“There was a violent earthquake.” Matthew 28:2a
It wasn’t the first one. On Good Friday too, “the earth shook and the rocks split” (Matt 27:51). On Easter Sunday, it happened again: “There was a violent earthquake.” Why is this important for us to know?
In the beginning God created “the heavens and the earth” (Gen1:1). God did not create a heaven alone, as the dwelling place for Himself and his angels. Nor did He create an earth alone, as the habitat for man amongst the rocks, the trees, and the animals. God created both. Nor did God allow heaven and earth to go their separate ways. The well-being of the two was tied together; each was created for the other. (Col. 1: 16-17)
The fall into sin drove a wedge between heaven and earth and so undid the bond between these two parts of God’s creation. Hence it is that on this sinful earth there is nothing but futility; the Preacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1 that this earth by itself has no purpose. That reality is echoed by the Apostle Paul: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom 8:22).
Yet that travail is due not only to the fact that the world is subjected to futility; it’s also due to the fact that God’s wrath against sin is experienced by the earth. As God punishes the sins of mankind, the sun, moon, and stars are forbidden to give their light; the earth trembles and is shaken out of its place (Isa 13:10, 13).
On account of this anger from God against sin, the creation longs for deliverance and it longs to be reunited with heaven. That is why when the Lord died on that Good Friday on the cross, creation reacted with trembling. “When [the living God] is angry, the earth trembles,” Jeremiah had once said (Jer. 10:10). On the cross, the wrath of God against sin was poured out on that one holy man and that man died, becoming – like all else –subject to decay. In horror, the earth responded in quaking: “From heaven you pronounced judgement, and the land feared and was quiet” (Ps. 76:8) For there is no
future. . . .
But “behold” (as Matthew literally has it), on the heels of Good Friday’s shake came Easter Sunday’s quake! The Christ, buried after the first quake, arose on the third day! This man was not subject to decay after all. One of God’s creatures, who since the fall was given over to death and decay, now rises out of the grave and now stands above death and decay.
Creation sees it and rejoices greatly because of the deliverance promised for it in the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here is fulfilled what was spoken by the psalmist: “Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity “(Ps 98:7-9).
Small wonder then that the quake of Easter Sunday was “violent” compared to the shake of Good Friday. The earth now had reason to quake so greatly. For Christ’s rising means that He has conquered sin and darkness. Yes, at his rising the bond between heaven and earth is restored once more. For did He not, because of his triumph on Calvary, ascend into heaven? Principally the world is no longer subjected to futility. In hope it may now look forward to being completely set free of its bondage to decay. In hope it may look forward to being totally renewed on the day of days.
What’s more, this earth may look forward to the day when the heavens will open and He who now sits in the heavens will come to a cleansed and perfected earth, here to make his dwelling with man –heaven and earth united!
Rev. C. Bouwman is minister of the Canadian Reformed Church at Smithville, Ontario
Source: Clarion, Vol. 58:8 (Apr 10, 2009)