I just finished watching the 2018 movie Mary Magdalene with Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Despite the tepid reviews, and the fact that I’m not Christian anymore, I thought it was a beautiful movie. I’d love to share a clip with you, but I can’t find a clip of the scene online and copyright prevents me from creating one. So, instead, I will share an excerpt from the screenplay.
In the penultimate scene, Mary (played by Mara) confronts Peter (played by Ejiofor) and the other male apostles. Each describes their vision of the revolution which Jesus represented. It’s tempting to say that one, Mary’s, is spiritual, while the other, Peter’s, is political, but that would be an oversimplification. I heard Mary’s words as a beautiful expression of prefigurative politics, the idea that we have to be the change that we want to see in the world, with application far beyond Christianity and formal religion generally.
Mary Magdalene: Matthew.
Peter: [speaking to mary] You were with Him?
Mary Magdalene: 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 Magdalene: It wasn’t a dream. He was there.
John: Mary, He is gone from us. He is dead.
Mary Magdalene: 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.
Thomas: We failed. There is no kingdom.
Mary Magdalene: What, 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 Magdalene: 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 become like children just as He said.
Peter: What do you mean?
Mary Magdalene: 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.
Joseph: This is what He meant. And we have been walking this path to revolution as if the kingdom would be born of flames and blood.
Peter: Mary. Why would He come to you alone?
Mary Magdalene: 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 Magdalene: 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 Magdalene: The world will only change as we change.
Peter: It’s not right that you come here now to tell us that He has chosen you before us. That He has brought you some… special message.
Mary Magdalene: 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 Magdalene: Your message. Not His.
Peter: You have weakened us, Mary. You weakened Him.
Mary Magdalene: 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.