The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Hindsight being what it is, it's very easy to look back and recognize a particular event or happening as the start or beginning of something much bigger. That doesn't mean that we see it that way while it's happening, but looking back with the clarity of hindsight, we can see how those seemingly minor, meaningless things were really the start of something very big. A prime example of this can be found in our own churchly heritage. We can look back to October 31st, 1517 and say with all certainty, "that's when the Reformation began." On that day a young monk and professor by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. By his own admission he wasn't looking to start a revolution or world-wide stink of any sorts. He was simply looking to debate and discuss some of the errors that had crept into the way of faith. He never had any intention of breaking away from the Roman Catholic church. He never had any intention of making "Lutherans" or even "Protestants." He just wanted clarification. The rest is history. Looking back to that October day, we can say that those were hammer knocks that echoed throughout the world and throughout time.
As we gather together this evening to meditate on the miracles of the great earthquake and the splitting of the boulders at the moment of Jesus' death, we gather to look back on these events, not through the eyes of simple "past-tense geological history," but through the eyes of faithful hindsight; hindsight that recognizes them for something very profound and miraculous. In keeping with our Lenten theme of Passion miracles, let us begin by asking the foundational question: What is God trying to tell us and show us through these events? How is God's glory being manifested and made known here?
Well…think about what Scripture has said many, many times regarding the Messiah and His work and presence. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of mountains and boulders (and the entire earth, for that matter) quaking and shaking in the presence of the Almighty. The New Testament, particularly the book of Revelation, speaks at length on how the pillars and foundations of the earth will quake and crumble when Christ returns on that Last Day. There will be a great earthquake, the sun will become black as sackcloth and the full moon like blood. The entire sky will vanish like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and rock will be moved and become like nothing. The people of this world will call out to the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the coming Christ, but those quaking mountains and rocks will not be found. Everything gives way to the Almighty Lord Christ.
"Okay…that's all very exciting and perhaps even a little terrifying pastor, but what does it have to do with the crucifixion? What you just described is the end of the world; something in the unforeseeable future. We're here to talk about something from the past." Well…yes and no. Most of you here tonight will remember that fancy word we've used in our Revelation study, "inaugurated eschatology." For those of you not familiar with this word, don't let all the syllables scare you. "Inaugurated" simply means "the beginning." Think of it in terms of a president's inauguration. That single event is the beginning of that presidential term. "Eschatology" is the study of end times. This is a Greek word. The eschaton (es-ka-ton) is the End. Put those two words together and we have "the beginning of the end."
Remember: A miracle is something powerful that God does to get our attention and tell us something. A miracle is how God makes His glory known. Think back: When did that great earthquake happen? When did those mountains and boulders crumble? Before the crucifixion? During the crucifixion? No! These powerful, geo-centric miracles happened the very moment Jesus Christ proclaimed, "It is finished!" These miracles happened as a result of His victory over sin—all sin for all time.
Folks: These geo-centered Passion miracles are God's profound way of telling us that it is indeed finished! The end has begun. The labor pains have already begun on that Calvary mountaintop. It's so sad that so many people look to these Passion Gospel accounts of their salvation and then to the End-times accounts in Revelation with disconnected, divorced eyes of faith, as if "A" has nothing to do with "B." What's even more sad and disconcerting is the fact that the devil fully understands that the end-ball is already in motion, while most other people do not. The devil knows that "it is finished" means just that—it is finished. Game over. Every moment after that is borrowed time. That's why Scripture tells us that he roars and rages so. He's done. All that's left is the return and the final casting of all things spiritually chaff into the eternal lake of fire. If only God's people had a similar sense of urgency in our evangelism, our stewardship, and our repentance.
My fellow redeemed in Christ: That's why we gather here tonight. That's what this miracle is all about. That's what God has been trying to tell His people since that Good Friday afternoon so long ago. It is finished. The End has begun. Now, for Christians, that's nothing to fear. "It is finished" should mean something different to saving faith than it does to unbelieving fear and terror. By the same token, however, "It is finished" is nothing to be taken lightly.
Every moment after that triumphant Passion moment is a moment of pure grace that God grants to this world in the hopes that they may repent and turn and live before His divine clock strikes midnight. This is our wake-up call tonight here at the start of this third week of Lent. This is why we focus on these miraculous seismic occurrences tonight. These aren't "oh, by the way's." These aren't little asides that the Gospel writers chose to include in order to somehow enhance the story…you know, spice it up or make it more exciting. No! These are God's miraculous signs to you, telling you in no uncertain terms that "It is finished" means that the End has already begun. Christ's return in full glory draws near. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." That's every bit as true for us tonight as it's ever been. As St. Paul says, "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed."
In faith, we can hear these words and not tremble and quake in fear, but hold our heads high with all the faithful, joyfully praying the prayer of God's faithful people, "Amen. Come Lord Jesus."
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people.
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