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Portents of Resurrection

Portents of Resurrection

Matthew 27:50-54

preached @ Hawkwood Baptist Church
by Shafer Parker, Jr.
April 1, 2018

“What if the men of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment got it wrong? What if God is not merely a fact of religion, but a fact?” Edmond J. Mazza

What if Jesus the Messiah is not merely a fact of Christianity, but a fact? What if the resurrection is not merely a fact of Christianity, but a fact? What if John 3:16 is not merely a fact of the Christian faith, but an essential fact about existence? It is a fact that the death and resurrection of the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, was the chief preaching point of all the early Christian apostles and preachers. But what if Christ’s death and resurrection are not mere artifacts of an ancient faith, but the central facts of existence? What if everyone who ever lived is judged by their response to that fact?

Today’s Text

Matthew 27:45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.

50 Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. 51 Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

54 When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”


Let’s deal with the title of the message first: Portents of Resurrection.

Portent: 1. A sign or warning that a momentous or calamitous event is likely to happen. 2. Literary usage An exceptional or wonderful person or thing.

In the sense that everything in the passage we just read points to Christ’s resurrection, you could say they fit the first definition. These are signs that a momentous event is about to happen. The universe does not react to an individual person’s death unless the universe is impacted by that death, and it should come as no surprise that darkness reigned and the very rocks began to break apart on the day when He Who Holds All Things Together suffered and died (Col. 1:17).

I would say the events we just read about also fit the second definition, in that three hours of darkness, a perfectly timed earthquake, the temple curtain ripped apart from top to bottom, people rising from the dead; these are exceptional things, and for that reason they are portents.

God grant us eyes to see, minds to understand, and hearts to believe in all the promises God has made. Because if the events surrounding Jesus’ suffering and death were pregnant with hints of the coming resurrection, how much more ought we to pay attention when the Lord calls us to come to Him, and follow Him!

Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross (Seven Last Words)

Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
The man who could speak these words was a man like no other. Some have suggested that Jesus’ sympathy was only for the Roman soldiers, not the High Priests and Pharisees. But really, on that day who could know that they were literally killing God?
Never let it be forgotten that the first word from the cross was a word of mercy and forgiveness.

Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Here is a word of sheer grace. What could the penitent thief do to earn salvation? Not. One. Thing. But dear friends, this is true for us all. We must be saved entirely by grace or we cannot be saved at all.
Notice also the promise in Jesus’ words, a promise He was even then sealing in His blood. We worship a God who makes and keeps His promises!

John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother
Jesus was a man who cared about His earthly family. In the worst extremity a man could ever suffer He was thinking about how to care for His mother.
To Jesus women matter.

Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
One of the hallmarks of Christian martyrdom is the consolation of God’s presence, even in the midst of great suffering. What if part of the penalty for sin is that the sinner has to die without consolation? Certainly our sins have been committed with no regard for God. Perhaps the one who would effectively pay for our sins also had to suffer with no sense of God’s sustaining love.
If you want to know how much God hates your sin, then just look at Jesus hanging on the cross and realize that in those three hours of darkness our Lord experienced the utter separation from God that unrepentant sinners will experience for eternity.

John 19:28: “I thirst.”
This was, first of all, the fulfilment of another Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 69:21).
Thirst is one of the most awful aspects of death by crucifixion, as extra-biblical reports have stated. Those suffering in this way would beg for water. Of course, Jesus was clearing His throat for the shout of triumph that would follow.

John 19:30: It is finished. (From the Greek “Tetelestai” which is also translated “It is accomplished”, or “It is complete”.)-The debt is paid.
The work of salvation was done. Jesus had done everything necessary for God to extend grace, forgiveness and love to every person who ever would, or ever will call upon the name of the Lord.
Let’s be as clear as possible here. This was a final, eternal, complete, perfect victory over sin, and thus over death and the grave. Of all the portents of resurrection, all the hints and foreshadowings that preceded the actual event, Jesus’ suffering was the greatest. And this, of course, was why He was raised to life, because, as Peter said in his first sermon, “God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). In other words, death simply could not maintain its grip on such a pure, sinless lamb of God.

Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commend (entrust) my spirit.
Everything about Jesus’ death was under control. At no point did pain or loss lead to raving or gnashing of teeth. Even at the end, Jesus was still the Master.
Each gospel account emphasizes the deliberate nature of Jesus’ death, the bowed head, the faith-filled words, all indicated a man who to the very end could say, “No man takes my life from me. I give my life of my own free will” (John 10:18).

Six Miracles of Calvary

The explanatory verse for these six miracles is found in Revelation 21:5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life.

