A Sermon Delivered On Easter Morning, March 28, 1869, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. (Matthew 28:2)
1. As the holy women went towards the sepulchre in the twilight of the morning, desirous to embalm the body of Jesus, they remembered that the huge stone at the door of the tomb would be a great impediment in their way, and they said one to each other, “Who shall roll away the stone for us?” That question gathers up the mournful enquiry of the whole universe. They seem to have put into language the great sigh of universal manhood, “Who shall roll away the stone for us?” In man’s path of happiness lies a huge rock, which completely blocks the road. Who among the mighty shall remove the barrier? Philosophy attempted the task, but failed miserably. In the ascent to immortality the stone of doubt, uncertainty, and unbelief, stopped all progress. Who could upheave the awful mass, and bring life and immortality to light? Men, generation after generation, buried their companions; the all devouring sepulchre swallowed its myriads. Who could stop the daily slaughter, or give a hope beyond the grave? There was a whisper of resurrection, but men could not believe in it. Some dreamed of a future state, and talked of it in mysterious poetry, as though it were all imagination and nothing more. In darkness and in twilight, with many fears and few guesses at the truth, men continued to enquire, “Who shall roll away the stone for us?” Men had an indistinct feeling that this world could not be all, that there must be another life, that intelligent creatures could not all have come into this world so that they might perish; it was hoped, at any rate, that there was something beyond the fatal river. It scarcely could be that no one returned from Avernus: (a) there surely must be a way out of the sepulchre. Difficult as the pathway might be, men hoped that surely there must be some return from the land of death; and the question was therefore always rising to the heart, if not to the lips, “Where is the coming man? Where is the predestinated deliverer? Where is he, and who is he, who shall roll away the stone for us?”
2. For the women there were three difficulties. The stone by itself was huge; it was stamped with the seal of the law; it was guarded by the representatives of power. To mankind there were the same three difficulties. Death itself was a huge stone not to be moved by any strength known to mortals: that death was evidently sent by God as a penalty for offences against his law—how could it therefore be averted, how could it be removed? The red seal of God’s vengeance was set upon that sepulchre’s mouth—how would that seal be broken? Who could roll the stone away? Moreover, demon forces, and powers of hell, were watching the sepulchre to prevent escape—who could encounter these and bear departed souls like a prey from between the lion’s teeth? It was a dreary question, “Who shall roll away the stone from the sepulchre for us? Can these dry bones live? Shall our departed ones be restored to us? Can the multitudes of our race who have gone down to the land of death ever return from the land of midnight and confusion?” So asked all heathendom, “Who?” and echo answered, “Who?” No answer was given to sages and kings, but the women who loved the Saviour found an answer. They came to the tomb of Christ, but it was empty, for Jesus had risen. Here is the answer to the world’s enquiry—there is another life; bodies will live again, for Jesus lives. Oh mourning Rachel, refusing to be comforted, “Restrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” Sorrow no longer, you mourners, around the grave, as those who are without hope; for since Jesus Christ is risen, the dead in Christ shall rise also. Wipe away those tears, for the believer’s grave is no longer the place for lamentations, it is only the passage to immortality; it is only the dressing room in which the spirit shall put aside for awhile her garments, travel worn with her earthly journey, to put them on again on a brighter day, when they shall be fair and white as no fuller on earth could make them.
3. I purpose, this morning, to talk a little concerning the resurrection of our exalted Lord Jesus; and that the subject may the more readily of interest you, I shall, first of all, ask this stone which was rolled away, to preach to you; and then shall invite you to hear the angel’s homily from his pulpit of stone.
4. I. First, LET THE STONE PREACH.
5. It is not at all an uncommon thing to find in Scripture stones asked to speak. Great stones have been rolled as witnesses against the people; stones and beams out of the wall have been called upon to testify to sin. I shall call this stone as a witness to valuable truths of which it was the symbol. The river of our thought divides into six streams.
1. First, the stone rolled must evidently be regarded as the
door of the sepulchre removed. Death’s house was firmly secured by
a huge stone; the angel removed it, and the living Christ came out.
