A Grahame Smith
Matthew 28: 1-6
Acts 7: 54-60
I am encouraged by the hymn that we have sung (Hymn 152), to speak of the two great events that have affected and influenced the lives of millions over the last twenty centuries and are still influencing the lives of millions today. One is the fact that the Lord Jesus is raised. We sang of His sufferings, which all who have come to know Him are so thankful for, as He suffered in their stead - He is a wonderful Saviour. It is a wonderful fact that He is no longer in the grave.
How sorrowful these women must have been as having seen all that had taken place, but love moved them to come to the place where they thought He was. Mary of Magdala had a special attachment to the Lord Jesus. She had had an experience with Him which had set her free from possession by seven demons. She was an extreme case of a person that was held in the bondage and the power of sin. None of us is different; we all need to have a transaction with the Saviour. You can come to the Saviour in your need, as feeling your burden of sins, and you can find One that is able to forgive you righteously; and He will fill your heart as He filled the hearts of these women. They came in sorrow but their sorrow was turned to joy. They came bringing something to express their love and their affection but He was no longer there. What wonderful news it was: “He is not here, for he is risen”. The One we sang of as the mighty Victor over death and its power could never be held by its power. He had entered into the grave as its Conqueror, for that work at Calvary had annulled the One that had the power of death, and death itself. He is the glorious One of whom we sang,
Firstborn of all Thou art.
He is the Firstborn from among the dead. We read in another scripture that other graves were opened after His arising and persons made their way into Jerusalem, Matt 27: 52, 53. How wonderful to have our trust and faith in the One that has conquered death and its power. Death is the wages of sin; we have to face that; none can escape that path; but it is wonderful to know the One that is its Conqueror.
For those who do not know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, death has its sting and has its penalty, but for those who have their faith and trust in Him, it becomes their servant. From the very moment when our dear sister completed her course here, she was immediately in the presence of the Firstborn from among the dead. What a comfort that is, no waiting and no delay. The Lord Jesus could say to the thief on the cross, “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise”, Luke 23: 43. We rejoice in the fact that our sister is in the presence of Christ; she is in the joy of the unspeakable bliss of His presence. She has known what it is to endure suffering; and to have been held in great affection by her family, by all those who knew her, some closer than others. How wonderful to be able to share the same hope. Is there anyone here who has not come to know the Lord Jesus, has not come to know the One who has broken the power of death? The way is open today and I would say, ‘Come and let your gaze be centred on this open tomb’, as the angel said, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay”. I find it very affecting to think that the Creator of the world lay in death, and that for me and you; but He has come out of it, He is Firstborn from among the dead - how blessed that is!
In the second scripture, the man we read of, Stephen, came to light a chapter earlier. He was the first Christian martyr and to him was afforded something very special. I would like your attention to be drawn - not only to an open tomb, but to the opened heavens. If all our hopes relate to this scene, how miserable and unhappy we would be; but every believer in Jesus lays hold, by faith, of that wonderful news: not only has the Lord Jesus come out of the grave but He is risen and glorified. That is what Stephen saw, and he says, “I behold the heavens opened”. He had a view right into the place where death, sorrow and sin have no part or place. Heaven is the place where Jesus is, and Stephen bears testimony to the glory of the One who is there; He is ascended and He has been glorified. That is wonderful. The fact He is there in glory, dear friends and brethren, is the guarantee that all He has said and has promised is going to come to pass.
For the comfort of our dear loved ones here, the Lord has said, “I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age”, Matt 28: 20. You can rest in that absolutely without any shadow of doubt, and you can prove that love; and He Himself will draw near. How much He loves those that have put their trust in Him; what a place they have in His heart. It is a wonderful promise too, that He said “I am coming again”, John 14: 3. He is coming again to claim His own that are living, and coming too to claim everyone who has put their faith and trust in Him who is asleep through Jesus. Our dear sister will hear His voice and will be raised to meet Him in the air. That was the testimony of the angels as the Lord Jesus went up: they said, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him going into heaven”, Acts 1: 11. That is the message today: if your hopes are bounded by earth and death, fix your eyes upon Jesus and look to Him the glorious Centre of another world. How blessed - how great and how glorious He is.
There is another wonderful experience that is very precious and is known only by those that are the Lord’s, and that is the gift of the Holy Spirit by whom we can know Him as raised and glorified. What a giving God we have, giving His only beloved Son to rescue and secure us from our lost sinful condition. All that has been met in His wonderful work at Calvary, but divine love is expressed too in the giving of the Holy Spirit. It says of Stephen, “being full of the Holy Spirit”, Acts 7: 55. He was testifying in the power of the Holy Spirit to what He saw. I was impressed yesterday by the fact that the Lord introduces the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, John 14: 16. We all need comfort today and we can find and prove the help of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter. It has impressed me that the Holy Spirit comforts us in two particular ways. He draws attention to the Lord Jesus as crowned with glory and honour, and fills our hearts with the greatness of that glorious Person; and also He sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. He has come to serve you and me and all those that put their trust in the Lord Jesus.
The Lord Jesus came to His own and He could say, “Peace be to you”, John 20: 19. There is not a voice in the universe that can disturb that. He is the Prince of peace and He has made peace. May we all, dear brethren, have a sense of the majesty and glory of what God has in mind for us - a heavenly inheritance. Everyone that He has secured here is going to be claimed by this glorious Person. The Lord has taken our sister to be with Himself; we bow to that, and in the waiting time until He comes may our hearts simply be engaged with Him where He is and draw upon those infinite, boundless resources in love that will see us through.
Our circumstances are all different but you can find Him to be an ‘all-the-way-home Saviour’. How blessed to be occupied at a time of sorrow with the glory and greatness of One who is our everlasting portion; I trust He may be the portion of your heart.
If, as yet, you have not looked into the tomb, do so I pray; and ask for the gift of faith to have a view into heaven itself and see the glory and the greatness of the Man that is there: how great He is. Soon He is going to fill the universe, and every knee is going to bow, and every tongue is going to proclaim His worthiness.
How blessed to know these things; the prospect for the believer is wonderful. May these thoughts comfort our hearts at this present time.
For His Name’s sake.
19th May 2015