Pietro Perugino’s Mary Magdalene, c. 1500.
Hi, it’s nice to finally meet you. Oh, are you recording all of this? Wow, that’s impressive–and actually I really appreciate it. I’ve heard so many oddball stories about the Teacher floating around. I’m glad you’re taking the time to get things right.
My name? Mary. There are so many of us “Marys” around the teacher most every called me Mary Magdaline. Occupation? Really? OK, well, let’s just say “disciple.” How did I meet him. Mmmm. There’s a lot there….let’s just say I was as desperate as anyone who came to him. I had 7 demons cast out of me, you know. There are plenty of people happy to bend your ear with stories of my past–and most of them are true! [Laughs.] But it’s not good for me to dwell on those. That’s all I want to say about that.
[Out of range question.]
Right. Sure. Well, I can only really give you my own story. If you want particulars on his teaching you’ll need to track down Matthew–he’s more the record-keeping type. Me, I’m more about relationships. I just wanted to be around Teacher, that’s all I wanted. I can tell you why that’s true, if you like.
After he removed the demons from me, I felt such freedom! I’d never experienced anything like that before. You’d think someone like me, who didn’t care a fig for anything anyone said about them would know what freedom is, but that just not true. Demons are not about freedom–it’s like being in a cage that’s slightly to small for you with 7 tigers added in…only worse. [Shudders visibly.] Sorry, I need to leave that alone. [Pause.] Yes, freedom. But it was more than freedom. I felt clean. That wasn’t even something I was looking for. It’s like what the prophet Ezekiel said, about being sprinkled with clean water and being cleansed of all your impurities and idols. That actually makes sense to me now. [Trails off.]
Pardon? Sorry, I miss him a lot. Yes, I followed him from that point on. I just couldn’t get enough! The freedom that I experienced in the moment those demons left me, the cleanness, the sense of rightness of all that–I only found that in the Teacher. So I just didn’t leave. I followed him everywhere. I pushed to the front of the crowds, I sat at his feet, quite literally. I gave money to support him. And when he’d go off to be with the Twelve–and understand, I don’t begrudge a man his male friends–I would find any way I could to stay close. I’d serve dinner, I’d sit outside the door…whatever.
[Out of range question.]
You’re right, that is a delicate question. Or perhaps it would be more proper to say an “indelicate” question. Trust a Roman to ask it. Look, the Teacher was the embodiment of our Law. I’ve never seen someone so single-minded, so put together. As far as I can tell, he never fell short of the Law. There were things that he did that looked like law-breaking to others, like the time when he cleaned out moneylenders and sacrifice vendors from the temple–but when he explained that he was cleansing the temple, how these vendors were leaving no place for the Gentiles to worship, it made perfect sense. And he told us that the Law was made for man and not man for the Law. I’m still unpacking THAT one! But whenever one of the Pharisees would point out some niggly way in which he was law-breaking, he’d turn it on its head and show them how they were law-breaking. His law-breaking got closer to the heart of the Law, the Decalogue you know. Then he even boiled that down further and said the essence of the Law was to love the Father with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He was always turning things to show you a way of thinking of it that you’d never done before.
I’m sorry? Right, yes, fine. The answer is NO, I never saw the Teacher deal any woman–or man for that matter, Roman–in any way that was inappropriate within the Law. I won’t say there weren’t women among us who wanted a more intimate relationship with him. But if you got to thinking that way you’d have some encounter with him where he made you feel so honored and respected, even loved–you’d suddenly feel like it was possible to live your life without a husband, just to be close to him. That’s how satisfying it was just to be with him. We gave up the comforts of home and the protection and love of family just to be with him.
So for a while, things were great. We all traveled together from place to place, listening to the Teacher, marveling at his healings, looking out for each other. We never lacked for food. Sometimes we’d end up sleeping on the ground outside, but no one ever had to do that alone, and I don’t think anyone begrudged it. We all wanted to be there, you see, and we all supported each other–just like Teacher wanted it.
[Next segment: 1.b: On Jesus Christ's death & resurrection]