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“The Meaning of Jesus' Resurrection, Part 2” by Romans:
Last week, we reviewed Jesus' having come to this earth to bring Salvation to this world. And that Salvation could only be brought about by His Sacrificial Death. That is why His birth was celebrated two days ago. As Simeon said when he held the infant Jesus in his arms, “Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation... prepared before the face of all people.”
Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
This is crucial that we understand the full Plan of Salvation. We are reconciled by His death, but we are saved by His life, and that life was manifested by and through the Resurrection. Last week we reviewed the related verses of Jesus' Resurrection to do something of a “fly-over” of the great Event. Tonight, I would like to retrace my steps, and go back over the verses cited last week, but this time with significantly closer detail.
As I stated last week, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a most pivotal part of our Salvation: Let's read my opening verse once, again: Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Yes, Jesus died. But, again, as I also stated last week, unlike every other leader, or even every other human being, He, and He alone, was raised not merely to life, but to immortality. His Ministry did not end when He was crucified, or at His ascension back to Heaven. Part of what He has been doing since His ascension is wonderfully described in Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
I will make this my first stop: Let's take this verse, and dive into some of the commentaries written by some very gifted and insightful men of God.
Albert Barnes writes, “Wherefore he is able also - As he ever lives, and ever intercedes, he has power to save. He does not begin the work of salvation, and then relinquish it by reason of death, but he lives on as long as it is necessary that anything should be done for the salvation of his people. We need a Saviour who has power, and Christ has shown that he has all the power which is needful to rescue man from eternal death.”
Let me break, here, to remind you all of what Jesus told His disciples when He first appeared to them regarding the Power which He commanded, not as the crucified Lamb of God, but as the Resurrected Savior. When He was God in the flesh, as a living flesh and blood human being, He said in John 5:19: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Now, as a Resurrected and Glorified Being, Jesus said in Matthew 28:18: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Jesus possesses the necessary Power to save all those who believe in His Name from eternal death. Even above that necessary power, “all power” has been given unto Him.
Of that Power, Matthew Henry writes, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; a very great word, and which none but he could say. Hereby he asserts his universal dominion as Mediator, which is the great foundation of the Christian religion. He has all power. Observe,
(1.) Whence he hath this power. He did not assume it, or usurp it, but it was given him, he was legally entitled to it, and invested in it, by a grant from him who is the Fountain of all being, and consequently of all power. God set him King, inaugurated and enthroned him. As God, equal with the Father, all power was originally and essentially his; but as Mediator, as God-man, all power was given him; partly in recompence of his work (because he humbled himself, therefore God thus exalted him), and partly in pursuance of his design; he had this power given him over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as were given him, for the more effectual carrying on and completing our salvation.
This power he was now more signally invested in, upon his resurrection. He had power before, power to forgive sins; but now all power is given him. He is now going to receive for himself a kingdom, to sit down at the right hand. Having purchased it, nothing remains but to take possession; it is his own for ever.
(2.) Where he has this power; in heaven and earth, comprehending the universe. Christ is the sole universal Monarch, he is Lord of all. He has all power in heaven. He has power of dominion over the angels, they are all his humble servants. He has power of intercession with his Father, in the virtue of his satisfaction and atonement; he intercedes, not as a suppliant, but as a demandant; Father, I will. He has all power on earth too; having prevailed with God, by the sacrifice of atonement, he prevails with men, and deals with them as one having authority, by the ministry of reconciliation. He is indeed, in all causes and over all persons, supreme Moderator and Governor. By him kings reign. All souls are his, and to him every heart and knee must bow, and every tongue confess him to be the Lord.
This our Lord Jesus tells them, not only to satisfy them of the authority he had to commission them, and to bring them out in the execution of their commission, but to take off the offence of the cross; they had no reason to be ashamed of Christ crucified, when they saw him thus glorified.”
Back To the Barnes' Commentary: Of the phrase, “To the uttermost” - This does not mean simply “forever” - but that he has power to save them so that their salvation shall be “complete.” … He does not abandon the work midway; he does not begin a work which he is unable to finish. He can aid us as long as we need anything done for our salvation; he can save all who will entrust their salvation to his hands. 'That come unto God by him” - In his name; or depending on him. To come to God, is to approach him for pardon and salvation. “Seeing he ever liveth” - He does not die as the Jewish priests did.
