Mary Magdalen's Story
My life is really not much to write home about. Home was not some place I would want to write to anyway. I had the disadvantage of being born beautiful and almost flawless. I grew to be tall and slim, yet with a very adequate figure, long auburn wavy hair, huge dark eyes with curling eyelashes, and a clear skin. My sisters were jealous of me from the beginning, and even my mother seemed to resent my beauty. But the worst was that my father found me attractive, and made it very clear to me that he wanted to bed me, despite knowing the stigma that such an encounter would cause. I tried to avoid him, and attempted to make myself as unattractive as possible, but one day when I was 12, he caught me at home alone and raped me. I was devastated, as anyone would be, but the worst blow of all, was when I told my mother what had happened, she wouldn't believe me. She thought I was making it all up. She got so angry with me, that she threw me out of the house and said she never wanted to see me again.
The story soon spread through the village - not of my father's dark deeds, but of my supposed lies, and I wasn't welcome to shelter with any of my fair-weather friends. So I walked as far and as fast as I could to find a place where no one knew me and I could start a new life. But it is not easy for a girl of 12 to come on her own into a village. People automatically assume that she is a "woman of the night" and that was in fact what I became - not because I wanted to, but because it was the only way I could survive.
I won't pretend my life was not without its comforts and benefits. Men valued my beauty and gave me gifts accordingly. I learned seduction to a fine art, and put into practice the many tips of my fellow workers in the field. I was much sought after, and many powerful and influential people used my services, and paid highly for the privilege of doing so. They, of course, depended on me keeping my mouth shut, as they wouldn't have wanted their activities to be public knowledge, but it all went towards feathering my nest. So time passed and I went from my teens into my twenties, and didn't have too much to complain about. I was walking down the road one day, minding my business, when I had the most bizarre experience. I met a man, and thinking that any man might be a potential customer, I put on my most seductive look for his benefit. But when he looked back at me, he just smiled. Nothing more. But in that smile, I suddenly felt valued for myself - and this feeling was so unusual for me, that I was overwhelmed. He moved on and I didn't see him again for a while.
But I couldn't forget him, so I kept asking my clients, do you know who this man is - and I described him. Most of them knew of him - he was Jesus of Nazareth - who went with his band of followers from village to village, preaching about doing good, and healing the sick. Some were even saying that he might be the Messiah. So I decided that I wanted to meet up with him again. So through my contacts I found out that Matthias, the tax collector (who was an occasional client of mine) was hosting a dinner for him that very evening. I rushed to his house and begged that he would let me come. He was a bit embarrassed because he didn't think my company would be welcomed by Jesus, so he said "No." But I was determined to get my way. I waited in the background in the area until the group of men had gone to Matthias' house - there were 13 men in all - and then I forced myself in and threw myself at Jesus' feet. I hadn't really planned out my strategy beyond that, but as soon as I found myself in his presence, I started crying. I couldn't stop my tears, and as they fell upon his feet, I literally was washing his feet with them. And then when I realised what I was doing, I brushed my long hair against them to make them dry again and kissed them. Matthias saw me there, and along with some of the other men in the group, knowing who I was, tried to hustle me out the door again. But Jesus stopped them. He said, "I entered your house just now, and no one washed my feet for me. Yet this woman has done that with her tears and dried them with her hair. None of you greeted me with a loving kiss, but this woman has done that too - and I say to you, none of you has shown such love as she has. I would like her to stay." They obviously had to obey him, but you could see they were uncomfortable. "Get up, my child," Jesus said to me, "Your sins are forgiven you." I was absolutely amazed. I hadn't told him my sins, I hadn't asked forgiveness. But I suddenly realised that what I wanted was to be with this man, and in order to do it, I would have to quit my way of life. And, of course, I knew what I had been doing was sinful - even though I justified it by saying it was the only way I could earn my living, and that my family had forced me into it. But I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from me. I didn't know where I would next be sleeping, or eating, or how my life would go on, but I knew with a great certainty that I was going to spend my life with Jesus, helping him in whatever way I could.
