Mary Magdalene (2018) and her Witness of Christ and the Kingdom

A few days ago I had the opportunity to see the film Mary Magdalene (2018), which is a biblical drama of the ministry of Jesus, taking interest in the person of Mary Magdalene, as she may have seen it from her point of view. It depicts how she resists the status quo of her family and traditional society, how she is looking for deeper meaning in her life, and how she comes to be a follower of Jesus.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to see the film Mary Magdalene (2018), which is a biblical drama of the ministry of Jesus, taking interest in the person of Mary Magdalene, as she may have seen it from her point of view. It depicts how she resists the status quo of her family and traditional society, how she is looking for deeper meaning in her life, and how she comes to be a follower of Jesus.
It’s a beautiful film, directed by Garth Davis, starring Rooney Mara as Mary and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. The screenplay is written by Philippa Goslett and Helen Edmundson. I particularly liked one of the closing scenes where Mary has just witnessed the resurrected Christ and comes to tell the other apostles. I have included the script of this scene below. I think it has deep insight, which I’ll comment on below.


PETER: You were with him?
MARY: To the end.
Peter, as the sun rose,
I saw him.
He was there, and he was…
All his pain was gone from him.
PETER: A dream.
MARY: It wasn’t a dream.
He was there.
APOSTLE: Mary, he is gone from us.
He is dead.
MARY: He’s not gone.
Even death cannot hold him.
This whole time, we’ve been looking
for a change in the world,
but it’s not what we thought.
The kingdom is here, now.
APOSTLE: We failed.
There is no kingdom.
MARY: …the people would rise,
that he would be crowned king,
did he ever say this to you?
JAMES: Mary.
You saw him? Truly?
But then, the kingdom,
how can that be right?
MARY: Because it’s not something
we can see with our eyes.
It’s here within us.
All we have to do is let go of
our anguish and our resentment,
and we become like children,
just as he said.
PETER: What do you mean?
MARY: The kingdom, it can’t be
built through conflict.
Not by opposition,
not by destruction.
It grows with us, with every
act of love and care,
with our forgiveness.
We have the power
to lift the people,
just as he did, and then we
will be free, just as he is.
APOSTLE: This is what he meant?
And we’ve been walking
this path to revolution,
as if the kingdom would be
born in flames and blood.
PETER: Mary.
Why would he come to you alone?
MARY: Why does that matter?
PETER: Because you say the
kingdom is here. Now.
And just outside that door,
there is no new world.
No end of oppression.
No justice for the poor,
for the suffering.
MARY: How does it feel to carry that
anger around in your heart?
Does it lessen
as the days go by?
We have the power
to relieve their suffering.
It is up to us.
PETER: I believe you, Mary.
I believe that you saw him,
that he came to you,
and it was a sign
that he will return,
and he will bring the kingdom,
the true kingdom.
The new world.
MARY: The world will only change
as we change.
PETER: It’s not right that you come here now
to tell us he has chosen you before us,
that he has brought you
some special message.
MARY: He gathered us
for what was inside.
We were all precious to him.
We were all his apostles.
PETER: Every man in this room
is his rock,
his church
upon which he will build
his glorious new world
with one purpose
and one message.
MARY: Your message.
Not his.
PETER: (SIGHS) You have weakened us, Mary.
You weakened him.
MARY: All I can do is hope that
you’ve heard what I have said.
Pray that you see me as I am.
I value each one of you
as he did.
You are all my brothers,
and I thank you.
But I will not stay
and be silent.

I will be heard.

JESUS: You do not lose heart.
Even now.
Didn’t you ask,
“What will it be like?”
“The kingdom?”

(BOTH LAUGH)

MARY:
It is like a seed.
A single grain of mustard seed,
which a woman took
and sowed in her garden.
And it grew,
and it grew.
And the birds of the air
made nests in its branches.


A few comments. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, as depicted in the film and likely also in history, the apostles thought that Jesus was going to usher in a new political kingdom, with armies who would destroy their enemies, and bring justice to one and all. He was to be the Messiah of the Jews. But they misunderstood Jesus. His was not a ministry of governments and political power, of authority, death, and destruction. As Mary notes, his true kingdom was “here, now.”
It is still “here, now.”
The kingdom is an inner reality, within us, just as Jesus said it was (Luke 17:21). People won’t believe it, they won’t know it or understand it, until they have experienced it for themselves, in themselves. Jesus did not come to establish a great earthly kingdom, with powerful kings and armadas, and he won’t come again to do so either. His mission was to help people realize what they are, who they are, their deepest divine nature, and then to reflect that nature in all that they do in the world. The power of the kingdom comes through us, through our acts of Love in the world. That is how God works in the world, through us. Christ’s “Second Coming” will be when we realize this in all its profound beauty.
“We have the power to relieve their suffering. It is up to us.”


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3 thoughts on “Mary Magdalene (2018) and her Witness of Christ and the Kingdom

  1. You know I like your stuff, but I think it’s wishful thinking to read the mysticism you love into this script. She approaches it, but doesn’t nail it. Most of Christian understanding of “Christ” floats on the surface of the mystical depths of Christ consciousness. My opinion…

    1. It’s not perfect, for sure, but it seems to me to be far closer than most depictions I’m aware of. For that reason, I celebrate it. Any progress towards a more mystical understanding of Christ and the Kingdom is a win in my view.

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