Welcome to Good Friday. If you've been reading along thus far, we've been looking at some of the details and "secondary" characters in Matthew's passion narrative. Today, Jesus, "stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace..." (BCP, 101). We'll look at one more little detail in the narrative: The Jerusalem Zombies.
You're like whaaaaat? There's no zombies in this story! Let's look again:
Yeah. Pre-resurrection resurrections? Matthew is the only one to include the bit about the earthquake and its power opens graves and their occupants start coming out and appearing to folks in Jerusalem "after his (Jesus') resurrection." It would appear that at the quake, the tombs were opened and where the earth's crust is split some bodies, caskets, etc start protruding from the ground. THEN after Sunday morning, these dead - who were left exactly where they were on Friday because Jews don't exactly like touching dead bodies (see: Good Samaritan parable) - were also raised with Jesus.
So many questions about this. Did the power of the resurrection spill out a little bit and because of Jesus' proximity to other graves, a few of them get up and walk around? Were they ghosts and it was like a scene from Ghostbusters where the apocalypse is happening? Were these the folks who, as we'll learn tomorrow during Holy Saturday, when Jesus goes down to the dead/hell, on his way back up he draws up everyone with him - having destroyed death? As much as I like the first question, it was probably something closer to that last one.
As I mentioned in the last post, people are riddled with fear at this seismic and cosmic event. People had good reason to be: 1. The temple curtain was torn in two thus the veil between the holy of holies and the inner temple was lifted. It was a glimpse into the divine - nothing separating God and us. 2. The earthquake shook it all up. If you've ever experienced one you know it rattles you as much as it does your china. 3. Tombs were open and bodies came out. Icing on the cake of terror if you ask me. Things have been turned upside down. The Roman centurion assigned to Jesus' crucifixion, as his soldiers were shaking in their armor, confirms and captures the fear and awe from the Good Friday upside-down: "Truly this man was God's Son."
Can we pause and meditate on the magnitude of quake that shakes grave clothes off not only for those Jerusalem dead but also for us?
Helpful hints for today: Walk a stations of the cross to remember Christ's suffering. Attend a Good Friday service. Take communion from reserved sacrament. Print the passion narrative or grab a bible and take a walk to a favorite spot outside, sit, and read it again. Pray.