Author: Bruce Wong, Pastor, Cumberland Peninsula Community Church, Millbrae
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:51-54, NIV)
When Jesus died, we talk a lot about the darkness that came over the land and the centurion who exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God!” But little is said about the splitting of the curtain in the Temple and the opening of the tombs.
Both the curtain and the tombs represented two barriers that we cannot cross, two reminders of our limitations. The Temple curtain reminds us that our sin separates us from the holy God. Only the High Priest could go inside to the Holy of Holies; everyone else had to wait on the outside. Sinful men (all of us) were forbidden to come before the Lord on their own. Consider the plight of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:6-7.
The grave reminds us of our finiteness and of the consequences of our sin. Ezekiel 18:4 tells us that the soul that sins will die. Since we all sin, we all will die. The cemeteries are full of stark reminders that, regardless of what kinds of empires we build while we walk this earth, our days are still numbered. No matter how much better and longer we try to make our lives, it will never be enough. We will still be imperfect and we will still have to pay the penalty for our sin.
But by opening the curtain and the graves were opened after Jesus died, He tore down the two barriers that keep us from God: our sin and its consequences. Jesus did what we could never do, to bring us to the loving and forgiving God whom we never deserved, and by a power and love that we will never understand.
The ISAAC 2009 Lenten Devotional, edited by Rev. Dr. Johnson Chiu. This devotional was written by Asian American English ministry leaders and pastors in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. To purchase, click here: Road of Suffering, Road to Glory: A Lenten Adventure with the Savior