April 3, 2021
Hear the Cicadas
by Martha Bourlakas
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.—John 19:40-42
Holy Saturday sounds quiet. Yesterday, we heard the loud anguish of chaos: yelling, crying, pleading, nailing, wailing. Today is different. We are heartbroken, left holding the dead body of our beloved Jesus Christ, and we hear a significant shift in tone. Peaceful phrases form the narrative: clean linen, new tomb, myrrh and aloes, in the garden. We know what’s going to happen with Jesus, and ourselves, because we have read over and over what comes next, but we have to pay attention and hear this moment. On this Holy Saturday, we are all cried out, no tears left, but we are not yet in the Resurrection. We are still at the tomb. Quiet, in shock, not yet flowering the cross, not yet counting the eggs in our baskets, not yet eating our hot-crossed buns. It is in this quiet we become prepared for the glorious new life to come.
When I was growing up, our family would visit a graveyard on our yearly beach vacations. My parents loved the deep shade of the Spanish Moss and the history the tombstones taught. I saw it as needless time away from the sand and the ocean, but I was a kid, so I went along. Sweating and swatting mosquitoes, I read the dates of the babies and children and felt the childhood fear, I hope nothing happens to me. Then I would quickly move on, so as not to feel sadness too long. Nodding my head, Yes, I get the history here, but wondering, How soon can we leave? I’m ready to play and have fun again. Ten-year-old reflections of deeper human questions: How do we regard death? How do we laugh and celebrate after someone we love dies? How did my relationship with someone I loved affect the person I am?
As people of Jesus Christ, we must take this brief, suspended moment under the graveyard oak trees to reflect on the person we watched die on the cross. If we move too quickly to the celebration of Resurrection, we might miss, in all the noise, the space for the important tombstone questions: Do I know, as much as possible, the person Jesus was? How will the life of Jesus make a difference in my life going forward? How will I show the love of Jesus in my other relationships? How will I live into the hope of rebirth? By taking the time to sit with death, to look into the tomb, we find it is not as scary as we once thought. We learn from what was, and carry that knowledge into the salty ocean of our futures. Listen, and you will hear the cicadas sing songs of courage and hope.