And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
~ Hebrews 7:8
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.
~ Revelation 1:18
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
~ Luke 24:44-46
Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
~ Luke 18:31-33
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
~ Matthew 16:21
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
~ Matthew 20:18-19
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
~ Matthew 28:6
And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
~ Mark 9:9-10
Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
~ Mark 10:33-34
The Lord is Risen Indeed, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 1873.
“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee.”— Luke xxiv. 5, 6.
The following contains an excerpt from his sermon.
The first day of the week commemorates the resurrection of Christ, and, following apostolical example, we have made the first day of the week to be our Sabbath. Does not this intimate to us that the rest of our souls is to be found in the resurrection of our Saviour? Is it not true that a clear understanding of the rising again of our Lord is, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the very surest means of bringing our minds into peace? To have a part in the resurrection of Christ is to enjoy that Sabbath which remaineth for the people of God. We who have believed in the risen Lord do enter into rest, even as he also himself is resting at the right hand of the Father. In him we rest because his work is finished, his resurrection being the pledge that he has perfected all that is needful for the salvation of his people, and we are complete in him. I trust this morning that some restful thoughts may, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be sown in the minds of believers while we make a pilgrimage to the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and see the place where the Lord lay.
I. And, first, this morning I will speak to you upon certain INSTRUCTIVE MEMORIES which gather around the place where Jesus slept “with the rich in his death.” Though he is not there, he assuredly once was there: for “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” He was as dead as the dead now are, and though he could see no corruption, nor could be holden by the bands of death beyond the predestined time, yet he was in very deed most assuredly dead. No light remained in his eye, no life in his heart; thought had fled from his thorn crowned brow, and speech from his golden mouth; he was not in mere appearance, but in reality dead— the spear-thrust decided that question once for all; therefore in the sepulchre they laid him, a dead man, fit occupant of the silent tomb. Yet as he is not there now, but is risen, it is for us to search for memorials of his having been there. Not for the “holy sepulchre” will we contend with superstitious sectaries, but in spirit we will gather up the precious relics of the risen Redeemer.
First, he has left in the grave the spires. When he rose he did not bring away the costly aromatics in which his body had been wrapped, but he left them there. Joseph brought about one hundred pounds weight of myrrh and aloes, and the odour remaineth still. In the sweetest spiritual sense, our Lord Jesus has filled the grave with fragrance. It no longer smells of corruption and foul decay, but we can sing with the poet of the sanctuary—
“Why should we tremble to convey
These bodies to the tomb?
There the dear flesh of Jesus lay,
And left a long perfume.”
Yonder lowly bed in the earth is now perfumed with costly spices and decked with sweet flowers, for on its pillow the truest Friend we have once laid his holy head. We will not start back with horror from the chambers of the dead, for the Lord himself has traversed them, and where he goes no terror abides.
The Master also left his grave-clothes behind him. He did not come from the tomb wrapped about with a winding-sheet; he did not wear the cerements of the tomb as the habiliments of life, but when Peter went into the sepulchre he saw the grave-clothes lying carefully folded by themselves. What if I say he left them to be the hangings of the royal bed-chamber, wherein his saints fall asleep? See how he has curtained our last bed! Our dormitory is no longer bare and drear, like a prison cell, but hung around with fair white linen and comely arras— a chamber fit for the repose of princes of the blood! We will go to our last bed-chamber in peace, because Christ has furnished it for us. Or if we change the metaphor, I may say that our Lord has left those graveclothes for us to look upon as pledges of his fellowship with us in our low estate, and reminders that as he has cast aside the death garments, even so shall we. He has risen from his couch and left his sleeping robes behind him, in token that at our waking there are other vestures ready for us also. What if I again change the figure, and say that as we have seen old tattered flags hung up in cathedrals and other national buildings, as the memorials of defeated enemies and victories won, so in the crypt where Jesus vanquished death his grave clothes are hung up as the trophies of his victory over death, and as assurances to us that all his people shall be more than conquerors through him that hath loved them. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Then, carefully folded up and laid by itself, our Lord left the napkin that was about his head. Yonder lies that napkin now. The Lord wanted it not when he came forth to life. Ye who mourn may use it as a handkerchief with which to dry your eyes. Ye widows and ye fatherless children— ye mourning brothers and ye weeping sisters— and you, ye Rachels, who will not be comforted because your children are not; here, take you this which wrapped your Saviour’s face, and wipe your tears away for ever. The Lord is risen indeed, and therefore thus saith the Lord, “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for they shall come again from the land of the enemy,” “Thy dead men shall live,” O mourner— together, with the Lord’s dead body, shall they arise; wherefore, sorrow not as they that are without hope, for if ye believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also, which sleep in Jesus, will the Lord bring with him.
What else has the risen Saviour left behind him? Our faith has learned to gather up memorials sweet from the couch of our Lord’s tranquil slumber. Well, beloved, he left angels behind him, and thus made the grave
“A cell where angels use
To come and go with heavenly news.”
Angels were not in the tomb before, but, at his resurrection, they descended; one rolled away the stone, and others sat where the body of Jesus had lain. They were the personal attendants and bodyguard of the Great Prince, and therefore they attended him at his rising, keeping the doorway, and answering the enquiries of his friends. Angels arc full of life and vigour, but they did not hesitate to assemble at the grave, gracing the resurrection even as flowers adorn the spring. I read not that our Master has ever recalled the angels from the sepulchres of his saints; and now, if believers die as poor as Lazarus, and as sick and as despised as he, angels shall convey their souls into the bosom of their Lord, and their bodies, too, shall be watched by guardian spirits, as surely as Michael kept the body of Moses and contended for it with the foe. Angels are both the servitors of living saints and the custodians of their dust.
What else did our Well-beloved leave behind him? He left an open passage from the tomb, for the stone was rolled away; doorless is that house of death. We shall, in our turn, if the Master come not speedily, descend into the prison-house of the grave. What did I say?— I called it a “prison-house,” but how a prison-house, that hath no bolts or bars?— how a prison-house, that hath not even a door to close upon its occupants? Our Samson has pulled up the posts and carried away the gates of the grave with all their bars. The key is taken from the girdle of death and is held in the hand of the Prince of Life. The broken signal and the fainting watchmen are tokens that the dungeons of death can no more confine their captives. As Peter, when he was visited by the angel, found his chains fall from off him, while iron gates opened to him of their own accord, so shall the saints find ready escape at the resurrection morning. They shall sleep awhile, each one in his resting-place, but they shall rise readily, for the stone is rolled away. A mighty angel rolled away the stone, for it was very great, and when he had done the deed he sat down upon the stone. His garment was white as snow, and his face like lightning, and as he sat on the stone he seemed to say to death and hell, “Roll it back again if you can.”
“Who shall rebuild for the tyrant his prison!
The sceptre lies broken that fell from his hands;
His dominion is ended, the Lord is arisen;
The helpless shall soon be released from their bands.”
One tiling else I venture to mention as left by my Lord in his forsaken tomb. I visited some few months ago several of the large columbaria which are to be found outside the gates of Rome. You enter a large square building, sunk in the earth, and descend by many steps, and as you descend you observe on the four sides of the great chamber, innumerable little pigeon-holes, in which are the ashes of tens of thousands of departed persons. Usually in front of each compartment prepared for the reception of the ashes stands a lamp. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of these lamps, but they are all unlit, and indeed do not appear ever to have carried light: they shed no ray upon the darkness of death. But now our Lord has gone into the tomb and illuminated it with his presence, “the lamp of his love is our guide through the gloom.” Jesus has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel; and now in the dove-cotes where Christians nestle, there is light; yea, in every cemetery there is a light which shall bum through the watches of earth’s night till the day break and the shadows flee away, and the resurrection morn shall dawn.
So then the empty tomb of the Saviour leaves us many sweet reflections, which we will treasure up for our instruction.
