Holy Zombies! Jesus Christ did what?!
To this day, I think one of the greatest music videos of all time is Michael Jackson’s thriller video. From the zombies to the dancing, it was one of the first of its kind. From that point on, it seems like zombies caught on a trend still very much alive today. Growing up, I remember playing Resident Evil on PlayStation and even now, zombies have not lost momentum; The Walking Dead has been on for almost a decade! You think Matthew knew how popular the whole zombie thing was going to be in the 2000’s when writing his gospel? Wait... What?
In the very first book of the New Testament we have a very unusual story; a story that definitely calls for some explaining! Anyone who thinks the Bible is boring, has definitely never read Matthew! Dead people resurrecting is definitely something we NEED to talk about on this Weird Verse Wednesday!!!!
Matthew 27: 52-53
“The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
What in the world is going on here?
It’s safe to say that in Matthew 27, there were not arms punching through the dirt or any of the gore we are used to watching in The Walking Dead- based on what the text says, we can conclude that these resurrected bodies came back to life as full-bodied humans; chances are that the people that came back to life were not dead long due to the aforementioned fact. The bodies were regular humans that responded to the power and intensity of Christ’s resurrection.
How do we understand these resurrections in comparison to others we see in scripture?
In other parts of scripture, we learn about other resurrections like Lazarus in the book of John and Jairus's daughter constant throughout the gospels; after they were resurrected, both examples were regular living humans. Nothing in scripture gives us an idea that the resurrections in Matthew were any different than Lazarus or Jairus’s daughter. It’s important to note that like Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter, the bodies mentioned in Matthew were not glorified bodies and did not ascend to heaven.
In Matthew, those that came alive lived on earth. The people who came back to life did so because the resurrection power of Jesus made some who had not been dead long be resuscitated and they lived normal lives until they died again just like Lazarus, Martha and Mary's brother.
Why is Matthew the only gospel to mention this event?
It is important to note that each gospel had a different purpose. Matthew wrote as a catechism for new believers as the gentiles were just coming in. The church was mostly Jewish. Therefore, Matthew sought to prove that Jesus was the fulfillment of the whole OT. Since a man was raised from the dead when his dead body touched the bones of Elisha, it was important to reveal those events in Jesus's life that proved He was greater than Elisha. On another note, while still considering the intended audiences, Mark and Luke’s goal were not just to speak to the Jews; in fact, the Romans or Greeks were probably the people reading these books. Mark and Luke had no intentions to distract Greek-minded readers from understanding the death and resurrection of Christ. If they would have described the other aforementioned resuscitations so close to Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, it would likely have been a major distraction for Greek-minded readers. Why should they even bring it up? The reality of Jesus Christ was already a hard pill to swallow for the Greeks and Romans.
How is Matthew 27: 52-53 relevant for us today?
Matthew 27: 52-53 is a foretaste of what is to come for the new covenant saints, the church. Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and we will become like him in our own glorified bodies when he returns:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54
It seems apparent throughout scripture that God is always giving tastes of what is to come (many of the psalms of David are prophetic shadows of the coming Messiah). This Matthew event seems to be a literal and physical event that is an example of what is to come for us. John Piper calls it “a trailer before the movie starts.”
What does this event in Matthew tell us about Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ has the power to control death and life; I believe that this is the overall point of the text. Christ’s resurrection was so powerful, so real, so amazing, it not only freed us from our sins, but it LITERALLY woke up the dead; that is the God I believe in and I pray that all of you reading this will come to a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. He loves you and died for you and took your sins on him. If you don’t know Jesus or if you have any questions about this text or any of the other WVWs that we have done, feel free to email us at Bibledingers@gmail.com or write us on social media!
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