Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus is peculiar in that it alone records the opening of the graves at Christ’s death and the raising of many sleeping saints along with the Lord at his resurrection ( Matthew 27:50-54).
The raising of certain dead ones is given as one of three happenings that follow the death of Jesus on the cross as Calvary. It comes after the tearing of the temple veil and before the Centurion’s awe-inspired confession of Jesus as the “Son of God”. Inasmuch as these events are narrated immediately following Christ’s death, Matthew very likely intends them to be seen as results of his atoning death.
The tearing of the temple curtain which walled off the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence was manifested signifies that by his death Christ made possible for all direct access into the very presence of God-apart from all ritual and regulation of Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices.
The opening of the graves at Christ’s death reminds us that only by Christ dying on the cross in our place was sin, “the sting of death”, defeated (1 Cor 15:56) The rising of the dead at his resurrection signifies that Christ alone by his resurrection became “the first fruits of them that sleep” (1Cor 15:20) in that his resurrection guarantees the eventual resurrection of all.
The Centurion’s confession signifies that the Gospel, which sets forth the atoning death of Christ, is the “power of God for salvation” (Rom 1:16) to all who receive its message in faith, even a rugged old Roman soldier. It therefore speaks to us of our responsibility to carry the good news of life only in Christ , by word and deed, wherever and to whomever we can!
Pastor David Burge