Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany
Nowhere in the literature do I read of the theories about Mary Magdalene that I am presenting in this article. Some have proposed that Mary of Magdala was either a prostitute or in some ways a sinner. One of the church fathers (Pope Gregory) used her as an example of one who had repented of the seven capital sins because of the seven demons that Jesus had cast out of her. He did, however, agree with me that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person (known in some circles as the composite Mary). I developed what I am going to present here independently and then discovered some of the scholarly discussion concerning Mary. The reason I have studied this is because of the great love that existed between them because of forgiveness of sin. I believe this great love has been construed by many to be some form of sexual liaison because of doubt, unbelief, and a lack of understanding of the power of agape love.
From the references to the banquet where Lazarus attended; Martha served; and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet men3tioned in the Gospel of John (John 12: 1 – 11) I set the scene. From the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10: 38 – 42) we discover evidence of the love relationship between Mary of Bethany and Jesus based on Jesus’ teachings and revelations while she sat at his feet. I am concluding that the event mentioned in Luke just mentioned occurred during the preparations for the banquet mentioned in John 12. In Mark (Mark 14: 1 – 11) we have a story of an unnamed woman who anointed Jesus feet at a banquet hosted by Simon the Leper. At this banquet the controversy arises about the waste of the expensive perfume. Notice that the host, Simon the Leper, is mentioned here but nothing more. Also note that here the perfume is poured on Jesus’ head. Also in Matthew (Matthew 26: 6 – 13) we have mention of an unnamed woman anointing Jesus’ head and the controversy about the waste of the expensive perfume.
Now we come to a passage in Luke (Luke 7: 36 – 50) where Jesus addresses the secret thought process of his host (a Pharisee specifically called Simon in Luke 7: 40, 43, and 44) regarding the sinfulness of the unnamed woman touching Jesus. Here the woman is mentioned as washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing Jesus’ feet, and anointing Jesus’ feet with the perfume. Jesus specifically mentions her great love because she has been forgiven much. Note that immediately following this story Luke mentions Mary Magdalene traveling with Jesus and being one of the women supporting Jesus and the disciples in their ministry. (Luke 8: 1 – 3)
You will not find my conclusions in any of the literature. I have taken the step of considering the role of Simon the Leper as the father of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus because of my experience in working with the addicted and the abused and the marginalized of society. The place of host at a banquet where Jesus was invited and Martha served and Lazarus attended and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet and that took place in Bethany all bring me to the conclusion that Simon must have had a significant role in the lives of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. How Simon could be hosting the banquet as a leper brings me to another conclusion; his leprosy had been healed and he was now clean and allowed to appear in public. It is not mentioned anywhere; but I believe that Simon had been cleansed by Jesus. I conclude this partly because he was willing to host the banquet out of gratitude to Jesus.
It is because of my experience with those in society who have been marginalized that I can come to the conclusion that Simon could both be Mary’s father and consider her a sinner. Simon is also called a Pharisee. This would mean that he had a very strict attitude toward the Law and how one should behave in regards to the Law. How would I tell the story of Mary from my reading?
Growing up in the house of Simon would have been very restrictive; especially to an adventurous young woman. The story of the “Prodigal Son” may very well have been a reflection on what happened to Mary. Taking part of her inheritance she left her home in Bethany to get away from the religious strictures. What her lifestyle was we can only conjecture. I see from my experience that some of the unclean spirits cast out of Mary would have been such entities as rejection, rebellion, and religion. I believe that the story of Jesus traveling under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the Gerasenes in order to deal with the man inflicted with Legion shows that Jesus could have gone to Magdala to rescue Mary. The rescue of Mary would then have been the connection Jesus had with the household of Simon the Leper including Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Why would these remarkable events, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead, not be included in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? I believe the threat to kill Lazarus by the Jewish leaders kept the writers of the early gospels to not mention these events or to cloak them in terms that would not identify Lazarus.
My final conclusion and application to my life is that our love for Jesus because of the great forgiveness we have received should be the principle guiding factor in our relationship. We have been shown by Jesus that serving one another is the primary way in which we can show our love to Jesus.