Luke 24The Lord of life, who was put to death upon the Friday, was buried in the evening of the same day; and his holy body rested in the silent grave all the next day, being the Jewish sabbath, and some part of the morning following. Thus rose he again the third day, according to the scriptures, neither sooner nor later; not sooner, lest the truth of his death should have been questioned that he did not die at all; not later, lest the faith of his disciples should have failed.
Accordingly, when the sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene getting the other women together, she and they set out very early in the morning, to visit the holy sepulchre, and about sunrise they get to it, intending with their spices and odors farther to embalm the Lord's body.
Observe here, 1. That although the hearts of these holy women did burn with an ardent zeal and affection to their crucified Lord; yet the commanded duties of the sabbath are not omitted by them; they keep close, and silently spend that holy day in a mixture of grief and hope. A good pattern of sabbath sanctification, and worthy of our imitation.
Observe, 2. These holy women go, but not empty handed: she that had bestowed a costly alabaster upon Christ while alive, prepares no less precious odors for him now dead; thereby paying their last homage to our Saviour's corpse. But what need of odors to perfume a precious body, which could not see corruption? True, his holy body did not want them, but the love and affection of his friends could not withhold them.
Observe, 3. How great a tribute of respect and honor is due and payable to the memory of these holy women, for their great magnanimity and courage: they followed Christ when his cowardly disciples left him; they accompanied him to his cross, they attended his hearse to the grave, when his disciples did not, did not appear. And now very early in the morning they visit his sepulchre, fearing neither the darkness of the night, nor the presence of the watchmen, though a band of rude soldiers.
Learn hence, that courage and resolution is the special gift of God: if he gives it to the feeble sex, even to timorous and fearful women, it shall not be in the power of armed men to make them afraid. But to a close consideration of the several circumstances relating to the resurrection of our holy Lord.
Note, 1. With what pomp and triumph our holy Lord arises; two men, that is, two angels in the shape of men, verse 4, are sent from heaven to roll away the stone.
But could not Christ have risen then without the angels' help?
Yes, doubtless he that raised himself could easily have rolled away the stone himself; but God thinks fit to send an officer from heaven to open the prison door of the grave; and by setting our Surety at liberty, proclaims our debt to the divine justice fully satisfied. Besides, it was fit that the angels who had been witnesses of our Saviour's passion, should also be witnesses of his resurrection.
Note, 2. Our Lord's resurrection declared, He is risen, he is not here. Almighty God never intended that the darling of his soul should be left in an obscure sepulchre. He is not here, said the angels, where you laid him, where you left him; death has lost its prey, and the grave has lost its prisoner.
Note, 3. It is not said, He is not here, for he is raised; but He is risen; verse 6. The original word imports the active power of Christ, or the self-quickening principle by which Christ raised himself from the dead, He showed himself alive after his passion. Acts 1:3
Hence learn, that it was the divine nature or Godhead of Christ, which raised the human nature from death to life; others were raised from the grave by Christ's power, but he raised himself by his own power.
Note, 4. The persons to whom our Lord's resurrection was first declared and made known; to women, to the two Marys. But why to women? And why to these women? To women first, because God sometimes makes choice of weak means for producing great effects; knowing that the weakness of the instrument redounds to the greater honor of the agent.
In the whole dispensation of the gospel, God intermixes divine power with human weakness. Thus the conception of Christ was by the power of the Holy Ghost; but his mother, a poor woman, a carpenter's spouse. So the crucifixion of Christ was in much meanness and outward baseness, being crucified between two thieves; but the powers of heaven and earth trembling, the rocks rending, the graves opening, showed a mixture of divine power. Thus here, God selects women to declare, that he will honor what instruments he pleases, for the accomplishment of his own purposes.
But why to these women, the two Marys, is the first discovery made of our Lord's resurrection? Possibly it was a reward for their magnanimity and masculine courage. These women clave to Christ, when the apostles forsook him: they assisted at his cross, they attended at his funeral, they waited at this sepulchre; these women had more courage than the apostles, therefore God makes them apostles to the apostles. This is a tacit rebuke, a secret check given to the apostles, that they should be thus outdone by women; these holy women went before the apostles in the last services that were done for Christ, and therefore the apostles here come after them in their rewards and comforts.
Note, 5. The quick message which these holy women carry to the disconsolate disciples, of the joyful news of our Saviour's resurrection; they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven, verse 9.
And the other evangelists say, that they were sent and bidden to go to the apostles with the notices of the resurrection, Go tell the disciples, says the angel, Matt 28:7
Go tell my brethren, says Christ, verse 10. A most endearing expression. Christ might have said, "Go tell my apostate apostles, my cowardly disciples, that left me in my danger, and did not own me in the high-priest's hall, that did not come within the shadow of my cross, not within sight of my sepulchre." But not one word of all this by upbraiding them for their late shameful cowardice, but all words of divine indulgence, and endearing kindness; Go tell my brethren.
Where mark, that Christ calls them brethren after his resurrection and exaltation, thereby showing, that the change of his condition had wrought no change in his affection towards his poor disciples: but those that were his brethren before, in the time of his humiliation and abasement, are still so, after his exaltation and advancement: Go tell my brethren.
One thing more must be noted with reference to our Lord's resurrection, and that is, why he did not first choose to appear to the Virgin Mary, his disconsolate mother, whose soul was pierced with a quick and lively sight and sense of her son's sufferings; but to Mary Magdalene, who had been a grievous sinner? Doubtless this was for the comfort of all true penitents, and administers great consolation to them: as the angels in heaven rejoice, much more does Christ, in the recovery of one repenting sinner, than in multitudes of holy and just persons (such was the blessed Virgin) who need no repentance.
