Written by the Rev. Kyle Lovett
I recently called Jesus’ disciple Peter a schmuck. In worship. With loving tenderness.
Peter is such an endearing disciple. Every time he opens his mouth, he sticks his foot right in. (“What a schmuck!”) And that’s a role model I can get behind – a disciple who tries hard to follow Jesus and to understand what’s going on around him, but he is so fallibly human!
He’s also the one who gets remembered through the centuries for uttering one of the two Christological confessions in the gospels: Jesus asks “Who am I?” and Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” He says it in the gospels according to Mark, and to Matthew, and to Luke.
The other confession comes in the Gospel according to John. Do you remember who utters it? I had forgotten. For centuries it has been attributed to a minor character, Martha. Jesus had raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead, and then she and Jesus had a conversation. This barely-known woman says, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
Same basic confession as Peter.
The oldest and most complete manuscript of the gospel according to John, Papyrus 66, has recently been digitized. A biblical scholar, a student biblical scholar, put new eyes on that scan, and zoomed way in, and realized that the oldest extant manuscript has a scribal change. The original story was not of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. It was a story about one woman – Mary. The Mary we know throughout the gospels… the ubiquitous Mary Magdalene.
Did your head just explode? Mine sure did when I heard about this!
And not only that – Mary Magdalene is not Mary-from-Magdala but rather Mary THE Magdalene. Mary the Tower, in Aramaic. A title, like Peter is the Rock.
What if our daughters (and our sons and our non-binary offspring) can now see co-equal voices in the Bible – a male disciple and a female disciple – naming Jesus as Messiah and being recognized by Him for their faith-claim?
How will their devotional life change with this revelation? How will mine? How will yours?
For now I am just sitting with it – sitting at the feet of the Teacher, next to his Disciple Mary.
I invite you to sit there with me, in awe and wonder…
and see what transpires.