miracles

The Miracles of Calvary: The Revivals to Life

CrossMatthew 27:52-53 – “The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had gone to their rest were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.” There are two kinds of resurrections that take place in Scripture: revivals to life of the same body that died and resurrections of glorified bodies. Jesus is the only person who has had a resurrection of a glorified body.

Everyone else who has been raised from the dead has only been restored to a state of mortality. This includes:

  • The son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kin. 17)
  • The Shunammite’s son (2 Kin. 4)
  • The resurrection caused by the bones of Elisha (2 Kin. 13)
  • The daughter of Jairus (Matt. 9)
  • The son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7)
  • Lazarus (John 11)
  • Tabitha (Acts 9)
  • Eutychus (Acts 20)

All of these people experienced a revival to life of their same natural body. And all of them died again.

But the resurrection of Jesus is different. He was given a glorified body--a body that could pass through matter or disappear in an instant.

The natural body of Jesus was the foundation to His glorified body. His glorified body is a body that supersedes physical restrictions. It is incorruptible, healthy, and perfect.

One day we, as believers in Christ, will receive the same kind of body Jesus has.

The revivals to life in the passage above were a sign of the certainty of our resurrection. They foretold a greater experiential reality. The revivals to life were not the resurrection from the dead, but a resurrection from the dead. They were just a shadow of things to come.

Phil. “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body.”

1 Cor. 15:42-44 - “Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.”

At every funeral, I read these words from 1 Cor. 15 at the cemetery: “We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. Now when this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

The Miracles of Calvary: The Undisturbed Grave Clothes

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John 20:3-8 – Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. The pace of a story in the Bible is important. When a story slows down to point out details, it should cause you and I (the readers) to slow down and pay extra attention. As you read John’s account, it seems that almost that the entire story is built around the undisturbed grave clothes. Why are these clothes so important?

We get a clue when we see the reaction of John—the other disciple—in v. 8: “The other disciple…entered the tomb, saw, and believed.”

What was it that John believed, and what caused him to believe it? We must remember that the reason he and Peter went to the tomb was because Mary Magdalene told them that someone took the body of Jesus out of the tomb. But when John looked in, he didn't see evidence of a theft. Think about what he saw.

Luke’s Gospel says it this way: “When Peter stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths” (Luke 24:12; HCSB). What else should have been there? The body! But there was no body; only the cloths remained. And they remained in such a way as to suggest a body used to be in them. The inference here is that if the grave clothes still contained the body of Christ, they would be lying in precisely the position they were presently in.

So when John looked at the clothes and the Bible says he “saw and believed,” he knew that no one took the body of Jesus away. If an enemy of Jesus took His body, they wouldn’t have removed it from the clothes and then neatly arranged the clothes to make it look like He had risen. And if the friends of Jesus had taken His body, they would have kept His clothes on Him.

No one took the body of Jesus away. When John saw the arrangement of the grave clothes, he instantly believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. God had intervened! God had performed the greatest miracle of all time!

Furthermore, v. 7 tells us that the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head was “by itself.” It was not with the body clothes, but on the very spot where His head had rested.

His head cloth was “folded up.” In other words, it had not been manually unfolded, and none of the fastenings were undone. This means that the head cloth was not removed from the head; rather, the head had been removed from the cloth.

The linen clothes were there. The head cloth was there. Nothing had been undone. None of the folds had been disturbed. There was no change in their position. Everything was there...except the body.

When John saw the grave clothes, he knew that there was only one Person who could have got in that tomb. Not the Jews, not the Romans, not the disciples, but only God. Every other piece of evidence for the resurrection of Christ was outside the tomb, but the grave clothes were inside.

God Himself provided evidence for the resurrection of Christ. There should be no doubt in our hearts: Jesus is alive!

The Miracles of Calvary: The Stone Rolled Away

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Matthew 28:1-6 says, “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men. But the angel told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

Why was the stone rolled away? Was it so Jesus could get out of the tomb? No! Jesus was already out of the tomb!

Matthew tells us that the women who went to the tomb, along with the Roman soldiers, witnessed the angel rolling back the stone and sitting on it. The guards fainted, but the angel comforted the women by telling them,

“He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

In other words, the angel was saying, “You won’t find Jesus in this grave. He was already gone when I got here.”

So why did the angel roll the stone away? It wasn’t for Jesus. It was for the disciples. The women weren’t going to be able to roll the 2-ton stone away. They needed help if they were going to witness the empty tomb.

What the stone rolled away means for you and me is that we can have a new life.

Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, God raises our spirits from the dead.

Jesus said, “Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me…has passed from death to life” (John 5:24; HCSB).

