They Departed Quickly . . . And Did Run

"And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word" (Matthew 28:8).

Choose what cemetery you will, and standing at the gate of it, observe the folk who come to render their tribute of love to the lately buried dead. There is an eagerness, a determination in the way they come; the heart of them seems to beat more quickly as they approach the sacred spot and to impart its haste to their feet. They come to the grave almost as to a longed-for tryst where waits for them an ardent lover, but they do not so depart. Observe them as they leave the flowered plot. Their heads are bowed and their steps are leaden and slow, for they have received no response to the cry of the heart that aches within their breasts, though they have lingered lovingly and long beside the grave — the silent grave; and chilled and comfortless they are returning to face afresh the silence and the void of a desolated house — a house that is no longer a home. Account for it as we may, people who mourn do not run quickly from a grave, they go to it quickly, with earnest and uplifted heads, but they depart as though they carried a heavy load and were very tired; and because this is so it will be worth our while to ask why these women departed quickly and did run from this special grave of which the Gospels tell.

Never had brighter hopes been buried in any grave than in the grave of Jesus, and never had hearts been more bereft than the hearts of those women who shuddered in their sorrow as the great stone rolled slowly to its place at the door of that tomb, and shut from their tear-dimmed vision the body of their Lord. The night that followed that last Passover feast was a woeful night for them and for all who loved the Hope of Israel, a night unrelieved by any solace from without or faith from within, for having lost their Lord they had lost their all. Yet there was one thing that kept their broken hearts from refusing to perform their office: they would go on the first day of the week and anoint His body, His kingship had been rejected by the Jews; His claim to it was the charge upon which Pilate had condemned Him to the cross; the multitude had gone to their homes saying He was no king at all or He would have saved Himself; but to those women he was King, and more; and though He had lost the kingdom, yet He should lie in His tomb as a King if they could make it possible. By some means or other they would force their way into that sealed and guarded grave and fill it with the fragrance of the spices that they had prepared, and with the sweeter fragrance of their love; this should be their last tribute to Him and then they would return — yes, but how, and where, and to what?

With great impatience they endured those laggard Sabbath hours, and with eager haste they carried forth their precious ointment when the morrow after the Sabbath dawned. Nothing could hold them from their purpose; upon Him they must lavish these perfumes, long treasured for themselves, for "they loved Him more than they loved their own beauty," as a famous writer has said, and what more could be said of woman than that? Mark tells us that they reached the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. Were they blind to the golden glow of that wondrous morning? It is more than likely, for a grave was their goal, and to pour their best upon the dead their purpose; this was the only balm they knew for their death-stricken and hopeless hearts; and what charm could sunrise have for such as they? But what a sunrise that must have been, though their eyes did not see it!

Let no man tell me that that day dawned as other days, and that all nature did not exult in that great hour. There must have been a triumph and a fragrance in it that never dawn had known before. If when He died — He, the Creator, clothed in human flesh — the sun drew a veil across His face, and all nature robed herself in sable garments, and the earth trembled to her very heart with horror at the deed that men had wrought, there must have been a corresponding joy when the conquering heel of life was placed upon the neck of death, and the shame of the cross was answered by an empty tomb. "He is risen." The glad news had sung its triumphant music to the ends of creation, and "the sun, moon And stars," "the mountains and hills, and fruit trees and cedars," the heavens and the earth were the glorious orchestra that accompanied the angel's proclamation.

They were slow, those women; in spite of their eagerness to be there they were too late to see the great event that has made that day to be the day of days; yet they were quicker than the men that had followed Jesus, for their love was truer, more ardent, and less selfish, and so they were the first to hear the blessed news, and it was fitting that it should be so. Faith and hope would have freed them from the legal bondage of the Sabbath and would have lit the darkness of the night for them and have brought them to that grave at even an earlier hour; as it was they came with eyes almost closed with weeping and with hearts dulled with despair. But when they reached the sacred spot what wonders greeted them. The stone was gone, and instead of Roman soldiers, brutal men who would have found a wretched joy in casting insults at them, they found a heavenly guard in possession, a messenger from God in white apparel. Heaven was not in mourning; its messenger wore the garments of victory and joy, and only waited for human ears to listen to his story. And these women were the first to hear it, and as they heard, the silent chords in their hearts awoke to song, and they turned their backs upon the grave, and forgot their spices and themselves, and with fear and great joy did run to tell the tidings. Blessed women, they were the first of ransomed sinners to be swept by the rapture of the resurrection triumph, the first of that countless host whose singing shall be sweeter and more joyous and more prolonged than any raised by sun and moon and stars, or even angers!

We know not whether those women were young or old, but we know that the fact of resurrection drove the darkness from their hearts and made them rejoice in the glory of the day that had dawned; and the strength of that new day was theirs, so that no matter how old in years they were, or weary with weeping they had been, their feet were fleet now to share their joy with others. They ran because the grave was empty, its victory was gone, they would see their Lord again. That was the secret, and that is a secret shared now by all whose faith has laid hold of the risen Christ. This changes everything and drives away despair, and makes us sing "Thanks be unto God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

What a change the knowledge of Christ risen from the dead makes; Him, who is more to us than father and mother, husband, wife or child — our life, our joy, our all. What rest there is when we can say, "I am His, and He is mine." The nearest earthly tie cannot yield this rest; in all earthly love there is the fear of loss, and the more tender and precious the tie the greater is the agony of that fear, and when fear enters, rest departs. But in our union with Christ risen there is no such fear. No power this bond can sever. For death itself, the great dissolver, has been dissolved by Him, and we can say, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" If we live He is with us, if we die we are with Him. In life and in death we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us. We know Him as a victorious and living Man. He is not a memory, but a reality.

It is more than likely that most of us have some precious relics that in some sort of way keep memory alive, and move the heart and moisten the eye, but how unsatisfying they are; they do not avail to bring back "the touch of the vanished hand, or the sound of the voice that is still". But it is not so with Christ. He is not dead; He lives. Peter is dead, Paul is dead, many whom we loved are dead, and communion with the dead, whether saints or sinners, is a hellish delusion; but Christ is not dead; He lives victorious over death, and communion with H is a blessed reality by the power of the Holy Ghost.

It is true that we have the bread and the wine of the Lord's Supper that remind us of what He was — once dead for us; but we remember what He was in the joy of what He is, for when we thus remember what He was, He Himself is there.

So we can run; vigour, spiritual vigour, may mark us even unto old age. We can run with our backs on the grave and our faces alight with the glory that shines before us, and as we run we can cheer our brethren by the joyous tidings, "THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED."