“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” by Louis A. Dole

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“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” – Luke 24:5

Readings

Isaiah 61 · Matthew 28:1-8 · Psalm 57

Sermon

The scene of the crucifixion was over. The Lord’s life in the flesh had come to its end, and His body had been placed in the tomb. This took place on a Friday. Early Sunday morning Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and other women came to the sepulchre bringing spices for the final preparation of the body. They could not do this on Saturday because of Jewish customs. When they came to the sepulchre, they found the stone which had closed the tomb rolled away. The body of Jesus was not there. It was then that the two angels in shining garments greeted them with the words of the text, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

Easter stands for the reality of spiritual things. The life that the Lord lived on earth as the Word made flesh is the symbol of the life which He now lives in the mind which opens itself to receive Him. To His disciples the Lord said, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” Life is a development, and in its orderly course it is the process of regeneration. The Lord’s apostles and followers thought that the Lord’s life had ended in defeat, but after the Resurrection all this was changed. The story of the Lord’s life is the story of what He wants to do for us – to enter into our souls and cast out all that stands in the way of our fullest happiness. He lived out the life that is in the Word, and as we learn and keep the precepts of the Word, He dwells in us and, as it were, lives His life over again in us.

The Divine life is a life of service to others. He who lives only for himself can have no conception of the happiness and blessing that comes from living for others. Every step that the Lord took from the manger to the cross He takes over again in those who follow Him in the regeneration. Conceived in us through His truth, He goes forth to conquer our evils and redeem us from wrong, that He may little by little gift us with a new and higher life.

Easter stands for the realty of spiritual things, of the spiritual world, and of the Lord’s own presence in the soul. In the Lord all men live, move, and have their being, whether they know it or not. But they do not always live consciously in and from Him. “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” The stone that sealed the tomb represents the false ideas and thoughts that shut up the Lord in our souls as in a tomb. There is still much disbelief in the world, which lies like a great stone upon the spirits of men, shutting out the out the most real and most vital things of life, its highest hopes and joys.

When Joseph of Arimathaea had taken the body of Jesus and placed it in the tomb, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”

The stone which closed the sepulchre in which the Lord was laid represents the literal meaning of the Word, which covers and protects it. It is recorded that Joseph of Arimathaea rolled this stone in place, but that it was the priests and Pharisees who, with Pilate’s leave, sealed it.

To the pure in heart the letter of Scripture is a rock of defense. The Lord’s life in them is protected by it. Though they may not be able to understand and to explain, yet they know “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.”

It is recorded that near the tomb was a garden. It was but a step from the sepulchre to the garden. Near everyone’s grave is a garden. That garden is the spiritual world and it is a very short journey to it. Death is the gate to life, yet to some people spiritual things seem not only far removed but undesirable. The treasures of heaven seem of little worth. Some deny even the existence of God and heaven.

In the opposite meaning, the stone that was sealed so that none could move it is a symbol of disbelief in the Word, in the reality of spiritual life, of life beyond the grave. And it is even more than this. It is the symbol of disbelief that the Lord still lives, that He is with men forever, with all power in heaven and in earth to go forward in the work which He began while visibly present among men – the work of saving men and establishing His kingdom.

The great stone as Joseph rolled it to the door represented no willful disbelief. He mourned his Master’s death. Gladly would he have believed that He still lived, but it seemed impossible. A spiritual presence and a spiritual kingdom were not real to him. So it is with all of us at first. Only slowly do we come to know the Lord and to realize the worth of true riches. How great the stone of disbelief that weighs us all down! Truly the Gospel says, “The stone was very great.”

But those who sealed the stone, making the sepulchre as sure as they could, were they who had brought about the crucifixion; and not only did they think that the Lord would not live, that His mission had failed, and that the kingdom He came to establish would speedily come to an end, but they were determined that He should not live.

The stone was not moved from the tomb by men. No man can move it for us. The angel of the Lord rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre. It is only in heaven’s light that we can see spiritual things.

This light comes from the Lord through His Word. If we go to the Word, read it, and obey it, doubt and denial must give way in our hearts. The Lord rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples and followers, but He did not appear to those whose minds were closed to Him. Even among those who witnessed some of the phenomena of the Resurrection there were some who were unconvinced and were willing to report that the disciples stole Him away. And so it is commonly reported unto this day. There are those who deny the Resurrection.

Materialism, worldliness, disbelief in spiritual things lie for many like a stone sealing up the living message of the Word of God. So today some think of the Lord as a figure of the past, of history, or tradition, and not as a present and living Lord.

When the two Marys came to the sepulchre and found the stone rolled away, they were filled with fear, for they did not comprehend what had taken place. They had come expecting to find a body in the sepulchre, but they were challenged by the question, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Then their fear was removed by the angels’ assurance, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” If the affections of the heart are pure, they will never be disappointed. The heart may not find just what it expected, but it will find that which is infinitely better. “He is risen, as he said.” To the understanding the light of faith will be given. So the truth is always rising in the hearts of those who seek the Lord. Out of the grave of past states He rises into the region of higher and better states.

After the Resurrection the angel told the women to go and tell His disciples “that he is risen from the dead, and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him.” Galilee is the symbol of our natural life in the world with its duties and uses, and into these the truth descends to guide and mould us. So should we hasten into the Galilee of faithful and devoted service to meet Him and rejoice in His presence.

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Amen

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