When our Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead it was very plain that His thoughts were upon His disciples, upon His people, upon you and me. He is ever the true High Priest on whose breastplate is written the names of God’s children, those who were entrusted to Him by His Father’s election.
The evidences that the Lord’s mind was upon His children, upon us, when He arose from the grave are many in the Bible. There was, first of all, the words of the angels spoken to the women who had come early in the morning, words that Christ, no doubt, instructed the angel to say: “Go, tell my disciples that I am risen.” There was also the word of the Lord to Mary Magdalene spoken shortly thereafter: “Touch me not … but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend to my Father and to your Father.” And then there are these words found in Matthew 28:10: “Then said Jesus unto them (that is, unto the women), Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”
When He issued forth from the dead on the resurrection morning, His thoughts were on us, on His people, that we might know that He is risen from the dead. We can certainly understand why Jesus wants the disciples, wants us, to know that He is risen – because the resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith and life. It is the crowning proof that He has paid the debt which He took upon Himself on our behalf, that He has won the battle to deliver us from hell. On the fact of the resurrection rests all of our salvation, our life, our hope. Had Jesus never come forth from the grave bodily, how could we know that our ransom for sin had been fully paid, that we are forgiven? Had he never risen from the conflict with our last enemy, the grave, how could we ever be confident that He overcame death for us? How could we ever have the blessed hope of the resurrection of our own body if He had never risen? But, thanks be to God, it is not left in doubt! Christ is risen from the dead.
But we must know this personally. It is not enough to know the narrative of the history of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to nod our heads in assent. If that is all that we have, if the resurrection exists as mere knowledge, then we are no different from the godless today. They, too, know the claims of the resurrection. And so, on this day, many go to church. But we must know personally that benefit. And the Lord points that out when He says, “Be not afraid: Go tell my brethren.” Those simple words, “Go tell my brethren” – there is something very touching, tender, and profound in them. There is an ocean of thought there which provides rich comfort for the people of God, for us who are weak and frail and sinful and have come short in our profession. Now we hear Him say, “Tell My brethren.”
The women, then, who greeted Jesus after He had risen from the dead bore a message that morning of the sure grace and mercy of God. Jesus spoke those words, “Go tell my brethren,” to the group of women who had come with great sadness to the tomb. Their minds were anxious over the final deed of love that they wished to perform for their Lord by anointing His dead body. This group of women had come very early that morning, as you know. They were the ones who had cared for the Lord’s earthly needs. They had stood at the foot of the cross. They had shown love and devotion to Him. And they had watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take down the body of the Lord and hastily wrap it and place it in the sepulcher. And they believe that there is one last mission for them to perform: they must finish the embalming of the Lord’s body. They must do what they could. Now they come bearing spices to perform a last act of love.
But a totally amazing and unexpected thing greeted them at the tomb. They found the stone rolled away. There had been an earthquake, and an angel whose countenance was white as snow descended to roll away the stone. And the angel proclaimed a message to the women, the women who were standing in shock and amazement. The angel spoke to them the glorious message of the resurrection: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” He is the living One, said the angel. He is the living One in the body, who is now risen from the grave. Death has no power over Him. As the Head of His church, He lives. Now go, tell His disciples that He shall go before you into Galilee. There shall ye see Him.
We can well imagine that the women departed quickly, in fact, that they ran and were filled with joy. As they returned, somewhere between the tomb and the place where the eleven disciples were gathered, Jesus met them. He greets them: “All hail.” And they fall down at His feet – something of the majesty of the risen Lord overwhelms them. Here stands before them the conqueror of death and sin. And they worshiped Him. Then Jesus gives them the message that they must bring to the disciples: “Go tell my brethren.” The very first message to them that they will hear from Me this day must be that I designate them as My brethren. And there is the word of amazing grace: “Go tell my brethren.”
Now we could certainly understand if Jesus had said at that moment: “Go tell those deserters, those betrayers, those men who are filled with hot air, those men who vowed loyalty to Me no matter what but they forsook Me and fled. Go tell those who could not stand at the cross. Go tell those boasters, those big mouths, those habitual quarrelers, those slow of heart to understand, those who are of little faith, those who are of dull ears.” We could understand if Jesus had designated them in such terms. But He did not. “Tell my brethren.” That is how they must be designated. And that is a word of pure grace.
We read in I John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” It is a word which tells us that our unworthiness because of our sins has been swallowed up by His grace. What designation did their actions deserve? Well, what designation do you deserve when you look back over yourself and your own life in this past week? We who confess Him – if He were to identify us according to what we have done, how would He refer to us? He would say, “Those repeated offenders, those proud, those selfish, those lustful, those forgetful, those unforgiving, those greedy,” and on and on. What did the disciples merit? What did Peter merit? He denied his Lord three times. What about James and John? They slept while He wept. Yet His word to them is: “My brethren.” And surely the disciples that day received it as a word of pure grace and mercy. Now we, too, who are marred in our sin and so quickly and so soon led astray into evil, He calls us “My brethren,” for He sees us covered in His blood, forgiven and righteous, heirs of life eternal.
