And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 >At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people (Matthew 27:50-53).
Another amazing event occurred at the exact moment of Christ’s death. The earth shook and some tombs opened up. The earthquake was powerful enough to sever some rocks and people were undoubtedly alarmed at the tremor.
Earthquakes are not uncommon in that part of the world, but it is especially significant that one occurred when Jesus died. John MacArthur provides this insight: “At the cross, the wrath of God against sin was poured out on God’s own Son. The accompanying earthquake, coming at the culminating moment of Christ’s atoning work, was a kind of divine punctuation mark, perhaps signifying God’s anger at the fact that sin had cost His Son so much” (MacArthur, Passion of the Christ – True or False?).
When Christ died, yet another miracle occurred, a lot of graves were opened! To this day, many tombs in and around Jerusalem are hollow, stone containers, resting at ground level or just above. It’s possible that the powerful tremor broke open the tombs.
Amazingly, these saints of old were raised from the dead, and they actually appeared in the city of Jerusalem after Jesus was raised from the dead! Matthew is the only gospel writer who mentions this event. The text says that many people witnessed the resurrection of these holy ones, but the exact number is not specified. This episode is just another reminder that Jesus conquered death and he is the giver of life to his people. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we immediately receive eternal life.
Notice these amazing claims by Jesus: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:24-25). He also said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).
When the tombs opened up and the holy people arose, this incredible event prefigures the great and final resurrection that will occur when Jesus Christ returns. When the law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, it says the whole mountain “trembled violently” when the presence of God descended on it. It’s a cool thought that when Jesus died and the earthquake struck, perhaps it signified that the penalty for our lawbreaking was finally paid by the very Son of God.
To sum up, the torn veil indicates that direct access into God’s presence is available to us. The earthquake may be a reminder that the law was fulfilled, and its penalty erased. And the open tombs and the miraculous resurrections give us the assurance that Jesus conquered death and offers everlasting life to all who believe!
Thank you, Lord, that the veil of the temple was torn. You took the initiative to make a way for us to go directly into your presence, without fear or condemnation. It’s so awesome to be able to commune with you and to know that you hear and answer our prayers.
What do you do when it seems like the whole world is unstable and shaking?