Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ loved each other, but not in the romantic way that would make them lovers in many human eyes. They had a deep, abiding love which served as the basis of a close friendship between two fellow servants on each other.
Jesus embodied in His short time on earth the agape, or all-loving spiritual love, of God the Father for creation. Only God can have this perfect, holy love for anyone since no other is perfect. Because He is the truly divine, holy Son of God, Jesus could demonstrate for others what this love is like and how deep it can be. He showed it to all who believed in him, but humanity being less than perfect does not always understand such actions on God or Jesus’ part. This misinterpretation leads many into thinking that because Jesus had any love for Mary Magdalene, it must have been eros, the kind philosophically associated with what most people consider lovers.
Philosophers also use a Greek term, philos, to designate brotherly, or in more modern terms, friendly love. Jesus provided humanity with a prime example of how to show this to others in society by both His words and His deeds. Toward Mary Magdalene, he showed this friendly love by casting seven demons away from her and restoring her physical and mental wholeness.
She in turn reciprocated the love by leaving her former life behind and following Him. Mary traveled with the group of disciples and helped support them from her own means. The combination of this and how Jesus treated her with a dignity and respect not shown to women in that era, where many considered women as property, also contributes to modern scholars and lay people alike wondering if they were lovers.
A less philosophical and more practical way of looking at their relationship means exploring some social mores of the time. Jesus and Mary Magdalene would not have taken each other as lovers because to do so would be committing adultery and therefore sin by having sex outside of marriage. This would have surely cast Jesus out of His role as the Son of God and Savior of humanity from sin, and had it happened, the world might still be waiting to be saved.
Both he and Mary certainly would have been cast out of their society, an effect she would not have wanted to face after having been restored to the community when He cast out the demons from her. Modern scholars have no idea exactly what the demons represent, as they are not named in the Bible. It is only human inference leading anyone to believe that Jesus would cast them out and take her as His lover.
In spite of the fact that the story is a beautiful showing of repentance, only arrogant human inference connects the sinful but unnamed woman who anointed Jesus feet with Mary Magdalene. Going from Luke 7:36 to the end of the chapter, the Bible mentions Jesus telling the Pharisee’s dinner party as well as the woman herself that because she bathed His feet in her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with costly perfume, she has done an ultimate act of love for which her sins are forgiven. Often, the word sin, when referred to as something a woman of that time had done, is interpreted as pointing to sexual sin such as adultery and prostitution. Unfortunately for Mary Magdalene, this story comes right before the part where Luke 8:1-4 speaks of the faithful women who accompanied Jesus in ministry and later to His death. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Mary’s demons had been exorcised well before the mention of the woman taken in sin, and once healed, Mary had devoted her life to serving Jesus.
Thus, a careful and thoughtful scholar of the Bible can see that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene did not become lovers in the earthly sense. They did love each other, but in a more pure and holy way than many people experience in their lifetimes. Such love always goes deeper than a typical platonic relationship, but does not lead to erotic love or anything more than a depth of friendship only God can grant between truly deserving people such as Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ.