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THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
“And He saith unto them, be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” Mark 16:6, 7
It is indeed an event of very great significance, my friends, that the stone rejected and despised is now the cornerstone, and whenever we direct our thoughts to the resurrection of Christ, we may well join together and sing: “How wondrous are the ways of God, unfathomed and unknown.”
On that memorable day when Prince Emanuel was raised from the dead by His Father, the stone which the builders refused became the headstone of the corner. Moreover, He arose by His own strength, breaking the chains of death and the bands of hell. And whereas He did not die for Himself but for His people, so He also arose for them. He arose for their justification; He arose for their redemption; and He arose for their happiness and joy,
With the help of the Lord we will consider:
1. The joy of the women, and
2. The command given to the women.
I. With the love of God in their hearts these women had gone to the grave when it was still dark, to anoint Christ and to pay Him their last respects. Along the entire way the problem had perplexed them; “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?” But when they came to the grave they noticed that the stone was already rolled away. And when they went into the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe sitting at the right, and they were very much amazed. Now, what was the first thing this young man, this angel, this messenger from heaven, said to the women? “Be not affrighted!”
The watchmen did not receive a word of comfort, but these trembling women did.
They were affrighted; they were disappointed; they were deeply moved. Their hope and courage sank even lower than before. My friends, here you have the soul experience of the people of God in this world. There are ever so many people who never have any doubts in their hearts as to whether this or that experience is truly of God. Whatever takes place, they always see it in the right way and promptly use it to a good end, as they think. But it is not so with God’s people. The women were astonished and affrighted; they did not know what to think. But, “be not affrighted,” says the angel to them. There was no need for them to fear. Why not? Because,
The Christ whom they sought was risen again for their justification, for their salvation and redemption. The Father had glorified him and had given him a name which is above every name, and this the angel will presently tell the women. He begins by saying: “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified.” What great knowledge angels have! Do you suppose angels are all-knowing? Indeed not! But they are not ignorant, either. An ancient confession states that angels possess greater knowledge than mankind. The angels which kept their first estate are familiar with what takes place in heaven, but also on the earth. They take careful note of what takes place in the hearts of God’s people. But also in heaven careful note was taken of the condition of these women.
In these moments the women did not understand and they could not believe. Their faith could not be constantly in exercise any more than any other child of God. If God’s people could always believe, none would ever complain: “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God.”
Note that the angel says: “Ye seek Jesus.” He does not ask them, but he tells them right out, “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth;” — that despised one, he who was so deeply debased, whom you loved so while he was on this earth; he who found you; (for all seeking souls are found by Him). O, these women at the grave were united to Christ with such unbreakable ties of love! They adored Him with their whole heart. They had known Him not only during the time of his suffering, but also before this time, when for three years he went about doing good and preaching the gospel. But besides this, they had looked upon him to the last moment of his life on earth, when he was crucified on Golgotha, and buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea.
“Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified;” — that same Jesus satisfied Divine justice by his death on the cross, he removed the curse of the law, and triumphed over all the powers of hell. What a blessing if it could be said of us, “Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified!” This is so much better than to seek to be a great Christian! O, to be united to him by faith! Then Christ is the joy of our heart, the life of our life. This is all of grace, wrought by the Holy Spirit in our heart; for truly, how shall we ever by our own efforts obtain love to Christ in our hearts? how shall we ever desire that humbled Christ or long for that Christ who was crucified? We shall love him only when the Holy Spirit infuses this love into our hearts, and reveals him to us as indispensable for our soul’s salvation.
Easter has again come and gone. The whole world celebrates Easter. There have been church services night after night. Holy Communion is administered all week. And wherever you go you see Easter lilies, and such items as Easter bunnies and the like. To most people this is Easter! How few are they of whom it can be said, “They seek Jesus.” Are we one of those few?
These mourning women, on the other hand, sought for Jesus. They sought the right object, but what was wrong in their seeking? They looked for him in the wrong place: an empty grave; they sought for him where he was not to be found. We, too, may seek for Christ where he is never to be found: in the works of the law, in ourselves, our experiences and pleasant frames. How many say: “O, if it were only as in days past! Then I was so happy and joyful, but now it seems as if all this is gone.” But this is contrary to what the Apostle teaches us: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
How wonderful are the ways in which God leads his people! You would say, these women had come to the very end of their path. They would take the sweet spices to the grave and anoint Jesus, and that would then be the end, in their opinion. But then, after they had performed this final act, this very last thing, then the Lord Jesus stood ready to reveal himself to them.
Observe here, my friends, that the ways of God pass as it were through death into the impossible. We have another example of this in the travelers to Emmaus. “We trusted,” said they, “that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” They did not appear in a mood for company, but rather seemed to prefer to walk on alone in their sorrow, and have no one pay attention to them. They say, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?” What a blessing for them that Jesus did not permit them to go on without him! He asks: “What things? I should like to know what it is you are so busily talking about.” To such sorrowing and despairing ones, in whose hearts all hope has been cut off, Christ reveals himself.
There are three things which take place in the hearts of God’s saints: they are cut off from the old Adam; they are ingrafted into Christ; and they are restored into the favor and fellowship of God. These run parallel to the three things which took place in the life of the Surety. He, too, was cut off, as we read in Isaiah 53. “He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” At the resurrection from the dead he was brought back into the land of the living, and he was also accepted by the Father, according to Acts 3:21, where it is said of him, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things.”
For the people of God it is grievous and painful to be cut off and to find that their own efforts lead to nothing but death. Salvation is of the Lord. The entire way of salvation is incomprehensible for the natural understanding. Try as he will, all his efforts to understand it will fail.
Now regarding the women, did they ever expect to see Christ again? No, indeed! As we read in John 20:9, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” They did not understand, but for them all their hopes had come to an end. And now, when in such a condition, the angel declares to them: “He is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.” As though he would say, “Come and see, here at this place he lay; he was not stolen, no indeed; but he arose from the dead as he so often had said before.”
Is it any wonder, my friends, that they departed quickly from the sepulcher, as we read in Matthew 28, with fear and great joy? But let which leads us also to consider, in the second place, the command which was given to them by the angel. “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.”
Does this mean that the women become ministers here? Not in order to preach on a pulpit. Not only these women, but many others, too, when converted, desire to proclaim far and wide the wonders of God’s grace. They are filled with the same spirit which induced David to exclaim in Psalm 66: “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.”
The women, then, are commissioned to announce the resurrection of Christ; they are instructed to inform the eleven disciples, who are at present wandering about the earth in utter confusion, that the Lord is risen indeed. And Peter receives special mention. Why was this necessary? First of all because Peter needed it most. Peter was so deeply fallen. Three times he had denied Christ! But he was not permitted to continue long on this wrong path, for the same moment he began to curse and to swear, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And the Bible tells us: “Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” O, what grief and sorrow that man must have had! Those were sad days for him when Christ was in the grave. If there is one man who felt Satan’s fiery darts within his bosom, this certainly was Peter. Fears of having sinned against the Holy Ghost would have oppressed him, as well as the conviction that for him no more grace was to be had, and no possibility of ever being restored into the favor of God. O what snares held him fast during those three days and nights! They were no doubt sleepless nights, and days of aimless wandering about. However, you may be sure that he had moments when his heart cried:
“Turn to me, Thy grace impart,
I am desolate indeed;
Great the troubles of my heart;
Save Thou me, O Lord, I plead.”
In all his sorrow and want he cried unto God; it could not be otherwise; and he implored the Lord to open heaven to him again.
Sunday morning came, and we find him on his way to the sepulcher, on hearing the message from Mary that the Lord had been taken away, and that no one knew where they had laid him. Though he greatly desired to see the Lord, yet he soon lagged behind John. Dare we not advance this as proof that Peter was truly humbled, and that because of his sense of sin and guilt he came on behind? But, truly, the love in his soul impelled him, too, to seek for Christ, and accordingly we find him as well as John within the sepulcher. How their hearts must have beat as they came to the place where the Lord lay! But to what depths of despair would Peter have come, if instead of an empty grave he would have really found a dead Christ there?
But now Peter comes to an empty grave, and, without finding Christ, he returns again to his own home. The angel therefore tells the women: “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee.”
It is evident from Luke 24:34 that the Lord Jesus appeared to Peter the first day. We read there that the eleven tell the travelers to Emmaus: “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” Did it ever seem strange to you that the Bible relates to us the appearance to Mary Magdalene, to the women, to the travelers to Emmaus, and to the disciples in the evening, but not to Peter? Why do you suppose this is? Was it forgotten? Indeed not, my friends, but words cannot describe that which took place at that meeting of Christ with Peter. It was truly indescribable!
Some experiences in the life of God’s people may serve as a small example. If heaven is opened to them in a special manner; if they are overcome with the eternal love and grace of God; —then they do not see anyone, but they are alone with God. These are choice moments in the life of God’s people, moments when God reveals Himself unto them. If you were to encounter them at such times, would they be able to utter one word? I dare say they would not. Lost in admiration, their heart overwhelmed with the eternal wonder of Divine mercy and grace, they would have no words to describe that which went on in their souls. We have an instance of this in the life of Jacob, in Genesis 46, when he met his son Joseph after seventeen long years. What does the Bible say regarding this? “And Joseph presented himself unto his father; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.” Not a word was spoken.
This is only a poor comparison at best. For Jacob and Joseph had had no quarrels or troubles together, and both were but mortal men. But in this case the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, the Surety of the Covenant, who died for his Church; while Peter was the man who had sinned so grievously. He had added bitter drops to the cup which Christ had to drink, and had increased his sorrow.
It was not until Christ’s appearance to Peter at the sea of Tiberias that Peter was restored to office, but at this meeting, of which the Scriptures are silent, Peter was restored as a child. It was there that he was accepted again; it was there that he, as a disobedient child, who had forfeited all, received such tokens of God’s eternal love as to overwhelm his soul; there he was kissed and embraced, and there his heart overflowed with love to Christ.
