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A. 2011 Earthquake in Virginia – Earthquakes are memorable. They get your attention.
B. Matthew 27:45–28:6 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” 55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. 62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
C. So, the two greatest redemptive works of Christ are punctuated with two earthquakes – like God’s great exclamation marks, one on the cross and one on the resurrection.
1. Maybe it’s also a fulfillment of what Jesus said in Luke 19:39-40, when, during the Triumphal Entry, some Pharisees told him to rebuke His followers for praising Him in such an exalted way, and He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
a. Well, at His crucifixion and resurrection, at the very moments He was most worthy of praise, none of His followers offered it. Maybe the earthquake was the rocks & stones giving Him praise.
2. It is certainly some kind of expression of God’s glorious power, like in Psalm 104:31-32: “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!”
3. It reminds me of Aslan’s roar. Remember that? It made the trees bend over like grass in the wind. And what it meant can’t really be put into words.
4. It was if God was pounding on the pulpit of heaven, drawing our attention to the significance of what was being accomplished — or shaking the earth to draw attention to the seismic shift taking place in redemptive history. (Greek word here: SEISMOS from which we get seismology/seismic)
5. In Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, God is shaking things up. And to signify that, He literally shakes things up with an earthquake.
6. God did not send Jesus into the world to maintain the world. He did not send Jesus into the world to protect the status quo. He did not send Jesus into the world to keep things the way they were.
a. He sent Jesus into the world to change things. He sent Jesus into the world to rearrange the landscape. As it was said of Him, “Every valley will be exalted and every hill made low.”
7. Things are not the way God wants them. But there’s another problem. Man is asleep. He is content with things as they are. He just wants to be comfortable. So, not only does God act to bring redemption in Christ, but He does a number of things to wake us up, to shake us & wake us.
a. As a father, I have done my share of waking people up. I usually start by turning the light on. Then I call their name. But if those things don’t work, the next thing always does. I grab a leg or the side of the mattress and shake. Earthquakes are good for waking people up.
8. God could have sent a different sign. He could have sent a rainbow-colored singing tornado filled with butterflies and flower pedals. But instead He sent two earthquakes.
9. And there’s a reason for that. He was pointing to events of earth-shaking significance, events which would reverberate through the whole earth.
10. And after the earthquakes, in both cases the tough soldiers there were stunned/shaken.
a. 27:54 When the centurion and those who were with him saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
b. 28:4, “the guards trembled and became like dead men.”
c. By means of the earthquakes, God got the people just where He wanted them.
II. But there’s one more thing going on here. These earthquakes might be the fulfillment of prophecy.
A. Matthew doesn’t draw explicit attention to these earthquakes as the fulfillment of prophecy, but, of all the gospel writers, Matthew is most concerned about showing how Jesus fulfills OT prophecy.
1. It is interesting that Matthew alone includes the earthquakes in his gospel.
B. What prophecy does it fulfill? In one of the latest books of the OT, the prophet Haggai prophesied about the coming day of salvation, referring, of course, to the coming of Christ.
1. Haggai 2:6 “Yet once more, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.” (Cf. Haggai 2:21-22)
2. And this prophecy is quoted in the NT, in Hebrews 12, as being fulfilled in Christ. After talking about Israel’s experience at Mt. Sinai, when they were terrified by God’s presence, including earthquakes when the whole mountain shook violently (Exod.19:18), Heb.12:25-27 says this:
a. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they (the OT Jews) did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth (referring to Moses), much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven (referring to Jesus). 26 At that time (i.e. the time at Mt. Sinai) his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
3. Here the author of Hebrews tells us that the coming of Christ shook earthly things up so that they could be removed, in order that the things which cannot be shaken might remain.
4. In other words, part of what Christ came to do was shake up things in the world so much that it would become clear that He is the only sure and immovable foundation.
a. He is the rock upon which the wise man builds his house. Everything else is sand. And when the rain falls, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat against your house, if it is built on sand, it will fall, and great will be the fall of it. (Matt.7:24-27)
5. And how fitting it is, then, that the great work of Christ – His death and resurrection – works by which He would shake up the whole world – were accompanied by earthquakes!
A. In an earthquake, one of the reasons it’s so scary is because there’s no safe place to go.
1. In a tornado, there’s a safe place to go. In a flood, there’s a safe place to go. In a hurricane, there’s a safe place to go. But in an earthquake, the very foundation upon which you stand is in turmoil. There is no place to go.
2. The only safe place to go in an earthquake is to run into the arms of the One who looks on the earth and it trembles, but whose love for His people is proven by the fact that He was willingly crucified for them, and then raised again from the dead by the power of God.
B. And we need this because the earthquakes continue: Christ shakes our life; He shakes our world.
C. By this He is showing us that some things are like sand: shifting, movable, untrustworthy.
1. But other things are solid, strong and unchanging, worthy of our trust.
D. And as long as we keep trying to build our lives on sandy things, He will keep sending earthquakes and storms to show us that we can’t build our lives on sand, that we’ve got to build on the Rock.
E. And He will lovingly continue this process in order to teach us to say, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”