II. Our text expressly speaks of VAIN SEARCHES: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. There are places where seekers after Jesus should not expect to find him, however diligent may be their search, however sincere their desire. You cannot find a man where he is not, and there are some spots where Christ never will be discovered. At this present moment I see many searching for Christ among the monuments of ceremonialism, or what Paul called “the weak and beggarly elements,” for they “observe days and months and times and years.” Ever since our Lord arose, Judaism and every form of symbolic ceremony have become nothing better than sepulchres. The types were of God’s own ordaining, but when the substance had come, the types became empty sepulchres and nothing more. Since that time men have invented other symbols, which have not even the sanction of Divine authority, and are only dead men’s graves. At this present period the world has gone mad after its idols, deluded and deceived by those who have a zeal for Cod, but not according to knowledge. Surely there never was a period, even when Rome was most dominant, in which men heaped unto themselves ceremonies after such rate as at the present day. They have made Christianity to be a greater yoke of bondage than was Judaism itself; but in vain shall any sincere and awakened soul hope to find Jesus among these vain performances. Ye may stumble from one holy day to another, and from one holy place to another, and from one hocus-pocus to another, but ye shall not find a Saviour in any of them, for thus hath he himself declared, “Neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem shall men worship the Father, but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” Jesus has rent the veil and abolished ceremonial worship, and yet men seek to revive it, building up the sepulchres which the Lord has broken down. This day he repeats in our ears the warning, “Take ye good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female.” Yet certain men among us go about to set up the altars which our godly forefathers brake down, and the work of reformers and of Protestants must now be done over again. God send us a Knox or a Luther with a mighty hammer to break in pieces the idols which the priests of Baal are setting up! They seek the living among the dead. Jesus is not in their masses and processions. He is risen far above such carnal worship. If he were a dead Christ, such a worship might, perchance, be a suitable pageant over his tomb, but to one who ever liveth, it must be insulting to present such materialistic service.
Alas! there are many others who are seeking Christ as their Saviour among the tombs of moral reformation. Our Lord likened the Pharisees to white-washed sepulchres; inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones, but outwardly they were fairly garnished. Oh, the way in which men, when they get uneasy about their souls, try to white-wash themselves. Some one gross sin is given up, not in heart, but only in appearance, and a certain virtue is cultivated not in the soul, but only in the outward act, and thus they hope to be saved, though they still remain enemies to God, lovers of sin, and greedy seekers after the wages of unrighteousness. They hope that the clean outside of the cup and the platter will satisfy the Most High, and that he will not be so severe as to look within and try their hearts. O, Sirs, why seek ye the living among the dead? Many have sought peace for their consciences by their moral reforms, but if the Holy Spirit has truly convinced them of sin, they have soon found that they were looking for a living Christ amidst the tombs. He is not here, for he is risen. If Christ were dead, we might well say to you, “Go and do your best to be your own saviours,” but while Christ is alive, he wants no help of yours— he will save you from top to bottom, or not at all. He will be Alpha and Omega to you, and if you put your hand upon his work, and think in any way that you can help him, you have dishonoured his holy name, and he will have nothing to do with you. Seek not a living salvation amongst the sepulchres of outward formality.
Too many also are struggling to find the living Christ amidst the tombs which cluster so thickly at the foot of Sinai; they look for life to the law, whose ministry is death. Men think that they are to be saved by keeping God’s commandments. They are to do their best, and they conceive that their sincere endeavours will be accepted, and they will thus save themselves. This self-righteous idea is diametrically opposed to the whole spirit of the gospel. The gospel is not for you who can save yourselves, but for those who are lost. If you can save yourselves, go and do it, and do not mock the Saviour with your hypocritical prayers. Go and stumble among the tombs of ancient Israel, and perish as they did in the wilderness, for into rest Moses and the law can never lead you. The gospel is for sinners who cannot keep the law for themselves, who have broken it, and incurred its penalty, who know that they have done so, and confess it. For such, a living Saviour has come that he may blot out their transgressions. Seek not salvation by the works of the law, for by them shall no flesh living be justified. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and nothing more; but righteousness, peace, life, salvation, come by faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ, and by no other means. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;” but if thou goest about to establish thine own righteousness, thou shalt surely perish, because thou hast rejected the righteousness of Christ.
