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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 14, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Mother’s Day Sunday, May 14, 2017 from

Theme: The story of Mary Magdalene gives us an example of a redeemed sinner’s faithful love for the Savior.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I look forward to every Mother’s Day’s Sunday service; because I get to highlight a story from the Bible of a great woman of faith. And this morning, I especially look forward to highlighting the life story of one of the greatest and most beloved women of faith in the New Testament.

I admit that the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not she was a mother. (I imagine, though, that she eventually became one.) But being impacted by her story as much as I have, I certainly believe I can claim to be one of her spiritual kids. She is Mary Magdalene. And I hope that this morning, you and I can be encouraged in our own love for Jesus by considering her example together.

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Now; if you are familiar with the stories of the Bible, you might have already noticed that the name “Mary” is a pretty common one. There are no less than six different women in the New Testament that go by that name. There is, of course, Mary, the mother of our Lord. And then, another famous and much-loved Mary is the one who lived in Bethany—and who was the sister of Martha and Lazaras. There is the Mary who was the mother of John Mark; and the Mary who was the mother of the disciples James and Joses. And in Romans 16:6, Paul sent greetings to a Roman woman named Mary “who labored much” for Paul and his co-workers. And finally, of course, there is the Mary that we will be considering this morning—often called Mary Magdgalene.

As you read your Bible, it pays to keep careful track of which Mary is which.

We traditionally identify this particular Mary by the name ‘Magdalene’; but that’s not because that was her last name. Rather, it’s because she was known by her hometown. And I suggest we begin our study of the lessons we can learn from her by considering …


It went by a few different names. It is most commonly called “Magdala”. Sometimes, the Bible calls it Magada. One one occasion, it is associated with the name Dalmanutha. And what is particularly interesting about this town is that—until very recently—historians were not entirely sure where it was.

I was reading through some commentaries on the New Testament some time back, and I encountered a statement that one of the more recently published commentaries made about how it was a little town along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee; but that no one was really sure where this town was. And I got really excited when I read that because since that commentary was published, the town of Magdala had been found—and I even got to visit it. You see; Mary’s home-town of Magdala was literally re-discovered only just about 9 years ago. And it’s been one of the most exciting archeological discoveries of recent times.

Back around 2003, Pope John Paul II had ordered that a chapel be built at the approximate cite of the old city of Magdala in honor of Mary Magdalene. But as they began to clear the ground for the chapel, they were surprised to discover the ruins of the city—buried under about 8 to 10 feet of earth. And as a result, the plans for the chapel had to immediately be put on hold as they excavated what they had found.

There is a chapel there today that is built in honor of Mary; and it’s a pleasant place to visit. But off the way a short distance from the chapel is what remains of ancient houses and buildings and streets. It’s very close to the shore of the Sea of Galilee; and so you can tell that a booming fishing industry had once characterized the city. In fact, you can see the remains of the homes of some relatively wealthy people—with several rooms and baths. And when they unearthed this city, they even found artifacts of Roman soldiers that had been left there. Ancient historians and the Jewish Talmadic writings tell us that Magdala was once a wealthy and thriving fishing town; but that it was a town that also had a reputation for immorality. The Romans later chose to destroy it because of the moral depravity of its inhabitants. (The immorality of the place had to have bee pretty bad for the Romans to decided to destroy it!) And that’s why it was buried under several feet of dirt, and why it’s whereabouts were not known until just recently.

But one of the most fascinating parts of this ancient city that they have recently discovered was its synagogue. Much of it is amazingly intact, with some beautiful mosaics on the floors of the synagogue that still remain. You can go there today and even see the stone benches where the Jewish people would have sat and listened to the Scriptures being read. And what is especially thrilling about this ancient synagogue in the recently discovered town of Madgala is that, as you stand gazing upon its interior section, you realize that you are standing a few feet from a spot where—without a doubt—the Lord Jesus would have once stood and taught.

The Bible tells us, in Matthew 4:23;

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23).

And so, this would have been one of those very synagogues that Jesus would have visited. I believe that that’s how Mary of Magdala would have first encountered Him. Jesus transformed the lives of all kinds of people with all kinds sicknesses and diseases; and even cast out demons that were tormenting some of them. And apparently, Mary was one of the people He would have saved and taught.

