Wednesday night’s bible study was one of the best ones I’ve ever been to. I’ve also missed more than a few in the previous months, due to my chaotic schedule, but wow, it was amazing.
We’ve been studying the Book of John, specifically, chapter thirteen. Most of our class focused on the “towel” Jesus wrapped himself in during the Passover Meal. Why did I put “towel” in quotation marks? Because I can! No, because this is where our discussion took an amazing turn.
The Latin or Greek translation of towel is lention, which Pastor Latta told us could mean two things: burial shroud or table cloth. That seems mundane. Cool, lention means table cloth or burial shroud. Let’s keep going. Did Jesus, the true Passover Lamb – OUR Passover Lamb, wrap himself in his own burial shroud? Was he symbolizing and foreshadowing his own sacrifice to His disciples?
My initial reaction is no; there’s no way that every single verse in this Bible is so loaded with constant typological and symbolic representation. That initial reaction is a Gentile reaction. That initial reaction is further evidence of my enculturation. The text I read is superficial. Rarely, in the 21st Century, do I read literature that provokes my spirit. Rarely do I read literature that provokes my brain, really.
Lention could also mean table cloth. Everything set on the Passover table was representative of Christ. All of Passover was representative of Christ. Could this cloth be the Shroud of Turin? Could the table cloth used as the foundation for the Passover Meal be the very piece of cloth used to wrap the dead and dormant body of Jesus? I didn’t believe in any of this a few weeks ago. Now, I’m 90% there.
There are a few scientists, one based out of Colorado Springs and the other out of Lincoln, Nebraska, who have verified a few stains on the famed Shroud of Turin to be wine stains. Jesus raised His cup of wine, and said, “This is MY blood.” Besides this, it would make sense that drops of wine would splash onto the table cloth at Passover, or any meal for that matter. Therefore, this furthers the theory that the “towel” Jesus Christ, our Lord used to gird himself with was the very cloth that covered the Passover table, and that would later enclose Him for the three dark days He laid dead.
How doesn’t this blow your mind? Ten-minute devotionals are great and all. No, they’re not. To be honest, they’re stupid. What do you learn from a ten-minute synopsis of the Bible? You learn nothing. I learned more Wednesday night at bible study than the first fifteen years of my spiritual life.
Later, we discussed Jesus’ instruction to Peter. Basically, Jesus is telling Peter that He’s about to die. As if! Peter could never wrap his head around the idea that Jesus, his Lord, would perish. The Messiah wasn’t supposed to die. He was supposed to live, and to bring on war. More than the Messiah, He was the Warrior King. Then again, here’s Jesus saying to Peter, “Yeah, I’m going to go die on this cross. Oh, and you’re going to have to spread my Word.”
Jesus was anointing, if you will, Peter as an apostle. He was telling Peter, “This will be your show, and you will die for faith, for me.” If you were Peter, what would you say? I’d dip, which is a modern way of saying run. I’d run so fast and so far.
Pastor Latta ended class discussing the fire of first-century believers. They died for one another. Our pastor almost became emotional talking about this. If a man with children, or with personal attachments, was called for execution, another man with none of this would stand in his place. Some people have criticized this as an excuse for martyrdom, a propaganda technique to further the belief.
Yeah, that makes sense. No, it doesn’t; however, let the liberals think what they think. There are some minds that will never change. There are some hearts that are made of stone. There are some ears that will never choose to listen.
Pastor posed this question to us: What would our church look like today if we practiced with the love, passion, and pride of the 1st Century church? How many hearts could we turn? How many ears could we reach? How many of the blind would now see?
I read a book about Christianity in Rome under the Emperor Constantine. A Christian convert on his deathbed -it’s debated when he truly became a Christian-, Constantine spent most of his life a devout pagan; however, he answered to a Christian mother. Nonetheless, Constantine was pagan, as was his city, but Rome was changing. As Christianity, or the followers of Jesus Christ, grew, the more vicious the suppression techniques became. One story stood out to me.
In a poor northeastern district of Rome, where catacombs – early worship sites for Christians – were prevalent, it was undeniable that Christianity was a rising force. Seeking to quell the pagans’ thirst for blood, Constantine ordered a crackdown of this district. The quarter had a specific name, but it escapes me at this time. Anyway, a Roman Legion entered the quarter, and read the names of a couple dozen Christian leaders designated for execution. Those men stepped forward.
So did their wives. And other men, women, respected elders of the community. A historian of Rome, specifically of Constantine’s reign, said hundreds of individuals stepped forward.
The Roman Legion was unsure of what to do, so they sent a courier back to the Emperor. Constantine was a man of the Law, his Law. He didn’t accept disobedience. The hundreds of Christians who stepped forward were slaughtered. Men, women, and children were killed by the Roman Legion; however, this historian, which I think was Socrates of Constantinople – don’t quote me on that-, noted simply that these people never fought back.
I’m not saying, “Never fight back. God will protect you, so never defend yourself.” No. What I’m saying is that there was no escaping a practiced, combat-ready Roman Legion in their own district. They were unarmed, outmatched, but ready. These people, these Romans, these Christians, weren’t going to watch a few of their own be scapegoated, and sacrificed.
However, by the end of Constantine’s reign, it was legal to be Christian. How many Romans became Christians that day? Who saw the love and partnership of Christians that day? I don’t know. I’m rambling, but it’s food for thought. This story isn’t privy to ancient times.
A year ago, ISIS entered an Iraqi town, and sought out all Christians and Yazidis. The men were killed. Then, the Islamic State began to kill the children, but not before the mothers threw their bodies in front of their dying young. It was sacrifice. These people could have renounced their faith; They didn’t. They died Christians. If you read that in a textbook, you’d think you were reading the same chapter as the story in Rome, but this massacre occurred a little over a year ago in Northern Iraq.
How many saw that massacre, and silently began to believe? We don’t know. Pastor Latta is right to ask where our church would be if we practiced with the same love as our first-century counterparts. So, where would we be? He’s not suggesting to go out and martyr yourself; He’s suggesting the love, the devotion to one another, and the sheer strength would be a sight to behold in the 21st Century.
Guess what? He’s right.