To make intercession for them – He constantly presents the merits of his death as a reason why we should be saved. The precise mode, however, in which he makes intercession in heaven for his people is not revealed. The general meaning is, that he undertakes their cause, and assists them in overcoming their foes and in their endeavors to live a holy life. He does in heaven whatever is necessary to obtain for us grace and strength; secures the aid which we need against our foes; and is the pledge or security for us that the law shall be honored, and the justice and truth of God maintained, though we are saved. It is reasonable to presume that this is somehow by the presentation of the merits of his great sacrifice, and that that is the ground on which all this grace is obtained. As that is infinite, we need not fear that it will ever be exhausted.”
There is, included in the Commentary two cross-references I would like to explore:
First, Romans 8:34 reads, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Albert Barnes says of this: “Who pleads our cause; who aids and assists us; who presents our interests before the mercy-seat in the heavens. For this purpose he ascended to heaven.” Jesus was born to die. He died to pay for our sins. And He now ever lives to make intercession for us. Barnes continues, “This is the fourth consideration which the apostle urges for the security of Christians drawn from the work of Christ. By all these, he argues their complete security from being subject to condemnation by him who shall pronounce the doom of all mankind, and therefore their complete safety in the day of judgment. Having the Judge of all for our friend, we are safe.
The 2nd cross-reference, 1 John 2:1, reads, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
Of this Albert Barnes writes, 1 John 2:1, “And if any man sin - As all are liable, with hearts as corrupt as ours, and amidst the temptations of a world like this, to do. This, of course, does not imply that it is proper or right to sin, or that Christians should have no concern about it; but the meaning is, that all are liable to sin, and when we are conscious of sin the mind should not yield to despondency and despair. It might be supposed, perhaps, that if one sinned after baptism, or after being converted, there could be no forgiveness. The apostle designs to guard against any such supposition, and to show that the atonement made by the Redeemer had respect to all kinds of sin, and that under the deepest consciousness of guilt and of personal unworthiness, we may feel that we have an advocate on high.
We have an advocate with the Father - God only can forgive sin; and though we have no claim on him, yet there is one with him who can plead our cause, and on whom we can rely to manage our interests there. The word rendered “advocate” (paraklētos in Greek) is elsewhere applied to the Holy Spirit, and is in every other place where it occurs in the New Testament rendered “comforter.” … The word denotes an advocate in court; that is, one whom we call to our aid; or to stand by us, to defend our suit... it is expressive of the great truth that he has undertaken our cause with God, and that he performs for us all that we expect of an advocate and counselor. Unlike a human court, the advocacy of the Lord Jesus in our behalf, however, is wholly different. Though the same general object is pursued and sought, the good of those for whom he becomes an advocate. The nature of his advocacy may be stated in the following particulars:
(1) He admits the guilt of those for whom he becomes the advocate, to the full extent charged on them by the law of God, and by their own consciences. He does not attempt to hide or conceal it. He makes no apology for it. He neither attempts to deny the fact, nor to show that they had a right to do as they have done. He could not do this, for it would not be true; and any plea before the throne of God which should be based on a denial of our guilt would be fatal to our cause.
(2) As our advocate, he undertakes to be security that no wrong shall be done to the universe if we are not punished as we deserve; that is, if we are pardoned, and treated as if we had not sinned. This he does by pleading what he has done in behalf of people; that is, by the plea that his sufferings and death in behalf of sinners have done as much to honor the law, and to maintain the truth and justice of God, as if the offenders themselves had suffered the full penalty of the law. The simple account of the atonement by Christ is, that his death will secure all the good results to the universe … to maintain the honor of the law, and to impress the universe with the truth that sin cannot be committed with impunity.
If all the good results can be secured by substituted sufferings which there would be by the punishment of the offender himself, then it is clear that the guilty may be acquitted and saved. Why should they not be? The Saviour, as our advocate, undertakes to be security that this shall be.”
As we move forward, I plan to revisit most of my basic Outline from last week, using the headers and points listed in “The World's Bible Handbook” by Robert T. Boyd.
