Saturday, February 24, 2007

So, who was Mary Magdalene?

Lucky for me there's been a whole lot of buzz about Mary Magdalene in the press and in books recently. She's a new hot commodity. I say new, but she's always been there - maybe not in the center of it all. Who was she? The sister of Lazarus and Martha? The woman from whom Jesus cast out 7 demons? She was the one who anointed Jesus, was present at his death, and, of course at his resurrection. She is mentioned all over the place in the Gospels and, in my opinion, should be counted among the disciples.

Many people agree that she was wealthy. I think the idea of her as a prostitute was cooked up long after her death as a way to discredit her and move away from having women in powerful positions within the new church. And for Magdalene to be able to afford the perfume she anoints Jesus with, she had do have money. [That's a perfume jar in her hand in the statue.] The disciples berate her for wasting the perfume on Jesus, and argue that the money would have been better used if the perfume had been sold with the proceeds going to the poor. But Magdalene has bigger ideas.
Mark 14:3-9
3While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year's wages[a] and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.

6"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
John 11:2
2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.
Magdalene is most often shown holding a perfume jar. This refers both to her anointing of Jesus, but also the time after his death when she and the other women, along with Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, prepare him for burial. The perfume would have been used at both times and was probably a blend of frankincense and myrrh. Have you ever smelled those two together? They're the main two ingredients in church incense which smells great!

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