"Fear Not Ye"

"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting the watch" (Matthew 27:62-66).

Stone and seal and soldiers held the lonely sepulchre in the garden where the body of Jesus lay. The subtilty of Jewish priests and the authority of Rome combined to make the place secure. "Make it," said Pilate, "as sure as ye can." They did their utmost, and may have gone to their beds assured that they would meet the hated Nazarene no more. What orders were issued to the Roman guard as they went to their unwanted watch? Were they told, I wonder, how to treat the expected raid upon that tomb by a mob of Galilean fishermen? It is more than likely that they were, but they certainly were not instructed how to deal with an earthquake and an angel of the Lord, whose countenance was like lightning and whose raiment was white as snow. And the Galilean fishermen came not, but the earthquake and the angel did.

What a moment was that when the earth trembled and rocked, and the Imperial seal was torn asunder and the stone was rolled away from the mouth of that tomb by angelic hands. Glittering spears and shining armour were useless to withstand this display of heavenly power; the courage of the coarse defenders of that tomb failed utterly, and they fell down flat as dead men.

There was every reason why that guard should shake and fall with fear, for it represented a world determined to be rid of Jesus, and which thought it had realized its determination. Now He was risen from the dead, and His resurrection was His triumph and their defeat. It was the declaration on the part of God that He had seen and disapproved their awful act at Calvary; and that Christ was the righteous One before whose throne all men must stand.

But close at hand in that memorable hour were two weak women, and to them the angel turned with words of cheer. There was nothing in the power of God to make them afraid; there was every reason why they should rejoice. They represented, not the world that hated Jesus, but those whom He had chosen out of it, and who loved Him because He first loved them. So the angel said to them,
"FEAR NOT YE.

It seemed strange that such words should be said to these weak women, when Roman veterans fell as dead for fear; but the reason is at once declared. "I know," said the angel, "that
YE SEEK JESUS."

That was the reason. He was the object of their hearts' truest affection. The world was a dreary desert without Him; they could not keep away from that sepulchre where they supposed that He was lying. All their hopes were centred in Him; and though their faith, through ignorance, had been sorely shaken, their love for Him remained. He was their Beloved and their Friend, and in this, though they knew it not, their hearts were in fellowship with the heart of God. And we come together as those who cannot do without Him. As those women sought Him because they loved Him, so do we seek His presence, for He has won our hearts' affections, and in His company we find our fullest joy. He has become our gathering centre, our great attraction, our bond of fellowship; that which bound those women as one in their search for Him unites us also; we are one if we love our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not of the world that hates Him, but of God and of one another, because of our common devotion to Him.

"It is Himself that bindeth heart to heart.
  In one eternal love."

But why did they seek Him? And why do we seek Him? The angel supplied the answer, "Ye seek Jesus," he said,
"WHICH WAS CRUCIFIED."

That is why. We should never have sought Him if He had not been crucified.

His crucifixion was the expression and the measure of His love to us. When He was despised and rejected by men,

"Stripped and scourged by hands ungentle,
  Mocked by tongues untamed,"

then He suffered, the Just for us the unjust, to bring us to God. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53). He "loved the church and gave Himself for it." It is love that passes knowledge, and yet we know it, for He bore our sins, and has put them all away, having borne the righteous judgment that was due to us for them. He died for us.

"We know the way, the glorious way He made
  Through death's dark sea.
O Lamb of God, we bless the love that laid
  Our sins on Thee."

But if the angel could have said no more of Him, it would have been useless for any of us to have sought Him, or still to seek Him. He would have been of no use to us, nor could be. If He is a dead Christ we are hopeless, for "if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). But a glad triumph swells through the angel's words, as he proclaims, "He is not here, for
HE IS RISEN."

