KEEPING SCORE I have often said that one needs a scorecard to keep separate all the women named Mary who appear in the story of Jesus. They include:
Mary, the mother of Jesus
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus
Mary of Magdala, who Jesus healed and who became a faithful follower
Mary, the mother of James, Joseph, and Salome (Mt. 27:56)
Mary, the wife of Clopas (John 19:25; she may be the same as the preceding Mary)
Mary, the mother of John Mark, at whose house the first followers of Jesus met (Acts 12:12)
Of all these women named Mary, the only one apparently not involved in the Easter story in some way was the last Mary.
Early on Sunday morning, the women -- whom Matthew identifies as Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (most likely #4/5, above) -- set off for the tomb to complete the burial preparations that had been shortened on Friday due to the onset of the Sabbath. Matthew's account (Chapter 28) could be read to imply that they arrived at the point of the activity of verses 2-4 (earthquake, etc.), but this is reported by Mark and Luke to have taken place before the women arrived. The guards had apparently fled, the stone was already rolled back, and the body of Jesus was gone. The only answers came from an angel, who told the women that Jesus had risen. One would have thought that as many times as Jesus had talked about the sign of Jonah and his eventual resurrection, at least some of his followers would have been expecting what happened. But they were so thrown off stride by the events of that weekend, and what Jesus had promised was so outside of the box of their experience, despite Jesus recent raising of Lazarus, that even the angel's report seemed like a dream. It was only when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden and to the disciples back in their hiding place that the impossible became the reality.
We rejoice in these women, the first witnesses to the resurrection. We rejoice in the faithful women who follow in their footsteps by bearing witness to the resurrection today, as church members, deacons, ruling elders, and ministers. Nineteen of our women ministers gathered in March for a two-day retreat led by Karoline Lewis of Luther Seminary (Minneapolis, MN). Currently, we have four candidates and four inquirers under care of Presbytery, preparing for ministry. Five of them are women. More persons are in conversation with us about coming under care, including at least two women and one man by my count.
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy …” (Acts 2:17, NRSV). The women at the tomb were first up in these “last days.” Many have followed. May we soon reach the time churchwide where those in the ordered ministry of the Word and Sacrament are viewed not as “women minsters,” but just “ministers.” That would be a fitting tribute to the faithful first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Dan