What image comes to mind when I say the name Mary Magdalene? I think to most, she is a woman associated with her sinful past. She has been identified as a lot of things outside of the boundaries of scripture, which I don't see any benefit in entertaining. There is enough truth to ponder about her from scripture without even going there. She is identified in Luke 8 as a woman "from whom seven demons came out of". This is her introduction in the word of God--This part of her identity is the catalyst from which outside speculations spin their story. It begs the question....how much of her identity was held captive by the sin from which Jesus completely freed her? I wish we talked more about demons. I'll just say that out loud. I think the church and our culture as a whole are painfully afraid to address demonic activity and it is to our absolute detriment. I think a lot of people live in bondage because we have simply not learned how to ask Jesus to cast out the demons that torment minds and lives. I wonder how our identity would be transformed if we were freed from the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1)? I wonder how much we would value the gift of salvation if everyday we were aware of what we had been saved from on this side of Heaven?
I see a woman who loved Jesus and followed Him everywhere, because she knew how she had been transformed. She followed Him, she learned from Him, she honored Him. There is so much to say about how Jesus allowed women to sit at His feet as His disciples--shocking, even scandalous in that day. Jesus had zero patience with cultural oppression and misrepresentation of truth. Mary of Magdalene was at the cross as Jesus breathed each painful breath until His last. She followed the soldiers to the tomb where they buried His body. She and some of the other women were on their way to the tomb, when I think I love and understand her the most. They had gathered the appropriate spices, waited until the first hint of dawn on the third day, then quickly headed out to tend to Jesus body...when one of them says “ummm guys...who’s going to roll away that massive stone??”. I LOVE these women. I, too tend to get super passionate, and head out towards mission impossible.
Much like Mary, I have discovered that when I’m heading out to do work that honors the Lord, I can’t think of a single time that those massive boulders have stopped me. When I head out in obedient faith, without having over-analyzed each worst case scenario, He has made my path straight. It may look different than I thought it would, but He has never once left me hanging.
Mary was a sinner who was completely redeemed. She met Jesus, fell at His feet, let Him clean her sin out, and she followed Him all the way home. Identity redeemed. He didn't change her identity. I think He simply cleaned the lies out and restored her to the identity He had woven into her from her beginning. Our identity never changes. It is lovely and beautiful. We just sometimes buy the lie that sin is our identity, shame is our identity, temptations are our identity, filth is our identity. That was NEVER our identity--those may be our choices, but our identity is that we were created in the image of the King of Kings. Mary was a woman identified by others as a sinner, and identified as a second class citizen by her culture because of her gender. But Jesus? Jesus saw Mary in her true identity, He saw her as worthy of being the first person He appeared to after He was resurrected. In John 20, we see Jesus pause his ascension mid-resurrection to tend to her broken heart. I cannot even stand the beauty of that moment. It was her unwillingness to leave the last place she knew him to be that gave her the opportunity to not only see the savior she loved alive...It gave her the opportunity to become the first missionary.
And nobody believed her.
As we leap into from this moment in scripture to our current lives, it hits me that it’s hard to allow people to change, isn’t it? We like to give each other labels and put people in categories. It’s like an unconscious (or sometimes very intentional....) strategy we use to keep things in order when we disregard growth in favor of maintaining our version of who someone is—and maybe to some extent who we are in that logic?
It’s discombobulating to have people grow and change in a dramatic way that causes us to have to rearrange our boxes isn’t it?
What if Mary had been freed from SEVEN demons only to continue wearing the scarlet letter associated with each? A lot of people do. Even written word that I am reading generations later try to trap her in her former identity. But Jesus? He saw her for who she really was. Faithful. Bold. Passionate. Consistent. Tender.
And He paused His trip home to blow her away with the news that forever changed eternity.
What if we could accept that we are who Jesus says we are. What if we could block out the chants of our sin life that try to follow us into our freedom? Mary did. And she saw Jesus in a form that was untouchable to human hands. I think we would start to see Jesus in unbelievable ways if we would take it even a step further, and stop worrying about who we are or are not, and focus on knowing who He is. Who He is, well that light has plenty of room for me in it. As I walk towards Jesus I enter the light with Him, where the truth is most clearly seen. No matter what others try to keep me bound to.