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"According to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead" (Eph. 1:19-20).
The first message of the resurrection is that Christ is the Son of God and Christianity is Divine. He was "Declared to be the Son of God with power ... by the resurrection from the dead." The one test which He always offered in proof of His lofty claims was that He should die and rise again. His sign was the sign of the prophet Jonah, or as He put it at another time in another figure, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." So well did His enemies understand this challenge that they took every precaution to guard His tomb and prevent any possible stratagem on the part of His disciples to steal Him away. There was an ample guard, a great stone at the mouth of the tomb with the seal of Rome upon it, which it was treason for any man to break. But in spite of all, that Easter morning saw the sepulcher empty, the stone rolled away and the Lord of life again among His disciples. And "after his passion by many infallible proofs, (he was) seen of them." For forty days He repeated the evidence of His resurrection on various occasions and to different witnesses, until even Thomas, the most incredulous of all, was compelled to confess, "My Lord and my God." Still later Saul of Tarsus, the bitter enemy of Christianity, beheld in a vision the actual form of the risen Christ, and added his testimony and the testimony of his life of sacrifice and suffer to the witnesses of the resurrection. So complete is the proof of this transcendent event that we have seen a gifted lawyer completely convinced after a life of skepticism by simply following the line of evidence which Horace Bushnell has laid out in his volume, Nature and the Supernatural. And this gentleman has afterwards frankly admitted that the proof of Christ's resurrection, by the ordinary rules of evidence, is sufficient to bring conviction to any unprejudiced judge or jury.
Dear friends, if you have ever been troubled, or if you have friends who are troubled with skeptical questionings about the Bible and Christianity, let all the other issues go; drop the questions of Moses, Isaiah and Jonah, and settle the whole issue upon this supreme question, Did Jesus of Nazareth really die, and did He really rise again? And if you are fair and candid, you will be compelled to conclude, or to bring conviction to your doubting friend, that these are indeed "infallible proofs" and that the whole fabric of Christianity rests upon one supreme foundation, one rock of ages, "For if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain ... But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:14, 20).
The second voice of the resurrection is that the sacrifice of Calvary is accepted, the atonement is complete and the great redemption is accomplished. That great Sufferer went down to the grave a prisoner of the law which man had broken, bearing the penalty of the whole guilt of the human race. Had He remained immured in the tomb, it would have been apparent that the debt was not discharged and the price was not sufficient, that He had sunk beneath His heroic but futile effort and had tried in vain to save our ruined race. But when we see Him come forth on the resurrection morning, with the approval of His Father, the presence of the angels of glory, and the portents of nature in the rending earthquake and the opening tombs around, and afterwards ascend in supernatural power to the right hand of God and send down the Holy Ghost as the seal of His complete acceptance and ours, we know that His great task has been completed, that He has finished transgression and made an end of sin, and that
The great redemption is complete
And Satan's power o'erthrown.
When the high priest of old on the great Day of Atonement passed in behind the curtains of the Tabernacle to bear the sins of the people and make reconciliation by blood and incense in the Holy of Holies, the people outside, in solemn suspense, waited for the tinkling of the bells that hung from the skirts of his priestly garments, that they might be assured that the lightnings of divine judgment had not stricken him down for their sins, but that his offering was accepted and their guilt was covered by the sprinkled blood. And when as last he came forth through the parting curtains and raised his hands to pronounce the Levitical benediction upon their heads they raised a great shout and fell upon their faces, for they knew that his offering was accepted, that his atonement sufficed, and that for one year more the presence of Jehovah should lead them, and the light of His countenance continue to rest upon them.
It is in direct allusion to this type that the apostle said, "God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." The same thought lies back of Paul's triumphant challenge, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
The third message is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us of our justification. "(He) was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." The salvation of Jesus Christ is not a mere pardon doled out to a criminal, not a probation offered so long as we stand on our good behavior; but it is a complete justification, a divine decree of righteousness that puts us in the same position as if we had ourselves been already executed for our crimes and sins. and brought back again from the dead to live a second life free from all liability for our former transgressions as distinctly as if we had ceased to be the former personality. This is the force of the apostle's strong statement in the epistle to the Romans, "He that is dead is freed from sin." And the margin is still stronger, "Is justified from sin." The second Adam hung on Calvary that day with all His spiritual children embodied in His own suffering frame, and His death was their death and His resurrection was also theirs. All that we need, therefore, is to be identified with Him in that death and resurrection. How shall we effect this? Must we somehow penetrate the secrets of the skies and see if your names are written in His book of life and if we belong to that mysterious seed who share the death and resurrection and righteousness of the second Adam? Nay, so marvelous is the free and universal offer of the Gospel that each of us can determine for himself his identification with Christ. Just as Ruth, when she learned that she had a legal right to the great Levirate Law that gave her a claim upon her kinsman redeemer, modestly, yet boldly, presented herself at his feet and pressed that claim until it was recognized and honored; so each of us may write our own names in the book of life and say
When Jesus rose to life divine,
I, too, was there.
His resurrection life is mine,
And as the branches and the vine,
His fullness I may share.
Fourth, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the efficient cause of our sanctification. I cannot better express this great truth than by quoting the following paragraphs from an old and little known volume that is worthy of permanent and wide circulation, Marshall's Gospel Mystery of Sanctification.
"The end of Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection was to prepare and form a holy nature and frame for us in Himself, to be communicated to us by union and fellowship with Him; and not to enable us to produce in ourselves the first original of such a holy nature by our own endeavors.
"1. By His incarnation there was a man created in a new holy frame, after the holiness of the first Adam's frame had been marred and abolished for the first transgression; and this new frame was far more excellent than even the first Adam's was, because man was really joined to God by a close, inseparable union of the divine and human nature in one person -- Christ; so that these natures had communion each with the other in their actings, and Christ was able to act in His human nature by power proper to the divine nature, wherein He was one God with the Father.
"Why was it that Christ set up the fallen nature of man in such a wonderful nature of holiness in bringing it to live and act by communion with God living and acting in it? One great end was, that He might communicate this excellent frame to His seed that should by His Spirit be born of Him and be in Him as the last Adam, the quickening Spirit; that as we have borne the image of the earthly so we might bear the image of the heavenly (1 Cor. 15:45, 49), in holiness here and in glory hereafter. Thus He was born Emmanuel, God with us; because the fullness of the Godhead with all holiness did first dwell in Him bodily, even in His human nature, that we might be filled with that fullness in Him (Matt. 1:23; Col. 2:9, 10). Thus He came down from heaven as living bread, that, as He liveth by the Father, so those that eat Him may live by Him (John 6:51, 57), by the same life of God in them which was first in Him.
"2. By His death He freed Himself from the guilt of our sins imputed to Him, and from all that innocent weakness of human nature which He had borne for a time for our sakes. And, by freeing Himself, He prepared a freedom for us from our whole nature condition; which is both weak as He was, and also polluted with our guilt and sinful corruption. Thus the corrupt nature state which is called in Scripture the 'old man,' was crucified together with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed. And it is destroyed in us, not by any wounds which we ourselves can give it, but by our partaking of that freedom from it, and death unto it, that is already wrought our for us by the death of Christ; as is signified by our baptism, wherein we are buried in Christ, by the application of His death to us (Rom. 6:2,3,4,10,11).
"'God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin' (or, 'by a sacrifice for sin,' as in the margin) 'condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit' (Rom. 8:3,4).
"Let these Scriptures be well observed, and they will sufficiently evidence that Christ died, not that we might be able to form a holy nature in ourselves, but that we might receive one ready prepared and formed in Christ for us, by union and fellowship with Him.
"3. By His resurrection He took possession of spiritual life for us, as now fully procured for us, and made to be our right and property by the merit of His death, and therefore we are said to be quickened together with Christ. His resurrection was our resurrection to the life of holiness, as Adam's fall was our fall into spiritual death. And we are not ourselves the first makers and formers of our new holy nature, any more than of our original corruption, but both are formed ready for us to partake of them. And by union with Christ, we partake of that spiritual life that He took possession of for us at His resurrection, and thereby we are enabled to bring forth the fruits of it; as the Scripture showeth by the similitude of a marriage union, Romans 7:4: We are married in Him that is raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God."
The fifth message that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of that higher physical life which faith may claim in the experience of divine healing. While this blessed experience is founded on the death of Christ, it is much more closely connected with His risen life. The Man who rose on Easter morning was a physical man; the body that Thomas touched was a material organism brimming with life and energy not only sufficient for Himself but for all who touch Him and live in vital touch with Him. He belongs to us as our living Head, and as He lived upon His Father so we may live by Him. Referring to His own physical life at a crisis time, the Apostle Paul says: "We should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead." And again he says: "The life also of Jesus (is) made manifest in our body." And yet again: "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bone." This is indeed a sacred mystery which few appear to comprehend or realize, but which is the true source and fountain of physical energy, health and strength to those who have dared to claim all the fullness of this complete redemption. It is an open secret which all may share, but into which we can only come by the great law of the fitness of things, and by coming so close to the Master that we can say with the beloved apostle: "That ... which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:1, 2).
