Crucifixion Events!
(An Eight Part Devotion Series)

Jesus and the Cross

The events surrounding Jesus' death on the cross, burial and resurrection, provide the heart of the entire message of Scriptures. Within these events are miracles the show Jesus Christ to be special, different than any other person who ever lived. With out a doubt they clearly show that Jesus was a unique human being, who was God in human form (truly the son of God), and the only Savior of mankind.

Matthew 27:35-40 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (NIV)

Part 1 — On The Cross...

Jesus was nailed to the cross at the third hour (9 a.m.)...

Matthew 27:45-49 From the sixth hour (12 noon) until the ninth hour (3 p.m.) darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah." 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him."

Light and dark are spoken of a lot in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. (Dark: Genesis 1:2 to Revelation 16:10) (Light: Genesis 1:3 to Revelation 22:5) The words for darkness and light appear approximately 390 times in Scripture (over 160 times for darkness and 229 times for light). It is significant that the first act of God in Genesis was to remove darkness by creating light.

Background. How did Jesus end up on the cross? He had been arrested and tried by both the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. Even after finding that he had done nothing wrong he was still illegally sentenced to death. Roman soldiers took him outside the city to be crucified between the two thieves. A murderer (Barabbas) was actually released in place of Jesus, because of the cries of the people when given an opportunity to have Jesus released by Pilate.

(1) Jesus was an innocent person taking the place of a guilty one.

(2) Jesus was the innocent "Lamb of God" taking the place of many guilty ones.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

The first three hours saw soldiers taking his only belongings – his clothes – and actually throwing dice to decide who would get his seamless coat. He was mocked and cursed while hanging on the cross. Yet He showed He was not there for himself, but for others (dying for the sins of the whole world), through His words on the cross during the first three hours

(1) He forgave those crucifying Him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). These were the same soldiers that had struck and flogged Him, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and spit in His face (– according to the prophecy in Isaiah 52:14 he was unrecognizable; beaten to a pulp). He forgave those that had sinned against Him!

    (a) He didn't ask God for forgiveness (i.e. "Father forgive me"), because he was sinless.

    (b) He knew why He had come to die. To provide forgiveness of sins, not just for sins of the Romans or Jews, but ours sins too. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

(2) To the repentant thief (being crucified with Jesus) He said, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

    (a) Jesus showed He cared for people personally, even one who had lived a life of sin and was condemned by people.

    (b) Jesus knew that he could give assurance of salvation... the salvation He was paying for with His own life.

(3) Jesus recognized the presence of His mother Mary and His disciple John. He provided even for her physical well-being in committing her to John's care (John 19:25-27).

    (a) Jesus is concerned for our physical well-being, as well as our spiritual. (Matthew 6:25-33).

    (b) Note that Jesus, even while taking care of her, called Mary not "Mother", but "woman." Even while she was his earthly mother (i.e. mother of His humanity), she was still a woman, descendant of Adam, and in need of salvation like all other men and women. Mary is given no special place, and can never be considered a way to get to God (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

And still we haven't got to the mysterious darkness that happened at noon...

Part 2 — Darkness...

Jesus is on the cross, and has been for 3 hours. It's now noon, when the sun is high in the sky, and suddenly a complete darkness falls over the land. A silence would follow, even as animals grow eerily silent during a total eclipse. This darkness would last three hours...

Matthew 27:45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.

Luke also records that the sun could not be seen (Luke 23:44-45). The words translated as "darkness fell" or "darkness came over", mean "to happen" — in other words this happened fast, not like it gradually grows dark at night. Imagine someone turning out the lights, not just in Jerusalem, but all over the land of Palestine.

Can you imagine the scene? What would people have been thinking? There was no abusive language now, no more mocking, only horror, amazement, shock, fear, suspense, and likely quiet whisperings of those watching.

Listen to the words of 1 Samuel 2:9... "He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness..."

Can you imagine the effect of this sudden darkness in the midst of all the activity of the spiritual darkness of that time?

Listen to what we read in Job 5:13-14... "He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. 14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night."

So what caused the darkness? Where did it come from?

(1) An Eclipse? No. An eclipse never happens suddenly as did this event, plus an eclipse only lasts for a few minutes – never three full hours.

(2) A Natural Phenomena? Could it be a darkness like that associated with an earthquake or a volcanic eruption? Again, not likely. This darkness covered the entire land and it came and left suddenly. Also there is no record of an earthquake immediately prior to this, yet one is recorded after!

(3) A Dust Storm or Cloud Cover?

