Lenten Midweek 3
Lenten Midweek III: “The Miracle of the Splitting Rocks” March 30, 2011 Text: Matt. 27:51c: “…and the rocks were split” (ESV). Beloved in the Lord, the creation groans (Rom. 8:22). The creation groans because, through no fault of its own, but because of man’s sin, this creation has been subjected to futility (v. 20). Even unbelievers have some grasp of this groaning, and this is why they have this sense of impending environmental catastrophe and have created the false religion of environmentalism. There is a point to be made here: Man’s sin damages the creation and subjects it to futility. Creation groans. It groans as it waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God, for the Last Day and the great Judgment when the creation will be delivered from its subjection and created anew, a new heaven and a new earth, where only the saints live in truth and purity. Creation groans because, unlike unbelieving man, it knows its Creator. And creation, even in the midst of groaning, praises its Maker, its Lord. When our Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people sang His praises. So much so that the Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39). Jesus responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (v. 40). For when man does not recognize the Creator of heaven and earth, creation must bear Him witness. St. Paul writes: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). This is called the natural knowledge of God. Unbelievers are without excuse because the creation intrinsically bears witness to the Creator and praises Him by functioning according to His design and will. When man keeps silent, the very stones cry out. Beloved in the Lord, in the moment of Jesus’ death, not only was the curtain of the Temple torn in two from top to bottom, not only was there a great earthquake… Rocks split apart! You can’t even imagine the sound. The stones were crying out. For man was not praising. The Jews, Jesus’ own countrymen, were accusing and mocking and sentencing to death. The Romans were pronouncing unjust judgment and scorning and jeering. The disciples were denying and cursing and fleeing. And from Adam to the present day and on into the future, until the very Last Day, our lips are filled with all that is not praise, all that is unholy and unclean. But in the death of Jesus Christ, the very stones cry out. The rocks are split apart. They cannot endure the death of their Creator and His act of redemption without singing out loudly. They explode in testimony of Him. The old creation is passing away. Behold, Jesus makes all things new. But as with all the miracles we’ve considered in this series so far, we have here the physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. The preaching of Jesus’ cross continues to split the rocks. It splits our hardened hearts of stone and makes them into new hearts of flesh. “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29). “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). The preaching of the cross converts us. The preaching of the cross crushes our rocky hearts and makes them new. The preaching of the cross leads these unbelieving stones, you and I, to cry out in praise and confession of our Creator and Redeemer, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The death of the Son of God on the cross is the decisive event in human history. It is the decisive event for all creation. It is the decisive event for you. For the death of Jesus Christ saves you. The death of Jesus Christ makes it possible for you to believe. The death of Jesus Christ makes it possible for your lips to be opened and filled with praise of the one true God. The death of Jesus Christ marks the end of the old fallen creation, and the beginning of the new. We will see it in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the firstborn of the new creation. But for now, the creation groans, and you groan, and the Spirit groans before the Father on your behalf. Beloved, the Father has heard the groaning, and His answer is the death of His Son Jesus Christ. Contrary to all human reason, at the death of our Redeemer, the stones and the Church explode in praise of Him who died, but who now lives, even Jesus Christ our Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  The theme and many of the thoughts contained in this sermon come from Miracles of Lent (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011).