So we had the meal, and when Jesus and his followers left Matthias' house, I went with them. They stayed in the houses of various followers and a room was found for me. I was accepted as now being a disciple too, but there was still a great deal of uneasiness among the men about having a woman in their group. I had to go back to my quarters to gather up my belongings (I had accumulated quite a wealth) and I sold them all and gave the money to Jesus to give to the poor. I now had only the clothes on my back. I did save a bottle of precious perfume, but I had a planned a use for it. The following night, after dinner, I again went up to Jesus, and anointed his feet - but this time with the costly perfume. Judas, the apostle who had the task of being in charge of finances had a fit. "What are you letting her do?" he asked Jesus. "That perfume is very costly. She could have sold it and the money could have been given to the poor!" But again Jesus came to my rescue and defended my actions. He said, “Why must you criticise this woman? It is a fine thing she has done for me. You will have the poor amongst you always, but you will not always have me." Some people might have thought he had a sexual interest in me, but there was nothing like that at all in his attitude. He treated me as if I were a precious friend, or his sister. He made me feel protected and loved, but I never felt in any way threatened by him.
So the days turned to months and then to years, and I continued following around the countryside with Jesus and his friends. Sometimes others joined us - occasionally other women, like Susannah and Joanna but for the most part, I was the main woman in the group. I had my uses as I had been taught to cook, and could sew, and whenever the men tore a hole in their garments or felt hungry, they were happy enough to call upon me to be of use. But always I felt my main job was to be with Jesus - to offer him comfort and support. I'm sure many misunderstood our relationship, but it was completely platonic and based on a love that was pure.
I was with him when he did many of his miracles. Living with him was to be in a constant state of astonishment - never knowing what he might do next - but knowing it would always be for the good of all.
I began to get uneasy when we went into Jerusalem for the Passover in our 3rd year of Jesus' ministry. We were welcomed by crowds with palm branches in their hands, saying “Hosanna to the Highest” as Jesus passed through the gates into the town. But by the next day, the crowds were ugly. I think there were rabble rousers amongst them who were stirring up the people. And when Jesus went into the Temple and became outraged at the way the money lenders were abusing their jobs, he became very angry and turned over the tables and made a real commotion. The rabbis and temple attendants didn't like that one bit. The atmosphere became tense. I was worried for Jesus' life. Then on the Thursday evening of that week, Jesus planned a meal for his apostles in the upper room of a safe house in Jerusalem. I was told that I wasn't invited to that meeting, and I felt very shut out and excluded. After the meal they all went to Mount of Olives, and Jesus prayed while the others slept (or so I was told later). But they were all awakened when a bunch of soldiers came (led by the traitor, Judas) and arrested Jesus. He was taken into the city at daybreak, and it was then that I caught up with him.
I had spent the night with Mary, his mother, and Mary Ceophas, and Mary, the mother of James and John. We all four went to try to find where they had taken Jesus. First he went before the Jewish leaders - the Pharisees. We weren't allowed within the building so only heard later that they had decided that Jesus would have to die, but they needed the Roman government's sanction for that, so they sent Jesus over to Pilate's headquarters. Pilate held his trial in public, so we were able to see, although from the very back, what went on. Pilate tried to talk to Jesus and it seemed he really would have liked to find some justification for letting him go. His wife apparently had said she had dreamed that he would be charged for the rest of time with the murder of Jesus and she urged him to keep out of it. But Pilate had a ploy. He thought that since it was traditional to release a prisoner during the Passover time, he would give the crowd a choice - Jesus (who everyone knew was a gentle if, as they thought, misdirected person) and Barrabas, who was a villain, murderer, thief and the worse sort of person. He felt confident that Jesus would be released - but the crowd surprised him. They obviously had been told to say they wanted Barrabas released. "But then what shall I do with this Jesus?" he asked. "Crucify him" they chanted over and over.
