Have you ever wondered why many celebrities change their names when they are trying to build their career? I suppose it could be because they want to keep their family and life history private and protected, but it is usually something as simple as wanting a “catchy” name that will cause them to stand out and be remembered. They choose a name that easily rolls off the tongue or sticks in one’s mind, or an elegant name that just screams “I’m a star!” I understand a lot about how a name affects you one way or another. Take mine for example – “Starla.” I didn’t even have to change mine! I was given the task from birth of dealing with it – good and bad! Some people love the name and many just can’t even say or remember it correctly because it is uncommon. My 7th grade homeroom teacher couldn’t or wouldn’t say it at all. He would call the morning class roll addressing everyone by their first name until he got to mine then he would say, “Ms. Rich.” Talk about standing out. I didn’t just stand out, I felt completely alone in the crowd! Ironically, though my full birth name had “star quality” (no pun intended,) I felt quite ordinary most of my childhood and young adult life.
One of my most cherished exercises of my quiet time and meditation is to read scripture. Today I was reading the passages in the Bible that recount the story of Jesus’ arrest, mock trial and crucifixion. Something leaped out at me that I have never really noticed before. When I read the verses about who stood at the cross during the crucifixion it said, “Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.” It also mentions the disciple John who was tagged as “the one that Jesus loved.” John was his closest disciple who is also believed to be his cousin. On the day that Jesus was crucified, there was John and three “Marys” with him as Christ suffered and died. Three Marys! This name “Mary” is an ordinary name, yet is still in the top hundred of popular names today.
Thinking about “names,” I decided to go back into the previous chapters to look at the names that were a part of this story from arrest to crucifixion. I came across the ordinary names of his disciples – like James, John and Peter. Then there was Judas. Judas was accompanied by a group of soldiers, one of which had a less than ordinary name “Malchus.” As I continued to read, I learned of Annas whose father-in-law was Caiaphas the high priest; there was Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, Clopas, Herod the King, and the Ceasar Tiberius, who was the emperor. As the story progressed beyond the crucifixion, there was a common name mentioned – Joseph of Arimathea who was actually not an ordinary man, but was a rich man and member of the religious council leaders. He was accompanied by another rich man named Nicodemus – not ordinary at all.
Now back to the most profound moment of the story – the crucifixion and death of Jesus. There they were, his beloved cousin John and three Marys! Three! Ordinary people like Peter and James followed Jesus into the garden and trailed a distance behind when he was arrested, but John and the three Marys stood close by Jesus until his last breath! It wasn’t the “star quality” named people there at the cross. It was the ordinary named people – John and the three Marys.
Years ago there was a popular song in the Contemporary Christian Music Genre called “Ordinary People.” The lyrics state….
Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Who are willing to do as He commands
God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much as you place it in the Master's hand.
I have to admit, I love the symbolism of this story. What are the odds that there would be three Marys standing close to Jesus at his death? While I didn’t have an ordinary name growing up, I felt very much like an ordinary girl. It wasn’t until many years later, walking through my own dark moments, that I realized the significance of an ordinary girl being accompanied by an extraordinary God walking hand in hand down Gethsemane type paths. My obedience and His sacrifice blended the ordinary with extraordinary to an inexhaustible measure of grace and gratitude.
Maybe you feel ordinary. Perhaps by the standards of the celebrities of this world you are ordinary. Yet, look who is remembered in history all these years later in the most significant story of all ages... John and three Marys – ordinary people with an extraordinary measure of love, loyalty and gratitude for grace and sacrifice! You are far more than ordinary to the One who loves ordinary people.