Summary: Coinciding with the death and resurrection of Jesus dead saints were raised and came into the city. This situation causes a great stir; especially because the question is now being asked, "Why aren't more Jews raised?"

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Matthew 27:52-53

Dead Saints Walking

In this time of Lent we are considering some of the strange or unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture, they have real significance for our understanding of the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.

We read this section of Scripture last week.

But we are going to read it again.

Matthew 27:45-56

The specific passage I want to focus on is this one:-

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, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Matthew 27:51b-53

Who are the “holy people?”

It is possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is possible but quite unlikely. 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 were instantly recognised. It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.

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.

These once dead people are now roaming the streets catching up with friends and family. It’s certainly something no one will forget.

If ever you needed a good plot for a movie – this would be it.

You could have a scene where a wife comes home from the shopping to discover that her once dead husband having a 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 on new carpet and curtains.

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it is such a brief account.

But this passage was not written to make us open a Pandora’s box of speculation. These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.

To see the significance let’s have a closer look at the process involved ... because it happens in two stages. The first stage happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment … the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs.

Matthew 27:50-53a

You can guarantee this caused a big stir on Friday there is a bit of a stir.

Remember the people then were not buried in the ground like we do today.

People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front … that is how Jesus was buried.

It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.

Upon investigation of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop. Not all the tombs are empty – not everyone has come to life.

And that is a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with … because an event like this shouldn’t happen.

It was a common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.

However when that resurrection did take place the Jews expected all Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The fact that some bodies remain in the tombs would cause a few comfort zones to be ruffled.

Imagine you were a Pharisee on that day. From your earliest theological training days you have been told that all Pharisees will be included in the resurrection. But I suspect that there would have been quite a few Pharisee Tombs which were undisturbed. These people are still in their graves – it’s a truth that shocks the Pharisees.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis. Certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?” They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead. But the bigger crisis is a faith crisis – why is it that some were raised and others were not?

That question brings us to the second stage of the process.

after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Matthew 27:53b

When Jesus died everyone thought it was all over.

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