I couldn't believe that this was happening, and yet I knew it was part of his plan. He needed to be murdered in order to make his role as Messiah clear once and for all. Before he was taken off for crucifixion, he was scourged. It was so hard watching him suffer so badly at the soldiers' hands. They mocked him and shouted at him. They made him a crown of thorns because they had been told that he called himself the King of the Jews. But he had denied it and said, "My kingdom is not of this world." “But you are a king,” they taunted, “so you had better have a crown.” The thorns were pushed cruelly into his head, with blood streaming down. They forced him to take up a heavy piece of wood, to be used for the upright bit of his cross, and made him walk the long and steep journey up to Golgotha, where all the crucifixions took place. We kept with him, following him all the way. I don't know what happened to his so called friends - because none of them were in sight - frightened off no doubt - worried they would be arrested and crucified too. It was a long, dirty, hot walk, and Jesus fell several times. The route was lined with sympathisers - mostly women, some, like Veronica, who gave him her veil to wipe his bloody sweaty face, and her reward was the imprint on his face on the veil. But finally we got to the crucifixion area. There were two others on crosses already, and quite a few onlookers. The soldiers shot dice to see who would get Jesus' garment - a hand woven cloth all in one-piece still in good condition after you sewed up the holes and washed off the blood. They took great pleasure in pounding the nails into his hands and feet, and then raised the cross to the upright position. All along, Jesus, although in absolute agony, kept silent. When he was up on the cross, one of the men from the other crosses jeered at him and asked him, if he was supposed to be God, why he didn't save himself and them too, while he was at it. The other one told him to shut up, and that he knew he was in the presence of a great man. "Remember me when you get to your kingdom," he said. "This day, you shall be with me in paradise," Jesus replied.
Jesus looked down and saw us standing at the foot of the cross. His apostle John, the youngest of the bunch, and the only one there with him at the end, was with us too. He said to John, "Behold, thy mother," and to Mary, his mother, "Behold thy son."
We were all crying to hard we could hardly take in what he meant by those words, but I think he was asking John to take care of his mother, now that he was almost gone.
The only other words he uttered, were to ask for a drink, and then when they offered him a sponge soaked in vinegar, he rejected it, and cried, "My God, Why hast Thou Forsaken Me," and then he said, "It is over," and he slumped on the cross, and died. But the soldiers weren't satisfied, and also they were in a hurry to get the whole job done before the Passover, so they stuck a spear into his side, and out came blood and water. He was truly dead.
Our friend Joseph of Aramathea had a new grave dug into the hillside not far away, and he went to ask if the Romans would release the body of Jesus, so we could bury him. Permission was given, and we got the soldiers to lower the cross, and remove the nails, so we could wrap him in linen cloths and carry him on the litter Joseph had provided to the tomb. We anointed his body with herbs and spices and precious oils, and laid it within the tomb. Because the soldiers had heard rumours that he would raise himself from the dead, they put a huge stone in front of the tomb, and stood guard over it. We were so upset, but even so, we knew that this was what Jesus expected and wanted and knew was going to happen. It was his fate.
Each day thereafter, I went out to the tomb to pray and to see how things were going on. On Sunday morning, when I arrived there, the stone was rolled back, and the soldiers were gone. I rushed into the tomb, but only saw the linen cloth - empty. I was so excited, but also not sure if I could really believe that it had happened. I rushed back to town to tell Peter and James and John, and then I came back again to the area and was wondering in the woods nearly, when I saw a man who I assumed was one of the gardeners, "Oh, can you tell me, please, where have they taken my lord?" I asked. Then I looked closer at the man, and he truly was Jesus, but in a perfect form - and he said, "Mary, don't you know me?" I wanted to throw my arms around him, but he said, "Don't touch me, as I have not yet ascended to my father. But you will see me again," and with that he disappeared. I had to run off to tell the others this story too. We were all so excited and thrilled and nobody knew what to do about it.
So over the next six weeks, we saw Jesus a few times. He didn't stay with us, but just came for a visit so to speak. Sometimes he showed that he was no longer human by walking through walls. Sometimes he showed he was still human by letting us touch his wounded hands, and by eating fish with us. We didn't know what to think. It was such a miracle, and we were so happy. But then finally the day came when he said he had to go back to his Father, for good this time, or at least until he comes again at the end of the world - who knows when that will be. We went into the fields, and watched him rise into the air and disappear from view. We were so depressed and lonely, and although he said he had promised he would send us his Holy Spirit, we didn't know what that meant. We were scared of the Romans - who seemed to be keen to arrest and kill anyone who claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. We knew it was true, but we didn't want to die. So we went back to the room where we often met together and stayed there, and prayed for guidance in what to do next. Eventually our prayers were answered, and the Holy Ghost came down upon us all, in the form of tongues of fire, and gave us the wisdom, and courage and understanding to go out and face the world, and try to convince the world of the righteousness of the word of Jesus. We knew we might die, and many of us did in the next few years, but we were no longer afraid. Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit was with us always.
I don't really have anything else to add to this story. I did as the others, and hope that I made a difference to the world. Certainly my life was never the same again after that fateful day when I caught Jesus' eye - and he took over my heart.