A I reflect upon immortality and resurrection, two memories project their images on my mind.
The first carries my thoughts back to the homeland and the mausoleum of the ancient Dukes of Hamilton. The deceptively dull exterior of this grey structure had never beckoned me very near, though born and raised within a few miles of it. Surely this old landmark deserved at least one visit.
I discovered, on the inside, marble beauty gathered from the corners of the earth by native Scots commissioned for the purpose. Great Egytian-like doors, with moulded panels portraying Bible scenes, stood heavily by. A high dome sang back an echo that made our flat rendition of “Crimond” sound amazingly musical.
But of all this, one experience stands out. It is that of standing on a sunken patio and looking back and upward, to three faces carved out of stone. One portrayed a strong man’s countenance, lined and gathered into knots of care. The centre carving was strikingly the same face, but in the slack repose of death. But it was the third which captured my attention; again, unmistakably, the same countenance, strong as ever, indeed stronger. But gone were the care furrows, gone even the laugh wrinkles. The face was clear and smooth as a youth’s yet fully mature in manhood. The eyes uplifted, but not too far, looking up and away, appeared almost liquid and alive. This is Immortality.
But it is really only stone, cold hard stone. A man’s best effort, a masterpiece of imagery, but still only well formed rock.
The other memory is in black and white, a newspaper photo in an old issue of our home-town daily. This close-up shows a small clump of crocuses. The winter snows are almost gone and the warm sun has impelled the sleeping life out of it’s dark bed. The striking thing is that this little bunch of fragile life has broken through a few inches of black-top driveway to find it’s attraction in the clean fresh sunny air above.
Man’s representations of the immortal are still but the products of his own frailty. God’s manifestations of awakened life laugh at man’s impediments and soar irresistably upwards.
It seems that religious reasoners follow a few well-worn paths of ingenuity. Some propound what we might call, “The Swoon Theory.” That is, they say Jesus did not die, but swooned, and in the cool of the grave, He revived and came forth. Others follow the oldest fabrication of all on the subject, “The Stealing Theory.” That is, Jesus did die, but His disciples stole away His body and said He had risen from the dead. A more modern inventiveness spawns “The Spirit Theory.” This asserts that Jesus did die, was buried, but that which rose from the grave was gaseous, spirit, but not body. Still others, looking for any escape from the mighty and eternal involvements of the resurrection suggest a “Supposition Theory.” They say, He did die; He did not rise, and that another impersonated Him and all were deceived.
The blasphemous imaginations of man know no bounds. These sad delusions are but the result of denying the veracity and inspiration of the Word of God.
“Oh who would leave the Fountain-head,
To drink the muddy stream,
Where man has mixed what God hath said,
With every dreamers dream”.
What then is necessary to establish the reality of the resurrection, is ample proof of two great facts: (1) He actually died on the cross (2) He personally appeared, bodily, alive again.
That He actually died, was assured by none less than His enemies. Those bent on His destruction surely would not leave the scene of execution until He was safely and completely disposed of.
His execution was carried out by a band of the masters of the grisly art, the Roman soldiery.
That He had died so soon by crucifixion was a matter of marvel to Pilate (Mark 15;44), who sought definite confirmation from a responsible eye-witness, the centurion himself.
The Scriptures clearly state the fact of His death as well as the reason for it. The numerous references are easily located by the use of a simple Bible Concordance.
He Himself declared, by revelation, the fact of His death to John on the Isle of Patmos, “I was dead … “ (Rev. 1:18).
How much less credible is the “Swoon Theory” than the simple scriptural record of the resurrection. Contemplate, if you can, a man so far gone in a swoon as to be thought dead, bound (not just “wrapped” but “tied”) in linen clothes and weighted by “about a hundred pound weight” of spices (John 19:39, 40), with a cloth tightly wrapped around His face covering His mouth and nose. Try to imagine this one, stirring from the verge of death and doing what a Samson in his full strength could never have done, breaking free of this weight of solid binding. No, it was not by physical strength or ingenuity that the Lord left the tomb, but as the Scriptures plainly declare “… by the working of (God’s) mighty power…” (Eph. 1:19-20). We cannot but conclude that Jesus died and was buried.
Was then His body stolen and secreted away by His disciples? Who first thought of this possibility? None other than His avowed enemies, the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were thoroughly prepared for this eventuality. On appeal to Pilate, they were given guards and the authority to make the tomb “ … as sure as ye can …” “So,” ads the record of Matthew 27; 62-66, “they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch.”
If ever the disciples had thought to remove that precious body, they had neither the power nor the opportunity to do so.
What then rose from the dead? Was it indeed the gases of corrupting flesh? God forbid such blasphemous thoughts. Yet this very lie from hell is propounded widely by those who deny the clear record of Scripture. Hear the Words of the Lord Himself, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … He spake of the temple of His body. When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them…” (John 2:19-22).
Yes! It was “Jesus Himself” who drew near on the road to Emmaus. He was no impersonator. They had no hallucinations. His was the real presence of the Risen Lord (Luke 24:15). It was “Jesus Himself” who showed them His pierced hands and feet, the unmistakable proof of His identity (Luke 24:39). It was this sight that drove Thomas to exclaim, “My Lord and My God.”
These tangible evidences, some have suggested were hallucinations. Is it conceivable that the disciples could be the victims of frequent hallucinations, in different places, at different hours of the day, all beginning on the same day and ending on the same day over a month later? Could it be that similar hallucinations affected on one occasion more than five hundred people (1 Cor. 15.)
How much more appealing, how much more credible is the clear statement of Scripture! —”And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead: and He was seen many days” (Acts 13:29-30).
HALLELUJAH, CHRIST AROSE!!