And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed there about, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. Luke 24:4-7
The women who, on that first day of the week, went with spices to the garden of Joseph to perform a last service of love, certainly were inspired by devotion to the Lord; but their zeal was not with understanding. And, though we like their attitude better than that of those disciples who gloomily remained at home, yet they were mistaken.
They made a mistake because they did not pay heed to the words spoken to them before by the Lord; a mistake, not because there was no need for the preparation of the body which, had already been taken care of, but a mistake because they had been informed that Jesus must suffer and die and the third day be raised again So that there was no reason for them to be there. If they had paid attention to the words spoken by the Lord, if they had paid attention to the word spoken to them, they would not have gone to the garden, but to Galilee. And yet there can be no question, in the light of what they witnessed of the resurrection, that they had to make this mistake.
From the viewpoint of God's providence, it was no mistake at all. These women had to become witnesses of the resurrection - not to view the tomb, then they could have waited until He came to them and they could see him. It was not necessary to witness the resurrection of Lazarus; he came back to them and was with them again. But the Lord did not, He did not come back to them again, but went on to the other side, Therefore it would not have been sufficient if they saw an appearance of the Lord; then they would still doubt. To be convinced of the resurrection, they must go to the grave. Before they can see the risen Lord, they must see that He is not there; and so they must go to the grave. It was a mistake, but a necessary mistake in the light of God's providence.
We, therefore, wish to call attention to this resurrection message of the angels.
Theme: The Resurrection Message
1. A Mighty Lord
He is a Mighty Lord - this is evident from the original. In our version we can read it as if it merely meant, "Why seek ye one who is living among the dead?" But that is not the meaning. The meaning is, "Why seek ye the living one among the dead?"
That means, in the first place, that, even in his resurrected human nature, Jesus is in a unique sense the Living One. Undoubtedly the angel refers first of all to the resurrection, when he says, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" And indeed it is due to the resurrection that He is the Living One. It is through the resurrection that He entered into real life. We do no enter into real life when we are born. We are born into death. And although we call it life (and in a certain sense it is life, in distinction from the life of a plant or of an animal), from the viewpoint of what life really is, we are born into death. Life in the real sense is the constant adaptation of the heart and mind to God. To love what He loves, to desire what He desires, that is life; and the opposite of that is death. To live apart from God is death. To live apart from God, to desire apart from God, is death. Jesus entered into life. As the Lord, the Mediator, as the head of his people, He had been the dead among the dead; and, as the Mediator, the head of his people, He rose with the right to life. He is the Living One.
But there is more. He is the Living One because He is beyond death. Before the resurrection that was not true; He was the first one to go beyond death. Adam, even in the state of righteousness, was not beyond death; but, when Jesus rose from the dead, He passed beyond the power of death. He is the Living One.
Finally, He is the Living One in still another sense. He is the Living One continually. All life that shall ever be experienced must come from him. He has the power of imparting his glorious resurrection life.
And yet there is in this first part of this resurrection message of the angel a still deeper meaning. He is the Living One as the Son of God. In that sense He is the Living One in an entirely different sense than we are. He isGod. He has life. We must receive life, but the Son of God is life; and, because that is the case with Jesus with respect to his divine nature, it is also true that according to his human nature. He receives life from himself; that is why He could say, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." He is the Son of God as to the divine nature; and, as the Son of God, He had power to quicken his human nature so that the angel could indeed say, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?"
These women did not seek a Living One; they sought a dead one. They seek one that can be held in the power of death, for they come with spices. And so, as they stand there, amazed because of the empty grave and the linen clothes and the angels, they begin to realize, and the question of the angel accentuates it, the absurd position in which they stand. "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" They are entirely unmindful of what the Lord had said. Life had entered into the dead; and when the life enters the dead, only one thing can happen - Death is swallowed up in victory.
2. A Marvelous Resurrection
"He is not here, but is risen." That is the gospel; and we read this message of the angel is many different ways; and, if you please, you can put the emphasis on each word to bring out a different meaning: "He is not here, Heis not here, He is not here, He is not here." Every word has significance.
