I’ll suggest that Mary was first in many ways.
1. Mary was the first to know about arrival of the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of the Most High God (Luke 1:26-38).
2. Mary was the first to surrender to God’s new redemptive plan in Jesus (Luke 1:38). One could say she was the “first disciple” from this.
3. Mary became — however you care to say it — the first witness to Jesus Christ. Only she was there at the very beginning, so only she was able to tell this story.
4. This leads me to this conclusion: Mary became the first human font of the “Christian hermeneutic.” Let’s admit up front that the “Christian hermeneutic” — the grid of learning to read the entire story of God through the story of Jesus — is revealed to Mary by the Holy Spirit, but that entire grid was passed on from the Holy Spirit through Mary to others. In other words, though not alone, Mary is the first one to know what has become the orthodox Christian view of Jesus: we now believe Jesus as Messiah, as Son of the Most High God, because Mary “passed on that hermeneutic” to others. (She’s not alone, but she’s first.)
The words we use, the words that shape what we believe, are words that have their human origins in Mary.
5. Mary is the first “follower of Jesus” (while still in her uterus) to declare what that kingdom ministry would look like when it occurred — even if she had to adjust her thinking, her Magnificat announces what God will do through her Most High God Son (Luke 1:46-55). Both Zechariah and Simeon confirmed this, and then Jesus himself preached it and lived it out (Luke 4:18-19 and Matt 11:5-6).
6. Mary is the first (along with Joseph) to hear that her Son would not only cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, but that the “sword” would pierce her own soul — surely an indication of the crucifixion at some level (2:33-35).
7. Mary is the first (perhaps along with Joseph) to hear that her Son had a unique and transcending relation to his Father (Luke 2:41-50).
8. Mary, perhaps along with Peter, was the first to struggle with the unique kind of Messianic ministry Jesus would actually carry out — from the incident in the Temple (#7) to the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) to her brush with Jesus’ vision of the true family (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35) — and one of the first to be a witness to the crucifixion as God’s saving event (John 19:25-27).
9. Mary, with others, was the first to participate in the Spirit of Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
Put together, we’ve got Mary as not only a unique person in history but a dynamic woman minister — she verbally and theologically shaped how you and I understand who Jesus is.
Can anyone tell me why Mary is so often neglected when it comes to talking about women in ministry?
And, if you are interested in helping more churches get women connected to ministry, check out this blog by Ben Dubow at St. Paul’s.