Easter Week: The Walking Dead, Alive

Then Jesus loudly cried out once again and gave up his life. Suddenly, the curtain in the temple was split in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split open. The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life. Matthew 27:50-52

The Lord also said to me, “Son of man, all the people of Israel are like these bones. The people say, ‘Our bones are dry, and our hope has vanished. We are completely destroyed.’ So prophesy. Tell them, ‘This is what the Almighty Lord says: My people, I will open your graves and take you out of them. I will bring you to Israel. Then, my people, you will know that I am the Lord, because I will open your graves and bring you out of your graves. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live. I will place you in your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:11-14


The Book of Matthew was written with the Jews in mind. Matthew, the Jewish tax collector, wanted to make it clear to his brothers and sisters that Jesus was their promised Messiah. To that end, he was careful to include detail that would open Jewish eyes to the Truth that walked among them.

In chapter 27 verse 50, the Apostle reports the final cry and death of the Savior –  Then Jesus loudly cried out once again and gave up his life.

Then, before writing another word, he reports the shocking and disturbing events witnessed immediately by those in Jerusalem: Suddenly, the curtain in the temple was split in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split open. The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life. They came out of the tombs after he had come back to life, and they went into the holy city where they appeared to many people.

At that moment – or at least after the first shock had subsided – many Jews may have remembered God’s promise to His people through the Prophet Ezekiel. They may have remembered what, until that moment, had been a very cryptic and cloudy promise of God. My people, I will open your graves and take you out of them.

Ezek 37:12-13 may be the key passage behind Matthew’s description both in this line and in what follows, for it offers the only opening of tombs (as distinct from the simple raising of the dead) described in the Old Testament. The people of God are assured that they will come to know the Lord because: “I will open your tombs, and I will bring you up out of your tombs, and I will lead you into the land of Israel.” (Miller, G. 1997)

But the surely strange beauty of those open tombs and God’s promise falls squarely in your lap now. Because the promise of resurrection is for you (Romans 6:5). Not just freedom from the grave that may eventually hold you for a time, freedom from the tastes and shadows of death that may torment you at this moment – fear, anxiety, doubt, pain, despair, disease, loneliness, brokenness. The power of the resurrection, the wonder-working power of Christ now, has the same breaking-free capacity over death and its cousins in your life even as you read this.

When Jesus breathed His last on the cross, the graves at the Mount of Olives could not hold their tenants any longer because the power of new life, beginning its work at the moment of the Lord’s death, could not be restrained. And God’s message at that moment was precisely what he had promised many years earlier, a promise that echoes now, many years later… “I will open your graves and bring you out of your graves. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live.”

This Holy Week, live.


 

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