A Final Word…“Learning” and the Resurrection

May 25th, 2018 | Category: A Final Word, Columns
By Rev. Danile Gard

In this Spring 2018 edition of Lutheran Education Journal, teaching professionals explore with you the topic of “Learning.” I remember as a child when my mother, a 5th grade teacher, would monitor my studies, especially in mathematics, my least favorite subject and therefore the one I was most likely to avoid. In her opinion (not mine), it was not sufficient just to get through the next test. She insisted that I actually understand the concepts so that I could build on them.

This issue of LEJ has caused me to reflect on what it might mean to actually learn about the distinctive heart and center of Lutheran education—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I write this it is early in the Easter season. Still fresh in my mind is the Resurrection account of St. John 20. Here are the stories of two individuals’ encounters with the risen Christ: Mary Magdalene and Thomas. Both knew of Jesus’ promised Resurrection but neither had actually learned what that meant. Their “learning” was terribly shallow and lacked any real depth at all. However, this was about to change.

You know John 20 quite well, I am certain. But notice how Jesus changes their shallow learning of His promise to rise from the dead to a deeper learning about how the universe itself was changed. Mary was horrified that the body of Jesus was gone­—her learning of Jesus’ promise was far too shallow. Yet an encounter with One she thought to be a gardener and who simply spoke her name, “Mary,” changed all of that. She then deeply knew and understood and uttered “Rabboni”—Aramaic for “Teacher.”

Then there was Thomas who is forever known by the title “Doubting” Thomas. Others had told him the Jesus was risen but he needed proof—to see and feel the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, wounds Thomas had witnessed on Good Friday. Like Mary Magdalene and the disciples, he had heard the promise of Jesus to rise again. But when Jesus appeared behind locked doors and showed him His hands and side, Thomas could only say “My Lord and my God”. He learned, deeply, the truth of Jesus and, by strong tradition, that deep learning would eventually lead Thomas to die a martyr’s death in India. No longer is he known only as “Doubting Thomas” but as “Saint Thomas the Apostle.”

So, what does this have to do with Lutheran education and this issue of LEJ? My teacher/mother’s insistence on learning deeply the concepts of mathematics (and every other subject) was important. But the eternity of our students is not dependent on these things. In contrast, deeply learning who Jesus is and what He has done to redeem the world and every student does change everything in this world and into eternity. Here is where Lutheran educators have the great privilege of leading students to the foot of the Cross and to an empty tomb. The Resurrected Jesus will encounter them right where He promised He would do so: in His Word…in the water of Baptism…in the blessed Feast of the New Testament. There teacher and student together are encountered by the Christ of Easter and together deeply learn and exclaim, “Rabboni” and “My Lord and my God.” LEJ