Not Here, but Risen

April 16, 2006 / No. 3302

Dear radio friends,

     Our Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the grave.  As intentionally, personally, and lovingly as that message was left for the women who came early in the morning of His resurrection to the tomb, so also is that message brought to you and to me today.  It is brought intentionally.  The Lord, by His providence, brings now to your ear this message:  Jesus Christ is risen.  It is brought personally, with you as a child of God in mind:  God knowing you and all the details of your life.  He comes to you personally and He says:  Jesus Christ is risen today.  And it is brought lovingly.  Flowing from the eternal heart of God comes the message to every child of God, intentionally, personally, and lovingly:  The Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He proclaims His Word today, the Word of victory, the Word of joy, the Word of life:  I am risen!

     Do you know what that means for you?  This is victory, perfect victory for the church.  This is life out of death.  This is pardon of sin.  This is newness of life, a life that cannot perish or ever die.  This is the promise of the resurrection of the body.  This is perfect and complete glory.

     Are you anxious today over the impossibilities of tomorrow?  Do you look down the dark road and ask the questions:  “How can I do that?  Why?  Who will help me?”  Stop and listen, child of God.  Jesus Christ is risen!  He is Lord and victor.  He is Savior.  He is risen.  Your Savior lives.

     Are you hiding today because of your sin?  You dare not look up?  You believe that your sins are too many and too great?  You have denied Him, or shown that you have been ashamed of Him?  Hear the gospel.  He is risen from the dead.  In Him is full pardon.  Not only full pardon, but grace, grace to bring you to repentance, grace to turn from your sin, grace to blot out your sin and to bring you to a new and holy way.

     Are you depressed today?  Do you feel all alone?  Do you believe that no one could possibly understand what you are experiencing?  Do you think that no one cares for you?  Are you tempted?  Are you hounded by sins?  Are you ready to despair, to give up?  Do you believe that death would be better than your life?  Listen, child of God!  Jesus Christ says, “I am risen.  And because I live, ye shall live also.”  The empty tomb of Jesus Christ means that the way to the heavenly Father is forever open to us.  And in the words ofRomans 8, we are now more than conquerors through Him who hath loved us.

     There were two indisputable facts known by the women who came early on that resurrection morning to the tomb of Jesus.  Those two indisputable facts were these:  In the first place, that He, their Lord Jesus Christ, had died and was buried.  They had seen Him on Friday evening on the cross.  And they had further observed Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus take down His dead body from the cross and prepare Him for burial and lay Him in a sepulcher.  Joseph of Arimathaea, that courageous disciple of Jesus Christ, we read, had craved the body of Jesus and with the aid of Nicodemus had wrapped Him in linen and laid Him in a sepulcher where never a man had before been laid.  And the women, we are told, had beheld all of this and seen how He had been prepared for burial and had seen where He had been buried.  They knew that Jesus on Friday was a corpse and that He had been placed on a cold slab in Joseph’s tomb.

     But they also knew this indisputable fact.  He was not there on Sunday morning.  The tomb was vacant.  And the angels proclaimed to them the message that Jesus Christ was risen, that He was not there, for He was risen from the dead.  They knew indisputably that He had been dead.  And they knew that He was now risen.

     And we know those two facts indisputably as well.  From the pages of the Holy Scriptures we know He died upon the cross in our place under the burden of the wrath of God against our sins.  And we know that He arose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.  And because He is risen, God declares to us that His work is perfect, that His work is successful, that His work is victorious, that we now are redeemed through our precious living Savior.

     Jesus’ tomb was empty on resurrection morning.  Therein is all our salvation.

     Mark 16 tells us that at least three women arose early, while it was yet dark, on the first day of the week, on a Sunday morning, and made their way in the pre-dawn hours to the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathaea.  They left in order that they could time their arrival at the tomb just at the first light.  Mark 16 tells us that it was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who very early in the morning came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.  All of these women were from Galilee.  They had followed the Lord during His earthly ministry and tenderly ministered to Him in His earthly needs.

     Mary Magdalene was the one out of whom, we read in Luke 8, the Lord had cast seven demons.  Also, there were Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who was the mother of John and James, the wife of Zebedee.  They were, as I said, a part of a group of women who followed our Lord throughout His ministry in Galilee, ministering to Him in His temporal needs.  They had been the very last ones at the cross.  They had stayed through it all.  And they were the very first ones at the tomb.  They had been to the cross and had watched all that happened to Him there.  They had watched His burial.  They had lingered over that burial.  They had stayed until the darkness fell on Friday.  And now they have returned to that tomb in the first hours of Sunday morning.

     They loved Him.  They were bound to Him in cords of love and faith from God the Father.  Now it may be, and indeed, it is true, that these women were mistaken in their sorrow.  They had spent a sad, horrible weekend believing that their beloved Lord and Savior was forever taken from them in death.  Yes, it was indeed true that, in many ways their faith was weak and not filled with the knowledge that it should have had.  They had not listened to Him.  He had told them that He would rise again from the dead the third day and would meet them in Galilee.  In fact, He had told them, “Go to Galilee and I will see you there.”  So, yes, they can be criticized.