In 1 Corinthians 15:12-17, the Apostle Paul lists what would be if Jesus were not raised:
Let's read it: 1 Corinthians 15:12: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
In verse 17 Paul clearly states, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Of this, The Sermon Bible tells us: “The fact of the resurrection of Christ and the belief in a general resurrection are intimately and inseparably connected. So the Apostle Paul here, as elsewhere, teaches. The resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection are so related to one another that they stand or fall together. If Christ is risen, then the dead rise; if the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised.
I. It gives a stern living reality to the statement that Christ died for our sins. He died for our sins in the sense of dying in them, literally and fully in that sense. Our sins were the occasion of His death. They made it necessary. They were the cause of it. He could not have saved us from our sins otherwise than by dying for our sins. Had it been possible for Him to be holden of death, He must have continued to occupy the position and to bear the character of the guilty criminals whom He represented when He died.
II. The burial of Christ, viewed in the light of the Apostle’s argument, is a fact of great significance. The agony is past; the curse is borne. But He is not yet freed from His vicarious partnership with us in our sins. His grave is to be with the wicked. The man Christ Jesus, as to His whole manhood, body as well as soul, has not yet got rid of our sins. They are with Him, they are upon Him, He is in them, while He lies, as to His dishonoured body, in that dark and narrow cell.
III. Up to the moment of His resurrection He is bearing our sins. But He is rid of our sins now. And if we are in Him, we are rid of them too, in the very same sense and to the very same extent that He is. There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ. Our faith in Him is not now vain, for He died for our sins and rose again for our justification.
R. S. Candlish, Life in a Risen Saviour, p. 35.
Reference: 1Co_15:13-20.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 215.
1 Corinthians 15:16-17
The Resurrection of Christ.
I. When Christ died, all died. His death was not for Himself, but for mankind. And by all being thus subjected to the punishment of sin in Him the sin of the world was taken away. But it remained that the positive results of redemption should be assured to us. He was delivered for our offences, but, in order to our justification, He must be raised again. His death for sin was the voluntary carrying out to the utmost of His assumption of that whole nature which had incurred death as the penalty of sin. But His resurrection was the sign that that penalty was all paid, and He, our representative, discharged.
II. Now, what have been to us, what to our world, the consequences of this resurrection of our Lord? Let us take them, by reversing the negative process of reasoning, in our text. If Christ be raised, the dead are also raised. We have dwelt much on Him as the head of our race. He, the Head, is raised, and is in glory. By this He has become the firstfruits of them that sleep. As truly as the first ears of the ripened grain are not alone, but are a sample of the innumerable multitude which are to follow, so truly our risen Saviour is but what His people shall be. Their bodies, like His body, shall pass into death. Their bodies, unlike His body, shall see corruption. But the mighty power of Him, their Head, abiding in and working in them, shall again bring their bodies, but changed and glorified, up out of the dead of the earth, and repossess them with their spirits, and beautify and invigorate them for a blessed eternity.
III. The great doctrine of the resurrection of the body was ever in old times the mark of the Christian creed. Still, it is to be feared, it remains a stumblingblock even now to some Christian minds. An immortality of the spirit they are prepared to grant, but a rising again of the body seems to them a strange and, indeed, a needless thing. Let us remind such persons that the salvation to be wrought for man by Christ must be as entire as that fall into sin, out of which it is to raise him. In that fall the body became an instrument of iniquity; by that salvation it must become an instrument of holiness. That salvation does not free it from death, the consequence of its inherited and actual sin; but it puts the man into communion with that energising Spirit, which shall quicken the whole man—body, soul, and spirit—into glorious and heavenly life.
IV. Our text draws for us another important inference from Christ’s resurrection. "If Christ be raised, our faith is not vain; we are not still in our sins." That empty tomb witnesses that we are justified before God. That stone rolled away declares that our redemption is achieved. Now at length is the victory won for man. Now the kingdoms of this world are wrested out of the hand of the prince of this world, and are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iv., p. 146.
Reference: 1Co_15:17.—W. J. Woods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 381.
