I’d love it to be true…

Post a Comment » Written on April 15th, 2013     
Filed under: Writing and blogging
TrueToday’s post is written by Geoff Twigg, Adjunct Professor at North Park University in Chicago. Geoff is a pastor, singer/songwriter, worship leader and ministry consultant, and serves the ECC as a member of the denomination’s Commission on Worship.

Around the middle of Holy Week, I received a delightful and poignant email from old friends at a previous church. They regularly send forwarded emails, as some folks do, that are interesting or entertaining. This one was intriguingly titled “Why did Jesus fold the napkin?” It went on to tell you that the folded facecloth mentioned in the Resurrection narrative (John 20.7) is, in fact, a significant sign of the Savior’s intentions. It mentions an old Jewish custom with which the reader may not be acquainted.

According to the message, servants would attend their masters and be particularly attentive to the place-setting once the family member rose from the table. Tossing your napkin onto the table meant you had finished your meal; it was a sign to the servants that they could clear away. However, the story ran, the tradition was that leaving a folded napkin meant “I’m coming back to the table” and the servants knew that they should leave the food out and the place undisturbed.

You can probably already sense the inspiring insight that this email implies; that Jesus was sending a message to his followers – that the evidence meant “I’m coming back”. I must admit being quite moved by the idea, and thinking fondly upon it.

Sadly, a website aptly titled “truthorfiction.com” says that there is no basis for this in biblical scholarship or Hebrew tradition, and that emails like this first appeared in 2007 or 08. In fact, they say, there is no evidence in any authoritative sources or academic research. I was disappointed. Frankly I wish it were true.

It goes in the same file as my favorite word-derivation, that of the word ‘sincere’. I was told – by people I thought at the time to be reliable and trustworthy, that this word derives from the Latin phrase ‘sine cera’ meaning “without wax”.
The story is that marble objects could be invisibly repaired by using wax to fill a crack, and that only when you got the thing home would the wax melt away and you discovered that you had bought a dud. So, if it was advertised as ‘sine cera’ you’d know that it was ‘without hidden fault’, and this is a nice thing to say about someone, therefore he’s “sincere”. Another version has people using less gold or silver, instead filling their ‘pure gold’ statues with wax to get extra weight, therefore a higher price.

There’s no evidence for those either – but aren’t they appealing?

Probably my favorite of all is the story that seems to come from the traditions of the Roman Wars. Apparently, it was customary for the highest-ranking officer to visit the troops on the night before battle, to encourage them, make sure they knew the purpose of the campaign and that they were well-equipped to fight for Rome.

The story explains that this was one of the great strengths of the Roman military, and a reason for their success. This tradition was (purportedly) known as the “Comfortus” (literally, “being with and making strong”) and it has provided us with the way Jesus described the Holy Spirit – the Comforter. The Spirit who is with us and makes us strong.

Well, whether we get the word from that derivation or not, it defines the work of the Spirit pretty well, don’t you think?.

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