My favorite stories in the Bible are the ones that include fantastical things like talking donkeys and teleportation. How could I have forgotten about the zombies?
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 24:50-53, NIV)
Kidding, sort of. While zombies are soulless undead things or corpses revived by witchcraft, the walking dead in the Bible were holy people. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have rotting flesh and a hunger for brains because this wasn’t the first time people rose from death thanks to Jesus. Remember Lazarus or the little girl?
But can we just take a moment to marvel at the display of power exhibited at Jesus’ death? The curtain separating the holy of holies – separating the very presence of God from the normal folks – was torn in two, effectively giving us direct access to God. Goodbye animal sacrifices. Thank you, Jesus.
The earth shook, rocks broke apart, and tombs opened up, like the earth roaring in anguish. Heaven and hell in a raucous. Many have dared us to imagine the celebration hell was in when Jesus died. Reading these passages makes me think otherwise. I think they had an uh-oh moment. I think they finally realized the magnitude of what Jesus did by dying on the cross.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a demon’s greatest strategy is to blind his human in the small, everyday things in subtle ways. He can go to church, he can read the Bible. He can even pray, be charitable, and keep the fellowship of believers. Just don’t let him get a whiff of passion. Distract the human until he slips into a monotonous, mundane existence. Lead him to a slow fade into eternal damnation.
I think that’s why I love the fantastical. Why I challenged my kids to find the teleportation story (Acts 8, by the way). Why I’m just a tad bit giddy about zombies in the Bible. Because it’s hard to let go of the magical, miraculous, jaw-dropping, did-that-just-really-happen moments.
Many of us are walking around and living like the New Testament Jews and Gentiles. Oppressed. Worked and exhausted to the bone. Defeated. Hopeless. Abused by the government. Extorted by religious leaders. In an unbreakable cycle of blah and la-di-dah.
Then comes a man with a message of hope, love, and grace. He doesn’t turn anyone away. When he looks at you, he can see into your very soul. He’s unfazed by the things you’ve done. He believes in the good you can do. He tells funny stories and makes children laugh. Everyone matters to him. Including you. Plus, he’s got a way performing miracles. Even his death and resurrection was surrounded by miracles.
There’s no slow fade for those New Testament people. There’s no monotonous, mundane existence. They didn’t just get a whiff of passion. They were thrown into a vat of it. Who can deny what their own eyes have seen, ears heard, and hands touched?
And so Jesus told Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NIV).
Faith is just a bit harder now, not just because Jesus isn’t walking around healing the sick, multiplying food, and raising the dead. Not because miracles never happen anymore (I do believe they do). But because we’re not seeing the fantastical, magical, miraculous, jaw-dropping, did-that-just-really-happen moments when they happen. We’re dismissing them for what they are, the hand of God in our lives. We’re too distracted, too cynical, too calloused, too discouraged.
Look up and look around. Easter is coming. Dead holy people won’t be resurrecting to hunt eggs with us. The earth won’t shake and rocks won’t split open as we go to church (I hope they won’t. I’m in California and along a fault line, after all). But passion is all around.
In blooming flowers and the shining sun. In showers that end state-wide droughts. In the eyes of a child. In the generosity of neighbors. In answered prayers and awaiting prayers. In loud worship bands with strobe lights and dancers. In solemn hymns echoing in high beamed cathedrals. From the preacher, from the beggar, from any sinner captured by the grace and love of God.
Passion is everywhere. Get a whiff of it.Passion is everywhere. Get a whiff of it. Click To Tweet