Matthew 27:45-66 Part 6


When our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and shed His Own blood, and when He yielded the Spirit into the Father’s hands and entered the True Holy of Holies through the “veil” of separation, a most wonderful and glorious thing happened.

By Him, and IN HIM, mankind now has access to God.  He is our Mediator.  The Great Priest entered into the Presence of God… having made atonement for men, and interceding for us before the Throne of judgment and mercy.

And, as we see in the text (and in the other passages we have read), there were monumental catastrophic consequences in the Heavens and on earth.  The “heavens and the earth” were shaken; huge cracks and fissures occurred in the craggy rocks and hills; the tombs of many were opened, and the “holy ones” of the Old Covenant Church (who had been made to sleep) were awakened… later to be seen by many in “the holy city”.  (And please note the “selectivity” of God with respect to those who were awakened… it was many of “the holy ones”!  God had chosen the ones to be awakened!)  The earthquake laid open, by the “hand” of God, the sepulchers of the saints – the ones who God had elected and kept for Himself from the Church of old.

So, not only are there “cataclysmic” effects on the earth (proclaiming the coming judgment of the “Day of the Lord”), but there is a relationship established here between the Old Covenant Church and the New, isn’t there?  The rending of the veil by Jesus Christ, accompanied by the prophesied earthquake, established the fact that the ones being awakened irrevocably linked the saints of old with those who were coming!

So, in a sense there was the “termination” of the old and the “beginning” of the new.  But, at the same time, there was also a “continuation” – an establishment of continuation between the old and the new!  The saints of old were awakened at the atoning work of Christ (and His entrance into the Holy Place), and they were resurrected in His resurrection!

We might take note here that angels did very little with respect to the humiliation and suffering and death of Christ (unlike the “host” of heaven that appeared at His birth).  Now men rise up to appear at His entrance into the Throne-room!  And it is now men – not angels – who herald the Gospel by coming forth from death!  This is better than angels.  Salvation is not for the angels… it is so for man!  There is no rebirth into Christ’s humanity for angels – they are creatures of another kind.

But the “rising up” of the elect of God from the realm of death is the “first-fruits” of the power of Christ!  It was a public manifestation of people who had been raised from death.  They had been recalled to life by God at the point of Jesus’ entrance into the Throne-Room of the Father; and they made appearance in the “holy city” on Sunday – the first day of the week (resurrection day)!

We should also take note here (in the text) that the city of Jerusalem (now demon-infested and under the sanctions of the Covenant) is still called the “holy city”.  Not only is there a continuation of the Old Covenant Church, but there is a continuation of the city of God.  In the prophetic Word it is called “the new heavens and the new earth”, and “the new Israel”, and “the new Jerusalem”.  It is the people of God bringing the dominion of Christ the King to man… it is God submitting all His enemies under the Feet of the King!

So much can be said concerning the saints’ appearance in the city.  But the rising of the dead is an extension of the sign which preceded it – i.e. the rending of the veil.  Will the Jews now believe if one is raised from the dead?  Will they believe if many who have been “beheaded” for the faith arise from death?  Will they believe that Jesus entered the True Holy Place?

When John sent some of his disciples to Jesus to inquire of Him, Jesus said, “Go and tell John what things you have seen and heard – how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear… the dead are raised”!

Isaiah, in his hymn of praise (chapter twenty-six) prophesies this very event!  Listen:


“Thy dead shall live; together with My dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead! (the resurrection)  Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.  For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”


Their “bodies”; their “somata”; their “persons” were raised anew from death when Christ’s work of atonement was finished; and they appeared unto many in the city at His resurrection!  The Word of God through the prophet foretold it; and it did occur!  Those who God had kept for Himself… those who kept the faith… those who, with Abraham, anticipated the Christ (“Abraham saw My day and was glad,” said Jesus)… those who had been slain in Israel for the Word of God, arose to witness to the Truth of the prophetic Word!  “Christ the Firstfruit… and then those who had died in the Faith!”

But… the offense of the cross persisted.  For “if you do not believe Moses and the prophets, you will not believe even if one is raised from the dead!”

The dead walking-in-Jerusalem can’t convert people.  Even though the event of their awakening and appearance in the holy city was fulfillment of the prophetic Word and a sign of the atonement of the Christ and a sign of coming judgment – without the Word of Revelation they will not believe!  Without the preached Word they will not believe!  Without the Word of the Spirit of Christ they will not believe!

At the Mount of Transformation the Word of God did not refer the disciples to Moses and Elijah….  But He said “Hear HIM!”  Those who will hear Christ will not look for the dead to rise, or any other sign, but will hear His Word.  And by means of the power of His Word will confess Jesus Christ is Lord and seek to be conformed to His death and the power of His resurrection!

