The text is the Reading from Saint Matthew chapter 27, especially verses 52 and 53: “The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
What may bother us about this passage is that we are not told a lot of detail about what happened. Saint Matthew is the only Gospel writer to record this event, and he only gives us two verses of material.
So we have some questions, but not enough info to fill in the blanks. Like: Were these people raised with glorified bodies, as Christ was, or just ordinary bodies? Why did they wait in their tombs Friday and Saturday to enter Jerusalem on Sunday? How long did they live after this miraculous event? Did they die soon, or live for many years? Or were they taken directly into heaven like Enoch and Elijah, perhaps with Christ as He ascended?
We might speculate about the answers to these questions, but we do not know for sure.
But we can say this: The resurrection of these saints points to the fact that Christ had conquered death, and that His resurrection would result in the resurrection of all the saints.
In the same way, Christ foreshadowed His own resurrection by raising three other individuals before His death. He raised Jairus’ daughter in the Holy Gospel Sunday. He raised the young man from Nain, and He raised Lazarus. By these resurrections, He not only showed that He had power over life and death, but also that He had come to Earth to destroy the power of death.
So these raised saints in Matthew 27 showed that Death was losing its grip. Death was trying to hold all mankind in its icy grasp. Up until Christ came, Death was doing a pretty good job of keeping us all under its power. But then Death tried to hold one more Man, the One from Nazareth who appeared so ordinary, yet was not. Death seemed to win at first. The Man breathed His last on the Cross. All good, so far.
But the Son of God was too much to contain in a grave. The Lord of life could not be seized by Death’s cold hand. In fact, Death was the one who was mortally wounded. Christ had become the death of Death.
Like a juggler who tried to control one ball too many, Death began to lose some of the people it had held. Bodies started rising. Saints began walking out of tombs. Death was losing its grip.
Death still tried to hold on. Even now, it appears that Death rules the day. People keep living and dying, business as usual as far as Death is concerned. But that is only the appearance. Death cannot hold on much longer. A day is coming soon when Death will be thrown into the Lake of fire. Life will rule supreme and Death will be gone forever.
This is because the Son of God died on Calvary. This is because He let them crucify Him. He fulfilled all Scripture, and they divided up His clothes and cast lots for them. He was mocked, even by the robbers crucified next to Him. So that you could live forever, He endured the darkness when the Father forsook Him. He yielded up His spirit, so that your spirit will be forever joined to your body in unending life at the Resurrection.
That is what the resurrected saints on Good Friday teach us most of all. Christ has earned Resurrection for all His saints at the Cross. He even has paid the price for you and me, we faltering, stammering saints of this late century. Even we shall be raised because His death has conquered Death.
In His Name, the Name more powerful than the grave, Jesus Christ, King of the Jews. Amen.
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