The Power of His Resurrection.
An address given at the Mildmay Convention on June 29th 1876.
When I speak of resurrection, I like to think of what that resurrection was to Him Who was raised from among the dead, the firstfruits Himself. He had known what the night of weeping meant, what the sorrows of Calvary were, what the thick blackness and darkness of God's frown was, and what the bruising for our sins meant. He had known what the Cross was, in all its fearful load. He had known what my sins were. He had known what the sins of all His people gathered here were; the sin of the world had pressed down upon Him, and there had been wrung from His heart that bitter, bitter cry, ''My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'' But, oh! the gladness that came in the morning----the joy that came in the morning! The night of weeping was over, and that eye that wept, that heart that broke, He Who suffered at Calvary, shall weep, and suffer, and groan, and die no more. Death hath no more dominion over Him. He is alive, and alive forevermore. You remember the word He spake to His beloved disciple in the first chapter of Revelation, ''I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." Ah? dear saints, how our hearts rejoice in His joy! He could say to His disciples, "If ye loved Me ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father.'' And our hearts to-night may well be glad because He is the risen One. The load that pressed Him down has gone. The sin has gone, He has left it behind. God tells us, He has cast it behind His back. He will see our sin no more forever.
But what is that resurrection to each one of us here? Let us turn to the 20th chapter of John, and see what that resurrection was to Mary, as she wept and longed for her Lord. She could not be satisfied. Angels could not satisfy her. The company of the apostles could not satisfy her. If we had an apostle here, or a vision of angels, we should. talk about it all the rest· of our days; but Mary wept on, she wanted something more----she wanted the Master. She turned her back on that vision of angels, and as she wept, the Lord drew near. She thought Him to be the gardener at first, and she said, ''Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." She spoke as if everybody knew of whom she was thinking. "Mary!" One word was enough. He calleth His sheep by name, and that risen Lord, speaking but one word to that woman, revealed to her Who He was. She had heard the same voice casting seven devils out of her, and now He calls her by name, "Mary!''----as much as to say, ''I claim thee as Mine.” Oh, my friends, have we heard the voice of Jesus speaking individually to us? Have you heard the voice of the Risen One calling you personally and individually, and have you responded as Mary did, one word only, ''Rabboni.'' Ah! I think never, never, was there such meaning in two words, such a conversation in two sentences. ''Mary! " "Rabboni!"
There the Master claimed His servant, and there she owned Him as Lord. Oh! have we who are professing to be His here, said in our hearts, "Rabboni!"----my Lord, my Master? We proceed in the chapter. You find Him going amongst His disciples; but He had first sent that willing one who had owned Him as Lord, making her His messenger to His disciples, then He Himself goes into their midst. ''Jesus stood in the midst." There is very much in that. He did not take a corner place, but He stood there as Lord, surrounded by His Own. They were a trembling few. They were afraid of the Jews; and, as they bolted the doors, their hearts failed them for fear. They knew not a risen Christ. They knew not the power of His resurrection. Full of fear, full of misgiving, full of----what perhaps some heart here to-night may be full of----full of doubt and dread. Ah! they thought, the last we saw of our Master, He was hanging there as a helpless corpse upon the tree of Calvary. We saw Him laid in the tomb, and we shall see Him no more. Two of them expressed the thought that doubtless the rest of the eleven shared: "We trusted that it had been He that should have redeemed Israel." But, ah! their trust had broken down, their hope had broken down, and, full of fear as they were, Jesus goes and stands in the midst of them; and what does He say? As the mighty Captain of Salvation had gone forth to meet the foe single-handed, the divine David had met the giant; alone, He had borne the conflict; alone, He had fought the fight; alone, through weakness and apparent defeat, He had won the victory; but His disciples thought it was all defeat, all loss, and they seemed to have given up everything. But no! He comes back after three days of silence and of suspense, three days that made their hearts yearn with sadness and sorrow----after three days, returns the Conqueror and stands in their midst, and with this one word hastens to proclaim the victory, and to set their fears at rest. Oh! how it thrilled every heart. "Peace, peace, peace, be unto you! I have fought, and I have overcome. I have won for you redemption. I have won for you this victory----this salvation." He came and published peace in their midst. May He speak that word over again to us to-night. ''Peace be unto you!" and the risen Christ showed them His hands and His feet, and the disciples were glad. "They were glad when they saw the Lord."
