What is the gospel? Romans 1:16 says it is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth..” The power of God! And we are also told in 1 Selected Messages, page 245, “The gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Power AND wisdom. Our passage in Romans 1:16 also says it is, “the gospel OF Christ.” We know that Jesus is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30.
Simply put, the gospel is the story of the work and life of Jesus on our behalf and how His life abiding within us changes us. Webster’s 1828 defines “gospel” this way: “The history of the birth, life, actions, death, resurrection, ascension and doctrines of Jesus Christ; or a revelation of the grace of God to fallen man through a mediator, including the character, actions, and doctrines of Christ, with the whole scheme of salvation, as revealed by Christ and his apostles.”
With these thoughts in mind, I read this passage in Ministry of Healing, page 363: “The gospel is a wonderful simplifier of life’s problems. Its instruction, heeded, would make plain many a perplexity and save us from many an error.” This brings to mind the qualification of the passage from Romans 1:16. The gospel is made “the power of God unto salvation TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETH.” Lord, help my to unbelief, for the life and teachings and power of Jesus will save me from error!
As I ponder different issues we face in the church and in the world, I am learning to make “the gospel” the acid test in making decisions on these issues. We hear frequently the catch-phrase, “What would Jesus do?”, often seeing this abbreviated on little rubber bracelets or bumper-stickers as, WWJD? But how many of us really take this counsel to heart as we ought? How many of us take the life and teachings of Jesus as the yard stick to which we bring all our issues and decisions? I am learning that when I do this, it really, really does simplify things! So one day as I was vacuuming, I was thinking about this issue of women’s ordination and it hit me: take this issue to the life of Jesus! What can Jesus’ life show me about women’s ordination? about women in ministry in general?
Jesus had women followers–the Bible is clear on this. And two of my very favorite Bible characters share the same name: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. I so enjoy watching the faith of Mary as she responded to Gabriel’s announcement: ”You’re going to become pregnant with the Son of God!” As she recovered from her astonishment and being thus chosen, and the wonderment of how in the world this could happen, her hearty, “Be it unto me, according unto Thy Word” gives me goosebumps! Imagine the upbringing of that young woman! I just marvel at the simple but profound faith she had cultivated.
But honestly, I think most of us can more readily identify with Mary Magdalene. She was a mess when she met Jesus, and she struggled to get out of that mess too! But Jesus didn’t leave her in that condition. We are told that seven times He delivered Mary from her past. Mark 16:9. Mary was so full of gratitude for what Jesus had done for her that she hung on His every word! We see her in scene after scene, totally consumed with His teachings. “
As Christ gave His wonderful lessons, Mary sat at His feet, a reverent and devoted listener…”Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Mary was storing her mind with the precious words falling from the Saviour’s lips, words that were more precious to her than earth’s most costly jewels.” Desire of Ages, page 525.
Mary “hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” This phrase is really lodged in my mind. We know Mary was closely following the life of Jesus–pondering carefully His every word. We read that, “She had heard Jesus speak of His approaching death, and in her deep love and sorrow she had longed to show Him honor. At great personal sacrifice she had purchased an alabaster box of “ointment of spikenard, very costly,” with which to anoint His body.” Daughters of God, page 60.
We know that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet before His trial and crucifixion. Mary was at the cross, and she was at the tomb! Mary was the first evangelist in the newly established church!! “Through His grace she became a partaker of the divine nature. The one who had fallen, and whose mind had been a habitation of demons, was brought very near to the Saviour in fellowship and ministry. It was Mary who sat at His feet and learned of Him. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious anointing oil, and bathed His feet with her tears. Mary stood beside the cross, and followed Him to the sepulcher. Mary was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Saviour.” Desire of Ages 568.
Mary had demonstrated love to Jesus. Mary was the first to preach the resurrection, though the brothers didn’t believe her: neither did they appreciate her act in anointing Jesus’ feet. “The disciples did not take in the many lessons given in the Scriptures in regard to the faith that works by love and purifies the soul; and the work of Mary was just the lesson they needed to show them that to be more demonstrative in their appreciation of their Lord, would be wholly acceptable to Him. He had been everything to them. They did not realize that soon they would be deprived of His presence, that soon they could offer Him no token of their appreciation of His love. The loveliness of Christ, separated from the heavenly courts, living a life of humanity, was never understood nor appreciated by the disciples as it should have been. He was often grieved because they did not give Him that which He should have received from them.” The Youth’s Instructor, July 19, 1900, par. 3.
What profound insights! Jesus, grieved by our failure to show Him appreciation. Jesus, living the life of humanity! Jesus, separated from heaven, and now from His brethren on earth. We should think about this, for is He not everything to us as well?
Mary was never called an Apostle by Jesus. She was never a “pastor.” Yet I believe that Jesus honored her with the privilege of revealing the heart of Jesus as none of the disciples could or would. They were too occupied with positions and titles. Too busy striving for who would be head elder, or senior pastor in the new “church.” Luke 22:24.
And so, taking this issue of the ordination of women to the life and teachings of Christ, I believe the example of Mary Magdalene teaches that the role of women far transcends any ordination, or even any title. Jesus saw a greater need for women than that. We can and should, as women, given our more sensitive, nurturing spirits, demonstrate a spirit of nurturing towards our Savior. We have the privilege of demonstrating what it means to appreciate Jesus and to minister to His needs; what it means to “enter in” to His sufferings; what it means to give all. Mary demonstrated what full surrender and “all out” devotion look like. Jesus said it was “…just the lesson they (the disciples) needed…”, and it was a lesson given to bold Peter before he received the commission to “feed My lambs”. I do not believe that our brethren are incapable of this, for John more nearly reflected Jesus’ love, but I think we know that men tend to be more “mission oriented.”
Mary’s act in anointing Jesus’ feet was a reflection of the work of Jesus in prodigal giving on behalf of mankind. And THIS–this absolute pouring out of self and all of one’s resources–is the work which Jesus defended before the brethren. “…Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me…For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial.” Matthew 26:10,12.
Could there not be a similar work needed now? Jesus is in the final stages of His work as High Priest, when He is about to be inaugurated King. Will it be easy for such long-suffering love to throw down the censer and leave the Most Holy Place, sealing the fate of billions of His children–who have rejected His love? Do we not need to “enter in” to His longing to bring sin to an end? Is there not a need for someone to help us raise our eyes from the events surrounding us to the issue of the pain in the heart of Jesus on account of His prolonged stay in the Most Holy Place? Do we not need today the demonstration of utter self-surrender? Are we not preoccupied, as the disciples, with position and title? Is there not a need for alabaster boxes today?
“Until time should be no more, that broken alabaster box would tell the story of the abundant love of God for a fallen race.” Conflict and Courage 306. Jesus is about to lose billions of His children ALL AT ONCE, and here we are…fighting over who gets to be their “pastor”. May God help us to pour out our own “precious ointment” instead.