     But for all of that, these women, by the grace of God, loved Jesus.  Do you love Him?  They loved Him with the love of courage.  They stood and were identified as the lovers of Jesus before the cross, in the midst of a crowd that was heaping contempt and scorn upon Jesus.  Do you love Jesus with courage before those who would scorn and hate Him?  They loved Him with the love of longing.  They desired to be with Him.  They wanted to cling to Him.  They loved Him.  They loved Him passionately and dearly.  I think now ofProverbs 8:17, where we hear Christ saying this:  “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”

     That certainly indicates that, when the Bible uses the women disciples of the Lord as the examples of devoted love for Jesus, any idea that the Bible degrades women is simple slander.  No, the Bible says that there is a grace, grace given uniquely sometimes, to women of single-minded devotion to Jesus, of the tenderest expressions of love.  To these women Jesus Christ was everything.

     They have come now to the tomb early on Sunday morning believing that they must complete the embalming of their beloved Lord.  They have brought with them sweet spices, in order that they might come and anoint Him, spices that were aromatic and various other oils and creams (that were very expensive).  For they had witnessed that Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had worked in haste to bury the Lord before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.  And they did not believe that enough care had been given to the burial of the Lord.  So they have come early in the morning.  They have wasted no time.  They believe that they must come immediately in this last act of love and devotion to their crucified Savior.

     Mark tells us that when they came they saw amazing things.  The verbs in that passage of Mark 16 are put in a tense calling us to picture it in our minds as taking place before our very eyes.  We are to picture the women, in our mind, in our imagination, arising early, sadly, courageously, walking through the deserted streets of Jerusalem in the early morning hours, that city that had regarded Jesus as a criminal, had despised Him and hated Him.  They had planned, as I said, to arrive at the tomb at the crack of dawn.  They know where to go because they have carefully observed where He had been laid in the sepulcher.

     A problem is in their minds as they make their way to the tomb, a problem that they are talking over as they journey.  They said among themselves, “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?”  That conversation went on among them.  There had been a large stone.  Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had placed it before the sepulcher.  That stone was of immense weight.  It was a great slab.

     More, unknown to the women, the Jews had asked Pilate on the Sabbath to seal the tomb and to set a watch before the tomb.  So, not only was there a great stone, but that stone had been mortared in its place.  How in the world could it be removed?

     It was very clear that they had no doubt that Jesus was dead.  As I said, they believed that His corpse would be found within that sepulcher, in the linen, and laid in that tomb. And they are bound now in love to their Lord, affection is burning in their hearts.  Great unbearable grief is in their hearts.  They have come to do love’s last act upon the body of their Lord.

     But they come and they witness amazing things.  Once again, as we read the narrative in Mark 16, everything is impinging on the sense of sight and hearing.  The experience is given in terms of what they saw and what they heard.  The Scriptures are telling us that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are not dealing with myth.  We are not dealing with story.  We are not dealing with the attempt of the disciples to memorialize Him.  No.  We are told everything in terms of what they saw and heard.

     What did they see?  Two things.  Mark 16:4:   “And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away:  for it was very great.”  They looked up.  They had been engrossed in their problems.  They had been talking about “how are we going to move that stone.”  When they came near, they lifted up their eyes and they saw that the problem they had been discussing was irrelevant.  The stone was rolled away.  We could read, literally, that it had been hurled back, had been pushed back some distance with evidence of great force.  Not simply budged open a little crack so one could squeeze through, but blown open.  Matthew 28 tells us that God had sent an angel to roll the stone away, to break the seal of mortar and caulking.  And the keepers, that is, the guards that Pilate had set before the sepulcher, did quake and they ran.  They hightailed it back to Jerusalem in fright.

     And you must know that this stone has been rolled away not for Jesus’ sake.  It did not need to be rolled away for Jesus to exit the tomb.  No, Jesus arose through the grave.  He destroyed the grave.  It has no power over Him.  But the stone has been rolled away for the disciples, for the women, for us.  Not to let Jesus out, but to show that He was not there.

     The second thing that they saw was an angel in the tomb itself.  Verse 5 reads, “And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.”  They saw a young man.  When angels are described in human terms they are often described in terms of a young man.  It was an angel of God, clothed in a long white garment with great glorious brilliance.  Some of the glory of God was shining in that tomb.

     As they have approached this tomb with their ointments and spices for the dead, now they see the tomb opened.  Inside sits an angel of God.  And they are frightened.  They are amazed.  They are awestruck.  They are dumbfounded.  Terror and wonder, curiosity and fear, are mixed together in their souls.  This is what they have seen.

