Walking with the Savior: A deeper look at Mary Magdalene’s discipleship

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Photo credit: Ellie Perkins

This is the third, and final, article in a series about women in the scriptures. The first article explores the story of the woman with the issue of blood, and the second one teaches of Sariah’s trials in the wilderness.

Mary Magdalene may not be the most talked about or well-known disciple, but she had the indescribable honor of being the first person to witness the resurrected Christ.

The Healing

In Luke 8, we learn that Christ healed Mary Magdalene from the torment of seven devils. Though the full magnitude of her suffering during that time is unknown, we know it was a dark time for her.

In his book, The Mortal Messiah, Bruce R. McConkie, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote, “Hers was no ordinary illness, and we cannot do other than to suppose that she underwent some great spiritual test — a personal Gethsemane, a personal temptation in the wilderness for forty days, as it were —which she overcame and rose above — all preparatory to the great mission and work she was destined to perform.”

The fact that people believed her to have seven devils is significant because the number seven often symbolizes wholeness.

According to an article by Camille Front Olsen, a former professor and religious scholar, “The number seven in scripture often connotes wholeness, a complete period of time, or totality. Mary’s ailment involving seven devils may say more about the magnitude of Christ’s power to heal than her previous spiritual, emotional, or moral health. In announcing Mary’s cure, Luke may be confirming that through the power of Christ, Mary was completely healed, she was made whole, or she was completely liberated from her illness.”

I believe the adversary works hard to attack and beat down the strongest of us. Satan is driven by pride and jealousy. He wants to eliminate all happiness because he himself is miserably unhappy. His efforts to halt the progress of God’s plan stem from the emptiness he feels due to his inability to progress and reach exaltation.

He works tirelessly to drag other people down to misery with him.

The adversary saw Mary’s resilient heart and her extraordinary potential to do good, and he wanted to stop her. Her goodness and light terrified him.

We don’t know how long Mary endured the torment of seven devils, but it must have been a very lonely time for her. Back then, people accused of having unclean spirits or devils were outcasts in society.

Christ, however, saw past her tribulations; He saw her heart. With Him, she found healing, light and peace, and she became one of his most devoted disciples.

Mary’s discipleship

Nothing is written about Mary Magdalene from the time of her healing until Christ’s crucifixion, but we know that she followed Him, along with the apostles, during that time.

While the Savior suffered on the cross, Mary Magdalene was among the women who faithfully remained with Him.

John 19:25 states, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Photo credit: Ellie Perkins

Just as Christ supported her during the darkest time of her life, she stood by Him during one of His darkest hours. Words cannot describe the pain, grief and helplessness she must have felt as she watched her Savior and friend suffer.

His hands, bleeding and torn from the nails holding Him up on the cross, had made her whole, and she had seen those hands heal so many others. Even the very Earth, created by His hands, shuddered after He let out His last breath.

Matthew 27:51 states, “The earth did quake, and the rocks rent.”

Even after His death, Mary Magdalene stayed by His side. She, along with Mary (the mother of James and Joses), went straight to the sepulcher where His body was wrapped in linen and laid to rest. Afterwards, a big stone was rolled in front of the entrance.

The women lingered there even after others had departed. As disciples of Christ, they had made many sacrifices to follow Him during His ministry. Nothing is written about Mary Magdalene’s family or life prior to her encounter with Christ, but we know she dropped everything she had to be at His side daily.

Not only did she mourn for the loss of her friend, but she likely had lost her sense of purpose and direction. What would be next for her? After lingering at the sepulcher, they returned home to honor the sabbath (which in their day, was on Saturday).

The first to see the resurrected Savior

The women returned on Sunday. Luke 24:1 states they were “bringing the spices which they had prepared” to clean Christ’s body for the burial ceremony. However, when they approached the tomb, they saw that the big stone previously blocking the entrance had been rolled away.

They must have felt a mix of confusion and fear as they approached the open tomb, likely thinking Christ’s body had been stolen. Amidst those feelings of uncertainty, however, they continued forward.

Photo credit: Ellie Perkins

Inside, Christ’s body was gone, but they were greeted by two angels. Matthew 28:3 described the angels to have a countenance like lightning and robes as white as snow.

In Matthew 28:5-6, the angels spoke to the women and rejoiced in the resurrection. They said, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

They told the women to quickly go and tell the apostles the good news. I can’t imagine the wonder, joy and fear they felt as they rushed to the apostles. Not only had they seen angels and felt the powerful spirit they carry, but they also knew their Savior and friend had overcome death. They would see Him again.

When they told the apostles what had happened, most of them refused to believe. Perhaps they didn’t want to give themselves a false sense of hope in their state of grief.

Luke 24:11 states, “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”

Peter and another disciple, however, ran straight to the sepulcher upon hearing the news. Entering the tomb, they saw that His body was gone, and His clothes were neatly folded.

According to Olsen’s article, “The burial clothes were folded, with those that covered the head separate from the burial strips that had clothed the rest of his body. The scene bespeaks a calm and orderly departure rather than a robbery. If indeed the resurrected Lord was the one who folded them, the neatly wrapped clothing suggests a solemn and reverent reflection, even awe, at what had just occurred.”

After witnessing this, Peter and the other disciple believed, and they returned home. But John 20:11 states that,”Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping.”

In her sorrow, she looked again into the tomb and saw two angels. The angels asked her why she was crying, and she told them she wanted to know where the body of Christ was taken.

With tear-filled eyes, she turned around to face the resurrected Christ, thinking He was a gardener. Perhaps she didn’t recognize Him at first because her vision was blurred by her tears. Or maybe she felt ashamed for openly weeping and kept her head down. Either way, she did not know it was the Savior.

He asked, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?”

She asked Him if He had taken the body of Christ and wanted to know where it was. Christ then called her by name, and she instantly knew Him. “She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”

Christ walks with us

Just like Mary Magdalene, we all go through dark times, and if we turn to Christ, He will make us whole. Not only does He know us each by name, but He is the only other person who understands all of our pains, worries, doubts and fears because He has experienced them.

The adversary will do everything in his power to tear us down. He sees our potential and wants to destroy every ounce of light and goodness within us. But we do not have to face him alone.

Christ walks with us. He will strengthen us and lighten our path. There is hidden strengthen within each of us, and as we trust in God, He will help us see it.

Christ lives, and when we follow Him, we do not have to fear.