Mary of Magdala

Mary of Magdala

Mary of Magdala
Frank Viola sent us this story
The following is an excerpt from the book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE by Frank Viola (David C. Cook, 2009). To read the rest of the story, order at


I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven,
so she has shown me much love.
But a person who is forgiven little
shows only little love.
—Luke 7:47 nlt

Women have a large part to play in the New Testament
story. They funded Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 8:1–
3). They were also the most faithful of His disciples,
staying with Him to the bitter end. But of all the women mentioned
in the New Testament, none can compare with Mary of Magdala.
Magdala was a city along the Sea of Galilee. The town was very
unclean—filthy and unkempt—and known for its rampant prostitution.
Many of the city’s young girls grew up learning how to sin. Mary
was one of them. At a young age, Mary learned the dark trade of selling
her body for money. She became a harlot, a woman of the night.
Little did anyone know that this hopeless, sinful, demon-possessed
prostitute was destined to meet the Lover of her soul. And as a result,
women and men in every century would herald her.

By using a bit of consecrated imagination, I would like us to
return to the first century and meet this incredible woman as she
encounters her incredible Lord.†

Human Desperation Meets Divine Fullness

It is the year AD 28. Like most people in Palestine, Mary of Magdala
has heard the grand reports of a miracle-working prophet named
Jesus of Nazareth. Everywhere He goes, Jesus heals the sick and casts
out demons. Not long ago, Mary moved to the village of Nain in
Galilee. At this point in her adult life, Mary is a desperate soul. Ever
since she was a young teen, she has made her living as a prostitute.
She suffers from depression and suicidal tendencies. For years she
has been vexed with evil spirits, seven to be exact (Luke 8:2). All of
her adult life she has known nothing but torment, degradation, and
utter defilement (Matt. 12:45).
The day has come. Mary hears that Jesus has entered the town
of Nain. She catches wind of reports that He raised a man from the
dead (Luke 7:11–17). Upon hearing this, she looks for Him. Not
far from her home, she sees a large crowd gathered. And she spots
Him. She is riveted by the authority with which He speaks. She also
detects a graciousness and purity that she has never before witnessed
in any man.
Jesus finishes His message and begins praying for the sick who
are before Him. Without any timidity, Mary approaches Him.

(footnote † According to most traditional scholars and the testimony of ancient church history,
Mary Magdalene is the unnamed woman described in Luke 7:36–50. She is
not to be confused with Mary of Bethany, who anointed the Lord in the home of
Lazarus near the end of Jesus’ earthly life.)

Jesus looks upon her with surprising familiarity. In a flash of divine revelation,
the Lord remembers. He remembers that she was chosen to be
part of His glorious bride before the foundation of the world.
As He puts His hands upon her head, Mary weeps. With uncommon
authority, the Lord utters this simple word: “Evil spirits I
command you to come out of her, never to enter her again!”
Immediately, Mary lets out a loud wail and collapses before Jesus
as if in a coma. Those looking on wonder if she is dead. The Lord
assures them that she is just sleeping. An hour goes by, and Mary
awakens. When she rises from the ground, she feels clean and whole.
She can only remember feeling this way in the innocence of her
childhood, when she was a little girl. She begins to weep again.
Mary looks for Jesus, but He is gone. She is told that He has been
invited to a Pharisee’s home for dinner. With tears of deep gratitude
and joyful anticipation, she heads off to find Jesus. She has with
her the most valuable asset she owns: a small vial filled with costly
perfume that hangs from a leather strap around her neck. This vial
represents her savings account. The money has come from her trade.
Without forethought or deliberation, she wishes to give it to Jesus as
a gift, a token of her gratitude.
As she diligently inquires the exact whereabouts of Jesus, someone
points to the home of Simon the Pharisee. Simon has invited the
Lord to be his guest for dinner. Let’s walk into Simon’s home and see
what’s happening there.

The Scandal of Shameless Love

Simon is quite intrigued by this famous prophet named Jesus. He
has heard many stories about Him. Simon belongs to the class of
“nonsinners” called Pharisees. They are the self-appointed monitors
of the kingdom of God. They are the self-proclaimed and selfanointed
experts at sin management. They are beyond sin in their
own eyes, and their “ministry” is to make sure that others keep sin
to an absolute minimum. Simon and his Pharisee friends are now
afforded the opportunity to interview the Nazarene prophet up close
and personal.
Jesus is the guest of honor. Simon, however, ignores all of the
common courtesies of an Eastern home. He fails to greet Jesus with
a kiss. He doesn’t anoint His head with oil. He also fails to wash
His feet. Note that Simon has in his home the very God whom he
has been serving all of his life. Yet he is pathetically unaware of it.
Jesus makes no mention of Simon’s neglect as a host. Instead, He
graciously reclines at the table with Simon and his friends.
The door opens, and in walks Mary of Magdala. She is uninvited.
Yet she enters unashamedly.‡

As Mary enters, she quickly spots Jesus. And she begins to weep.
She walks straight over to Him and positions herself in the highest
place possible, at His feet. As she kneels before Jesus, her tears fall
upon His feet. She opens the vial of valuable perfume that’s suspended
from her neck and pours it out upon the feet of Christ. She
anoints His feet with the perfume, mixing it with her tears. She then
does something outrageous. Scandalous even. She begins to kiss His
feet. And she does not stop. (In the Greek, the thought conveyed is
that she “smothers” His feet with kisses.)

(footnote ‡ Private life was virtually unheard of in Jesus’ day.
The doors of homes were often wide open for friends, beggars,
and even the curious to march in on a whim.)

What happens next horrifies both Simon and his fellow Pharisees.
She unbinds her hair and turns it into a towel. She then proceeds to
wipe the Lord’s feet with it. (In that day for a woman to unbind her
hair in public was no small scandal. It would be akin to a woman
going topless in our day.)
The Pharisees are in shock. They are mortified. Her attire makes
clear that she is a prostitute. A sinner. There’s no question about it.
And they are livid. Why? Because Jesus, this so-called prophet, does
not stop her from engaging in what they consider to be shamelessly
erotic acts: unbinding her hair and kissing His feet.
Please note: Jesus never rebukes her.
The Pharisees think to themselves that Jesus cannot possibly be
a prophet. If He were, He would not allow this sinner to perform
such disgraceful acts upon Him. Jesus perceives their thoughts. But
He doesn’t seem to care what they think. The Lord knows exactly
who she is. She is part of His glorious bride, chosen in Him before
creation. And she is doing what the bride was designed to do: She is
loving Him shamelessly. She is loving Him passionately. She is loving
Him extravagantly. And your Lord is not offended.
Never in His entire ministry has the Lord been loved like this.
What is Mary doing? She is simply returning the love that He
poured upon her earlier that day.
What are Simon and the other Pharisees doing? They are
passing judgment upon her. To their feeble minds, they are in a
different class than this woman. She is a sinner. They are nonsinners.
They are also engaging in something far worse: They are
unwittingly passing judgment on the God whom they are trying
to serve.




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