     Then we are told in terms of what they heard.  They heard a message that not only registered on the eardrum but was caught by the mighty grace of God and brought into the depths of their hearts.  What did they hear?  First of all, they heard a gracious prohibition.  “And he (that is, the angel) saith unto them, Be not affrighted.”  Oh, how wonderful!  What a glorious word of Scripture when God comes to us and says, “Do not fear.”  And remember that whenever God says that to us (now He says that to us based upon the resurrection of Christ), God is not saying to us words of empty courage.  But that commandment, “Do not fear,” always rests upon the absolute victory that His grace has brought to us.  It was the word that was brought to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus Christ when the angels appeared to them.  The angels said, “Fear not.”

     And that is the Word of God brought to us today:  “Fear not!”  Do not be afraid.  You must not be afraid.  Your Lord is risen.

     Secondly, there was a word of glorious explanation (v. 6):  “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified:  he is risen; he is not here.”  This is why you must not be afraid.  He is risen.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, that despised One, the One whom you saw crucified, the One you were with in Galilee.  You have stood before His cross.  You have gazed upon Him in love and brokenness of heart.  He is not here.  Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is risen.  And, understand, that He has risen not as Lazarus, so that He could return to this present life and then die again.  Oh, no!  Literally, He is the risen One!  He is the One to whom death has no power anymore.  He now stands in immortal life in the body.  He is the One who is the Living One.

     Then comes the word of comforting invitation.  “Behold the place where they laid him.”  You have seen Him carried into this place.  He is not there.  The angel was drawing attention to the linen grave clothes that had been wrapped around Jesus’ body (read the Gospel According to John, chapter 20).  We learn that the grave clothes were undisturbed. There was a great mystery there.  Very plainly, Jesus did not have to be released from death.  He broke it down.  He went through those grave clothes.  He went through the grave.  Death could not hold Him!  He has obtained life eternal for all of His people.

     Then there is the word of solemn commission (v. 7):  “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.”  Do not linger here, ladies.  Do not stagger under all of this.  Go tell His disciples.  Tell Peter, the one who denied Him so terribly.  Tell all His disciples that the Lord is living.  Tell them that they are His brethren, that the Lord regards them as His own.  Go to Galilee, the place where He ministered to you.  You will see Him.  Remember, He spoke all these things to you.  All that He has spoken to you is now come to pass.  He is risen.

     This is what they saw.  This is what they heard.  And so do you today, through the more sure word, a word more sure than if you had stood there and been with those women.  That is the power of the Scriptures.  The Scriptures are the Word of God.  They are the sure Word.  And in those Scriptures God speaks!  “My Son, Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross in your place and was placed in the tomb, will not be found there on resurrection Sunday.  He is risen!  For He lives.  He has accomplished eternal victory and salvation for you.”

     We read that the women “went out quickly, and fled from the sepulcher; for they trembled and were amazed:  neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid.”  They were still in a state of fear.  And we read later on that Jesus Christ meets them on the way as they run back to the disciples.  He is going to appear to them.  Then they are going to fall down at His feet and cling to Him.

     They had heard and seen the glorious gospel of the resurrection.  What does it say to you and to me today?  It says to us, first of all, that the blessings of life eternal are now ours inseparably.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that our sin is gone, for He is raised from the dead.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the gift of life with Christ.  He said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”  This living Lord Jesus Christ comes and implants His life within the hearts of His people – in my heart and in your heart.  He gives you, as a child of God, faith that never dies.  This resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that our bodies also cannot be kept by the grave but they too shall arise and be made like unto His glorious body.  In one word:  The resurrection of Jesus Christ means victory, victory to His cause.  He lives.  And we have the victory.

     But the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only a word of greatest blessing, but it is a word of direction and a word of admonition.  This word is a word against all indifference to Jesus Christ and to the risen Lord.  In the women who come to the sepulcher, we see our calling to live the life of genuine love to the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes, their faith needed more knowledge, needed correction, needed to be governed by His Word.  But they loved Him.  How much more should we?  They brought costly spices.  They lost sleep.  They ran the risk of ridicule.  It did not matter.  For their Lord Jesus, they believed, was in Joseph’s tomb.

     What lay at the bottom of their devotion?  A deep sense of thankfulness for deliverance from sin’s power.  Do you know this devotion?  Do you love your Savior?  Does this devotion evidence itself in your life?

     So this word is an admonition against all indifference to Jesus Christ and against all hopelessness and despair and desperation.  We see the tender love and compassion of our risen Savior for His backslidden disciples.  He said to the women, “Tell my disciples and Peter.”  In the gospel according to Matthew we read, “Tell my brethren.  Tell those who forsook me that they are yet my brethren.  Tell them that I am their faithful Savior, that I am risen.  Tell them that by grace, by grace alone, I have earned for them who are unworthy eternal salvation.”  Oh, the wonderful, never-failing mercy of God!  Against all hopelessness, all despair, all desperation, child of God, Jesus Christ is risen!  Our comfort is this:  Our crucified Savior is the risen Lord of glory.  We have hope.  We have victory.  We have peace.  We have salvation.  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

     Let us pray.

     Father, may this glorious gospel live in our hearts now and ever.  To Thee be the honor and the praise through Jesus Christ.  Amen.