Those people of no value

Tomorrow is my father’s 100th birthday! Sadly, we will not be having a party, although I know he would have appreciated that. He died in April, 1993 soon after I had arrived in Aughton.

However, I do feel that his centenary should be marked in some way. So having given this some thought over several months, I propose to visit his birthplace at 66 Ruskin Street, in sound of Goodison Park, and present flowers to the bemused current resident along with a photocopy of his birth certificate.

Daft, I know: that’s what my father would have said. But when it comes to remembering loved ones we do strange things.

Like flowers on graves. Jacqui frequently places roses on her mother’s resting place. In contrast, my matter-of-fact mother told me not to place any on hers. Why spend good money on flowers when your loved one is not there to appreciate? But we do, because it meets a deep need in us to commemorate, to do something tangible to honour their memory.

So when Mary Magdalene along with the other women went to the tomb of Jesus at first light, it didn’t make any sense. Jesus was dead, his cause over. But they did so because it met this deep, instinctive need. Little did they realize what was about to happen.

And where were the men? Were they so matter-of-fact not to make the journey? After all, what’s the point, it’s all over?

It’s often pointed out that it was the women who stayed with Jesus as he hung on the cross, and it was the women who visited his grave. That may well have been because they had the courage which the men lacked. There was still the fear of arrest. After all, the tomb was being watched.

But there would have been another factor. The women, as far as the authorities were concerned, simply didn’t count, they were invisible. You can hear the centurions report: “I can assure you than no-one visited the tomb of Jesus, no-one at all – just a few women.” Certainly from the legal perspective, women did not exist – they could never qualify as witnesses in a court of law. Their word carried no value.

Mary of Magdala, along with her female companions, were under the radar. Had they still been there, the soldiers guarding the tomb would have scarcely looked up at their arrival.

And yet it was this Mary who first encountered the risen Jesus. Typical of God to arrange that the very first witness of the risen Jesus simply didn’t count. (That’s why she remains unmentioned in Paul’s argument for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: her testimony would not be accepted). Not a first-rate, fully composmentis male witness required by a good lawyer but a woman from upstate Galilee with a questionable pedigree. That is how God works, the very opposite to what you would expect!

To that extent God took a big risk but again that is what he does, how he operates. As Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (1 Corinthians 1:27 Message translation).

And it is for us, those who follow the risen Jesus, to disregard this world’s categories and value each person for simply who they are in God’s sight, as of incalculable worth as one for whom Christ has died
(1 Corinthians 8:11). Truly a revolution of love.

So along with the notices and CONSIDER, I attach a report from Andrew Leake in Argentina of the ministry last weekend with indigenous people, the very kind of people which this world regards as nuisance value but as special as any one from Magdala.

A joyful Easter!