Miracles of Lent
The Miraculous Earthquake
A sermon based on Matthew 27:51b
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 – Midweek Lent 3
On Good Friday, the earth violently shook beneath their feet. The earthquake was massive. It hit a 9.2 on the moment magnitude scale. And though it only lasted a little over 4.5 minutes, it resulted in huge fissures 30-feet wide, it ripped a school in half, ignited an oil tank farm, and resulted in over a hundred deaths. And the effects of that quake were felt around the world. The ground in Houston, TX was lifted 4 inches higher. The ground in Florida was lifted 2.5 inches higher.
That was in 1964 and you know that the epicenter was here in Alaska. Now, rewind a few thousand years to another Good Friday. That Good Friday earthquake shook heaven and earth to the core. And the effects of it have not only been felt around the world, but throughout all time, through eternity.
Tonight, as we again examine the miracles of Lent, we look at the miracle of the earthquake as it's recorded for us in Matthew 27:51. We again add verse 50 for the context where Matthew simply reports…
50 When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment… the earth shook…
Ever experience a big earthquake? Some of you may remember the quake of '64, known as the Great Alaskan quake.
I remember an earthquake at Evergreen. The junior varsity basketball team was playing their game and it was about over. I was on the varsity team and was ready to run out on the court to warm up as soon as the JV was done. And standing safely in that doorway, I watched the bleachers wobble, and ripples of waves rolling in the concrete gym floor. The lights didn't stop swinging until our game was about to start.
It was exciting and a bit scary, but no damage was done. No one was hurt. We went on with the game.
Now I don't know what magnitude that that earthquake was on the moment magnitude scale. Nor do I know the magnitude of that first Good Friday earthquake. But I do know the damage done on that day—the Son of God was killed. And worse that physical death, God the Father turned his back on God the Son in disgust at the sins he carried. And it was as if the earth itself shuddered at the thought.
And you know why that event took place that day. It wasn't because the pressure had been building under the plates of the earth's crust. It wasn't because a major fault line had slipped a bit. It was because God's pressure had been building against mankind's sin since Adam and Eve rebelled. It was because you and I have slipped up so often and sinned against God.
You see, we too often shudder and shake in fear at the loss of a friendship, at the loss of some comfort, at the loss of getting what my selfish heart desires, more than we shudder at the thought of upsetting a holy God. And so we sin. We rebel against a God who has only loved us, only wants the best for us, only does what's best for us.
Can you imagine if you shared your love with that person that you care most about in the world and they responded, "Go away. I don't need you right now. You don't fit my selfish plans. I may come talk to you later if I need something from you." How God's shoulders must quake as he weeps over the way we treat him.
Yes, it was because of your sin and mine that God forsook God, that the Father abandoned the Son, that Jesus endured hell. That truth is a hard one to take. It makes us shudder at the thought. It makes our shoulders quake as we weep over our sin and how we've ruined our relationship with God.
But knowing why Jesus suffered and died for us, gives us a comfort and peace no matter what we're going though. For we know he died to pay for our sins and to bring us back to God. And the earth shook to show us the magnitude of this event.
Many earthquakes can be felt miles and miles from the epicenter. The Great Alaskan quake was literally felt in Texas and Florida! And it was followed by hundreds of aftershocks that kept coming even a year later.
Well that first Good Friday quake can be felt all the way from Jerusalem to Kenai. And the aftershocks are still shaking almost 2,000 years later. You know that your sins are forgiven. You know that you have peace with God. You know that he will take you into his heavenly home to be with him forever.
And that gives us an unspeakable peace in this life, even when the ground is shaken beneath our feet and our world is rocked to the core.
The boss calls you in to let you know they're downsizing and you didn't make the cut. The doctor says the cancer is spreading and the odds of recovery are slim. Another miscarriage leaves your heart broken for a child you never knew. The troopers show up at your door to notify you that your teen did not survive the crash.
How these events pull the rug out from under us and shake the ground beneath our feet like no earthquake ever could. But even if these all were to happen to us, we have a sure and certain foundation on which we stand:
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another." (Job 19:25-27)
For there was another time that earth shook violently that Holy Week. Matthew reports, "There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven… The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:2,5-6)
Now, no matter what happens in this life, we know that we will make it. And we too will rise to be with him. So, "we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." For, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:2,1)
And we say with confidence: "My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare to make no other claim, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand." (CW #382, v.1)
In Jesus' name dear friends, amen.