Imagine there is an important announcement to be made, whether it is a major press conference in Washington, DC or a major product unveiling in Cupertino, CA. Now imagine that instead of the President of the United States or the CEO of Apple© the announcement is made by someone from the janitorial staff. The message may be completely clear, concise and compelling, but it would be unusual. We have a mental picture of authority (right or wrong) and we tend not to treat those who fall outside that perception with the same respect that we afford those who fall within it.
Last Sunday, as I was expounding Mark 16, I was reminded again that God messes around with our cultural perspectives all the time. Who was it that was given the task of making the greatest announcement of all time? Not the religious leaders, nor the political leaders of that time, but three women. This is particularly shocking due to the fact that females in 1st century Palestine were regarded as having a societal value only slightly higher than that of livestock. They were not heard or heeded, let alone given the platform to preach or teach. However, God doesn’t shape His callings according to societal norms.
“Don’t be alarmed,” [the young man] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)
That is just the way God is, elevating the ordinary and setting apart the simple. When He decided to announce the Savior’s birth, He used holders of the lowest of occupations to do so. When He selected the twelve who would carry on the work, he called fishermen, a tax collector and half a dozen unknowns. Any cursory reading of the Bible gives example after example of God’s raising up what society disregards. The least in his family (David) becomes the great king. The least in the community (Gideon) becomes the great warrior. One with a speech impediment (Moses) becomes the great prophet. One with the lowest moral standing (Rahab) becomes a great deliverer.
One notable exception, I suppose, would be Paul – a religiously trained teacher of the Law. Yet, Paul did not call upon his education, pedigree or intellect when he proclaimed the gospel. He gave the words of a few women as of first importance, repeating the outline they gave on the first Easter morning:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [that is, Peter], and then to the Twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (NIV)
This lasting and repeating reality is a fountain of hope for those of us who are ordinary (or maybe even less than ordinary). It is a good reminder that God’s great truths can come from unexpected sources – small Sunday school classes, stammering sermonizers, saintly women and scruffy sanitation workers. What a blessing to know that God can, and does, speak through anyone of any standing whose heart is found in Him.