“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said,” by Louis A. Dole

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“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” – Matthew 28:6

Readings

Isaiah 61 · Matthew 28:1-10 · Psalm 99

Sermon

The whole Christian world rejoices with us in the celebration of Easter. The coming of spring inspires mankind with new hopes. It is the time of nature’s resurrection from the sleep of winter, and is a symbol of what may take place in the soul.

The Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, as recorded in the Gospels, were not only significant in their literal bearing but they were outward revelations of great spiritual facts which are realized in all who follow Him in the regeneration. The life that He lived in the world as the Word made flesh is the symbol of the life which He now lives in the soul that opens itself to receive Him.

The story of the Resurrection is told in all the Gospels. As written in the twentieth chapter of John this story is remarkable for the fact that three different Greek words – all translated in English “to see” – are used to describe how differently Mary, Peter, and John looked at the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene first went into the sepulchre and “saw.” Here the Greek word is blepei. It means the kind of seeing that perceives a fact but does not know what it means. It is seeing with the physical eye only. It was the kind of seeing that led to despair. Her response was, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.” Peter went next into the tomb and “saw.” The Greek word this time is theorei, which means seeing with the mind. We get our word “theorize” from it. Peter noted the details, the position of the clothes in the tomb, but he did not understand the meaning of what had taken place. To him something unusual had happened, but it was a mystery. Then John, who had outrun Peter and arrived first at the tomb but had not yet gone in, entered and “saw.” Here the Greek word is eiden, which means to see and to know. He could not explain what he saw, but he knew that the promised resurrection had taken place, that his Lord was alive.

Today the Christian world comes to its churches to celebrate the Resurrection. Some, like Mary Magdalene, see only with their physical eyes, and think of death as an enigma incapable of explanation. Others, like Peter, note that there are some facts that cannot be brushed aside, yet they cannot reach a certain conclusion. But others, like John, see the reality. There is no uncertainty, no mere hope that possibly the Lord arose, but a sure belief.

Different attitudes have their origin in different desires and hopes. Many times the Lord told His disciples that their ideas of Him were wrong. He told them that His kingdom was not of this world, but this seemed able only to enlarge their earthly ideal and to make it a little purer.

When the Lord was put to death, all these earthly ideals, hopes, and plans were buried with Him. The Divine presence henceforth was to be found in a new and higher way.

This is the way the blessing of the Lord’s resurrection has come to men throughout the Christian centuries, and the way it must ever come. The Lord’s mission to the Jews was not what they anticipated nor what they wanted. His purpose was above what their state of life could conceive. They must look away from their buried hopes of the past toward the new realities of the future. Then they would realize that He was not dead but living.

The early Christian Church believed that the Lord had risen, but they looked for Him to appear again in person and complete His work. As those early disciples and members of the church grew old and one by one passed from the earthly life, this hope faded and was buried in the grave of their disappointment. The truth or falsity of all their claims, their preaching, their hopes had rested upon the realization of the promise, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” and to them the years passed and the fulfillment did not come. Many of them seemed to find their Christian religion a failure and, like Mary, looked to a dead past with all their hopes buried in it.

But suppose the Lord had been what the Jews first expected, or what His disciples expected and wanted. How inadequate this would have been to meet the needs and demands of mankind! In a very short time the spirit of Christianity would have been strangled and narrowed down to what was material and of this earth alone.

One lesson of the Resurrection is that we may be lifted up from our own personal and worldly ambitions to recognize and to receive the spirit of truth which opens the door to the realities of life. The Lord is risen. He is ever rising to higher planes in our souls as our understanding of His purpose rises.

Easter stands for the truth of immortality, and it is this truth that has brought light and hope to mankind. “He is not here: for he is risen” has a double lesson for us. It teaches us that life continues in a higher state after the death of the body, and it teaches us that a higher state of life should be cultivated here and now. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”

Immortality was proved to us by the Resurrection because it is necessary for us to know that it is part of the Divine plan for us, so that we may see life here in its true proportions. Life here and in the world to come make one life. To know this makes this world brighter and more beautiful. The clouds of darkness are rolled away from the mind – we have risen above the clouds.

Easter stands for the ability of men to come to life. We cannot tell each other with certainty just how this will come to pass with us. It may come through some severe experience. It may come through the loss of someone dear as life. It may come almost imperceptibly through events that are hard to mark. But it comes whenever we have become aware of the unsatisfactoriness of the merely natural life, when we have come to realize that there is something wanting in us, and that without the Lord there is nothing solid and unifying in life.

May this Easter help us to look at life in a new and happier way, to see the purposes of life and what its real essentials are. To show us the nature and possibilities of life, to open in us new realms of thought, activity, and happiness the Lord came into the world, passed through all the experiences of human life including death, rose from the dead, and said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

Amen

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