What about a dark cloud cover which suddenly rolled in or perhaps a very heavy dust storm? Again, this seems unlikely because of its suddenness.

(4) An Act of God? The only good answer is that this event was a miraculous sign caused by God (however He choose to do it). God the Creator who placed the sun, moon, stars and planets in their place caused it. This was God directly intervening in nature. As a miracle, we do not understand it, we only have the evidence that it occurred.

Why would God use Darkness? This miracle was a special act of God both to (1) authenticate [or prove as special] and (2) to interpret [or to show the meaning of] the death of His Son to the world.

While Jesus lived among them, many religious people [rulers] asked Jesus to give them a sign – some miracle to prove He was who He said He was, specifically God in human form (John 8:58-59). They took great offense at His claims and wanted to kill him. Yet, Jesus refused to give them a miracle on demand and keep stating that the only miracle they would need to see was regarding his death, burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:39-40, Matthew 16:4). It shouldn't then surprise us that so many special illustrations are included in the events surrounding Jesus' death. God was showing the world that Jesus was special and his death was different.

The Roman centurion (soldier) standing close by, at the crucifixion, got the picture. Through watching the events unfold he exclaimed, “truly, this was the Son of God,” and proclaimed, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

In Psalms 107 (esp v1-14), God uses the illustration of bringing His people out of darkness, in reference to freeing them from the slavery of sin. Truly Jesus, in a unique way that only He could do, had to face the blackest darkness of our sin to free us from it.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.

When the Bible says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), sin can only be characterized as darkness. So, due to our sin (whether lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) we deserve to be in darkness, Jesus did not. He bore it for us.

The darkness showed that Jesus was bearing our sins on the cross. Consider Habakkuk 1:13... "Your [God's] eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong."

Because His Son had taken our sin upon himself, God shrouded Him in darkness to illustrate that He is so pure [Holy] as to not look upon evil. [See also Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-12]

It was at this time that Jesus called out. Matthew 27:46 "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Consider that the darkness also represents what awaits all who have disobeyed God and who reject Jesus. Passage after passage in the Bible, speaks of the day of God's judgment as being a time of darkness. [See Isaiah 13:9-11, Zepheniah 1:15, Matt 8:12, Matt 22:13]

And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (Matthew 25:30)

Even in the midst of His suffering on account of us, Jesus still trusted in His Father to deliver Him, this is reflected in His words, “My God, My God.” And the Father did not utterly forsake His Son. Why? Because the sin was not His own, it was ours, and the Father heard the prayer of a righteous man.


The Credibility of the Record.

As a supernatural event some people would be skeptical that it ever happened, yet check the record...

(1) It was recorded by three authors of Inspired Scripture.

For the person who believes the Bible, this immediately settles the question. For others, there is the tremendous evidence for the uniqueness and incredible accuracy of Scripture which stands behind this record. Luke records this event, along with Matthew and Mark, and tells us in connection with writing his gospel that he “investigated everything carefully.” These people lived in Palestine and were living at that very moment in that very place. They saw the darkness and talked to others who saw it as well. Some early readers of their gospels would have seen this as well.

(2) It was recorded by a church historian.

For those that want more evidence. Tertullian, a great church historian and defender of the faith, writing as an apologist to his heathen opponents in the second century wrote, “at the moment of Christ's death, the light departed from the sun and the land was darkened at noonday, which wonder is related in your (speaking to heathen adversaries) own annals and is preserved in your archives to this day.”

This was no normal action of nature nor a quirk of nature. Jesus, the Son of God, the God-Man was dying for man's sin and God was, with great drama, declaring this to the world.


More on Darkness.

Darkness is often used throughout the Bible as a means of illustration. [Examples: Genesis 15:12-18; Exodus 10:21-22; 20:21; Joshua 24:7; Deuteronmy 4:10;11; 5:22; Proverb 4:19; Joel 2:2; Amos 5:20; Zepheniah 1:15; Matthew 8:12; 25;30]

Man's sinful actions and condition are called darkness. [Examples: Luke 22:53, Proverbs 4:19, John 3:19... "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."


Part 3 — The Torn Veil...

Matthew 27:50-52 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 and the rocks split. [See also Mark 15:37-38]

Luke 23:46 and John 19:30 fill in the words of the loud cry that is spoken about in the gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke) and Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John)

"It is Finished!" This triumphant cry was unlike earlier things spoken from the cross. No longer was this about who Jesus was and is, but about His work. Jesus was saying that what He had come to accomplish was finished. As the Lamb of God, his work was now finished... He was the perfect sacrifice... an innocent man dying in our place. No one else could have done this, no one else can ever do this, Jesus alone was worthy — and "It is Finished!" [See Rev 5:1-9]

It was finished, Satan had been defeated. His rebellion against God was doomed, his works destined for destruction. 1 John 3:8 "...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."

Even Jesus' words "Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit", showed His confidence that all was complete and that God would not abandon Him to the grave [See Psalms 16:10]. He could call God, "Father" again as fellowship with God had been restored. When Adam and Eve had sinned in the garden and broken the fellowship [truly the friendship] that they had with God, Jesus had now through His death restored that fellowship. The penalty of sin [demanded by God's Holy justice] had been paid for all eternity.

Notice that Jesus controlled even the moment of His death — God is always in control. God had planned this from the very beginning [See 1 Peter 1:19-20].

At the moment of Jesus' death something amazing happened. A massive and thick curtain that hung in God's temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain was a veil that kept the people from entering the main part of the temple, the place where God's mercy seat and ark was kept. This Holy place was where only one high priest was allowed to enter to give sacrifice year after year [only on the Day of Atonement]. All the other people would gather outside, beyond the curtain — they knew their sin kept them from coming directly before God. No other people were allowed to enter, and should someone other than the high priest dare to enter they would be struck dead by God — God's Holiness was so great. Even the high priest would die if he came before God without sacrifice for his own sin.

Suddenly, from the top to bottom, this massive thick curtain was torn in two. God did it from the top down to show that it was He who was making a way for us to come into His presence. We couldn't do it, so God did.

The veil, itself, was a symbol of our sin. The smallest lie, wrong thought or wrong action, was that big curtain. By ourselves we are stuck on the outside, unable to ever enter. We could no longer see God, we could no longer come to God to seek His mercy, we where separated from Him.

God, in allowing a high priest to enter beyond the curtain once a year, showed that there needed to be a special person that could go beyond the veil and come into God's presence. Not just in a temple here on earth, which was a model [or representation], but in the real temple of God in heaven. The high priest had to come with a bowl of blood, from the sacrifice, which showed that death was deserved for all sin.

Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Hebrews 9:22 "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

Not only was Jesus the perfect sacrifice which tore down that barrier, but He was the perfect High Priest that could ascend to heaven and come to God seeking His mercy [forgiveness] for us. Jesus was both High Priest and Sacrifice and it was His own blood He took before God. Because of Jesus, we could now come into the presence of God. His perfect sacrifice finished this forever, no more need of earthly sacrifices, no more need of an earthly high priest. In Jesus we can come to God.


Read the following passage for more biblical information on the temple, its God-given design, and necessary priestly functions.

Hebrews 9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings-external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

The tearing of the veil is a stupendous event for man to ponder. It was no doubt one of the reasons that many priests came to trust in Christ (Acts 6:7). Just imagine the picture. Priests were ministering in the holy place at the very time of Christ's death when suddenly this huge curtain (19 feet high, 60 feet wide, and the thickness of a man's hand) was ripped in half from top to bottom revealing the Holy of Holies and opening the way into God's presence. This was an historic occurrence, one alluded to by secular historians such as Tacitus and Josephus, and even by the Jewish Talmud.


Part 4 — What does all this have to do with me?...

Think back to the mysterious darkness. While it dramatically portrayed the sin and darkness of all people, and God's wrath (or anger) upon sin, it also dramatically demonstrated the love of God stepping into time and history to free us from the darkness of Satan's kingdom and from sin and death.

Why did we need to be freed from Satan's Kingdom? Because everyone who hasn't chosen to follow Jesus is automatically in Satan's kingdom. Since Adam and Eve, we have all been born wanting to sin. No one had to teach us how to sin. Think about a little child, does someone have to teach them how to lie or fight? No. They just do.

Ephesians 2:1-3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions [deliberate breaking of God's commands] and sins [even unintentional breaking of God's commands], 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

When the Bible says that we were dead... it's talking about being spiritually dead. Everyone in Satan's kingdom is spiritually dead. God, in the person of Jesus Christ came to bring life. It's a change as big as going from darkness to light.

John 1:4-5 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [or understand] it.

John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Even as Jesus did not stay in darkness on the cross, if we have found life in Him, we are no longer in spiritual darkness as well.

If you have put your trust in Jesus as Lord, you are called to be like the Apostle Paul. On the Damascus road, when Paul was converted, the Savior told him, regarding the world of lost people...

