Mary’s Money

One day a pastor stood up in church and announced to his congregation, “I have good news and I have bad news.  The good news is, we have enough money to pay for the new building program.  The bad news is, it’s still all out there in your pockets.”

When Jesus traveled throughout Israel, the Bible says there were two groups of people who accompanied him: one composed of males and one of females.  The men were the twelve apostles preparing for the ministry and the ladies were those providing for the ministry.  Luke 8:2-3 describes the latter as follows:

And certain women, Mary called Magdalene, and Johanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto them of their substance.

Of these godly women who provided financially, Mary Magdalene (“of Magdala”) is listed first, taken to mean her’s was the greatest monetary support.  And since Magdala means “elegant” one can assuredly conclude that this was a  rich lady from a rich city.  And Josephus, the Jewish historian, adds credibility to this viewpoint by writing that Magdala was a first-century port city on the Sea of Galilee – a major center of commerce and trade, including a fleet of 240 boats used to catch fish, salted them, and exported the product to Europe.   But what has so confounded archaeologists for so long is Magdala’s location. That is, until now.
One day the Israeli government was approached by a man who wanted to build a spiritual retreat center along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (lodging, restaurant, auditorium, etc.), citing the need for more of such things in the Galilee area.  He was given permission to purchase four lots, plans were drawn up, and final  approval then given.  The $100 million dollar project was set to go with the only remaining obstacle being the compulsory archaeological salvage dig.  This  would take two weeks and the on-site archaeologist couldn’t be happier to get to the final day and to the final corner, since it had been over 100 degrees hot in summer temperature with a constant influx of bees and mosquitoes.  As well, up to now, nothing had been found and nothing was expected to be.  Then about two feet down, in the most remote part of the property, a digger’s spade struck history, Magdala!  Today, over 1,000 volunteers have been at the site, so far unearthing 15% of the find, including coins dated 29 B.C., the exact time Jesus would have ministered in the area.  (And there’s little doubt of the Lord having been in Magdala, as it was directly on the way between Nazareth and Capernaum). But for biblicists, it’s not just about the place being found, but what does the place say about itself?  Does Magdala say money?  And the answer is yes.  For instance, the synagogue being unearthed (the only 1st century one found in Israel) bespeaks upper class  all the way, indicating quite a wealthy congregation.  And the streets, shops and homes are saying the same.

The bottom line?  How could a woman, on her own, not just travel as a disciple of Jesus for months on end looking after her own lodging and meals, but also provide liberally for His ministry as well?  You could if your name was Mary and you were from a rich place like Magdala.  Once again, the stones cry out in Israel.