Call it an occupational hazard for a retired English teacher, but the verbs matter. I used to limit my high school students to the use of three “to be” verbs in an expository composition. If I didn’t hold them to that standard, they wove their words into sentences by using is, are, am, was, were, be and been almost exclusively. The passive voice stagnated their strong analysis of the topic. Many anguished over the limit, but learned to create vibrant sentences that captured the reader.
The evolution of the English language now morphs various parts of speech into verbs or gerunds. Do you now Google or text? Has someone nuked your food today? Do you know that some middle school girls are sexting on line? We create a new word, often by changing its part of speech. One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes’ cartoons discusses recent language changes; the final scene shows Calvin telling Hobbs, “Verbing weirds language.”
When studying Scripture, we do well to follow the verbs, for they give meaning and life to the text. Consider the very familiar resurrection narrative as presented in Matthew 28: 1- 7 and carefully read the verbs involving the women who arrived early that day.
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead;’…”
As I reread this familiar passage this year, I saw the pattern many follow as Christ calls us to discipleship. We came to look. What draws us to the Master remains a mystery in this life, for we know that no one seeks after God. Romans 3:10-11 tells us, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Yet God somehow pricks the conscience, brings a person, book movie, or some pivotal experience our way, and we come to look. And while investigating the claims of Jesus, we often face doubt, ridicule or rejection. But a still small voice cries out Do not be afraid and we are looking once again. When the reality of “He is risen” seeps into our souls to explode as a force of reality, we do well to heed the angel’s words resounding from the garden tomb to the women. We come, for the risen Christ, our great high priest, bids us approach Him. The command to see reminds us to investigate. We can take questions to the Bible knowing that the robust quality of the Word stands firm. Josh McDowell, trying to disprove the resurrection intellectually, fell to his knees as a follower of the very Jesus he had sought to dismiss. Once captured by the love of Jesus Christ, the commands “Go and tell infuse more and more areas of our everyday lives. Having looked and seen, the natural result comes in going and telling. Happy verbing this Easter season!