Comments by J. C, Ryle
1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women. Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy;
and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying. All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them. Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
The principal subject of these verses is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. It is one of those truths which lie at the very foundation of Christianity, and has therefore received special attention in the four Gospels. All four Evangelists describe minutely how our Lord was crucified: all four relate, with no less clearness, that He rose again.
We need not wonder that so much importance is attached to our Lord’s resurrection: it is the seal and headstone of the great work of redemption, which He came to do; it is the crowning proof that He has paid the debt which He undertook to pay on our behalf, won the battle which He fought to deliver US from hell, and is accepted as our Surety and our Substitute by our Father in heaven. Had He never come forth from the
prison of the grave, how could we ever have been sure that our ransom had been fully paid? (1 Cor. 15.17). Had He never risen from His conflict with the last enemy, how could we have felt confident that He has overcome death, and him that had the power of death, that is the devil? (Heb.2.14). But thanks be unto God, we are not left in doubt: the Lord Jesus really “rose again for our justification.” True Christians are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;” they may boldly say with Paul, “Who is he that condemneth: it is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again.” (Rom. 8.34; Rom. 4.25; 1 Peter 1.3).
We have reason to be very thankful that this wonderful truth of our religion is so clearly and fully proved. It is a striking circumstance, that of all the facts of our Lord’s earthly ministry, none are so incontrovertibly established as the fact that He rose again. The wisdom of God, who knows the unbelief of human nature, has provided a great cloud of witnesses on the subject. Never was there a fact which the friends of God were so slow to believe, as the resurrection of Christ; never was there a fact which the enemies of God were so anxious to disprove: and yet, in spite of the unbelief of friends, and the enmity of foes, the fact was thoroughly established. Its evidences will always appear to a fair and impartial mind unanswerable: it would be impossible to prove anything in the world, if we refuse to believe that Jesus rose again.
Let us notice in these verses, the glory and majesty with which Christ rose from the dead. We are told that “there was a great earthquake,” We are told that “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it.” We need not suppose that our blessed Lord needed the help of any angel, when He came forth from the grave; we need not for a moment doubt that He rose again by His own power: but it pleased God, that His resurrection should be accompanied and followed by signs and wonders. It seemed good that the earth should shake, and a glorious angel appear, when the Son of God arose from the dead as a conqueror.
Let us not fail to see in the manner of our Lord’s resurrection, a type and pledge of the resurrection of His believing people. The grave could not hold Him beyond the appointed time, and it shall not be able to hold them; a glorious angel was a witness of His rising, and glorious angels shall be the messengers who shall gather believers when they rise again: He rose with a renewed body, and yet a body, real, true, and material, and so also shall His people have a glorious body, and be like their
Head. “When we see Him we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3.2).
Let us take comfort in this thought. Trial, sorrow, and persecution are often the portion of God’s people; sickness, weakness, and pain often hurt and wear their poor earthly tabernacle: but their good time is yet to come. Let them wait patiently, and they shall have a glorious resurrection. When we die, and where we are buried, and what kind of a funeral we have, matters little: the great question to be asked is this, “How shall we rise again?”
Let us notice, in the next place, the terror which Christ’s enemies felt at the period of His resurrection. We are told that, at the sight of the angel, “the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Those hardy Roman soldiers, though not unused to dreadful sights, saw a sight which made them quail. Their courage melted at once at the appearance of one angel of God.
Let us again see in this fact, a type and emblem of things yet to come. What will the ungodly and the wicked do at the last day, when the trumpet shall sound, and Christ shall come in glory to judge the world? What will they do, when they see all the dead, both small and great, coming forth from their graves, and all the angels of God assembled round the great white throne? What fears and terrors will possess their souls, when they find they can no longer avoid God’s presence, and must at length meet Him face to face? Oh, that men were wise, and would consider their latter end! Oh, that they would remember that there is a resurrection and a judgment, and that there is such a thing as “the wrath of the Lamb!” (Rev. 6.16).
Let us notice, in the next place, the words of comfort which the angel addressed to the friends of Christ. We read that he said, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.”
These words were spoken with a deep meaning. They were meant to cheer the hearts of believers in every age, in the prospect of the resurrection; they were intended to remind us, that true Christians have no cause for alarm in the last day, whatever may come on the world. The Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven and the earth be burned up; the graves shall give up the dead that are in them, and the sea shall give up the dead that are in it; the judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened; the angels shall sift the wheat from the chaff, and divide between the good fish and the bad: but in all this there is nothing that need make believers afraid. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they shall be found without spot and blameless; safe in the one true ark, they shall not be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath breaks on the earth. Then shall the
words of the Lord receive their complete fulfilment: “When these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” Then shall the wicked and unbelieving see how true was that word: “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33.12).
Let us notice, finally, the gracious message which the Lord sent to the disciples after His resurrection. He appeared in person to the women who had come to do honour to His body. Last at the cross and first at the tomb, they were the first privileged to see Him after He rose; and to them He gives commission to carry tidings to His disciples. His first thought is For His little scattered flock: “Go, tell my brethren.”
There is something deeply touching in those simple words, “My brethren:” they deserve a thousand thoughts. Weak, frail, erring as the disciples were, Jesus still calls them His “brethren.” He comforts them, as Joseph did his brethren who had sold him, saying, “I am your brother Joseph.” Much as they had come short of their profession, sadly as they had yielded to the fear of man, they are still His “brethren.” Glorious as He was in Himself, – a conqueror over death and hell, and the grave, the Son of God is still “meek and lowly of heart.” He calls His disciples “brethren.”