* * * * * * * * * *

And that leads us next to consider …


There’s one thing we can know for sure about Mary’s life before Jesus encountered her. And that is that she had, at one time, been afflicted terribly by diabolical spirits. Luke 8:2 tells us about some of the women who had followed Jesus and aided Him in His earthly ministry; “certain women” we’re told, “who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities”. And among them, we’re told, was “Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons.”

It’s hard to imagine what kind of a torment this must have been for this poor woman. We read the stories in the Bible of people who were indwelt by a single demon; and we read of how much torment one demon alone caused. But this woman had seven! Jesus once told a parable that reminds me of this. He said;

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).

Could it be that something like that happened to her? We can’t tell. But however it came to pass, this poor woman was in desperate need of Jesus’ healing touch when He came to town.

Now; there’s another thing that might be true of Mary’s life before Jesus encountered her—but we can’t be quite so as sure about it as we are about her demonic oppression. There has been a long-standing tradition that Mary is the woman we read about in Chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel. Luke 7 tells us that Jesus went one day to the home of a Pharisee named Simon for dinner. And as they ate,

behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil (Luke 7:37-38).

When we’re told that this woman—whoever she was—was ‘a woman in the city who was a sinner’, the implication is quite obvious what kind of immoral woman she had the reputation of being. And the Pharisee who invited Jesus was deeply offended by the fact that she entered in and did what she was doing. Simon thought that if Jesus was truly a man of God, He would certainly have known what kind of woman this was—and would never allow Himself to be touched by her like this. But Jesus—knowing Simon’s thoughts—told him a parable:

There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:41-50).

I love that story; don’t you? But was it a story of Mary Magdalene—as many throughout the history of the church have said? Well; we can’t know for sure. It’s interesting to notice, though, that we’re almost immediately told about Mary a couple of verses later—by name—in Luke 8:2. Personally, I tend to believe that this indeed was a part of her story; and that perhaps the Gospel writers avoided saying her name out of respect for her. (I look forward to asking her about it one day.) But there’s one thing about all this of which we can be absolutely sure: Mary Magdalene was a woman that Jesus delivered from the clutches of the devil; and she greatly loved Him for what He did for her.

By the way. Before we go any further, I wonder if I can ask about your love for Jesus. Is it a truly sincere and passionate one—like the woman in that story? Or is it sort of weak and indifferent—like the Pharisee? The lesson of that story—and of the whole life of Mary Magdalene—seems to be that our love for Jesus as our Savior, and devotion to Him, will only be as deep and intense as our awareness is of what it is that He has saved us from. If you don’t really love Jesus all that much, could it be that you have not yet really come to terms with your own sin—and with your own need for Him as Savior?

This may not sound like a very kind thing to say; but I hope that God will open your eyes to how great your sin is in His holy sight, and to how much you need to be saved. I hope that He will allow you to see how much of a prisoner the devil has made you; and all so that you will run to Jesus, believe on His cross, cry out to Him for deliverance, and be saved by Him.

That’s when you really grow to love Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

So; Mary Magdalene was a very needy sinner—certainly held prisoner to seven demons; and perhaps also characterized by a very scandalous and immoral life. But she heard about Jesus when He came to her town; and He mercifully saved her. He saves every sinner that comes to Him.

And that leads us to notice next …


Now; maybe you’ll agree with me on this. You can really tell whether or not someone has been truly saved by Jesus simply by looking at what they do with Him afterward. If someone has prayed a prayer, and said that they trusted Jesus as their Savior, but then hardly ever give a thought to Him afterward and seem to go on with life as if their encounter with Him really didn’t make much difference, then I have to wonder if they were ever really saved by Him at all.

For Mary Magdalene, though, there was absolutely no doubt! Jesus saved her; and she became His devoted follower from then on. You can really tell this by looking at Luke 8:1-3. Look again at that passage:

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance (Luke 8:1-3).