Acts 26:17-18 I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified [set apart] by faith in me.

Sin was, and is, the problem. People in spiritual darkness can't see anything wrong with sin. Only by God's word and by the working of His Holy Spirit can people see what is wrong with sin and want to turn away from it. Because we naturally want to sin, we can't turn away from sin on our own. So to come to Him, all God asks is that you want to turn away from sin and follow Jesus.

Acts 3:19-20 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

To repent is to turn around, instead of wanting to sin, you want to follow Jesus. As a follower of Jesus, God has set you in spiritual light and will continue to teach you and lead you what is pleasing to Him.

“Therefore do not be partakers [participants] with them [those still wanting to sin]; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:7-8).

Once God has set you in the light, you are called to be different forever. And God gives you the protection you need to ward off all the things of darkness.

Romans 13:12 tells us, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

When the veil was torn in two, there were likely many people standing outside the curtain. They could now see into the Holy of Holies. The way had been opened for them, but likely many stood there not believing they could enter in. When God tore that veil and made a way for us to enter, He has shown us the way. Have you entered into His presence through Jesus.

Knowing what to do is not enough... you have to believe.

John 3:16-17, 36 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. . . . 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

In removing the veil God has placed a door [or a gate]. That door is Jesus Christ and there is only the one door.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 10:7-10 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Only Jesus can give you a way to true life, both now and forever.

Part 5 — Earth Shaking, Rock Breaking Events!

Matthew 27:50-51 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 and the rocks split.

It appears that it was the loud voice of Jesus and His death that caused a chain of events to take place. The first was the tearing of the temple curtain in two. Second is the earth shaking and rocks breaking.

Once again, this was a special miracle from God, showing how special the death of His Son was. Happening at the same time as Jesus dying and the veil tearing, it was another event pointing out how special Jesus was. Remember, Jesus had just called out triumphantly, "It is finished!" This was a cry of victory. The things that followed all showed what victory had been won.

Think about the people of the area. They had just gone through a mysterious time of complete darkness, now the sun was back, yet the ground has shaken so hard that rocks have split in two.

That a miracle affecting the earth, or nature itself, would happen, shouldn't surprise us. The Son was Creator. It was through Him God had created the entire universe, including this earth. That the Son, who had come as a man, was now dead, was truly an earth-shaking event.

Colossians 1:15-17 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [God's heir] over all creation. 16 For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him [Jesus] and for him [Jesus]. 17 He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him [Jesus] all things hold together.

If Jesus holds all things together, the rocks splitting was a fitting display at His death. Remember, Jesus had power over all of creation. He had shown this many times throughout His life. He had calmed the sea, in the midst of a storm, through only a spoken word. He had even walked on water [and no it wasn't frozen!].

Matthew 8:23-27 Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake [Sea of Galilee], so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" 26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

John 6:19-21 When they [the disciples] had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Because of the exact timing of the ground shaking and rocks breaking, and the way the Bible connects it with the death of Christ, it is shown to be a supernatural and miraculous event

It was a miracle because it was the result of direct action by God.

It was supernatural because it was not the result of any of the natural or normal causes of earthquakes. Because of the significance of the death of Jesus Christ, it was independent of nature: it was the sole act of God.

There four reasons why we can believe that this is shown in God's Word. Here's the evidence...

It coincided with the death of Christ. It is set forth in Scripture as a result of His death.

It coincided with and was a part of the other signs of the darkness and the torn veil—which were clearly direct miracles and not natural events.

It coincided with the final shouts of Christ's victory on the cross, “It is finished” and “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” As an event immediately following, it was the Father acting to show the importance of Christ's death.

It coincided with the splitting of rocks and some graves being opened [which we will examine later]. Yet, from what is recorded in the gospels, nothing else was disturbed as in a normal earthquake. As violent and powerful as it was, nothing else seems to have been disturbed. It did not displace the Savior's cross, though Golgotha [up on a hill] itself was shaken. It opened some graves, yet not all graves. It worked selectively and in a special way as a miraculous act of God to help us understand the death of Christ.

Looking way back to the beginning. When man sinned (the first Adam), mankind became cursed with sin and death, and the earth, the ground out of which man had been made was also cursed (Genesis 3:17).

But when Jesus Christ died (the Last Adam, as Jesus is called by Paul) the earth shook as a powerful display of the power and truth of the results of Christ's death. Here was the One who had redeemed [saved] man from the curse of sin and would one day redeem nature or creation from its curse as well. (See 1 Corinthians 15:42-49)

There was one other time when God caused the earth to shake miraculously. It was at Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law (See Exodus 19:16-19). At that time it was done as an example of the absolute holiness of God and warned the people that they could not touch the mountain or even approach God apart from the sacrifices of the Law which, of course, pointed to the person and work of Christ.

