Today is the day we mark the death of Jesus. Always a somber day – a day for reflection, for confession and truth.
At the risk of missing the point of this day… I have always wondered about the details of Jesus’ death. The little things that happen and yet merit the attention and mention of the gospel writers.
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The gospel writers make a point to quote Jesus in Aramaic. One of the few times in the narratives of Jesus’ life they do so. Some in the crowds think he is calling for Elijah, which seems the reason these words are quoted as they are.They wait to see if Elijah will come to save him.
Where, oh where, am I confused about what Jesus is saying and doing? Jesus is speaking… and I hear. But I don’t understand. And I don’t know that I don’t understand. He is speaking another language than the one I know. I need to learn to hear as Jesus speaks. Like any language, it takes time and attention to understand the nuances not only of inflection and order but of tone and cadence. The one on the cross still speaks if I will learn to understand what he is saying. I am not sure how often I really do.
“51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:51-53)
I have tended to hear the first part of this passage and its potent symbolism of the curtain between God and humanity torn. The barrier removed. The holy let out into the world. You’ve probably heard such things said and more.
This second part is more perplexing. The dead – the holy dead- came out of their tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection appeared to people. Wait. After his resurrection? In the story, Jesus is not yet buried. He has just died. And the earth responds in violence and shock.
Like the not understanding what Jesus is saying, how often do I not understand or perceive what God is doing? All of us filter our experiences. Otherwise we’d be overwhelmed and overloaded. Am I filtering out the strange things God is doing because they don’t fit what I expect? Is the power and wonder of the cross lost because I see only what I can understand – which is precious little?
This day perhaps more than any other is a great mystery. I know the theology and the multiplicity of ways we understand what Jesus is doing on the cross and what God is doing in and through him. But the truth is we don’t quite know. It isn’t something our minds can really grasp.
Let the earth quake and the curtain tear. Let the dead come forth and speak. It defies logic or even human experience.
It simply is. And it is enough.