If Jesus did not rise, His disciples were deceived, they suffered unimaginable trials and died... all for nothing. Their preaching was vain, making our faith vain, making us false witnesses, making the Christian Church a farce, and the Christian experience a complete fabrication based on nothing. But then that also mean we are still in ours sins. We do not die to be raised to immoral Glory, we die like animals, and are put in the ground from which we never return. As Paul so ably concluded, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Of this idea, John Gill writes, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ,.... The object of a believer's hope is not any creature, man, or angel; nor any creature enjoyment, as gold and silver; nor any creature righteousness, moral, legal, and civil; nor any external privilege, or profession of religion; but Christ alone as a surety, Saviour, and Redeemer; his person, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and fulness: and what they hope for in him are, all grace, and the supplies of it; the forgiveness of their sins, the justification of their persons, eternal life and salvation; grace here, and glory hereafter; for all which they have great reason and encouragement to hope in him; but if their hope in him was only in this life, or whilst this life lasts; if they had not hope in death, that they should live again, and after death for the resurrection of their bodies;
or if they hoped in Christ only for the things of this life, or as the Arabic version renders it, "if we from Christ, and by him, expect happiness in this world only"; if our hope in him is bounded with this life, and confined to the things of it, and does not reach to the things of another life, the things of eternity, the invisible glories of another world, to be enjoyed in soul and body;
we are of all men the most miserable; which may have respect not only to the apostles, though eminently true of them, who had little of the comforts of this life, being continually exposed to hardships and persecution for the sake of Christ; were set forth as a spectacle to angels and men; were accounted the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things; and suffered many indignities, and great reproach and affliction, and that for asserting the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; but is also true of all others that hope in Christ, and believe in him; for these not only deny themselves the pleasures, honours, and profits of this world, but are exposed continually to the hatred, reproach, and persecution of it; they are chastised by God as other men are, that they may not be condemned with the world, and yet they must be condemned, if Christ is not risen;
(Continuing): “They are harassed and distressed by Satan, who follows them with his temptations and suggestions, which are so many fiery darts, which give them great pain and uneasiness, when others are unmolested by him; they groan under a body of sin they carry about with them, and desire and long to be unclothed, that they might be clothed upon with glory and immortality; and yet these very desires and earnest longings after a blessed eternity do but add to their misery, if there is no foundation for them, and they will at last be frustrated: these are the sad conclusions, and wretched absurdities that must follow, upon the denial of the resurrection of the dead, and of Christ.”
So let's now review some of the positive evidences and results of the Resurrection:
The empty tomb:
Luke 24:2: “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, 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:”
Of this F.B. Meyer writes, “THE EMPTY TOMB: The most perplexing question for those who deny Christ’s resurrection is, “What became of His body if He did not rise?” If foes stole it, they would have produced it in disproof of the allegations of the Apostles. If friends had taken it, they would certainly have borne it off wrapped in the cerements of death; but these were left behind and wrapped together in such an orderly fashion that evidently there had been neither violence nor haste.
Notice the stress that the angels laid on Christ as the living one. They had doubtless overheard that sentence of His spoken in Galilee and recorded in. Too many seek the living Christ amid the wrappings of ceremony and creed. He is not there. He has gone forth, and we must follow Him...”
John 20:1: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.”
Of this F.B. Meyer writes, “In considering John’s account of the Resurrection, we should remember that it is largely supplementary to the other narratives. This Gospel having been written long after those were in circulation, the selection of incidents which are recorded is made for spiritual purposes. John’s object was to show various instances of faith in the risen Christ, each one being typical and having its own lessons to teach. What dismay there is in Mary’s voice and what consternation in her face! What a mistake also she made, for who can take our Lord away from hearts where He is enshrined!
The Greek word used to describe the disposition of the clothes is very remarkable. It conveys the idea that they had fallen together, as if that which they had covered had been suddenly withdrawn. How much those two disciples missed! Had they only waited, they might have seen the Lord. Do not hurry with wanton haste from the mysteries of our Lord’s grave; but learn that on the one hand He was declared to be God’s Son, and on the other we are taught the victory of faith even over death.”
There were also the appointed evidences of Jesus' Post-Resurrection Appearances.
