Here is my write-up about my church experience last Sunday.
A. The pastor at the Missouri Synod Lutheran church told a funny opening anecdote. It was a story that a funeral director told him when the two were riding together on the way to a funeral. In the story, the funeral director forgot the way to the graveyard, so he was looking desperately for a familiar road. Meanwhile, all these cars were behind him, following him, as they, too, were on their way to the funeral. The funeral director took a winding path, and he finally found the graveyard. The wife of the deceased came to the funeral director crying. It turned out that the funeral director drove past her late husband’s elementary school, his high school, and the place where the husband proposed to the wife. She thanked the funeral director for this. The funeral director was baffled, but he replied, “Just part of the service, maam.” The funeral director thought he was on the wrong path, but he was on a good path. The pastor tied this to Palm Sunday: many Jews were expecting Jesus to defeat the Romans after entering Jerusalem, but Jesus had a different plan, and, even though his plan was not their plan, his plan was still good.
B. Last Sunday was the last session of the Missouri Synod Lutheran church’s class on patristic interpretations of John. Some noteworthy items:
The teacher gave us a character study of Jerome. He said that there was an Old Latin text of the Bible, which was of the LXX, but Jerome’s influential Latin Vulgate for the Old Testament translated the Hebrew. The teacher also stated that Jerome had an irascible personality: he was argumentative. But Jerome had a lot of interaction with three women, who were widows and chaste. These women had a monastery in Palestine, close to where he was, and Jerome respected them.
Someone asked the teacher if any church father commented on the age of our resurrected bodies’ appearance: will we look like children, or young adults, or middle aged, or elderly? The teacher replied that he recalled some church fathers who hinted that we will appear to people as they best know us. That reminded me of a Battlestar Galactica episode that I recently watched: President Roslin saw her deceased mother alive in the afterlife, and the mother looked elderly.
The teacher was making a point that Jesus, the God-man, died. It was not just his human nature that died, but the divine nature did, too. The teacher said that, according to Acts, God raised Jesus from the dead; Jesus did not raise himself. At the same time, the teacher seemed to be saying that the Trinitarian God raised Jesus. Someone asked about John 10:18, in which Jesus affirmed that he himself had the power to lay down his life and take it up again, implying that Jesus resurrected himself. I do not recall the teacher’s answer.
The teacher talked about how the empty tomb is not enough to prove Jesus’ resurrection. Suppose that the teacher was wealthy, died, and was buried in a sepulchre, and the sepulchre was empty after three days. People would not conclude that he had been raised from the dead. Other things are important, too, when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection, such as the testimony of the apostles. Someone in the class remarked that a friend told him that the plagues and miracles of the Exodus occurred also outside of the Exodus, and that dead people are resuscitated even today. I thought of stories about other people in history crossing bodies of water when they were low. But what makes these things miracles in the Bible, according to the student, is God’s intent in using them and God’s foretelling of them, and also the lesson that God is not limited. Through Jesus’ resurrection, for example, God defeated death.
The teacher also discussed the timeline from Jesus’ burial to his resurrection. Jesus was buried, and the women haphazardly prepared the body for burial. They did not have much time because the Sabbath was very soon, and this Sabbath was both a weekly Sabbath and also the high Sabbath, the Passover. The rested on the Sabbath, and, that night, after the Sabbath was over, they bought spices and fragrances for the body. Early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb to complete their preparation of the body. This model made sense to me, and I say this as one who grew up in a religious tradition that said that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and rose on Saturday rather than being crucified on Good Friday and being raised on Sunday morning. Why would the women go to the tomb early Sunday morning, if they could have finished their anointing on Friday, after the completion of the Thursday Passover Sabbath (according to the Wednesday-Saturday model)? Friday would be a Day of Preparation for the weekly Sabbath, but could they not finish their anointing early Friday morning and then have the rest of the day to prepare for the weekly Sabbath?
C. At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor preached about John 11-12. John 11 includes the story about Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus is called the one Jesus loves (John 11:3). Jesus’ love for Lazarus is present, not just past, and the pastor said that this is how God’s love for us is. John 12 is about the woman, Mary, who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair using expensive perfume. The pastor noted that the woman was not afraid to embarrass herself in showing her enthusiastic love for Jesus, because Jesus loved her. She went all out for Jesus. And, unlike other disciples, she took seriously his claim that he would die, so she anointed his body for burial. The pastor said that death is about the saints living in a new heavens and the new earth, and not losing anything but gaining more than anything they may have lost.