Summary: What might be the significance of the miracles that occurred when Jesus died?
Last time we considered the miracle of the darkness that covered the face of the land for some three hours, while Jesus paid the price for the sins of the world. We noted that He suffered the horror of hell itself for our sake, and after having fully paid the price for our sins, and only after having done so, Jesus laid down His life.
It was only after He had fully experienced spiritual death for you and me, that He then experienced physical death. We are then told of three other miracles that occurred when Jesus died physically.
First, Matthew tells us about . . .
1. The tearing of the curtain - v. 51a
We are told that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. This curtain was no mere sheet hung before the holy of holies; it was said to have been one hand in thickness. This curtain was sixty feet long and thirty feet wide, and separated the Holy and Most Holy Places. Nothing less than a miracle could have torn it in this way and at the precise time of our Lord’s death.
In the tearing of the curtain we are symbolically instructed that the death of Jesus Christ removed the barrier between man and God. The sin which separated us has been paid for by the shedding of His blood. Through His sacrifice men can freely and boldly approach God.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him." - Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
2. The testimony of creation - vs. 51b-53
The second miracle was the earthquake which occurred simultaneously with the death of our Lord. This quake split rocks and opened many tombs. This miracle prepared the way for yet another sign that would occur at the resurrection. At that time many of the saints who had died were raised and they entered the holy city. This miracle opened the tombs of those who would be raised at the time of our Lord’s resurrection. Implied in this miracle was the truth that the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ was the death of death itself. He was to be the victor over the grave. When He died, death no longer held its deadly power.
3. The terror of the centurion - v. 54
There was something about the way that Jesus died that deeply affected those who stood by. The Centurion, who probably headed the crucifixion detail that day and no doubt had witnessed countless deaths by crucifixion, was compelled to praise God and to exclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God."
His confession expressed the feelings of the other soldiers and that of the crowds who consented to His death and then witnessed His execution.
"And all the multitudes who came together for this spectacle,
when they observed what had happened, began to return,
beating their breasts" - Luke 23:48 (NASB)
Truly, this is an amazing thing! Those who initially were shouting, "Good riddance!" at the foot of the cross, left groaning, "Good grief!" There was, in the death of Christ, something so unique and compelling, that even the enemies of our Lord went away deeply disturbed. One cannot contemplate the cross of Christ and remain the same.