After the Cross: Mary Magdalene

White cross on dark blue backgroundThe other Mary at the cross

Crucifixion tableaux commonly picture Jesus’ beloved disciple, John, and his mother, Mary, consoling each other at the foot of the cross. But the Bible tells us that another Mary endured the anguish of watching Jesus die. Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ devoted disciple, followed him all the way to Calvary too.

Mark 16:9 calls her a woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. Who else—what else—was Mary Magdalene? A saint? A sinner? A sort of Galilean Yoko Ono, whose influence over Jesus aroused jealous resentment among the other disciples? Jesus’ love match? Wife? Mother of his children? The embodiment of the “sacred feminine,” as suggested in modern speculative fiction?

I don’t know how much truth each of those depictions contains. But one thing seems certain: Mary Magdalene loved Jesus deeply. She loved him as the healer of her body and the savior of her soul. He didn’t merely cast out the seven demons who had subjected her to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse, though that would have been enough. He made her whole again with his encompassing, unconditional, personal love.

How profoundly, then, she must have suffered along with Jesus at the cross! How devastating her loss, when he was snatched away by death!

When John led Mary the mother of Jesus away from the scene, did Mary Magdalene follow the body of Jesus to the newly hewn tomb and watch with a tight heart as it was quickly wrapped in linen and laid to rest? Did she hurry back into the city to buy burial spices before the vendor closed shop at sundown for the Sabbath?

Ah, that Sabbath day!

By the following morning, the protective numbness had surely worn off. Jewish law prohibited most activity on Saturday, so there was little to distract the grieving woman from the ragged pain of once more being … incomplete.

 Excerpt from the dramatic monologue Mary Magdalene, Transformed

(MAGDALENE echoes Jesus in an anguished voice.)
My Lord, my Lord, why have you forsaken me?
(MAGDALENE covers her face with her hands and stands with her head bent down for several moments. She uncovers her face and raises her head before continuing.)
The next day was the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. (bitterly) I found no rest in it. Questions invaded my mind, like demons rushing to take possession.
(MAGDALENE speaks forlornly.)
Where does this leave me?
Why did he leave me?
Who is Mary Magdalene now?
What am I, without Jesus?
Is everything (a beat) finished?

(MAGDALENE mournfully sings O Lord, Whose Touch Once Made Me Whole. Click the title to listen to vocalist Theresa Olin.)

1. O Lord, whose touch once made me whole, whose love restored my very soul, how can it be that you are gone? Without you, how can I be strong enough to carry on?

2. O Lord, why did you have to leave? Should I be angry? Should I grieve? I was so sure we’d never part. But death has taken you and left me with a hollow heart.

3. O Lord, will I see you again? Does “It is finished” mean the end of everything I thought I knew? Of everything we all believed that you would someday do?

Lost love? Eternal love!

Have you ever experienced the raw pain of abandonment when a person you loved so profoundly—one who completed you—walked out the door, never to return? Perhaps the departure was a deliberate breakup. Perhaps, like Mary Magdalene, you lost your loved one to death, without a chance to brace yourself against the blow. Either way, you might have felt as forsaken as Mary did. And asked the same desperate questions.

But we know something Mary didn’t know on that terrible Saturday. Jesus had not abandoned her. He continued to love her with an all-encompassing, unconditional love. In fact, their love was transformed into an eternal bond!

Be encouraged by the knowledge that the living Christ loves you—yes, you!—with that same eternal, forgiving, redeeming, all-encompassing, personal love. Others may forsake you. He will not!

Learn more of Mary Magdalene’s story in Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas, a collection of one-act plays. Mary Magdalene, Transformed is a dramatic monologue portraying Mary as a visiting speaker/singer who relates her history with Jesus to a not entirely sympathetic audience. Three solo songs provide an optional musical element.

Find more information about the music in Mary Magdalene, Transformed, and listen to my diva daughter’s informal vocal recordings on the Audio page here at Faith Songs.

Edit 3/26/2016: Mary Magdalene, Transformed is now available as a single-script ebook, too.

Edit 2/5/2017: O Lord, Whose Touch Once Made Me Whole (Theresa Olin, a cappella) on YouTube


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