Jeffery Archer says no author of fiction ever gives characters the same name, which authenticates some of the biblical narrative, as it is confusing we have James the brother of John and James the brother of Jesus are two different guys both called James.
Or we have Philip the disciple, who is a different fella from Philip the Deacon in the early Church (who goes on to see the Ethiopian Eunuch converted)…
And then not only do we have Mary Jesus’ Mum, but also Mary Magdalene… In fact we have few a few stories featuring a ‘Mary’ and I think an interesting question is, is it the same person? Also, in art, movies and literature Mary Magdalene features heavily, but its worth asking what is biblical and what is artistic licence?
So, lets do a bit of digging into scripture and see what we can find out?
And (more importantly) what we can learn from all this?
So, let’s look at the woman caught in the act of adultery, who was about to be stoned, and Jesus saved her with the challenge “let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” (Jn.8.9) -often in this story this is Jesus’ first meeting with Mary Magdalene, but in scripture this women isn’t given a name. Yet we do know that Mary Magdalene did come from a troubled background (Mark 16. v9) talks of Jesus freeing her from 7 demons.
Early we see Jesus go to Lazarus’ house (Luke 10), where a girl called Mary sat at his feet and hung on his every word, whilst her sister Martha, busied herself in preparing a meal for him and the other guests. The girls are bickering like teenagers, and maybe they are? Perhaps living with their older brother as their guardian?
Martha wants Mary to stop listening to Jesus and help with the hospitality and preparations, yet Jesus sticks up for her and says, that Mary has chosen the better thing.
Our next encounter we see Lazarus dying (Jn 11) , and Martha rebuking Jesus going out to him saying (I think is an accusing way) “If you were here my brother would not have died” where Mary stayed at home where Jesus met with her and wept with her, before raising her brother from the grave. A contrast in attitude when the bottom drops out of your world?
According to John it is this Mary who anoints Jesus at his meal with expensive perfume, filling the whole house with its fragrance (a whole sermon is here about the fragrance of Christ that lingers long after our departure). Again we see Jesus sticking up for her, “she has done a beautiful public thing”-anointing Jesus- rather than a horrid unseen thing -Judas stealing from the disciples purse.
Interestingly a very similar story is told in the other gospel accounts which talk about ‘a sinful woman’ anoints him, “if he was a prophet, he (Jesus) would now what kind of woman was touching him” and Jesus rebukes him with the line “those who have been forgiven little love little but those who have been forgiven much love much”…
Perhaps she did have something of a past, perhaps the prodigal sons return home was a prodigal sister accepted back into the heart of the family by a loving brother?
If this is the same Mary, its worth pointing out that it is her standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross, weeping by his tomb and witnessing first hand the resurrected Christ. Martha is no where to be seen when the time really matters.
Mary heard Jesus speak her name and recognized his voice.
A challenge are we people who sit at Jesus feet?
Are we people who trust him when things go wrong?
Are we are people like Mary who unashamed of Christ, and worship him was an extravagance…
Do we fill homes with the fragrance of our worship?
Are we there where and when it matters, encountering Christ both crucified and resurrected?
Have we heard Christ call our name?
Do we recognize his voice?