What the Resurrection of the Substitute has Done

 

Chapter 8 - Horatius Bonar

 


 

Death is not resurrection; and the benefits of the Surety's death are not the same as those of His resurrection. Yet let us not overlook the "glorious things" spoken concerning the latter.

Our justified life, or our life as justified men, is certainly in one sense resurrection-life, produced and sustained by resurrection-power. But not for a moment is that justified life severed from the cross, nor is the justified man to lose sight of his indebtedness to the cross for justification.

That we are risen with Christ is the truth of God. Oneness with Him who rose is our privilege and our standing. But oneness is not substitution; and it is not by the former, but the latter, that we are justified. Resurrection points us back to a finished substitution, and seals its blessings to us.

"Justified in the Spirit" is one of the apostle's references to Christ's resurrection. As He was brought again from the dead by the blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20), 50 was He justified in or by the Spirit in raising Him from the dead. He died as a criminal, and went down to the grave as such; but the Spirit raises Him, and thereby declares Him righteous, free from the imputed guilt under which He went down to the tomb.

But let us look a little more minutely into Christ's resurrection, lest we should be led to undervalue it. The resurrection must not hide the cross; neither must the cross hide the resurrection.

The words of the angel to the woman are meant for us: "He is not here; for He is risen" (Matt 28:6).

Man did all that he could to hinder the resurrection of the Son of God. He had succeeded in slaying the Prince of life; and he is resolved that, if he can help it, the dead shall not arise. Samson is in prison, and must be kept there. The great stone, the watch, the Roman seal, are all proofs of this determination.

But he knows not his prisoner. He might as well bind the whirlwind with a cord of silk, or shut up the lightening in one of his chambers, and say to it, Thou shalt not go forth. Death itself, stronger than man, could not hold its prey. Ere the dawn of the third day, the earthquake shook the tomb (the earthquake of Psalm 18:6,7), the angel of the Lord descended, the stone was rolled away, the seal was broken, and the dead came forth.

Even His own believe not that He will rise. They would not try to hinder His resurrection, but, treating it as a thing incredible, they act as those who believe that all is over, and that the cross has destroyed their hopes. They would not close the sepulcher, nor seal it; nay, they would roll away the stone and break the seal: but this is only to anoint Him for His final burial. It is not the expression of hope, but of despair.

But the tomb of the Son of God is the place of light, not of darkness; of hope, not of despair; of life, not of death. They come to look on the dead, they find the living. The seekers of the crucified Jesus find the risen Son of God. The garments of death are all that the tomb contains; the linen clothes, still stained with blood, and the carefully-folded napkin,-folded by angels' hands, if not by His own. They had brought their myrrh and aloes and spices to keep corruption from entering; forgetful that it is the Incorruptible whose body they are thus needlessly though lovingly embalming, and ignorant of the meaning of the ancient promise, "Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption."

But friend and enemy are both at fault. The unbelief of the former and the resistance of the latter are met equally with a strange surprise. For God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. The angel of the Lord descends; he rolls back the stone; he sits upon it, to show himself in his brightness to the watchers; he opens the gate, that the Holy One may go forth. Not that he raises or assists in raising the Son of God. That is beyond the mightiest of these mighty ones, those angels that excel in strength. But he is honored to have a share in the scene, as porter or door-keeper of that glorious shrine. With him came the earthquake,-the second that had occurred during these three days: the first being when the Prince of life entered the chambers of death, and at the open door many of the dead saints of other days came forth; the second being when this same Prince of life left these chambers, and burst the bands of death, shaking creation with the tread of His feet as He marched forth in triumph.

The earthquake and the brightness were too terrible for man to bear. "For fear of him, the keepers did shake, and became as dead men." Nor does he try to allay their terror. Let them tremble on. But for those who are seeking the crucified One he has words of love and peace. To the keepers he was as the lightening; to the women he was as the dayspring from on high. "Fear not ye; I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified."

That which follows is the angel's message to these women; and to us no less in these last days. It is the reason for the cheer, the comfort he had spoken. It is the blessed contents of the cup, the ingredients of the heavenly wine, which he was giving them to drink of. And the substance of it is, "Jesus lives." The comfort with which the Lord Himself once comforted the sorrowing father of Capernaum was, "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth"; so the comfort ministered by the angel is like this, only it goes far beyond it: "He is not dead; nay, He sleepeth not: He has awakened; He has risen." And as the Lord calmed the fears of His disciples once with, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid"; so did the angel here: or as in Patmos the Lord allayed the alarm of the beloved disciple with, "Fear not, I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore"; so does the angel soothe the fear of the trembling women: "Fear not ye; He is not here; He is risen: come, see the place where the Lord lay."

Let us mark, then, the glad tidings which the angel brings us regarding Him who died and was buried.

He is not here. This is the only place regarding which it could be accounted good news to say, Christ is not here. Christ is here, was good news at Bethany, at Jericho, at Nain, at Capernaum, or on the sea of Galilee; but Christ is not here, is the good news from Joseph's tomb. A present Christ would be accounted the joy and security of other places; it is an absent Christ that is announced as the blessing, the consolation here. He is not here, is one of the gladdest sounds that ever fell on human ears. Were He still here, what and where should we have been?

And who is it that you are seeking here? The mortal or the immortal? And what place is this in which you expect to find the Son of God? In a grave? Is this the place for immortality? Is it likely that there should be life in the dwellings of death? Why seek ye the living among the dead? No; not here,-not here; not in this place of death can the Prince of life be found. He was here, indeed; but He is not. These rock walls and this rock gate cannot hold Him. He was in Gethsemane, in Pilate's palace, on the cross; but not now. These He has visited, but in none of them has He remained. He has left them all behind. With Him it is all life, and incorruption, and glory now. He is not here!

If not here,
where? That we soon discover when we follow Him to Emmaus and to Galilee. But even though we knew not, does it matter, save for this, that we may learn that His disappearance has not been a forsaking of earth, nor a turning His back upon the children of men? His disappearance from the tomb is only the carrying out of His love.

He is risen. He was laid down upon that rocky floor; but only to rest there for a day. For that tomb was His first earthly resting-place; all before that was weariness. Having rested there for a short season, He rises; and with renewed strength, into which hereafter no element of weariness can enter, He resumes His work. He has not been carried off, either by friend or enemy; He has been raised by the Father, as the righteous One; the fulfiller of His purpose; the finisher of His work; the destroyer of death; the conqueror of him who has the power of death; the Father's beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. This true temple has been destroyed, only to be rebuilt in greater and more undecaying magnificence. This true Siloam has only for three days intermitted the flow of its missioned waters, that it might gush forth in larger fullness. This true Sun has only for three days been darkened, that it might be relighted in its incorruptible glory.

He is risen! Yes; and now we see more fully the meaning of His own words, spoken at a tomb, and over one whom death had bound, "I am the resurrection and the life"; Himself at once the raiser and the raised, the quickener and the quickened, the p0sessor and the giver of an infinite life,-a higher kind of life than that which the first Adam knew,-a life which can force its way into the dungeons of death, transforming them, by its resistless power, into the dwellings, the palaces, the temples of immortality and glory.

He is risen! He has tasted death, but He has not seen corruption; for He is the Holy One of God, and upon holiness corruption cannot fasten. As the beloved of the Father, He rises from the dead; for therefore doth the Father love Him, because He giveth His life for the sheep. And in this resurrection we read the Father's testimony to His Sonship; the Father's seal set to His completed propitiation; the Father's declaration of satisfaction and delight in the work of Calvary.

It was henceforth with a risen Master that the disciples had to do. It was a risen Christ who was their companion on the way to Emmaus; it was a risen Christ who entered the upper chamber with "Peace be to you" on His lips; it was a risen Christ who appeared to five hundred brethren at once; it was a risen Christ that saluted them by the sea of Galilee, and prepared for them their morning meal on the fire of coals; it was a risen Christ with whom they companied during the forty days when He went out and in among them. And it is now with a risen Christ that we have to do in the pathways of our daily pilgrimage. At every turn of the way, resurrection meets us in the person of the Lord Jesus, and says to us, "Because I live, ye shall live also." For the life that is in Him is resurrection-life.

It is with this risen life that faith connects us, from the moment that we believe in Him who died and rose again. Let us note, then, such things as these:

1.
The security of this risen life. It is not mere life out of nothingness, as in the case of the first Adam, but life out of death. And it is this life which Scripture presents to us as higher, fuller, and more secure. The soil out of which the tree of immortality springs is not the common soil of earth; it is the mold of the graveyard, the dust of the tomb. This far securer life, this life that no death can touch, comes to us from the risen life of Him who died and rose again. The faith that knits us to Him makes us partakers of His resurrection-life; nay, does it so fully that His resurrection becomes ours: we are risen with Him, and with Him have put on a divine immortality.

2.
The power of the risen life. It was as the risen One that He spoke, "All power is given unto me." It was as possessor of this power the He went forth from the sepulcher; a power like that by which He overcame death; "the power of an endless life." This corn of wheat had fallen into the ground and died; and though sown in weakness, it was raised in power. It was with this power of the risen life that He ascended on high, leading captivity captive. It is this power of the risen life that He now wields upon the throne. It is in this power of the risen life that He comes again in His glory; Redeemer, king, Judge of all. It is this power of the risen life that He puts forth in His Church,-that He exercises in the begetting us again to a lively hope, and in sustaining each begotten one in a world of hostility and death, amid fightings without and fears within. It is to the power of this risen life that we betake ourselves in the day of weakness and conflict; so that, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, we are made more than conquerors.

