My name is Mary Magdalene. My name Mary was for my grandmother. Some people kidded me about being “merry” all the time, but that is not why I had that name. Mary was my grandmother. She was dependable, honest, fair, faithful, and true. She was everything that I was not.
I grew up in Magdalene. It was a small town not too far from Cana. I had one brother and I was the baby. I hung around with the boys as much as possible. I liked men better. I’m sure you know that women in Bible times were not worth much — just something to be used.
As I became a young woman, I had lots of attention from men. I was very flattered at first because my parents (especially my father) was too busy for me. I craved male companionship.
As more and more time went by, I wanted to be close to men, so I sold myself. That is a terrible feeling. I’m sure you understand. You have probably sold yourself for something small like a promotion, a salary increase, attention …. you know it does not last. You may have sold your best friend’s secret to someone just to be popular. When you sell yourself for something so small, you feel worthless. It feels like the world is crashing in on you, and it seems almost too late to change.
Well, I did. I became known around the area as someone very common. Men would come, give me attention, make over me. I would even get money. For awhile, it felt great, but then they would walk away and leave me alone. They would laugh and call me cheap. When your value goes down, it is hard to get it up again — everyone sees you that way.
I just went from place to place — no real place to belong. Many of you understand …. you do not think you “belong” anywhere.
In the midst of all these men came someone quite different. I was in a crowd one day in the city of Nazareth. When I walked down the street people laughed. One day I ran into Jesus of Nazareth. I was flirting with someone and I was not looking. We bumped into each other. Some of His friends told me to get back. They said “cheap, cheap.” Get away!
It angered me. Someone pushed me. I think his name was Peter. I fell in the dirt. This man of Nazareth came over, reached His hand into mine and pulled me up. He started dusting off my clothes — then He spoke. “Are you alright?”
“I think so,” I replied.
“My name is Jesus.”
I knew immediately he must want me. All the men (or many of them) would give me their names when they wanted my body, so I said to Him “two denarii.”
He said, “Oh, no. I don’t want to use you. I care about you. I want to know your name.”
I was afraid at first, for to know someone’s name was so unusual, especially someone like me. I told Him I was Mary. “That is a beautiful name,” He replied. “My mother’s name is Mary.”
This was all too much. I cried and started running away. He called my name, “Mary, Mary, stop. You are special.” With that, I stopped. I looked at Him and His eyes looked all through me. The story got around that He called seven demons out of me.
Maybe so. I know demons. Guilt, fear, rejection, deceit, shame, loneliness and anger. But the love I saw in His eyes consumed them, and me as well. When I heard my name, things changed. My life changed.
From that day on I followed Him. I had heard talk of love but now I knew love. The kind of love that makes one whole. I was never the same. I became a follower of Jesus.
This Jesus had new ideas and they were different from all I had ever heard. He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
He said we are light and salt. Somehow, I felt He was holding a mirror and I was seeing all I could become. He said He came to call the sinners and I know that surely meant me.
It all was so positive! So positive! So new! I was so thankful to be His friend. We often talked and some people thought (people who wrote Jesus Christ Superstar) that I did not know how to love Him, but that is not all true. I felt a new sense of love different from anything I had ever known. I really cared for Him. Things felt so natural when we talked. Things that had been ugly were pure and good.
Then it all changed. He took the disciples to an Upper Room. They had supper. All of us were near. He talked about someone betraying Him. Then, Judas left. Afterwards, Jesus took a bowl and a towel and began to wash people’s feet. He told us to wash others’ feet. Imagine feet that smell and are dusty. It was a humbling experience. One feels so unworthy.
Then a few of them went to the garden. I wanted to go but He said “No.” The next thing we heard, He had been hauled off for trial. From then on it was terrible. We heard the crowds yelling “Crucify Him.” I hurt inside. Why did they want to kill Him? He loved everyone. Several men that I had known came up to buy me at Passover, but I pushed them away. I said emphatically, “I am Mary of Magdalene — a new person.” I felt extra strength. I was a different person!!
Jesus died. He hung on a cross. I went as near as I could to Him. I leaned on the cross crying and felt His blood running down on my splintered hands.
I thought my heart would break. Why do people hate Him? He only cared for those of us who were on the outside of life. He gave us a home — a place to fit in. Others fled but I stayed by the cross. I even heard a centurion say, “Surely, He is the Son of God.” He recognized it.
Life was dark again. The demons returned. Jesus is dead!
I was drawn to the tomb as I felt death surrounding me. I was drawn to the place of His death as He drew me to life. When I arrived, I realized the stone had been rolled away. Then someone said, “Mary.” I recognized my name. It was Jesus. I called him “Rabboni,” which means teacher.“Rabboni” meant life to me. For He had taught me how to live — not just how to move through life.
He was alive! I reached to touch Him, but He said “No.” However, in His look was not rejection, but wholeness. I will never forget it.
He had changed. Everything had changed. Now I know what He meant when He said He came from the Father. For He was sent not to be touched, but to embrace the world with love. And this love will take all fear away.
He sent me to tell you the story. I do not know what demons bother you, but He can change you. His love is more powerful than death — permanent death or little deaths we might experience.
And if it were not for some of the women, we would not have the story. We were the ones near the cross and first at the tomb.
I love to tell the story. It changed my life. If you just listen, He may be calling your name.
It can change your life, too!
Sermon Given at SMLC on March 27, 2022, by Lay Preacher Kelly Streszoff.