THE FIRST EASTER EVANGELISTS (LUKE 24:1-12)
A Catholic sister, Sister Chris Schenk, was shocked when she was told in a theology class that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Then Schenk learned there were efforts to restore the reputation of Mary of Magdalene by an organization called FutureChurch, and when FutureChurch invited her to serve as executive director, she decided to quit her job as a midwife in Cleveland and correct one of the worst injustices in biblical history.
In two years, Schenk promoted some 124 services to an estimated 2, 500 people to honor Mary of Magdalene on or near July 22. Schenk said, “Most women, when they hear about Jesus and his disciples, think Jesus and 12 men were running around Galilee, when in fact women were among his closest followers.”
Was Mary Magdalene a sinner or a saint, an apostle or an adulterer, a meek follower or a model feminist?
Mary Magdalene’s fate, and the grim future of women through the ages, was sealed by the Vatican, Broadway and Hollywood. In the 6th century Pope Gregory the Great pronounced that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (John 11:1) and the unknown sinner who anointed Jesus (Luke 7:37) were, in fact, the same person. Later, Broadway’s ‘60s musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar greatly sensationalized Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus, but the final insults were from Martin Scorsese’s 1988 movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and “The Da Vinci Code” that tastelessly depicted Jesus and Mary Magdalene as lovers and spouses. Even now, a non-profit organization with a noble web URL (www.prostituition-recovery.org), again, wrongly dubbed their efforts as The Mary Magdalene Project. Indeed, many paintings often depict Mary Magdalene as a fornicator, temptress or prostitute – partially clothed, scantily clad and beguilingly portrayed.
Women were highly esteemed biblically, but unkindly disparaged historically. The first appearance, proclamation and instruction of the angels on Resurrection day, however, were to women – a fitting and an honorable and admirable reward for their faithfulness. All four gospels exalted the role of women in the most important event of Christianity (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:1, Lk 24:10, John 20).
So why did angels choose to disclose the most joyous event to women? What was the role and place of women in Christianity? How have women historically served God before our eyes, behind our backs and beyond duty’s call?
The Lord Honors Those Who Love and Care for Him
24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:1-3)
A king who desired to build a cathedral, forbade anyone from contributing anything, in order that the credit might be all his. A sign was placed on the site with the king’s name as builder. But that night, he saw in a dream an angel who came to erase his name, replacing his name with the name of a poor widow. This was repeated three times.
Awaking from the dream, the king summoned the woman and demanded what she had been doing. The trembling woman replied, “I love the Lord and longed to do something for His name and for the building of His church. Since I was forbidden to touch it in any way, I brought a wisp of hay for the horse that drew the stones.” So the wise king commanded her name be inscribed on the cathedral. (7, 700 Illustrations # 7599)
The Easter women had hearts of gold. They had traveled with Jesus from town to village (Luke 8:1-3), from region to province, from their hometown to the capital. Their mission from Galilee to Jerusalem was simply to care for Jesus’ needs (Mark 15:40-41). The disciples naturally benefited from their presence and help. Not only do women empty their pockets (Luke 8:1-3), they cooked, sewed, washed and accomplished almost everything and more than what was expected of women those days.
Only one of them, Joanna (Luke 8:3), might have a regular reliable income. Her husband worked for Herod. She served in spite of possible conflicts with her husband, giving from her husband’s contribution to her purse strings and traveling out of town on her husband’s expenses.
The women’s love and care for the Lord were attested at the cross, the tomb and the upper room (Acts 1:14). When everything fell apart, everyone feared, folded and fled (Mark 14:50, Matt 26:56), but the women returned, led by Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome who bought spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1). They served out of love, respect and thankfulness.
Mary Magdalene had more reasons than any other to be kind, compassionate, and sympathetic. She was not the attractive woman the media made her out to be; in fact, Jesus had driven out from her seven demons (Lk 8:2, Mk 16:9). Mary Magdalene, along with two mothers - Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons, watched from a distance while the disciples deserted him and fled (Matt 26:56, 27:55). Later Mary Magdalene and another Mary sat opposite the tomb, watching as the rich man Joseph of Arimathea placed the body of Jesus in his own new tomb (Matt 27:59-61). And finally, at the end of the day, she stood with Jesus’ mother, Mary’s sister and Mary the wife of Clopas near the cross (John 19:25), then obtained spices early Sunday with more women - Mary the mother of James, and Salome - to the tomb to embalm Jesus so that his body may not smell. All in all, Mary Magdalene appears 12 times in the Bible, and the only woman more prominent than her in the New Testament was Jesus’ own mother.