Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ disciples who had an unsavory reputation. Many Bible scholars believe she had been a prostitute before her conversion. In this article we examine her life in closer detail.
Mary Magdalene, also known as Mary of Magdala, was one of Jesus’ disciples that is frequently mentioned in the gospel accounts. Since she was free to follow Jesus of Nazareth during His many journeys, this suggests that she was an unmarried woman or a widow without any home obligations. She was also a woman of financial substance and was able to support the missionary ministry of Jesus and the apostles.
Some Bible scholars have even suggested that Mary Magdalene was the unnamed sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with an alabaster jar of perfume:
“As she stood behind him at his feet, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (Luke 7:38).
The Jewish Talmud affirms that Mary Magdalene had an unsavory reputation. Therefore, we must assume that, in all likelihood, Mary had formerly been a prostitute before she met Jesus and repented of her previous life. She had also been possessed by seven devils before Jesus cast them out. Demon possession is often found in individuals who have practiced a life of sexual immorality since demonic transference generally occurs from one partner to another during sexual intercourse, as well as sexually transmitted diseases.
In my own family, I once had an aunt who had been a prostitute for many years. When we were kids growing up and full of mischief, we used to secretly follow my aunt to work and watch her enter the local whorehouse each day. The obvious “Madam,” who managed the brothel would come to the front door and let her in. My aunt would emerge later in the day after she finished with her male customers. Fortunately, my grandmother never found out what her daughter really did for a living, and we kids never divulged her secret life. Like Mary Magdalene, however, my aunt later met Jesus, repented of her sinful life and was saved. She became a powerful evangelist and led many people to Christ. After years of serving the Lord, she died a new creature in Christ, washed of her sins by the blood of our merciful Savior.
After her conversion, Mary Magdalene also emerged as one of the most faithful and beautiful characters of the Bible. A striking feature about Mary the reformed prostitute is that, whenever she is mentioned in the gospel accounts in connection with other women, she always heads up the list, implying that she occupied a place of prominence in service to Jesus by His female disciples. She stood closed by the cross when Jesus was crucified, and was the first woman to whom Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. It seems that no other woman superceded Mary Magdalene in her utter devotion to the Master (To whom much is forgiven, much is expected...).
Rahab, in the Old Testament, is another example of a prostitute that was gloriously saved and transformed by the mercies of God. Not only did she risk her life to hide the Israelite spies, but she also became the great grandmother of King David. (see my previous message, “Rahab the Prostitute“).
What about you?
Have you ever wondered if God could forgive you? It does not matter what you have done in the past or where you have been, there is no sin too great that God cannot forgive – if you call upon Him in repentance. Jesus paid the penalty for your sins, no matter how bad. Won’t you pray right now and ask Him to forgive you? If you do, you can be washed clean and begin a new life in Christ. You can receive a fresh new start and be transformed into the person God created you to be. Amen.
– Luis Josephus