Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
An orderly creation is characterized by clear demarcations and separations. God separated the light from the dark, the waters from the land, and the clean from the unclean. The Temple is all about separations; the Gentiles excluded on the outside, the women excluded in one court, non-priestly men kept away one degree by a wall, and finally at the center a curtain to veil God’s presence.
We know that Jesus was in the business of re-drawing those lines of separation, and that many were scandalized because of how he did this – accepting women into table fellowship, extending miraculous work even to the Gentiles, touching the leprous, the unclean, and the dead. We know something about “the veil of the curtain rent in twain” signifying the end to the separation between God and humanity. But we can only wonder about the shaking of the earth. Is there no more distinction between rock and not-rock, between the permanent and the temporary, the animate and inanimate?
The rocks mourned Christ’s death, the sun refused to shine, and creation called loudly for people to pay attention to the tragedy unfolding. But then things returned to normal. Men went back to oppressing women, well-meaning bishops built a new temple and set the curtain back up again, and the rocks sat back and kept their silence.
It’s a cloudy, rainy, mourn-y kind of Holy Week where I am, which helps me to feel appropriately solemn. I have remembered so many years when I wanted to stay in the gloomy mood created by the Scriptures, only to have sunshine and happy birds and all kinds of natural distractions pull me into Easter a day or two early. “Happy” vs. “solemn” is only the tip of the iceberg, though. I wish the earth would re-enact for us the uncreating of creation, as it did at Golgotha. I want to remember the earthquake – the shaking, the un-doing, the erasing of boundaries, and the possibility of truly leaving our walls and dividing curtains behind. We need to be disassembled if we are to be created anew with the risen Christ.