These are signs of the death and resurrection of Christ (prophesied by Isaiah); these are signs of coming judgment; these are signs of the Royal High Priest entering the Holy of Holies for God’s people; these are signs of Messiah’s glory!  This was proclamation of the Church – the dead are raised again!  And those of the Older Covenant Church are joined to the ones of the Newer Covenant Church in the resurrection of Christ!  Christ’s atonement for them as well as for us!

In the Revelation of St. John, the apostle is allowed to see the Throne-room/Judgment Seat of God above the firmament; and one of the scenes in his vision that he describes is “The First Resurrection”.  It is “those who had been “martyred” for the witness of Jesus Christ and the Word of God”!

These who arose at the death and resurrection of Christ, along with those who were martyred for His sake during the “Day of the Lord” are those who live and reign with Christ until all His enemies are put under His feet.  John saw them and heard them around the Throne of God!

Now, as you can see in verse fifty-three, these are called “holy ones”.  The death of Jesus and His entrance into the holy of holies bought life for those who God had preserved.  And they were not preserved because they were holy… they were called “the holy ones” because they were preserved by God.  And they were awakened and raised at the point of their purchase by Christ.  And they appeared at His resurrection.  Jesus Christ was “Firstborn from the dead”… and then the saints of old.  And their “appearance” in the holy city is a sign to Israel.  The prophecies of old are being fulfilled!

Now, as verse fifty-four says, the centurion and the guards were terrified!  Jesus shouts, “Into Thy hands I commit My Spirit”; and He expires; and the earthquake and cracks in the earth occur (and this is after three hours of pitch blackness).

The three groups of four in the crucifixion details, along with the rest of the guard (with an officer – a centurion) had possibly seen a great deal of Jesus – especially since they had been called in to scourge Him and humiliate Him.  Many of these men had been with Him all day; they knew that He was said to be “the Son of God”; and they had witnessed much of what took place.

And the terror at all that was occurring all around them issued forth in continual exclamations (that’s the sense of the verb here in verse fifty-four) – (continual exclamations) that “truly this was God’s Son”!

Luke reports that they also said that Jesus was righteous.  In other words, He was not guilty!  The Jews had done all of this from spite!

The point here is that the pagan Gentile soldiers admitted, because of what they saw (the external evidence) that the Jew’s assessment of the Man was wrong.  Even after all these terrifying things happened the Jewish leadership wouldn’t admit that!  Matthew, as usual, doesn’t spend much energy in descriptive language; so we don’t know how long all these “phenomena” went on, but it must have been a very long time; and it must have been a “near-catastrophe” considering what Matthew does say.  And still the Jewish leadership remained absolutely hardened.

But a question arises here… does this mean that these soldiers were converted?  After seeing and being in the middle of these terrifying eschatological (end of the age) events, these soldiers are exclaiming to each other (continually) “Truly this was God’s Son…”; “Truly this was Gods Son”; “This Man was righteous”; “Truly this was God’s Son….”  Is Matthew relating a mass conversion among the Roman soldiers?

The answer is “no”.  Matthew is very specific in his use of the language.  He says, “Truly this was God’s Son”.  The verb “was” means continuation… in the past (imperfect tense).

An admission (because of external evidence) that the Son of God had existed (before His death) does not constitute conversion (or rebirth).  “Surely this was the Son of God” is not a confession resulting from the regenerating work of the Spirit of Christ.

“I believe in God” is not a confession meriting salvation.  Neither is, “I believe in Jesus”!  Rebirth into Christ occurs at the will of God, and it is accompanied by confession, sorrow, humility, repentance from sin, and a lifestyle of perseverance in the Faith under the authority of Christ.  You see, the evidence comes after… not before conversion!

The evidence of being reborn in Christ is deep sorrow because of sin against God; and complete transformation of life – which is long-term and persevering – and which is grounded entirely in God’s Word!

The unconverted will not confess with his mouth that Jesus Christ IS the Son of God and Lord of life; and he will not transform his entire life by the Word of God!  There is no “reformation” of life under the authority of Christ because there is a depraved “aversion” to that.  Although he may “know” (as all men know) that there is a God… and he may “know” that there is a Jesus… but the unconverted “hates” that.  He hates it!  He may conform “somewhat” in order to maintain his present condition; but sooner or later his “hatred” of his own knowledge, and his “hatred” of Christ’s authority, will manifest itself in non-conformity.  It will come out in arrogance and rebellion and disobedience.  Whereas one who is reborn into Christ’s new humanity, and is converted in all his ways, confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord and lives life in faithful, persevering submission to Him and His written Word!

