THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD
John A. Broadus
"The Lord is risen indeed."
Very near the place of the crucifixion there was a garden belonging to Joseph, of Arimathaea, this being the name of a little country town from which he had come. He was a man of wealth, as no other could have owned a garden just outside the walls of a great city. He, too, was a man of elevated social position: for excepting the high priest there was no higher position possible for a Jew than to be a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a disciple of Jesus, but "secretly, for fear of the Jews." It is difficult to interpret that expression with certainty, but it gives us a rather painful view of the powerful influence exerted upon the religion of many men by social considerations. This gentleman was afraid of losing social caste, and afraid of losing a distinguished position, and so he had not been able to declare himself a disciple of Jesus before the world.
In the Sanhedrin Joseph appears to have opposed the vote by which Jesus was condemned, and we may suppose that from this garden of his, near to the place, he had looked out with mournful interest upon the scene of the crucifixion. Perhaps as his eye wandered, it fell upon the new tomb which he had caused to be cut out from the solid rock in the garden, preparing it for the entombment of himself and his household, but in which no one had yet been laid. It occurred to him that he would honor the prophet, the crucified, by making him the first to be buried in his new tomb. It is one of the contradictions that are perpetually occurring in our Lord's life; that he died as a despised malefactor, and yet he was buried like a man of the greatest distinction. There was need of haste after his death occurred, for that was three o'clock, and if they waited until the sun went down and the Sabbath began it would be impossible, so Joseph hurried to the Roman governor and asked permission to bury the prophet in his tomb. Pilate thought it unusual that he should have died so soon, since those crucified usually lingered for a day or two, sometimes for several days. But all the sleepless suffering of the night before and the dark mysterious agony of the day had told rapidly upon him; thus in six hours he had died. Pilate sent an officer to ascertain the fact, and upon his report, he gave the permission required. Joseph hurried to buy costly ointment to embalm the body. Another member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, who three years before had visited Jesus by night, also went to Golgotha. No expense was spared by those distinguished and wealthy men in expressing love and admiration for the body of the prophet. I wonder if Nicodemus did not remember, as he and the attendants took down the body of Christ, how he had said to him at that night interview: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so shall the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life."
This interment was witnessed, we are told, by two women-Mary Magdalene, and another Mary, the mother of Joseph. They stood at a distance and so did not see that Nicodemus had brought those spices. Now as the sun was going down, and the stone was rolled to the mouth of the sepulcher, the women went to the city planning what they would do when the Sabbath was passed. So the night came and the morning. Those were very weary hours of that Sabbath day for the disciples of Jesus; there never was amid all the crushed hopes of human hearts on earth an experience so bitter as theirs. They had "trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel," they climbed up to the hope that he was the promised Messiah, and now it was all gone. His enemies, to be sure, had heard a whisper from some source that he had predicted that he would be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day. They seized upon that idea, and went to work to make sure that nothing should be done by his friends to simulate a resurrection. And make sure they did! They got a guard of Roman soldiers to watch the tomb, whose lives would be the forfeit if they neglected their duty. They put upon the stone he-fore the door the seal of the Roman government which it was death for any man to break. They made their work sure.
They remembered the prediction, and why did not the disciples remember it, too? Well, I suppose they had never looked upon the prediction as representing a reality. When Peter and James and John came down with him from the mount of transfiguration and he told them they must tell no man what they had seen on the mount, until the Son of Man was risen from the dead, we are told that they used to question and reason with one another as to what the rising from the dead meant. Why, it could not mean a literal rising from the dead. King Messiah was not going to be crucified, and come to life-of course, it could not mean that. It was contrary to all their ideas. And as it could not mean a literal rising from the dead, what could it mean? I suppose the idea of a real death and a real resurrection never entered their minds; therefore they did not remember it, because it had never been reality to their thought.
The hours went on, and when the sun set on the Jewish Sabbath, which was Saturday evening, the women went to the shops, which were opened at sunset, to buy their spices. Some of these women had been accustomed to contribute of their substance for the support of Jesus and his followers, and they were going now to make their last contribution to do some honor to his dead body. When the early morning came, they went to the tomb. On their way there occurred to their minds a difficulty. The two women had observed that it was a very large stone that was rolled against the tomb, and it occurred to them that they would not be able to remove it. But they pressed on, and when they arrived at the sepulcher-the stone was rolled away. Immediately the thought came, not that he was risen, but that the body had been removed by some friend or some enemy. So one of them, Mary Magdalene, rushed back to the city to the residence of John, where Peter also was, to tell them about it. The other woman remained. And presently looking into the sepulcher they saw two angels, who spoke to them and said: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen. Go tell his disciples that he is leading the way to Galilee and they shall see him there." So they departed to carry this message. I fancy they went to Bethany. Most likely the nine disciples, who were accustomed to go to Bethany every night with the Master, had gone there now.
