assignment for Mary Magdalene: "Go … to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God' " (John 20:17). Did she ever! With her own eyes, she'd seen him. With her own ears, she'd heard him. With her own hands, she'd touched him. And so she proclaimed, "I have seen the Lord!" (John 20:18). A personal, undeniable testimony, setting the example for us all.

Two thousand years ago Mary Magdalene heeded the command of Jesus to go and tell. May we follow in her footsteps, seeing the Christ with new eyes, then declaring his glorious truth to a world longing for answers.

Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of more than 20 books, including Unveiling Mary Magdalene (WaterBrook Press). www.LizCurtisHiggs.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters