by Kevin Finkenbinder
DEWITT, MI – The following is a fictional account, but in every way possible I have endeavored to build it based on what the Bible said actually happened. As with any historical fiction, I have filled in the blanks with my thoughts, but it is my goal and belief that the following is faithful to the Gospel narrative. Should there be any discrepancies, rest assured that the mistakes are mine and not because of any error or contradiction in scripture.
Our first Mary was born in the small town of Migdala on the Sea of Galilee about 4 days’ journey from Jerusalem and a full day’s journey from Nazareth. Migdal was known for only a few things. First, Migdala pickled fish that was shipped along the trade routes to most of the known world so it had a positive reputation among the gentiles.
It was the first city Rome invaded in 54 B.C. so it had a negative reputation among those of Israel. She would rather forget her life before. As a firstborn child, she was considered a curse to her father because she was not a boy. Rather than a source of economic strength and family honor, she was seen as a burden on the family.
By the standards of her village, her father had likely not treated her poorly, but he had probably not shown her love, seeing her as little more than a household servant by the time she was eight. Around the age of 14, her father married her off to the owner of one of the pickling businesses. Though he smelled of pickled fish, he did provide for her needs. It was through her husband’s business that she first met Simon and Andrew and (as much as was legally possible between a woman and two men) become their friend, but when they moved their families to Bethsaida, she lost track of them.
Though a good man, her husband was significantly older than Mary, so when he died, she was left young and alone. With no legal right to his property, no children and no prospects, she turned in desperation to immoral activity. She then covered her shame by indulging in wine and occasional intoxicants made from the hemp and poppy plants that grew abundantly. This led to other choices, eventually ending in her becoming demon possessed. This would have been the end of Mary of Magdala, also known as Mary Magdalene, if it had not been for her friendship with Simon and Andrew.
Our Second Mary was Jacob’s second child. Since Jacob was a carpenter, she grew to love fine wood products and the earthy smell of freshly sawn timber. Her household was happy and when she got old enough she was wed to Cleophas. Like her father, Cleophas was also a carpenter, though unlike her father, he specialized in fine furniture instead of buildings and barns.
They were a happy couple, worshiping together in the synagogue and spending time in a lively community. Because of the nature of his sales, Cleophas regularly travelled between his home in Nazareth and his ancestral home in Bethlehem, just outside of Jerusalem. Mary often accompanied him in his travels and, surprising for the time, he encouraged her to learn from the religious and philosophical teachers in Jerusalem.
Mary of Cleophas’s older brother, Joseph, ended up marrying our third Mary. This Mary’s mother was Anna and her father Heli. Heli and Anna were well known in the community for the compassionate way they cared for others, a trait that they instilled in Mary’s heart. By the time she was old enough to be engaged, she too was known for her compassion. It was this pious compassion that attracted Joseph to her in the first place, and it was Joseph’s strong, yet forgiving nature that made Mary leap for joy when her father announced the marriage arrangements had been made.
Everything in Mary's life became more complex shortly after she was engaged to Joseph, when an angel told her that she would bear a son who is God’s son and that she was to name him Jesus. Joseph threatened to divorce her, but then the angel visited him as well. While everything was good between Joseph and Mary, she still had to live with the rumors surrounding how she came to be pregnant.
As Jesus grew, Mary watched Him. She loved the memories of Him lying on her chest as an infant. She still smiled when she thought of the compassionate way that he treated his friends. She was proud of the way he had learned the carpentry trade from His step-father Joseph while never failing to learn more about God.
Mary watched as he began to teach. At first, she was proud, but then she became concerned. At one point, she and her other children had even tried to pull Him away from His itinerant ministry because they were afraid He had lost His mind. In spite of her early encounter with the angel Gabriel, Mary’s doubt in this situation was largely influenced by the doubt of her children and family. Joseph had died and her family was all she had. In fact, the only one in the family that didn’t have this fear was her sister in law Mary of Cleophas, who early on started using her business travels with Cleophas as a way to accompany and support the travels of her Nephew Jesus.