Soon after the women left, here came Peter and John, eagerly hastening at the news which Mary had brought that the sepulcher was opened. John came first, and stopped and looked in, but in his deeply reverential way did not enter. Then Peter came, and, bold as he always was, rushed right in and John followed him. They saw the linen cloths that had wrapped the body lying, and the napkin which had been wrapped about the head was folded and laid apart. John telling the story afterward, says that he "saw, and believed." Those accustomed to dealing with evidence know that among matters of importance, very slight circumstances will sometimes clinch the whole thing and leave no doubt about it. Here was such a slight circumstance. It could not be that friends had borne that body away, for they would have carried it away with the cloths; and enemies would not have left the cloths folded and neatly laid away. Their presence there and the tokens of order and loving care satisfied John that the Master was risen indeed. No doubt there came back upon him a recollection of those forgotten sayings of the Master, and he now saw what he could not understand when he came down from the mount of transfiguration, what the rising from the dead did mean. It meant reality. He saw and believed.
But Jesus was not there, and they knew not what to do nor to think, and so they went soon away. However, Mary Magdalene had followed them to the tomb, and was now standing without and weeping. After a little she stooped timidly and looked into the tomb, and again the angels appeared and said. "Woman, why weepest thou?" Still she had no thought that he was risen. She said, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." Then she turned around and through her tears saw a man standing by, who she took it for granted was in charge of the garden, and she said, "Sir, if thou has borne him away, please tell me where thou hast laid him?"
Do you remember what followed? Ah! she heard a voice, a voice that years before had spoken and the dread demons that possessed her fled away; a voice from which she had heard so often such wise and loving words as thrilled her soul and would linger forever in her memory. She heard that voice as he said, "Mary." And she turned and said, "My teacher!" I do not know exactly what is meant by the words our Lord then spoke. They are obscure, but I think they mean this; that with the superstition which was common to the Jews-and these disciples had a great many such erroneous notions and retained them for a great while-they were likely to say among themselves, "Ah: but it is just his ghost, he has gone to the Father." The disciples thought the same thing when he appeared to them that evening. The brethren at Mary's house thought that when Peter appeared for whom they were praying in prison; they said it was his spirit. It seems that Mary feared he had ascended and this was only a phantom, and so she was about to lay hold of him to settle that point, when he said, "Touch me not: for I have 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." So she turned away to fulfill the mission.
Sometime after, Jesus appeared to the other women and gave them commissions with his own lips likewise. As the morning went on these women told their story, and the disciples would not hear a word of it. They seemed to be strangely incredulous. They said it was all idle tales. With that magnificent, supercilious superiority with which men often speak as regards women, they said it was all women's idle tales. Does it seem strange and sad that they were incredulous? I am glad of it, for as an old writer has said, "They doubted, that we might not doubt." You can see that these men were not credulous enthusiasts, seizing without solid evidence upon something they wanted to believe. They had forgotten the whole idea of a resurrection of Jesus, though their enemies believed it. Moreover, when the story was now told them, it was idle tales. And so there came more evidence that broke down all their unbelief, and left no doubt for them, and leaves no doubt for us.
As the day went on, our Lord appeared to Simon Peter, not to condemn him, but as a condescension to poor fallen Simon, because he had fallen so low. The loving Lord would not allow him to go away in despair, he appeared to him. Then in the afternoon, he came to two men walking toward Emmaus, talking sorrowfully together. They had believed that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Redeemer of Israel and now that belief was all gone. Then they had heard tales that some women had seen visions of angels and said he was alive, and men had been there and the tomb was empty. They did not know what to think of it, but they talked it over very sadly and confusedly.
What a scene it was when suddenly there stepped in a quiet man and addressed them. He asked them what they were talking about, and they spoke with sad faces and then went on the colloquy with which you are familiar. What a scene it was when he began to open to them the predictions! He was not only conqueror and king, but sufferer and sacrifice, and the very words burned within them as they received new light about the Messiah and began to see that possibly he might be crucified. Perhaps then the story of the women that he was risen was not an idle tale. What a scene it was when breaking bread their eyes were opened and they knew him, but for one brief moment, and he vanished from their sight. Then as they came back to Jerusalem, they said the Lord had risen indeed and had appeared to Simon and they told their story.
