IN ALL history there is no event freighted with deeper meaning and of more importance to the human race than the resurrection of Jesus. Upon it rests the Christian faith, for "if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). The apostle Paul states that Jesus Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).
The Scripture states that an angel declared to the women who had come to the tomb, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said."
When the Sabbath had passed, very early in the morning of the first day of the week these women came to anoint the body of Jesus, whom they so reverently loved. In their hopeless state they never expected to see Him again, but for what He was to them they would always love Him.
These comforting words of the angel had been forgotten by them, but as they listened, their memory was quickened, and they left the scene rejoicing over the good news that "he is risen, as he said," "and did run to bring his disciples word." They were no longer grief-stricken over the death of their Lord. A new day had dawned for them and for the world.
These sorrowing women were not prepared to behold the opened sepulcher or to hear the voices of the heavenly messengers. Their hearts were set on honoring their Lord by anointing His body with the sweet spices they had prepared. As they neared the sepulcher, "they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" but to their surprise the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. The voice of an angel calmed their fears and rejoiced their hearts. He said: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24:5-7).
Mary Magdalene, who had been first at the sepulcher and who was alone, was startled at the open, empty tomb. The emotional tension of her grief snapped, and she hurriedly turned away and found Peter and John, saying: "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him." Immediately these two disciples hastened to the tomb, with Mary following them. While they doubted the report Mary had brought to them, the Scriptures say that when John went into the tomb and noticed the orderly way in which the graveclothes were placed, "he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John 20:8, 9). This orderly-arrangement of the graveclothes was a mute testimony that "he is risen."
As Peter and John left the tomb and wended their way back to the city, Mary lingered behind weeping as she stood facing the empty tomb. She thought that Jesus, who had brought healing and happiness to her poor soul and comfort to her troubled life when others had looked upon her with contempt, was now no more. Tombs are dear to us for what they contain, but here is an empty tomb. Mary had lingered in the shadows at the foot of the cross, and now before the empty tomb she waits, and by waiting she is rewarded. The prophet Isaiah tells us: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). It always pays to wait on the Lord.
Through the haze of her tears Mary stooped down and looked into the tomb "and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him" (John 20:12, 13). Her heart was breaking. With Christ gone, there was no room for faith. Her soul was discouraged to the breaking point. There was within her a heart hunger for Christ's bodily presence even though He was dead. She was not in the mood to discuss her deep sorrow with these two strangers.
"Then she turned away, even from the angels," says the pen of inspiration, "thinking that she must find someone who could tell her what had been done with the body of Jesus. Another voice addressed her, 'Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?' Through her tear-dimmed eyes, Mary saw the form of a man, and thinking that it was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.' If this rich man's tomb was thought too honorable a burial place for Jesus, she herself would provide a place for Him. There was a grave that Christ's own voice had made vacant, the grave where Lazarus had lain. Might she not there find a burial place for her Lord? She felt that to care for His precious crucified body would be a great consolation to her in her grief.
Mary's Reward for Waiting
"But now in His own familiar voice Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' Now she knew that it was not a stranger who was addressing her, and turning she saw before her the living Christ. In her joy she forgot that He had been crucified. Springing toward Him, as if to embrace His feet, she said, 'Rabboni.' But Christ raised His hand, saying, Detain Me not; 'for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.' And Mary went her way to the disciples with the joyful message."—The Desire of Ages, p. 790.
Mary leaves the scene with her sorrow turned into gladness and her spirit revived, because she knows now that "he is risen." She had heard His familiar voice and had seen Him for herself.
Christ had made His first personal appearance to her after His resurrection, and had transformed the day into the most glorious experience of her life. This had been to her a day of suspense and surprise— a day in which she passed from utter defeat to incomprehensible victory. Nothing mattered now, for she knew that "he is risen, as he said," for "she had seen the Lord."
Three days before Mary had followed Jesus to the top of a bleak and barren hill called Golgotha. At nine o'clock in the morning she had witnessed His crucifixion. She heard the taunting of the angry mob and the gracious response of her blessed Lord, saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). She was there when death came, when the sun hid its face, an earthquake shook the earth, and the graves of the saints opened.
