“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” by Louis A. Dole

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“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

Readings

Ezekiel 37:1-10 · Matthew 28 · Psalm 115

Sermon

The story of Easter is one of triumph. The Lord had told His disciples that He would be put to death, and that He would rise on the third day. He laid down His life in such a way that no one could doubt His death. He was publicly executed. A spear was thrust into His side. The examiners pronounced Him dead. He was put into a tomb which was then sealed with a great stone, and a soldier guard was stationed at the tomb. Even His disciples, who had been instructed as to what would come to pass, were dismayed and thought that the cause they had been espousing was lost.

But the Resurrection marked the final triumph of the Lord’s victorious life, the casting off of the last hindrance to the fullness of the Divine presence among men, the completing of the Divine Humanity, the temple of God which He had been building, insuring His eternal presence on earth as in heaven with fullness of saving power.

We celebrate the event of the Resurrection yearly on Easter Day. This yearly remembrance is useful, the living over again of the joy that that day brought, the celebration of this event which took place long ago. But this should not be all.

The Resurrection contains the promise of ever-increasing life to men. Remember when the Lord talked to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus how He joined His resurrection with the redemption, saying: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” And later the same day, when He appeared to the eleven, He said: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.” Easter brings to us this promise and this call to more abundant life.

In the northern climates Easter is associated with the renewal of life in nature, and is a symbol of life pressing into the world from its infinite and exhaustless source – a beautiful symbol of what the Lord continually wishes to do for us. At this season, inspired by the wonder and beauty of life springing up about us, it is easy to lift our thoughts to the abundant life made possible to us by the Lord’s victory over all the power of evil, by His laying off of the last of the limitations to the fullness of His Divine power, by His establishing His presence among men as the center of life and blessing, measured only by their willingness to receive. By the message of life in the world about us we are wakened to feel the higher promise and appeal of the Lord’s words, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

What meaning has this promise for us, this call to a larger life? A little child, active with his abundant energy, seems to be fully alive. Yet there are other and stronger faculties of mind and body to be developed which will give new strength, new power of usefulness, and deeper happiness. But young men and women, with their increased strength, vigor, and endurance, and their hopes and ambitions, is not the fullness of life reached here? Suppose that this vigor could be maintained throughout life in this world, would not the measure be filled, leaving no place for the thought of a larger life?

In the sight of the Lord and of heaven, such a one has hardly begun to live; he is living only in the lower region of his life, with only his natural faculties awake and active, his soul conscious only of lower worldly satisfactions. In the sight of the Lord and heaven, one living only for the world is as one asleep, not yet awake to what is most real in life, most worth while. A community of such men and women is as a valley full of dry bones, lacking the breath from God to give them strength and beauty, to make them truly living.

To all such Easter brings its call to a larger life, to more abundant life. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” The world is governed by the Divine laws, to which we all owe obedience. The Lord created each one of us for a specific purpose, and He stands among us in living presence to lift us out of bondage to the world and self, and to give us of His own unselfish and joyful love of service.

The change that the Lord can work in the young man confident in his strength, in the man of the world resting in his efficiency and success is a resurrection, a birth from death to life.

A more abundant life awaits, a life a thousand times deeper, fuller, happier, more worth while. We have all felt something of the glory of this larger life, yet there is always room for increase and advancement. We may have much of the higher life or little; we may grow in life and become more living, and that without end, or we may choose to close our eyes to anything beyond present satisfaction.

The yearly celebration of Easter is a help to our continuation in growth, bringing to all of us a challenge to become what the Lord wishes us to be, to fill the place the Lord desires us to fill, to perform the use for which the Lord has created us.

One who knows that real life is a life of obedience to the Lord and of service in unselfish love knows that the possibilities of life are limitless, He knows that life finds its resurrection as it rises nearer to the Lord and is more dependent upon Him, that it is larger and more abundant as there is more of the Lord and His spirit in it. To be alive is not an absolute term, as if one’s measure of living could be filled with no possibility of increase. One can be more alive, can continually grow in life as he receives from the exhaustless fountain of life.

In Matthew we read, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” This earthquake, which terrified the guards who had been set at the tomb, is the symbol of that spiritual change which would take place in the minds of men and in the world because of the Resurrection.

Because from childhood to old age we are continually changing, Easter each year has a new meaning for us and for the world at large which is also constantly undergoing change. So the message of Easter is ever new. There is need now more than ever that the Lord’s life be received. The Lord is God over all races and nations and peoples. There is need to recognize that all countries on the earth are our neighbors. Our sympathies and good will should extend to all.

Men are prone to think that when we have reached certain attainments, we shall find the Lord, and that we can rest in our accomplishments. But the moment that we attain any state, the Lord rises above it. It can always be said, “He is not here: for he is risen.” This is not for the purpose of cheating us or eluding us, but of leading us ever on to something higher, to something better. The Lord’s purpose is to keep us from settling down in the present, that He may continually rise in our souls, bringing new dawns, new splendors of His truth, and new happiness.

The Lord’s resurrection marked a new epoch in the progress of humanity in spiritual knowledge and life, and was the cause of it. Before the Lord’s resurrection, the future existence of man was a vague hope; now it is a reality. And life from day to day can be a continual resurrection to that fuller life which the Lord came to make known and possible to us.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” This is one of the messages that Easter brings – a call to enter more fully into the Lord’s life, that more abundant life which He came to give.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Amen

Read the original sermon in PDF format

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