Why is it that so many of God's children, when they ought to be glad, have their hearts filled with gloom, and perhaps with murmurings and complainings? We look at this thing and that thing, and criticize one another, and find fault with our brethren, instead of praising God, and having our hearts all aglow with joy; the cry of our lives being a song----one Hallelujah. When we get round the throne----and, oh! how soon it may be----we shall take up the new song, but, believe me, to-night we have as much reason (excepting our glorified bodies) to sing it now as then. We have got redemption, justification, and sanctification; we have got Christ with us----a risen and living Christ. We have the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Oh! the blessings we have. We do well to take up the 103rd Psalm, and daily to sing: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name." Instead of that, we are too often forgetting His benefits, and we are complaining because of the length of the road. Oh! Dear friends, may God give us such companionship with Jesus, as to realize His presence and His resurrection that we may be filled with joy. Look at the Psalms which speak of the resurrection of Christ; take the 22nd Psalm, for example. After giving us the description of the suffering of Christ on the Cross, it goes on in the latter part to speak of the resurrection, and what do we find? Praise, praise, praise! You find that very verse that has already been quoted in our hearing, "In the midst of the church will I sing praise to Thee.'' Ah! yes; He praises. He hath passed through death; He is the risen One. He alludes to His own----those that are quickened together with Him----for we are quickened together with Christ. He praises. But why is it that we do not praise? I think one reason is because we are so much occupied with the world. Instead of living a risen life, as those who have a new life----a life that is foreign to this world, strange to this scene----we live as those who are of it. But you say, "Are we not in the world?” Yes, but it is a foreign element to those who have the risen, the resurrection life; as foreign as the water is to the diver who is seeking pearls for his master. He is down in the depths of the ocean, but only there for a little while----only there to do his master's bidding. There is the communication between him and the air above; his life is above, and he is there but for a little while----certain to hear his master's voice summoning him up. He does not say, "I love the element around me; let me stay in it." No, he is only there for a purpose. You and I are only in this world for a purpose, for some specific purpose, for our Master. We have a life independent of this world, a life foreign to this scene, and the very element around us is our greatest enemy. Oh! may God then give us thus to live our resurrection life every day, that it may not be merely a thing that we put on as a garment, but that it may be our very life, the only life that is worth calling our life.
I will use a little illustration as to our joy. A friend of mine living in Manchester, has a canary that sings very sweetly, and the other day, a neighbour of his, brought his canary to my friend, and said, "I want you to let me hang my canary up beside yours. It used to sing so beautifully, but it has lost its song altogether, and does not sing at all.'' "How is that?" asked my friend. "Last summer, I hung it outside my house, and the sparrows gathered round my canary's cage for its food, and the canary, instead of teaching the sparrows to sing, lost its song altogether, and just learnt the chirp of the sparrows. Let me hang it beside yours that it may learn to sing once more." There are many of us Christians just like that. We have got down to the miserable chirp of the sparrow, instead of singing the song and teaching others to sing it, that the new nature which God has implanted in us enables us to sing.
Again, Christ the Lord not only says, "Peace be unto you,'' for justification showing them His wounded hands and feet, but farther on He says a second time, "Peace be unto you," and saying that He breathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." And He sent them out on their mission----the risen One sent them out in the power of His resurrection life. Oh! the power of that Word. When we seek to serve God, let us remember that we need almighty power for the smallest thing. Yes, if you are seated beside an anxious soul (and perhaps nothing has taught some of us our need more than dealing with anxious souls), you are ready to ask, “How may I reach that man? How shall I set the Gospel before him? How are these doubts and difficulties to be removed?” What has been successful a hundred times before may be utterly useless this time. In the service of God, the least thing you attempt is an impossibility, an utter impossibility to human strength and to human reason. It is well when we remember that; when we set out in the service of God, remembering every step I take is impossible to the natural man. The first step I take in God's service plunges me out of my depth as to the flesh. What have I got then? The power of His resurrection, for He said to His disciples, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and earth. Go ye therefore," and that resurrection word from the risen Christ, that word which comes down to us, and is as true for me and for you to-day as in the day it was spoken, that word is power. Oh! let us never seek to serve God in our own strength or in our own power. It will be failure, failure, failure. We may have all the skill and all the gifts, and all the eloquence, and all the wisdom that man can devise, but if we have not the power of Christ with us, it is utterly vain and useless in the esteem of Heaven and in the reckoning of God.
Mark you too, dear friends, that the resurrection of Christ was not a thing that the world thought much about, and the world does not think much about it to-day. No; the resurrection of Christ was the exhibition of God's almighty power. It was quiet. It was silent. The world knew little of it. They did know of it, but they tried to hush it up, and the world to-day believes in it to very little purpose.
Let me leave this one question with you, and may it rest on every heart. Do the people in the house where you live, do the neighbours in the town or village where you reside, does the world know by your daily life, by your actions, by your words, that Christ is risen? Is there such a power going the whole way with you, such a power carrying you on, a power that cannot be counterfeited, that cannot be imitated, that is divine, the power of the risen Christ, shining out from your whole life, that the world is obliged to know that Christ is no longer in the tomb, and that man and sin and Satan combined could not keep Him there? He has burst the bars of the tomb; He has risen, and you belong to, Him. Oh! may this power, the power of the risen Christ, the power of His resurrection, not only be believed by us, not only be a matter of our creed, but be daily more deeply and more practically known to each one of us.