“And I give unto them eternal life.” – John 10:28
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 the Lord came to make manifest to men is a superlatively desirable life, a life filled with happiness from Him, which endures forever and which has its beginnings now and here, as we follow Him. The life that He lived in the world as the Word made flesh was the symbol of the life that He now lives in the mind that opens itself to receive Him. As we learn and keep His precepts the literal history of the Lord’s life becomes, in course of time, transformed into a spiritual history written on the pages of the soul’s book of life.
There was a time in the long ago Golden Age of the world when the Lord spoke to the inner consciousness of men by an interior revelation of Himself to the mind; but when the glory of that period came to an end through man’s turning to the love of self and the world, He revealed to men His Word in a written form, and finally as this same Word He assumed a natural humanity, that He might reach men through a visible manifestation of Himself to their sight. So He lived before men the life that was within the written Word, which was with God and which was God, glorified with the glory which it had with the Father before the world was.
Our regeneration is the image of the Lord’s glorification, and takes place as we allow Him to enter into our lives and direct them. The Lord’s life is meaningless to one who has never been moved by the spirit that pervaded it, by the willingness to suffer for others, by the self-forgetfulness and mercy that marked and distinguished it.
It is because men are such strangers to the great principles that were incarnated in our Lord that they are able to read the history of His life with such indifference. A man can be aroused only by that which touches the facts and the experiences of his own life. He who lives only for himself can form no conception of the blessedness of living for others. The only way by which we may be brought into sympathy with any great truth is by having it come down into our life, and, by living according to it, making it a part of us. Thus if we are really to know the Lord, His life must be received in our souls. This of course is equivalent to saying that the only Lord we shall ever know will be the Lord in His revelation in our minds.
Every step that the Lord took from the manger to the cross He takes over again in those who follow Him in the regeneration. He dwells in us in the truths of the Word which we have stored in our minds, and in this truth He fights and overcomes the evils within us. Conceived within our minds, He goes forth as the truth to conquer our evils and redeem us.
“Whither I go ye know,” He says, “and the way ye know.” He came on earth to prepare a way for us, and the way is by His Word, which teaches of Him and shows that where His presence is received there is heaven. Hence He declares, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.”
To die has been supposed to mean parting from everything that is actual, everything that is certain, everything that can gratify, and passing into a state of unreality, into a condition that is vague and shadowy, undefined and mysterious, filling us with apprehension as we contemplate it. Such ideas spring from a misunderstanding of the true purpose of our dwelling in this world, from not recognizing why we are here and how our present state of being is related to that which is to follow. The real message of Easter is not that of triumph over bodily death, for that has never been in doubt. All men die as to the body and all men rise again. It has been so from the beginning, and it will be so forever. We are not created to live in this world forever, but that we may in due time enter the spiritual world with its higher life.
The disciples – Mary, Martha, and others who followed the Lord – were disheartened when He was put to death. Their disappointment was inevitable because they had really thought that the Lord’s kingdom was wholly of this world. They looked for improvements in the conditions of life here. With the crucifixion this vision died away, and it is well that it did.
The story of the Resurrection brings the Lord’s life on earth to a glorious conclusion. The ancient prophecies were fulfilled, the Savior had come, and the Redemption had been wrought.
There is an old legend that tells of a great change that came over the world on the first resurrection morn. All things shone in a brighter light. The air was different. The colors of the flowers were more vivid. Even the sky took on a deeper shade of blue. The idea expressed in this legend is not altogether fanciful. We know from experience that when we are happy the day looks brighter and the world more beautiful; and when we are sad or discouraged, everything is colored by our mental state.
To those who knew that the Lord had risen the world became brighter, better, more beautiful. The clouds of darkness were rolled away from their minds. But the Resurrection effected something immensely more important. It gave them new courage, and converted them into zealous apostles who went forth preaching repentance and remission of sins in the Lord’s name to all nations.
Real faith and courage are needed today in order to face the many problems that confront us. There are problems within the nation, there are sectional and class conflicts, and there are international problems. And there are problems within the church. It too must show its confidence in the Lord.
Difficulties come in individual, national, and international life when men depart from the precepts of the Word and fall into the worship of self and the world. They never would have arisen if men were truly Christian.
Easter should mean to us that the victory which the Lord won was the victory over sin and spiritual death, and that in the Lord’s strength there is not an evil or sinful or unhappy condition which may not be overcome. But the power is His in us, and the victory is His for us.
The Psalmist writes, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive,” and again, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” He enables us to turn our misfortunes into spiritual blessings. We should be able to see this clearly. How often has the event called death brought people closer together and closer to their God! And such great calamities as wars have now been brought under condemnation by all enlightened people.
Year by year, as Easter comes to us, we like to dwell upon the influence of the Resurrection. Without it there would have been no Christianity and no Christian Church.
In the Gospel story, after the crucifixion the Lord’s body was laid in a tomb and the tomb was sealed with a great stone. The story of the Resurrection has another lesson for us. The world sometimes crucifies the truth. Dark days come, and it seems that the truth is buried in a tomb and will not rise again. But the truth has been given to the world. It will not stay comfortably buried in man’s mind. No guard can be set that will keep the stone from being rolled away. After the crucifixion the earth was shaken by an earthquake. If men try to keep the truth shut up, they will find life a succession of earthquakes. But belief in the Lord not only turns the fear of death into loving memories and golden hopes, but it enables us to turn our errors and misfortunes into nobler ways of life; it spreads a table before us in the very presence of our enemies.
Every Easter should help us to look at life in a newer and higher way, enabling us to see the purposes within life, what the essentials of life are. To serve the Lord in love to the neighbor, to revere His truth, to live daily in the recognition of His spirit, to move in the stream of His providence, to bring into all things of time the element of eternity is to gain eternal life without waiting for physical death to usher us into it.
To open for us and in us new realms of thought, activity, and happiness the Lord came into the world, lived and taught among us, was crucified and rose from the dead, and said, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”