The massive door, you will observe, was taken away from the grave—not
merely opened, but unhinged, flung aside, rolled away; and after this
death’s ancient; prison house is without a door. The saints shall
pass in, but they shall not be shut in. They shall remain there as in
an open cavern, but there is nothing to prevent their coming out
from it in due time. As Samson, when he slept in Gaza, and was
surrounded by foes, arose early in the morning, and took up upon his
shoulders the gates of Gaza—post, and bar, and all—and carried all
away, and left the Philistine stronghold open and exposed, so has it
been done to the grave by our Master, who, having slept until the
third day, according to the divine decree, arose in the greatness of
his strength, and bore away the iron gates of the sepulchre, tearing
every bar from its place. The removal of the imprisoning stone was
the outward type of our Lord’s having picked up the gates of the
grave—post, bar, and all—thus exposing that old fortress of death and
hell, and leaving it as a city stormed and taken, and henceforth
bereft of power. Remember that our Lord was committed to the grave as
a hostage. “He died for our sins.” Like a debt they were imputed to
him. He discharged the debt of obligation due from us to God, on the
tree; he suffered to the full, the great substitutionary equivalent
for our suffering, and then he was confined in the tomb as a hostage
until his work should be fully accepted. That acceptance would be
notified by his coming out from vile endurance; and that coming out
would become our justification—“He rose again for our justification.”
If he had not fully paid the debt he would have remained in the
grave. If Jesus had not made effectual, total, final atonement, he
must have continued a captive. But he had done it all. The “It is
finished,” which came from his own lips, was established by the
verdict of Jehovah, and Jesus was set free. See him as he rises, not
breaking prison like a felon who escapes from justice, but coming
leisurely out like one whose time of jail sentence is over; rising,
it is true, by his own power, but not leaving the tomb without a
sacred permit—the heavenly officer from the court of heaven is
deputed to open the door for him, by rolling away the stone, and
Jesus Christ, completely justified, rises to prove that all his
people are, in him, completely justified, and the work of salvation
is for ever perfect. The stone is rolled from the door of the
sepulchre, as if to show that Jesus has so effectually done the work
that nothing can confine us in the grave again. The grave has changed
its character; it has been altogether annihilated, and put away as a
prison house, so that death for the saints is no longer a punishment
for sin, but an entrance into rest. Come, brethren, let us rejoice in
this. In the empty tomb of Christ, we see sin for ever put away: we
see, therefore, death most effectually destroyed. Our sins were the
great stone which shut the mouth of the sepulchre, and held us
captives in death, and darkness, and despair. Our sins are now for
ever rolled away, and hence death is no longer a dungeon dark and
drear, the vestibule of hell, but rather it is a perfumed bedroom, a
drawing room, the vestibule of heaven. For as surely as Jesus rose,
so must his people leave the dead: there is nothing to prevent the
resurrection of the saints. The stone which could keep us in the
prison has been rolled away. Who can hold us in when the door itself
is gone? Who can confine us when every barricade is taken away
Who shall rebuild for the tyrant his prison?
The sceptre lies broken that fell from his hands;
The stone is removed; the Lord is arisen:
The helpless shall soon be released from their bands.
7. 2. In the second place, regard the stone as a trophy set up.
As men of old set up memorial stones, and as at this day we erect
columns to tell of great deeds of prowess, so that stone rolled away
was, as it were, before the eyes of our faith consecrated that day as
a memorial of Christ’s eternal victory over the powers of death and
hell. They thought that they had vanquished him; they deemed that the
Crucified was overcome. They smiled grimly as they saw his motionless
body wrapped in the winding sheet and put away in Joseph’s new tomb;
but their joy was fleeting; their boastings were only brief, for at
the appointed moment he who could not see corruption rose and came
out from beneath their power. His heel was bruised by the old
serpent, but on the resurrection morning he crushed the dragon’s head.
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal,
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
Death in vain forbids his rise,
Christ hath open’d Paradise.
Lives again our glorious King!
“Where, oh death, is now thy sting?”
