Summary: This message looks at the two most important Marys in the Life of Jesus. Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene
It was Mary who was there when Jesus was conceived, it was Mary who was there when Jesus was born, it was Mary who was there when Jesus was murdered.
Two weeks ago I spoke about Mary’s husband Joseph and the part he played in the beginning of Jesus’ life and then we looked at another Joseph. Joseph of Arimathea who was there when Jesus died and who gave up his own tomb for Jesus’ body to be laid in. The title of that message was “A Reflection of Sacrifice.”
Today’s message is entitled “A Reflection of Trust” and Mary the Mother of Jesus is not the only Mary who plays an integral part in the story of Jesus.
There was another Mary and we find her at the end of the story. She has been vilified and deified. Her name is Mary Magdalene and through the years she has been surrounded with myth and legend. With the exception of Mary the mother of Jesus there is no other woman from the bible who has been the subject of so much discussion and speculation as has Mary.
In the year 591, Pope Gregory the Great in a sermon preached to a gathering of Bishops declared that the Mary of Luke 8 was indeed the sinful woman mentioned in Luke 7 and was actually a prostitute. If I had done that people would say; “interesting theory Denn has”, but when you’re Pope and considered infallible when you say someone’s a prostitute then they are a prostitute.
It wasn’t that Gregory had anything against Mary; he was simply using her for an illustration of how Jesus can change your life. I’m not sure the sermon had the effect Gregory was hoping for because we are told a Magdalene cult spread throughout Europe.
The French were so taken with Mary that they made her French. Around 1260, a Dominican monk published the Golden Legend, which claimed that after Jesus’ death Mary had fled Jerusalem and ended up in southern Gaul. Her spirit, the story said, protected the French, although she must have been on vacation between 1914 and 1945.
Later the Catholic Church apologized and in 1969, declared that, for the first time in 1400 years Mary should not be thought of as the sinful woman of Luke. I guess you’re only infallible while you’re still alive. And then in 1988, Pope John Paul II called Mary Magdalene “apostle to the apostles” in an official church document and noted that in Christians’ “most arduous test of faith and fidelity,” the Crucifixion, “the women proved stronger than the Apostles.”
At different times in history Mary of Magdalene has been identified as Lazarus’s sister, the “sinful” woman mentioned in Luke 7:32 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 that would be the entire “Cast the first stone” story, but there is no evidence for any of those theories.
Mary came back to the lime light in Dan Brown’s novel that swept to the top of the best sellers list at turn of the century. In the Da Vinci Code Mary has been lifted to a new level for millions of readers and movie goers. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie the hypostasis is that Mary Magdalene and not Peter was the head apostle, that it was Mary whom Christ had entrusted his church with and Mary who was supposed to lead it. That she was removed from her position by Peter and the other apostles because they resented her leadership and that she had to flee to France in order to save her life. And it is in France that her descendants still live.