Jesus Risen

Jesus Risen

Robert J. Agnew

Mr. Robert J. Agnew makes his home in Carrickfergus, N. Ireland. Retired from secular work, he spends some of his time ministering among assemblies of the Lord’s people in his area. He is a personal friend of our esteemed brother, Mr. Omer Sprunt. This is his first article in Focus. We sincerely appreciate the tremendously practical message he has expressed through the theme, Jesus Risen.” The personal appropriation of this powerful truth will make the difference between our being above our circumstances or under them.

Scripture: John 20

Deep and varied as are the necessities of the soul, they are all met by the death and resurrection of Christ. If it is a question of sin that affects the soul, the resurrection is the glorious proof of the complete putting away of it. The moment we see Jesus at the right hand of God, we see an end of sin, for we know He could not be there if sin were not fully atoned for, since “He was delivered for our offences”; He stood as our representative; He took upon Him our iniquities and went down into the grave under the weight of them. ‘But God raised Him from the dead,” and by doing so expressed His full approbation of the work of redemption. Hence we read that “He was raised again for our justification.” Resurrection, therefore, meets the need of the soul in regard to the question of sin.

A Sovereign Remedy

When we proceed further, and enter upon the trying and difficult path of Christian testimony, we find that Jesus Risen is a sovereign remedy for all the ills of life. This is happily exemplified for us in John 20. Mary went to the sepulcher early in the morning and, as we learn from the parallel passage of Mark 16, her heart was not only sad at the loss of her gracious Friend but also tried by the difficulty of removing the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher. The resurrection removed at once her sorrow and burden. Jesus Risen filled the blank in her desolated affection and removed from her shoulders the load which she was unable to sustain. She found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, and she also found her beloved Lord, whom death had, for a season, snatched from her view. It was resurrection which accomplished such mighty things on behalf of a poor needy mortal. Nor is it otherwise with us now. Have our hearts been broken and bereaved by the stern hand of death? Has its cold breath chilled our affections? What is the remedy? Resurrection! Yes, resurrection, that great restorer, not merely of “tired” but of ruined nature, fills all the blanks, repairs all the breaches, and remedies all the ills.

If the conscience is affected by a sense of sin, resurrection sets it at rest by the assurance that the Surety’s work has been fully accepted. If the heart is bowed down with sorrow and torn by the ravages of death, resurrection heals, soothes, and binds it up by securing the restoration and reunion of all who have gone before. It tells us to “sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Is it not commonly thought that time fills up all the blanks which death has made in the affections? But the true spiritual mind could never regard time, with all its sorrowful scenes, as a substitute for resurrection and its immortal joys.

Perhaps the worldling may find, in passing circumstances, something to fill up the void death makes, but not so the Christian. To him resurrection is the grand object; to that alone he looks as the only instrumentality by which all his losses can be retrieved and his evils remedied.

Relief midst Present Burdens and Pressures

So also in the matter of burdens and pressures from present circumstances; the only relief is in resurrection. Till then we have but to toil on from day to day, bearing the burdens and enduring the trials of this present sorrowful scene. We may, like Mary, feel disposed to cry out, “Who shall roll away the stone for us from the door of the sepulcher?” Who but the Risen Jesus! Beloved fellow Christian, apprehend resurrection and you are raised above the influence of every burden. It is not that we may have many a burden to carry; no doubt we may. Rather, it is that our burdens can never sink us into the dust because our hearts are buoyed up by the blessed truth that our Head is risen from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God and, moreover, our place is there with Him. Faith always leads the soul upward, even into the holy serenity of the divine presence. It enables us to cast our burden on the Lord and to rest assured that He will sustain us.

How often have we shrunk from the thought of some burden or trial which appeared in the distance like a dark cloud on the horizon, yet, when we approached it, we found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. The Risen Jesus had rolled it away, He had removed the cloud and filled the scene with the light of His own gracious countenance. Mary had come to the sepulcher expecting to find a great stone between her and the object of her affections, but instead she found Jesus Risen between her and the dreaded difficulty. She had come to anoint a dead body, but arrived to be blessed and made joyful by the Risen Jesus. Such is God’s way, and such is the power and value of resurrection. Sins, sorrow, burdens —all vanish when we find ourselves in the presence of the living Lord. When John on the Isle of Patmos had fallen to the dust, as one dead, what was it that raised him up? It was the risen, ascended, living Lord Jesus. And He said to John, “Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hades and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).

This set him on his feet. Communion with Him who had wrested his life from the very grasp of death removed his fears and infused divine strength into his soul. Also, in the case of Peter and John we find another instance of the power of resurrection. In them it was not so much a question of sin, or sorrow, or burden, as it was of difficulty. Their minds were evidently puzzled by all that met their gaze at the sepulcher. The grave clothes, so carefully arranged in the very tomb, were unaccountable. But they were only puzzled because “as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). Nothing but resurrection could solve

their difficulty. Had they known that, they would not have been at a loss to account for the arrangement of the grave clothes; they would have known that the Destroyer of death had been there, doing His mighty work, and had left behind Him the traces of His triumph. Thus, this particular scene at the tomb was calculated to teach this lesson. The Lord Jesus had calmly and deliberately passed through the conflict. He had exhibited no haste, no perturbation. He had taken time to set in order both His grave clothes and His tomb. On His part, He showed that it required no strained effort to vanquish the power of death. Peter and John, however, did not know this; therefore, they went away to their own home. The strength of Mary’s affection made her linger still; love was more influential than knowledge; and though her heart was breaking, she remained at the sepulcher. She would rather weep near the spot where her Lord had lain than go anywhere else. But resurrection settled everything. It filled up the blank in Mary’s heart and solved the difficulty in the minds of Peter and John. It dried up Mary’s tears and put a stop to the disciples’ amazement. Jesus Risen is in truth the remedy for all evils, and nothing is needed but faith to lay hold of Him.

Christ’s Message of Peace

In John 20:19, we have a fresh illustration of the principle on which we are dwelling. Here, the closed door evidenced the fear of the disciples. They were afraid of the Jews. Suddenly, the Lord Jesus appeared in their midst and pronounced His benediction upon them, “Peace be unto you.” Who could harm them; in their midst they had the vanquisher of death and hell.

There is unspeakable value in the practical appropriation of this word “peace” midst a time of sorrow, trial, or difficulty. Why are we unduly troubled by the condition of things around us today? Why do we betake ourselves, if not to the closed doors, at least to some other human resource? Surely, it is because we are not walking with our eyes steadily fixed on Him who was dead, but is now alive for evermore, and who has all power both in heaven and on earth. The disciples forgot the Jews, they forgot their fear, they forgot everything that had been troubling their souls, for they were now occupied with their risen Lord.

The Lord’s way is often to leave His people in trial, and to be with them in it. It is a far richer mercy to have the grace and presence of the Lord Jesus in the trial than to be delivered from it. The Lord allowed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be cast into the fiery furnace, but then He came down and walked with them in it. May it be our heart’s desire to find ourselves in company with the risen Lord as we pass through this trying scene, and then, whether it be the furnace of affliction or the storm of persecution, we shall have peace. Whether it be the bereavement of the heart, the burden of the shoulder, the difficulty of the mind, the fear or unbelief of the heart, all will be remedied by fellowship with Him who was raised from the dead.