Let us notice, first of all, that in this message of the angel that the fact of the resurrection is plainly proclaimed, for this word of the angel means: "He is not here in the grave"; and that He is not in the grave cannot be explained from the fact that He was consumed by death. He was not consumed by death. God's Holy One did not see corruption; it was but the third day. Nor could it be explained from the fact that His body was stolen. It can only be explained from the resurrection; the resurrection is a fact. Oh, it is true the resurrection is beyond the scope of our comprehension; but although this is true, it must be emphasized that the resurrection is surely a fact. And by that, I mean, in the first place, that He is not risen as an idea, but as a Person. He is not risen in the same sense that it is sometimes described, in the same way we are glorified when we die. It means that He is resurrected according to the body. We must not say that his body was resurrected: no, Jesus was resurrected. He died, and He was raised when his body was quickened and glorified. Not only that, He was resurrected in the same body in which He died. The resurrection is not a new creation; it is the same body that died that is raised. Christ was resurrected according to the body, not simply according to the spirit. If He was simply resurrected according to the spirit, his body would still be there. But He is not here. The resurrection is a fact.
He is not here. Why not? He is risen. But there is more in the word of the angel, otherwise the angel could have said, "He is not here but He is in Jerusalem, or in Galilee, and you can go to him there." No, the angel says, "He is not here, but is risen." That means that the resurrection is more than a fact.
He is not here means that He is not in the grave. But do not forget that the grave is only the clearest and final representation of what we are now, for we lie in the midst of death; and the grave is the end. It is the inevitable end. We are surrounded by the grave. In our life we are traversing an island; and we topple off into the grave. If you want to know what life is, you must not look at life, but at the grave. The grave is the end, and no power can change it. So that when the angel says, "He is not here," it means that He is no more on the island. It does not mean, "He is no more in the ditch, but back on the island." No, He is no more here, here in death. He is no more here in death. He went through death and the grave into immortality, and death has no more dominion over him. Here is corruption. We eat and drink and move in corruption, and it ends in death.
He is not here, but went on to incorruption. Here is weakness; and the grave shows that we have no power to live. We only have power to die. But He is not here; He is no longer in the sphere of weakness; He is in power.
He is not here, here in the earthy. And we cannot raise ourselves to the sphere of the spiritual except by faith. He is not here; He is no longer on earth. Even in the forty days after his resurrection He no longer has earthly eyes, and earthly ears, etc. He is no more on earth.
3. A Necessary Way
And it must be so. There was no other way; the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
That must be taken in the absolute sense. First, that must is a divine must. He must, because God so ordained from before the foundation of the world that Christ should so lead his church to glory, otherwise He might have left them in paradise. He must be killed; the way to heaven is through hell.
But there is another meaning. That other meaning is that Christ is not an individual, but the Head of his people. And that people lay in sin and death. And He is one with them. You cannot separate him from them, and them from him. And because He is one with them, because He represents them, their iniquity is on him. He must be killed, and raised again the third day to enter into glory - because He stands at the head of his people. And because that is the truth, the resurrection is our joy by faith. He is risen, applies not to him only, but to him as our Head. The resurrection means that sin was taken away; but those sins were our sins. He was raised, but that means that we are justified. He is risen, not as an individual, but as the firstfruits. He is the beginning of the resurrection. In him the resurrection has begun.
Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was born in Groningen, the Netherlands on March 13, 1886 and passed away in Grand Rapids, MI on September 2, 1965. He attended the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church and was ordained into the minitry in September of 1915.
"H.H." is considered one of the founding "fathers" of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. He and his consistory (Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI) were suspended and deposed from their offices in 1924-1925 because of their opposition to the "Three Points of Common Grace" adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in the Synod of Kalamazoo, MI in 1924. He, together with Rev. George M. Ophoff, Rev. H. Danhof and their consistories continued in office in the "Protesting Christian Reformed Church" which shortly thereafter were named the "Protestant Reformed Churches in America."
Herman Hoeksema served as pastor in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI (1915-1920), Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1920-1924), and First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1924-1964), He taught in the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches from its founding and retired in 1964.
For an enlarged biography, see: Herman Hoeksema: Theologian and Reformer
Notes: You may also find many sermons of "H.H." at the RFPA website. And you may find copies in print of an entire set of "H.H.'s" catechism sermons here.