There’s an odd, fairly obscure little Scripture, found only in Matthew 27:50-53, that describes how at the moment Jesus died, an earthquake broke open the tombs of ‘many’ holy people who were, at the same time, raised from the dead. After Jesus’s own Resurrection a couple of days later, these people were seen by many people in Jerusalem. Here’s the Scripture:
“When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.” – Mt 27:50-53
I’ve always understood this as happening because of the sheer power and Life that pulsed out from the Cross* as Jesus died. Somehow, however the ‘mechanism’ works, sin and death had been defeated and history had been changed. Nothing would ever be the same again. Life had been released into God’s Creation in such a way that had not happened since He first said ‘Let there be Light!’. And all this was because of the death of the most righteous Man Who ever lived. It’s no wonder, then, that all those people were raised by that power. And, when a Godly person dies, in a similar way that same power is released, bringing life to those who will receive it.
Most of my regular readers will know that my incredible wife, Fiona, passed away a couple of weeks ago. And in a similar way to that Life that poured out from Jesus’s death, I believe that I have seen this Life radiating out from from Fiona’s loss too. She was, without exception, the most Godly person I have ever known.
Within a day of her passing, just like when Jesus died, so much good fruit was released. There were fruits of joy, laughter, reconciliation. Fruit of healing. People felt a light-heartedness, despite the heartbreak of her loss, that could only be explained by remembering her as she was through her life and her final illness. Always radiant, full of joy and laughter, always looking for the joke, that was my Fiona.
And then at Fiona’s memorial service in our Church, every single one of the people who got up to speak about her said about how full of fun and joy she was. As I’ve said, she was always looking for an excuse to laugh about something. Mark, our Vicar, commented on this and said that she was so full of fun, joy and laughter – yes, because that was the way she was made, the way she was ‘wired’ – but that she was also so full of that joy because she was also so full of God. And she was indeed 🙂
At the memorial service, many people – who were not all necessarily people of faith – were uplifted by the stunning testimonies of her influence on people’s lives. People I know who are not necessarily people of faith have been touched by the obvious light of this amazing lady’s life, character, friendships, life and death, and also by the shining faith and love manifested in lesser measure by those left behind. In this way, Fiona’s loss has radiated out new Life into people’s lives and hearts, in life-changing power. People who knew Fiona in life were, knowingly or unknowingly, being continually touched by the Love of Christ that was her driving force and the core of her being. At her memorial, even people who hardly knew her were moved deeply and felt something that they’d never felt before: the immense love of Christ that came from her life and ministry. The Presence of God filled that place and some people hadn’t felt that before. That’s much of the reason why it was so moving, because the testimonies to Fiona’s faithfulness and qualities were backed up by the actual Presence of God. Some might put this down to emotion or similar, and I agree that there was a lot of that about. Of course there was. But there was something more: the real Presence of Jesus right there in that place. If you were there and you felt that, and you were wondering what it was, hopefully that explains it for you. And that is partially why it felt as if Fiona was there with us, because Jesus’s Presence was so much of what you felt when she was nearby. I don’t think that anyone who was there went out of that place unchanged, in a good way.
So then, in Fiona, the life of Christ was made literally tangible because, as I have said previously, she was Jesus to others. And even in her death, that Christ-Life was still pulsing out in all its radiance and bringing Resurrection Life to those in that place, whether they reaslised it or not. It’s no wonder that people were finding the service so incredibly moving!
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints – Ps 116:15 (KJV)
*By ‘The Cross’, I refer (as does St. Paul in his writings) to, not specifically the actual wooden scaffold on which Jesus was crucified, but to the history-changing events that happened when Jesus died and subsequently rose from the dead. The self-sacrificial death that Jesus died is the single most powerful event in all of history, and that’s what I refer to when I talk about ‘The Cross’.
In the light of this article, here is another piece about coping with the grief of losing someone dear.