The first question, of course, is when did God begin making all things new? The answer is, when Jesus symbolically deconstructed the world of sin as He hung upon the cross. What’s the first thing you have to do when you buy a run-down property and there’s some fifty-year-old ruined building taking up all the space? You deconstruct it. You tear it down. You get rid of all the bad stuff—the rotten boards, the soggy insulation, the bad wiring, the cracked foundation. You haul it all away. And the thing is, when the neighbours see all this deconstruction taking place, they know a new house is soon going to be built in its place. This was what Jesus was doing while He hung upon the cross.

Matt. 27:45 Supernatural darkness
Along with the earthquake, the supernatural darkness was prophesied in Isaiah (51:15-16) and Jeremiah 4:23-31.

Jer. 4:23 I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty. I looked to the heavens, and their light was gone. 24 I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills shook. 25 I looked, and no man was left; all the birds of the sky had fled. 26 I looked, and the fertile field was a wilderness. All its cities were torn down because of the Lord and His burning anger. 27 For this is what the Lord says: The whole land will be a desolation, but I will not finish it off. 28 Because of this, the earth will mourn; the skies above will grow dark. I have spoken; I have planned, and I will not relent or turn back from it.

This darkness was supernatural, though widespread, and it was well known and written about outside Scripture (Phlegon). It could not have been an eclipse since it took place at Passover, always a time of full moon. Besides, eclipses only last a few minutes, and their range is limited. When Jeanne and I went to Idaho last summer to see the eclipse, we stood close enough to the centre as to make no difference; yet we could see the edge of it all around us.

The darkness and the earthquake signified a return to the primordial chaos that preceded creation; as it says in Genesis 1:2, the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Remember, this is the moment when Christ began making everything new. He was knocking down the old stuff in order to begin a new creation.

Matt. 27:51 Tearing of the veil (curtain)
Matt. 27:51b The earthquake
Matt. 27:52-53 Dead saints resurrected
It is possible that the earthquake had the same effect here as when an earthquake in Philippi freed all the prisoners in the jail (Acts 16:25ff). This earthquake freed the believing souls imprisoned by death and sin.

But notice that the dead who were raised did not come out of their graves until after Christ’s resurrection. These were truly the first-fruits of those who rise in Christ.

Do not miss the purpose of these resurrections. (v.53) They “appeared to many” in the “Holy City” in order to confirm our Lord’s title and authority to those who needed to have their faces rubbed in it.

We know some of the names of those saints, Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38), as well as the friends also mentioned in Luke 2, men and women who believed in Jesus when He was no more than a baby. These resurrected souls went to the High Priest and others in order to say to them, “We told you so. Will you repent and believe now?” It is a testimony to the hardness of the human heart that even in the face of such evidence of our Lord’s power over life and death, they still did not believe. We are blind to reality if God does not help us to see!

Luke 23:43, Matt. 27:54 The salvation of two men (thief and centurion)
Matt. 28:1-20 The resurrection of Jesus

Tearing of the Veil (Curtain)

The veil was the curtain that separated the Holy Place in the temple from the Most Holy Place, into which the High Priest entered once a year to offer a sacrifice of blood for the sins of the people. But when the curtain was torn God was saying, “This temple is no longer the way by which to enter into my presence.” The tearing of the curtain exposed the emptiness of the Most Holy Place. Once it had housed the ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat where God met with man in forgiveness and grace. But with the coming of Jesus that temple forever lost its meaning and purpose.

The Bible says the temple in Jerusalem was a model of the heavenly temple. But any boy who ever built a model airplane, or any girl who ever played with a doll baby knows that these are poor substitutes for the real thing. Just as there was a Most Holy Place in the earthly temple, so there is, and forever will be, a Most Holy Place in the Heavenly Temple.

Truly the heavenly temple is a “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation)” Heb. 9:11). And guess what, in that uncreated temple we find that Jesus, the Messiah, is both High Priest and the sacrifice. “The resurrected Christ entered the most holy place once for all,” the writer of Hebrews declares, “not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).

There’s only one thing left to say: “If the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14)

Conclusion: Because Jesus is a fact, and the resurrection is a fact, for believers the following are also facts.

We’ve been made alive with the Messiah, even though we were dead in trespasses (Eph. 2:5)
We’ve been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph. 2:6)
We’ve been saved for the purpose of showcasing the immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness (Eph. 2:7)
We’ve been saved by sheer grace, with no assistance from any of our works (Eph. 2:8-9)
We’ve been recreated (we’re part of the “all things new” Christ is making) for good works, works that glorify God (Eph. 2:10)