Matthew 27:51 - Earthquake
...the earth shook...Matthew 27:51
And behold, there was a great earthquake.Matthew 28:2
The first event took place on Good Friday. The second on Easter Sunday. Two earthquakes, one at Christ's death, the other at His resurrection. What mean these two?
In the beginning "God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). God did not create a heaven only, as a dwelling place for Himself and His angels. Nor did He create an earth only, as a habitat for man amongst the rocks, the trees and the animals. God instead created both.
Nor did God allow heaven and earth to go their separate ways. The wellbeing of both were tied together; each was created for the other. It's as we confess in Art 12 of the Belgic Confession:
We believe that the Father ... has created ... the heavens, the earth, and all creatures... (in order that it might) serve its Creator.
The fall into sin drove a wedge between heaven and earth; sin 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 that this earth by itself has no purpose (Ecclesiastes 1). That reality is echoed by the apostle Paul: "we know that the whole creation is groaning in travail..." (Romans 8:22). Yet that travail is due not only to the fact that the world is subjected to futility; it's due also to the fact that God's wrath against sin is experienced by the earth. As God punishes the sins of mankind, sun, moon and stars are forbidden to give their light, the earth trembles and is shaken out of its place (Isaiah 13:10, 13).
On account of this anger of God against sin, the creation longs for deliverance, longs to be reunited with heaven. That is why, when the Lord died that Friday on the cross, the creation reacted violently. "At (the) wrath (of God) the earth quakes," Jeremiah had said (10:10). On the cross the wrath of God against sin was poured out on that one holy man on this earth; that man died, and in horror the earth responded, it quaked in dismay:
The earth in silence, struck with fear, did from above Thy verdict hear.Psalm 76
Earth was dismayed, for creation longed to be reconciled with heaven, longed for end to its decay. But now the Son of God was dead, Himself subject to decay...
On the heals of Good Friday's shake came Easter Sunday's quake. The Christ, buried after the first quake, arose on the third day! This man, then, was not subject to decay after all. One of God's creatures, since the fall given over to death and decay, now rises out of the grave, stands above decay and death. 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:
...all the streams in joyous union
now clap their hands and praise accord;
the mountains join in glad communion
and leap with joy before the Lord.Psalm 98
Small wonder, then, that the quake of Easter Sunday was "great" 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; did He not, because of His triumph on Calvary, ascend into heaven?! Principly 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, may look forward to being totally renewed on the Day of days. 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.