More Victorious in Death than in Life - The Warrior's Journey®

More Victorious in Death than in Life

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”  (Matthew 27:50-53) 

This passage has puzzled commentators for centuries. That there was an earthquake and that graves were opened immediately following Christ’s death is undeniable from the text. But when were many of the saints raised – at the moment of his death or at  

His resurrection? I’d like to suggest the following interpretation from the text and Matthew’s purpose in recording it.                                        

I believe Matthew is drawing a parallel here between Jesus and a figure from the Old Testament. Do you remember the story of Samson in Judges 13-16? Samson was one of the deliverers God raised up to save His people from the Philistines. Unlike most of the other “judges” whom God raised up – who were prophets and military commanders – Samson was unique. When the Spirit of God came upon him, he became incredibly strong and with his bare hands slew a lion and single-handedly killed a thousand soldiers.   

But, through the treachery of another, Samson was captured, blinded, and bound in chains.  Then, at the moment of his worst humiliation – in the Temple of Dagon – Samson cried out to God. He stretched out his hands against the pillars of the temple and toppled them, dying in the process. But he killed more Philistines in his death than in his life (Judges 16:31). 

Jesus is also likened to a “strong man” (Luke 11:21-22). Except that His power was displayed in casting out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead.  The gospels record Jesus raising the dead at least three times during His life (The widow’s son – Luke 7:11-17; Jairus’ daughter – Luke 8:49-56; Lazarus – John 11:17-44).  Yet here, when He seemed at His weakest, Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross, died, and raised more from the dead in His death than in His life. Indeed, as Samson dealt a far greater blow to the Philistines in his death, Jesus dealt a far greater defeat to Satan by His death than by His life (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14). 


  • If Jesus scored His greatest victory by dying, what does that mean for us when we face persecution and death? 
  • When Paul the apostle said, “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer,” what things was he talking about? See Romans 8:35-37. 
  • If we suffer and die for Jesus’ sake, it is not a defeat but an overwhelming victory. 

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