Summary: A sermon on the miracle of the holy ones raised to life when Jesus died on the cross from Matthew 27:52-53
Sermon for 3/14/2010
A. Excuse me Matthew; can you give us more information? Matthew’s brief description here with this last miracle (vs. 52-53) reminds me of a situation from my own life. Crystal and I had gotten engaged without anyone knowing about it. Of course, Crystal soon told everyone she knew. Crystal was playing piano at a church on the other side of town and didn’t really know many at the church where I was preaching. How was I going to tell the church? I came up with a plan. I did not given an annoucement. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I prayed a sermon and just inserted on little phrase “My fiancé and I were watching this movie” to see if anyone noticed. After the service I was shaking everyone out and after half the people had left, one little elderly woman said, "Did I hear this right, Your fiance? Are you engaged to be married?" Those who lingered longer wanted the full story. Those who take off like a shot after the service probably still don't know I got married (and they also weren't paying attention). If you are not paying attention here you will miss the wonder of this miracle.
B. Others say that this is outlandish and cannot be true. However, it flows naturally from the account. Matthew is the only one to record this but that doesn’t mean it is not true. Maybe one of the copiers put this on several years later just to see if anyone was paying attention. Earliest manuscripts of Matthew contain these two verses. No footnotes here.
A. Have many questions:
1. Who? Many holy people. Who were they? Any famous ones or just ordinary? How many were there? How far back in time, just a year or several years?
2. When? We know that the tombs of these holy people were opened from the earthquake but did they rise at the moment of Jesus’ death or at Jesus’ resurrection.
3. How long did they stay alive? Did they just stay alive for a few hours? Did they just go back to their old lives? If they only stayed alive for a few hours or a few days, did they have another funeral? Did they go back to their tomb and lie down and die again? Did the Lord take them up without another death?
4. What did the bodies look like? Were they fully restored, or decayed? What sort of resurrections were these? How did their return from the dead affect them?
5. What did they say to their relatives and friends? Did they speak of Christ or did they know about the spiritual significance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? What was the reaction of those who saw them? Disbelief? Panic? Happiness? How many people saw them?
7. Some Biblical facts but a lot of things to speculate about.
B. We will try to answer a few of these questions this morning.
C. Two parts to this miracle.
Thesis: Let’s talk about the two parts of this miracle and try to answer some of these questions.
1. The tombs broke open (Vs. 52)
B. Misunderstanding here. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary argues that a full stop (period) should be placed, not after “split” (vs. 51), but after “broke open” (vs. 52). Remember, we talked about the curtain tearing, the earthquake and now the tombs breaking open. This happened at the moment of Jesus’ death. The resurrections did not take place until Jesus’ resurrection. The Commentary goes on to say, “Matthew does not intend his readers to think that these “holy people” were resurrected when Jesus died and then waited in their tombs until Easter Sunday (played cards to pass the time) before showing themselves.”
C. The way the New Living Translation says it clears it up, “and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead after Jesus resurrection. They left the cemetery, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.”
D. Imagine the scene. Jesus dies; there is an earthquake and the tombs brake open. Jesus died at 3 pm on Friday. On an ordinary day the people would come and put rocks or at least cover over the entrances to these tombs. This is no ordinary day. This is Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath (Saturday), and not just any Sabbath, the Sabbath surrounding the Passover Celebration. No work can be done on the Sabbath. In the Jewish mind, Sabbath began at sundown on Friday night. Important to get Jesus’ body down from the cross because of this before sundown. If not the body would have to hang there until Sunday. (Luke 23:52 NIV) Going to Pilate, (Joseph of Arimathea) asked for Jesus' body. (Luke 23:53 NIV) Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. (Luke 23:54 NIV) It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (Luke 23:55 NIV) The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. (Luke 23:56 NIV) Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. (Luke 24:1 NIV) On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.