3.
The love of the risen life. Resurrection was a new and higher stage of being; and with the perfection of life, there came the perfection of the love. The instrument was now more perfectly tuned, and fitted both for containing and giving forth new measures of love. The love of the risen life is the largest and highest of all. It is of this love that we are made partakers; a love beyond all that is earthly and human; a love that passeth knowledge.

4.
The sympathies of the risen life. Resurrection does not form a gulf or throw up a wall between us and the risen One. It is not the Shepherd withdrawing from His flock to some inaccessible height. It is the filling up of every gulf, the throwing down of every wall; it is the Shepherd bringing Himself into closer and fuller sympathy with His flock. True, they are evil, and He is good; they are earthly, and He is heavenly. But that which resurrection laid aside was not anything of true humanity. It was but the sinless infirmities which weighed down His true humanity, and kept its sympathies from coming out into full development and play. The risen life, then, is the life of truest and largest sympathy. In its perfection there is the perfection of sympathy, the development of the full round of fellow-feeling existing in the being of the Word made flesh.

5.
The affinities of the risen life. The resurrection breaks no bounds save those of mortality. It is the strengthening, not the weakening, of the links that fasten the Son of God to us, and us to the Son of God. Resurrection ties are the strongest of all. The risen life of Christ alters none of the affinities between Himself and His saints; it has not lessened the number of the points at which we come in contact with Him; it has not made Him less human, nor stopped certain channels of communication between us and Him. His immortality has not unlinked Him from those who are still in the flesh. His risen life has not shaken or loosened the relationship He bears to the unrisen. All that He was before, He is still, with something superadded of new love, new power, new perfection, new glory. The difference between His unrisen and His risen life is only that between the sun at dayspring and at noon. Let us rejoice at the remembrance of His risen life as the truest, the fittest, the most blessed for us. The more that we realize our own mortality, the more let us feel the preciousness and the suitableness of His immortality as the risen One; and the more let us realize the identity between us and Him, in virtue of which not merely we shall rise, but we have risen with Him.

6.
The joys of the risen life. In the tomb the Man of sorrows left all His sorrows, as He left all our sins. There they were buried with Him. At His resurrection His full joy began; and in the Psalms this connection between His resurrection and His joy is more than once proclaimed. In the sixteenth the two things are placed very strikingly together; for after it is said, "Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption," it is added, "Thou wilt show me the path of life (resurrection); in Thy presence is fullness of joy" (see Psalm 30:3-5; 116:3-7). For Him resurrection was joy, not merely because it ended His connection with death, but because it introduced Him into the fullness of joy,-a joy peculiar to the risen life, and of which only a risen man can be capable. Into the joy of His risen life we in some measure enter here by faith; but the fullness of that risen joy is yet in reserve for us, awaiting the resurrection of the just, when the body as well as the head shall have done with tribulation and with death for ever.

7.
The hopes of the risen life. We are "begotten again to a lively (or living and life-giving) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet 1:3). With Christ's resurrection and with His risen life our "hope" is connected,-a "hope" which contains and imparts "life" here; a "hope" which, like a flower from the bud, opens out into the fullness of the glorious life hereafter. The hope of which we are partakers through the risen life of the second Adam far transcends any hope which the unrisen life of the first Adam could have given. It is the hope of an inheritance, a kingdom, a city, a glory, such as belongs only to the risen offspring of the second Adam, such as can be possessed only by the redeemed and the risen. The resurrection of the Son of God is to us the earnest and the pledge of this blessed hope. Hence our watchword is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory."

For the Church of God, the words "He is risen" are full of health and gladness. The more that we dwell upon our Surety's resurrection, the more shall we realize the life and immortality which have been brought to light by His gospel. The oftener that we visit His empty tomb, and see for ourselves that He is not here, He is risen, the more shall we be penetrated by that wondrous truth that we are risen with Him, and that this fellowship in resurrection is as truly the source of spiritual life, health, and holiness, as of joy unspeakable and full of glory.

For each sad sinner, still buried in the grave of sin, the words contain a gospel,-glad tidings of great joy. The empty tomb of Jesus gives forth a voice which reaches to the very ends of the earth. Everlasting life through Him who died and rose again; forgiveness and righteousness and reconciliation through the accepted work of the great Substitute, finished on the cross, but sealed and attested by resurrection; peace with God through Him who left the tomb. and went up to the Father's right hand, as at once the maker and the giver of peace;-all this we preach, without condition or restriction, to a world lying in wickedness, that each condemned one may hear and live! Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins! Take the free pardon now; and in taking it, exchange at once, without one moment's delay or uncertainty, life for death, liberty for bondage, Sonship for alienation, joy for sorrow,-a hope that maketh not ashamed, for heaviness here and eternal despair hereafter. He is risen, sinner, He is risen!

Go, deal with this risen Christ; go, transact the great business for eternity with Him; go, receive life and blessings at His hands: for truly He is the same Savior still as when, by the sea of Galilee, He said to sinners, as far off as you can be, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."