Once he died our souls to save;
“Where’s thy victory, boasting grave?”
Brethren beloved in Christ, as we look at that stone, with the angel seated upon it, it rises before us as a monument of Christ’s victory over death and hell, and it becomes us to remember that his victory was achieved for us, and its fruits are all ours. We have to fight with sin, but Christ has overcome it. We are tempted by Satan: Christ has given Satan a defeat. By and by we shall leave this body; unless the Lord comes speedily, we may expect to gather up our feet like our fathers, and go to meet our God; but death is vanquished for us, and we can have no cause to fear. Courage, Christian soldiers, you are encountering a vanquished enemy: remember that the Lord’s victory is a guarantee for yours. If the Head conquers, the members shall not be defeated. Do not do let sorrow dim your eye; let no fears trouble your spirit; you must conquer, for Christ has conquered. Awaken all your powers for the conflict, and nerve them with the hope of victory. If you had seen your Master defeated, you might expect yourself to be blown like chaff before the wind; but the power by which he overcame he lends to you. The Holy Spirit is in you; Jesus himself has promised to be with you always, even to the end of the age, and the mighty God is your refuge. You shall surely overcome through the blood of the Lamb. Set up that stone before your faith’s eye this morning, and say, “Here my Master conquered hell and death, and in his name and by his strength I shall be crowned, too, when the last enemy is destroyed.”
3. For a third use of this stone, observe that here is a
foundation laid. That stone rolled away from the sepulchre,
typifying and certifying as it does the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
is a foundation stone for Christian faith. The fact of the
resurrection is the keystone of Christianity. Disprove the
resurrection of our Lord, and our holy faith would be a mere fable;
there would be nothing for faith to rest upon if he who died upon the
tree did not also rise again from the tomb; then “your faith is
vain”; said the apostle, “you are still in your sins,” while “they
also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” All the great
doctrines of our divine religion fall apart like the stones of an
arch when the keystone is dislodged, in a common ruin they are all
overthrown, for all our hope hinges upon that great fact. If Jesus
rose, then this gospel is what it professes to be; if he did not rise
from the dead, then is it all deceit and delusion. But, brethren,
that Jesus rose from the dead is a fact better established than
almost any other in history. The witnesses were many: they were men
of all classes and conditions. None of them ever confessed himself
mistaken or deceptive. They were so persuaded that it was a fact,
that most of them suffered death for bearing witness to it. They had
nothing to gain by such a witnessing; they did not rise in power, nor
gain honour or wealth; they were truthful, simple minded men who
testified what they had seen and bore witness to what they saw. The
resurrection is a fact better attested than any event recorded in any
history whether ancient or modern. Here is the confidence of the
saints; our Lord Jesus Christ, who witnessed a good confession before
Pontius Pilate, and was crucified, dead, and buried, rose again from
the dead, and after forty days ascended to the throne of God. We rest
in him; we believe in him. If he had not risen, we would have been
the most miserable of all men to have been his followers. If he had
not risen, his atonement would not have been proved sufficient. If he
had not risen, his blood would not have been to us proven to be
efficacious for the taking away of sin; but since he has risen, we
build upon this truth; all our confidence we rest upon it, and we are
Raised from the dead, he goes before;
He opens heaven’s eternal door;
To give his saints a blest abode,
Near their Redeemer and their God.
My dear hearers, are you resting your everlasting hopes upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? Do you trust in him, believing that he both died and rose again for you? Do you place your entire dependence upon the merit of his blood certified by the fact of his rising again? If so, you have a foundation of fact and truth, a foundation against which the gates of hell shall not prevail; but if you are building upon anything that you have done, or anything that priestly hands can do for you, you are building upon the sands which shall be swept away by the all devouring flood, and you and your hopes too shall go down into the fathomless abyss wrapped in the darkness of despair. Oh, to build upon the living stone of Christ Jesus! Oh, to rest on him who is a tried cornerstone, elect, and precious! This is to build safely, eternally, and blessedly.