Jesus appeared to Peter as the Friend Who never forsakes in Luke 24:33: “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.”
The Lord has risen, and has appeared to Simon. Such a verse is so easy to read over, and barely stop to consider the full depth of significance it holds, and on so many different levels. For me, personally, I would have merely pointed out that after His Resurrection, Jesus made a point of appearing, alone with Peter. In Mark 16:7, He had also apparently specifically instructed the angel to tell the women to make sure that Peter be made aware that He had risen from the dead. The last time Jesus heard Peter's voice, it was just before the rooster crowed. Peter was busy trying to convince his accusers that he did not know Jesus by calling down curses on himself. The rooster interrupted Peter's denial of his Lord, and those curses.
And now we read of Jesus and Peter being reunited. Peter would have had a face-to-face opportunity to ask Jesus' forgiveness for the weakness and fear that drove him to commit was he fully believed he could never had done... would never have done... denied even knowing Jesus! But that is all in the past. His Master was alive... alive to forgive him, alive to receive him, and alive to restore and continue their relationship.
But Alexander MacClaren took that same handful of words and prepares from it a meal of rich spiritual nourishment that nearly defies the imagination.
He writes, “PETER ALONE WITH JESUS: The other appearances of the risen Lord to individuals on the day of Resurrection are narrated with much particularity, and at considerable length. John gives us the lovely account of our Lord’s conversation with Mary Magdalene, Luke gives us in full detail the story of the interview with the two travellers on the road to Emmaus. Here is another appearance, known to ‘the eleven, and them that were with them’ on the Resurrection evening, and enumerated by Paul in his list of the appearances of the Lord, the account of which was the common gospel of himself and all the others, and yet deep silence is preserved in regard to it. No word escaped Peter’s lips as to what passed in the conversation between the denier and his Lord. That is very significant.
The other appearances of the risen Lord to individuals on the day of Resurrection suggest their own reasons. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene because she loved much. The love that made a timid woman brave, and the sorrow that filled her heart, to the exclusion of everything else, drew Jesus to her. The two on the road to Emmaus were puzzled, honest, painful seekers after truth. It was worth Christ’s while to spend hours of that day of Resurrection in clearing, questioning, and confirming sincere minds. Does not this other appearance explain itself? The brief spasm of cowardice and denial had changed into penitence when the Lord looked, and the bitter tears that fell were not only because of the denial, but because of the wound of that sharp arrow, the poisoned barb of which we are happy if we have not felt the thought-’He will never know how ashamed and miserable I am; and His last look was reproach, and I shall never see His face any more.’
To respond to, and to satisfy, love, to clear and to steady thought, to soothe the agony of a penitent, were worthy works for the risen Lord. I venture to think that such a record of the use of such a day bears historical truth on its very face, because it is so absolutely unlike what myth-making or hallucination, or the excited imagination of enthusiasts would have produced, if these had been the sources of the story of the Resurrection. But apart from that, I wish in this sermon to try to gather the suggestions that come to us from this interview, and from the silence which is observed concerning them.
With regard to- I. The fact of the appearance itself. We can only come into the position rightly to understand its precious significance, if we try to represent to ourselves the state of mind of the man to whom it was granted. I have already touched upon that; let me, in the briefest possible way, recapitulate. As I have said, the momentary impulse to the cowardly crime passed, and left a melted heart, true penitence, and profound sorrow. One sad day slowly wore away. Early on the next came the message which produced an effect on Peter so great, that the gospel, which in some sense is his gospel (I mean that ‘according to Mark’) alone contains the record of it-the message from the open grave: ‘Tell my disciples and Peter that I go before you into Galilee.’
There followed the sudden rush to the grave, when the feet made heavy by a heavy conscience were distanced by the light step of happy love, and ‘the other disciple did outrun Peter.’ The more impulsive of the two dashed into the sepulchre, just as he afterwards threw himself over the side of the boat, and floundered through the water to get to his Lord’s feet, whilst John was content with looking, just as he afterwards was content to sit in the boat and say, ‘It is the Lord.’ But John’s faith, too, outran Peter’s, and he departed ‘believing,’ whilst Peter only attained to go away ‘wondering.’ And so another day wore away, and at some unknown hour in it, Jesus stood before Peter alone.
