The full title to Liz Curtis Higgs's latest book is THE WOMEN OF EASTER: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene. And that is exactly what the book delivers. We first see Jesus at Mary and Martha's home, an encounter that showcases the opposite reactions of the two sisters. While Martha frets over the earthly obligations of being the perfect hostess, Mary seeks a spot at the Lord's feet, taking in his every word. Then we see the pair of sisters again, when Jesus arrives after receiving word of Lazarus's illness. Again, we are familiar with this passage and its outcome, but our author sheds insight on its importance in Christ's ministry and as a fore teller of Christ's own resurrection -- the power over death that only comes from God. And Higgs's explanation of Mary's washing of Jesus's feet with oil again points to the cross and days ahead.
From these chapters, we travel ahead with Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem and its outlying areas. We experience Palm Sunday, the business of the temple, and the plot against Jesus. While the disciples' reactions are explained, much emphasis is given to those times when the women were present, especially the crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb. First we see and feel the pain that Mary, Christ's mother, felt. It reminds us of those times our days and nights have been darkened by grief and pain that won't diminish. Her time beneath the cross is yet another sign of the significance of what Christ did for us. And then the empty tomb! A time to rejoice and shout. You would expect the full clutch of disciples to be there to discover the empty grave. But no, it is the women who have gathered the necessary spices and oils (after the Sabbath) and leave as early as possible to show their pure love for the Master by tending to the body. Remember, this was a time when women had few rights, yet God chose Mary Magdalene to be the bearer of news that Christ's body was gone, and that an angel had proclaimed he had risen.
As Liz Curtis Higgs retells the details of Holy Week and Easter, she often quotes scripture, often citing different translations of the same verse or partial verse. This is a technique that broadens the scope of our understanding, and it is a technique that she's used before in her nonfiction books, as have other Christian writers. Even so, it is a style that can be difficult to read and follow. I wish I had taken the time to reread one translation in its entirety before starting this book; perhaps, that would have helped minimize the scattered feeling I sometimes felt at the verse-by-verse narration and commentary moved through multiple translations of key phrases. Perhaps the most insightful part of THE WOMEN OF EASTER are the discussion questions which follow the book. I made the mistake of not reading those questions during the reading process. I highly recommend that any future reader read the accompanying discussion questions immediately after reading a chapter. Hopefully, most readers of this book will have the opportunity to read the book as part of a study/discussion group. That, I believe, will give you the greatest results. I received a copy of this prepublication from Blogging for Books. All opinions are mine.