“The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24:34).
Edited from a March 1925 Herald article
Those who understand the importance of the resurrection of Jesus will perceive the necessity for the very explicit description given in the Gospels. Without faith in the resurrection of Jesus, we must be without faith in the merit of his death, in the sufficiency of his sin-offering on our behalf, and even uncertain in respect to our own resurrection (1 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:17).
The Apostles and other disciples were natural men. They, as well as natural men throughout the Gospel Age, needed words that would appeal to the natural mind — plain and distinct. After the Apostles received the holy Spirit, they better understood matters connected with our Lord’s death and resurrection. So do we come to a deeper appreciation of the features of divine truth once we possess the holy Spirit.
“Put to Death in the Flesh — Quickened in Spirit”
Our Lord took the human nature that he might be able to present the ransom sacrifice on our behalf. As a human, he would die as the man Christ Jesus for the man Adam and his posterity. The death of Jesus finished the work which he came to do, as his dying words show, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
There was no reason why Jesus should be raised as a human being, but every reason to the contrary. As a human being, he would have been circumscribed in his power, talents, dignities, and honors. He would have been forever humiliated as the result of the great work which he accomplished in obedience to the Father’s program. This would be quite contrary to what the apostle points out when he declares that God raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted him far above angels, principalities and .powers and every name that is named (Philippians 2:9).
So then our Lord was put to death in the flesh. He was quickened, raised in spirit, a spirit spirit being of the highest order, “changed” from mortal to immortal, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Two Lessons Were Taught
Two great lessons were to come to our Lord’s followers: first that their Master was no longer dead, but alive, risen from the dead; and second, that he was no longer the man Christ Jesus, but Jesus “changed,” glorified. “Now the Lord is that Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
How could these two great and important lessons be taught to natural men with natural minds, naturally disposed to think of things only upon the earthly, fleshly plane? The method adopted by our Lord was, first, to make very distinct to their natural sense the fact of his resurrection by the removal of his body from the tomb. The second was the vision of angels speaking of our Lord as risen. Third, by the clothes and napkins lying in their places as though they had been laid aside by one awaking from sleep.
To emphasize this lesson, Jesus appeared to the disciples in bodies of flesh which he permitted to be touched. But lest they should get the idea that he was still a man, our Lord appeared in various forms: once as a gardener, once as a stranger traveling to Emmaus, once as a stranger on the shore of Galilee, and twice in the upper room. He demonstrated that he was not a man by coming into their midst while the doors were shut and, after a brief conversation, vanishing out of their sight while the door was still shut. In these various ways, Jesus inculcated the lesson remaining with his disciples forty days.
No wonder that the early Church, appreciating the value of our Lord’s resurrection and the fact that they were no longer under the Jewish Law, gradually changed their worship day from the seventh day to the first day of the week. To the Christian, every day is a holy day in which he is not to do anything which would be wrong or displeasing to the Lord.
Putting together the various accounts, we find that Mary Magdalene was one of the first at the sepulcher while it was yet dark (Mark 16:1). Accompanying her were Mary, the mother of James and Salome, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 24:10). They had wondered who would roll away the stone from the sepulcher that they might enter with their spices to complete the embalming work discontinued two evenings before due to the impending Sabbath. To their surprise, the stone was already rolled away. They tarried wondering, and then in the dim light they perceived that the Lord’s body was not there.
Mary hastened to find John and Peter and related these facts. The two Apostles ran to the sepulcher, John arriving before Peter. By this time the other women had departed to communicate the news to the other disciples. Awestricken, John stooped down and looked in, but Peter, on arrival went in. John followed. They found things just as Mary had described. They went away troubled and perplexed. Although the indication is that they both believed, they did not have an appreciation, “for as yet they knew not the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9).
Mary returned to the tomb filled with sorrow. She was weeping and saying in her heart that whoever broke in might at least have left us the body of our Lord. She looked inside again. Two angels were now present. They said to her, “Why weepest thou?” (John 20:13), intimating that there was no cause for sorrow and preparing Mary for the Lord’s revealing. A noise called her attention backward and she saw a man who she supposed to be the gardener. Her appeal came immediately, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him and I will take him away” (John 20:15), indicating that she would care for his remains.
