Yesterday evening I attended a chapel service that was such a great reminder of how God's work in sending Jesus was all backwards and inside out.
Dr. Tim Laniak shared:
"In light of certain rabbinic texts, it appears that shepherds in first century Palestine were not highly regarded. Assuming they were prone to dishonesty, herders were not legitimate witnesses in court. Luke deliberately highlights the “unlikely” people who participate in the Nativity account: an unwed mother, a barren woman, a widow in the Temple courts, and these field shepherds."
After spending the semester in the Gospel of John, I can say that he, too, was mesmerized by God's upside-down way of doing things. In John 3 we meet Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, who dialogues with Jesus but is slow to understand and slow to believe. (We don't see any clear evidence of his faith in Jesus until after Jesus dies!) But in John 4 we meet a unnamed Samaritan woman with a dodgy reputation, who meets Jesus and then runs off to tell the whole city about him. Of this woman, whose testimony - like the shepherds' - would not be heard in court, it is said, "From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified" (John 4:39). Shocking, really!
In John 9 we're introduced to another nameless character, a man blind from birth. As the story develops it becomes evident that this once-blind-man can see much better than the Jewish leaders. While they continue to argue and quibble over Sabbath laws, the man born blind sees Jesus for who he really is and worships him. (John 9:38)
And then if we fast-forward to John 20 we have a stunning picture of the way in which God is re-building His community and re-writing all the rules. Who is the first to come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away? Mary of Magdala, a woman. She bears the news to the disciples. Who sees the angels? Again, Mary. And to whom does Jesus first appear? Mary. Mary, a woman of questionable background, is the first witness of the resurrection of our Lord.
And while we could add many more to this list, the point has been made. The fact is that God's kingdom is filled with unlikely citizens, and the truth of His message is attested by unlikely witnesses. As witnesses to his resurrection we're in great company: shepherds, blind men, and disreputable women. It is just such a kingdom where a stay-at-home, seminary mom, wannabe teacher belongs!