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LUKE XXIV. 34.
The Lord is risen indeed!
EVER was there a day of greater gladness than that on which our Lord arose; never was there greater cause for joy; for were not Christ risen, our faith and hope would be in vain, and we should yet be in our sins.
When Jesus Christ was laid in the grave, great was the triumph of his enemies; great the dejection of his friends. The sorrowful disciples had fondly hoped it had been He who should have redeemed Israel;" but now their hopes are buried in his grave. How great then must have been their surprise and their joy when Jesus actually arose, and appeared to several of them! Our text is an exclamation, expressive of these passions; it was made by the ten apostles to the two brethren who had seen Christ at Emmaus, and who had just returned from ' thence to relate the joyful news. Before they could well speak, the apostles saluted them with this pleasing sentence:-" The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." The two disciples, in their turn, communicate what they had seen and heard, and how "Jesus was known to them in breaking of bread." Blessed and heavenly news! well might they all be eager to tell it! The primitive Christians, it is said, used to salute each other on the Lord's day morning with these words, The Lord is risen! and it is a pleasing custom still
continued in London, that the boys belonging to Christ's Hospital appear in Easter week, each with a printed label affixed to his coat, having the same inscription, "The Lord is risen." Happy, if those poor children, or the multitude beholding them walk in procession to church, knew the sacred import of that charming sentence! It will be happy for us if now we are taught "the power of his resurrection;" and so contemplate these precious words, "that our faith and hope may be in God!"
We may place the words of our text in three points of view, and consider them as the language of WONDER, CERTAINTY, and Joy.
I. Let us consider the words as expressive of their Wonder.
And yet we wonder it should appear so wonderful to them! Had not our Lord often told them he should rise from the dead? Had he not said "Destroy this temple," meaning his body, “and in three days I will raise it up?" Had he not said " There shall no other sign be given to this generation than the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth?" Could the disciples forget these sayings? The Jews certainly remembered them, and, therefore, sealed and guarded the sepulchre. There were many intimations of the resurrection in the writings of the prophets. It was evident from the Scriptures, that "thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." Indeed our Lord rested the whole weight of his mission on this event; to this he referred the whole credibility of all he asserted. It was, therefore, of infinite consequence to the disciples, that their Master should revive, and forsake the tomb.
But who can describe the state of their minds' when they saw their Lord in the hands of his foes! bound, tried, condemned, executed, and laid in the
prison of the grave! There was much ignorance and unbelief remaining in them. They had not wholly got rid of their foolish notion of a temporal kingdom; but their hopes of this kind were now completely baffled. They might also have many distressing apprehensions about their own personal safety. In short, they were perplexed and distressed beyond measure; and they had either forgotten what Christ had said of rising again, or did not clearly understand it, or desponded as to the event.
Great, therefore, was their surprise and astonishment when first informed of his resurrection. Mary Magdalene, and some other pious women, were the first witnesses of the fact; they ran to inform Peter and John, who immediately hastened to the spot; they found the tomb open, and the grave-clothes left in it, but saw not Jesus. But Peter afterwards saw him. He made himself known to the two disciples at Emmaus on the same day. The news quickly spread among them all; and though they were "slow of heart to believe," they were constrained to admit the fact; but they were overpowered with surprise and astonishment, and this they expressed in the text," the Lord is risen indeed!" But,
II. These words imply THE CERTAINTY of this important fact, "The Lord is risen indeed:"-" strange as it is, it is true; and is absolutely certain: we are perfectly satisfied of it. And this certainty was immediately afterwards abundantly confirmed; for, while they were yet speaking, he appeared in the midst of them; and, to convince them he was not a mere spirit, not only shewed them his wounded hands and feet, but also ate and drank with them.
The certainty of this event is of the utmost consequence. This great Pillar bears all the weight of the Christian system; and could the Sampson of infidelity remove it, the whole fabric must fall to the ground. But, blessed be God, we have no fears on this head. We know that "we have not followed
cunningly devised fables," but that this grand truth comes to us confirmed by many infallible proofs, on which our faith securely rests. Acts i. 3. Let us examine some of these:
1. The very fear of imposition tended to this certainty. The chief priests having heard that Christ declared he should rise again, applied 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." Matt. xxvii. 62. Pilate complied with their wishes. The huge stone that secured the entrance of the sepulchre was sealed with the public seal, which none might break upon pain of death; and a strong guard of soldiers was placed to defend the whole. But how vain it is for man to fight with God! The stone, the seal, the guard, can never keep the Lord of life a prisoner to death; but they all tended exceedingly to confirm the truth of his resurrection. Had these malicious precautions been omitted, we had lost one of the strongest proofs of the event.
The ignorance or the forgetfulness of the disciples respecting his rising again; their cowardice at the time, rendering them totally unfit to venture to steal the body, had they been so disposed; and their incredulity, when first told that he was risen, all unite in strengthening the evidence; but especially the unbelief of Thomas, who for a whole week persisted in refusing to believe any evidence but that of his own senses, which at length was granted.
2. The number of witnesses to the fact strongly confirms it. Mary Magdalene was the first. Much was forgiven her, and she loved much; her love was rewarded with this honour. She first saw Jesus, and mistook him for the gardener; but she knew her Shepherd's voice, and owned her Lord, by whose
direction she runs to tell the apostles. Next he appeared to the other Mary, and Salome, when they were flying from the empty tomb, terrified at the sight of the angel. Jesus met them, saying, All hail! They held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Peter was then favoured with a sight of his risen Lord. Marvellous kindness to the man who had deserted and denied him! Let it stand as a proof of Christ's regard to penitent backsliders. In the afternoon, on the same day, he joined company with two disciples, walking to a village seven miles from Jerusalem. They knew him not at first: but he talked to them so sweetly, opened the scriptures, and shewed the necessity of the resurrection, that their hearts glowed with holy fire. He condescended also to sup with them. It was then while "he brake the bread and blessed it," in a manner peculiar to himself, that they recollected his person. Fired with love and filled with joy, they sweetly retrace the seven miles back to the city; and eager to publish the glad event, they hasten to the chamber of the apostles, where they relate "what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread."
Immediately" Jesus appears in the midst ;"mild majesty beaming in his placid countenance, and heavenly consolation flowing from his lips-Peace be unto you! When they discovered fear, he added, Why are you troubled? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had spoken thus, he shewed them his hands and his feet: there they saw the certain marks of his sufferings, and his identity was fully proved. Nor did he immediately vanish; he continued with them a considerable time. He showed them, from the scriptures, the necessity of his resurrection; upbraided them with their unbelief; and to put the matter out of all doubt he offered to eat with them; and did actually eat a piece