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The Miraculous Earthquake

March 23rd 2011 by Joel Schultz

Our Lenten series continues as we ponder the miracle of the earthquake. Following Jesus death, Sripture tells us that there was an earthquake. God uses this event to draw people's attention to His Son. Read or listen to find out more...

Midweek 3 – “The Miraculous Earthquake” – Matthew 27:51b – March 23, 2011

Our Lenten series ponders some of the miracles surrounding the passion of Jesus – several of which are no more than mere passing phrases in the texts of Holy Scripture – miracles whose meanings often go unnoticed as we read or hear the passion story. This evening we ponder the Miraculous Earthquake. At the moment of Jesus’ death, St. Matthew writes: “And the earth shook.” (Matthew 27:51b)

How does an organization, club, or corporation promote certain events – draw lots of people to it? They use posters or billboards or perhaps send out a mass mailing. They use balloons, lights, or perhaps searchlights to shine a beam of light into the sky. They use newspapers, radio, telephone, or the Internet.

What did God use to draw people to His Son, Jesus Christ, and especially to His death on the cross for the sins of the world? One thing He used was an earthquake.

There can be no doubt that the crucifixion of Jesus, humanly speaking, can be traced back to the jealousy and hatred of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Jesus was critical of their false faith, calling them hypocrites. He had interfered with the way they wanted to run the temple – Jesus called it His “Father’s house” – twice Jesus threw money changers out of the temple. And He was critical of their false piety and lifestyle. From their perspective, Jesus was very much in their way.

So they made plans to get rid of Him, to shut Him up. The Jewish leaders, blinded by their hatred and jealousy, foolishly believed that Jesus’ death would be the end of Him. In Matthew we read about their plot to kill Jesus: “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.’ Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him” (Matthew 26:1–5).

Following that there was the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, the mock trial, Pilate’s delivering of Jesus over to be crucified, and then the crucifixion itself. Certainly up to the moment of His death, the Jewish leaders must have felt that their plans were progressing very well. Soon Jesus would be silenced and out of the way for good.

How often do we seek to “silence” Jesus? Every time we say or think or do things against God’s Law we are seeking to silence Jesus and His Word. Our sinful flesh, daily desires to have Jesus out of the way so that we can act on the desires of our hearts rather than on the instruction of the Lord.

But God had other plans. His desire was that the attention of the world that in sin had turned their backs on the Lord – a world lost in sinful desires of the flesh – might return to the Lord in repentant faith. So Jesus went to that cross, not according to the plans of the religious leaders of Israel but according to the plan of God the Father. And there He suffered for all the times that you and I seek to silence Jesus and turn from the instruction of the Lord.

In testimony to this great act of God’s redemption, there were a number of miracles like the earthquake. I would guess that it must have been rather intense. Certainly the earthquake, the tearing of the curtain in the temple, the splitting of rocks, and the opening of graves were all related, all occurring at the moment Christ died. They could hardly have gone unnoticed.

Earthquake tremors can be felt for miles from the center. It would seem likely that the earthquake would have been felt by the people who lived in neighboring towns and villages; perhaps even in neighboring countries. It was like God was saying, “There is something significant happening right now for a world trapped in the darkness of sin and death – take notice.”

What complicated matters for the religious leaders, was that God kept on performing miracles that drew people to Jesus. For instance there was the miracle of the resurrection. The disciples had been demoralized by the crucifixion but rejuvenated by the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ had a profound impact on getting the word out about Jesus and in the process drawing people to Him.

Then there were the miracles of Pentecost: the wind-like sound that attracted the attention of the worshipers in Jerusalem; the flames of fire that rested on the heads of the disciples, and their ability to speak in languages which they had never learned. Peter took advantage of the situation. Moved by the Holy Spirit, he preached a sermon that convicted people of their sins, called them to repentance, and directed them to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. We are told that on that one day 3,000 people were drawn to the Savior, in whom they were moved to place their faith.

The next day, God, through Peter and John, healed a man who was lame from birth. This drew a crowd and a strong witness was given to Jesus Christ. On that day several thousand more were drawn to the Savior in whom they placed their faith.

Another miracle that God performed was the conversion of Saul, whom we now know as St. Paul. He had hated Christ and His Church and was persecuting Christians. But the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul as he was traveling on the road to Damascus with the intent of arresting Christians. Saul was drawn to the living Christ, and through him Christ drew many others during his lifetime.

Another miracle is the inspiration of Scripture. God drew Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to Jesus, and then they were moved to write about Him. And through those and other inspired Words of Scripture, God has drawn many more people to Jesus – including you and me.

We, like the witnesses of the earthquake, find that our plans and hopes turn out differently than we anticipate. God displayed His power in the earthquake. God displayed His mercy, love, and forgiveness in the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ. The God of power, mercy, love, and forgiveness has drawn you to Himself. May you open your hearts, and minds, and lips to speak His Word of life so others may be drawn to Him also. Amen.


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