About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Through The Eyes Of Mary Magdalene

 

Most of what you read in the following paragraphs is based on Biblical history.  Most of the rest is based on well documented extra Biblical history. Thus, the part of what you read that puts flesh and blood to the skeleton of this story has a high probability of being accurate.  Despite the debate over John 8:1 - 11 being a legitimate part of Scripture, the setting for the following is found therein.

 

Mary Magdalene was filled with sympathy and compassion as she observed the commotion first hand.  She was flooded with sadness to see this young girl being dragged down the stony street and thrown at the feet of Jesus.  The pain and anguish on the girl's face was clearly visible.  "I know that dreadful facial expression", Mary thought.  "She fears for her very life".     

 

Rage consumed Mary as she watched the whole episode unfold.  "These men esteem themselves to be the cream of the religious crop in Jerusalem ", she muttered in disgust.  They were also the civil authorities in the city, members of the prestigious assembly of the Sanhedrin.  These were wealthy men who paid the Roman authorities off with great sums of money to secure a seat in the Sanhedrin.  I guess nothing really changes.  The addiction to wealth, power, and let's admit it, adulterous sex, rules the day.  It was in the midst of this world that a defenseless teenager found herself being used as a pawn in a mind game that would determine her future.          

 

Everyone standing by was well aware of the Law of Moses.  Both Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 - 24 commanded that this young girl be stoned to death; that's assuming she could be found guilty by two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15)  Mary could guess what really transpired here.  These guys probably set this young girl up.  It would have been prearranged.  One Pharisee would visit the girl the night before.  While having his way with her, three other Pharisees would drop by to catch the girl, not the man, in the "very act of adultery", as they would have put it.  So there you go.  They caught the guilty girl in the very act of sin and they have three witnesses to prove it.     

 

Mary was also quite familiar with men like these Pharisees.  She knew what they liked, what they didn't like, and of course, she knew what turned them on.  Mary was also familiar with the life of this teenager.  It mirrored who she once was; a young lady tangled in a web of poverty, adultery, authority, and law.    

 

Mary took a second look at these hypocritical Pharisees.  She recalled Jesus calling them hypocrites and snakes, (Matthew 23:33) so she felt in good company thinking of them in like fashion.  Most of these men had a liberal view of the divorce law as stated in Deuteronomy 24:1 - 4.  They believed in free and easy divorce for any and every conceivable reason.  "How convenient", Mary thought.  "They liberalize the Law of the Lord to suit their own life of lasciviousness".  Jesus had already confronted these guys on the issue of free and easy divorce, (Matthew 19:1 - 12) and now He would get to the heart of the matter.  "It's legalized wife swapping.  That's the heart of the matter", Mary thought.  These men routinely divorced their wives for the sole purpose of hooking up with the lady across the street.  Then, once they got tired of her, they searched for a replacement.  Of course, they still visited the young girls in the back streets of their holy city of Jerusalem .           

 

Mary glanced over to the teary eyed girl, and then turned her attention to Jesus.  She wondered how He'd get out of this one.  Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, but how could he extend forgiveness to this girl when the command said stone her.   The Pharisees hoped that Jesus would specifically say "I forgive you".  That would be a capital crime, punishable by death.  Only God could forgive sin, and these men sure didn't believe Jesus wasn't God.  They'd gladly exchange the death of this girl for the death of Jesus. 

 

In arrogance, the Pharisees stood tall.  With arms crossed over their outward extended chests, they looked down to the girl on the ground and then looked over to Jesus.  They knew Jesus couldn't escape this trap, but Mary knew better.  Jesus was no fool.  These men had failed numerous times in the past to trap Jesus in matters of the Law of Moses.  This time would be no different.  They'd soon give up trying to legally trap Jesus.  They'd simply lay the law aside, arrest, convict, and condemn Him to death. 

 

Although Jesus had a quiet disposition, which was now quite evident as He stood before the Pharisees in silence, He was capable of standing up to the toughest of guys.  He was no wimp.  He proved that when He threw the heavy wooden money changers tables over in the temple.  Jesus wasn't a weakling either.  As a carpenter, He had spent close to two decades hauling around big slabs of limestone and heavy wooden planks.  Let's be realistic.  Jesus had his share of muscles. 

 

As Mary stepped back, she waited for Jesus' response, but He remained silent.  The Pharisees felt completely in control now.  They interpreted His silence to be defeat, but again, Mary knew better.  She would later learn that Pilate, the Roman governor of the province of Judea , was also irritated with Jesus' silence.  Pilate scolded Jesus for refusing to answer him.  In no uncertain terms Pilate told Jesus that he alone controlled His future.  Jesus put Pilate in his place by quietly but confidently telling him that he had absolutely no control over Him other than what God His Father gave him. (John 19:11)  Clearly, silence doesn't always mean defeat.  Silence can easily signify the security of one being in control.     

 

Mary had seen it all before.  The Pharisees didn't really want this girl dead.  The blunt and honest truth of the matter was that they'd rather see her lie in bed than lie dead on the street.  They had no intention of stoning her.  She just happened to be a trapper's legal tool of choice that day.  Besides, they viewed their association with her as a humanitarian effort.  They supported her and she serviced them.  In the end, everyone wins, or so they thought.       

 

Mary had seen such things back in her home town.

She was known as Mary Magdalene because

she lived in Magdala, in the province of Galilee.  Magdala was a small fishing town on the north west corner of the Sea of Galilee. (Magdala - Magadan in Matthew 15:39 - NIV)  Magdala was roughly 7 kilometers, or about 4 miles, south and west of Capernaum where Jesus had been living.  Magdala was about the same distance north of Tiberias, the capital city of Galilee.  A young lady could keep food on her table by hanging out with the large contingent of Romans soldiers based in Tiberias, many of whom were far from home. 

 

The name Mary was a popular name among Israeli women back then.  In fact there are six other women named Mary found in the New Testament.  Of course, there was Mary the mother of Jesus.  There was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. (John 11)  There was Mary the mother of Joses who witnessed Jesus' death and resurrection. (Mark 15:47, 16:1 - 8)  Beyond these Mary's, there was Mary the mother of John Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark (Acts 12:12) and Mary who lived in Rome . (Romans 16:6)     

 

We can safely assume that Mary of Magdala was born into poverty since few young Israeli girls aspired to become a prostitute.  She would have been looked down upon on two counts.  She was a prostitute and she was a Galilean.  For this reason she was viewed as the scum of the earth by those affluent Israelis in Jerusalem , the holy city where she now stood agonizing over a girl of similar reputation. 

 

Mary was a bit impatient as she glanced at Jesus. She wondered why He was being silent for so long.  She recalled a similar occasion back in Galilee.  A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to his house for lunch. (Luke 7:36 - 50)  "Here goes again", Mary recollected.  "This guy has ulterior motives". 

 

Simon and Jesus weren't good buddies talking about old times over a goblet of wine and some spiced bread.  This was a working lunch for Simon.  He was just one more Pharisee in a long line of lunatics, as Mary viewed them, attempting to trap Jesus in tedious legalities.  Mary wondered if this was becoming some kind of game for these guys.        

 

As usual, Jesus' followers accompanied Him everywhere He went, and Mary was no exception.  The Jewish culture of community was well apparent at this lunch.  Many others were crowded into the room, including a well known prostitute, who by the way, seemed to be quite comfortable in Simon's house.  "How interesting", Mary recalled thinking.  "Was the young girl another pawn in the palms of the Pharisees"?  Apparently she wasn't.  Mary cringed as she watched this young lady stoop down at Jesus' feet.  This was no Pharisaical scam.  This girl shed real tears as she washed Jesus' feet with perfume she would have used in her line of work.  Then, she dried His feet with her hair.  Mary noted the expression of disgust on Simon's face as he watched this outburst of affection.       

 

In a torrent of rage, Simon snarled at Jesus.  "How can you in all godly honesty allow this filthy woman to touch you"?   

 

"I'm sure this so-called filthy woman has touched you Simon", Mary remembered thinking.  As quickly as that disgusting thought came to Mary's mind it was interrupted by some gracious words from the lips of Jesus.  "You are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you".  Upon hearing these words, the light bulb of revelation lit up Mary's mind.  This girl was forgiven because she had faith in Jesus, which was clearly evident by her good deed done to Him.  Mary clearly understood that forgiveness was predicated upon the fact that one must have faith.  Then, it dawned on her.  As John the Baptist preached, one must repent before one can exhibit real faith.  First comes repentance, then faith, and then forgiveness.      

 

We don't know a lot about Mary Magdalene's past life.  She probably wasn't a regular synagogue goer once she began working the streets.  One thing we do know is that Jesus healed her of some kind of illness and cast seven demons out of her. (Luke 8:1 - 2)  The fact that Jesus healed Mary might suggest that she had some kind of illness, an illness that might have been an occupational hazard.  Whatever the case, now whole, healthy, and forgiven, she stood before Jesus, eagerly anticipating another memorable moment.

 

The Pharisees grew restless.  They made the young prostitute stand to her feet.  "Come on Jesus.  What's your verdict?  We haven't got all day".  Mary knew Jesus wouldn't respond to the snap of the Pharisees fingers.  He was the one in control here, not them.  So, to intentionally slow down the pace even more, Jesus took His own sweet time and knelt down to the ground and began to write in the sand.  Mary smiled.  "Make them squirm a bit Jesus", she thought.   

 

One could never anticipate what Jesus would do in a situation like this.  He had done some weird things, like spitting on the dirt and pushing the moistened spit filled mud into a blind man's eyes. (John 9:6)  That turned Mary's stomach, but she had to admit, the results were amazing. 

 

The deafening silence finally broke.  Jesus looked up, perused the faces of the Pharisees, and then calmly but pointedly pronounced, "If any of you are without sin, you cast the first stone".   With these few words Jesus had cornered these guys.  They were speechless.        

 

"Brilliant!  This one was worth waiting for", Mary thought as she observed Jesus writing something else in the sand.  She was now more curious than ever about what He was writing, but she dared not get any closer for fear of spoiling the moment.      

 

Mary now expected Jesus to forgive this poor girl.  She knew all about being forgiven, but she also knew that forgiveness wasn't the end of the matter.  Although her thinking was fuzzy on the matter, she recalled Jesus saying something about His disciples receiving the Holy Spirit once He was glorified. (John 7:39)  She was unsure what glorified meant, but she knew that receiving the Holy Spirit had something to do with being forgiven.      

 

Mary would later learn that after Jesus rose from the dead, He suddenly appeared out of thin air to His eleven chosen apostles who were hiding behind locked doors.  As they stood in stunned silence, He walked over to them, breathed on them, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  As my Father has sent me, I'm sending you". (John 20:22)  This symbolic gesture would find its fulfillment a few weeks later in the lives of the disciples. (Acts 2)  Jesus specifically told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the gift of the Holy Spirit was given them. (Acts 1:4)  Forgiveness of sins was important for Mary, but she'd soon experience why she had been forgiven in the firs place.             

 

As Mary watched Jesus writing in the sand, she saw the Pharisees leaving.  Strangely enough, they left one by one in descending order of age, from the oldest to the youngest.  Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand, and Christians have pondered over this for centuries. Jesus outsmarted the Pharisees again.  Mary did her best to hold back her laughter.     

 

As the Pharisees walked by Mary in defeat, one of them looked her over and stared her down.  "I've heard rumors about you and Jesus", he said with a hint of cynicism.  Mary knew of these rumors, but in the midst of this memorable moment, she sure didn't need to be reminded of them.  One thing Mary didn't know is that these rumors would be associated with her name throughout history.  

 

"I've heard rumors about you too", Mary thought as she peered at this Pharisee with eyes aflame with holy indignation.     

 

The Pharisees were known to spread their share of rumors, one of which has been believed by many to this very day.  They bribed the temple guards who kept watch over the tomb where Jesus was buried.  In exchange for a sum of money, the guards claimed they fell asleep, and while sleeping, the disciples stole Jesus' body.   In other words, the guards were well paid to take the fall for the disappearance of Jesus' body.  This became the official temple press release. (Matthew 28:13)  So there you go again.  Money, bribes, and lies, rule the day in the hallowed halls of power and politics. 

 

There's no doubt that Mary was attracted to Jesus but her attraction had nothing to do with romance.  Jesus was far from being the most handsome guy in town.  There was nothing about His outward appearance that would cause a young girl to go all google-eyed over Him. (Isaiah 53:2)  No, Mary wasn't attracted to Jesus romantically.  It was His divine presence that drew her to Him.  She had never met anyone that was so divinely captivating.  That made complete sense.  The Almighty Lord God, or, Yahweh Elohim, as she might have put it, had entered her life.  The Son of God who the Pharisees rejected was Son of God who Mary embraced.      

