I was recently asked the age old question:
“Which three people dead or alive would you most like to have round for dinner?”
I was told only one could be from the Bible and it couldn’t be Jesus. My answer was fairly simple:
“Martin Luther-King, David Beckham and Mary Magdalene.”
I care passionately about racial equality and am inspired by Luther-King, I am a huge football fan and grew up with David Beckham, but the easiest choice of all was Mary Magdalene. She is quite simply one of my all-time heroes. Here was a woman who had been through some pretty tough stuff – she had needed to have seven demons driven out of her – but didn’t allow her past to dictate her future. For me though, she really became a figure of such great inspiration at the entrance of the empty tomb of Jesus.
Here was a tenacious individual who wouldn’t give up when the others had gone home (John 20:10). As she wept by the empty tomb she encountered two angels and then the risen Jesus. At first she didn’t recognise him, mistaking him for the gardener; but then, he calls her by name and it’s in this moment that she realises this is her risen Saviour. He addresses her in a manner she understands and she immediately acknowledges him as ‘Rabboni’ (teacher, 20:16). An incredible moment!
Overwhelmed by her encounter with him, Mary goes to the disciples to tell them that she has seen the Lord. It is this that so inspires me. Living as a woman in that culture her testimony wouldn’t have been taken seriously and would have been invalid in a court and yet she goes against the flow and speaks out. She is so amazed by the resurrection of Jesus that the news must have exploded out of her mouth in an uncontrollable release of passion, wonder and joy. She didn’t let something as inconsequential as social conformity hold her back. Truth is truth and she was determined to share it with those around her.
As a proclamation evangelist myself, Mary’s example has had a profound impact on my own ministry. If she was prepared to be the first person declaring the good news of Jesus, the very first post-resurrection evangelist, against a back drop of all the prejudice towards women in that society, then how can I not emulate this courage by speaking up for the message in my own world?
How can I give in to the fear, doubts and moments of marginalisation I encounter in my ministry when she was prepared to be utterly counter-cultural in her day in order to share the message that Jesus is alive?
After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
I’m profoundly grateful to Mary Magdalene. The first person to preach the resurrection is my evangelistic hero and I want to mirror her conviction, faithfulness and action. One day I hope to thank her myself for the inspiration she’s provided me with.