And that word brings out the pure grace of God, His mercy to us. You see, God’s grace and His love is always first. It was first in eternity. Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” I have loved you in a love that finds its source not in you or in anything that you could do, but in Myself, says God. God’s love was first in time, I John 4:19, “We love him because he first loved us.” His love comes to us first in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And our love is but the return and the reflection of His love unto us. As the beams of the sun reflect off the mirror, so God’s love comes to us working in us and returning unto God. It is of God. When we fall into sin and iniquity, when we violate His holy commandments, when we show that, by nature, we are really the friends of the devil, yet His love does not fail. It remains constant and it conquers. A thousand times we forfeit that love. And yet, He calls us “My brethren – forgiven in the blood of the Son of God and now made an heir of life eternal.”
Those words not only convey the wonder of God’s grace but they also convey the intimate bond that now exists between Jesus and us. Brothers are those who come from the same father. They are joined in one life, they receive the same inheritance. To be called the brother of Jesus Christ, My brethren, means that, first of all, God now is our Father for the sake of Jesus Christ. As He said to Mary Magdalene, “Tell them that I ascend to my Father and your Father.” Through Jesus Christ we are now adopted as the sons and daughters of God, given a right to be in the family of God. We read in Romans 8:15, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” “My brethren” carries the rich truth that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are brought into the family of God, we are accepted, we are united as the sons and daughters of God. We may call Him, “Abba, Father.”
But more, because we are brethren in Jesus Christ, ours is also the inheritance, the inheritance of full salvation and eternal life. In Christ we are begotten unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, says Peter in I Peter 1. Not as a human inheritance. In a human inheritance, of course, that inheritance is divided up and each one gets a portion of it. But we are brothers in Jesus Christ. We receive the full inheritance, the riches of forgiveness of sins, eternal life in Christ. We are His brothers!
That title is too high. We cannot take it in. What more could we possibly want? Oh, poverty and sickness and pain may be our lot in life now, may come to us according to the will of God. Yes, we go through sins and sorrows, loss and tears, heaviness of heart, deprivations, yes. But, hear this. The risen Lord says, “Go tell my brethren.” What honor, what glory. He means to say that now, as a result of His death, and through His resurrection, we share in Him. We are united in His life. God is our Father. We are reconciled to the living God. We are heirs of life eternal! Lay hold of it.
Paul has his eye on this very truth that we are made brethren in the risen Lord when he wrote, in Ephesians 3:14, 15, a great passage. A great passage in which he seeks to lay out the richness of salvation. He says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” In Jesus Christ we have received the blessing of being constituted the family of the living God.
Again, in Hebrews 2:11, 12, the apostle could well have in mind these very words of the risen Lord, “Tell my brethren,” when he wrote: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” He is not ashamed to call us His brethren. Why? Because through His suffering and resurrection He has sanctified, He has cleansed, He has made us holy, He has obtained eternal life for us. In Christ we are sanctified, we are made brethren. Even the poorest of the flock of Jesus Christ, even the lowliest believer listening to my words, even the weakest of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ is the brother, sister of Jesus Christ, adopted of God in Him. We, who are dead in sins, corrupt by nature, born in league with the devil and all evil, are, in the risen Christ, made alive, washed and forgiven, given the principle of His resurrection life, born again from above.
And thus, because He arose, we are now made the sons and daughters of God, born again in His likeness, fashioned unto the image of His Son.
What a marvelous comfort. What rich and perfect comfort in life and in death.
Who does not know, as a child of God, times when our sins seem so innumerable, our unfaithfulness so great, our sins so deliberate, our unworthiness so plain that we would conclude that we should not be excluded from the communion of mankind, that we should never be designated as those who are in Christ? Sometimes we hardly dare consider ourselves worthy to be called His anymore. We dare not apply this rich promise of the gospel to ourselves. But to such brokenhearted sinners, whose wretchedness has been made all too apparent to ourselves, comes the word of the risen Lord, “Tell my brethren that I am risen!”
Oh, what a word! For every contrite heart, borne down by the load of his sin, to hear Christ say, “My brother, my sister!” What a message the women must bring to the disciples. He called you His brethren. He is risen, and He referred to you as His brethren. The cross is victorious. Sins are gone. The debt is paid. Righteousness is obtained. We are adopted of God. We are given a new life, imperishable life, a life that lives after God. The night of our sin and death and misery is swallowed up in the glory of His victory.
Do you hear that message today?
If you do not, if you shake your head and, for the life of you, cannot figure out what is so important about Christ referring to His people as His brethren, if you cannot understand what is so great about that, then I pity you. You are yet in your sin. You are blind to yourself. You do not know what you are, who you are as a sinner before God, and all that you deserve as a sinner. Your sins do not bother you? Not really? You do not see yourself as miserable and undone? It is all words to you? I pity you.
But for you who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit know and weep over your sins, sins which are numerous and shameful, you who have been given to repeat the words of the prodigal, “Father, I have sinned. I am no more worthy to be called thy son, I am not worthy to be called the brother of Jesus Christ,” then for you to hear the Lord risen from the tomb and saying, “My brother,” it spells the victory of the cross. It brings to you the message that sin and darkness and death have been swallowed up. It is the message of complete forgiveness, righteousness, and adoption. It means that the cross has blotted out all those numerous and shameful sins. And it assures us of the love of God, which was given to us before the foundation of the world.
Let it gladden our hearts today. Let it gladden our hearts forever! The glory of the risen Lord is upon thee. Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord calls us His brethren.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, we pray that Thou wilt sanctify Thy truth unto our hearts. Wilt Thou cause, O Lord, that we may rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the victory which is ours through Him. Cause, O Lord, that that gospel of forgiveness and being adopted as His child may enter into our hearts with all of its power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.