Heaven had beheld earth's darkest hour and the earth had witnessed its most shameful scene. The world had spent its most horrible weekend. The followers of Christ were left hopeless because they failed to understand all that the prophets had said concerning His resurrection. On the Sabbath after His death the priests were restless as they sought to perform their usual ritual. The rent veil of the Temple filled them with terror as the Most Holy Place lay exposed—a place that no human being was supposed to look upon, except the high priest, who entered once a year.
But Mary had seen the Lord. Her night of despair was changed into the sunlight of that resurrection morning, and she hastened to tell the good news to the disciples.
The angel had said, "He is risen; he is not here. . . . But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you" (Mark 16:6, 7).
Christ had been forsaken by all His disciples, but on this resurrection morning He assured them of his abiding love. From the pen of inspiration we read: " 'Tell His disciples and Peter,' the angels said. Since the death of Christ, Peter had been bowed down with remorse. His shameful denial of the Lord, and the Saviour's look of love and anguish, were ever before him. Of all the disciples he had suffered most bitterly. To him the assurance is given that his repentance is accepted and his sin forgiven. He is mentioned by name."—Ibid., p. 793.
The resurrection helped to prepare Peter for the Pentecostal experience. By his commission he would become a living witness for Christ, and he would be known for his courage, his loyalty, and his faithfulness.
What the Resurrection Means and Does Not Mean
The resurrection means more than the wearing of new clothes and the displaying of beautiful flowers on Easter. It means more than the customary Easter bunnies or the colorful Easter eggs. It means more than the waving of palm branches or the singing of "Hosannah in the highest." The resurrection means that the Word of God is true. It confirms our belief in the story of Christ's birth, the miracles of His life, His miraculous ministry, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of His return.
The resurrection confirmed the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. His resurrection meant to the world for all time that He had conquered death. When He yielded up His life on the cross and said, "It is finished," He vanquished death—death died. All the faithful will hear His voice saying, ... "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18).
He became the pattern for all who would claim Him as their sin-pardoning Saviour. Death need not have any fears for them; neither could the grave forever hold them. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). This is a pledge to His people that all who fall asleep in Him shall awake in His likeness. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (verse 55).
The resurrection means that Jesus becomes the universal, ever-present Christ and Lord, and that He will be with His followers always, even to the end of time.
Most Glorious of All Words
What wonderful words! The most glorious words of all Christendom are the words "He is not here: ... he is risen." A prominent Christian businessman was told by a Chinese that many of the teachings of Jesus were to be found in Confucius. "Yes," replied the businessman, "but Confucius is dead, and will remain in the grave till the voice of Jesus calls him to come forth." Buddha has a large following, but he, too, is dead. Thank God we serve a risen Saviour, a living Christ, one who has made complete our redemption and has given us the assurance of eternal life. The followers of Christ can say, "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25).
Thank God for the divine character the resurrection gives to our faith and our hopes. Because He lives, we too shall live.
Christ rested His claims upon the resurrection. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said" (John 2:19-22). One must never allow even the pain of overwhelming sorrow to cause him to forget God's Word.
Today Christ is not only our risen Saviour but our ascended Lord, and He is now seated on the right hand of the Father as our High Priest. He has gone from us that He might come closer to us. He has borne our humanity into the presence of the Father. We are told, "In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken."—Ibid., p. 25.
Before the resurrection were the Garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. We, too, must pass through our Gethsemane and experience the deep shadows of Calvary if we would enjoy the indwelling Christ of Easter. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Phil. 3:10, 11).
The high priest under the law not only slew the sacrifice but carried the blood within the veil. By His resurrection and ascension, Christ proves that He has offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and has entered into the heavens with His own blood and ever liveth to make intercession for us. He "hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
The gates that opened to welcome the King of Glory back to heaven opened for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon His waiting people, that they might go into all the world and preach with power "that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2: 36).
Those gates will swing open again when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Rev. 11:15). Then will be heard the Hallelujah chorus with its triumphant message of Easter, "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6).