Let us turn from the passage with comfortable thoughts, if we know anything of true religion. Let us see in these words of Christ an encouragement to trust and not be afraid. Our Saviour is one who never forgets His people; He pities their infirmities: He does not despise them. He knows their weakness, and yet does not cast them away. Our great High Priest is also our elder brother.
1 Now upon the first day of the veek, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes, laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
Luke 24 1-12
The resurrection of Christ is one of the great foundation-stones of the Christian religion. In practical importance it is second only to the crucifixion. The chapter we have now begun directs our mind to the evidence of the resurrection. It contains unanswerable proof that Jesus not only died, but rose again.
We see, in the verses before us, the reality of Christ’s resurrection. We read, that “upon the first day of the week” certain women came to the sepulchre in which the body of Jesus had been laid, in order to anoint Him. But when they came to the place, “they found the stone rolled away. And they entered in and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.”
This simple fact is the starting-point in the history of the resurrection of Christ. On Friday evening His body was safe in the tomb: on Sunday morning His body was gone. By whose hands had it been taken away? Who had removed it? Not surely the priests and scribes and other enemies of Christ! If they had had Christ’s body to show in disproof of His resurrection, they would gladly have shown it.-Not the apostles and other disciples of our Lord! They were far too much frightened and dispirited to attempt such an action, and the more so when they had nothing to gain by it. One explanation, and one only, can meet the circumstance of the case. That explanation is the one supplied by the angels in the verse before us: Christ “had risen” from the grave. To seek Him in the sepulchre was seeking “the living among the dead.” He had risen again, and was soon seen alive and conversing in the body by many credible witnesses.
The fact of our Lord’s resurrection rests on evidence which no infidel can ever explain away. It is confirmed by testimony of every kind, sort, and description. The plain unvarnished story which the Gospel writers tell about it, is one that cannot be overthrown. The more the account they give is examined, the more inexplicable will the event appear, unless we accept it as true. If we choose to deny the truth of their account we may deny everything in the world. It is not so certain that Julius Caesar once lived, as it is that Christ rose again.
Let us cling firmly to the resurrection of Christ, as one of the pillars of the Gospel. It ought to produce in our minds a settled conviction of the truth of Christianity. Our faith does not depend merely on a set of texts and doctrines; it is founded on a mighty fact which the sceptic has never been able to overturn. It ought to assure us of the certainty of the resurrection of our own bodies after death. If our Master has risen from the grave, we need not doubt that His disciples shall rise again at the last day. Above all, it ought to fill our hearts
with a joyful sense of the fulness of Gospel salvation. Who is he that shall condemn us? Our great Surety has not only died for us but risen again. (Rom. 8.34). He has gone to prison for us, and come forth triumphantly after atoning for our sins. The payment He made for us has been accepted: the work of satisfaction has been perfectly accomplished. No wonder that Peter exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pet. 1.3).
We see, secondly, in the verses before us, how dull the memory of the disciples was about some of our Lord’s sayings. we are told that the angels who appeared to the women, reminded them of their Master’s words in Galilee. fortelling His own crucifixion and resurrection; and then we read, “they remembered His words.” They had heard them, but made no use of them. Now, after many days, they call them to mind.
This dullness of memory is a common spiritual disease among believers. It prevails as widely now as it did in the days of the first disciples. It is one among many proofs of our fallen and corrupt condition. Even after men have been renewed by the Holy Ghost, their readiness to forget the promises and precepts of the Gospel is continually bringing them into trouble. They hear many things which they ought to store up in their hearts, but seem to forget as fast as they hear; and then, perhaps after many days, affliction brings them up before their recollection, and at once it flashes across their minds that they heard them long ago! They find that they had heard, but heard in vain.
The true cure for a dull memory in religion, is to get deeper love toward Christ, and affections more thoroughly set on things above. We do not readily forget the things we love, and he objects which we keep continually under our eyes. The names of our parents and children are always remembered;
the face of the husband or wife we love is graven on the tablets of our hearts. The more our affections are engaged in Christ’s service, the more easy shall we find it to remember Christ’s words. The words of the apostle ought to be carefully pondered. “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” (Heb. 2.1).
We see, lastly, how slow of belief the first disciples were on the subject of Christ’s resurrection. We read that when the women returned from the sepulchre and told the things they had heard from the angels to the eleven apostles, “their words
seemed to them idle tales, and they believed them not.” In spite of the plainest declarations from their Master’s own lips that He would rise again the third day,-in spite of the distinct testimony of five or six credible witnesses that the sepulchre was empty, and that angels had told them He was risen.-in spite of the manifest impossibility of accounting for the empty tomb on any other supposition than that of a miraculous resurrection,-!n spite of all this, these eleven faithless ones would not believe!
Perhaps we marvel at their unbelief. No doubt it seems at first sight most senseless, most unreasonable, most provoking, most unaccountable. But shall we not do well to look at home? Do we not see around us, in the Christian Churches, a mass of unbelief far more unreasonable and far more blameworthy than that of the apostles? Do we not see, after eighteen centuries of additonal proofs that Christ has risen from the dead, a general want of faith, which is truly deplorable? Do we not see myriads of professing Christians who seem not to believe that Jesus died and rose again, and is coming to judge the world? These are painful questions. Strong faith is indeed a rare thing. No wonder that our Lord said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18.8).
Finally, let us admire the wisdom of God, which can bring great good out of seeming evil. The unbelief of the apostles is one of the strongest indirect evidences that Jesus rose from the dead. If the disciples were at first so backward to believe our Lord’s resurrection, and were at last so thoroughly persuaded of its truth that they preached it everywhere, Christ must have risen indeed. The first preachers were men who were convinced in spite of themselves, and in spite of determined, obstinate unwillingness to believe. If the apostles at last believed, the resurrection must be true.