By Shawn McMullen
I’m also fascinated by the unmistakably supernatural events that surrounded Jesus’ death and resurrection—a series of events that authenticated Christ’s finished work on the cross, astounded eyewitnesses, and continue to amaze those who read about them. Follow me through one Gospel writer’s account found in Matthew 27:50-54 (English Standard Version).
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit (v. 50). While Jesus submitted to death on the cross, he was always in control. He had authority to summon legions of angels to his side at any moment, but he chose instead to endure the suffering and shame of the cross for our sakes. And in a final sovereign act, he demonstrated his authority by yielding up his spirit at the exact moment of his choosing.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (v. 51). At the death of Jesus, the great temple veil separating the holy place from the most holy place was miraculously torn apart, showing that a “new and living way” to God the Father had been opened “through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20).
And the earth shook, and the rocks were split (v. 51). Certainly earthquakes had occurred before in this region, but the timing and significance of this earthquake would have been lost on no one.
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many (vv. 52, 53). The earthquake did more than shake the ground. It broke open graves. Perhaps it moved stones from the entrance of tombs. After Christ rose, some of the dead inhabitants of these tombs (saints, or holy ones) were brought back to life. They entered Jerusalem and were seen by many eyewitnesses.
Matthew doesn’t tell us what happened after that. The risen saints may have returned to their tombs, or perhaps ascended into Heaven. Either way, following Christ, “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), these risen saints were “living proof” that Jesus had conquered death and would raise all of God’s children at the proper time.
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Sonof God!” (v. 54). As they watched these events unfold, the Roman officer in charge of the crucifixion, along with the guard he commanded, came to the same conclusion. This was no mere man. Perhaps they were responding to the testimony they had heard from Christ himself: “I am the Son of God” (v. 43). Matthew tells us only that the soldiers were convicted—not how they responded to their conviction. I’d like to think some became followers of the Way.
Confirmed by an astounding series of supernatural events, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed the course of human history and continues to change lives today. Has it changed yours?