AT THE TOMB OF LIFE
THIS is the day that the Lord hath made! As the heart-warming sun of Easter rises above the benighted earth, we come here to stand in awe before the decisive day of the ages. On Friday the Lord’s most faithful friends took His cold and lifeless body from the cross. On Saturday He kept the Sabbath perfectly in the sleep of death. Then came the first day, the day on which millennia before God had said Let there be light. As it dawned, the True Light came out of the darkness of the tomb. The darkness had not over come the True Light. St. John, reflecting on this event in his first epistle says God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
Two questions arise which modern people need to ask when confronted by the gospel of the resurrection. The first question asks what this really proves. The second asks how it is of any benefit to us. So let’s take them one at a time. To see what the resurrection proves we must examine it in context. There are two contexts which overlap; the context of Moses and the Prophets, and that of Jesus’ own predictions. On three occasions Jesus predicted in plain speech that He would be killed and rise again. On other occasions He used the figure of the temple which He would rebuild. This proves that Jesus knew all along what was happening. His death and His revival were part of a great plan.
An angel asked the women Why do you seek the living among the dead? They asked that because He is not dead. He has been completely vindicated in heaven and earth; the anguish of His passion bore the fruit called for in the divine plan. He did not deserve death because He was righteous. You and I are destined to return to the dust. But the Lord saw no corruption. He was the Master of death.
Now let’s check out the other context, Moses and the Prophets. Jesus was not "a god." He was Jehovah. He was not just "a man." He was a Jew. So we must see what was written of Him in the Hebrew Scriptures. David in Psalm 8 speaks of "the son of man" as "crowned with glory and honor … having all things under his feet." In Isaiah 25 we read that the Lord will destroy the shroud that enfolds all people, He will swallow up death forever and wipe away all tears from all eyes. The prophet Hosea in chapter 13 quotes the Lord as saying I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. Next we see Zechariah who says Here is the man whose name is The Branch, he will branch out from this place and build the temple of the Lord; He will be clothed with majesty and rule on His throne. Yes, the Hebrew prophets also used the figure of building the temple to speak of the resurrection. As for that name, "the Branch," that means a descendant of David. Jeremiah calls Him a "Righteous Branch." What does this tell us? The whole Old Testament knew what was going to happen. The good plan was an old plan, a plan that had already been revealed in some detail.
Now let’s try to answer modern man’s second question, that is, how does this benefit us? St. John tells us when he says God has given us eternal life. We are not just cogs in a great machine. We are not expendable, to be discarded like garbage. Death does not destroy our consciousness, nor assign us to some cosmic scrap heap. We expect a happy eternity. Our fallen intellect can do no more than see through a glass darkly, but some day we will see face to face. The tribulations of life which we suffer now will serve to turn us into gold.
Does everyone benefit the same? If not, how do we know our eternity will be the happy one? We want to be certain about that. We don’t want to guess or speculate when it comes to our final estate. Here Jesus points us to Himself. By the grave of Lazarus we hear Him tell the grieving Martha I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. Later in His High-priestly Prayer Jesus claims This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only True God, and Jesus the Messiah whom You sent. How can this be? It is something like planting a seed. Does it not die in the earth only to shoot forth with new stems, new foliage, new flowers? Is it any less reasonable to believe that our bodies, which God created in His own image, might be sown in corruption but raised in incorruption? Today we rejoice as we behold the Firstborn from the dead, the Firstfruits of them that sleep. St. John puts it more directly when he says This life is in His Son.
Sin brought mortality to mankind. Sin has enslaved us to death, and makes our lives hang by a slender, unraveling thread, one that could snap at any moment. Life is in the Son of God because He overcomes sin. By His death He redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. Today we can call triumphantly I know that my Redeemer lives. He will never die again. When it gets dark this evening, stand outside and look at the stars. Consider the millions of them. But you may be assured that when the last of them has novaed and exploded you will still be shining in the Savior’s radiant presence. He still has His wounds because they are His trophies. They remind us of how He pulled the sting of death, how He superseded the victory of the grave. That is how his resurrection benefits us. In spite of the uncertainties that await us on this pilgrimage, at the end of it there is an eternal Easter. The life is in God’s Son. We receive it from Him. AMEN.
Rev. Lloyd E. Gross