On the Corner

Easter: Sunday after the Earth shook

by Lloyd Docter –

The day dawned above an eastern sky of hammered silver that intruded upon the darkness until the firmament was bright and blue, dotted with fleece-lined pillows of clouds. In the garden of Joseph the birds heralded the morning.

It was Sunday after the earthquake.

Less than 40 hours previously, a shuddering paroxysm of nature had moved the earth; although strangely, its effect was felt only in the vicinity of the temple at Jerusalem.

As the sunset ushered in the Passover Sabbath, the temblor had occurred simultaneously with one of Judea’s most spectacular mass executions held on a limestone promontory known as Golgotha—the place of the skull.

Now, it was the first day of the week, the second dawning after the earthquake, and Nathan the tanner, with his two sons, Joseph and Nathaniel, were visiting the garden on their morning walk. It had become traditional for the tanner and his sons. Always, on the day following the Sabbath, before the shops of the city were thrown open to business, Nathan and his sons would walk and talk with the beauty of nature, the flowers, the birds, the leaves budding with breaking spring in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea.

When they had entered through the garden’s gates they rested in a park-like area, profuse with blankets of golden bomerets, lilies of the valley, roses of Sharon and a multitude of flowers—a refuge and sanctuary for the hundreds of birds trilling their rollicking accompaniment to the sounds of nature.

On a grassy slope they drank in the lavish colors and breathed in the fragrant perfume of new cut grass within the spacious garden. Nathan, however, sat seriously, his expression betraying his feelings of apprehension. Many times, he and his sons had visited this place, yet on this morning following the Sabbath he felt a tension unbroken by the singing birds or the bright blooms of springtime.

His younger son, Nathaniel, spoke quietly to his father.

“Is this not the burial place of the Nazarene teacher who was crucified with the others on the day of the Passover, father?”

“Yes, my son. It is so,” Nathan answered with a sigh as if he anticipated the question.

“May we see the tomb in which the teacher’s body was placed?”

“Later—perhaps another day,” he said abruptly.

The older son, Joseph, sensing his father’s strange feelings about the subject, said: “Father, at sunset as the Sabbath opened, when the sky was red and black and the earth trembled, the cooking pots fell from the shelves in our home. What causes earthquakes, father?”
Welcoming the change of subject, Nathan, as was his custom, carefully explained the phenomena.

“It is a readjustment of the earth, son. It is a movement like someone is sifting the earth like your mother shakes a sieve. You have seen her do it many times while she is preparing dinner.”

Joseph took a quick breath and continued: “Why did it only happen around the temple, father? Could it be that God was displeased with those who crucified the Nazarene teacher?”

Nathan looked quickly about him—no one was close, only a woman running out of the garden some distance from where they stood.

“We must not speak of such things, Joseph. Other ears may hear and we may be suspected of alliance with him.”

Nathaniel, who had been listening to this exchange, eagerly answered his brother’s question with enthusiasm belonging only to the young. “I stood with the crowd when they placed him on the cross. I heard people say that he did only good things for the people of Galilee and everywhere else he traveled. I would have liked to have been his friend, father,” the boy said defiantly.

Absorbing the boy’s fierce gaze and angry tone, Nathan said: “I, too, would have loved to know him.”

“Then perhaps,” Joseph added, “God might have loved him, and the shaking earth might have been God expressing his feelings.”

Nathaniel looked away then back at his father, tears glistening his face. “I heard him say: ‘Father forgive them …’”

Nathan, once again assumed his fatherly stance. “We must not doubt the judgment of our courts nor the jurisdiction of the priests. We must have faith that those who stand before the altars of the synagogue have behaved righteously,” he said firmly.

But even as he spoke Nathan remembered his journey into Galilee. A kindly, white-robed, bearded teacher had leaned against one of the fishing boats and spoke quietly with the fishermen.

Do not revile those who revile against you. Should someone have need of your
garment, give it to him. Do good to those who despitefully use you. Bless them
that curse you.

With his mind’s eye Nathan saw the funeral procession moving along one of the sun-baked country roads. The Nazarene, with a dozen or so of his followers, met them. Distraught parents wept openly, and then one spoke with the teacher. Nathan remembers briefly looking away and then sudden shouts focused his attention once again as sadness had turned to dancing and weeping turned to joy. The dead was made to live.

Once again Nathaniel spoke: “Did you not tell us of the miracles the teacher performed in Galilee?”

“Yes son, I did.”

“Then, if the teacher can bring the dead back to life, perhaps he, too, can live again.”

Nathan glanced down the hill once more and saw two women running toward a grave followed by a small group of men some distance behind. He looked at their destination—the grave as the sun burst through the clouds and lighted the inside of the tomb.

“Look boys—look—the tomb—it is empty just as he said it would be. Let’s join them.”
Nathaniel was already running ahead.

-—Lloyd Docter was the father of regular “On the Corner” columnist
and New Frontier Editor-in-Chief Bob Docter

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