"If a group of men in the first century wanted to make up a believable story about someone rising from the dead, they would not have chosen women as primary witnesses. But in every gospel account of the resurrection (all of those accounts written by first-century men), women are the first and cornerstone witnesses of the event."
—From Ch. 35 ("Sunday Rising"), Jesus Journey
One of the many things that struck me while writing Jesus Journey is the extraordinary way in which Jesus interacted with women.
Whether it's the woman at the well in John 4:4-30, the female disciple known as Mary of Bethany in Luke 10:38-42, the unidentified woman Jesus honors with the unprecedented title "daughter of Abraham" in Luke 13:15-16, the unusual fact that Jesus' ministry was uniquely dependent upon the financial support of women according to Luke 8:3, or the fascinating historical anomaly that all four gospel accounts record women as the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection... the way in which Jesus related to women is groundbreaking in its first-century setting.
In fact, because of the critical role that Mary Magdalene in particular plays in the resurrection accounts—she was the first person to see Jesus alive again, and the first to share that good news with others—Mary has traditionally been known as the "apostle to the apostles."
I absolutely love how John 20:17-18 describes the historic and deeply moving moment when Jesus commissions Mary Magdalene as the very first preacher of the good news:
Go tell my brothers what you have seen...
There have been so many women who have helped me see Jesus more clearly. One of the most recent is my wife's remarkable grandmother, Lorry Lutz.
"Grandma Lorry" is now eighty-nine years old, but I wholeheartedly agree with the memorable words of my son Blaze (one of her nineteen great-grandchildren!), when he recently told her, "Wow, Grandma, you don't look eighty-nine at all!"
But it's not just that Grandma Lorry looks like she is overflowing with life at almost ninety years of age—she actually is.
Right now, for example, she's spending two months in Kenya, East Africa, helping some of her old friends write a book about the university they started there many years ago. (You can read all about it on her blog: LorryLutz.com.)
And just in case you're wondering why these friends would ask Grandma Lorry to help them with this significant writing project—it's because Grandma is the author of twelve books!
Her most recent, Daughters of Deliverance, is a gripping historical novel that explores the life of Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946), a medical doctor and anti-trafficking activist who exposed the trafficking of women in Wisconsin labor camps in the late 1800's. To my shame, I had never even heard of Katharine Bushnell until I read Grandma Lorry's highly inspiring account of her life...
There is a beautiful and unbroken line of heroic, Jesus-centered women that extends from Mary Magdalene on Easter Morning (the "apostle to the apostles"), to Katharine Bushnell in those Wisconsin labor camps, to so many amazing women around the world who give their lives for the sake of others, for their children, and for those in need each and every day.
When Grandma and I were recently corresponding about the astonishing historical fact that women were the first witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, this is what she relayed to me:
"I was well into my fifties when the awesome meaning of His first appearance to a woman struck me. In one small but very significant act, Jesus lifted the value of women from the inferiority and inequality of what they were experiencing, to that of a full person.
"And Jesus didn’t stop there! He instructed her to 'go tell my brothers what you’ve seen.' From that day I squared my shoulders and accepted the value and position God has given me as a woman. And if necessary I also 'go and tell the brethren.'"
Yes, yes, and amen!
So thank you, Grandma Lorry, for extending the extraordinary legacy of Mary Magdalene, and Katharine Bushnell, and so many other remarkable women like yourself—to all of us.
You are an example to us all, women and men alike.