Yesterday I was doing some research for a piece I’m writing, and one character I wanted to gain more insight on was Mary Magdalen. I knew (or rather, thought I knew) a couple stories of her from the bible, but other than that, there wasn’t much I knew about this mysterious woman.
Let me take you back a couple decades to set the room temperature for you…. I was taught the “key” stories in the bible growing up. Mary and Martha, The Nativity, Jesus teaching in the Temple and getting mad at the marketers, The loaves and fish being multiplied, Water to Wine, John the Baptist, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection, etc. Another story that I learned, and can actually remember acting out in a play, was the story of a woman who, in Luke 7:41-50, was suggested to not be of good repute, proceeded to cleanse and anoint Jesus. She was in a stranger’s house and obviously was not welcome. At least, she was not welcome at the table, much less at Jesus’ feet….this was the opinion of the well-to-do guests and host.
I grew up knowing this story well and had committed it to heart and it was one that I had been returning to often since my salvation was secured a year ago. I found a deep connection with this woman and wanted to know so much more about my “heroin.” I was taught many many years ago that this woman’s name was Mary Magdalen.
Get ready….the room is about to heat up drastically! Insert grenade, pull pin, and…..
Guess what? There is NOTHING in the bible that suggests that this woman’s identity is Mary Magdalen! What?!?! Yeah, that’s what I said! This woman at Jesus’ feet was assumed to be a prostitute, a low life, a champion sinner! Yet, because of her faith and her kindness, Jesus forgave her of ALL of her sins and told her to go in peace. What an AWESOME testimony!! As I grew up believing that this woman was indeed Mary Magdalen, I thought even higher of her because this wonderfully saved woman became such a close follower of Christ! She was considered to be a close friend and aid to Jesus and his apostles. A strength and companion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. This strong, amazingly faithful woman was there at the Crucifixion when most of the men weren’t there (Steel Magnolia material right there!), she was the one the Holy Spirit came to to announce the Resurrection had happened and the one who was there first to see the empty tomb.
If what I was taught to be true, she would have indeed been like an early Saul/Paul in my eyes! She went from prostitute to saint-hood. I could relate to her in so many ways because of my past and my own sins. She was someone I wanted to be like. A woman of great strength and devotion and faithfulness. A woman who could stand strong through the most painful days and be blessed in so many ways! A woman who had strong relationships and bonds and a true heart for God’s people and gave, literally, ALL that she had….even the tears from her eyes because she had no water to wash the feet of the one she loved. Again, I say, what a testimony!
However…..that’s not the true story. The story is now split in half. Now, I’m not saying that the parable Jesus taught with the “unnamed” woman wasn’t miraculous in itself! The simple fact that Jesus forgave this lowly woman of ALL of her sins was an amazing visual of how boundless his love is for us. It blew away everyone sitting there at the supper table.
I am a bit upset about…or rather I feel sorry for…Mary Magdalen. I mean…did she have to deal with the misunderstanding or the mix-up in her day also? I’m sure that even if she did, she would have handled it with grace and kindness. However, how many times have you been labeled as something unkind and it wasn’t even valid? How many times were you remembered for the sins you have committed rather than your faithfulness? How many times has someone thrown the ugly from your past in your face but neglects to acknowledge the good? I grew up hearing the name “Mary Magdalen” and the first thought that came to mind was “prostitute that was forgiven.” That thought was so hard driven into my understanding that the true focus of this woman’s identity was cast off.
I knew she was around at the end. I knew she was there when Jesus was gone from the tomb. That’s it. Just those sentences. No expounding or study on her. Just like I really don’t know much more about the very mother of Jesus aside from the story of her child-bearing days up to child birth. After that she was kind of lost in my tutelage in the 30+ years of Jesus’ life. Almost as if, “ok….you made your grande entrance, now go upstage right and stand still.”
Where did this misconception come from? Many scholars believe now that it started with a homily that Pope Gregory the Great gave back in 1591. Not that he was deliberately trying to deceive the church and it’s followers, but that he was trying to convey the amazing grace of God and how converts would be forgiven of their sins. Apparently his homily took and served it’s purpose… However, with his mixing of texts into one message, it created centuries of misunderstanding. Mary of Bethany apparently was also thrown into the confusion so that these 3 individual women were understood to be one and the same.
So that got me thinking….how long after I am long gone from this earth, will my name live on as something that I wasn’t? How will my actions and words give off the wrong impression of someone else and create stories and legacies that will live on for years to come? I have seen in happen before in my own relatives. How they were described to me as something less desirable and that was all I learned of them. That was the legacy that was left behind for me to remember them as. What will I be remembered for? Will I be remember for the less desirable traits I have or have had? The drunk? The pro-choice decisions I made? The arguer? Insecure? Hard headed? Despite the fact that these are things that I have either repented of years ago or am actively working on changing and doing away with, is that what I will be labeled as forever?
With some individuals I have come in contact with, probably. The ones who will not get to see the changed and reborn “me” due to the simple fact that our paths may never cross again in this life. However, even with close family members it is still a possibility. Just like I am having to look past the “titles” that were given me of my own family members, I hope that those around me will do the same for me. To look for the truth and the whole picture. To see how GREAT God has been to me and how Jesus’ love truly saved me from being remembered as my sins and those alone. His love has covered me and I want so much to wear it well so that all can see.
Even if you are remembered as something that did not truly define you, I pray that someone will have the sense and the wisdom to seek the truth and to share it with the world. How wonderful it is now to have 3 separate individuals with an amazing testimony all their own! To be able to delve further into the life lessons that each had to offer and to see the hand of God in each woman’s life.
image:teepublic.comTags: Labels, Legacy, Mary, Misleadings, Rumors, testimony, Truth
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