4. A fourth voice from the stone is this: here is rest
provided. The angel seemed to teach us that as he sat down upon the
stone. How leisurely the whole resurrection was accomplished! How
noiselessly, too! What an absence of pomp and parade! The angel
descended, the stone was rolled away, Christ rose, and then the angel
sat down on the stone. He sat there silently and gracefully,
breathing defiance to the Jews and to their seal, to the Roman
legionaries and their spears, to death, to earth, and to hell. He did
as much as say, “Come and roll that stone back again, you enemies of
the risen One. All you infernal powers, who thought to prevail
against our everliving Prince, roll back that stone again, if so you
dare or can!” The angel said not this in words, but his stately and
quiet sitting upon the stone meant all that and more. The Master’s
work is done, and done for ever, and this stone, no more to be used,
this unhinged door, no more employed to shut in the tomb, is the type
of that “it is finished”—finished never to be undone, finished to last
eternally. That resting angel softly whispers to us, “Come here, and
rest also.” There is no fuller, better, surer, safer rest for the
soul than in the fact that the Saviour in whom we trust has risen
from the dead. Do you mourn departed friends today? Oh come and sit
upon this stone, which tells you they shall rise again. Do you expect
to die soon? Is the worm at the root? Do you have the flush of
consumption on your cheek? Oh come and sit down upon this stone, and
remember that death has lost its terror now, for Jesus has risen from
the tomb. Come, too, you feeble and trembling ones, and breathe
defiance to death and hell. The angel will vacate his seat for you,
and let you sit down in the face of the enemy. Though you are only a
humble woman, or a man broken down, and wan, and languid with long
years of weary sickness, yet may you well defy all the hosts of hell,
while resting upon this precious truth, “He is not here, but he
is risen: he has left the dead, no more to die.” I was reminded, as I
thought over this passage of my discourse, of that time when Jacob
journeyed to the house of Laban. It is said he came to a place where
there was a well, and a great stone lay upon it, and the flocks and
herds were gathered around it, but they had no water until one came
and rolled away the great stone from the well’s mouth, and then they
watered the flocks. Even so the tomb of Jesus is like a great well
springing up with the purest and most divine refreshment, but until
this stone was rolled away, none of the flocks redeemed by blood
could be watered there; but now, every Sunday, on the resurrection
morning, the first day of the week, we gather around our Lord’s open
sepulchre, and draw living waters from that sacred well. Oh you weary
sheep of the fold, oh you who are faint and ready to die, come here;
here is sweet refreshment; Jesus Christ is risen: let your comforts
Every note with wonders swell,
Sin o’erthrown, and captived hell;
Where is hell’s once dreaded king?
Where, oh death, thy mortal sting?
11. 5. In the fifth place, that stone was a boundary appointed. Do you not see it so? Behold it then, there it lies, and the angel sits upon it. On that side what do you see? The guards are frightened, stiffened with fear, like dead men. On this side what see you? The timid trembling women, to whom the angel softly speaks, “Do not fear: for I know that you seek Jesus.” You see, then, that stone became the boundary between the living and the dead, between the seekers and the haters, between the friends and the foes of Christ. To his enemies his resurrection is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence”; as of old on Mar’s Hill, when the sages heard of the resurrection, they mocked. But to his own people, the resurrection is the headstone of the corner. Our Lord’s resurrection is our triumph and delight. The resurrection acts much in the same manner as the pillar which Jehovah placed between Israel and Egypt: it was darkness to Egypt, but it gave light to Israel. All was dark amidst Egypt’s hosts, but all was brightness and comfort among Israel’s tribes. So the resurrection is a doctrine full of horror to those who do not know Christ, and do not trust him. What have they to gain by resurrection? They were happy if they could sleep in everlasting annihilation. What have they to gain by Christ’s resurrection? Shall he come whom they have despised? Is he living whom they have hated and abhorred? Will he order them to rise, will they have to meet him as a Judge upon the throne? The very thought of this is enough to strike terror through the loins of kings today; but what will the fact of it be when the clarion trumpet startles all the sons of Adam from their last beds of dust! Oh, the horrors of that tremendous morning, when every sinner shall rise, and the risen Saviour shall come in the clouds of heaven, and all the holy angels with him! Truly there is nothing except dismay for those who are on the evil side of that resurrection stone. But how great the joy which the resurrection brings to those who are on the right side of that stone! How they look for his appearing with daily growing rapture! How they build upon the sweet truth that they shall arise, and see their Saviour with these eyes! I would have you ask yourselves, this morning, on which side are you of that boundary stone now? Do you have life in Christ? Are you risen with Christ? Do you trust alone in him who rose from the dead? If so, do not fear: the angel comforts you, and Jesus cheers you; but oh! if you have no life in Christ, but are dead while you live, let the very thought that Jesus is risen, strike you with fear, and make you tremble, for you may well tremble at what awaits you.
12. 6. Sixthly, I conceive that this stone may be used, and properly too, as foreshadowing ruin. Our Lord came into this world to destroy all the works of the devil. Behold before you the works of the devil pictured as a grim and horrible castle, massive and terrible, overgrown with the moss of ages, colossal, stupendous, cemented with blood of men, ramparted by mischief and craft, surrounded with deep trenches, and garrisoned with fiends. A structure dread enough to cause despair for everyone who goes around about it to count its towers and see its bulwarks. In the fulness of time our Champion came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. During his life he sounded an alarm at the great castle, and dislodged here and there a stone, for the sick were healed, the dead were raised, and the poor had the gospel preached to them. But on the resurrection morning the huge fortress trembled from top to bottom; huge rifts were in its walls; and all its strongholds were tottering. A stronger than the master of that citadel had obviously entered it and was beginning to overturn, overturn, overturn, from pinnacle to basement. One huge stone, upon which the building much depended, a cornerstone which knit the whole fabric together, was lifted bodily from its bed and hurled to the ground. Jesus tore the huge granite stone of death from its position, and so gave a sure indication that every other one would follow. When that stone was rolled away from Jesus’ sepulchre, it was a prophecy that every stone of Satan’s building should come down, and not one should rest upon another of all that the powers of darkness had ever piled up, from the days of their first apostasy even to the end. Brethren, that stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre gives me glorious hope. Evil is still mighty, but evil will come down. Spiritual wickedness reigns in high places; the multitude still clamour after evil; the nations still sit in thick darkness; many worship the scarlet woman of Babylon, others bow before the crescent of Mohammed, and millions bend themselves before blocks of wood and stone; the dark places and habitations of the earth are still full of cruelty; but Christ has given such a blow to the whole fabric of evil that, depend upon it, every stone will be certain to fall. We have only to work on, use the battering ram of the gospel, continue each one to keep in his place, and like the hosts around Jericho, to still sound the trumpet, and the day must come when every hoary evil, every colossal superstition, shall be laid low, even with the ground, and the prophecy shall be fulfilled, “Overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until he comes whose right it is; and I will give it to him.” That loosened stone on which the angel sits is the sure prognostication of the coming doom of everything that is base and vile. Rejoice, you sons of God, for Babylon’s fall draws near. Sing, oh heavens, and rejoice, oh earth, for there not an evil shall be spared. Truly, I say to you, there shall not be one stone left upon another, which shall not be cast down.
