Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

Scripture Study:

  

Jeremiah is an old prophet in this passage of Scripture.  He had not always been listened to by the former kings, but he was somewhat respected.

In chapter 20. just prior to the collapse of the Nation of Judah to the Babylonian Empire. Jeremiah is persecuted and placed in stocks and ridiculed by the people.  I can understand his frustration that may have festered from within.  All of us go through the problems of life that frustrate us.

In Jeremiah’s situation–nobody would listen to him, not even his best friends.  He was angry.

I can understand his despair.  You know that God has called you into ministry, yet, you feel that you are rejected by those who you’ve been sent to minister to.

Jeremiah wished that he had never been born,

He regrets he has been called to preach.

He vows to himself he will never preach again.

He wants to quit life altogether.

Jeremiah 20:9 a. (NIV)

Jeremiah then said,  “I will not mention His word or speak any more in His name.”

When you read this verse in context with the rest of this passage, you can see and understand his frustration, his complaint before God; however, I looked at this verse in another way.  I believe that this verse more than any other statement made in Scripture summarizes who Jeremiah was.

Jeremiah 20:29 (b)

His word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot!”

One quality that must be present before Internal Combustion can take place in believers is they have completely surrendered everything to God.  Surrender may start with SALVATION, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Surrender only starts to become complete when we embrace the Cross and fulfill the calling God has for us.

Think about what Jeremiah experienced when he first received his calling from God in Jeremiah 1:4-9.

Then in Luke 9:23,  

Then He said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.”

When Jeremiah answered God’s call, he surrendered everything!  Though he lived hundreds of years before Christ, he certainly knew what it meant to carry the cross!

How God calls us to sacrifice is different for each person.  Many people are eager to embrace the salvation aspect of the Cross but balk at the discipleship end of it.  To embrace the Cross means that we will sometimes have to inconvenience ourselves to answer the calling, but if we didn’t then it wouldn’t be a CROSS.

Sometimes we hesitate at Christian service because we don’t feel that we are gifted enough to serve.  But God doesn’t care about our abilities!  He cares only about our availability!  He only cares if the fire is burning inside of us!

If you are reading this study and feeling that the spiritual fire has dwindled, then ask yourself if there’s any sin in your life.  Sin is like a bucket of water being thrown over the coals.

“Where’s the fire?” 

Jeremiah 1:9 (NKJV)

Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:  

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”

Hebrews 4:12

Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Psalms 37:31 (AMP)

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

The verses referenced above speaks of God’s Word as like a sword.  I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated with medieval warfare.  Books like Lochinvar, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and many others.  In the middle ages, knights battled it out with long swords.  You needed a long sword to do battle effectively in the middle ages.

How much time you and I spend in the Word determines how long our sword is. 

For some believers, the sword is only a nail file.  For others, their sword is only a pocket knife.  Remember that your enemy, the devil, has a long sword.  Remember that you are daily in a spiritual battle.  Remember that you need to arm yourself daily in order to do effective battle.  Arming yourself with God’s Word keeps you sharp!  It keeps you on fire!

On Fire and Broken

Jeremiah 4:19 (NET)

“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach!  I writhe in anguish.  Oh, the pain in my heart!  My heart pounds within me.  I cannot keep silent.  For I hear the sound of the trumpet; the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul!”

The most anointed ministry is one through BROKENNESS. 

Being broken for the lost means being vulnerable.  This involves evangelism, servanthood, and intercession.  All big words.  We read at the beginning of this verse that Jeremiah is brokenhearted for the lost people of his generation.  Are you willing to be brokenhearted for the lost people you know?

“WHERE HAS THE FIRE GONE TO?”

Although Jeremiah’s spirit was in the dumps and seemed to be broken, he couldn’t stay down.  As soon as he was released from the stocks, he opened his mouth up with another sermon.  He had to get back into the ministry.  He would not be silent.  He had a fire in his bones!

I can completely understand why people get frustrated, angry, and filled with despair in ministry.  I know this because I’ve been there.  What I don’t understand is how a person who calls themselves a Christian can stay down.  Every person who has been born-again in the spirit has a fire in their bones.  It’s the same wind and fire of Pentecost.  It’s the FIRE put there by the Holy Spirit.

The world needs your witness.

The Church needs your help.

There is a Heaven!  There is a Hell!  Wake up!  Come alive again!  Let the Holy Spirit awaken you to righteousness!

On-fire Believers are compelled by the LOVE of Christ

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if]  One died for all, then all died;”                                     [2 Corinthians 5:14] – (AMP)

Thinking back to the times when I was dating my wife to be, it seemed like we talked on the phone for hours during the week.  My conversation with my friends was constantly remarking about her qualities as I was consumed with the topic of my beloved.  I was excited about an opportunity to share about her!

What would happen if we as believers fell head over heels in love with Jesus?  What if we chose to make 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 a cornerstone of our lives.

If every Christian did this, we would shake the world!  Love makes us do some amazing things!

Here’s a truth:  What you love the most is what fills your life the most!  It’s also what stands out the most in your life!

Jesus said:  “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Matthew 12:34)

And in Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

What’s coming out of the overflow of your heart?

When you are in LOVE with God, witnessing for Christ no longer seems like an obligation, but like talking about someone you love!  The Bible is no longer a textbook you bring to church on Sundays, but a love letter!  Prayer is no longer a chore, but a daily phone conversation with someone you’re in love with!  Giving to God no longer is like paying taxes, but like buying a gift for your beloved.  In avoiding sin, it is no longer motivated by fear of consequence, but fear of breaking God’s heart!

Talent is never enough!

Your life has to be fueled by a love for Christ.

What controls our life?  What guides our decisions?

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul writes about how he and those working with him persevere through trials.  Ultimately, it was the LOVE of Christ that empowered them!

When we become passionate, INTERNAL COMBUSTION will become noticed on the outside by others and ask about the HOPE in us [1 Peter 3:15].  

People will be drawn to us because of our LOVE for Jesus!

We become beacons of light in their darkness!

We become radiant with His presence!

Psalm 34

[5]  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Those in darkness are seeking someone with light that will guide them to the ultimate Light!

Are you willing to be that light?  Will your life be one that’s ignited by a burning passion for Jesus?  Are you willing to let your passion shine for all to see?

If you have to find a place on the altar of Faith, then to cry out to God.  Get angry with God if you must.  Make out your complaint.  Cry.  Have tears.  Wait…And let the fire grow within you once again!

Ezekiel 36:26 (AMP)

A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentary:  Jerry Depoy’s sermon notes; Where’s the Fire?

Photos/Images:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV).