by Bill Nugent
The very first person to see the resurrected Christ was Mary Magdalene (John 20:16). She was also the only person recorded in scripture to witness all three of the major events of the final days of the first advent which were the crucifixion, the burial and theresurrection of Christ. Her name heads the list of the female disciples who went to the tomb and became witnesses of the resurrection (Mark 16:1, John 20:1).
While Mary Magdalene’s prominence among the women is clear, the speculation regarding her personal relationship with Christ ranges from the prudent to the absurd. While the New Testament shows nothing beyond the relationship of a disciple to her Lord some have inferred a romantic tinge. The blasphemous and nonhistorical novel and film, The Da Vinci Code, took this to the extreme.
Jesus had many disciples and these disciples enjoyed varying degrees of access to their Master. There were the seventy who were sent forth to preach and to heal the sick, there were the twelve apostles and among the apostles were the three who had closest access to Christ and witnessed the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). The three apostles in the inner circle were Peter, John and James.
Then there was the one disciple, John the beloved, who was next to Jesus at the last supper. John was the only apostle to have witnessed the crucifixion and he was also the first male disciple to see the empty tomb. John could be called Jesus’s best friend. We could say that Mary Magdalene, because of her prominence among the women, was Jesus’s best female friend.
The name “Mary” is the anglicized form of the Hebrew “Miryam.” Miryam was an extremely popular name for women in first century Judea. There were five women named Miryam mentioned in the New Testament. Jesus’s mother was named Miryam. My discussion of Mary Magdalene in this article should not detract from the precious relationship Jesus had with His mother. That relationship is in a different category altogether.
John Paul Jackson, a prophetic brother based in Texas, has taught that the last days of Jesus’s life on earth recorded in the Gospels are a prophetic picture of the church in the last days. He calls this message the Taproot of End-Time Prophecy. I agree with Jackson’s taproot message and I believe that both John the apostle and Mary Magdalene are important prophetic pictures of the end-time church’s condition just before the second coming of Christ.
First let me digress and discuss the four major levels of scriptural interpretation used by the rabbis and the four levels of scriptural interpretation used by the medieval church. The four rabbinic levels of interpretation of a passage in scripture are the:
Peshat, which is the literal surface meaning;
the Remez, which is the type and shadow meaning lying just beneath the surface;
the Drash, which is the moral teaching drawn from the passage and
the Sod, which is the mystical meaning which is an allegorical meaning taken to a bit of an extreme.
The medieval church used a four level system of interpretation almost identical to the rabbinic system which included the:
Literal, which is the surface content of the passage;
the Typological in which Old Testament events and persons are seen as prophetic pictures that are fulfilled in Christ;
the Tropological, which is the moral command or teaching in the passage;
and finally the anagogical which is the mystical or radical allegorical hidden meaning.
With that in mind I’d like to consider John the apostle to be a type of the end-time overcomer company which are Christians who grow to full stature in Christ and whose sonship is manifested to all creation with great miracles and power (Romans 8:19, Rev. 14:1-5). I discuss the end-time manifestation of the sons of God in DTF Special Issue #7 which is archived on my website www.bnugent.org.
But what about the most prominent female disciple? What company of people does Mary Magdalene typify? I believe that Mary Magdalene is a prophetic picture of the end-time church as a whole. The church is called the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2 Ephesians 5:25-27, Rev. 19:7).
Mary Magdalene was a woman likely to have been roughly the same age as Jesus. Because of the surname “Magdalene,” most have assumed that it merely indicated that she was from the town of Magdala on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. The word “magdala” however, is derived from an Aramaic word meaning “tower,” “great “or “elevated.” Thus Magdalene could be a surname descriptive of her character or ability. Luke 8:2 says that she was “called Magdalene.” That’s not necessarily to say that she was from Magdala.
Luke 8:2 also mentions that Mary had been delivered of seven demons. This speaks of a complete deliverance. We in the church(who are genuinely born-again and have truly repented from sin) are completely forgiven of all sin. By the way, the teaching popular in medieval times that Mary had been a prostitute has no basis in scripture or in early church historical sources. There is also no sound basis in scripture to identify her as the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair in Luke 7:37-38. Others have tried to equate her with Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha but that also has no sound basis.
What lesson should we draw from Mary Magdalene as a picture of the bride of Christ? She had the inestimable privilege of being the very first person to see the risen Lord and she was promptly given a commission to tell the other disciples.
The fact that women were the first witnesses of the resurrection in the gospel narrative is further proof of its truth. Given the culture of first century Judaism, if the apostles made the story up they never would have written that women were the first witnesses!
John 20:1 says she was at the tomb while it was still dark before the sunrise. We in the end-time church are living in the darkness of these postmodern times just before the dawning of the millennial age. Soon our Bridegroom Jesus will come and we will enjoy access to Him and intimacy with Him forever and ever.