His work upon the cross has been accepted; the price He paid there for us is enough. Death has met his conqueror; the grave has been robbed of its terrors, and the devil's power has been broken for ever. The Father's approval of His life and death has been made manifest, His own personal greatness and glory has been declared, and eternal redemption secured for us beyond recall. We can understand how every fear and dark foreboding in these women's hearts would be changed to confidence and joy. His resurrection proved that He had not deceived them; that every hope that He had raised within their breasts would be fulfilled. And it was this that the angel urged upon them when he said "He is risen
AS HE SAID."

He had told them that He would rise again; that He had done so was the confirmation of all His words, and proved that He was fully worthy of their fullest confidence. We, too, may give to the winds our fears, and renew our confidence in Him, as we read His words, which tell us that not one jot or tittle of His word shall fail. He is risen, that is the pledge. Death mocks at men's assertions and brings to naught their words and works, but our Saviour lives as Victor over death to give complete effect to all that the prophets have spoken concerning Him and all that He has spoken concerning us.

"COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY."
They were to be witnesses to the disciples of this great event, and so must view the empty tomb with their own eyes, and this they did at the invitation of the angel of the Lord. It was presumptuously stated by one whose blasphemies have been closed by death that the Lord did not actually rise from the dead; that His remains are still lying somewhere near to Calvary. If this is so the Christian faith is a delusion and a snare, and all those who have fallen asleep in the joy of it have perished. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20).

See how the glorious worth of our Lord comes out in the angel's words.
1. YE SEEK JESUS = His personal preciousness.
2. WHICH WAS CRUCIFIED = His matchless love.
3. HE IS RISEN = His glorious power.
4. AS HE SAID = His absolute trustworthiness.

But there is more in this wonderful story; the risen Lord had not forgotten His disciples, they were His first thought. So that the angel continued,
"GO QUICKLY, AND TELL HIS DISCIPLES
that He is risen from the dead, and goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see Him, lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly with-fear and great joy and did run to bring His disciples word." . . . Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee
INTO A MOUNTAIN WHERE JESUS HAD APPOINTED THEM."

He appointed a place where He could meet with them, and, blessed fact, He has appointed a place for us, where He can meet with us. It is in this same gospel that His precious words are recorded for us, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them" (chap. 18:20). It is not the place that we choose; we may not please ourselves in this matter; the place is His appointment; it is our responsibility as well as our joy to obey His word and keep this appointment with Him.

The place that He appointed them was outside the temple and away from Jerusalem. We must remember that in Matthew's gospel He had been presented to Israel as their Messiah, and they had rejected Him, so that the temple, their house, and their city were to be desolated, and the faithful remnant was to be led out of both and gathered to Himself. His name instead of the temple and the city was to be their rallying centre. And so today not a sensuous religion, an ornate service, or a massive temple is that which satisfies His heart or the hearts of those who love Him. To meet His own is His wish, and to be in His presence without distraction or the intrusion of that which pleases nature is the wish of those who keep His word and do not deny His Name.

"AND WHEN THEY SAW HIM THEY WORSHIPPED HIM."
Could they do other, when He stood before them who had died for them, bearing in His risen body the marks of His suffering and death? A sight of Him was all that was needed to prostrate them in holy adoration at His feet. And so it will be with us if without distraction we realise His presence in the place that He has appointed us.

There is more in the chapter, but here I close, as my wish is to bring and keep before you the Person of the Lord and the blessed fact that we may have the joy of His presence, for He has appointed a place where He will meet with us, and He cannot deny His own word, nor will He disappoint those who believe it. We are often so self-occupied, or busy interfering with our brethren, or taken up with our service, that we think little of this that means so much to Him, and yet to faith and by the Holy Spirit's power His presence may be as real to us as it was to His disciples when they met Him on that mountain in Galilee.

"Jesus, Thou alone art worthy
  Ceaseless praises to receive,
For Thy love and grace and goodness
  Rise o'er all our hearts conceive.
Praise Him, praise Him, praise the Saviour,
  Saints aloud your voices raise.
Praise Him, praise Him, till in heaven
  Perfected we'll sing His praise."