Others there are who seek the living Jesus among the tombs, by looking for something good in human nature, in their own natural hearts and dispositions. I can see you now, for I have known you long, and this has always been your folly, you will go into the charnel house of your own nature, and say, “Is Jesus here?” Beloved, you are sad and depressed, and I do not wonder. Look at yonder dry bones and bleaching skeletons. See that heap of rottenness, that mass of corruption, that body of death— can you bear it? “Ah,” say you, “I am a wretched man indeed, but I long to find some good thing in my flesh!” O beloved, you sigh in vain, you might as well rake hell over to find heaven in it, as look into your own carnal nature to find consolation. Behold ye this day, God has abandoned the old nature, and given it up to death. Under the old law, circumcision was the putting away of the filth of the flesh, as though after this filth were gone the flesh might perhaps be bettered, but now, under the new covenant, we have a far deeper symbol, for “know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The old man is buried, as a dead thing out of which no good can come. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” God does not attempt to renew the old carnal mind, but to make us new creatures in Christ Jesus. If any man continually practises introspeculation with a view to consolation, he might as well pile up blocks of Wenham ice with a view to burn down a city. If you are turning over your frames and feelings, your thoughts and imaginations, to discover comfort, you might far sooner hope to find precious diamonds in the sweepings of the roads. “He is not here,” says the whole of our old nature. He is not here, he is risen; and for consolation you must look alone to him, as he is enthroned above the skies.
Yet again, too many have tried to find Christ amidst the gloomy catacombs of the world’s philosophy. For instance, on the Sabbath day they like to have a sermon full of thought— thought being in the modern meaning of it something beyond, if not opposite to, the simple teaching of the Bible. If a man tells his people what he finds in the Scriptures he is said to “talk platitudes;” but if a man amuses his people with his own dreams, however opposed they may be to God’s thoughts, he is a “thinking man,” a “highly intellectual preacher.” There be some who love above all things the maunderings of day-dreamers, and the crudities of sceptics. If they can hear what an infidel Professor has said against inspiration, if they can be indulged with the last new blasphemy, some hearers feel that they are making advances in that higher culture, which is so much vaunted now-a-days. But, believe me, the bat-haunted eaves of false philosophy and pretended science have been searched again and again, but salvation dwells not in them. In Paul’s day there were Gnostics who tracked all the winding passages of vainglorious learning, but they only discovered “another gospel which was not another.” The world by wisdom knew not God. After roaming amid the dreary catacombs of philosophy, we come back to breathe the fresh air of the living Word, and concerning the mazes of science, we gasp out the sentence,— “He is not there.” Reason has not found him in her deepest mining, nor speculation in her highest soaring, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. Athens has her unknown God, but in the simple gospel God is known in the person of Jesus. Socrates and Plato hold up their candles, but Jesus is the sun. Our moderns cavil and dispute, and yet a living Christ is among us converting sinners, cheering saints, and glorifying God. If the Lord were a dead question for debate, philosophy might help us; but as he is a living power, a grain of faith in him is better than mountains of philosophy. O ye who know not the inner life, and the quickening Spirit, what have ye to do with the risen Lord? As well might corruption’s worm become the judge of cherubim, as ye become the arbiters of truth concerning Jesus our Lord.
How anxiously do I wish that you who have been searching for salvation in any of these directions would give up the hopeless task, and understand that Christ is nigh you, and if you with the heart believe on him, and with the mouth confess him, you shall be saved. “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside me there is none else:” this is his cry to you. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” Jesus is living still, and able to save to the uttermost. All you have to do is simply to turn the glance of your faith towards him: by that faith lie becomes yours, and you are saved, but oh, seek not the living among the dead, for he is risen.