And the Earth Shook
Posted in Comfort
Scripture: “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” – Matthew 28: 1-2 (ESV)
The last words spoken from the cross on Good Friday are the haunting but triumphant words of the dying Savior, “It is finished.” Then there is the silence of darkness and the reality of death. It is finished. The Savior’s earthly life and ministry have come to a completion. The saving blood of the cross covers our sin. “Earth’s redeeming work is done.” It is finished. However, something significant goes unnoticed in that impressive moment. Jesus is dead; his lips are sealed shut by the absence of breath, but then God speaks in a language of his own. As Matthew says about that gory but glorious event at Golgotha: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27: 51).
When Jesus died, the earth quaked. God always has the last word about suffering and death. After the singular silence of Saturday comes the glorious announcement of resurrection. In rare form, Matthew writes these words: “Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher. And behold there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Matthew 28: 1-4, KJV).
On Easter morning the earth quaked and the guards trembled, because God always has the last word about death, and his final word is seen and felt in the shaking of the earth and in the quaking fear of the guards.
In both the Old and New Testament, the earthquake denotes the presence and the interventions of God among the people of earth, and it reveals his greatness as the God of the Covenant.
The earth shook on Good Friday, but no one would heed its trembling. In their pain and sorrow, the disciples cowered in hiding. On Good Friday, the earth trembled, but the authorities responsible for our Lord’s crucifixion did not notice because they believed that death always had the last word. However, death, and those who would inflict its savage presence upon us, do not have the final word. God does. He always does–and the earth shakes.
What meaning do these words, “And the earth shook” have for you and me during this holy Eastertide? If I may be so personal, let me tell you what the shaking earth means to me. Each of us has stood over a grave of someone we love dearly. You have. I have. We all have. It hurts deeply like no other human pain. And one of the most difficult tasks I have to do as a minister is to officiate funerals of people I love and of people you love. To see the hurt and tears of people I care about is heart rending. But in each and every case, if we put our feet on the ground, we can feel the earth shake as God’s voice resounds through that dark, uncertain moment assuring us that the one we love is not dead but resides in the safe haven of heaven.
You see, that is what the Easter faith means for all of us who find ourselves sitting in a cemetery around the grave of a loved one and the earth suddenly starts shaking under our feet. God is having the last word and is assuring us of eternal life for our loved ones.
There are times that you and I may feel that we are literally hanging on to the very end of our rope. Suddenly the earth shakes, and we realize there is one more knot to which we can cling; it is the knot of grace and the reality of resurrection.
Easter means that you and I can face every experience in life with the power of resurrection–the power of the One who speaks in such a manner that the earth shakes beneath our feet.
“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher…. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone. The angel said unto the women, ‘Do not be afraid. For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen as He said’” (v. 1-6).
And the earth shook. And you know something? It still does!
Prayer: O blessed God who has destroyed death’s domain, grant us grace to believe and sing these words: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). Amen.
Submitted by Judy Holmes