A few Easter Sundays ago at church, the sermon delivered was based on resurrection and new life. The teaching wasn’t just about the resurrection of Jesus but it also focused on the resurrection of others such as Lazarus and Eutychus.
Our Pastor admitted that he has always struggled making sense of a certain scripture in the Bible that mentions “the bodies coming out of broken tombs”. These bodies or saints were resurrected and appeared to many people. Ok, wait. This sounds like a movie or tv show doesn’t it? A perfect set-up for a classic zombie invasion! What exactly is this part of the Bible trying tell us? What is the message?
Moving on with the sermon, the pastor challenged us to study this further and to see what our own personal take is on this specific part of the scripture. Challenge accepted! The following is my thought process on the scripture and then I will explain my opinion on what God has revealed to me.
The following scripture describes what happened right after Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross: At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. – Matthew 27:51-53
So what does this mean? God tore the temple curtain and caused an earthquake but did he also start a zombie invasion to torment and scare people for a few days? I don’t think so. I think that God may have been fulfilling a promise at this time and I will explain more soon.
Read the scripture again if you’ve missed it. The Bible states that they came out of their tombs AFTER Jesus’ resurrection which was three days later and not at the time that Jesus gave up his spirit. Backing up a few short words, it also says that the holy bodies were “raised to life” which gives us the impression that this happened right at the time of the events that occurred promptly after the death of Jesus.
How can the holy bodies be raised to life but have been resurrected a few days later? Doesn’t “raised to life” and “resurrection” mean the same thing? This just does not make sense! My confusion sets in because there are details on what happened right at the time of Jesus’ death and then it quickly jumps to three days later after his resurrection.
You are probably scratching your head with a puzzled expression just as I did for quite awhile. Let’s start over! Try looking at the scripture in more of a spiritual sense other than physical bodies rising up from their tombs and walking around. Before I explain my take on this fully, here is further scripture from the Old Testament that might help shed some more light and also lead you into deeper thinking.
Going back to Ezekiel 37, the Bible tells us about The Valley of Dry Bones. In this scripture, God gives Ezekiel a vision and takes him to the middle of a valley that was full of dry bones or what we imagine to be unburied human skeletons. In that valley, God instructs Ezekiel to tell these dried bones that they will come to life. God will give them tendons, flesh and also breathe life back into them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” – Ezekiel 37:4-6
Just as God commanded him to do, Ezekiel prophesied this to the bones. As Ezekiel was prophesying, he watched as the bones rattled and came together. The tendons and flesh also appeared but there was still no breath in them. God then spoke to Ezekiel again and commanded him ask for the breath to come so that they may live. The people accepted the Lord’s breath and came to life as they stood up.
I am not trying to go way off track but take a few minutes to watch this video below. It provides an interesting visual on what Ezekiel’s vision may have looked like in that valley.
After all this was over, God explained to Ezekiel what had just happened. He told Ezekiel that the bones are the people of Israel. The bones were dried up and symbolized that hope was gone. God instructed Ezekiel to speak to them once more with his promise as shown in the scripture below.
Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” – Ezekiel 37:12-14
Did you catch that? God said that he will open their graves and bring them up. He will put his spirit into them and they will live. He promises to do all this so that they will know that he is the Lord.
Now, with the vision of Ezekiel in mind, lets go back to Matthew 27 and think about the scripture once more in a spiritual sense. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. – Matthew 27:52-53 Were you able to come up with any different ideas on what this means yet?
Here is my take on it all: At that exact moment in time of Jesus’ death, God fulfilled his promise and we have been spiritually restored. We may actually be the holy people with the dried up faith and spirit. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have been brought back to life. We have all been given a second chance. It took witnessing his death for us to come to life and realize that we would be lost forever without him.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” – Matthew 27:54
The scripture above shows that were still non-believers right after Jesus’ death but many more followers soon come out of their “tombs” to join him after his glorious resurrection on Easter. Maybe they just needed a little more proof? They took their renewed faith into the city and began to share God’s word with others exactly as Jesus instructed all of us to do. See, its was not a zombie invasion!
The tombs could possibly symbolize doubts that constrict hard hearts. They were cracked open and our hearts have been awakened to know that he is truly our Messiah. Maybe your tomb needs to be cracked open so that you may take a new breath of life!
But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise– let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy– your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. – Isaiah 26:19