But now is Christ risen from the dead. These are the words that greet us on this glorious day, the day in which we remember the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must remember His resurrection, not merely as a mental activity today as you would memorize dates in history, but we must remember it by faith. We must remember specifically His resurrection by faith. And we must keep our eye upon that resurrection always in order that we might live in its light.
The child of God now walks as a pilgrim. The only way to walk as a pilgrim is to keep the resurrection of Jesus Christ before us. The apostle Paul says to Timothy in II Timothy 2:8, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” Timothy, Paul says, “I tell you in very frank terms that in the midst of your life and through the many struggles that you will experience, there is one thing that you must remember if you are to endure. You must remember that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead according to the gospel.” We must remember this by faith.
Do you? Have you trained your faith to live out of the truth of Christ’s resurrection? In the moments of despair, when your sin appears so great and so repeated, you groan within yourself and condemn yourself, you find shame descending upon you. Do you remember that Jesus is risen from the dead and that He was raised for our justification? And who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect; for it is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again? In the moments of temptation, when the way of the world seems so good, and a voice says to you, “Be at ease in this sinful world. Enjoy its pleasures, bask yourself in its sinful entertainment. Set your heart upon money. Comfort yourself with beer and liquor.” Do you remember that He is risen? This world is no more my home. But since Christ is risen from the dead, we will set our affections upon the things which are above and not below. In moments of doubt and loneliness and fear and confusion, we must remember that Christ is risen from the dead.
This was something that the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ had to remember on the very first resurrection morning. A question can certainly jar the memory. So we read in Luke 24 that the angels whom God had sent down to the empty tomb confronted the women who had arrived at the tomb with a simple and sort of humbling question: “Why seek ye the living among the dead.”
The women who came in the early hours of that Sunday morning belonged to a group of devoted followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them the Lord had healed. He had received them in mercy, the mercy of forgiveness. And they loved Him truly and deeply. Gleaning from the book of Luke, we learn that they considered it their calling to care and provide for the Lord’s earthly needs. Their devotion and faithfulness was to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a devotion which exceeded even that of the disciples. For it was the women who stood at the cross and looked upon all that had been done to Him. It was the women who had followed Joseph and Nicodemus when they took the body of the Lord down from the cross and wrapped Him in grave clothes and buried Him. Now it is this group of women who had come bringing spices which they had prepared because they desired to finish the embalming of the Lord’s body which, in their judgment, had been very hastily done on the Friday evening prior. When Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus took down the Lord’s body and prepared it for burial there was a press of time because the Jewish Sabbath began at sunset. And the women observed how His body was laid. So they came to complete the proper burial and to do what love demanded of them: anoint His head and face, clean the body from all of its blood, perhaps clean His wounds, and then scatter sweet spices upon Him – to finish a proper embalming of the Lord. They wanted not only to cover the deformity of death, but to remove all the traces of the horrible scourging and beating that the Lord had endured. The women came in that morning out of the love of Christ to perform this last act.
But the women never got to do any of that. We are never told what happened to all of the spices that they brought along. We read, rather, that when they arrived at the tomb they were perplexed and afraid. They were confused in such a way that even their grief was temporarily set aside. They found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. Entering in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
The sepulcher in which the Lord had been laid was a hollowed out cave into which one could enter in a crouched position. They were very perplexed. They were perplexed because, as John tells us, the grave clothes – the clothes in which the body had been wrapped – were all there and undisturbed. But the Lord was not there. And they were afraid. We read, “And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth….” They were inside the sepulcher. They had beheld something unexplainable. Then two angels from the presence of God appear. And a fear grips them so that they fall down on their knees with their faces to the earth.
It was then that the angels asked the question: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? It might have appeared the most reasonable to you to do that. But this is really absurd. Why are you seeking Him, the living Lord Jesus Christ, here among the dead?”
The question of the angel, you see, makes what the women were doing appear totally unnecessary. It shows them that they were operating on the wrong assumption. Why would one come seeking the living Lord of glory among the dead – in a grave? Why would one go looking, in a cemetery, for Him who ever liveth? Their actions are out of place. Their actions are foolish. “Remember what He said to you.”
The angels called Jesus the living One. That must sink down into our souls. He is the living One in Himself, as the divine Son of God – as He had said and as Peter had confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But still more. He is the living One as God’s Son in our flesh. In that sense He lives. He lives in our flesh. He is raised in His body. In His body He stands with life immortal. By His work of payment for our sins He has destroyed death. And now, in His body, He is raised to life – a body which now knows no death, no sickness, no age, no weariness – a body which is able to live in the presence of God. Still more. He is the living One as the head of the church. He is able to say, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” For the One who is risen from the dead is no individual. He is the representative of all of God’s elect and chosen. He lives as the head of the body, the head of the church. And into the church, His body, He infuses His resurrection life so that He is the living One, the head of the church. He has attained eternal life within Himself, which eternal life He will also impart to all those whom the Father hath given to Him.