Mary of Cleophas often told her sister in law of the amazing way that God was working. Shortly before Mary started to follow His ministry, He had called several men to follow His teaching and be His disciples. Among these were Simon and Andrew. They traveled with Jesus, and Mary of Cleophas had been there with them as their troupe ran into an old friend of Simon and Andrew, Mary Magdalene. When they encountered her, she was in a terrible state, being controlled by the demons who possessed her life.
Simon and Andrew were heartbroken at this encounter. They told Jesus about what a wonderful person Mary had been and about the hardships she had survived. They questioned how God could allow this to happen. But rather than directly answer their question Jesus cast the demon out of Mary Magdalene’s life. It was at this point that Mary Magdalene began to follow and support the ministry of Jesus, and shortly thereafter Mary Magdalene and Mary of Cleophas were fast friends.
When Mary heard the stories of what her son was doing, including stories like the change in Mary Magdalene’s life, it started to overcome the doubts, and she too began to see that what her son was doing was ordained by God. She began to believe in Him and to grow closer to both her sister in law, Mary of Cleophas and to Mary Magdalene.
All three Mary’s were devoted to Jesus and so all of them were heartbroken when He was arrested, tortured and led to be executed on a criminal’s cross, but none was quite as devastated as His mother. No woman should have to see this happen to her son, even more so when He is totally innocent. The three women went to the foot of the cross. Mary, heartbroken over what was happening to her son, needed the support of the other Marys. They all needed each other.
There from the Cross Jesus looked at His mother and His disciple John, and told John to take care of her as if she was His own mother. Shortly thereafter, Jesus cried out committing His spirit to God, He declared, “it is finished” and then died.
The three Marys would have stayed to take care of His body, but the soldiers forced everyone away. It was their intent to kill the condemned men so that they wouldn’t be alive on the Sabbath, but were afraid that if the crowd watched it could cause a riot. Thankfully Joseph of Arimathea had enough clout to redeem Jesus’s body, or else His body would have been dumped into the trash heap in the valley of Gehenna, a place so terrible that its name was also used for hell. Joseph quickly wrapped the body for burial, and put it in his own tomb, but could not add the traditional spices and perfumes because the Sabbath was quickly approaching.
With the Sabbath restrictions, the Marys could do nothing for Jesus’s body until the Sabbath was over on the first day of the week. As soon as they could, the women went to the tomb to anoint the body with the ritual spices. They arrived just as the sun was rising, unsure how they would get the tomb open, and uneasy about the inevitable smells from a body that had been dead for three days and three nights.
When they got there they found the tomb already open. Jesus’s mother Mary and Aunt Mary stood there perplexed, but Mary Magdalene ran to find the disciples in a panic. She was sure that someone had stolen His body. A short time later the disciples and Mary Magdalene arrived. The disciples went in to inspect the empty tomb, but Mary stood outside weeping with the others. After inspecting the tomb, the disciples left to share the news with others, not fully understanding what was happening.
The women, however, stayed at the tomb. Angels appeared to the women and said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has arisen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
In her grief, the words of the angels had gone right past Mary Magdalene’s head. She then turned and saw Jesus, but in her grief she did not recognize Him and thought He was the gardener. She asked Him where He had taken the body so that she could go see it. Jesus then said her name, “Mary,” and at His voice she recognized Him and embraced Him in a hug. Jesus lovingly told her to let Him go as He was ascending to the Father. Mary now believed.
Later that afternoon, Mary’s Husband Cleophas and another disciple were walking on the road to Emmaus. They were joined by Jesus, but did not recognize Him. Jesus asked what they were discussing and Cleophas told Him about the things that had happened to Jesus. Jesus then explained how everything that happened had fulfilled prophecies of the messiah. They still didn’t recognize Him until He lifted his hands to break the bread at the meal. The view of His nail pierced hands opened their eyes and they recognized Jesus, but then He disappeared from their sight.
Over the next several days, Jesus appeared many times, in sealed rooms and open spaces, in public crowds and in small gatherings. The ones who treasured His appearances the most were likely the three Marys.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Finkenbinder is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in DeWitt, Michigan since June 28, 2020. Pastor Kevin and his wife Amy have three children: Isaiah, Asa and Hannah. Pastor Kevin graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has worked in University Student ministries.