Film Friday: Mary Magdalene

When Jesus visits Magdala a young woman there, Mary, hears him teaching and is drawn to follow him. So she gets baptised and becomes one of his disciples.

Jesus was radical. There is no doubt about that. He had female disciples and told stories which drew the woman of his culture to follow him. Think of the parable of the widow and the judge, or the story of the woman searching all day for the lost coin, or his words about not stitching new cloth onto an old garment. These are stories of the kingdom and they draw on the lives of the women of his day. This film highlights the story of Mary Magdalene, but there were other female disciples. Joanna, Salome and Susanna, Mary the mother of James, Martha and Mary in Bethany, and others unnamed. He took women on his missions, something which was unheard of, and they supported his ministry financially. Have a look at Luke’s account, chapter 8 verses 1-3.

The frustrating thing about this film (for me anyway) is the lack of passion and dynamism. As I read the gospels I perceive a lively Jesus, telling shocking and funny stories about the nature of God and his kingdom. As a Jewish man he would have danced and laughed with his friends, and on more than one occasion he was accused of having too good a time with his friends and followers. This is not the film to provide a glimpse of this.  In the clip below we hear Jesus preaching powerfully, although to my ears his style sounds a little more like his cousin John at this point. But there’s no doubt he challenged the folks of his day regarding their perception of the kingdom of God.

What does come across in this film is the way his disciples misunderstood the nature of Jesus’s kingdom. They are looking for an uprising, for a day when Jesus will overthrow the Roman oppressors and set himself up as the new king. Mary is the only one who appears to understand the call of Jesus, especially after the resurrection when the disciples are still looking for their own version of the kingdom of God on earth. She tells them that God’s kingdom comes through the compassionate lives and actions of the followers of Jesus, rather than through a violent revolution.

This is the most challenging thing of all really, we long for a day when God will put right all that is wrong, all that is corrupt and painful in this life. And we are promised that day will come (have a look at Revelation chapter 21 and Isaiah chapter 65 verses 17-25), but for now we are called to live differently. To value people, to forgive and to show the love of God in any small ways we can, even if we don’t feel we are achieving much.  I’ll be honest and say I found this film frustrating in its lack of joy and liveliness, but what does come across is that Jesus is sowing a very different kind of revolution, one born in the hearts and lives of his friends, and drawn on the canvas of this world with actions that are counter cultural and caring.

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