What did that appearance say to the penitent man? Of course, it said to him what it said to all the rest, that death was conquered. It lifted his thoughts of his Master. It changed his whole atmosphere from gloom to sunshine, but it had a special message for him. It said that no fault, no denial, bars or diverts Christ’s love. Peter, no doubt, as soon as the hope of the Resurrection began to dawn upon him, felt fear contending with his hope, and asked himself, ‘If He is risen, will He ever speak to me again?’ And now here He is with a quiet look on His face that says, ‘Notwithstanding thy denial, see, I have come to thee.’
Ah, brethren! the impulsive fault of a moment, so soon repented of, so largely excusable, is far more venial than many of our denials. For a continuous life in contradiction to our profession is a blacker crime than a momentary fall, and they who, year in and year out, call themselves Christians, and deny their profession by the whole tenor of their lives, are more deeply guilty than was the Apostle, But Jesus Christ comes to us, and no sin of ours, no denial of ours, can bar out His lingering, His reproachful, and yet His restoring, love and grace. All sin is inconsistent with the Christian profession. Blessed be God; we can venture to say that no sin is incompatible with it, and none bars off wholly the love that pours upon us all.
True; we may shut it out. True; so long as the smallest or the greatest transgression is unacknowledged and unrepented, it forms a non-conducting medium around us, and isolates us from the electric touch of that gracious love. But also true; it is there hovering around us, seeking an entrance. If the door be shut, still the knocking finger is upon it, and the great heart of the Knocker is waiting to enter. Though Peter had been a denier, because he was a penitent the Master came to him. No fault, no sin, cuts us off from the love of our Lord.
And then the other great lesson, closely connected with this, but yet capable of being treated separately for a moment, which we gather from the fact of the interview, is that Jesus Christ is always near the sorrowing heart that confesses its evil. He knew of Peter’s penitence, if I might so say, in the grave; and, therefore, risen, His feet hasted to comfort and to soothe him. As surely as the shepherd hears the bleat of the lost sheep in the snowdrift, as surely as the mother hears the cry of her child, so surely is a penitent heart a magnet which draws Christ, in all His potent fullness and tenderness, to itself.
He that heard and knew the tears of the denier, and his repentance, when in the dim regions of the dead, no less hears and knows the first faint beginnings of sorrow for sin, and bends down from His seat on the right hand of God, saying, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a humble and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’ No fault bars Christ’s love. Christ is ever near the penitent spirit; and whilst he is yet a great way off, He has compassion, and runs and falls on his neck and kisses him.
Now let us look at- II. The interview of which we know nothing. We know nothing of what did pass; we know what must have passed. There is only one way by which a burdened soul can get rid of its burden. There is only one thing that a conscience-stricken denier can say to his Saviour. And-blessed be God!-there is only one thing that a Saviour can say to a conscience-stricken denier. There must have been penitence with tears; there must have been full absolution and remission. And so we are not indulging in baseless fancies when we say that we know what passed in that conversation, of which no word ever escaped the lips of either party concerned. So then, with that knowledge, just let me dwell upon one or two considerations suggested.
One is that the consciousness of Christ’s love, uninterrupted by our transgression, is the mightiest power to deepen penitence and the consciousness of unworthiness. Do you not think that when the Apostle saw in Christ’s face, and heard from His lips, the full assurance of forgiveness, he was far more ashamed of himself than he had ever been in the hours of bitterest remorse? So long as there blends with the sense of my unworthiness any doubt about the free, full, unbroken flow of the divine love to me, my sense of my own unworthiness is disturbed. So long as with the consciousness of demerit there blends that thought-which often is used to produce the consciousness, viz., the dread of consequences, the fear of punishment-my consciousness of sin is disturbed.
But sweep away fear of penalty, sweep away hesitation as to the divine love, then I am left face to face with the unmingled vision of my own evil, and ten thousand times more than ever before do I recognise how black my transgression has been; as the prophet puts it with profound truth, ‘Thou shalt be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy sins, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done.’ If you would bring a man to know how bad he is, do not brandish a whip before his face, or talk to him about an angry God. You may bray a fool in a mortar, and his foolishness will not depart from him.
