Haven’t you sometimes wished, hoped, and prayed God would do something unmistakably earth-shaking to bring people to Himself…especially loved ones who seem so deaf to His voice? Let’s look here:
Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45-54 NET)
Let’s unpack this passage. Total darkness covered the whole land for three hours, there were two loud cries by Jesus who was in the last stages of crucifixion (crucifixion suffocated the entire body), an earthquake shook the entire region including the temple (earthquakes happen around Jerusalem about once in 125 years), rocks split apart and the thick temple curtain was torn in two…as the religious leaders watched, tombs opened, and, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ followers who had died appeared fully alive and talking with friends who knew they had been dead. Even the Roman centurion and his soldiers were shaken to the core. Those are just a few mind blowing details that emerged around this scene…the hor d’oeuvres and main course of the world Christian movement.
So why wouldn’t everyone who witnessed these events simply fall on their knees to worship Jesus? Further insight comes from a future and even more imposing scene that Jesus showed to the Apostle John.
And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)
These people will have hardened their hearts to God. Even though they will have front row seats, they won’t want anything to do with Him. Not even catastrophic convulsions will push them into His loving, protective arms. If you know Jesus, this is hard to fathom. But Jesus is honest with us – not everyone wants to cozy up to Him.
Let’s return to the three event focus of the Church’s yearly calendar; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This disarmingly simple depiction of humanity’s salvation is surrounded by a rich setting of cataclysmic events. Those who cannot be impressed by the sheer weight of amazing happenings God orchestrated around this central juncture of human history show a hardened heart.
Allow Jesus to keep your heart soft as you imagine yourself in Jerusalem experiencing the overwhelming events around His death, burial and resurrection – signs He’s provided to draw our attention to His sacrifice for us. Soak in those signs of His powerful love.