Life Of Jesus - The Resurrection
( Originally Published 1913 )
THE rising of our blessed Lord from the dead was one of the most important events in the history of his life on earth.
Let us take an illustration of its importance. Suppose that we were living in England, and that we were well acquainted with Victoria—the good and gracious queen of that great king-dom. And suppose that it should please the queen to make us a present of one of the fine old castles of England, with all the lands and property belonging to it. In giving us this castle, or, as the lawyers say, in "conveying it to us," the queen would order a title deed to be made out. This deed would be necessary; because if any, one else should claim that the castle belonged to him, we could then open the deed and show that the queen had really given it to us. A title deed, like this of which we are now speaking, is. generally written on a sheet of parchment. In this deed would be found the name of the castle, with a full description of it, and all the property belonging to it. It would be stated here how many acres of land were connected with it; and then it would be written down that the queen had given it to us, and that it was to belong to us, and to our children, or heirs forever. But after all this had been written out, the deed would be good for nothing unless something more were done to it. It would be necessary for the queen to sign her own name to the deed—Victoria Regina—and then put the royal seal upon it. The property described in it could never become ours, unless the queen's signature and seal were added to it.
When Jesus came down from heaven to earth, his great object was to secure for his people a home in heaven,-a mansion in the skies.. When he hung upon the cross, we may well say that he was writing out the title deed to those mansions, in his own blood. But, after this deed had thus been written, it was necessary for his Father in heaven to show that he approved of what had been done. When Jesus died and was buried, we may say that he took with him the title deed to our heavenly home, to get his Father to sign it and seal it. And when the resurrection of Jesus took place it showed that this was done. Then God the Father did, as it were, say—" I approve of what my beloved son has done. I sign and seal the title deed which he has written out to secure a home in heaven for all who love and serve him."
This shows us how very important the resurrection of Jesus was. And because it is so important, we may well feel a great interest in studying the subject of Christ's resurrection. And in doing this there are two things for us carefully to consider. These are—The proof of the resurrection of Christ; and the lessons we are taught by it.
Let us begin by considering—the proof of the resurrection of Christ. We have great cause for thankfulness that the proof given us on this subject is so clear and strong. There is no fact of history supported by stronger proof than is the fact of Christ's resurrection. We believe that there was such a person as Napoleon Bonaparte; that he was emperor of France; and that he died a prisoner on the island of St. Helena. We believe that there was such a person as George Washington ; that he was the leader of our armies during the revolutionary war; and that, after the war, he was the first president of the United States. We believe that there was such a person as Julius Cesar; that he was a successful general of the Roman armies; and that he met his death in the Senate chamber from the daggers of the Roman senators. No one doubts these facts. They are matters of history. And yet the proof we have of the resurrection of Christ is clearer and stronger than the proof we have for what we believe respecting Julius Cesar, or George Washington, or Napoleon Bonaparte. Nothing that we read of in history is more sure than this, that Jesus did rise from the dead.
Many years ago, there was an infidel club in England. It was composed of learned and distinguished men. At the meetings of the club, its members were in the habit of ridiculing the Bible and of trying to show it was not worthy of being believed. On one occasion a member of this club was appointed to examine the subject of the resurrection of Christ and to write an essay for the purpose of showing that there was no satisfactory proof that he ever rose from the dead.
He examined carefully what is said on this subject in the New Testament. And the end of it was, that he became fully convinced of the fact that Christ did rise from the dead. And, instead of writing an article for that infidel club to show that what Christians believe about the resurrection of Christ is not true, he wrote one of the best books that ever has been written, to prove, beyond all doubt, that the resurrection of Christ is true. He became an earnest Christian. And that which led to this great change was the convincing proof he found in the New Testament of the truth of the resurrection of Christ. He saw it was true that Jesus did rise from the dead. And when he became satisfied that this was true, he was obliged to admit that all the other teachings of the New Testament respecting Christ must be true also. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation stone on which the religion of the Bible is built up. If that falls, this must fall. But if that stands firm and sure, then this must stand firm and sure also.