Colossians 2:13 (HCSB) – “When you were dead in trespasses…, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses.”

Romans 6:11 (HCSB) – “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

If you have not yet experienced the new life that is in Christ, you can turn to Him today. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to give you the gift of eternal life.

The Miracles of Calvary: The Opened Graves

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At the moment Jesus died, as Matthew 27:52 tells us, "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised." Most of our graves today are six-foot holes in the ground in which we put a sealed casket with the body of our loved one. Then we fill the hole with dirt and place a tombstone above it. The graves that are spoken of in this verse, however, were most likely rock tombs hewn into the side of a hill. These graves were sealed by large stones rolled in front of the entrances.

Whose graves were opened at the moment Jesus died? Only the graves of the saints. No unbelievers' tombs were opened.

Why were these graves opened? Well, it might seem simplistic, but the graves were opened so that dead believers could exit their tombs after they were raised to life.

And notice the timing of the resuscitation of these dead saints: They did not rise from the dead until after the resurrection of Jesus. Matthew 27:53 says, “And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

So these graves were opened on Friday at 3pm, but the dead weren't raised until (at least) Sunday morning. From Friday until Sunday anyone could have seen that the graves were opened, but no one would have attempted to seal them back up during that time because of the Sabbath.

The reason these graves were opened (and remained opened) at the moment of Jesus' death was a sign that death has been abolished.

Death is the penalty of sin. This penalty has been abolished. No obstacle stands in the way of your resurrection. Nothing can stop God from transforming you into the image of Christ.

“Our Savior Christ Jesus...has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10)

The Miracles of Calvary: The Earthquake

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Matthew 27:50-51 - "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split." The timing of the earthquake--at the very moment Christ died--indicates that it occurred by God's direct intervention. But why?

The earthquake was Calvary’s answer to Sinai.

Hundreds of years before, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. These laws reveal the sinfulness of our hearts. When we try to keep the Law of God, we discover it's impossible. We can't do it. Why? Because our nature is inclined to disobey, not to obey. If we were able to keep the laws of God, then there wouldn’t have to be a blood sacrifice to cover our sins.

The Bible describes what it was like just before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt.Sinai: “There was a thunder and lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a loud trumpet sound, so that all the people in the camp shuddered. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire. Its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently” (Ex. 19:16-18; HCSB).

Just as there was an earthquake at Sinai, there was an earthquake at Calvary.

Sinai foretold of Calvary. Sinai is a picture of God’s judgment of us because we have disobeyed His God’s law. Calvary is a picture of God’s mercy toward us. The earthquake of Calvary reminds us of what Christ has done.

The Miracles of Calvary: The Tearing of the Curtain

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Matthew 27:50-51 (HCSB) says, “Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom.” Centuries before Jesus walked the earth, God told Israel to build a Tabernacle, which was a mobile tent that served as Israel's meeting place with God. The Tabernacle had three sections—the Outer Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. There was a curtain separating each of the sections.

If you were a Jew living in Israel at the time, you could enter the Outer Court. As you walked in, you would see the bronze basin of water and the bronze altar. The bronze basin reminded you that you must be cleansed of your sins to approach God. The bronze altar served as a reminder how you must be cleansed: through a blood sacrifice.

Beyond the first curtain stood The Holy Place, where only priests could enter. The Holy Place contained three symbols of intimate union and fellowship with God: the bread of the Presence, the golden lampstand, and the golden altar of incense.

The Holy of Holies stood beyond the second curtain. Only one man—the high priest—could enter the Holy of Holies, and he could only enter once each year. Before entering the Holy of Holies, he would have to make a sacrifice for himself and all the priests. Then he would make a sacrifice for all the people. Inside the Holy of Holies were the most intimate and glorious symbols of God’s presence, power, and grace: the ark of the covenant, the atonement seat which covered it, the cherubim (angels) on the seat, and the Shekinah cloud of glory.

The curtains separating the three areas of the Tabernacle represented barriers to worshiping God. Each curtain existed to conceal what lay behind it and to prevent any further passage beyond its boundaries.

By the time Jesus walked the earth, the Tabernacle was no more. Herod's Temple was built to be a permanent re-creation for the Tabernacle. The second curtain, which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, is the one that was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died.

The details of the curtain that hid the Holy of Holies were formulated in the mind of God Himself, who described it to Moses. It was made of finely twisted purple, blue, crimson, and white linen, with beautiful cherubim sown into the pattern. The curtain hung by hooks of gold suspended from four pillars overlaid with gold. To summarize Nicholson, "It was a symbol of life, power, beauty, glory, and mystery. The embroidered cherubim watched over and guarded the Holy of Holies, undoubtedly communicating to the priests, 'You may go this far, but no farther.'"