Why would one look for this One, this living Lord Jesus Christ, in a grave? He is not here, but He is risen, says the angel. You seek Him among the dead? You are much perplexed? You ask the question, How can we find His grave clothes so neatly on the floor of the grave wrapped as if they were about His body? Yet the body of the Lord is not here. We saw His body brought into the tomb. We beheld Him die and hang lifeless. But His body is not here. Who took it? The scribes, the soldiers, the disciples, grave robbers? How can a body that is laid in the grave be gone? How can a stone be rolled away? Here is the explanation, say the angels: He is risen. Literally, He was raised, raised by the power and the glory of God the Father. He burst the bonds of the grave. He broke the chains of death. He beat down the doors of the grave. The chains of death were sin. The bonds of the grave was the curse. The door of death was guilt. But Christ, upon the cross, paid for sin, endured the cross, took upon Himself our guilt, removed it all, made an offering for us. Now death has no power over Him. He is risen. He is not here. He was here. He entered into our death. He went to the grave. His body lay cold and lonely in the tomb. But no more! He is risen. He is victorious. He is the Lord of life. He holds the keys of death and hell. He has destroyed death for His children. Now, in Jesus Christ, we can go to paradise. Our bodies, too, will rise one day as His, incorruptible and full of glory.
Do you believe that? That is the gospel. Remember, remember, the angels say, how He spake unto you when He was yet with you 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.
On three separate occasions in the last year of His ministry, the Lord had given detailed, sober teaching about what awaited Him in Jerusalem that weekend. At Peter’s great confession (Luke 9:22), the Lord had said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” After the Lord had healed the boy possessed of a demon He said, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears. For the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” And as they traveled, only weeks before, on the path to Jerusalem, the Lord said to them again, “When we come to Jerusalem, they shall scourge Me, they shall put Me to death. And on the third day I will rise again.”
The angels summarized those words. They reduced those words that Christ had told them three times, down to the basic points: “Remember? He said He must be delivered, He must be crucified. And remember? He said that He would be raised again.” The emphasis falls on the word “must,” that Christ must rise again the third day. There was a necessity for it, a divine necessity. He must rise again, for this was the will of God. God had conceived in eternity that the way in which He would glorify Himself in the salvation of the church was through the Son. God had decreed that He would satisfy His own justice against our sin and show forth His power and mercy by giving Christ to die for us. He must arise. All the will and counsel of God is behind this. The good pleasure of almighty God has decreed and called for this. He must arise. Remember? Remember how He said these things to you?
Then we read, “And they remembered his words.”
The word that Christ had spoken to them lay deep in their subconsciousness. Now it came forth by faith into their mind. Then they stood in faith, in the certainty and victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No more grieving, no more clinging to what was. Now, by faith, they lay hold on the gospel of the resurrection. They stand amid sin and death. Nevertheless, they stand confessing: “He is risen, and we shall never die.”
Do you remember? Does faith stir you up in this day and always when you recall what the Scriptures teach of the glorious resurrection of Christ? Does this light flood upon your soul, does it clear your mind, does it strengthen your heart, does it drive away the shadows and the gloom and impart to you a joy immeasurable and full of glory – a joy which no one can take away from you? Let us remember!
You who sorrow, you who are burdened under your sin, remember that Jesus Christ is risen as He said. Our sins have been blotted out in the blood of the cross. And I know that that is so because God raised His Son from the dead.
You who grieve, crushed in your heart in a deep grief, devastated and laid low, hear Him speak: I am risen. Bless the Lord, oh my soul, who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
You who are tempted. The glamour of the world is before you, the possessions of this world grip your thought. You have no contentment, you are not satisfied, you are allured by sin. Or, perhaps, the way of holiness you think is too narrow. Strong temptations are before you. Remember, Christ is risen. Confess that in Christ you have all and are full.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on the things which are above, not on the things of the earth.
Will you seek your life, your satisfaction, your fulfillment, your pleasure among the dead? Oh, no! You cannot find any of these things here on this earth. You find these things in Him, in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He is everything!
And you who are distraught and lonely and doubting and weak and frail. You who by the grace of God know your nothingness, your barrenness, your unworthiness before God, and you who experience the vanity of life and the finality of death. Remember, oh remember: He is risen. Christ is risen from the dead! That means that we shall live. All those who are in Him shall never die. We are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. Look away. Look unto Him by faith.
Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, carry the Word with you every moment and every step of your earthly pilgrimage, in the darkest of nights and the most severe pain, in the loneliest of hours when grief, you think, is going to destroy and crush your heart. Remember, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. And we are raised in Him. We shall live in Him.
May God bless the resurrection gospel to your heart.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for the glorious truth of the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. May this blessed gospel be our hope, our strength, and comfort every day. Bless it unto our souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.