As Jesus rode a colt down the road from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, "the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said of Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' 'I tell you,' He replied, 'if they keep quiet the stones will cry out,'" (Luke 19:37-40) Indeed, all of creation seems to respond to Jesus in amazing ways.
The four gospels recount the way creation responded during Passion Week. We learn that creation itself recognized the King of kings. Yet many in Israel did not realize who Jesus was or they would have never crucified him. Rick Renner, author of Paid in Full, says this about Jesus and His relationship with creation: "I find it amazing that although Israel rejected Jesus and the Roman authorities crucified Him, creation always recognized Him! During His life on this earth, the waves obeyed Him; water turned to wine at His command; fishes and bread multiplied at His touch; the atoms in water solidified so He could walk across it; and the wind ceased when He spoke to it. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus' death was a traumatic event for creation. The earth shook, trembled, and shuddered at the death of its Creator, for it instantly felt its lose."
The writers of the gospels along with several historians describe the darkness that covered the earth during the three hours (from noon until 3:00 p.m.) that Jesus was crucified. Simultaneous to the time when Jesus was being crucified, the high priest would have been in the temple courts slaughtering the unblemished lambs for Passover. One lamb for every household was slaughtered. The sacrifices of the lambs would have been finished about three hours later when Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) When Jesus gave up His spirit a violent earthquake occurred.
Here is how Matthew describes what happened to the earth at Jesus' death. "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split." (Matthew 27:51) Rick Renner explains that the word "rock" is the Greek word petra which means huge, large rocks. They were violently torn apart. Likewise the veil of the temple. God Himself was making a way for us to enter the Holy of Holies.
And yes, creation responded when Jesus rose from the dead. Matthew 28:2 tells us "There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it." Rick Renner explains: "Just as creation shook when its Creator died on the Cross, now the earth exploded at the resurrection of Jesus."
The reality of the death of Jesus, His blood spilled on the Cross and the glorious resurrection of Jesus requires a response from us. In Romans 8 Paul talks about how we are heirs of God who will share in His sufferings and His glory. He says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed...We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:19, 22)
We must join with creation in our displays of power and love that reveal our Maker to the world. Rich Renner puts it this way: "Just as the earth quaked when its Creator died on the Cross, the earth exploded when Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father. Now creation is waiting for you to walk in the reality of the victory Jesus purchased for you with His own blood."
Joan E. Mathias