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ORDINARY PEOPLE IMPORTANT?
Much is said about just what influence and status ordinary people have
within the church, especially those who are women. The argument is
often raised (especially by those in the women’s movement, but
certainly not exclusively) that unless you are ordained into the
ministry or have special training, you are very limited as to
your ministry and, in fact, some even claim that you cannot minister at
all. I am not sure what translation of the Bible such people read but
it certainly does not either say or imply that in my Bible, and if we
look through the entire Biblical story, there are probably more
ordinary people that God has used than those that were “ordained”.
People such as David, Moses, Ruth, Esther, and so the list goes on.
Let’s start with the importance of woman in the witness of the Bible
and what better place than to start on the morning of the resurrection
of Jesus Himself. Matthew’s account (here taken from the amplified
version) of the story is very significant. We are looking at Matthew
1. Now after the Sabbath, near dawn of
the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to
take a look at the tomb.
2. And behold, there was a great
earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and
rolled the boulder back and sat upon it.
3. His appearance was like lightning,
and his garments as white as snow.
4. And those keeping guard were so
frightened at the sight of him that they were agitated and they
trembled and became like dead men.
5. But the angel said to the women, Do
not be alarmed and frightened, for I know that you are looking for
Jesus, Who was crucified.
6. He is not here; He has risen, as He
said [He would do]. Come, see the place where He lay.
7. Then go quickly and tell His
disciples, He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before
you to Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.
8. So they left the tomb hastily with
fear and great joy and ran to tell the disciples.
9. And as they went, behold, Jesus met
them and said, Hail (greetings)! And they went up to Him and clasped
His feet and worshipped Him.
10. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be
alarmed and afraid; go and tell My brethren to go into Galilee, and
there they will see Me.
Here is a precise account of the moments after that great event
occurred. Let’s forget about the others who are present, because they
were in a state of stupor caused by the dazzling presence of an angel.
They certainly would not have been witnesses to what followed.
The important characters to the scene (taking into account the other
Gospel reports) were the women who had supported Jesus in His ministry
and, especially, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (maybe these were
the only two present). They arrive just after the resurrection had
actually taken place.
Now we need to place the social scene here in order to appreciate what
follows. Here is a society that did not place any importance on women
(something still the way of life in most of the middle eastern
countries of today) and, because of this, women were not permitted to
have any significant position in life.
Now these two arrive on the scene. Jesus had a choice. Did He appear to
the women, who were, by their society’s standards, irrelevant, or did
He wait until some of the men finally arrived (possibly because these
women would have raced back and told them)?
He does not wait.
Instead, He makes His appearance to them and reveals history’s greatest
event to these women (vs 9-10). What should this be telling us? I don’t
know about you, but it tells me that the insignificance of women was
not of God’s design. God considers them of significant importance in
His overall plan for the human race.
It is important that we accept this elevation of the status of woman
for the rest of what I am saying to be relevant. This appearance had
now placed women very close to men in God’s plan.
These women were, in fact, the most significant witnesses, in that they
were the very first to see Jesus risen from the dead. What an awesome
experience that must have been for them.
This aspect was obviously not totally at odds with the way the
disciples thought. Most probably they had been given teaching from
Jesus (not recorded) on this matter. We see this from the fact that
when the matter is reported, they believe (at first) what they have
been told. Then social pressures (the world) come into play and Peter
and John decide that they had better check out this amazing story that
they had brought to them. This “world” influence on Peter and John does
not change the significance of God’s revelation but shows, quite
clearly, how easy we are influenced by the world and the way society
thinks, rather listening only to God’s plan.
Now let us expand our viewpoint.
How many of the mentioned followers of Jesus were “ordained” members of
the established religious culture of the day. Apart for Nicodemus, none
are mentioned. There are certainly none in the inner circle that we
know as the Apostles.
Does this mean that God got it wrong?
I very much doubt that. God does not get things wrong (even if the
world tries to tell us He does) so the choosing of these people was not
by accident but as a part of His divine plan. In fact, the scriptures
support the aspect that He chooses the foolish (uneducated) by world
standards in order to confound the so called wise.
So are we ordinary people important?
If we are to honestly believe God’s Word, then I have to say that the
answer is definitely yes.
How does this fit in with what we see?
Well, let’s look at the story of Christianity over the last two
millennia. While there have certainly been some very learned scholars
and ordained people who have made significant contributions to where
Christianity has gone since the resurrection of Christ, we also see
that many of the set backs and obstacles that have been placed in the
way of Christian growth has also come from this same general group. In
fact, if could be easily said that many more obstacles have been placed
in the way of Christian growth by the ordained people than the doors
that have been opened.
Where do we see a parallel to this?
In the same religious structure of Jesus’ time. These men were those
who should have known the way to God and should have been the first
one’s to recognise the truth about Jesus, but they were the ones who
opposed Him and placed obstacles in the way of Christianity in those
early days (consider the early mentions of what St. Paul did as a
By the same token, when we look at much of the great advancements of
Christianity over the same era of time, we see high significance of the
ordinary people and, in many cases, such people have run foul of the
established church as they have endeavoured to bring the salvation of
Jesus Christ into the lives of people.
Why is there an obstacle to such work?
In a word, pride. Just as it was in the days of Jesus, pride gets in
the way as church leaders seem to think (and I hasten to add that this
is not all church leaders) that it is them and them alone who can bring
salvation to the world. While that may be the ideal, they have not and
do not do that, often choosing to rest in their own little world and to
ignore the reality that many are out there waiting to hear the good
news and to see it in action in the same way that Jesus applied it.
The conclusion is that to be “ordained” does not bring you to a
position of reaching out with the Gospel. It is purely in th heart of
each individual person who has a genuine love for God, regardless of
their status, that is where the real work is going to be done. If you
think that you have to have position to do Christ’s work, then you have
deceived yourself and you are not following in the Master’s footsteps.