The sixth voice is that the resurrection of Christ Jesus is the type and guarantee of our resurrection. It is impossible for us to explain or understand the physiological difference between the resurrection body of our Lord and that mortal frame that was nailed to Calvary's cross three days before. That it was the same body substantially the Scriptures have left no doubt; but that there were infinite differences is also as clear. It had been refined and glorified in some ineffable way beyond all that even the most advanced science has taught us of the possibilities of matter. It could come forth from the tomb, passing through the great stone which closed the sepulcher before the stone was rolled away. It could rise without an effort and by the sheer force of will from earth to heaven in spite of the laws of gravitation. It could pass through closed doors and become visible and invisible at will. Something faintly approximating such higher forms of matter has been illustrated by the discoveries of science in connection with radium. At one time the atom was considered the smallest particle of matter, and an atom is so small that three hundred millions of them could lie side by side and form a row less than a yard long. But radium has opened the way for the discovery that a single atom contains smaller particles known as electrons, and that these are intensely active and are ever moving about each other as the planets around the sun, and flashing out at times a swift radiation into space at the tremendous velocity of a hundred thousand miles a second. And yet in its primal form radium is just pitch blend or uranium, a mass of dull brown matter scarcely distinguishable from the dust of the ground. If you think of the lower form, and then of the higher, so mighty in its material energy that a flash-light from it could go round the globe four times in a second, and a few ounces of it would be sufficient to completely annihilate by explosion the greatest city in the world in a moment of time, you will get some conception of the possibilities of matter. Apply all this to these bodies of clay which we are now carrying about with us with their burdens of infirmities and their fetters of disease; and then think of the time when transfigured, glorified, and conformed to the body of His glory, we shall reach our splendid and eternal destiny, We shall sweep from star to star as thought sweeps swiftly now; we shall shine forth like the sun, and we shall share the omnipotence of Him who created the universe, and who tells us that "when he shall appear, we shall be like him." These are the prospects and hopes which the resurrection of Jesus Christ has guaranteed.
Not only so, but that resurrection has established a precedent for the whole universe of God, and before the great plan shall have been accomplished the mark of the cross and the glory of the resurrection will be stamped upon the whole creation, for the day is coming when He that sitteth upon the throne shall say: "Behold, I make all things new," and earth and heaven shall have their baptism of death and resurrection.
A seventh message is that the resurrection of Christ as its crowning glory gives us back Christ Himself. For a brief moment of eclipse the Sun of Righteousness went out in the darkness of the grave, but with the Easter morning came a sunrise that shall nevermore decline. That glorious morning gave us back the crucified Jesus as our living and everlasting Friend, to be with us in a sense and in a fullness not possible had He continued to live as the Christ of Galilee. Then His presence was limited to a single spot and to a little group of friends. Now He says to us without restriction or limitation: "Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age." His resurrection was the stepping stone to His ascension and to His high priesthood before the throne where He ever lives to make intercession for us, and it is leading on to the greater glory of His second as King of kings and Lord of all the ages.
Finally, the resurrection of Christ established a precedent for the highest things that faith and prayer can claim. Our text gives this mighty measure where the apostle prays that their eyes may be illuminated to "Know .. the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." After the resurrection, nothing is too hard for God. After the rolling away of that stone, no barrier need ever stand in your way again. After the victory of the Conqueror of death, no foe need ever dismay you. Oh, let us ask and believe and expect according to the mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.
And now, in conclusion, there are several great and might words which seem to stand out in raised letters over the gateway of the Easter morning. The first is life. It is the voice of the Spring; it is the voice of the resurrection. It is the key word to our great salvation -- life. Have we received God's mighty gift --eternal life?
Another phrase is springing life, that life which is given to the beautiful season of Spring; that life which makes the Christian life not an effort by an impulse, not a stagnant pool but a glorious artesian well.
Another is fullness of life. All about us in nature are scattered in profusion the prodigal and redundant gifts of the Spring. Oh, let us realize that He who gave the sun its light, the trees their foliage, and the landscape its myriad beauties that no human eyes shall ever fully trace, is able to do much more for the children of His grace. Let us enter into the fullness of His resurrection.
Another phrase is newness of life. Rejuvenescence, the scientists call it. And that is what we need in our spiritual experience, the freshness that will make us like Aaron's rod, ever budding, blossoming and bearing abundant fruit.
Another is gladness, joyfulness. This is above all the spirit of the Spring. This is above all the spirit of the Spring. This is the spirit of the resurrection morning. All Hail! is the message of the Risen One. Fear not! is His reassuring word. Oh, let us emulate the songs of the birds, the sunshine of the sky, the blossoms of the Spring, the shining faces of the angels who came to herald the resurrection!
Another is victory. That triumph assures all other victories, and bids us go forth with the shout, "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ."
One other word let us not forget. The Spring is the season of planting and the resurrection calls us to the true Springtime of a fruitful and unselfish life.
O let us sow "beside all waters,"
Plant blessings and blessings will spring;
So truth and truth will grow.
Nor ever forget what a wonderful thing