13. Thus the stone has preached to us; we will pause awhile and hear what the angel has to say.
14. II. THE ANGEL PREACHED in two ways: he preached in symbol, and he preached in words.
15. Preaching in symbol is very popular with certain dominations nowadays. The gospel is to be seen by the eye, they tell us, and the people are to learn from the change of colours, at various times, such as blue, and, green, and violet, exhibited on the priest and the altar, and by lace and by candles, and by banners, and by cruets, (b) and shells full of water; they are even to be taught or led by the nose, which is to be indulged with smoke of incense; and drawn by the ears, which are to listen to hideous intonings or to dainty canticles. Now, notice that the angel was a symbolic preacher, with his brow of lightning and his robe of snow; but please notice for whom the symbols were reserved. He did not say a word to the keepers—not a word. He gave them the symbolic gospel, that is to say, he looked upon them—and his glance was lightning; he revealed himself to them in his snow white garments, and no more. Notice how they quake and tremble! That is the gospel of symbols; and wherever it comes it condemns. It can do no other. Why, the old Mosaic law of symbols, where did it end? How few ever comprehended its inner meaning! The majority of Israel fell into idolatry, and the symbolic system became death to them. You who delight in symbols, you who think it is Christian to make the whole year a kind of practical charade upon the life of Christ, you who think that all Christianity is to be taught in semi-dramas, as men perform in theatres and puppet shows, go your way, for you shall find no heaven on that road, no Christ, no life. You shall encounter priests, and formalists, and hypocrites, and into the thick woods, and among the dark mountains of destruction you shall stumble to your utter ruin. The gospel message is, “Hear, and your soul shall live”; “Incline your ear, and come to me.” This is the life giving message, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” But, oh perverse generation, if you look for symbols and signs, you shall be deluded with the devil’s gospel, and fall a prey to the destroyer.
16. Now we will listen to the angel’s sermon in words. Thus only is a true gospel to be delivered. Christ is the Word, and the gospel is a gospel of words and thoughts. It does not appeal to the eye; it appeals to the ear, and to the intellect, and to the heart. It is a spiritual thing, and can only be learned by those whose spirits are awakened to grasp at spiritual truth. The first thing the angel said was, “Do not fear.” Oh! this is the very genius of our risen Saviour’s gospel—“Do not fear.” You who would be saved, you who would follow Christ, you need not fear. Did the earth quake? Do not fear: God can preserve you though the earth be burned with fire. Did the angel descend in terrors? Do not fear: there are no terrors in heaven for the child of God who comes to Jesus’ cross, and trusts his soul to him who bled on it. Poor women, is it the dark that alarms you? Do not fear: God sees and loves you in the dark, and there is nothing in the dark or in the light beyond his control. Are you afraid to come to a tomb? Does a sepulchre alarm you? Do not fear: you cannot die. Since Christ has risen, although you were dead yet you shall live. Oh, the comfort of the gospel! Permit me to say there is nothing in the Bible to make any man fear who puts his trust in Jesus. Nothing in the Bible, did I say? There is nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in hell, that needs to make you fear who trust in Jesus. “Do not fear.” You need not fear the past for it is forgiven you; you need not fear the present for it is provided for; the future also is secured by the living power of Jesus. “Because I live,” says he, “you shall live also.” Fear! Why that would be comely and seemly when Christ was dead, but now that he lives there remains no room for it! Do you fear your sins? They are all gone, for Christ has risen and has put them all away. What is it you fear? If an angel asks you “Do not fear,” why will you fear? If every wound of the risen Saviour, and every act of your reigning Lord consoles you, why are you still dismayed? To be doubting, and fearing, and trembling, now that Jesus has risen, is an inconsistent thing in any believer. Jesus is able to help you in all your temptations; seeing he lives for ever to make intercession for you, he is able to save you to the uttermost: therefore, do not fear.
17. Notice the next word, “Do not fear: for I know.” What! does an angel know the women’s hearts? Did the angel know what Magdalene was thinking! Do spirits read our spirits? It is well. But oh! it is better to remember that our heavenly Father knows. Do not fear, for God knows what is in your heart. You have never admitted anxiety about your soul, you are too bashful even for that; you have not even proceeded so far as to dare to say that you hope you love Jesus; but God knows your desires. Poor heart, you feel as if you could not trust, and could not do anything that is good; but you do at least desire, you do at least seek. God knows all this; with pleasure he knows your desires. Does not this comfort you—this great fact of the knowledge of God? I could not read what is in your spirit, and perhaps you could not tell me what is there. If you tried, you would say after you had, “Well, I did not tell him exactly what I felt; I have missed the comfort I might have had, for I did not explain my case.” But there is one who deals with you, and knows exactly where your difficulty is, and what is the cause of your present sorrow. “Do not fear,” for your heavenly Father knows. Lie still, poor patient, for the surgeon knows where the wound is, and what it is that ails you. Hush, my child, be still upon your great Parent’s bosom, for he knows all; and ought not that make you content; for his care is as infinite as his knowledge?
