Rev. John P. Galbraith
Almost from time immemorial there has been an Easter celebration. Ancient pagans sacrificed in April to Easter, the goddess of spring. Jews of olden time gave that name to the annual paschal feast because of its April date. Today's Modernists celebrate Easter also, but in memory of Christ's "spiritual resurrection," the living of His ideals in the world of the present. Christians also celebrate Easter, and they do so in memory of the resurrection of the body of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, from the grave. Upon this event our faith rests: "If Christ be not risen, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Cor. 15: 17).
The Mohammedan points to the empty tomb and ignorantly laughs in scorn at those whom he thinks rest their faith upon that emptiness. He has evidence for his religion, his prophet Mohammed is in his tomb. Little does he realize that in making such a contrast he is displaying a fatal weakness in his religion-his prophet is dead. But our faith does not rest upon the empty tomb. Neither upon the remarkable transformation which took place in the lives of Jesus' disciples when their sadness was turned to joy, and their hopelessness to certainty that Jesus was the Christ of God and their Redeemer. Nor does our faith rest upon the formation of the apostolic church, which was because of their belief that Christ who had died upon the cross had come to life and risen from the grave on the third day. Indeed we are immeasurably gladdened by these facts for they corroborate and testify to the resurrection. But our faith rests upon the risen Christ Himself.
As we approach this Easter season some nineteen hundred years after the event we ask quite properly, what does it mean to us? What is its significance? We believe we shall see that its significance is at least twofold-it has significance for this present time. and for the future.
First then, what does the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb mean to us now, in this present life?
Had we been among the disciples of Jesus we might have been, as some of them were, fishermen. When we had seen Him die we might have gone back to sit by the sea and think, as Tennyson later was to say of his lost friend Arthur Hallam:
Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, oh Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
0, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
0, well for the sailor lad
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill,
But 0, for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that it still.
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, a Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
And then we, as the disciples did, would have experienced amazement and joy as He did come back and we knew once more the touch of the vanished hand and the sound of the voice that was still. But today Easter does not have that same physical significance; its significance today is spiritual.
Today we see in the resurrection the seal of Jesus' words and works. During His ministry He had claimed to be the Son of God (Matt. 24:36); He had said that He had power to lay down His life and power to take it up again (John 10:18); that He would die to redeem His people (Matt. 20:28), and go to prepare a place for them (John 14:2); that he would die, but rise from the dead on the third day (John 2:19-21). During His ministry He had healed the blind, the halt, the lepers, the deaf and even raised the dead. But suppose He had remained in the grave, under the power of death. What then of His words? Lies, delusions! And what of His works of life and death? A remarkable life, a martyr's death! But He is not dead! He is risen. He is what He claimed to be. He is "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).
Today also we see that the resurrection of Jesus made our redemption complete. Not that the price had not been fully paid upon the cross, for it had. By that death He had been "made sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). However, by His resurrection, having previously "suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13:12), He was able to bear His sacrificial blood into the Holy of Holies and obtain justification for His own. He was "delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). Furthermore, our redemption is made complete through His resurrection by the fact that He is thereby enabled to be our constant Intercessor with the Father in heaven. He who would be an intercessor for a guilty person must be able to have contact with the judge, and assuredly a dead man can not do that. Because Jesus rose from the dead He can intercede (Rom. 8:34). Because Jesus lives, we are assured of the truth of that blessed promise of John, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1).
Daily throughout our lives we may rest assured that God judges us believers as righteous in His sight, and that sinful though we are, and whatever be our need, we may approach Him in all His holiness through our Advocate, and come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need - all because Jesus lives!
We said above that the resurrection of Jesus had significance for the future life as well as in this present one. Some believe that death ends all, that it is a departure into darkness and oblivion. Others believe that there is something after death, but they do not know just what. God tells us through His Word that death does not end all, and that there lies before us weal or woe, depending upon the relationship that exists between us and Him.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means for the future life of the believer that he too will be raised from the dead and brought into the blessedness of eternal fellowship with God. Through saving faith in Christ the believer is so united to Christ that when He died for sin the believer's redemption was obtained. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor. 15:22-23). Because Christ rose from the grave our vile bodies shall be changed and made like unto His glorious body (Phil. 3:21). That which was "sown in corruption" shall be "raised in incorruption" (I Cor. 15:42). Is your body sick, diseased, or maimed? It shall be made perfect at His coming - because Jesus preceded us from the grave.
The final thing that must be said about the significance of Jesus' resurrection from the dead is that it assures us of eternal life. A rescuer must have the strength to rescue, whether it be from drowning or from spiritual damnation. Had death conquered Jesus, He could not have given His people victory over it. But it did not; He conquered death. So He says, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Have you entrusted your soul to Him? He is able! These words to His sheep are not empty: "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish" (John 10:28) - because He lives.
Easter is much more than a springtime festival, or a spiritual fantasy. It is the remembrance of that event which completed Christ's earthly work for His people, and guaranteed the completion of His heavenly work for us. It is a day when there should be in our hearts the words of the anthem, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and because He lives, I too, I too, shall live."
© 2023 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church