Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matthew 27: Pilate’s Wife and the Resurrected Dead

In the supporting characters of Matthew 27 I see myself and the rest of this broken world. One and all we either stand on this Rock or are crushed by it. Judas, the murderous scribes and Pharisees indifferent to the remorse of a traitor, Pilate, Barabbas, the amazed centurion, Joseph of Arimathea – books and movies by the dozen have told their stories. Fortunately for this poor blogger, they (and of course the Central Character) are also discussed by the other three gospel writers, so they can wait for a later post. Today I can focus on the only two mentioned exclusively by Matthew: Pilate’s wife and the resurrected wanderers.

This afternoon I finished “Alex Cross’s Trial” by James Patterson, a beach-reading novel about a lynch-happy Mississippi town of 100 years ago.  (If “lynching” and “beach-reading” in the same sentence doesn’t speak to the pervasiveness of sin, I don’t know what does.) Everyone in Eudora knows the Klan is lynching negroes whose only offense is offending fearful, hating white supremacists.

And so it is with Pilate’s wife, who tells her husband, “have nothing to do with that innocent man.” How casually she says it – “an innocent man.” She doesn’t need to persuade Pilate. He already knows. The First Couple and everyone else in town knew Jesus was innocent. It was understood. Like the former slave asserting his God-given freedom, his only crime was being true to an identity that his twisted world refused to accept. Their loyalties were to self, family, riches, power, tribe – not to justice and righteousness.

By happy contrast the holy dead are raised in freedom. What a wild story. Jesus dies, the earth shakes, the veil of the temple is broken – and as Matthew only tells, people emerge from their tombs and walk around, freed from death and the power of sin. After the resurrection on the third day, they enter the City. Is it Spirit-powered “performance art” prophecy, foretelling the Great Day when the dead in Christ shall rise? Whatever else it is, it’s a powerful sign that, as the centurion said, “surely this man was a son of God.”


1 comment:

  1. Friends - Below please see thoughtful comment on this post from our brother Tim Steiner of Isle La Motte.....

    The resurrection of "many" of the saints of the Old Testament at the crucifixion is, for me, among the most bizarre of NT doctrines. I have never heard any prophecy commentator or dispensationalist chartmaker explain it to satisfaction or even acknowledge it, but there it is.

    Interesting, Matthew seems to say they came to life at the earthquake which accompanied the crucifixion, but did not come out of their graves (stone sepulchers?) until Resurrection Morning when they went into Jerusalem to show themselves to "many" also. What did they do in the intervening time? Did they sit in the sepulchers, now mocking death and utterly unafraid to sit casually in the former death chambers, and in no hurry at all, chatting joyfully with one another, waiting for the appointed moment to come out and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord? Who are these "many bodies of the saints"? David, Bathsheba, Isaiah, Abraham, all the prophets, priests, and kings who served the LORD, common believers of Israel? If Christ went down to Paradise in Hades, where he promised to meet the thief on the cross who believed on this very same day, to also lead captivity captive and release the saints in Paradise, henceforward to be with Him in Paul said, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" in this new dispensation, then why did these saints get sent up, fully resurrected, ahead of time? Why are they resurrected when the "rest" of the saints leaving Paradise for Heaven with the Lord are still in soul form and not yet resurrected, though delivered to Heaven?

    When we looked over the Transfiguration, I noted that there were five men with Jesus, three earthly mortals, one heavenly mortal who had passed through death, and one who had not, but, now are these "many" also accompanying them as a kind of firstfruits of resurrection? Are these "witnesses" to the souls in Heaven of the nature of the Resurrection? Are they a Wonder to Heaven's souls too? But are they as "at home" with one another as a "dead" Moses and a living Elijah, talking over events with the Incarnate Lord just before his Passion?

    How big is the First Resurrection? It must surely be "first" in pre-eminence and not merely a numerical notation, though it is that too, but it does seem to have many "installments." If Elijah does not return to die as one of the two prophets of Revelation, then, perhaps, his catching up in the fiery chariot transformed him into resurrection? We don't know. Then, there is this resurrection. Next, the one when the dead and living are caught up in Christ at the rapture of the Church; finally, a special dispensation of the resurrection of the tribulation saints who have died for their testimony before the Beast. All these are of "the First Resurrection." For the Second Resurrection is only to judgment and damnation.

    How little we do know, but holy speculation can be worthy of meditation and edifying. For some time now, I have comforted myself over all the errors of the church and of myself with I Cor 8:1, "If any man thinks he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought," but recently the Spirit had me look with revelation at the following verse, "But if any man love God, the same is known of him."

    That is sufficient. And the rest is meat for Wonder. And "we shall understand it better bye and bye." "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."