It’s at the end that she comes into focus most clearly. She was one of the women who was there in the background when he was being crucified – she had more guts than most of them had – and she was also one of the ones who was there when they put what was left of him in the tomb. But the time that you see her best was on that first Sunday morning after his death. ~~~Frederick Buechner, “Mary Magdalene”, Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who
Many people incorrectly think she was a harlot. Others confuse her with one of the other Mary’s in the Bible. The ELCA calls her an “apostle” and designated July 22 as her feast day. Dan Brown called her the wife of Jesus in his book The DaVinci Code. The Bible places her as the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I think of her as remarkable. I always try to read something new about Mary Magdalene each July 22nd. This year I read an older article from more than ten years ago from the Smithsonian, that takes a somewhat timeworn approach of identifying the early Church conspiracy to turn Mary into a prostitute, and neuter the role of strong women in the biblical witness. Biblically and historically accurate as you would expect, but a bit too dramatic in its conspiracy theories.
So why this topic for a devotion? Because through it I invite you to consider the possibility that maybe one of the persons you find the least likely to be a disciple of Christ, might in fact be one of the most potent witnesses to Jesus in your world. Mary was an unexpected, unorthodox, somewhat threatening figure in the early New Testament community. The early Church struggled to embrace Mary as a key witness to the resurrection and a key advocate and patron for Jesus and his ministry. But that is exactly the role that she served.
So in the week ahead in your prayers and reflections, consider the possibility that there may be a person in your life, who in an unorthodox way serves as a potent witness to the presence of God in your life. Maybe it’s the barista at your coffee shop … or your next door neighbor that makes you crazy … or the person at church who seems like a raging hypocrite. Consider the possibility that fuels the old phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.” God certainly worked through the woman healed by Jesus of seven demons. The woman who was possibly the most faithful witness to the resurrection. The woman who may have been a disciple in every way except title.
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18, NRSV)