Mary Magdala's Story

Published on 27 Apr 2020
Sunlight shining through trees in a garden

by Susan Sheppey

I’ve never done anything immoral you know, in spite of what they say. I was ill, that was all. I admit I did not behave in a respectable way. It had been a long time since I had lived in a ‘normal’ household.  I took off in the end, away from Magdala, tired of the derisory voices, angry, confusing, within and without, tormenting me. I survived, but not by selling my body. Not everyone was unkind, and I was often given food for doing a few chores, or even free lodgings when I was clearly going through a bad patch. It was during one such time that I first became aware of Jesus. His voice calmed me sometimes, but at other times my inner voices were roused against the sound, and at times drove me away, but I always returned. In the end I was always where he was. Not seen, of course, but in the crowd, or at night in the shadows. He knew I was there, and when everyone else had turned in for the night, he would call out to me, ‘Mary, how are you today? Don’t be afraid.’

For a long time I remained silent, but as time went on, I knew what I wanted: I wanted to be whole, and I knew Jesus was the one to help me. At last this desire became a passion and I felt the tension rising within me, but my voices did, too, and they screamed so loudly I almost … well we won’t go there. I knew Jesus was becoming more and more anxious about me, and one night he came nearer to where I was hiding and put out his hand and waited. He knew just the right distance, any nearer and I would have bolted like a young doe. The air was electric between us and, in the end, I crept forward and touched the tips of his fingers. It was the briefest, faintest contact, but it was enough. I felt the shock pass through my body, my head felt as if it would blow off, but then a calm such as I had never known, and I stood there in my right mind. At the same moment, I became aware of my dirty clothes and bedraggled hair. Jesus saw my confusion. ‘It’s alright Mary go and get cleaned up, and get some sleep, we’ve an early start in the morning.’

From that point on I never left his side, and so it was, even during those awful black days at the end. Watching him die was indescribable, but I had to be there, and I know it comforted him. There were just a few of us women and John supporting his mother. When it came to the time for his burial, I told the others to go home. I would watch where they laid the body; I still had my old skill of disappearing into the shadows.

The next morning I got up before it was light. This was the longest I had been away from him for a couple of years now, and I couldn’t bear it. I don’t know what I thought I could do with an armed guard at the tomb, but I just wanted to be near him. But when I reached the tomb, I was in for a shock. Not only were there no guards, but the stone at the entrance had been rolled away. My first reaction was one of distress. Surely killing him was enough; couldn’t they let him rest in peace. Then it crossed my mind that it could have been one of our crowd, but I didn’t think so. Judas was dead, Peter was shot to pieces, and the others were huddled together in the upper room with the door bolted.

I looked inside and saw two men in white. They asked me why I was crying and I told them. I turned round and was conscious of another man, a gardener I supposed, who asked me whom I was looking for and why I was crying. I asked him if he had taken the body. Then I heard that voice calling my name, ‘Mary’. For a moment my mind flashed back to my life in the shadows. I knew the voice, but couldn’t believe what I saw. ‘Rabbuni’. I flung myself at him, but he told me not to cling to him, but to take a message to the others. Well, I flew, my feet hardly touching the ground. They didn’t believe me at first, just Magdala getting hysterical again, reverting to type, but I didn’t care, I knew what I had seen, and soon they did too. Now I’ll have to leave him again, but not for long: ‘Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.’

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