My mother and I are preparing for an upcoming women’s Bible study centered on the theme, “FROM DEMONS TO DELIVERANCE AND DEVOTION: THE TESTIMONY OF MARY OF MAGDALA”. Mary of Magdala (or Mary Magdalene) is mentioned multiple times throughout each of the four Gospels (Mt. 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk. 15:40, 47; 16:1-13; Lk. 8:2; 24:10; and Jn. 19:25; 20:1-18). This is quite remarkable being as the authors of the Gospels wrote them with distinct emphases for their original audiences and functional themes, yet they each understood the testimony of Mary of Magdala to be relevant to their Gospels’ specific audiences and themes to each make repeated mentions of her. 1
The accounts of Mary of Magdala in the Gospels are pretty evenly split between descriptions of her individually and descriptions of her with a group of women. It is interesting to note that in the places where she is mentioned with a group of women her name heads the list.
“Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their [Jesus’ and the Twelve Disciples’] support [or care] out of their private means” (Luke 8:2b-3, NASB95).
These women devoted themselves to Christ, and accordingly, to the work of His ministry. They attended to Christ, ministering to (serving) Him out of their substance – of their possessions, what they had. Scholar Ben Witherington II writes in his socio-rhetorical commentary of the Gospel of Mark, “the women [among whom Mary of Magdala is included] are disciples, for they are clearly described as those who both followed and served Jesus in Galilee, two things that characterize discipleship”.
“There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to [or serve] Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41, NASB95).
Discipleship…I thought that we were talking about devotion, so which is it!?!
Devotion and discipleship are not either-or’s. Devotion and discipleship are both-and’s — they are like both hamburgers and french fries (or sweet potato fries, if you’re like me), both spaghetti and meatballs, both oreos and milk, both coffee and mornings, both leather jackets and Fonzie — they go together! A disciple refers to “one who puts himself [or herself] under the teaching of someone else and learns from him”.2 Discipleship refers to “follow[ing] the precepts and instructions of another”.3 Such definitions imply willing devotion on behalf of the disciple. In order to be a disciple, an individual must be willingly devoted the one and therefore the teachings of the one of whom he or she is a disciple.
Mary of Magdala and the group of women who accompanied her were willingly and wholly devoted disciples of Christ. Jesus had delivered them and they did not forget that! They had received grace and in gratefulness they responded graciously. They were those described alike “good soil”; they had heard the word in an honest and good heart, and held it fast, and bore fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15).
Are we “good soil”?
Are our lives seen as works of faith and labors of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NASB95)? Is it obvious that we have been delivered by Christ and are disciples who are willingly and wholly devoted to Him? Do we respond graciously in gratefulness to the grace we have received? Will we follow Christ and serve Him wherever, however, whenever He instructs?
“YOU live among the least of these: the weary and the weak, and it would be a tragedy for me to turn away, all my needs YOU have supplied. When I was dead YOU gave me life. How could I not give it away so freely? I’ll follow YOU into the homes of the broken, I’ll follow YOU into the world, and meet the needs for the poor and the needy, GOD, I’ll follow YOU into the world…I give all myself, I give all myself, and I give all myself to YOU” (Leeland, “Follow You“ <– Click to view the music video)!
1. The original audiences and functional themes of the Gospels are typically considered to be as follows:
– the Gospel of Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Promised Messiah and Expected King who fulfills the Law, Prophets, and Writings;
– the Gospel of Mark was written with a Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Sovereign Savior and Servant who suffered on our behalf taking the penalty for our sin upon Himself;
– the Gospel of Luke was written with an specific individual (Theophilus) and general Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as reliably and verifiably Perfect God Perfect Man; and
– the Gospel of John was written with a unbelieving audience in mind (John 20:30-31), emphasizing Jesus as the Eternal Word, Wonderful Truth, and Everlasting Life.
Please note that while the Gospels as literary works have distinct original audiences and functional themes, they maintain a consistently unified theological purpose– Jesus the Christ is the Son of the Living and Loving God and Eternal Risen Savior of Jews and Gentiles (all men and women alike) through His absolute and gracious sacrifice for us sinners in utmost need of Him, to those who believe He gives forgiveness, redemption, and life through His Precious Spirit – and their message is equally meant for us!
2. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).
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