Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her. -John 20:18

This was the meditation I offered in Chapel for the Festival of St. Mary Magdalene


Almighty God, your Son first entrusted the apostle Mary Magdalene with the joyful news of his resurrection. Following the example of her witness, may we proclaim Christ as our living Lord and one day see him in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Today, we commemorate and give thanks for the witness of St. Mary Magdalene. Lutheran Christians don’t know what do with the Marys, often relegating Mary, Mother of the Lord to a Sunday in Advent and Mary Magdalene to the sidelines of the Easter story; today, we have the privilege of remembering Mary Magdalene through the scriptural witness of her part in the Easter story. Pushing aside the many traditions and tales of who this apostle to the apostles was in her life before the resurrection, today we focus on her humanity, her faithfulness, and her witness.

Humanity: Sometimes, Mary Magdalene is attributed to have been a prostitute, though there is no biblical witness to that “tradition” which, it seems to me, was imposed by those who were either trying to discredit her witness or to enhance the transformational life she found in Christ. But, Mary Magdalene’s humanity isn’t in such traditions, it is front and center in her grief. What love she had for the Lord, to risk her safety and to fully enter her grief in going to the tomb; grief which causes her to not recognize Jesus when he’s right in front of her! Her grief reminds us of our own. How many times has Jesus been present to us when our grief or our perception of reality caused us not to recognize him? At the bedside, the graveside, in dreams that go unrealized – the witness of the Gospel is that Jesus is surely present, and we are never alone.

Faithfulness: Not only did Mary Magdalene come faithfully to care for the body of her Lord, the encounter with Jesus betrays her faithfulness in going as Jesus leads. He entrusts something precious to her, the good news. What if Mary Magdalene had been the prototypical Lutheran? What if she held that good news to herself? What if she had been timid about sharing this incredible encounter with the others, preferring to hold it as a private treasure – her “Jesus and me” moment? Faithfully, she was blessed and sent – she took seriously the treasure that was in her stewardship and shared out of love for God and neighbor.

Witness: From the run from the tomb to the disciples, Mary Magdalene was the entire Christian Church on earth. In the creed, when we profess to believe in the holy catholic church and see ourselves as part of the larger whole of the body of Christ, it is humbling to remember that until Mary Magdalene told the good news to the other disciples and they, in turn, shared it with others, she was for that moment the whole of the holy catholic church, she was the church, the Body of Christ alive in the world and entrusted with the precious gift of the Gospel.

Thanks be to God for Mary Magdalene and her evangelical urgency! Her humanity, her faithfulness, and her witness should inspire our own, reminding us of our power, privilege and responsibility to go where Jesus leads, to be the church, sharing the treasure of the gospel.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her. -John 20:1-2, 11-18