I do not believe in coincidence. I believe we live in a universe created by a God who did not simply wind it up and let it go but placed upon the universe and all creation certain specific laws which govern how the universe and all creation work. There are absolutes which cannot be broken, violated or ignored. Mathematics is absolute. Two plus two always equals four. Truth is absolute. I also believe God created people in His image as independently thinking, feeling and acting beings who have decided to ignore and rebel against Him. As an eternal being we, as temporal beings, cannot completely know or understand Him. We can know Him. We can understand Him. But we will never completely know and understand Him. He created us like Him so we might have a relationship with Him. This does not mean we are god but have the tools needed to see the evidence of His actions, hear Him when He speaks and act accordingly. We do not act as those who are like Him but demand He be like us. We are not in control. He is in control.
I have no desire to enter into the circular arguments which surround predestination and election. We cannot know how God knows what He knows but that He knows what He knows. We cannot understand why He does what He does but that He does what He does. He has revealed Himself to us and us to ourselves. Because He is God He knows intimately and wholly everything there is to know. Because we are temporal created we can know only what we can see, the evidence of what has happened and what is revealed extrapolating what from what we see, the evidence and revelation truth. If we are honest with ourselves we will see our fighting against accepting the obvious. God is, we are, and there is a rift between us and God and between each individual. Relationships are broken especially the people’s relationship with God.
Everything which happens has purpose and is directed by God to bring each person into a more intimate relationship with Him. Jesus’ death and resurrection was directed by God and has the purpose of bringing each person created by God into an intimate relationship with Him which they do not have. His resurrection and the absolute evidence of his life, death and resurrection points to God’s desire for relationship with those created in His image. This may sound like a stretch in logic but then we have not fully examined all of the evidence. We have not examined the evidence of the ancients talking about and predicting His coming and death and resurrection. Here is too much evidence to ignore the fact they knew God was doing something. We have not examined the life, works and words of Jesus but he did live and spoke and acted. There is too much evidence to ignore. We have not fully examined the truth of his resurrection but it happened. There are too many people who saw him die, knew he died, then saw him alive. All of the evidence points to the direction of God in his life, death and resurrection.
We have examined the evidence of his death, though not exhaustively. He was a man and he was put to death by professional executioners. All of the evidences says he was real, alive and then dead. All of the evidence given is trustworthy. His resurrection is the touchstone and benchmark of truth. In order to be raised he must first be alive and capable of dying and then die. All of the historical evidence of how he died is trustworthy. Yet, we now are faced with the fantastic related by only one of the witnesses. What Matthew relates is incongruous with what has been happening.
Four things happen in conjunction with the death of Jesus. We can explain two of them based on the third. We can explain the last based only on the resurrection of Jesus.
There was an earthquake. Jerusalem was situated on top of a mountain. We might call it a hill. A major fault line runs from the tip of the Sinai Peninsula up the Jordan valley. Major earthquakes hit the area every 80 to 100 years. Smaller earthquakes are common. When Matthew’s document records an earthquake there should be no surprise. “And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” [Matthew 27:51 ESV]. Two things happened, probably in conjunction with the earthquake. First, the curtain separating the Holy of holies in the temple was torn from top to bottom. “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” [Matthew 27:51 ESV]. Second, many tombs were opened. These tombs were cut into the side of the mountains with heavy stones rolled into place to cover and block the entrances to them. “The tombs also were opened” [Matthew 27:52 ESV]. Earthquakes break things. Especially, mad-made things.
Now, we are faced with the improbable. Those tombs contained people who had died. Matthew tells us specifically, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” [Matthew 27:52 ESV]. We do not know how long these were dead. We do not know when they were raised or whether they went on to live for a long or short time only to die again. “Raised” means to awaken, to be roused from a sleep. People do not put those who are asleep in a tomb and roll a stone in front to keep them in. They put those who are dead in a tomb and roll a stone in front to keep people out and the stench of death in. Some people who had died were brought back to life after Jesus’ death and probably when he was raised. Matthew gives us a timeline stating “and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” [Matthew 27:53 ESV]. He identifies them as “saints” or those who are morally blameless and consecrated to God. Notice, they appeared to many which means they made themselves known to people. There is no evidence denying this statement. There is no evidence denying the curtain was torn or the tombs were opened in conjunction with an earthquake.
Jesus’ resurrection is the profoundest evidence for the certainty of all else written by Matthew. Nothing about what happened is coincidence. All of what happened is directed and has purpose.