Scriptures

3. The Earthquake

Introduction

When we think about what God was doing while Jesus hung on the cross, it shouldn’t really surprise us that He provided some visible miracles for those who were onlookers.

Whilst Christ hung on the cross, there were four miraculous events which occurred.

1. The 3 hours of darkness, Matthew 27:45 / Luke 23:44-45.

2. The veil of the temple was torn into two, Matthew 27:50-51 / Mark 15:37-38.

3. An earthquake, Matthew 27:50-52.

4. The graves opening up and dead people being raised to life, Matthew 27:50-53.

In this study, we will look at the significance of the earthquake.

‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.’ Matthew 27:50-52

Earthquakes are nothing new and they still happen all over the world even to this day, but despite scientists having really good technology to estimate if and when an earthquake is going to take place, many people still face the devastation that earthquakes cause. Earthquakes have caused widespread destruction and the deaths of millions of people.

In ancient Greece, earthquakes were seen as bad omens. Philosophers attributed them to congestion of the air or the movement of subterranean water.

Astrologers related them to signs of the zodiac and tried to make out what they predicted. They were commonly thought to accompany appearances or manifestations of something or someone divine.

The Presence Of God

God uses earthquakes to signify His presence.

An earthquake is often used figuratively to represent the presence of God, Judges 5:4 / 2 Samuel 22:8 / Psalms 77:18 / Psalm 97:4 / Psalm 104:32 / Ezekiel 3:12.

When God Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, God’s presence was made known by an earthquake, Exodus 19:16-19. The same thing happened to Elijah when he was upon a mountain and the Lord made His presence known to him, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

God’s Judgement Against Sin

God uses earthquakes to signify His judgment against sin.

God used an earthquake to destroy Korah and his followers who started a rebellion, Numbers 16:31. David often speaks about how earthquakes are a demonstration of God’s anger against His people or a nation, 2 Samuel 22:8 / Psalm 18:7.

Isaiah speaks about how God will punish His people because of their sin using an earthquake, Isaiah 5:25 / Isaiah 29:6.

Jeremiah also speaks about how God will bring judgment upon the nations because of their sin using an earthquake, Jeremiah 10:10. Nahum, Nahum 1:5, Habakkuk, Habakkuk 3:6, and Zechariah, Zechariah 14:5, all speak about how God will bring judgment upon the nations because of their sin using an earthquake.

Jesus, Himself speaks of an earthquake which would happen when God was to bring judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, Matthew 24:7.

John, in his vision, speaks about how God will bring judgment against Rome and unbelievers, Revelation 6:12-14 / Revelation 8:5 / Revelation 11:19 / Revelation 11:13 / Revelation 16:18.

A Natural Earthquake

Some people may well come to the conclusion that this was just a random earthquake but when we consider the timing of this earthquake recorded in Matthew, we are left with no doubts that this was no random earthquake.

A Supernatural Earthquake

This was no random earthquake, this was God working miraculously once again, Acts 16:26. We know this because of the timing of this earthquake, it happened precisely when Christ died on the cross. The whole land shook and the rocks split precisely when Christ ‘gave up His spirit’, Matthew 27:50.

Remember the earthquake happened immediately after the darkness fell over the land of Palestine or over the whole earth for three hours, Matthew 27:45 / Luke 23:44-45.

The sun would now be shining again and so, the people in Palestine would know this was no random earthquake, they would know this was the miraculous work of God because of the timing of the earthquake.

When the earth shook at Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:16-19, it signified the presence of God, and so, we’re reminded that mankind was separated from God because of their sinfulness and mankind had no hope because God is so holy, 2 Corinthians 3:7.

However, the earthquake which happened at Christ’s death signified that mankind can now approach God and have hope for fellowship with God because of what Christ achieved on the cross, Ephesians 2:18 / Hebrews 10:19.

Why Did God Cause The Earthquake?

God caused the earthquake because He didn’t want anyone in the land of Palestine to have any doubts that the death of Jesus was significant for all. His Son came to die for the world, John 3:16, in order for us to have a way to be saved, John 14:6.

The Scriptures record another significant earthquake which happened afterwards when an angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ grave, symbolising Christ’s power over death, Matthew 28:2.

Just like the purpose of the miracles of Jesus, God used the earthquake to bring about faith in His Son and who He claimed to be, John 20:30-31.

Conclusion

As Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, most people praised Him and hailed Him as King but the Pharisees weren’t impressed. They ask Jesus to rebuke the people, however, in response, Jesus tells them if the people keep quiet, then the stones will cry out and praise Him, Luke 19:40.

We also must note that the earthquake was so violent that the rocks actually split in two, Matthew 27:51. It appears that the death of Christ had a huge impact on the natural world too.

As Jesus hung on the cross, many people would have witnessed the miracle of the three hours of darkness, Matthew 27:45 / Luke 23:44-45, the veil of the temple was torn into two, Matthew 27:50-51 / Mark 15:37-38, the earthquake, Matthew 27:50-52, the graves opening up and dead people being raised to life, Matthew 27:50-53.

They would have to conclude, as the centurion soldier did, that ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God,’ Mark 15:39.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

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