The prostitute. The one who washed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped them with her hair. The sick woman who was bleeding for twelve years. The one who was at the right side of Jesus during the Last Supper. Who, indeed, is Mary Magdalene?
I grew up in a family of Catholic devouts, where attending Sunday masses wasn’t enough. I’ve been through Bible studies and catechesis and stuff, but nobody ever talked about the other characters of the Bible except Jesus and his apostles. In my opinion, other characters of the Bible also have a significant role, otherwise, why were they even mentioned in the Book of Life?
In this case, Mary Magdalene caught my attention. I’ve been hearing many songs about her, being used as an allusion to women who live sinfully and uses sex as a means of living. It was long ago when it was made clear to me by a nun friend that Mary Magdalene wasn’t the prostitute mentioned in the Bible. That surprised me, as I’ve always thought that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who had been bleeding for twelve years.
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:37-38
This passage doesn’t seem to have mentioned the woman’s name, for according to my nun friend, during the time of Jesus, women’s names were never mentioned, unless the they have significant social status. Clearly, this woman wasn’t our Mary Magdalene. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, tell a supper in Bethany, in which Jesus feet were also being washed by perfume, though John’s gospel named that woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Matthew 9:20-21.
This passage is in indeed referring to another woman, who had an admirable faith towards Jesus. Imagine believing that she will be healed just by touching Jesus’ cloak! But then, she was not the Mary we were looking for. However, another part of Luke’s gospel tells us who Mary Magdalene really is.
…and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Luke 8:2
Now, I guess we’ve found our Mary. Again, during the time of Jesus, if a person was really sick, then people would regard that sick person to be possesses by evil spirit (again, according to my nun friend). And so Mary Magdalene was called the woman with seven demons. Demons have nothing to do with immorality in their culture in that time, however, wrong interpretations have been made regarding it.
I did a bit more reading when I came across this book called A Stroll In The Garden of the Bible. According to the book, Mary came from a rich family in Magdala. Her family was involved in a business of salting and smoking fish from the Lake of Tiberias for export in Jerusalem. However, all the money couldn’t do anything to heal her, until she heard a rumor about a healer in Nazareth called Yeshua.
When Mary heard about Yeshua being in the nearby Capernaum, she asked her family to bring her there. She listened as Yeshua taught about the Kingdom of God and His love, and it fascinated her. Until the Rabbi came to her and her sickness left her in an instant, she never wanted to do anything more but to serve Him.
Now, I believe that is very clear, Mary Magdalene wasn’t the prostitute, or the woman who was bleeding for twelve years, or even the adulteress we find in John’s gospel. She was a sick woman from Magdala, who was just so grateful for the rest of her life being healed completely by our Lord Jesus Christ. She wept with Mary, mother of Jesus when He died on the cross, and was even the first to visit His tomb on the Resurrection Day.
But what about her presence in the Lord’s Last Supper? Well, that one is just a mere fictional element, the weirdest interpretation of one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpieces. An ambitious answer to a “what if?”, if I would be asked. There wasn’t much harm in making money that way, though. Just tainting the personality of one of the characters of a book. A book that happens to be regarded as the Book of Salvation by many. I won’t get confused, though. I know my faith. And I am proud of it.