Different explanations have been given of this name; but the most natural is that she came from the town of Magdala. She appears before us for the first time in #Lu 8:2| among the women who "ministered unto him of their substance." All appear to have occupied a position of comparative wealth. With all the chief motive was that of gratitude for their deliverance from "evil spirits and infirmities." Of Mary it is said specially that "seven devils went out of her," and the number indicates a possession of more than ordinary malignity. She was present during the closing hours of the agony on the cross. #Joh 19:25| She remained by the cross till all was over, and waited till the body was taken down and placed in the garden sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathaea, #Mt 27:61; Mr 15:47; Lu 23:55| when she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James, "bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint" the body. #Mr 16:1| The next morning accordingly. in the earliest dawn, #Mt 28:1; Mr 16:2| they came with Mary the mother of James to the sepulchre. Mary Magdalene had been to the tomb and had found it empty, and had seen the "vision of angels." #Mt 28:5; Mr 16:6| To her first of all Jesus appeared after his resurrection. #Joh 20:14,15| Mary Magdalene has become the type of a class of repentant sinners; but there is no authority for identifying her with the "sinner" who anointed the feet of Jesus in #Lu 7:36-50| neither is there any authority for the supposition that Mary Magdalene is the same as the sister of Lazarus. Neither of these theories has the slightest foundation in fact.
Mary Magdalene, i.e. of Magdala in Naphtali (Joshua 19:38), now el-Mendel on the W. of the sea of Galilee. Lightfoot (Her. Hebrew Matthew 26:56; Harm. Evan. Luke 8:3) identifies her with "the woman a sinner" (Luke 7:37), and explains "Mary of the braided locks" from gaadal "to braid" (?). She was one of the women "who ministered to Jesus of their substance." Gratitude moved Mary Magdalene, as Christ had cast out of her seven (the number for completeness, i.e. a "legion" of) demons (compare Matthew 12:45; Mark 16:9). She, with the rest of the healed women, accompanied Him in one of His tours "throughout every city and village of Galilee, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God, the twelve being with Him" (Luke 8:1-2-3). In His last journey to Jerusalem again they accompanied Him from Galilee (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:55; Luke 24:10). "They stood afar off beholding these things," namely, the closing agony of the crucifixion (Luke 23:49).
Mary the mother of James, and Salome mother of Zebedee's children, were thus grouped with Mary Magdalene (Mark 15:40), also the Virgin Mary (John 19:25). Mary Magdalene remained "sitting over against the sepulchre," and "beholding" until Joseph of Arimathea laid the Lord's body in the tomb (Mark 15:47; Matthew 27:61; Luke 23:55). She, Salome, and Mary mother of James, "when it was yet dark," at early "dawn of the first day of the week," "came to see the sepulchre," "bringing the sweet spices which they had prepared" wherewith to "anoint Him," in a liquid state, since they regarded the use of the powdered spices of Nicodemus wrapped in the swathes as an incomplete and provisional interment (Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; Mark 16:1-2).
The vision of angels that told her and the rest that Jesus was risen gladdened her at first, then her sorrows returned, she thought it but a vision. She went off to Peter and John (son of Salome, who had been with her) crying "they have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we (undesignedly implying that other women had been with her at the tomb though she is now alone) know not where they have laid Him" (John 20:2). She returned to the tomb, where her heart was, following Peter and John, and remained behind when they went away. "She stood without at the sepulchre weeping," and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain; they say cf6 "why weepest thou?"
She saith, her one absorbing thought being the absence of Him whom she had designed to lavish her reverential love upon, "because they have taken away my Lord (her phrase to the angels, as it was 'the Lord' to her fellow disciples Peter and John), and I (no longer 'we' as in John 20:2) know not where they have laid Him." Brooding over her one grief in the stupor of hopeless anguish, she, "turning herself back," failed to recognize Jesus, though she saw Him standing there. cf6 "Woman," said He, cf6 "why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" "Supposing Him to be the gardener she saith, Sir, if thou have borne Him (she, with the natural absence of mind of one absorbed in one object, forgetting to explain whom she meant, as if all must know Him) hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." She never stops to think of her own weakness as a woman; love gives her the nerve to take it for granted that she is able for the blessed task; contrast her and the women's former question, "who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (Mark 16:3.)
One word from Jesus, her own name, in His well remembered familiar tone, revealed to her the Lord, cf6 "Mary!" "Rabboni" (the strongest term of reverent love) she exclaimed, turning herself and casting herself at His feet and embracing them. (For fuller details, see JESUS CHRIST.) Truly the poet writes: Not she with traitorous kiss her Master stung, Not she denied Him with unfaithful tongue; She, when apostles fled, could dangers brave, Last at His cross, and earliest at His grave." He stops her in respect to a love which leaned too much upon His fleshly presence; she and His disciples now need to rise to a higher and at the same time a nearer, but spiritual, communion with Him. cf6 "Be not now touching Me" (compare 1 John 1:1), for the time of this permanent "seeing" (John 16:16; John 16:19; John 16:22) and knowing Me after the Spirit, which is to supersede your past "knowledge of Me after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16), is not yet come, cf6 "but go to My brethren and say, I am ascending (already My ascension has begun) unto My Father and your Father" (Hebrews 2:10-11).
Her earthly affection needed to be elevated into a heavenly one (John 20:25-29). It was Thomas' need too; Jesus' condescension in stooping to his weakness and granting him the fleshly touch was to raise him to the higher one of faith. This is the last mention of her, a most graphic one, supplied to us by the son of her old associate, Salome. The seven demons that had possessed her were her misfortune, not the proof that she had been in the common sense "a woman which was a sinner." Luke 7:37,39: the KJV heading of the chapter is wrong, identifying the two. Mary that anointed Jesus was the sister of Martha and Lazarus and distinct from Mary Magdalene. The mention of the anointing in John 11:2 is evidently John's anticipation of John 12:3, to inform his readers that the Mary in John 11 is the same as she whose anointing of the Lord they knew by common tradition. It does not mean that she had already anointed Him and was identical with the woman a sinner whose anointing of Him is recorded in Luke 7.