50 ¶ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27:50-51 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
My late father was a rather taciturn man. I think he preferred to listen to others rather than to talk. He didn’t talk all the time (like I do), so when he did say something I was always careful to listen to him. A lot of the time what he had to say was very important, very funny, or both.
Since my dad wasn’t given much to self-disclosure, I was always delighted when he told a story about his younger days. He had some fascinating adventures in his childhood. But his stories were always short and to the point. He might say, “When I was in the first grade, I rode a horse to school. Sometimes my horse had to wade through water to get me there.”
Now to me, that’s a good opening sentence to a narrative. But to Dad, that was the whole story! To find out more, I would ask him question after question—things like, “What did you do with a horse when you got to school?” (Answer: “They had a place where you could tie up your horse. There were other kids who rode horses to school. And after you tied up your horse, you gave him something to eat.”) I loved his stories—but they filled me with questions and a desire to learn more.
I wonder if St. Matthew was the same sort of fellow as my dad. In today’s Scripture lesson (at the top) he writes about one of the most fascinating Bible stories that I know of.
(When was the last time you heard this passage preached? ) Matthew tells us of the events the transpired at the moment that Jesus died on Calvary’s cross. There was an earthquake, the graves broke open, and the bodies of many dead people came to life and went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many people there.
Unfortunately for us, that is as much information as St. Matthew gives us. There are so many questions I want to ask. The King James Version calls the dead who were raised to life “saints”. Does that mean they were just regular holy people, or were they holy people like we would know, like Noah and King David? How long did these people stay out of their graves? Did they just walk around a couple of days and then go back to their tombs, or did they go home to their families, resume their careers, and collect their retirement? There’s just so much I want to know.
(An elderly preacher from our brotherhood said that this passage explains why so many people believed the story of Jesus’ resurrection. He said that whenever the gospel was preached in those first days people would say to one another, “Yes, I remember when Jesus died on the cross. That was the day Uncle Benjamin came back from the dead. We were eating breakfast, and he knocked on the back door….” That makes a lot of sense to me. Something like that would get your attention. It would be impossible to forget. And it would be hard for scoffers to deny, since it happened to a number of people.)
Even though there are so many things we don’t know, I’m so thankful for all of the things we do know for certain. Jesus Christ has died for our sins. And because He is risen, we shall be raised also. I believe that when we receive our new bodies, we’ll be able to ask Him all the questions—about the Bible stories, and the hard things we didn’t understand in our lives. And He’ll tell us all the answers—because eternity is long enough for us to hear “the whole story.”
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where little “saints” bang on the parsonage door to beg for candy every October 31st .) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.