  

After Jesus' public humiliation of the Pharisees, they headed back to the temple with even greater resolve to get Him.  This embarrassment did little for their public persona.  So, before long, their lawful attempts to trap Jesus would become unlawful.  Lawfully or unlawfully, they had now determined to do Jesus in for good.  They wanted Him dead.

 

Mary's eyes were fixated on Jesus as He now gave His full attention to the young prostitute.  Mary was sure "I forgive you" would be the next words uttered from Jesus, but technically speaking, that wasn't exactly the case.  With tender hearted compassion, Jesus asked the girl, "Where are your accusers?  Has no one condemned you"?

 

"Interesting", Mary thought.  "Jesus has just asked her a question that will cause her to reflect on what has just happened".  More than any words Jesus could have spoken, and He didn't say much, He had turned a negative nasty experience into a positive learning experience.  Mary realized what much of our modern church doesn't realize, and that's people learn more by what they experience than by what they hear in a sermon.  Words are easy to say.  Walking one through his trials isn't so easy.  All the sermons in the world could not have changed this girl's life as was the case when Jesus walked through this experience with her.        

 

As is often the case in today's ecclesiastical world, Mary was used to the religious leaders standing before crowds.  They would teach the Law with such eloquence that it would make any Greek philosopher sit up and notice.  Their impressive prayers were merely for show. (Matthew 6:5 - 8)  These guys gloated in the glory of being in the spotlight. 

 

Jesus did teach the masses, but for those to whom He gave Himself, He walked through life with them.  By so doing, His disciples would learn more than a thousand sermons could teach them.  Of course, walking through life with someone doesn't put you in the limelight, but I tell you this, this prostitute sure benefited from Jesus taking the time to walk through this part of her life.   

 

I'm sure this girl was now greatly relieved, although still shocked and seriously shaken up.  She had been set up, sexually abused, dragged down a stony street, thrown at the feet of Jesus, and condemned to death.  I'd suggest that's a bit nerve racking.  Now, as her voice quivered, she stumbled over her reply.  "N n no no one, s s ... sir".  Jesus had completely disarmed her opponents.  Not one of them was left standing.  It was just her and Jesus. 

 

Mary was awe struck.  "Just her and Jesus", she thought.  Not wanting to intrude on this sacred scene, she stepped back. 

 

As important as the community of believers are to disciples of Jesus, let's never forget, nothing replaces me and Jesus.  If me and Jesus isn't working, community won't work either.  This was clearly one of those me and Jesus moments.  This sinner now stood spellbound in the immediate presence of the Son of the Almighty God.  She would never, and I mean never, be the same.        

 

The girl was speechless.  What else could she do or say, but nervously answer Jesus with three words.  "No one, sir".  That was it; just three little words.  "No one, sir".  Most can't begin to imagine how she felt at this precise moment, but Mary certainly could.  Jesus had walked the same mile with her just a year or so earlier.  Mary did benefit from listening to Jesus teach from the hillsides.  There's no doubt about that, but most of all, she benefited from Jesus walking through life's experiences with her.  Only then did the hillside sermons become reality in her life.           

 

As gracefully as she could, Mary stepped back again.  Those around her did the same.  Everyone was silent.  No one dared to disturb or disrupt this me and Jesus moment.   

 

Let's not be mistaken, teaching is important, but it's more productive when accompanied by walking out what is being taught with others in the experiences of life.  The words that Jesus would say next would seal the life lesson Jesus wanted this girl to learn. 

 

As Jesus glanced down the street to see the last Pharisee disappear from sight, He focused His attention back onto the young and still nervous prostitute.  "Neither do I condemn you", He said.  Again, it didn't take many words, but these five words turned a sinner into a saint, and that without the recommendation of a pope.

 

Before Mary could ponder these words over Jesus added, "Go and sin no more".  Jesus wouldn't let her off the hook.  The Greek active imperative verb tense of "go and sin no more" tells us that in no uncertain terms this young lady must stop prostituting herself, even if it was her livelihood.  This was not cheap grace.  She was not to take the love of the Lord for granted.  The designation of saint comes with certain responsibilities, which includes stop sinning. 