For the same reason did our Saviour particularly name Peter, Go tell my disciples, and Peter; he being for his denial of Christ swallowed up with sorrow, and standing in most need of consolation; therefore speak particularly to Peter: as if Christ had said, "Be sure that his sad heart be comforted with this joyful news, that I am risen; and let him know, that I am friends with him, notwithstanding his late cowardice."
Here we have observable, 1. The journey which two of the disciples took to Emmaus, a village not far from Jerusalem. The occasion of their journey is not told us, but the scripture acquaints us with their discourse in their journey, and as they were walking by the way. It was holy and useful, pious and profitable discourse, that they entertained one another with as they walked; they discoursed of Christ's death and resurrection; a good pattern for our imitation, when providentially cast into such company as will bear it: That our lips drop as the honeycomb, and our tongue be as choice silver.
Observe, 2. How our holy Lord presently made one in the company; when they were discoursing seriously about the matters of religion, he overtook them and joined himself to them. The way to have Christ's presence and company with us is to be discoursing of Christ and the things of Christ.
Observe, 3. Though Christ came to them, it was incognito; he was not known to them, for their eyes were holden by the power of God; their sight was restrained, that they could not discern who he was, but took him for another person, though his body had the same dimensions that he had before.
Whence we learn, the influence which God has upon all our powers and faculties, upon all our members and senses, and how much we depend upon God for the use and exercise of our faculties and members: Their eyes were holden that they could not know him.
Observe, 4. That the notion of the Messiah being a temporal Saviour, was so deeply rooted in the minds of the disciples, that it remained here with them, even after he was risen from the dead. They here own and acknowledge him to be a prophet mighty in deed and in word, but they question whether he were the Messiah, the redeemer of Israel. They could not reconcile the ignominy of his death with the grandeur of his office; nor conceive how the infamy of a cross was consistent with the glory of a king: We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. As if they had said, "We were full of hopes, that this had been the Messiah so long expected by us; but, this being the third day since he died, we fear we shall find ourselves mistaken."
Observe, 1. Our Saviour reproves, and then instructs them. He reproves them for being ignorant of the sense of scripture. They thought the death of the Messiah a sufficient ground to question the truth of his office, when it was an argument to confirm and establish it: O fools, ought not Christ to suffer? As if he had said, "Do you not find that the person described by the prophets in the Old Testament to be the Messiah, was to wade to his glory through a sea of blood? Why then do you think yourselves deceived in the person who suffered three days ago, when his death does agree so well with the predictions of the prophets, who foretold, that the Messiah should be cut off, but not for himself, and be smitten for the iniquities of his people?
Here we may observe, the great wisdom and grace of God, who makes sometimes the diffidence of his people an occasion of farther clearing up the choicest truths unto them: never did these disciples hear so excellent an exposition of Moses and the Prophets concerning the Messiah as now, when their sinful distrust had so far prevailed over them.
Observe, 2. The doctrines which Christ instructs his disciples in, namely, in the necessity of his death and passion, and of his glory and exaltation; Ought not Christ to suffer, and to enter into his glory?
1. That with respect to God's decree, and with relation to man's guilt, the death of Christ was necessary and indispensable.
2. That his resurrection and exaltation was an necessary as his passion.
3. That there was a meritorious connexion between Christ's sufferings and his glory; his exaltation was merited by his passion; He was to drink of the brook in the way, and then he was to lift up his head.
4. Christ did not only put light into these his apostles' heads, but heat also into their hearts, which burned all the while he communed with them; Did not our hearts burn within us, while he opened to us the scriptures? Oh what an efficacious power is there in the word of Christ, when set home upon the hearts of men by the Spirit of Christ!
Observe, 1. That these two disciples at Emmaus, being fully satisfied in the truth of Christ's resurrection, by his appearing to them in breaking of bread, they arose presently, and went from Emmaus to Jerusalem. It must needs be late at night, being after supper, and seven miles distant; yet considering the sorrows that the disciples were under, these two leave all their private affairs, and hasten to comfort them with the glad tidings of our Lord's resurrection.
Teaching us, that all secular affairs, all private and particular business, must give place to the glory of God, and the comfort and salvation of souls.
Observe, 2. The great endeavors which our Saviour used, to confirm his disciples' faith in the doctrine of the resurrection; He comes and stands in the midst of them, and says, Peace be unto you; next he shows them his pierced hands, side, and feet, with the scars and marks, which he yet retained, that they might see it was their crucified Master: after all this, He eats before them a piece of a broiled fish, and honeycomb: not that he needed it, his body being now become immortal; but to assure them that it was his own person; and that he had still the same body. Yet so slack and backward were they to believe that Christ was risen, that all the predictions of the scripture, all the assurances they had from our Saviour's mouth, and the several appearings of Christ unto them, were little enough to establish and confirm their faith in the resurrection of our Saviour.
Observe, 3. The highest and fullest evidence which our Saviour offers to evince and prove the certainty of his resurrection, namely, by appealing to their senses; Handle me and see. Christ admits the testimony of our senses, to assure it to be his real body. And if the church of Rome will not allow us to believe our senses, we shall lose the best external evidence we can have to prove the truth of the Christian religion; namely, the miracles of Christ: for how can I know that those miracles were true, but by the judgment of my senses? Now, as our senses tell us, that Christ's miracles were true, so they assure us, that the doctrine of transubstantiation is false.
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