I have three items for my write-up on church this morning. Since today is Easter Sunday, the sermon was about Jesus' resurrection. The pastor focused on the story in Luke 24.
The pastor referred to the Jewish concept of chesed shel emet in
discussing the women who visited Jesus' tomb with spices and ointments
for Jesus' corpse. Literally, the phrase means "kindness of truth"
(depending on how you translate chesed----loyalty, piety, etc.). It is a
true act of kindness, a selfless act of kindness, since it is done for
the dead, who cannot pay a person back for the kindness. I can ask if
it is truly an act of selflessness: it is a mitzvah, so would not God
reward the person who performs it? But I do not want to distract myself
from focusing on a beautiful concept: a concept of doing something good
for someone, without ego or a desire for reward; a concept of giving to
Jesus out of love and appreciation for Jesus.
B. The pastor
raised the possibility that Saturday was the first day of Jesus being
risen, and the disciples had missed it. That stood out to me on account
of my Armstrongite background. Armstrongites were seventh-day
Sabbatarians in that they observed the Sabbath on Saturday. Against
Christians who honored Sunday and defended their practice by saying that
Jesus rose on the first day of the week (Sunday), Armstrongites would
argue that Jesus actually rose on a Saturday. After all, in Luke 24,
when the women went to Jesus' tomb on the first day of the week, Jesus
had already risen.
I doubt that the
disciples or the women would have been able or willing to visit the tomb
on a Saturday. Not only were they not expecting Jesus' resurrection,
but there were restrictions on what they could do on the Sabbath. Luke
23:56 says that the women prepared the spices and ointments, then rested
on the Sabbath according to the commandment. On the first day of the
week, the day after the Sabbath when they were allowed to work, they
went to Jesus' tomb to anoint the body. They could not anoint the body
on Saturday, so that is why they waited until the first day of the week
to do so.
The issue of a Saturday resurrection raises questions in my mind.
of course, have argued that, because Jesus rose on a Saturday, that is
just one more reason for people to keep the Sabbath on Saturday. On a
Christian dating site I used to be on, a Pentecostal woman who kept the
Seventh-Day Sabbath argued that, because the women were resting on the
Sabbath according to God's commandment after Jesus' crucifixion, that
shows that Jesus' death did not annul the seventh-day Sabbath: it was
still God's commandment, to be observed.
But here is a question:
if Jesus rose on a Saturday, was he not working on that day by rising
from the dead? Interestingly, Seventh-Day Adventists, who also keep the
Seventh-Day Sabbath, differ from Armstrongites by believing Jesus rose
on Sunday. Former Seventh-Day Adventist (yet still a Seventh-Day
Sabbatarian) Desmond Ford wrote that Jesus rested on the Sabbath in the
tomb, then rose on a Sunday. According to Ford, Jesus in his death was
keeping the Sabbath. But what are the implications if Jesus rose on a
Saturday? Was Jesus violating the Sabbath by rising? Or was Jesus
showing that something was more important than the Sabbath?
Jesus rose on Saturday and the disciples learned about it on Sunday,
could a lesson from that be that Jesus brought the old to an end on the
Sabbath, and the next day, Sunday, marked a new week, a new
Here is another question: Maybe it was not Jesus'
death, per se, that marked the beginning of the New Covenant, but Jesus'
resurrection, and that would be a way to respond to the Christian
Pentecostal woman who argued that the Sabbath is still a requirement
under the New Covenant because the women were observing it as God's
commandment after Jesus' death. Seventh-Day Sabbatarians have responded
to this, however, by saying that Jesus' death marked the ratification
of the New Covenant: the stipulations of the New Covenant needed to be
set forth before Jesus' death, for Jesus' death was what ratified the
New Covenant. If I recall correctly, they appeal to Hebrews 9:16-18 to
support this point: "For where a testament is, there must also of
necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force
after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the
testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated
And yet, did not Jesus in John 16:12-13 imply
that the disciples would learn new truth after his death and
resurrection, indicating that not everything needed to be stipulated
before Jesus died?
C. The pastor was
talking about looking inside ourselves at our brokenness and cynicism
and asking if we can find Jesus there, ready to bring new life out of
that. The pastor talked about Peter, who had made mistakes, yet was
willing to take a chance at belief when he heard from the women about
the empty tomb and the angelic visitations. Peter in Luke 24, after
all, ran to the sepulchre after hearing the women's experience, whereas
others were dismissing what the women said as an idle tale.
is hard for me to see how Jesus can make new life from my brokenness,
resentment, and cynicism, especially when Christians have said that God
will not forgive me or hear my prayer if I am bitter (see, for example,
Matthew 6:15). I have difficulty envisioning myself without resentment,
even though some days I feel better than others. If there is anything
good in my bitterness, it is that it makes me go to God in prayer more
often for healing, and it makes me more sympathetic and less judgmental
towards others who have bitterness.