There must have been quite a transformation in Mary’s life for these other women to be willing to serve Jesus along with her. It would seem that she followed Him in much of His earthly ministry from then on; and heard much of His teaching, and saw many of the miracles He performed. She, no doubt, spent may precious hours sitting at His feet. And I suggest to you that Mary’s devotion to Jesus remained true all the way to the day He hung on the cross. Mary was, after all, a woman of the regions of Galilee—a long way north of Jerusalem. And yet, when we next read of her, we find her mentioned in John 19 with a group of other women named Mary;

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25).

And what’s more, we find that she followed Him even beyond the cross. Consider what we’re told in Matthew 27;

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:57-61).

Mary Magdalene followed Jesus so closely that she watched as He was buried. And then, she drew even closer still. John 20 tells us the story of the Sunday after He was crucified; and it begins by saying,

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark … (John 20:1a).

It doesn’t seem to me that there was anyone who clung more closely and more consistently to Jesus than Mary Magdalene did—even after everyone else had forsaken Him; and even all the way through the dark days of His crucifixion, His death, and His burial.

What a lesson of devotion she gives us! If she would follow Him so devotedly through His death and burial, how much more we should do so now that He has been raised!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; John 20:1 Mary came early that morning to find that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. And when she ran and told Peter and the other disciples what she saw, they came and looked too. They walked away in dismay because Jesus’ body was gone. But even then, Mary still would not leave. The Bible tells us that she remained outside the tomb weeping.

And that leads us to yet another important part of Mary’s story …


The Bible tells us;

and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher) (John 20:11-16).

Now; I have to tell you—I just love what Jesus then told her. Please don’t miss the significance of it. Jesus told her, in verse 17, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father …” But in the original language, He wasn’t telling her not to touch Him. Instead, He was telling her to stop holding on to Him! He assured her that He hadn’t ascended to the Father yet. He wasn’t leaving her. But just think of how much that tells us that she loved Him! She thought that He was taken from her through death. but now that she has found Him alive again, she didn’t want to ever let Him go. Do you and I love Him that much?

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her (vv. 17-18).

It must have taken a lot of assurance for her to leave Him at that time. But she obeyed—which, again, shows us how much she loved Him. And consider what an immeasurably great honor it was that Jesus gave to this dear redeemed woman who loved Him so much: He made her the world’s first evangelist. She went forth to tell everyone that Jesus is alive—after He had gained the victory over death for us at the cross; and that He now says that His Father is now our Father, and His God is now our God!

Mary Magdalene, then—this woman who had been delivered by Jesus and who loved Him so intensely—was the first person to see Jesus Christ alive from the dead, and the first person to rejoice over the victory He gained for us at the cross, and the first person to love Him as our resurrected Savior, and the first person to obey His command to go out and tell others about what He has done.

Do you suppose that I would be stretching things too far to say that this humble, redeemed woman named Mary Magdalene was history’s first Christian?

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; let me close by sharing one more thing about her story; and that’s …


The last hint we find of Mary is in the beginning chapters of the Book of Acts. Jesus had ascended to the Father; and His disciples were obeying His command to tarry until the coming of the Holy Spirit—at which time they would be given power to be His witnesses in the world. Acts 1:12-14 tell us;

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (Acts 1:12-14).

With “the women”? What women would that be? That would be the women who had been following Him all along. And that would include Mary Magdalene. And that would then mean that she was part of the “these all” who were “with one accord in one place” in Acts 2:1 on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit finally came.

Now; the Bible tells us nothing more about her. As you may know, there are stories about her apart from the Bible that were written centuries later; but they can’t be trusted as reliable at all. But we certainly can learn a great deal from what the Bible does tell us about her. She was a sinner who was in desperate need; and she encountered Jesus and became a recipient of His redeeming grace. He delivered her from her bondage to the devil; and she then became a devoted follower of Him. In fact, I would argue that it would be hard to find anyone who was more of a devoted follower of Jesus during His earthly life than Mary was. She loved Him and remained devoted to Him after everyone else had been scattered and had abandoned Him. And as a result, she was the first person to see Him in His resurrection. What’s more, she was given the privilege of being the first person to go out and tell others about Him after He was raised. In the end, she was found in the midst of those who were closest to Him—and was even there when the Holy Spirit came, and the church began.

I want my love for Jesus to be more like the love that Mary Magdalene had for Him; don’t you? Truly, she is a great example to us of what it looks like for a redeemed sinner to love the Savior.

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