 

Mary was living one day at a time, as were all of the disciples.  No one really knew what to expect from one day to the next.  The one thing they did expect was more trouble from the religious establishment.  The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was escalating to the extent that Jesus was now talking about His death.  The men, especially Peter, rejected such talk.  The women, however, intuitively knew something horrific was about to happen. 

 

Little did Mary realize at the time but she'd soon be thrown into a fearful depression.  The day would come when she would stand at the foot of a Roman cross. (John 19:25)  There, she would be hit with a sickening sadness.  With tear drenched cheeks she'd see the naked and bloody body of her beloved Lord.  Despite all the paintings you've seen of Jesus wearing a loin cloth while on the cross, that wasn't the case.  Romans stripped both men and women naked prior to execution.  Mary would no longer be able to handle this ugly and degrading sight.  She would look away.  The prophet Isaiah rightly predicted that Jesus' physical body would be so disfigured and marred that it would have no resemblance of any human likeness or form. (Isaiah 52:14) 

 

Isaiah also predicted that in the process of being punished on behalf of every individual who has ever lived, or ever will live, Jesus would be beaten, pierced. smitten, afflicted, and crushed to death. (Isaiah 53:4 - 5)  The Apostle Paul would later teach that Jesus was not only punished for our sins but He Himself actually became sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)   No wonder Jesus' appearance was disfigured beyond human recognition.  It was riddled with sin.     

 

You might think that things could not get any worse for Mary, but that's not so.  Three days later she'd be devastated to see an empty tomb. (John 20:1 - 18)  "How could they be so cruel to steal a dead man's body", she would think.  To make sure her chaotic emotions weren't playing tricks on her she would take another look in the tomb.  She'd then wonder if she was going insane when seeing two angels.

 

"Why are you crying Mary"?  Jesus has risen from the dead", the angels would tell Mary.

 

Stunned by this turn of events, Mary would turn around to hear, "It's me Mary". 

"It's you Jesus", Mary answered. 

 

By now Mary would have been an emotional wreck.  There's no way that you or I could begin to feel what Mary would have just felt.   She was about to give Jesus the biggest hug He'd ever receive but Jesus said,  "Not yet Mary. I haven't returned to my Father".  What that meant Mary probably would not have known, but that wouldn't matter.  She'd be happy to just have Jesus back in her life.

 

As Mary watched the young former prostitute walk away she wonders how this girl could stop sinning.  Mary would soon learn the answer to her query.  After the dust had settled a bit Jesus would tell His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1 - 6)  Staying in Jerusalem would not have been the place of choice for the disciples to stay after all that had transpired there.  Getting back to Galilee as quick as possible would be the safest and logical thing to do, but as is sometimes the case, Jesus would defy human logic.    

 

Acts 1:14 tells us that "Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the other women" were in the upper room when the Holy Spirit fell on the believers.  I'm sure Mary Magdalene was one of these other women.  I'd like to think that this former prostitute might have been one of these other women as well.  Only after receiving the Holy Spirit could Jesus' words to sin no more be realized in her life.  

 

To be Biblically accurate, nowhere in the New Testament does it specifically say that Mary Magdalene was once a prostitute.  Mary's past life has been debated by Bible teachers for centuries.  The debate concerns the identity of the sinful woman who most all view as a prostitute in Luke 7:36 - 50.  Whether this woman was Mary Magdalene or someone else, we really don't know for sure.  So, I cannot dogmatically say that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  However, I have chosen to fall on the side that she was for the sake of this account.     

 

We never see the forgiven prostitute of John 8 again after Jesus tells her to go and sin no more.  We lose track of Mary Magdalene after the day of Pentecost.  There have been attempts over the centuries to link Mary to Jesus in marriage to discredit both His death and resurrection.  I'm sure Mary would have returned to Galilee after Pentecost and served her Lord for the rest of her life.  Some day we might meet up with her in what the book of Revelation calls the new earth.  Maybe then the debate over her past life will end, or, maybe it won't end.  Thanks to Jesus whose naked and bloody body was exposed to both man and angels, we may not have any recollection of sin in the next life, and that includes Mary's sin.  If Mary was once a prostitute, she may never know, and neither will we; and I doubt if we will even care about such things then.  

 

 

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