An earthquake makes sense on Good Friday. With the passion of grief, the sorrow of injustice and the horror of torture and painful death. An earthquake makes sense there, in those situations. We normally associate dying, losing and suffering with disruptive forces, earth destroying events.
Indeed, the earth itself is involved and participates in the dramatic telling of Jesus’ death. When Jesus breathes his last on the cross, there is an earthquake and the rocks split according to Matthew.
Do we notice, nevertheless, that the resurrection of our Lord also includes an earthquake? In Matthew’s gospel, there is a great earthquake at the dawn of the first Easter when the women come to the tomb. In fact, this earthquake precipitates the telling of the resurrection, when the angel of the Lord comes and rolls the stone away. Then, sits on it.
The story of resurrection is not without its own earth-quaking truth. The words ‘fear’ and ‘afraid’ dot the landscape of the telling not only in Matthew’s version but John’s as well. As the angel in Matthew tells the women: Do not be afraid,so Jesus tells the disciples hiding for fear behind locked doors in the upper room.The context of the resurrection reflects tectonic degrees of disruption, anxiety and fear among those closest to the power of Jesus’ resurrection life.
And, the power of resurrection is not limited to Jesus. Matthew is very clear that “after Jesus’ resurrection, they [the bodies of the saints who had died and were raised] came out of the tombs [after the Good Friday earthquake] and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”
Resurrection also happens unto us, and in us! The living Christ renews us – not only for the life to come. But starting in this life! We are continually being reborn and renewed towards the good that awaits us.
Resurrection, therefore, is not regression. When Thomas the disciple finally arrives at his beautiful confession of belief in the risen Lord, it comes at the expense of his old self. He is not at the end the person he was a week earlier, when he had expressed his disbelief.The story-telling compresses the time and process of his transformation. In truth, for most of us, that process of change takes much longer.
And yet, the dynamic is the same. Resurrection is not regression. Once Easter happens, there’s no going back. Think about a loved one who died some time ago, or when you lost something or someone, when you lost a certain way of doing things that you once cherished …
We know that we can never again experience that which we lost, in the same way. There’s no bringing back ‘the way it was’. Even though at some point we will be able to interact again, socialize and worship together in one room, it will be different. Our hearts will be moved in a new way. The process of change introduces a new reality for ourselves and for the world.
In a short video-meeting with the confirmation class earlier this week, the question we asked of each other was: “What’s one thing you believe will be different for you and in the world, when all this is over?” The confirmand’s responses were varied: Everyone will wash their hands better and more often; the stores won’t remove the plexiglass and physical distancing signs; many more social gatherings, appointments, education and meetings will take place online. The truth is, we will not come through this experience unchanged. The world will be different. It won’t be ‘going back to normal’ but rather growing into a ‘new normal’.
This is resurrection. New life. It doesn’t come easy. In truth, getting there almost always requires an earthquake, a ground-shifting and -splitting experience. At the same time, it means we are headed in a life-transforming, a life-enhancing, a life-renewing direction. To a conclusion that is good, for all.
Matthew 28: 5,8,10