Summary: When Jesus died there were some in the city who rose and appeared to many people – but there were also some who did not rise. Such a situation raises the question, “Who are the ‘holy ones’ and how can we be sure that we are among them?”.
Dead Men Walking
Matthew 27:52-53 (text)
Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ,
This text would make a good plot for a movie.
• You could have a scene where a wife comes home from the shopping to discover that her once dead husband was having an in depth conversation with the man she married after her first husband died. They could be sharing a beer together and having a few laughs.
• You could have a scene where a once dead husband was having an argument with his wife about the way she had spent the insurance money.
• In another scene a man comes home to discover he now has two wives. The one he thought was dead and the one who he recently married. Now what is he going to do?
Yes this text has the makings of a very good movie. But isn’t that because it is such a brief account. You may have read these words before - today could be the first time you have heard them - but I’m sure your reaction is the same, “I wish it said more”.
There are just so many unanswered questions aren’t there.
• What did the bodies look like? Were they fully restored, or did they look rotten?
• What was the reaction of those who saw them? Disbelief? Panic? Happiness?
• What eventually happened to these people? Did they stay for long? Did they go back to their old position in society and family? Did they die again?
It would be interesting to answer some of these questions but that is not really the focus. These two verses were not included to open up a Pandora’s box of speculations. These verses were included to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death. And that is going to be the focus of our attention today.
Let’s start by focussing on those who were raised. Matthew says they were “holy people”.
Some suggest this means the great saints like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I don’t think so. Had they come to visit, well I am sure we would have been told specifically. The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a stir – had it been revealed that it was Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – well that would cause a mighty uproar in the city.
Also we get the impression that the ones who visited were recognised, many holy people who had died were raised to life - and they appeared to many people. It’s like a homecoming. Had it been Abraham Isaac and Jacob, well to many they would have been like strangers.
The holy people we should have in mind are those who have died more recently, and who now go back to a city where they are recognised without introduction.
Now have a closer look at the text with me, because a two stage process is happening here. The first stage happens immediately at the death of Jesus. We will start reading from verse 50.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs”.