Dead Guys Walking Around…

I once sat through a Maundy Thursday Communion service in rapt attention with the increasing darkness of the room, listening to the readings from the Gospel of Matthew. I heard and felt the thunder and earthquake at Christ’s death and heard about the temple curtain being torn asunder, the rocky tombs around Jerusalem being split in two, and some “holy people” being raised from the dead. My first reaction was one of complete awe. My second reaction was, “I hope nobody asks me to explain that passage.” Well, wouldn’t you know it, the next morning at our Good Friday service someone did ask. I blabbered out some explanation, but it was rather obvious I didn’t know what I was talking about. So I went back over the section (Matt. 27:51-53) and made the following observations: 1) The material in this section is unique to Matthew and fits with what he wanted to communicate to his Jewish readers about Jesus. (2) The temple curtain that separated the Holy of Holies (the very Presence of God) from the rest of Israel was torn asunder from top to bottom (a God-thing, not a human action) and it happened before the earthquake. The death of Christ opened up access to God to anyone who comes to Him through Christ, our Great High Priest (Heb. 10:19-22). 3) The earthquake split open some tombs around the city which were often built into natural rock caves. Could it be that the rocks were crying out because no one was praising the Savior?  4) In older Greek manuscripts the numbered verses 51-53 composed just one sentence, so all the events were reported to have happened- not just the believable ones. 5) At Jesus’ resurrection there were some of the believing remnant of Old Israel (who longed for Messiah’s Coming) that were also raised from the dead, thus being united with believers in the New Israel of God. They came out of their tombs and were seen by many in Jerusalem; this seems to have happened after Jesus was raised because he was the “first- fruits of those fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). 6) Why do I find this resurrection so hard to accept when I do not stumble over the even more miraculous resurrection of Jesus? 7) What happened to these resurrected saints? Did they go to heaven in transformed bodies, or did they re-die like Lazarus? 8) I am left back where I started; not being able to figure it all out, but in complete awe of what I do understand— that the power of Christ’s death and resurrection opened up for me (a Gentile) a way of relationship with God that never would have been mine apart from Christ. Wow, that is just an incredible thought!

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