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Bob Slosser
Spiritual Life Channel

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Mary Magdalene, a Woman Who Ministered

By Bob Slosser Columnist
Yesterday, July 23, was Mary Magdalene day. A lady important to the gospel of Jesus Christ was honored. How do I know? The Church Calendar showed me.

I trust you know about the Church Calendar. It’s a marvelous document for people like me, who see the church as a family, a community, and a lovely body for the Lord. I yearn for all of Christ’s people all over the world to recognize one another, literally, as brothers and sisters, closer in bond than our flesh and blood family, as important as that family is or should be. We and the faithful in heaven are the Communion of Saints, now and forever.

I desire with all my being for the beautiful Body of Christ to be close beyond the natural, because it is supernatural. Jesus died to bring it into reality and visibility. I want the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life (2 Corinthians 2:17 and Romans 8:11, RSV), to rest upon the church as it meets and to appear as flames springing from our meeting houses everywhere so that strangers will be breaking the doors down to get in where God is. I mean that. It has happened before (read about the Great Awakening as it took hold of the streets of New York, especially on Fulton Street. John McCandlish Phillips, the best reporter I’ve known, gave me a copy of "The Second Evangelical Awakening" by the great and modest J. Edwin Orr, published by the Christian Literature Crusade, 1955. Get it!).

Back to Mary Magdalene. Scripture describes her as the lady out of whom seven demons were cast and the one who witnessed most of the events during Christ’s suffering: the mock trial in which she heard Pilate pronounce the death sentence; the beating of Christ and His humiliation by the crowd. Also, she stood by the cross with Christ’s mother during the crucifixion itself. I have remembered her well for many years as the one to whom Jesus first revealed Himself after rising from the dead (John 20:11-18). I wrote about it this way:

instantly the earth reeled in merriment

and events raced with hymnal accompaniment

as nature’s lover named sun

splashed his caresses

upon that moment

and history’s cymbals clashed

nevertheless the soft footsteps

pierced Mary’s consciousness

and she turned to speak

"if you have carried my Lord

away please"

the silence of one second stopped time

until Jesus spoke for eternity "Mary"

At least one scholar I read noted that Magdalene had often been associated with women of shady reputation, most of whom were named Mary. This may have accounted for a prominent study of the Bible’s comment that Jesus may have revealed Himself as Lord to her first in the Tomb Garden on resurrection morning because she needed Him so badly. The account noted that the word translated "weeping" by Mary was better rendered "wailing" and loud crying. However, there is no Biblical evidence to link Mary Magdalene to those other women. She simply was close to Jesus and His mother, also named Mary.

As I studied the calendar, I noted that the Magdalene Day is followed immediately by a day honoring James the Apostle, as opposed to James, the brother of Jesus who was the head of the Jerusalem Church and the author of the Book of James in the Bible. The apostle, the brother of John, was killed by Herod following an explosion of the persecution of Christians after Stephen’s martyrdom. Jesus early on named James and John the "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17); they were ambitious, craved to be great, and to sit at Christ’s right and left in His Kingdom (Mark 10:37, 43), the subject of a famous teaching by Jesus.

It seemed noteworthy to me that Mary Magdalene, like the Virgin Mary and several others, received significant places in the gospels for their work to fill the needs of the Lord and presumably the Twelve as they traveled and ministered. They were hard working and deep-loving women of ministry, which means service. It seems to me that we need to learn from their work and their place with the Lord, and stop dilly-dallying over the role of women in church ministry. Mary Magdalene was apparently an outstanding servant, and she was movingly rewarded by being the one to whom He first revealed Himself that first Easter morning.

Also, consider the honor given to the Lord’s mother. Let’s stop fretting about sainthood, miracles, and lavish honor and at least recognize her as a major figure in history and a major teacher of the Christian faith. Nothing exceeds the Magnificat for beauty and wisdom. Does Mary heal and do other miracles today? I have no idea; I hope so. I also am uninformed about what she did at Ephesus in those early years, but do not doubt a bit that she and certainly others were invaluable. I think of Mary and Martha; maybe the woman taken in adultery who was forgiven and sent on her way; possibly the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and head at a meal; perhaps Peter’s mother-in-law who fed Christ’s cohort and accommodated an unusual healing service; and who knows, even Priscilla of "Priscilla and Aquila, the tentmakers," friends of Paul who moved about the Mediterranean and ministered wherever they were. It seems a lot of Bible characters were in and out of Ephesus, which grew an important church.

I’ve told many of you that I met Mother Teresa at a gathering in Washington a few years ago. I say unequivocally that she was a woman of God upon whom the presence of God rested in a manifest way. She is a minister if ever there was one.

Happy Mary Magdalene’s Day, everybody!

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