“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”
Mary Magdalene is probably the most well-known woman and also the least-understood character in Scripture. There is almost no information given on her background, life story, or family life but she still emerges as one of the most prominent women of the New Testament. She is mentioned by name in all four gospels, typically in reference to the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. She was the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after His resurrection.
Mary Magdalene had a dark past—one in which she was held in bondage by demons in which Jesus delivered her from.
“Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons.”
“….Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.”
The demons Mary Magdalene lived in bondage to is the only detail we are ever given of her past, except for the small clue that is given through her name, “Magdalene”. It is assumed by scholars that she was from the village of Magdala. Magdala was mentioned in Matthew 15:39 and was a small fishing village located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee—2-3 miles north of the Roman city of Tiberias and 5.5 miles from Capernaum. It is thought that Magdalene was used to distinguish her from the many other Mary’s mentioned in Scripture.
Jesus’ ministry involved a number of exorcisms in the region in which Mary Magdalene came from. The symptoms of a demonic possession in the New Testament vary depending upon the individual story. Sometimes they were insane—as in the case of the demon-possessed men who lived near the graveyard in Matt. 8:28-34 & Mark 5:1-5. The man in Mark 5:5 mutilated himself with stones night and day. More frequently however, physical infirmities seem to have been the manifestation of the possession. Such as: deafness—Mark 9:25, blindness—Matt. 12:22, inability to speak—Matt 9:32-33, fits and seizures—Mark 1:26, Luke 9:38-40, and general infirmities—Luke 13:11-13
Note: be sure not to assume, as many do, that biblical descriptions of demon possessions were actually manifestations of epilepsy, dementia or any other psychological and physiological afflictions. The Bible makes clear distinctions between the two --Matt. 4:24
Demon possession involves a real and true bondage to an evil spirit—a real, personal, fallen spirit-creature. This spirit indwells an individual and torments them. This indwelling is an affliction and not a sin. The individuals in the NT who are portrayed as being inflicted with demons are always characterized as being tormented, not willful wrongdoers. They were all miserable, sorrowful, lonely people. There were often outcasts, and pariahs by polite society. Their lives are generally described as broken and ruined by the possession—until Jesus frees them of course.
Mary Magdalene was no exception—she was tormented by seven demons. She was a prisoner in her own body, being tormented by these demons of Satan’s. Scripture deliberately omits the time of her life that was ruled by these spirits and simply mentions it as to say that she owes her life to Jesus—as we all truly do.
Christ delivered Mary from this life of possession. Both Mark and Luke mention her former possession only to celebrate the life Christ freed her to—His goodness and grace toward her. Christ is magnified because of His gracious power and the fact that He was able to free her from what held her so tightly in bondage.
One interesting fact that I found: demon possessed people in Scripture never came to Christ to be delivered—they were usually brought by someone else (Matt 8:16, 9:32, 12:22 & Mark 9:20) or He sought them out Himself (Matt. 8:28-29) and on occasion were already present upon His arrival and would speak out with dismay or surprise (Mark 1:23-24, Luke 8:28). Evil spirits never voluntarily entered the presence of Christ. This was interesting to me. But, what was pressed upon my heart is the need of us as believers to watch out for those that we love that may be held in bondage to real evil spirits. So many times we can think that that person simply needs to get their life together or somehow God is trying them because of their sinful life—this is not the case as I previously mentioned. These people were being afflicted by spirits beyond their control. We need to be loving and pray for these people if we know someone that may be afflicted, seek help if it comes to that point.
How and when Mary Magdalene was delivered is never revealed to us, but Christ most certainly set her free. Having been set free from sin and demons, she became a slave of righteousness—Romans 6:18. Her life was far from simply reformed—it was completely transformed.
Mary Magdalene then entered the close circle of disciples who traveled with Jesus.
Christ encouraged men and women to take up His yoke and learn from Him—Mary Magdalene was one of these followers. She remained faithful to Him even when many turned away. When she first appeared in Luke’s gospel it was a time of opposition to Jesus and His ministry. Many people were offended by His teachings, but she stayed at His side. She followed Him to Galilee for that final Passover celebration.
Matthew, Mark & John record that Mary was present at the crucifixion. There was nothing for her and the few others that stood as spectators to do except watch as their Beloved was crucified. It must have been completely gut-wrenching to watch the masses treat the One whom they loved so greatly with such distaste—spitting on the life that He lived for them!
Mary Magdalene was most assuredly grateful to Christ for His deliverance of her life and her loyalty was proved up until the end—she is the one who found out where He would be laid to rest after His death. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Christ in order to give Him a proper burial—Joseph has access because he was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Council) Mark 15:43.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses secretly followed Joseph to the tomb and “observed where He was laid”. Mark 15:47
Mary Magdalene’s love for Christ was as strong as anyone’s! She took note of where He was laid and had every intention of returning to give Him a proper burial with oils and spices—however she would be surprised to find Jesus Himself upon her arrival the next morning.
Read -- John 20:1-13
Mary Magdalene was distraught at the thought of not burying Jesus properly—upon finding the tomb empty. She ran out of the tomb and probably onto the same path she had come on to go find help. She then ran into Peter and John who were on their way to the burial site as well. It is then that they encounter the angels who inform them that “He is not here; for He is risen” Matt. 28:6, Mark 16:6 & Luke 26:6
They were also instructed to go tell and tell the disciples that He is risen from the dead. At this point it seems that only Mary Magdalene was left. Matt. 28:8
The angel appeared and asked why she was weeping and she explained why she was distraught. It was then that she turned and saw Jesus. At first she, as many others who encountered Him after His resurrection, did not recognize Him. He was glorified now, if it was anything like the account in Revelation 1:14 He would have looked much different.
This was the first person that Jesus revealed Himself to—a woman who had lived in captivity to seven demons; seven demons that Jesus had to cast out of her, a woman. During a time when women had no rights, were not even permitted to speak in public, Jesus chose her as the first that He would reveal Himself to. He knew that she would be there, He knows everything. He chose her, set her apart and appointed her to a task. (Jeremiah 1:5)
This is a distinct honor He bestowed upon Mary—to be the first to witness Him and hear Him. This is her extraordinary legacy—one in which no demons could stop. No one can share this honor with her or take it away from her. We should all seek to imitate this deep and abounding love that she exhibited for Jesus—one that took her to His side even in the midst of tragedy!