“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
There they stood at the edge of the empty sepulchre—a group of true-hearted but perplexed and disconsolate women!
They had brought, at early morn, ere the busy world was astir, their already prepared spices and ointments.
But the tomb where the body of their Lord had been laid was empty; hence their bewilderment.
They had seen Him in death, and had marked “how His body was laid.” But what now? That body was gone—how, where?
As they were much perplexed thereabout, two men stood by them in shining garments, who said to them, “Why seek ye Him that lives among the dead?” (Luke 24:5, marg.).
“Him that lives”! What could that mean to these downcast women? He whom they sought was not there, but was risen! The sepulchre was empty; the spices and ointments were useless; but if He were alive again, the power of death had been broken, together with all that that could signify.
A living, risen Christ—that is the starting-post of vital Christianity! Christ risen from the dead, having annulled the power of death and the grave, having broken the power of Satan and made atonement for sin—that is its mighty foundation!
“He is risen”—that is our paean of victory! “Him that lives”—that is our everlasting strength and consolation!
Now see the immediate effect on these very women. We read that “they came and held him by the feet and worshipped Him” (Matt. 28:9). Their perplexity gave place to worship, and their desolate hearts were filled with gladness.
“Rabboni,” cried the weeping Mary, when she heard Him call her by name.
“My Lord and my God,” said the unbelieving Thomas, when generously invited to thrust his hand into the spear-riven side.
“The disciples,” too “were glad when they saw the Lord” (see John 20).
Oh! it was the dawn of a new day, the beginning of a new creation, the closing up of types and shadows, the presence of the glorious Antitype in actual resurrection form, visible, tangible, accessible, gracious as of old, and exactly “the same” as “yesterday,” when He wept and suffered and sympathized, and as, thank God, He will be “for ever.” The blessed Leader of Salvation had been made perfect—thoroughly fitted and qualified by suffering—for His new place as such.
See the effect on Stephen, the lovely proto-martyr of Christianity. He was full of the Holy Ghost who had been sent down by the living, risen Christ after His ascension to heaven, and consequently, in the power of this glorious indwelling Spirit, he cried: “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”! (Acts 7).
What a vision! But how thoroughly in order.
We know the sequel; he was stoned to death, but passed away in deepest peace, saying, like Him on whose face he was gazing, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” He “fell asleep” like a wearied child rocked in its cradle. Death was, as we said, annulled, shorn of its sting and terror. See the effect on John in Revelation 1. He had fallen prostrate in the visible presence of the Son of Man, as He walked, judicially, amid the seven golden candlesticks. There he lay, but on him was laid a gentle hand, while a well-known voice said: “Fear not, I am He that lives and became dead, and behold I am alive for evermore”!
Enough; fear fled, the seer arose, the apocalypse followed full of terror to the world, full of comfort to the true and faithful church.
It is still the risen, living, and coming Christ.
Notice, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” are His precious words in John 14. With Him we are “in safeguard,” indeed, as David told one of his trembling followers.
As certainly as He lives on the other side of death, so shall each and all of His beloved and believing people. For He is their life. Hence we read in Hebrews 7:25, “He ever lives to make intercession for us.” Such is the present activity of His life in glory—our High Priest and Intercessor.
“He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
Oh! there is succour, sympathy, care, consideration, love in that tender heart up there on the throne! He has felt our pangs; He has shed our tears; He has known our sorrows; He was made like us in all things but sin; He calls us His brethren. He is the star and sun of the Christian life!
A creed, a rule, a form, a system, a kingdom, a heaven! Oh, more, infinitely more is our living, loving, tender, holy, faithful Lord! It is everlasting life!
No marvel that Paul could write of and crave for “the surpassingness of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.” It surpasses and eclipses all beside.
This knowledge is no fable, nor myth, nor imagination.
The Christ of God and of Christianity is a living Person—truly God and truly Man—the Son of the Father, the Redeemer of men, the risen, glorified Lord and Head of the church, who appeared once to put away sin by His own sacrifice, who is coming shortly to call His own to be for ever with Him in the Father’s house—those whom He loves to the end, and who will appear again in judgment and power and glory.
Beloved, it is ours today, during His rejection, to learn His personal worth—to set our hearts on this one thing, so that we may bear the stamp of Christ upon us in the reproduction, in our poor frail bodies, of His beautiful life of love and holiness. This is the truest fruitfulness and greatest joy. Let us bathe our souls in the pure waters of John 14, 15, and 16, until we can better appreciate John 17.
“Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living, bright reality.”