And in examining the proof of the resurrection of Christ the most important thing to notice is—the number and character of the witnesses.
The first person who saw our blessed Lord, after he rose from the dead, was Mary Magdalene. We read about this in St. Mark xi: 9. St. John xx : 11-18. After this he appeared to. certain other women, who were returning from the sepulchre. St. Matt. xxviii : 9, 10. Then he appeared to Simon Peter, alone. St. Luke xxiv : 34, I. Cor. xv : 5. His next appearance was to two of his disciples, as they were walking together from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. He had a long talk with them and stopped and ate bread with them. St. Luke xxiv : 13-32. The fifth appearance of the risen Saviour was to ten of his disciples, Thomas being the only one of them who was not there. This was at Jerusalem, on the evening of the first glad Easter day. St. John xx: 19-32. After this we hear nothing of him for, a week. But on the evening of "the first Sunday after Easter," he made his sixth appearance. On this occasion the eleven disciples were all together. Thomas was with them now. They were sitting in a room, with the door closed, and no doubt fastened, for fear of the Jews. Only one subject could occupy their thoughts—and that was the resurrection of their wonderful Master. Suddenly Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said, "Peace be unto you." In spite of all that he had heard from the other disciples, Thomas declared he could not believe it possible that Jesus had risen from the dead. When his brethren told him that it was true, he said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." But on this occasion the loving and gracious Saviour met his doubting disciple in the very way in which he had desired to be met. For we read: "Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands: and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." St. John xx : 26-29.
The seventh appearance of the risen Saviour, was on the shore of the sea of Galilee. A number of the apostles were together on this occasion. It was one of the most touching and impressive of all his interviews with them. The deeply interesting account of what took place at this time is given in full in the twenty-first chapter of St. John's gospel; but we cannot enlarge on the subject now.
The eighth time that Jesus was seen after his resurrection was by the eleven disciples again. We read in St. Matt. xxviii : 16—"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them."
This refers to St. Matt. xxvi : 32, when as they were partaking together of the Lord's Supper for the first time, after referring to his death he said, "But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee." We are not told where this meeting was held, or what took place on that occasion.
The ninth appearance of the risen Lord, is that of which St. Paul speaks in I. Cor. xv : 7, where he tells us that "he appeared to above four hundred brethren at once." The place here referred to is not mentioned, and so cannot be known. It was probably in Galilee. Jesus had spent most of his public life in that part of the country. He had made most of his disciples there. It was proper, therefore, that those disciples, who would, of course, hear of his death, should have some public proof given them of the fact of his resurrection. No doubt the eleven disciples went to Galilee after Jesus rose. They would spread the news that he had risen, and that he was about to show himself to his friends on a certain mountain. Nothing more would be necessary anywhere to draw together a great concourse of people than a report that one who was dead had come to life again, and was about to show himself; and in this case where they greatly loved him, and where, no doubt, many believed he would rise, they would naturally come together in great numbers to see him once more.
The tenth appearance of Christ after his resurrection was to the apostle James. This is told us by St. Paul, who says I. Cor. xv : 7. "After that he was seen of James." This is not mentioned in any of the gospels. But as Jesus was on earth for forty days after his resurrection, it is most likely that he appeared often to his disciples, and that only enough of the more prominent appearances were mentioned, to prove the fact that he had risen.
The eleventh occasion on which Jesus was seen after his resurrection was on the Mount of Olives, just before his ascension into heaven. On this occasion all the eleven apostles were present, and no doubt great numbers of his other disciples.
And then there was one other occasion on which Jesus appeared, making twelve in all. This was after his ascension into heaven. To this the apostle Paul refers, when he says, "And last of all he was seen of me also." I. Cor. xv : 8. This was when he had that wonderful vision near Damascus. Then the great apostle to the Gentiles, saw the same Lord Jesus, in the same body which had been seen by others. Unless it were so, this would be no proof that Jesus was risen from the dead. It was not a fancy therefore that he had seen him. It was not revealed to him, that Jesus was risen. "Last of all he was seen of me." With his bodily eyes, St. Paul actually saw, in a bodily form, that same Jesus who had died upon the cross; who had been buried in that rocky sepulchre; who had risen from the dead and had ascended into heaven. Such were the witnesses of the resurrection, as to their number.
And now look at the character' of these witnesses. They were sensible men. They knew what they were doing. They could not be mistaken about the fact of Christ's resurrection. They had seen him put to death upon the cross. They had seen him buried. On the third day after his burial they had found his tomb empty. His body was gone. Then they saw him alive. They could not be mistaken about his person. They knew him too well for this. They had seen the print of the nails in his hands. This made the proof of his resurrection perfect.
And then they were honest men. They had no motive for preaching the resurrection of Christ but the sincere belief that it was true. If they could have made money or gained honor by preaching the resurrection, that would have been a reason for their doing so even if it had not been true. But the very opposite of this was the case. Preaching the resurrection brought on them the loss of all they had in the world. It caused them to be persecuted, imprisoned, and put to death. And yet they went on preaching that Christ had risen. And they would have been guilty of the greatest folly if they had done this without being thoroughly convinced that it was true. But they were perfectly satisfied of the truth of what they preached, and this was the reason why they went on preaching it.
And then, if Christ had not risen from the dead, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for the enemies of his cause to have denied it. That would have ended the matter. But they never did this. And the only reason why they did not do so, was that they knew it was true that Christ had risen. They could not deny the fact. And when we put these things all together, we see how perfectly convincing is the proof of the resurrection of Christ.
And now let us look at some of the lessons taught us by our Lord's resurrection. The first lesson we may learn from this great fact is about—THE POWER OF CHRIST.
We know of nothing that is harder to do than to bring the dead back to life. Men can do many things, but this is one thing which they cannot do. All the men in the world and all the angels in heaven could never, by their own strength, restore life to the dead. When the blood stops flowing through the veins, and the heart stands still, there is nothing but the power of God that can make the heart begin to beat, and the blood begin to flow again. But Jesus had the power to do this. He raised Lazarus to life after he had lain in the grave four days. And he did the same to the widow's son, and to the daughter of Jairus. And what he did for others in this matter, he did for himself also. And he did it by his own power. On one occasion, when speaking to his disciples about his death, or, as he called it, laying down his life, he said, "I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." And he did this on the morning of the resurrection. He exercised his own power to give new life to his dead body. Here we have a grand lesson about the power of Christ. And it is very comforting to know how great the power of Jesus is, because we so often need to have him, exercise that power to help us when we are in trouble. And he is exercising his power in this way continually.
Let us look at some of the ways in which he does this.
"The Power of Christ to Save." A young man, the son of a pious mother, was wandering away from the paths in which he had been trained to walk. He had given up going to church, and in the summer time generally spent his Sundays in sailing on the river in a boat with his gay companions. One Sunday the boat upset. He could not swim and he went down in the deep water. As he rose to the surface for the last time, he was seized and his cold and apparently lifeless body was brought to the shore. He was carried home. Every-thing possible was done for his recovery, but for a long time it seemed uncertain whether he would come back to life. There was a feeble flutter about the wrist, just enough to keep hope alive.
His mother knelt by his bedside, and prayed in her agony that he might be spared at least till he could seek and find pardon. As she thus prayed, the cold hand held in hers gave a feeble pressure. The eyelids quivered a little, but did not open. After a while he looked at his mother, and said, in a low whisper, "Mother I am saved." Supposing that he meant saved from drowning, she replied, "Yes, dear, thank God you are saved." And then in broken sentences, with long intervals between them, he gave this remarkable experience :
"Mother, I heard you praying: if I had died you would have thought me lost: but I am saved. When I let go my hold upon the boat, the, thought flashed across my mind—I am lost. I am going into eternity with all my sins unpardoned. I lifted up my heart to heaven, and said, `God be merciful to me a sinner. Lord save me!' I seemed to hear a voice distinctly saying, `I will save thee, trust me.' I am sure it was the voice of Jesus. All my fear was gone. But after that I knew nothing until I heard you praying for me. You would have mourned for me as lost; but mother I am saved."
And the result proved that he was right. As soon as he recovered his health and strength, he gave up all his wicked ways, and lived the life of an earnest and devoted Christian. How wonderful is the power of Jesus to save !
"The Power of Jesus to Provide." A Christian widow was dying. She was very poor, and had four young children to leave helpless and alone in the world. As she took leave of her little ones, Nettie, the oldest girl, about fourteen years of age, said amidst heart-breaking sobs and tears, "O, mother dear, what shall we do when you are gone ? "
"Nettie, darling," said the mother, "God's hand will help you. It is an omnipotent hand. Never let go of it."
The mother died and was buried. Towards evening of the next day, little Dick, the young-est of the children, came to Nettie and said, "Nettie, Dick's awful hungry. Isn't there a bit of crust anywhere ? " "Poor Dick," said Nettie,
what shall we do ? " And then, remembering what her dying mother had said about the Omnipotent hand, she dropped on her knees, and said, "O God, our God, and our mother's God, look on these hungry little ones, left in my care, and send them some food for Christ's sake. Amen."
A rich merchant of the town was going home that evening. He was a widower, but had no children. Without knowing why, he took a different way home from the one ordinarily taken. As he walked slowly along he happened to be just under the open window when Nettie made that prayer for bread. The tone of deep sadness in it touched his heart. He stopped. He knocked at the door. Nettie opened it, and asked him in. He found out the sad condition of those helpless orphans. He gave them money to get what they needed. He continued to visit them, and finally became so much interested in them that he took them to live with him in his own home. Nettie felt the blessedness of holding on to the Omnipotent hand. Here we see the power of Jesus to provide.
One other illustration shows us—" The Power of Jesus to Protect."
A young Christian woman, whose family were very well off, was confined to her sick bed for many years. She seldom had any one in the room with her at night. On one occasion she lay awake about midnight. The family were all asleep and the house was very still, when the door of her chamber opened and a man walked softly in. He came towards her bed and then stopped a moment. Her little night lamp was shining on them both, from the stand by her bedside. She did not scream, or cry. The robber looked at this lovely girl, as' she gazed on him with perfect calmness. Lifting her finger, and pointing solemnly towards heaven, she said, "Do you know that God sees you ? " The man waited a moment, but made no reply. Then he turned and walked quietly away. He had opened no other doors than the street door and the door of her chamber. The omnipotent hand was there, too. What a blessed thing it is to hold on to that hand! Here we see the power of Jesus to protect. The power he had to raise himself from the dead, he has still, to use for the help and comfort of his people.
The second lesson to be learned from the resurrection is a lesson about-THE TENDERNESS OF CHRIST.
We learn this lesson from two little incidents connected with the resurrection.
You remember that on the night of our Saviour's trial, though all the disciples forsook him, yet Peter was the only one of them who denied him. In the very presence of Jesus, he declared with oaths and curses, that he did not know him. How painful this must have been to the blessed Saviour! It might have been expected that when he met Peter again, for the first time after this, he would have had some sharp rebuke to give him. But it was not so. Instead of this, we find that when the angels at the empty tomb met the women who had come early to anoint the body of Jesus, they told them that he had risen from the dead, and then charged them to go and tell the good news to "his disciples, and Peter." He was the only one of all the disciples who was mentioned by name in this message of the angels. "Tell his disciples, and Peter!" How strange this was ! The angels did not do it of their own accord. No doubt Jesus had told them to say this. And why did he do so? What led him to do it? It was the tenderness of his loving heart. He knew how badly Peter had been feeling about his shameful denial of him. He knew what bitter tears he had been shedding over his sin. And he wished to let him know that, notwithstanding what he had done, his injured Master had no unkind feeling in his heart towards him. And so he told the angels to say to the women that they should-" go tell his disciples, and Peter," that their Lord was risen. Here we see the tenderness of Jesus.
And then there was another incident connected with the resurrection of Jesus which shows his tenderness still more touchingly. He arranged matters so that Peter might have a private interview with him, early in the day on which he rose from the dead. St. Luke tells us, Ch. xxiv: 34, that Jesus "appeared unto Simon." And St. Paul says that—"he was seen of Cephas." I. Cor. xv: 5. This was a meeting that Peter had with the Master whom he had denied, all by himself. We are not told what took place at this meeting. Peter never said a word about it; and it was too sacred for any one else to intrude upon. But we can very well imagine what was said and done. We can imagine how the poor penitent disciple would sob, as if his heart were breaking, when he saw his injured Master. We can fancy we see him throwing himself at the feet of Jesus and bathing them with bitter, burning tears, as he begged to be forgiven. And then we can think of the kind and gentle words that Jesus would speak to him. How tenderly he would assure him of his free forgiveness ! How he would tell him that he loved him still! and how willing he was to put him back in his old place as a disciple, and let him go and preach salvation for lost sinners through his death and resurrection ! How kind it was in Jesus thus to give Peter an opportunity of making up with him, when they were all alone by themselves !
Let us never forget the tenderness of Jesus, as shown by these two incidents. And let us try, like him, to be loving and gentle and kind to all. See how much good may be done by those who imitate the example of Christ in this respect.
"The Power of Kindness." An English merchant had taken passage on board a Turkish vessel, on the Mediterranean Sea. During the voyage his attention was called to an interesting man on the vessel, who was a slave belonging to the captain. He had frequent conversations with him and found him to be a kind-hearted, active, and intelligent person. In the course of their conversations together, he learned that the man had been born free, but had been taken captive in war, and was now a slave for life.
The merchant felt a great sympathy for the poor captive and had a desire to get him re-leased. He inquired what it would cost to purchase his freedom. The sum named was more than the whole profit of his voyage. Still he could not give up the thought. He offered the captain a price for his slave. The offer was accepted. The slave overheard this conversation. He supposed the merchant was going to purchase him, that he might keep him as his own slave. This made him very angry. He sprang forward and said, with great excitement, "You call yourself a lover of freedom, an enemy to slavery, wherever found, and yet you are purchasing me!"
The merchant turned and looked kindly on him, as he calmly said, "My friend, I have bought you to set you at liberty. Now you are a free man. "
In a moment the storm of passion was stilled. The slave burst into tears; and falling at the feet of his deliverer, he exclaimed, " You have taken my heart captive! I am your servant forever!"
Few of us may have the opportunity of showing kindness as this merchant did. But every boy and girl in the land may follow the example of the noble lad whose kindness to the aged is told in these simple lines:
"The woman was old, and ragged and gray,
Down the street, with laughter and shout,
"Lest the carriage-wheels, or the horses' feet
"He guided the trembling feet along,
"If ever she's poor, and old, and gray,
Let us never forget the lesson of tenderness which Jesus taught on the morning of his resurrection.
The only other lesson, in connection with the resurrection of Christ, of which we would now speak is about-THE WAY OF SHOWING OUR LOVE TO HIM.
This lesson was taught on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Some of the disciples of Jesus had gone back to their old trade of fishing. On one occasion they had been out all night, but had caught nothing. The next morning, Jesus stood on the shore of the lake, but they did not know him. He asked them if they had any-thing to eat. They said no. He told them to cast the net on the right side of the ship, and they would find plenty of fish. They did so, and their nets were filled at once. Then John, the loving disciple, was the first to find out who it was. He said to Peter, "It is the Lord." As soon as Peter heard this, he fastened his fishing coat about him, plunged into the sea, and swam to the shore. The other disciples rowed to land in their boat. As soon as they landed, they found a fire of coals, with fish and bread all ready for eating. Jesus invited them to come and dine with him. They did so, and when the dinner was over, he had a long conversation with them. As they were talking together, he said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? " He saith unto him, "Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love thee." He saith unto him, "Feed my lambs." This question was repeated by Jesus the second and the third time. Peter gave the same answer each time. The reply of Jesus was -" Feed my sheep." The lambs of Christ's flock mean the children, or young members of his church. The sheep of Christ mean the older members of his church. By feeding his lambs and his sheep, Jesus meant teaching his people, both young an old, about himself, and what he has done for their salvation. And' by what Jesus said on this occasion, he meant to teach Peter, and you and me, and all his people, that if we really love him, the way in which he wishes us to show that love, is by being kind to others—by teaching them about him, and by trying to get them to love and serve him, too.
This is a good lesson for ministers to learn ; for parents, for teachers, and for all who love Jesus. When we have found what a faithful friend, what a loving Saviour, what a kind and tender comforter we have in him, then he wishes us to do all we can to help others to know him, and love him, and serve him. This is what we should all be trying to do.
Let us look at some of the ways in which we may do this.
"The Unexpected Friend." The Rev. Mr. Moffatt,-the missionary to Southern Africa, tells an interesting story which illustrates very strikingly this part of our subject. "In one of my early journeys in this land," he says, "I came, with my companions, to a heathen village on the banks of a river. We had travelled far, and were hungry and thirsty and very weary. The people of the village would not let us come near them. We asked for water and they would not give us any. We offered to buy milk, but they refused to sell us any. We had no prospect but that of spending the night without anything to eat, or to drink. But at the close of the day a woman came to us from the village. She bore on her head a bundle of wood, and had a vessel of milk in her hand. Without saying a word, she handed us the milk. She laid down the wood and returned to the village. Presently she came again with a cooking vessel on her head, with a leg of mutton in one hand and a vessel of water in the other. Silently she kindled the fire and put on the meat. Again and again we asked her who she was and why she was doing all this for us strangers. At last she said that years before there had been a missionary in her neighborhood. He had gone away a long while ago; but from him she had learned to know the Saviour. `I love him,' she said, `whose servants you are, and I wish to show my love to him by doing what I can to help you.' `I asked her,' said Mr. Moffatt, `how she, alone in that dark land, without a minister, without a church, and without any Christian friends, had kept up the light of God in her heart ? ' She drew from her bosom a soiled and worn copy of the New Testament, which the missionary had given her. `This,' she said, `is the fountain from which I drink; this is the oil that makes my lamp burn.'
"How a Boy Showed his Love for Christ." Some time ago a dreadful accident took place on the river Thames, in England. A steamer, called the Princess Alice, when crowded with passengers, on an excursion, was run into by another vessel and sunk. Fearful screams filled the air as the great crowd of people were plunged into the water. Among those who were drawn to the spot was a good Christian boy, about sixteen years of age, who worked in the neighborhood. Being a good swimmer, he at once plunged into the water, took hold of the first struggler he met with, and bore him away in safety to the shore. He did the same the second time, and then the third. As he was nearing the shore the third time he saw a small bundle floating on the water, which he thought must be a baby. He caught it with his teeth, and thus was the means of saving four lives on that terrible occasion. By the time he had done this, his strength was exhausted, and he was unable to venture again among the drowning ones. But he carried the baby home to his mother's humble dwelling, and placing the little orphan in her arms, he said, " Here, mother, sup-pose you nurse this baby for our blessed Saviour; and I will work for its support as long as I live."
A noble boy that was ! and a beautiful illustration he gave of the way in which we should show our love to Jesus, by feeding and taking care of his lambs, and doing good to his people.
I never saw the lesson now before us better expressed than in the following simple lines :
SHINING FOR JESUS.
Are you shining for Jesus children? You have given your hearts to Him;
"Are you shining for Jesus children, so that the holy light
"Are you shining for Jesus, children, shining just everywhere?
"Oh! rise, and ' watching daily,' ask Him your lamps to trim,