4. The Opened Graves And The Resurrected Dead


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 graves opening up and the dead rising to life.

‘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. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.’ Matthew 27:50-53

The Opened Tombs And The Resurrected Dead

In Bible times, tombs were often cut out of solid rock and large rocks were used to cover the entrance, John 11:38-39. Some believe that the opened tombs weren’t a miracle in themselves, it was simply the result of the miraculous earthquake.

This is certainly possible, but when we also read that the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life, this tells us that God may have been responsible for the tombs opening up as well as raising the dead back to life.

We don’t know how long they had been dead, just that they were dead and in tombs, and these holy people were raised back to life after the resurrection of Jesus, just as Jesus said would happen, John 5:28-29.

Although they were brought back to life at the time of Jesus’ death, they did not go into the city until after Jesus’ resurrection. We don’t know the reason for this but it’s possible that others may have seen them as unclean.

No one would want to go anywhere near any open tomb because the law said that they would become unclean, Numbers 19:11-22.

Imagine The Scene

We’re not told if any of these resurrected holy ones remembered anything about where they were, what their bodies were like and who else was with them.

Can you imagine these formally dead people walking back into Jerusalem? Can you imagine their relatives seeing them again? I wonder what they would have spoken about?

Imagine if this was someone whose funeral you actually attended. Maybe they’ve been dead for a few days, weeks or even years, the Bible doesn’t tell us how long they have been dead but imagine they are now at your home visiting you.

That’s exactly what happened in Jerusalem. I can imagine everyone in Jerusalem would be speaking about this event.

The Significance Of These Events

The significance of these events demonstrates Jesus’ ultimate power over death, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 / 2 Timothy 1:9-10. They pointed to the fact that He Himself would rise from the grave, Matthew 28:5–6 / Matthew 16:21 / Mark 8:31 / Luke 24:46 / 1 Corinthians 15:4.

God brought back to life some individuals to show that Jesus had the ability to give new life. Even as Jesus rose from the dead, He proved that His power over death enabled Him to give life to all that believe, John 10:10 / John 11:25.

These events give us hope for the future because we too will be resurrected because Jesus was resurrected first, 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 / 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 / 1 John 3:2.

These events also point to the final judgment when all will be raised, regardless if they are ‘holy’ or not, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. With the death of Christ, the penalty of sin had been paid, and the cause of death was dealt with, 1 Corinthians 15:56. When Christ returns death will be no more, 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 / Revelation 20:14 /  Revelation 21:4.

Why Did God Open The Graves And Resurrect The Dead?

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


Just as Lazarus, John 11:43-44, Jairus’ daughter, Luke 8:52-56, and the widow of Nain’s son, Luke 7:13-15, had died and were brought back to life by Jesus.

The good news is that these holy people were also raised back to life, the sad news is they like Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son would have to physically die again.

As Christians, we too were once dead, but thanks to the work of Christ on the cross, we are now very much alive in Christ, Romans 6:8-14 / Ephesians 2:1-6 / Colossians 2:13-15.

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 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.


"So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."