You may break a man down with these violent pestles, and you will do little more. But get him, if I may continue the metaphor, not into the mortar, but set him in the sunshine of the divine love, and that will do more than break, it will melt the hardest heart that no pestle would do anything but triturate. The great evangelical doctrine of full and free forgiveness through Jesus Christ produces a far more vital, vigorous, transforming recoil from transgression than anything besides. ‘Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.’
Then, further, another consideration may be suggested, and that is that the acknowledgment of sin is followed by immediate forgiveness. Do you think that when Peter turned to his Lord, who had come from the grave to soothe him, and said, ‘I have sinned,’ there was any pause before He said, ‘and thou art forgiven’? The only thing that keeps the divine love from flowing into a man’s heart is the barrier of unforgiven, because unrepented, sin. So soon as the acknowledgment of sin takes away the barrier-of course, by a force as natural as gravitation-the river of God’s love flows into the heart. The consciousness of forgiveness may be gradual; the fact of forgiveness is instantaneous. And the consciousness may be as instantaneous as the fact, though it often is not.
‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins’; and I believe that a man, that you, may at one moment be held and bound by the chains of sin, and that at the next moment, as when the angel touched the limbs of this very Apostle in prison, the chains may drop from off ankles and wrists, and the prisoner may be free to follow the angel into light and liberty. Sometimes the change is instantaneous, and there is no reason why it should not be an instantaneous change, experienced at this moment, by any man or woman among us. Sometimes it is gradual. The Arctic spring comes with a leap, and one day there is thick-ribbed ice, and a few days after there are grass and flowers. A like swift transformation is within the limits of possibility for any of us, and-blessed be God! within the experience of a good many of us. There is no reason why it should not be that of each of us, as well as of this Apostle.
Then there is one other thought that I would suggest, viz., that the man who is led through consciousness of sin and experience of uninterrupted love which is forgiveness, is thereby led into a higher and a nobler life. Peter’s bitter fall, Peter’s gracious restoration, were no small part of the equipment which made him what we see him in the days after Pentecost-when the coward that had been ashamed to acknowledge his Master, and all whose impulsive and self-reliant devotion passed away before a flippant servant-girl’s tongue, stood before the rulers of Israel, and said: ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye!’
The sense of sin, the assurance of pardon, shatter a man’s unwholesome self-confidence, and develop his self-reliance based upon his trust in Jesus Christ. The consciousness of sin, and the experience of pardon, deepen and make more operative in life the power of the divine love. Thus, the publicans and the harlots do go into the Kingdom of God many a time before the Pharisees. So let us all be sure that even our sins and faults may be converted into stepping stones to higher things.
III. Lastly, notice the deep silence in which this interview is shrouded. I have already pointed to the occupations of that Resurrection day as bearing on their face the marks of veracity. It seems to me that if the story of the Resurrection is not history, the talk between the denier and the Master would have been a great deal too tempting a subject for romancers of any kind to have kept their hands off. If you read the apocryphal gospels you will see how eager they are to lay hold of any point in the true gospels, and spin a whole farrago of rubbish round about it. And do you think they could ever have let this incident alone without spoiling it by expanding it, and putting all manner of vulgarities into their story about it? But the men who told the story were telling simple facts, and when they did not know anything they said nothing.
But why did not Peter say anything about it? Because nobody had anything to do with it but himself and his Master. It was his business, and no one else’s. The other scene by the lake reinstated him in his office, and it was public because it concerned others also; but what passed when he was restored to his faith was of no concern to any one but the Restorer and the restored. And so, dear friends, a religion which has a great deal to say about its individual experiences is in very slippery places. The less you think about your emotions, and eminently the less you talk about them, the sounder, the truer, and the purer they will be. Goods in a shop-window get fly-blown very quickly, and lose their lustre. All the deep secrets of a man’s life, his love for his Lord, the way by which he came to Him, his penitence for his sin, like his love for his wife, had better speak in deeds than in words to others. Of course while that is true on one side, we are not to forget the other side.
