Each Gospel writer told the story of Jesus from various perspectives, but all focused on His death. Matthew alone, though, records the opening of the graves after the temple veil was torn.
Read Matthew 27:49-54. What is the meaning of these events? What hope do they point to for us?
Jesus died right after the mob, in ignorance of Jesus’ real words, mocked Him about having Elijah come to save Him. Their mockery was another powerful but sad example of how Jesus has been misunderstood by many of His own people.
Matthew then records that the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The symbolism is unmistakable: a new era in salvation history had begun. The sacrificial services, for so long pointing to Jesus, were no longer necessary. The old earthly type was now replaced by something so much better.
Read Hebrews 8:1-6. What do these texts say that help us to understand what happened to the earthly sanctuary system and what has replaced it?
Matthew records not only the tearing of the veil but the rocks splitting, the graves opening, and some of the dead being raised—events that could happen only because of what Jesus had accomplished by dying as our Substitute for sin. So here in Matthew, we can see things happening that the old system itself could never have caused. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4, NKJV). Of course, only Jesus could take away sins, and for us the great result, the great promise, of Jesus’ taking away our sins is the resurrection from death. Without that promise, we have nothing (see 1 Cor. 15:13-14, 1 Cor 15:19). In these early resurrections (we don’t know how many), we can see the hope and promise of our resurrection at the end of this age.