It was this second curtain which was torn in two from top to bottom. Who tore it? Only God could have. The tearing of the curtain was an indication that the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle by which men could approach God's presence had come to an end.

The curtain was torn at the exact time the evening sacrifice would begin: at 3 p.m. In other words, at the moment Jesus died there were priests in the Holy Place who witnessed the tearing of the curtain.

It's impossible to know the exact effect this had on the priests, although Acts 6:7 (HCSB) says, “So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Some people who doubt the supernatural might claim that this event is simply an example of Christian mythology. But consider this: The Gospel writers were bold enough to publish their accounts in the midst of the priests. Yet not once did any unbeliever in that day contradict their account. And even though we have the writings of unbelieving ancient philosophers like Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, none of them discount the tearing of the curtain. The curtain hiding the Holy of Holies really tore in two pieces that day from top to bottom.

What does this mean for you? You can enter God’s presence.

The reason the curtains had to be established in the first place is sin. Sin is the obstacle to enjoying God’s presence. God will not fellowship with someone whose sin is still upon him. That sin has to be paid for, and that’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross.

When the sin was removed, so was the barrier that signified our separation from God. Now you can approach God freely. Hebrews 10:19-20 (HCSB) says that “we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh).”

The Miracles of Calvary: The Darkness

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While a student at The Criswell College in Dallas, I had a New Testament and church history professor we would call Danny. It didn't seem right to refer to one of our favorite professors by his first name, but he wouldn't allow us to call him "Dr. Akin" because he had not yet finished his doctoral dissertation on Bernard of Clairvaux. And if anyone ever referred to the Middle Ages as "The Dark Ages," Danny would quickly inform us of the myriads of wonderful, yet overlooked Christians who stood for Christ during those centuries. One day, as we were studying the crucifixion of Christ, we happened across Matthew 27:50-53, which describes some very unusual events occurring at the moment Jesus died. Danny said to us, "If anyone can produce a paper telling me what all that was about, I'll give him an 'A' for the class." Although I ended up with an 'A' anyway, I wish I had happened across William Nicholson's excellent little book called The Six Miracles of Calvary. Originally published in 1927, it gives as good of an interpretation as I've ever read about these strange miracles.

The Six Miracles of Calvary: Unveiling the Story of Easter Edited by Dan Schaeffer / Discovery House Publishers

30725: The Six Miracles of Calvary: Unveiling the Story of Easter

With all due respect to William Nicholson, I think he missed one. Beginning today, my next seven posts will be dedicated to observing, interpreting, and applying the miracles of Calvary.

Miracles are not events in and of themselves. Miracles are signs that point to something greater. Behind each miracle stands an eternal truth.

The Miracle of Darkness

Matthew describes what happened about the day Jesus was crucified: "Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour" (Matt. 27:45, NASB). Jesus was on the cross for six hours before He died—from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. So for the last three hours on the cross, there was darkness over the land.

Some people who don’t believe in the miraculous have said that this was just a natural solar eclipse. If Jesus died during an eclipse, consider the following:

  • The chances that Jesus would die during a total eclipse are astronomically low. Total solar eclipses occur on average once every year and a half. That such an eclipse would occur at Jerusalem on that day is so remote that it could be said to be miraculous.
  • The longest duration for a total solar eclipse is less than eight minutes. A three-hour total solar eclipse would again be a miracle.
  • Jesus died on a Passover. Passover always occurs during a full moon, when the sun and the moon are in different parts of the sky.

I love it when skeptics try to explain away the miracles of the Bibles by presenting alternative theories that require the miraculous.

The darkness during Jesus' crucifixion was not the result of a natural phenomenon. It was caused by the will and direct action of God. The darkness--at that exact time and that prolonged--was something that only God could cause.

The Hebrew Bible prophesied that the darkness would occur. In Amos 8:9, the Lord says, "And it will come about in that day...that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight."

The Creator of light (cf. Gen 1:3) and the One who is Light (1 John 1:5) made it dark on the earth to draw attention to Himself. The darkness was the background of the cross, showing God's displeasure with and judgment of sin.

God the Father present at the cross, demonstrating by the darkness that He was judging His Son for our sins. As Nicholson notes, "The three hours of deathly darkness [Jesus] suffered on the cross at Calvary perfectly illustrated the heaviness of His Father’s hand upon Him" (p. 23).

What does it mean that the sky grew dark for three hours that Friday? That our sins are paid for, and that is the best miracle of all.