Reticence as to the secret things of my own personal experience is never to be extended so as to include silence as to the fact of my Christian profession. Sometimes it is needful, wise, and Christlike for a man to lift the corner of the bridal curtain, and let in the day to some extent, and to say, ‘Of whom I am chief, but I obtained mercy.’ Sometimes there is no such mighty power to draw others to the faith which we would fain impart, as to say, ‘Whether this Man be a sinner or no, I know not; but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind now I see.’ Sometimes-always-a man must use his own personal experience, cast into general forms, to emphasise his profession, and to enforce his appeals. So very touchingly, if you will turn to Peter’s sermons in the Acts, you will find that he describes himself there (though he does not hint that it is himself) when he appeals to his countrymen, and says, ‘Ye denied the Holy One and the Just.’
The personal allusion would make his voice vibrate as he spoke, and give force to the charge. Similarly, in the letter which goes by his name-the second of the two Epistles of Peter – there is one little morsel of evidence that makes one inclined to think that it is his, notwithstanding the difficulties in the way, that he sums up all the sins of the false teachers whom he is denouncing in this: ‘Denying the Lord that bought them.’ But with these limitations, and remembering that the statement is not one to be unconditionally and absolutely put, let the silence with regard to this interview teach us to guard the depths of our own Christian lives.
Now, dear brethren, have you ever gone apart with Jesus Christ, as if He and you were alone in the world? Have you ever spread out all your denials and faults before Him? Have you ever felt the swift assurance of His forgiving love, covering over the whole heap, which dwindles as His hand lies upon it? Have you ever felt the increased loathing of yourselves which comes with the certainty that He has passed by all your sins? If you have not, you know very little about Christ, or about Christianity (if I may use the abstract word) or about yourselves; and your religion, or what you call your religion, is a very shallow and superficial and inoperative thing.
Do not shrink from being alone with Jesus Christ. There is no better place for a guilty man, just as there is no better place for an erring child than its mother’s bosom. When Peter had caught a dim glimpse of what Jesus Christ was, he cried: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ When he knew his Saviour and himself better, he clung to Him because he was so sinful. Do the same, and He will say to you: ‘Son, thy sins be forgiven thee; Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.’”
I believe this whole account of Jesus' appearance to Peter, seeing it, now, and understanding it as I never previously saw it or understood it, has significant personal impact on all of us. So often, when we are caught up in a fault, or sin in a moment of weakness, or succumb to that besetting sin that plagues us like a spiritual quicksand, the enemy of our souls is all to eager to maximize the event against us.
Satan is called the accuser of the brethren in the Book of Revelation, but it has occurred to me on recently that he does stop at accusing us to God, he accuses is to each other through gossip and idle talk, and he accuses us to ourselves. He wants us to believe that we have forfeited the right to ask forgiveness... yet again. He wants us to believe we can never overcome our weakness and please God. He dangles that juicy worm of surrender before us, and tempts us to stop trying. But I hasten to add that Jesus told us that “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). Do not listen to, much less believe, the serpent's lies. Eve believed him. How did that turn out???
This account with Jesus appearing to Peter, having private fellowship with him, and the significance of it as brought to light by Alexander MacClaren, is what we need to understand and embrace regarding our Risen Savior. Christmas celebrates and depicts the Messiah as a babe in a manger. That is how God chose to arrive on the earth. While His unique conception was miraculous, He was born like every other baby is born. But He left that manger, He left the carpenter's shop, He left the dusty streets of Galilee. He left the tomb. He is Risen! And He is alive forevermore!
As He was with Peter, He is our forgiving Savior and our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) following those times when our sins deny Him. Having been made flesh (John 1:14), knowing what we feel and experience (Hebrews 4:15), knowing the common enemy we all face (Luke 10:18), knowing that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), knowing our frame (Psalm 103:14), and now, He has given all Power in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18) to use in our defense and support (Romans 8:31). He is the living bread that came down from Heaven (John 6:51). He is the living Author and Finisher of our Faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the living Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). He is the living Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20). He is the living Captain of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He is the Living God (Acts 14:15). Through Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and we can and will be victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57) because He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25)!
This concludes this evening's Discussion, “The Meaning of Christ's Resurrection, Part 2”
This Discussion was presented “live” on December 27th, 2017.
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