There’s a stereotype that we more progressive Christians tend to downplay this stuff: that our interest in Jesus is mostly about his teaching, that if we do talk about something like the resurrection it’s only to debate whether it’s historically plausible. But I’m a lot less interested in evidence for the resurrection than I am in what the thing means. And I have learned, to my surprise and delight, that it actually means more to me now than it once did—before my faith took a bit of a leftward turn.
As Easter approaches, raising the dead is at the forefront of my mind. But I think of a different vision of resurrected dead, zombies. The popular monsters reanimate as gruesome bodies; their essential natures, spirits, or souls are absent. Zombies are a reckoning of the horror of the dead coming back to life.
Matthew invites us into a whole variety of experiences this Sunday. Verses 10 through 20, considered optional, center around a conflict about tradition and authority followed by a parable about the truth of the actions of the heart. This is followed by healings and feedings. The next chapter begins with more conflict.
Years ago, the brilliant but cantankerous Baptist preacher Carlyle Marney was speaking to some students at a Christian college. When a student asked, "Dr. Marney, would you say a word or two about the resurrection of the dead?" Marney replied, "I will not discuss the resurrection with people like you: I don't discuss such things with anyone under 30. Look at you all: in the prime of life.
Last Palm Sunday my friend Ann went to church and found herself in the middle of a mob scene. As it turned out, the congregation was taking part in a dramatic reading of the Passion narrative. The assembled worshipers were cast as members of a violent, bloodthirsty crowd that was excited at the prospect of a crucifixion and caught up in emotional hysteria.
The mark of a good wonder-worker is his similarity to wonder-workers of the past. Though Jesus exceeded Moses in teaching authority, his miraculous acts are patterned after his prophetic forebears Elijah and Elisha.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).