Then Jesus, in unfamiliar clothes and an unfamiliar form, revealed himself through the tone of his voice which she so well knew, uttering her name only. In a moment the truth flashed upon her mind and she cried, “Rabboni (which is to say, Teacher)” (John 20:16 NKJV). With us as with Mary, sorrow sometimes fills our hearts and we see not the streams of joy and everlasting blessing which the Lord has for us. Then we hear his voice, his word, and we appreciate the truth. All who know the Master truly know his voice, his message, and his spirit. As he himself expressed it, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
“I Am Not Yet Ascended”
In her joy, Mary was apparently about to grasp the Lord’s feet. Her thought evidently was, “This is a vision which will pass away and I will see my Lord no more; I will hold him tightly; where he is I must be.” But Jesus taught her otherwise, and the lesson is a good one for us also. He would have her remember that he had already said to the disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away” (John 16:7). Why, then, should she detain him? Besides, she was not ready to go with him, she had lessons to learn, experiences to have to further develop her character to fit and prepare her for the kingdom blessings. She must learn submission, confidence in Him, and have a realization that he is able to make all things work together for good to those who trust him.
Our Lord gave Mary a message for the Apostles. She could render service to him. Jesus knew he could not give blessings to her until he had ascended to his Father. We, too, have heard of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Additionally, we have learned of God’s grace through him. It is our privilege to carry the message to all who have the hearing ear.
Our Lord’s declaration, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17), emphasizes the fact that he did not go to heaven when he died, but into the tomb, into the state of death. It emphasizes also that he is our Elder Brother, our forerunner into the Father’s presence and into the glories which God hath in reservation for all those that love Him. They must be willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus at any cost along the rugged narrow way.
It Is Sown — It Is Raised
Paul adds a description of the resurrection change of the Church. “It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in power: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:43,44). Because the Church’s resurrection is really a part of the First Resurrection, these words must also describe our Lord’s resurrection. What is it that was sown and that was raised? We answer that it was our Lord’s soul or being. When he was thirty years of age he was simply the perfect one, a man separate from sinners. But when he consecrated himself at baptism and was begotten of the holy Spirit, he was then a New Creature. It was our Lord, the New Creature, who was the heir of all things, the High Priest, whose privilege it was to sacrifice. He sacrificed his flesh, his earthly nature, which he covenanted to the Father at his baptism. He finished the work of sacrificing at Calvary.
For parts of three days he was dead. When the resurrection moment came and Jehovah raised him up by his own power, he raised up not the sacrificed flesh but the New Creature, the “it” to which the Apostle refers. “It” was sown, buried in the flesh, in dishonor, with the wicked and the rich. “It” was raised the third day to glory, honor, and immortality, the Divine nature. The New Creature was completed by being given a new body.
Thus seen all of the Lord’s people, as was their Lord, are kind of dual beings. They as New Creatures have a reckoned existence while their mortal bodies are reckoned dead. When the mortal flesh is actually dead, the New Creature will be perfected by being granted a new body, a resurrection body. Let us remember the Apostle’s words and apply them to ourselves, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things … that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:8-10).
If our Lord became the first-fruits of them that slept, did he not sleep? And do not the others sleep? And if he was awakened, raised from the dead by the Father’s power, must not all be awakened and lifted up? A first-fruits implies after-fruits. The Scriptures point out that the Church is included with the Lord as a part of the first-fruits, “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). Thus the resurrection of the Christ began with the resurrection of our Lord and will be consummated with the change of the last member of the Church, which is his body.
But this will not consummate the Divine Plan, for it is God’s intention to have the after fruits, a great harvest, which will be gathered during the Millennial Age. Our Lord’s presence will continue for a thousand years for the very purpose of ascertaining how many of the world, under favorable conditions of knowledge and opportunity and assistance, will be glad to go up on the highway of holiness to perfection, to full recovery out of sin and death. That noble company will be the after-fruits of the Divine Plan. Earth, as well as heaven, will be filled with the glory of God when any and all evildoers shall have been cut off; and then every voice in heaven and earth shall be heard praising him that sits upon the throne and the Lamb for the grand consummation of the Divine Plan.
Two Lessons from the Master
Christ is our Master Teacher. He instructs us by
example as well as by doctrine. For that end he came
into this world and dwelt among us, that he might
exhibit all those graces and fruits which he desires
his followers to develop. And it is a picture without
a single false stroke. That is why it is so important to
attend to his word, to imitate his examples, and thus
be thoroughly conformed to his image.