We can imagine that when Peter heard the message from the women, directed not only to the disciples, but to him in particular, it was as good news from a far country, and as cooling streams to a thirsty soul. He had expected, if ever he and the Lord Jesus were to meet again, that the Lord would not give him so much as one look. But instead, the message is now brought to him: “Tell his disciples, and Peter!”
The other disciples had left him, too. He had stood alone at Gabbatha and before Caiaphas. But now, after he has risen, he sends them all a special message. O the love of Christ that passes knowledge! It is indeed unfathomable, incomprehensible, a love which many waters cannot quench. We are unfaithful and wretched and miserable. If we get one view of our vile and corrupt nature, it will be no wonder to us if God were to leave us and never look upon us again. Consider, in contrast, the faithfulness and love of Christ. He was not only the good shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, but he is ever mindful of them, also on this first day after he arose, for he appeared to them no less than five times. Again we see here what abundant labors Christ bestows upon his people, and that salvation is the work of God and him alone. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the ending.
We have seen, then, that the women were commissioned to tell the Lord’s disciples, and Peter in particular, of his resurrection. They are instructed to tell them “that He goeth before them into Galilee; there shall they see Him, as He said unto them.” The disciples are to return to Galilee, to the same place where Jesus had found them, and where he had called them.
Thus it is quite evident from this part of the history of the resurrection that it is one thing to receive a message from Christ by means of an angel or otherwise, and another thing to meet Christ personally. After the women have received the message, it is stated, they trembled and were amazed, and it is almost uniformly stated later on that when it was told the others that Jesus was risen, “They believed not.” O, God’s people can hear much and see much, and enjoy much; but only the person of Christ can perfect their joy. In fact, the more they attain to the knowledge of Christ without his personal revelation to them, the greater their want, and the greater becomes the void in their soul. They have no rest until they have Christ for their portion.
There are some among us who will no doubt say yea and Amen to this. They have often heard the wonderful Easter message: that Christ not only died for his own, but also arose for his own, and accordingly will also be glorified in his own. Christ not only triumphed over sin, the grave and the devil, but also over fear, ignorance, wrong thoughts of God. He came conquering and to conquer. But without an actual application of these truths to the heart they find that their conflicts increase, and the enemy attacks them the more often. They certainly assent to the truth, but find themselves no farther than they were twenty or thirty years ago. They often ask: Shall I ever see his face? Will the time ever come that he will declare unto me: “Behold me, behold me!” They inquire: “When shall I look again toward God’s holy temple?” They long for the day and the hour when their bands may be broken, when they may see the king in his beauty, and truly believe that Christ cares for them, and, which is more, also arose for them.
My friends, I hope your desires after Christ may become as great as that of the women, and your want of him as unbearable. When the separation from him becomes too great to bear, then it pleases Christ to reveal himself in the heart; and when that takes place unspeakable joy fills the soul. Now then, when you think about Easter, and ponder on the history of Christ’s resurrection, does a prayer ascend in your heart that Christ may arise for you, and as a triumphant Savior reveal himself to you? Did you come to church crying and longing for the hour and the moment when Christ would manifest himself in your heart? Experiences and happy moments will prove to be a bed that is too short and a covering that is too narrow. Only then shall we find true joy and happiness, when Christ in his eternal glory is revealed in our hearts. He must say: “Peace be unto you.”
My unconverted fellow-traveler to eternity: it is still the day of grace. There is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. The door of grace is still open. Christ has bruised the head of Satan. He is the Almighty One.
O, if you are bound with a thousand chains, as it were, so that you must declare: “I cannot believe that there is any one so wretched and miserable as I. I find myself hemmed in on all sides. O, that I had never seen the light of day!” Consider, the Father has laid help upon One that is mighty. Christ arose from the dead. Though you are sunken very low, there is yet hope. Salvation is still possible for the greatest of sinners, for the most miserable. “The meek will he teach his way.”
In Jerusalem there were many whose hands dripped with blood; they were the ones who had killed the Lord Christ. But at Pentecost, many of those same people cry out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” On that day a great multitude of these very people were washed and cleansed in the blood of Christ, in fact, three thousand in one day. My friends, that same God still lives today! Do you need him?
Congregation! That which is impossible with man is possible with God. He speaks and it is done; he commands and it stands fast. May it please Him to uncover his mighty arm for those who are helpless and have no power to believe. Christ arose from the grave; he overcame death and by his power raises up to a new life.
When Christ comes he does not reprove. After he arose he went about to bless and to wipe away tears, causing his friends to rejoice. Those who meet him thus, learn that the Lord hath anointed Christ to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
People of the Lord, though you now may have times when you question whether you will ever meet him, wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. The time will soon come when the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. Then you shall see him eternally with all the redeemed, nevermore to depart, and you will glorify the Lamb for ever and ever.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 april 1968
The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 april 1968
The Banner of Truth | 20 Pagina's