Life Reigns – April 14, 2023
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Devotion based on Matthew 27:51-53
See series: Military Devotions
The massive curtain in the temple rips in two. The ground shakes and rocks split. Tombs open and bodies walk out. Why?
Jesus, the Son of God, has died.
Death ruled over this creation ever since the fabric of sinlessness was torn by the defiance of those who were warned, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Die they did. Cursed they were. They had been made from dirt, and to dirt they would return. Cursed was the rest of creation because of them. Subjected to frustration and groaning, nature waited for the day it would be freed from this bondage (Romans 8:21,22).
That day came when Earth’s Redeemer died.
Under the dark skies of Good Friday, it seemed death had triumphed. Wrong! Death died on that day. “It is finished!” was a shout of victory!
With that shout, the earth shuddered.
Not out of dread or pain did creation react, but with a burst of joyous freedom.
The hand of God opened a window so humans could see everything has changed. Life has taken control of death.
The Holy of Holies had been a forbidden place since Sinai. This is where the ark of the covenant was sprinkled with blood on the great Day of Atonement. On only one day of the year, only the high priest of Israel could enter after a sacrifice was offered for his sins. There would be no exceptions.
Once, seventy men had been struck dead when they ignored the command and looked into the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 6:19). In the temple, a thick curtain hung behind the altar to prevent unauthorized access to this sacred space.
On the day death died, this curtain was ripped in two by an unseen hand. The message was delivered. God and mankind were now reconciled. Sin had been paid for. Life now reigned.
People wonder what it is like to be dead. People of the Bible know there are only two possible locations to land. The one is absolutely horrific. The other? Beyond wonderful! But details are lacking. We wonder why that is.
If the Lord allowed someone to return from either place, it would seem what they had to say about where they had been would make a deep impression. Wouldn’t the reaction be, “I must stay away from there!” or “I want to go there!” Wouldn’t that turn people to God?
However, that is not the way it works. When Jesus told the story of a man who begged to have someone in heaven “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire,” he was told no one could cross over from the one place to the other.
When he then begged to have someone from heaven go to his father’s house, “For I have five brothers. Let him warn them so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” He was told, “They have Moses and the prophets let them listen to them.”
Undeterred, the man in agony responded, “No, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” That’s when he learned, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:24-31).
It’s a lesson everyone should learn. There is nothing more powerful and effective to turn a person to the living God than the Word of God.
Why then, did the Lord have life return to those bodies at the death of Jesus? Why did their tombs open and why did they show themselves to people when Jesus rose from the dead? It wasn’t to describe heaven. It wasn’t to escape death. It was to verify that, for the people of God, there is life after death.
His enemies had spread the lie, “He is dead and will stay dead!” On Easter morning, angels announced, “He is risen!” Those who came out of their tombs were showing believers, “So will you!”
Indeed, we will rise from the dead.
Indeed, we will.
Because we tend to often doubt; because we sometimes forget who you are and what you have done Lord Jesus, the truth of Easter that brings the joy of Easter can be overshadowed as we live our daily lives. Lead our hearts and minds back to the empty graves of Easter and refresh the clear vision of life everlasting. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Why was that split curtain in the temple so important?
- Why do you think the return of those believers to life is not covered in greater detail?
- The words “It is finished!” were shouted out in a loud voice. What does that show us?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Stillwater, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.