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Study for "On the Way"

Mary Magdalene has been the subject of much speculation, in both books and movies.  But, this is no surprise. She has been the subject of speculation for centuries, long before we ever had printed books or, certainly, movies. 

Now, as a song-writer, I’m going do a bit of speculating about her as
well--but hopefully, in a transparent, Scriptural and positive way.

It’s safe to say Mary Magdalene cared intensely about Jesus.  Scripture tells us a number of things:

Luke 8:1-3 tells us that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her,
and that she, along with some other women, traveled with Jesus
and the disciples. The women helped to support the group through their own resources.

We know that she followed Jesus to the Crucifixion, even though it was brutal and possibly dangerous. Matthew 27:55-56 (or Mark 15:40-41) names her among the women there.

At the Crucifixion, as described by John, Mary Magdalene stood close to the cross. She would have seen how Jesus, even while suffering, commended his mother Mary to John for her future care. (John 19:25-27)

Later that day, Mary Magdalene was still present as Joseph of Arimathea provided his own new, cave-like tomb for the body of Jesus. After Jesus was placed in it, a large stone was rolled over its entrance. (Mt. 27:57-61 or Mark 15:42-47)

On the morning that we celebrate as Easter, Mary Magdalene and other women went to the tomb to put spices onto Jesus’ body. It would have been a more proper entombment than He had received on Friday (when everyone had to finish quickly before sunset marked the start of the Sabbath). As the women approached the place, “Who will roll away the stone?” was a concern. (Mark 16:1-3)  Of course, when they arrive, they find that the stone is already rolled away!

 

Much of this background is included in the song.  It is poetic license
that Mary spoke to the moon on her way--although it is quite true
that the moon would have been nearly full! The Jewish remembrance
of the Passover (Exodus 12) was, and still is, tied to a full moon in their lunar-based calendar (Lev. 23:5). Since Jesus died at the time of the Passover, we know that the moon on Sunday morning would have been just past full.  It would have shown brightly, especially if Mary Magdalene (as recorded by John) set out for the tomb while the sky was still dark.  (John 20:1)

It is also poetic license to suggest that the unevenly round moon
reminded her of the stone in front of the tomb. But, we do know that
the seemingly immovable rock was a worry to the women as they went.
Oh, what a powerful symbol that rock remains: of separation from Christ, of vicious judgment, and the finality of death!

It also represents, I think, a burdensome crisis of understanding.  Mary, cured of demons herself and witness to many miracles, would have been full-out sure that Jesus had the power not to be crucified. That He would allow it to happen had to be a wrenching, unanswerable weight for her at the time.

This is the moment of the song.

link to lyrics, sheet music, and audio files

written by Constance Morgenstern

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