[This post is based on ideas presented on the sabbath during Passover week 2010.]
As Jesus neared his last breath on the cross at Calvary, some amazing things happened. At noon, a thick darkness settled over Jerusalem, which let up only when Jesus died three hours later. An earthquake takes place, signalling two more simultaneous, incredible events.
One is the raising of an unspecified number of dead “saints.” Their tombs are apparently opened at that moment, but they do not show themselves as alive until Jesus is resurrected three days later.
The second is that the 60-foot-high curtain between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies in the Temple is ripped open from top to bottom, allowing all priests to see the Holy of Holies. This honour was previously reserved for the High Priest once per year on the Day of Atonement.
I wonder whether there is symbolism beyond what is described in the Book of Hebrews that a Jewish person of that day might have perceived in these events. For instance, what would the parted Red Sea have looked like to an Israelite walking along its bottom? Would he or she have seen the sea part like a curtain to allow their passage? Could there have been a symbolism of escaping “Egypt” en route to the Promised Land? I do not see that I can necessarily prove this, but I do wonder if this is a valid symbolic meaning of the torn temple curtain, access to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life.
There seems to be a sense of an opening of the gates of the graves at the time of the opened curtain, since the opening of the tombs is simultaneous. The message seems to be that Jesus’ death opens the passage from death to life. They seem to make an appearance on the day that begins the 50-day countdown to Pentecost – Jesus’ resurrection day. This is apparently also the day that tradition assigns to the crossing of the Red Sea, as noticed by The Genesis Files and Wikipedia. Again, this does not constitute proof, but it certainly makes me wonder.
At any rate, to understand that Jesus died so that others may live is not the worst way to view symbolically the events of Jesus’ last Passover. That he lives again gives us the hope of experiencing our own resurrection at his return if we remain in him.