As they talked about it with the doors shut for fear of the Jews, suddenly he stood in their room and in his old loving way he said, "Peace be unto you." But they had that same Jewish superstition. They could not believe it was reality. They thought he was dead and this was his ghost, and felt the thrill that men feel at the very idea of seeing something supernatural. And he said "Why are ye troubled? See, it is not a spirit! Look at the wounds in the hands and in the side? Give me food. They gave him food, and he ate it before them." Their incredulity broke down. It had to break down, then and there. They had been told that the Messiah was to be despised and rejected and to die and to rise again. There was nothing hard to believe about it if they understood the Scriptures, but the fact came first and they were obliged to believe the fact. Then their hearts were opened to see that the fact had been predicted long before by the prophets.
We have reached the Lord's day evening. You remember how a week later he overcame the incredibility of Thomas, how he appeared in Galilee and then back in Jerusalem and at length in the presence of the disciples ascended into heaven. Without following those appearances I wish to make certain observations respecting the resurrection of the Son of Man, even the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an unquestionable reality.
My friends, if I do not know that Jesus Christ rose from the dead then this world has no history. I do not know anything in the past if I do not know that. If a man will look carefully and thoughtfully over all these evidences, will note the slowness of belief of these men, their intelligence, will see that they were not prejudiced enthusiasts, will see how when they had fairly been convinced of this they gave their lives for it, if a man will put all circumstances together including the traditions and discrepancies of the experience, I am satisfied that he will see, if he is willing to see, that the fact shines out clearly. I will not say a man is obliged to believe it. If a man is determined to doubt he can always find some loophole for doubt, but a man who is desirous of believing will see that it is reality: that there is no excuse for question.
The second observation is that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus establishes the truth of Christianity. The apostle Paul says he is declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Now Lazarus was raised from the dead and that did not prove such a thing concerning him; but Jesus of Nazareth had claimed to be the Son of God, had claimed it before the Sanhedrin when he had been denounced as a blasphemer, and after all his high claims and predictions if he had not been all that he claimed there never would have been such a high destiny accomplished for him. It was the sign manual of the Deity, it was the seal of the Sovereign of the Universe affixed to his claim, it declared him to be all that he had ever professed to be, and so it establishes the truth of all his teachings and the truth of the whole Christian society. The great fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the central fact of the evidence of Christianity.
The third observation is that the resurrection of Christ consummated his work of redemption. This is a view which I think does not appear to come often within the sight of Christian teachers at the present time, and yet was much in the minds of the first disciples. The resurrection with them was not merely a great fact that established the truth of Christianity but also consummated the work of redemption. Paul says, "Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification." He says to the Corinthians, "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." He says not merely "died for them" but that he "rose again." He laid down his life, and took it again for us. He rose triumphant over death and over sin and over Satan in our behalf. And thus you see how it is that in the Epistle to the Romans he makes this statement: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." That is the consummation of the Christian redemption, believe that God raised him from the dead and confess him with the mouth, and you shall be saved.
The fourth observation is that the resurrection of Christ is the pledge of the resurrection of his people. "Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept." The sheaf of barley that they weighed as the first fruits of the harvest was regarded as a pledge that the rest of the harvest would come in its time and Christ's resurrection is the first fruits, the pledge of our resurrection. And so the apostle wrote to the Thessalonians, "But I would not have you to he ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." A great poem before that time had expressed it, "When a man has once died there is no resurrection," but Paul says, "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." The resurrection of Christ is the pledge, I say, of the resurrection of his people.
Yet a fifth observation. The resurrection of Christ is celebrated by us on the Lord's day. I have no time to go into the argument which is here involved, but we believe from slight intimations in the Acts of the Apostles and in Revelation which show conclusively that the Christians of that time held religious meetings on the first day of the week, and from the light which is shed back upon it, and from known facts we learn that the apostles had authorized that the Sabbath should be transferred to the first day of the week; not that there were any minute directions, such as Moses had given to the Jews, that they should pick up sticks and make fires on the Sabbath day; not that there were any directions as to ceremonial but they were reminded the old primeval Sabbath which God had declared should be kept holy to him. Those directions stand without any specific qualifications as to how we shall do them and stand with new significance in that they represent the resurrection of Christ, a day concerning which we have no specific details as to how we are to observe it, but the general thought that it is the old day of God which is to be set apart from all other days and sanctified to him and also the day that represents the resurrection of Christ.
Finally, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is a pledge
to his people to live a risen life. You remember what the apostle says
to the Romans: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into
Jesus were baptized into his death; therefore we were buried with him
by baptism into death, and, like as Christ was raised from the dead by
the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in the newness of
life." Oh, ye Christian people, when you first set out in Christ's
service, you did by a solemn ceremony declare that by faith in Jesus
Christ you had died to sin and risen to a new life and were going to
live always afterward a new life. Has it been so with you? Does your
heart smite you with the painful thought that it has been but very
partially so? O friends and brethren, then God has given you a time to
set out afresh.