18. Then the angel went on to say, “Do not fear: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.” There was room for comfort here. They were seeking Jesus, although the world had crucified him. Though many had turned aside and left him, they were clinging to him in loving loyalty. Now, is there any one here who can say, “Though I am unworthy to be a follower of Christ, and often think that he will reject me, yet there is one thing I am sure of—I would not be afraid of the fear of man for his sake. My sins make me fear, but no man could do it. I would stand at his side if all the world were against him. I would count it my highest honour that the crucified One of the world should be the adored One of my heart. Let all the world cast him out, if he would only take me in, poor unworthy worm as I am, I would never be ashamed to acknowledge his blessed and gracious name?” Ah! then, do not fear, for if that is how you feel towards Christ, he will acknowledge you in the last great day. If you are willing to acknowledge him now, “Do not fear.” I am sure I sometimes feel, when I am looking into my own heart, as if I had neither part nor lot in the matter, and could claim no interest in the Beloved at all; but, then, I do know this, I am not ashamed to be put to shame for him; and if I should be charged with being a fanatic and an enthusiast in his cause, I would consider it the highest honour to plead guilty to so blessed an impeachment for his dear sake. If this is truly the language of our hearts, we may take courage. “Do not fear: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.”
19. Then he adds, “He is not here: for he is risen.” Here is the instruction which the angel gives. After giving comfort, he gives instruction. Your great ground and reason for consolation, seeker, is that you do not seek a dead Christ, and you do not pray to a buried Saviour; he is really alive. Today he is as able to relieve you, if you go to your closet and pray to him, as he was to help the poor blind man when he was on earth. He is as willing today to accept and bless you as he was to bless the leper, or to heal the paralytic. Go to him then at once, poor seeker; go to him with holy confidence, for he is not here, he would be dead if he were—he is risen, living, and reigning, to answer your request.
The angel invited the holy women investigate the empty tomb, but,
almost immediately after, he gave them a commission to perform on
their Lord’s behalf. Now, if any seeker here has been comforted by
the thought that Christ lives to save, let him do as the angel said,
let him go and tell to others the good news that he has heard. It is
the great means for propagating our holy faith, that all who have
learned it should teach it. We do not have some ministers set apart,
to whom is reserved the sole right of teaching in the Christian
church; we have no belief in a clergy and a laity. Believers, you are
all God’s clergy—all of you. As many of you as believe in Christ
are God’s clergy, and bound to serve him according to your abilities.
There are many members in the body, but every member has its office;
and there is no member in the body of Christ which is to be idle,
because truly, it cannot do what the Head can do. The foot has its
place, and the hand its duty, as well as the tongue and the eye. Oh
you who have learned about Jesus, do not keep the blessed secret to
yourselves. Today, in some way or other, I urge you to make known
that Jesus Christ is risen. Pass the watchword around, as the ancient
Christians did. On the first day of the week they said to one
another, “The Lord is risen indeed.” If anyone asks you what you mean
by it, you will then be able to tell them the entire gospel, for this
is the essence of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins,
and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures—died the
substitute for us criminals, rose the representative of us pardoned
sinners—died so that our sins might die, and lives again so that our
souls may live. Diligently invite others to come and trust Jesus.
Tell them that there is life for the dead in a look at Jesus
crucified; tell them that that look is a matter of the soul, it is a
simple confidence; tell them that no one ever confided in Christ and
was cast away; tell them what you have felt as the result of your
trusting Jesus, and who can tell, many disciples will be added to his
church, a risen Saviour will be glorified, and you will be comforted
by what you have seen! May the Lord follow these feeble words with
his own blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Matthew 28]
(a) Avernus: This place was believed to be the entrance to the underworld, and is portrayed as such in the Aeneid of Virgil. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avernus"
(b) Cruet: Eccl. A small vessel to hold wine or water for use in the celebration of the Eucharist, or to hold holy water for other uses. OED