[Rev. Gerrit Vos (1894-1968) was long-time pastor of the Hudsonville, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church.]
"And he saith unto them, Re not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen: He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him." Mark 16:6
A few days ago I had to spend a few hours in a church and chapel that is wholly modern, and everything there loudly proclaimed its "freedom." I paged through their songbook, walked through the lobbies and corridors, and had occasion to see the photographs, the busts, the bulletin boards. But everything was a commentary on the theme: "We are entirely free!"
It lacked just one thing, and it is the most precious thing in heaven and earth, in this world and the world to come: Jesus Christ! It was religion without God and without Jesus, and without His blood and resurrection!
Outstanding was this: they have no place for the blood! They know not what to do with the Crucified Jesus. You can feel that the crucifixion is to them a thorn in their sides: it should never have happened! Jesus is such a lovely example to follow.
And, of course, since Jesus was killed and buried, they have no resurrection. When they talk about the resurrection of Jesus, they mean that Jesus still lives in the minds of His followers, even as Abraham Lincoln still lives in the hearts, minds, and lives of the Americans. But the bodily Jesus is dead. There is no mistake about that.
To speak of the historical, bodily, real resurrection of Jesus is folly!
In a word: they have lost the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If Christ is not risen we are of all men most miserable.
But, thanks be to God: Christ is risen indeed, and was seen of Simon!
That was the glad chant of the church at the evening of the day when Jesus arose Triumphator!
We think here on Isaiah, the Royal prophet: God's ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts. The resurrection of Jesus is the thing that was not seen, not heard, and never would have entered the hearts of men.
I think I am allowed to say that the resurrection from the dead is the most impossible thing a man could think of. Death is so absolute, so thoroughly final! The heart stands still, the brain is the first to decompose, the rest slowly turns to a fetid effluvia, and after the years of death we gaze on the bleached bones of the erstwhile king of creation.
Resurrection from the dead? Nonsense! And the world continues on its dolorous journey. Make the best of it while you may. Eat, drink, and be merry (?) for tomorrow you die!
How wonderfully changed is man when he receives the faith of Jesus.
If there is anything sure in my life it is that Jesus is risen from the dead, and that I shall rise from the dead. The grave, indeed, has lost its victory. I can look on the grave, see myself lowered into it, and smile.
Come, let us look at a few women of the Holy Scriptures. Carefully counted there are seven: Mary the Magdalene, the two other Marys, Salome, Susanna, Joanna, Mary the mother of Mark. A blessed company of the lovers of Jesus.
Oh, how they loved Him! They wept at the Cross, and they are still weeping at the morning of the Sabbath. With broken hearts they had prepared the spices. They will pay their last homage to their great Friend. No, they had made no plans to return to Galilee. It is very plain that Jesus was their life.
And God knew.
I cannot ever forget how God from all eternity decided that the first to see the glorious Son of God in His exaltation is a woman. And that the second appearance is likewise to women! And, true to the same style, the first man to see Him is the most despised among the true church: Peter, of all men.
Yes, there is a peculiar, beautiful style in all of God's works.
Why the Magdalene first, and then the lowly women?
It is because they loved Him most. We know this style, for we have preached on it often, because we find it often in the Bible. A clear example: the woman who was a sinner!
Imagine: a whore, a harlot, a woman of ill repute. Yes we have a catalog of names for that sorry breed.
But Jesus says of her: Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much!
And then there is David! The man who loved much, was very humble, and whose name testifies of the love of God for him: the beloved of God! Yes, David was a vivid type of the Son of God of Whom God said: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!
Weeping, these women went to the garden of Joseph.
At the rising of the sun.
But they barely have eyes for that wonderful spectacle, a spectacle which every morning preaches exactly the resurrection from the dead.
They are worried.
They have planned everything, and are ready to pay their last respects to the body of their beloved Master.
But there is one thing which troubles them: Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? for it was very great.
A thing like that would have kept millions of women away from this blessed garden. And it shows how deep, how vibrant, how wonderful is their love of Jesus.
Yes, the stone is rolled away, and there are no watchmen: they became as dead men, and they had taken to their heels to Jerusalem.
And the women saw the open grave!
They hurry on; they stand before the open door; they enter, and see "a young man"!
And what a man! He must have been beautiful to behold. He is an inhabitant of the heavens; he is clothed in a long white garment.
The women note the wondrous appearance of this heavenly herald, and, as is to be expected, are very much affrighted.
And then they hear his speech. Oh, to hear a heavenly being speak.
What sound, what modulation, what music in every tone!
"Be not affrighted!"
Yes, the heavenly things are a cause for fear and fright, and that for two reasons.
First, because we are earthly.
Second, because we are sinful.
And therefore we always read of fright and dread when the heavenly beings appear, or even when heavenly glory is seen, such as on the skin of Moses when he returned from a wondrous interview with God on the Mount.
There is only one instance in the Bible (as far as I know) where this habitual fear is absent, and that is when the Magdalene saw the heavenly Christ. And I think that I know the reason: her overwhelming love for Jesus drove away fear.
But these simple women are affrighted, and the angel bids them to be at ease. There is no reason for them to be afraid of God, or of His messengers. It is all peace and tranquility which he brings to them. He is ready to give his version of the wonderful, glad tidings of the ages.
Yes, the world has reason to be affrighted at heaven, the heavenly messengers, the story of the resurrected Lord.
For God, heaven, Christ, and all heavenly things condemn them.
And Christ is the God-ordained Judge of the whole world.
But not these women.
They are the beloved from all eternity. God saw them come to the grave during all the quiet wakes of eternity before the world was ever made. Always God saw them coming, bearing the spices, with hearts that were broken because of the love for His Son. Indeed, it was this same God Who implanted this love of God in their hearts. "For they are His workmanship, created unto good works in Christ!" And here they are, "walking in these good works."
Lovers of Jesus!
You say: a dead Jesus!
Yes, but it makes no difference to God. They love Jesus nevertheless, alive or dead.
Will you, please, once more listen to this beautiful herald of heaven? "Be not affrighted! for I know that ye seek Jesus!" Is that enough proof? "For I know that ye seek Jesus Who was crucified!" This last is the key. If you are a stranger at Golgotha, the resurrection of Jesus means nothing to you. The worldly church hates the blood-theology. It is well. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus shall damn them in nethermost hell. Even the Japanese and the Chinese shall condemn them in the awful day of judgment. They were so near to the Blood and yet so far. They had churches and pulpits and ministers: they always read a chapter or so at the beginning of their worship: and the members rested comfortably in their plushy seats. But Jesus was not there. The minister was preaching his motley story to the dead. They hated the Blood, and God hates them.
They returned to the men, and told their story.
And the men were so happy to hear it! They thanked the women, and began to sing their hallelujahs: Jesus is risen indeed!
Don't you believe it.
They believed not: the words of these saintly women seemed to the apostles as idle tales! But the Bible says: they departed quickly with fear and great joy (Mart. 28:8). But the women believed, and the Lord showed Himself to them on the way to Jerusalem: first to the Magdalene and then to the rest of them (Mart. 29:9).
Glad tidings of the resurrection!
His resurrection is our own resurrection. His rising is the approval of God on the price He paid on the Cross. If Christ had not paid fully for all the sins of God's elect, God would never have raised Jesus. But now He did raise Him, and that shows that all our sins are gone, that we have a right to eternal life, that we have the adoption unto children, and that we have peace with God.
God is silent in His love.
Oh the blessed resurrection of Jesus. Are you filled with trembling, amazement, fear, and love that throbs within you when you think on this Jesus?