The Old Testament Law given at Mount Sinai showed man his sinfulness and that, because of God's perfect holiness, man was cut off from God, lost and without hope (2 Corinthians 3:7). But the Law provided man with no power to break out of the clutches of sin and death. It only condemned man and showed him the sinfulness of heart.

Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

But at the death of Christ, the quaking of Golgotha (the place of the skull, itself a picture of death) God was giving His answer to Sinai and the Old Testament Law. Notice the contrast...

— The quaking of Sinai stood for the barrier between God and man – God's holiness and man's sin which keeps man separated from God.

— The quaking of Golgotha stood for God's love and grace which, through the death of Christ, satisfies [fulfills] the demands of a holy God and makes God approachable through the One who died on the cross.

Part 6 — Open Graves!

Matthew 27:50-53 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 and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Tombs in Bible times where cut out of solid rock. Large rocks or stones where used to cover their entrances. And now, right at the time of Jesus' death, some tombs where broken open. From what the Bible tells us, nothing else appears to have been disturbed. Imagine what people would have been thinking. But here it was the beginning of a special Sabbath, at the time of the Passover feast. No one would want to go anywhere near open tombs as, by the law, they would be considered unclean.

In life, being near graves never bothered Jesus. When his friend Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus went to the tomb...

John 11:17-19 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.

Jesus then asked the unthinkable, that the tomb be opened...

John 11:38-39 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

Jesus then called for Lazarus to come out! And He did!! (John 11:43-44) The God who created life displayed His power to give life — even to someone long since dead. An amazing event, yes! While the occurrence with Lazarus was likely the most witnessed one, this was not the only time. On other occasions Jesus raised the synagogue ruler Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:49-55), and even broke up a funeral procession on the way to a tomb, to give back life to the son of a widow (Luke 7:11-15). Awesome events by an awesome Person!

But, back to the events following Jesus' death. Now the rocks have been split and tombs have been thrown open. Something major had happened. Something that would change the way that death was looked at.

Death had been a fact of life since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God told Adam, regarding the tree of good and evil, "(Gen. 2:17) when you eat of it you will surely die." From the day they disobeyed, sin meant that beyond the spiritual death that we now deserved, everyone would die physically as well. The fact is (the survey's in): 10 out of 10 die. The grave is normally closed for good. But now, after Jesus' death, God was showing that something good had happened. Tombs were broken open and remained that way for days. It was a great symbol of the defeat of death. Yes, even in Jesus' death, good had happened.

With the death of Christ, the penalty of sin had been paid, and also the cause of death was dealt with. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:56, "the sting of death is sin and power of sin is the Law." It's by sin that death gains power over people. But then Paul added, "but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ by His death paid the penalty of sin, removed its stinger, and fulfilled all the demands of the law and the holiness of God.

It was necessary for Jesus to defeat death, before He could provide new and eternal life. In the same way, the tombs being opened prepared the way for the event that would follow — namely people coming back to life. [Which we will look at later].

The Bible speaks of death as being an enemy... no wonder people naturally fear death! But don't forget that on the cross Jesus defeated death once for all time. Yet, while Jesus has defeated death, He has not yet destroyed it. But that day is coming!

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 For he [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The book of Revelation, where God reveals things that will happen in the future, tell us how death will be destroyed...

Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades [Hell] were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

The bottom line is... death dies at the second death. No more death. What a difference that will make in the new heavens and earth that God has prepared for all those that have placed their trust in Jesus...

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away [died]."

Those who believe in Jesus get to share in His defeat of death. Symbolically, we died with Him, because our sins died with Him — those sins being the very reason we deserve to die. We've been given new life, but the sins are to stay dead!

Romans 6:8-14 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Part 7 — Saints Alive!

Matthew 27:52-53 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (NASB)

The tombs that had stayed open from the time of Jesus' death, now saw activity. Not that any of the people came to check them out, rather their occupants came out! The Bibles does not say that every tomb was open, nor does it say that every person was raised to life. Rather it clearly says that "many" were raised from the dead. Even more to the point, we're told that it was many of the "saints," who were given life again.

