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Over the centuries, the life of Mary Magdalene has always been shrouded in mystery, yet few can deny her prominence in Scripture. In fact, when it came to the Lord’s ministry on Earth, she was a key figure and she maintained that position even after the Lord Jesus’ Resurrection. The question then remains; why was she so prominent and why has there always been such controversy surrounding her and especially her relationship with Jesus?
Mary Magdalene, as her name suggest, was from Magdala in Galilee and in Luke 8:2-3 we learn that she was delivered from “seven devils” by Jesus and from then on followed Him diligently. There is a traditional belief that she was in fact a woman of unchaste character and over the years this image of her has been clearly imprinted in the minds of people the world over. This belief probably stems from the fact that she needed deliverance and from no less than seven demons. For a person to be in such serious bondage, her life would have had to be very sinful indeed. Her deliverance and subsequent repentance changed all of that however and she became a faithful follower of Jesus and clearly became a person of sound character. She was present at His crucifixion and in John 19:25 we learn that she was also present at His burial. This placed Mary Magdalene at some of the most important places and moments in human history. She was a witness to all these great events, but few can imagine the real reason for her presence in these events and the key role she had to play in them and what it means to the world in the centuries that followed.
In the secular world, many books and even films have tried to cast doubt over the fact that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. There have been very deliberate and sinister attempts by certain secular authors and film producers to create the impression that Jesus was merely a man and it is even suggested that Mary Magdalene had a romantic interest in Jesus. Apart from the utter ludicrousness of such a thought and the fact that there is not the slightest evidence in Scripture to support such a ridiculous statement, the secular world has managed to distort the image of Mary Magdalene in the minds of many people – including the more weaker Christians amongst us. While many churches and Christians are trying to put an end to these vicious lies and accusations, a very significant truth is being overlooked by those for who the real truth of Mary of Magdalene is intended. Careful study of the events surrounding Mary’s life both before and after she met Jesus, will reveal a startling revelation of who she was, or more accurately put, who she symbolises. Despite her long walk with Jesus and her constant presence in the events that surrounded His ministry, the truth of Mary Magdalene was only finally revealed on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In John 20:11–18 we learn that Mary Magdalene went down to the gravesite in the early morning only to find an empty tomb. After informing the Disciples of what happened, both Peter and John went to the tomb with Mary to see the empty tomb for themselves. After they left, Mary took another look into the tomb and found two angels sitting inside the tomb – one at the head and the other at the feet of where Jesus had laid. Many have speculated over why there were two angels, but the events that immediately followed this encounter proves that the angels were there to bear witness to a Heavenly union in the making, because as Mary turned around she saw Jesus standing behind her. Although she didn’t recognsze Him at first, Jesus said these amazing words to her: Woman, why do you weep? Whom do you seek? These words have immense meaning if one has a look at the original Greek in which it was written. The word “woman” in this verse is “guné”, pronounced “goo-nay”. It literally means “wife” and a further study into the root-word will reveal that apart from meaning “wife”, it also means “betroth” or “to become married”. Jesus in other words referred to Mary Magdalene as His wife-to-be. At this point Mary still did not recognise Jesus, but as He called out her name, she suddenly and miraculously recognised Him.
Interestingly enough, the name ‘Mary’ is derived from the Hebrew word “Miryâm” which means “rebellion” and “bitterness”. Israel is well-known for her rebellious and disobedient attitude towards the Lord. This has led to all the bitterness that Israel had to endure during her exile and subsequent dispersion as a result of her sin and unfaithfulness to God. This is not a mere coincidence, but absolutely key in understanding the symbolism of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is symbolic of the Heavenly Bride, Israel. The fact that she was the first person Jesus appeared to after He had risen, is also very significant because faithful to His Word, Jesus first appeared to “His Bride to be” and through this act of love, proved His devotion to His people and the priority Israel have in His heart and plan for mankind. This clearly proves the position Israel has always held in God’s eyes and as in a typical loving marriage, Israel is the number one priority of her Husband. If one really thinks about it, the Lord could have appeared to a number of people after His resurrection, including His disciples or even Pontius Pilate, to proclaim His victory over death, but instead He first appeared to Mary Magdalene.
To further add to the enormity of this event and the Divine declaration, Jesus instructed Mary not to touch Him, since He had “not yet ascended to My Father”. At first glance, this seems to be an odd instruction since we know that Jesus shortly after his Resurrection, told Thomas to put his fingers in His wounds in order for Thomas to believe. That happened before the Lord Jesus ascended to Heaven, so why does He tell Mary not to touch Him? The answer again, lies in the original Greek word for “touch” – which is “haptomai”. Haptomai has a far deeper meaning than to merely touch someone; it literally means “to attach oneself”. Now suddenly it becomes clear what the Lord actually meant when He said to Mary not to touch Him. Jesus is in fact revealing to Israel that He can’t marry her just yet, but when He returns from His Father in Heaven, He will marry His Bride, who is at this stage still His ‘divorced’ wife.
Mary Magdalene is clearly a ‘type of’ Israel and her life symbolises Israel in the smallest detail. It starts with her deliverance of the “seven devils”, who in turn symbolises the “seven times punishment” with which Israel was inflicted. As Jesus delivered Mary of those inflictions, so He delivered Israel of her inflictions. As Mary diligently followed Jesus, so Israel did and will again follow Jesus. Mary’s very name symbolises Israel’s rebellious attitude towards God and the bitterness it caused them, but as Mary suddenly recognised Him when Jesus called out her name, so Israel will also recognise her Bridegroom and would also be able to say: Rabboni, My Master. It is interesting to note that “Rabboni” is a word of Chaldean origin and it quite literally means “My Lord Master” or “My Godly Master” and amongst the Jews were the highest degree of honour to be bestowed on a master or teacher. Significantly, Mary Magdalene is also mentioned twelve times in the Bible – once for every tribe of Israel. This speaks volumes of the love the Lord has for His people, especially in light of global attempts by the pagan nations of the modern world to degrade the Israelite-nations to second-class inhabitants of Earth. Unfortunately for them, the Lord is not about to forget or forsake His beloved Bride who He will marry upon His Second Coming. This He promised us and on this we, as the Bride of Christ, will stand.