Friday, June 30, 2023

The Vision (6.30.23): Four Wondrous Attendant Circumstances at the Death of Christ


Image: David's Phlox, North Garden, Virginia

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 27:50-61.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost (Matthew 27:50).

Following his account of Christ’s death on the cross (27:50), Matthew describes at least four wondrous attendant circumstances that accompanied the death of Christ in its aftermath (27:51-54):

First: The rending of the veil (v. 51a):

This event is also reported in Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45.

The “veil of the temple” here likely refers to the curtain which set apart “the most holy” place (as in the Tabernacle, Exodus 26:31-33), or “the Holiest of all” (Hebrews 9:3). This spiritually signified the opening up of a way or means of communion between God and man through the mediation of Christ alone. Both Matthew and Mark note that this veil was torn from top to bottom, indicating that this mediation had to move from God to man and could not have come from man to God.

Second, the convulsing of the earth and the rending of rocks (v. 51b):

This disturbance of the natural world is like the darkness which covered the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour. Spurgeon says, “Thus did the material world pay homage to him whom man had rejected….” (Matthew, 431).

Third, the raising of some dead saints from their graves (v. 52-53):

Matthew begins, “And the graves were opened” (v. 52a). He proceeds to record a most unusual event, not covered by our other Gospels. He continues, “and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (v. 52b), adding, “And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city (v. 53).

Note two key things:

First, though Matthew mentions this after the death of Christ, he states that this did not occur until “after his resurrection.”

Second, these persons did not experience the resurrection, but like Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7), and Lazarus (John 11) they were resuscitated, brought back to life to die again. Christ alone is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, and then all else at his second coming (1 Corinthians 15:23). Some of these saints (holy ones) might even have been elderly disciples of Christ who had died just before he entered Jerusalem. They were raised to bear witness to his resurrection power.

This is the kind of miracle that modern, rationalistic, secularists might scoff at, but once we affirm a God who had the power to make all things in the space of six days and all very good, such things are mere child’s play.

Fourth, the confession of the Roman centurion (v. 54):

Matthew says the centurion (a man over 100 soldiers) and “they that were with him” witnessed “those things that were done,” including especially the “earthquake,” and “they feared greatly.” The centurion then said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Though this confession was denied by the high priest (26:63b) and mocked by the passers-by (27:40) and the religious leaders (27:43), a pagan Roman soldier affirms what their spiritually blinded eyes could not see. Jesus is the Son of God. The centurion represents myriads of Gentiles who will follow in his wake.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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