Hidden Gems in the Easter Accounts
During the Easter celebration most people focus their attention on the events surrounding the resurrection. Clearly, this should be the focal point because in the resurrection, Jesus defeated death, he won the victory over the grave. Without the resurrection Christianity would just be another religious system that has a dead prophet, a dead teacher, and/or a dead leader. Christianity is completely different - the resurrection sets belief in Christ as a unique faith system that actually delivers hope beyond the grave - not some faint hope in a guy who is in a grave. Jesus conquered the power and grip of death! He is risen and we all should be glad the tomb is empty.
We think of Friday as the day of darkness because most of the events are necessary to get to the resurrection on Sunday! After-all, it is the day Jesus died. But what is most distressing is what he had to experience. He endured the mental torture of betrayal on Thursday night, and the countless lies that were stated during the religious and political trials that Jesus listened to throughout the night and pre-dawn hours of Friday. He was then emotionally tortured as he watched hundreds of people yell out "Away with Him, crucify Him!" as Pilate asked the crowd if Jesus was their King (John 18: 14-15). Then Jesus was physically tortured by the brutal scourging and humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers at the Praetorium on Friday morning (Mark 15: 15-19). All of this before the horrific events surrounding the barbaric execution of crucifixion on the Roman cross on a hill called Golgotha. Yes, Friday is seen as a day of darkness for a good reason. The perfect Lord Jesus was crucified at 9 AM on Friday to pay for the sin of humanity taking on our penalty.
Miracles 1 & 2 - Earthquake & Darkness
After three pain-filled agonizing hours on the cross, at 12PM, all three synoptic gospels record that "from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. It was not for three more hours (3PM) that Jesus would cry out "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani" in Aramaic meaning "My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt 27: 45-50, Mark 15:33-37) This indicates that Jesus really did experience separation from the Father because of our sin. Jesus The Perfect One became sin in our behalf. This is known as imputation (see footnote). The sinless one, Jesus, voluntarily took on our sin. At this precise time, Jesus died.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. Matt 27: 50-51
Matthew documents that great phenomena took place. Remember, in the final moments before Jesus cried out, darkness fell over the land for 3 hours (Between 12PM and 3PM). Most people believe that some type of eclipse took place which would explain the darkness. While an eclipse is a common and normal function in the solar system and Earth's normal routines, some might explain this as a natural phenomenon. In addition, at the same exact moment when Jesus died (3PM), Matthew also records that the "earth shook and rocks split." It is common knowledge that earthquakes are somewhat common in Judea and the middle east region. Perhaps similar to California, it is a place where seismic activity is customary. Simultaneously, with the eclipse there is a sizable earthquake! It is interesting to note that while it may have been common, it was uncommon for an event to take place at the precise time when Jesus died. God was sending a message to the entire world likely through a lunar eclipse and geological earthquake that Jesus had died. While earthquakes and eclipses are common, the timing of this phenomena it is completely uncommon or should we say phenomenal! We call this a miracle - it was a divine communique that there was victory over sin to all of humanity!
Miracle #3 - The Veil in the Temple
All three synoptic gospels record the fact that the veil was torn in two (Matt 27: 51, Mark 15: 38, Luke 23: 45b). Only Matthew and Mark record that it was split from top to bottom. This is significant because the veil was the divider between the place and the the holy of holies within the Temple. This is a miracle because the veil was torn from top to bottom where God performed the act as opposed to men. It is significant because the only people that could go into the holy of holies was the priest who acted as an intermediator between God and man. God tore the divider in two indicating that all men (and women) have direct access to himself because of Christ's death! We no longer must go through an approved Priest to have access to God!
The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27: 52-53
For a more scholarly article about the temple veil and it's significance, click on the following link. The veil in the Temple in history and legend. JETS March 2006.
Miracle #4 - Night of the Living - not Dead
Hollywood via AMC has made an entire phenomena of a series called "The Walking Dead" that just completed it's 7th season. Interestingly enough this dystopian series has dead people who "return to life" but they are zombies. Matthew records the event where the tombs were opened (likely due to the earthquake) and many righteous people returned to life! Most scholars believe that this was in the Jerusalem cemetery that was outside the city gates. The text indicates that they did not appear or come out of the tombs until Sunday after Jesus' resurrection! Most scholars recognize that Jesus is the "first-fruits" from the dead (1 Cor 15: 23) meaning he was the first to rise from the dead. Righteous dead return to life. Can you imagine? Not like the zombies of Hollywood plodding along seeking to eat live people - these righteous ones were fully alive human beings who were once dead and are now living and walking the streets of Jerusalem! Can you imagine the wonder, celebration and excitement? This event is frequently overlooked and seldom discussed. But can you fathom the significance and stir that this must have caused? Uncle Joe or Aunt Elizabeth who may have passed years ago are now alive and well walking around greeting friends who attended their funeral! It is hard to know with precision the exact timing but this is a clear miracle God used to demonstrate the fact that there is victory over death because Jesus arose from the grave! Death was defeated for those who trust in God's provision of a savior!
Is it any wonder that the God of the universe who sent His son to earth to defeat sin and conquer death would do anything different than move the forces of heaven and earth to communicate His love for humanity by miraculous works? God wanted to communicate to the entire world a monumental event had taken place with the death of His son. His mercy and grace shine through on one of the darkest but glorious days in history. Just as with the advent miracles accompanied the birth of Jesus so to, even in his death, miracles were God's grand communique to humanity..... "I Love You." Remember the hidden gems of miracles God used on Good Friday!
Isaiah 53: 3-6
3 He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows* that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our "law-place," undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Rom. 5:12-19; comp. Philemon 1:18, 19). Easton's Bible Dictionary