How could it be saints? Saints are those who believe in Jesus, whether Old Testament or New. If you are a believer in Jesus, the Bible even calls you a saint. Before Jesus came, many in Old Testament times believed in Him, in advance. They were looking forward to a Messiah (Christ), who would save His people from their sins. So these people that were raised to life were some of those who had died before Jesus came and died. We don't know how long they had been dead, just that they were dead and in tombs, obviously since before Jesus' death.

Once again, God had done a special miracle, this time to show Jesus' ultimate power over death. While the graves had been opened at the time of Jesus' death, showing that he had defeated death, now after Jesus' resurrection, God brought back to life some individuals to show that Jesus had the ability to give new life. Even as Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that His power over death enabled Him to give life to all that believe.

Put this in perspective. Image someone whose funeral you attended, days, weeks, or months, before, suddenly coming to visit! That's exactly what happened in Jerusalem. The Bible says that these people went and showed themselves to many people. Think of the stir it would cause.

As Saints, believers in Jesus, everyone of these people would have been dramatic illustration of the new life that can be found only in Jesus. You might be thinking, "I'd believe if someone rose from the dead," yet Jesus told a story of a person in Hell that wanted to have someone (a Saint in Heaven) go back and warn his brothers. The reply he got was...

Luke 16:31 "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets [God's Word], they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

These saints, that had been specially raised to life after Jesus' resurrection, weren't to convince skeptics, they were to be an example of two spiritual truths.

1) Only those who believe in Jesus are given new life... John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

2) Jesus is a life giver. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

While these resurrections provided a perfect illustration, we should notice some contrasts as well. When Jesus rose from the grave, He had a new glorified body that was immortal, imperishable, and somewhat different from our present bodies. When Jesus rose from the grave, his tomb didn't have to be opened, he could leave it right through the rock... yet it was opened for us. He had the stone rolled back by an angel afterward (Matt 28:2), so that we could see that the tomb was empty...

Matthew 28:5-6 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Jesus' new glorified body didn't appear to have all the same limitations of ours. He was even able to enter a locked room (John 20:19). These saints that had been raised to life, had to have their graves split open. Like Lazarus (who also had to have his stone moved for him to come out), they were only raised back to regular physical life, as a witness or example. They again had to die.

But the new live that is found in Jesus, is far more than physical life. Remember that Jesus defeated death. When death is finally destroyed, there can be no more dying. Our new bodies that we will be given will be like Jesus' in that they will no longer die, or wear out, or grow old. Though we may physically die now, we will live again — a life that will never end.

One Old Testament Saint, Job, said it well...

Job 19:26-27 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

There's a day coming when all who have trusted in Jesus, and have died, will come to life forever — in a new body — and like Jesus' resurrection, no one will have to open a tomb or a grave, we will be raised regardless.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown [dies and is buried] is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (Also 1 John 3:2)

Part 8 — Going Home

Matthew 28:12-14 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, "You are to say, `His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'

From the very day of Jesus' resurrection, there are those who say that it never happened. They have tried to explain it away and even ignore it. While there were hundreds of witnesses and volumes of evidence, the truth comes down to this... they had to believe. All who believe in Jesus have received eternal life [life that never ends]. While Jesus has promised us that the life He gives us here and now is better than our old one (John 10:10), the fact is that we are also promised trials, tribulations, suffering, and more. Think about it. If Jesus, himself, experienced all this why should we expect any less.

Matthew 10:22-25 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. ... 24 "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub [the devil], how much more the members of his household!

Yet, we can stand firm, because Jesus has promised to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). After Jesus rose from the grave, and before He ascended into heaven, He promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit as a comforter and a counselor [teacher] (John 14:16-17; 16:7).

John 14:26-27 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

We keep on in this world, in spite of all the problems and sin around us, because God lives within us. As God works in us, and teaches us from His word, we learn more and more how to please Him. Truly our love for Him grows more and more. And we will want to show it...

John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

While our works could not save us (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5), God enables all believers to do good works for Him (Ephesians 2:10). It's truly proof of our love, and proof that He lives within us (1 John 2:3).

Being together with other believers is not option, it's needed to help us grow up in Jesus...

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day [of Jesus' coming] approaching.

Jesus went home to be with His Father (Luke 24:51). We look forward to going to be with Him after our life here is finished.

John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Imagine being forever with Jesus in a place where there is no more sin, boredom, or sickness. We too, will get to be with our heavenly Father for ever and ever. Every struggle we have in this life becomes small in comparison to what we have to look forward too. So until the day when we can see Jesus face to face, every believer in Him needs look toward Him in faith...

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Believer... run the race to win. Jesus is at the finish line waiting for us!

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2001-2002.
Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.