We have none of this evidence that these soldiers were converted and rebirthed in Christ that day on Golgotha.  What they confessed that day (because of the external evidence all around them) was that they had killed a Man (because of those “spiteful” Jews) who was not what the Jews said He was!  He was not guilty of the accusations levied against Him.  The Jews had complained that He was a son-of-God-pretender and a deceiver and that He was “blasphemous”.  And they had demanded that Rome put Him to death.  But they were wrong!  All the evidence suggested that they were wrong.  This Man was not what they said He was!  Truly He was… what they said He was not!  And because of their spite, the soldiers had killed Him.  “Truly He was the Son of God.”

Matthew writes (verse fifty-five) that there were many women there… “beholding” from a distance.  “Watching in awe.”  Matthew reminds us again of the prophecy concerning the “weeping daughters of Jerusalem” – another prophetic sign of coming Judgment.  Although there were many others there, Matthew’s aim is the fulfillment of the prophetic Word.  So the women are specifically singled out.  They were among those who “attended” Jesus he says; i.e. they were “followers”.  They attended His ministry.

Luke records that there were a number of “gnostoi” there… “acquaintances” – believers – followers; those who “knew” Him.  And the apostle John says, in his record, that he was there.

They were probably all back up on the highway watching this fearsome spectacle.  For the most part they were kept away by the guard (for fear of a general uprising of Jesus’ many supporters).  And remember, the priests and elders and pharisees were up and down the road lobbying the passers-by with regard to what was going on.

At one point, as the apostle John records, the guards allowed Jesus’ mother and two other women and John to approach the crucifixion.  I don’t know whether this was a custom, or whether it was just a spontaneous act on their part; but these four people were unhindered in their close approach to Jesus.  And that’s when Jesus transferred His responsibilities for the honor and care of His mother to this disciple.  Apparently Jesus’ father had passed away.

And in verse fifty-six Matthew gives us the identities of three of the women among the many who had attended Jesus from Galilee into Jerusalem.  He assumes the presence of Jesus’ mother and does not mention her.  But among the women present were Mary the Magdalene (not Mary Magdalene – as if her last name was “Magdalene”).  Mary was a name given to a full “third” of all the women in Israel; so it was very common.  And in order to distinguish this Mary from other “Marys”, Matthew says “Mary, the one from Magdala”, or Mary the Magdalene.  Maybe she could have been Syro-phoenician?  She was the one (back in the early ministry of Christ) from whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Luke chapter eight).  She became an ardent follower and attendant of Christ, and she played an important role in many events – as we shall see.

Then there was Mary the mother of James and Joseph.  She was Jesus’ aunt… His mother’s sister.  And also present, according to Matthew, was the mother of the sons of Zebedee – James and John.  So John’s mother was there.  (And she, you may remember, was the woman who lobbied Jesus for her sons to have the highest offices in Jesus’ administration when He “took over” the government!)  Her name was Salome – the mother of two apostles.  And Matthew considered her an honor to her husband, because he identified her as the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Now as we move to verse fifty-seven, let me read for you a prophecy from Isaiah chapter fifty-three:


“…for he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken.  And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth, yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief….”


In verse fifty-seven, the man, Joseph, was a member of the Sanhedrin!  He was one of the seventy in the high court of Israel!  And the tomb that he had had hewn out for himself no doubt was in an area in which no one except the great in Israel were buried.  It was a private, high-classed cemetery.  And it was prophesied to be of the essence of grief and humiliation to the Lord Jesus Christ that He be buried with the wicked and the rich!  He was “cut off from the land of the living; and for the transgression of My people was He stricken… and He made His grave with the wicked….”!

He was a wealthy man… Joseph was; a man from a town called Rama, or Arimethea, in an area of Samaria which was annexed to Judea; and he had risen to the highest ranks of society in Israel.  He had, sometime during the last three years (by the hand of God in filling up the prophetic Word) he had been a disciple of Jesus; and he had been successful in keeping that fact hidden from the rest of the Sanhedrin!

Now we’re not going to be able to finish this whole line of thought with regard to Joseph; but before we finish let me leave this with you.  There were TWO in the Sanhedrin… two men who kept their interest in, and attachment to, Jesus a secret!  Two who were disciples (by the very hand of God); and two who were clandestinely involved in retrieving and caring for His body.

Since 750 BC the Word was there.  Isaiah had spoken it.  The final humiliation of the Christ was His burial with the wicked leadership of Israel.  And Joseph and one other were involved in a secret plot in order that in God’s providence, that prophecy be fulfilled.

Next time we meet we’ll begin at verse fifty-eight and complete chapter twenty-seven.