The Lord Is Risen Indeed
A group of dejected men were huddled together behind closed doors. A dismal gloom had settled upon them. Theirs was an agonizing sorrow, a deep mourning. Tears flowed freely.
Recent events had left these men completely stunned. They were greatly perplexed. What did it all mean? The One who, they had thought, “should have redeemed Israel,” had not many hours ago been seized by His enemies, subjected to inhuman indignities, and put to a shameful death. They had expected Him to establish a kingdom, but now His body lay in a borrowed tomb, sealed and guarded. His enemies were elated. He would, they were saying, give them no more trouble —they at last had Him out of their way. And to these sorrowing men, who had been His followers, it all looked like a resounding defeat, a death-blow to their fondest hopes.
But suddenly they were startled, electrified. Some women of their acquaintance broke in on them, highly excited, breathless. “We’ve been at the sepulchre,” said one, “the stone has been rolled from it! It’s empty! Angels are there. They say the Lord has risen … RISEN!”
No news should have been more cheering. But, strange as it seems, they did not believe it. The report was fantastic. They could not imagine the possibility of a resurrection. So the good news, even when confirmed by other witnesses, was dismissed as incredible.
But these men were soon to be convinced, and that most effectively. The One whom they had been mourning suddenly appeared (Locked doors did not bar Him). He terrified them, for they took Him for a ghost. But they were quickly assured. “Why are ye troubled?” He said, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I myself: handle Me and see… !” Then He called for food, and ate before them. Eight days later they were together again. Present this time was a disciple who had missed the first meeting. He was most adamant in his refusal to believe what the others told him. But he was soon persuaded, and gave vent to his joyful conviction in the exclamation “My Lord and my God!”
For forty days the risen Lord “showed Himself alive” to His Apostles “by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). About a dozen appearances are on record. The body in which He appeared was in the truest sense a REAL body — the same body in which He had previously walked in Galilee and Judea. It was substantial (“flesh and bones,” Luke 24:3940). It could be seen (John 20:20). It was tangible — could be handled (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:39; John 20:17). True, it had characteristics not previously exhibited — locked doors, for instance, were no barrier to it — but it was positively recognizable, among other things by the wounds in hands, feet and side received at Calvary.
It is surprising that the apostles had been so slow to accept the evidence of the resurrection. They had long been in intimate contact with the Lord. They had listened in wonder at His teaching, and had witnessed His many works of power. The Scriptures had intimated that He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27, 31, 13:35). He Himself had predicted it (John 2:19-21; 10:18; Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 20:19). He had, before His death, even made an appointment to meet them in Galilee after His resurrection (Matt. 26:32; 28:16; Mark 14:28; 16:7). Yet when assured that He HAD risen they did not believe it. Is it any wonder that He “upbraided them?” (Mark 16:14).
If these men were biased, as some say they were, it is surely clear that their bias, far from being in favor of the idea of a resurrection, was definitely AGAINST it. They had found the idea very hard to accept and, when finally convinced, it was only because the evidence was overwhelming, and such as must satisfy the most skeptical minds. In any court it is men such as these whose testimony is considered the most weighty.
These are the men who were to be the first witnesses to the world of the resurrection of Christ. They were competent witnesses, well able to identify the Lord, and had had opportunity to do so in the most conclusive manner. They were, too, men of good character — this no one has questioned.
“The Lord Is Risen Indeed!”
They were completely sincere, willing to suffer and even to die for their testimony. And they were by no means alone, for the resurrected Lord, on one occasion, “was seen of above five hundred brethren at once” (1 Cor. 15:6).
Soon the resurrection was being publicly proclaimed, at first not many yards from where the crucifixion and burial had taken place. Had enemies merely produced the body, the resurrection story would have been forever discredited, and Christianity would never again have been heard of. But they did not produce it, for the very simple reason that they were not able to do so. Rage and persecution were their only “argument,” — the kind of argument that men resort to when they realize that no other “defence” is left to them!
The public would want to know how the tomb came to be empty. Foreseeing this, the rulers had invented an explanation. They bribed the soldiers who had guarded the sepulchre, and had them say that the Lord’s disciples had come by night, and stolen the body while they slept. Totally unbelievable and self-contradictory! Roman soldiers did not sleep on duty, — for such neglect they would have expected to pay with their lives. Had they really been asleep, the breaking of the seal and the moving of the stone (it was “very great,” Mark 16:4), would certainly have awakened them. And if asleep how would they have known who, if anyone, had taken the body? Many later theories have been brought forward in the attempt to disprove the resurrection. Space does not permit of examining them here. Others have ably disposed of them.
Christ arose! — just as He had plainly said He would! “It was not possible that He should be holden” of death (Acts 2:24). We sing joyfully and without reservation of any kind:
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign!
He arose! He arose!
HALLELUJAH! CHRIST AROSE!”
As has often been pointed out, it is only as we admit, without question, the resurrection of Christ, that we are able to account for certain facts. Among these are:
1. The transformation of the apostles from unbelieving cowards, into bold and powerful witnesses. Such an effect presupposes a cause sufficient to account for it. The apostles themselves attributed it to the LIVING Christ.
2. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He had been an avowed, raging enemy (Acts 26:10, etc.), but suddenly became the foremost herald of the faith he had done his best to destroy. He attributed his conversion to a meeting with Christ ALIVE and glorified.
3. The triumphs of the Gospel, not only in the distant past but in our own day. To millions there has come the knowledge of salvation, a marvellous transformation in their lives, and a hope of eternal blessedness. They would unite in giving all the credit to a risen and exalted Saviour.
Of all “Christian Evidences” the resurrection is the most convincing. By it every claim of Christ is fully confirmed, and the truth of Christianity firmly established. Opponents have recognized that if it is proved no question can remain as to the possibility of any other miracle. Said one “Prove the resurrection and everything is proved.”
The resurrection attests in a most conclusive way the Deity of Christ (Rom. 1:4; Matt. 12: 38-40; John 2:18-22).
It marks His complete victory over death and the grave and over all enemies human and infernal (Romans 6:9; Acts 3:12, 15).
It demonstrates in a convincing way the great power of God (Eph. 1:19-20).
It evidences the complete sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and testifies to God’s complete satisfaction with that sacrifice as settling once for all every question that sin had raised.
It is the assurance to the believer of his full justification (Romans 4:25).
It guarantees the eventual resurrection of all who are Christ’s. The order is “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23; cf. 2 Cor. 4:14; Romans 8:11; 1 Thess. 4:14).
It is basic to all the Christian’s hopes — everything is involved with it. Apart from it the death of Christ would have no value; for if death had finally prevailed against Him His dying would mean absolutely nothing in salvation for men. Apart from the resurrection apostolic testimony concerning Him can only be considered a deception; the faith of believers is idle and not worth a straw; all of us are yet in our sins; and the case of believers who have died is eternally hopeless, — they have perished. Says Wm. Hoste “Had Christ not risen there would be no dispute today about Christianity; the thing itself would have perished in oblivion.” (See 1 Corinthians 15 for some of these conclusions.)
Enough has been said, we trust, to show that the resurrection of Christ is a vital element of the Christian faith (Romans 4:23, 24; 10:9). It lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:4) (2 Tim. 2:8). For this reason it had a very prominent place, together with the Cross, in apostolic preaching and writing. The whole framework of Christian doctrine is involved with it. Much is said in the New Testament regarding the activities and functions of the Lord Jesus after His crucifixion. We list some of them. Not one of them would be possible apart from the resurrection. Consider the list:
· His ascension and exaltation (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:3-9; Eph. 1:20-21; Rev. 3:21).
· His sovereignty and saviourhood (Acts 5:31; Romans 5:8-10).
· His giving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; John 7:39; 15:26; 16:7).
· His priesthood and advocacy (1 Tim. 2: 5, 6; Heb. 7:17, 24).
· His headship of the Church (Eph. 1:22-23).
· His Second Coming and the “rapture” of His people (Heb. 9:28; 1 Thess. 4:16, etc.).
· His kingship and universal sovereignty (Luke 1:33; Isa. 9:7).
· His sitting in judgment (Acts 10:42; 17:31; John 5:22, 23).
Of all that has ever happened in this world nothing is more significant than the Resurrection. And no event of history is more completely authenticated. The fact is inescapable. “THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!” Let believers rejoice. Let unbelievers be warned, for God “hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).