Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.Matthew 28:1
Did you ever read Isaac Taylor's Saturday Evening? In 1842 B. Gregory introduced it to me. What it was all about I have forgotten, but not the deep tranquil impression made by it—
Which broods above the sunken sun,
And dwells in heaven half the night....
Well, that was Isaac Taylor's Saturday evening, and this is mine; and for many years every Saturday evening I have felt just like that, 'In the beginning of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week'.
My dawning is begun, like the Jews' dawning, the evening before... for the sense of benignity and regard, outgoing and unrestrained, is always very strong upon me, being like deep waters—a tidal sway of affection—'of pure affection round earth's human shores'; and it is one of the most delicious feelings on earth. As Saturday evening is to the coming Sabbath, so is this feeling to the coming heaven.
References.—XXVIII. 1.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 12. XXVIII. 1-10.—T. A. Gurney, The Living Lord and the Opened Grave, p. 196. XXVIII. 1-15.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 350. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2323. XXVIII. 2.—B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 7. A. G. Mortimer, Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 82. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 863. XXVIII. 2-5.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 33. XXVIII. 4-6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2773.
How much more do the angels know? If they know anything, they may know something more; they may be better acquainted with us than we suppose. We must be of interest to them because we are of interest to their God. The angels are inquirers, students; they desire to look into the meaning of the blood.
It is an angel who speaks in this most tender and imusical text. 'I know that ye seek Jesus.' This is in striking contrast to something that is also related nn the context—to the great earthquake. Man is eever so helpless as in an earthquake. God keeps the arthquake for special occasions. The sturdiest man amongst us withers away when he feels the earth rocking. The angel answered and said unto the women, 'It is different with you, you have no need to fear'—'for I know that ye seek Jesus,' and they who seek Jesus need never tremble; earthquake, or no earthquake, their sanctuary is safe.
I. The difference between the people who fear spiritual presences and the people who do not fear them and rather welcome them, is this: the one people seek the sepulchre, the other seek the Christ. There are many people who have no objection to the sepulchre, there are travellers who go long distances in order to see the sepulchre who would not move an inch to see the Saviour. Such men are lovers of form, special places, extraordinary ceremonies. To see the sepulchre is what they come for; they would be afraid if they saw Him who had lain in it but some three days ago.
II. 'Fear not,' though you are seeking Christ at the wrong place, as these women were. We must have greater sympathy with people who are trying by some stumbling way to get at the right end. We have been too severe with the stumblers. They are just as good souls as we are, they may even be nearer heaven than those whose Christianity is a mere correctness. Christianity is not an exercise in conventional correctness. Some poor honest souls are going to the wrong place, but they are going for the right thing; they are orthodox. He who seeks truth with an honest soul and a clean heart is orthodox, though he does not believe a word that I believe, in its merely alphabetical or controversial sense.
III. Our Christianity needs widening and deepening; we have all the earth part of it, but we want the firmament. No man was ever saved by correct notions. Man is more than a coat, man is more than a body. Man has a body, but he is a spirit. All this may be perverted by those who would pervert bread and water. We cannot always guard ourselves against the perverting spirit, it is a most mischievous and uncontrollable spirit; we must not therefore give way to those who would shut us up to our own little nutshell notions and say that there is nothing beyond. God has still more light, and we must find it, because to seek it is to obey an impulse Divine.
IV. Some seek Christ as an ideal. Ideal is the favourite word of the ecclesiastical hour; in fact, it is the idol-word of the political hour as well. Some seek Christ as an ideal, a novelty in poetry, a variety in intellectual life. Jesus Christ is enrolled and honoured and invited to a very high place in the pantheon, and He is told that this seat, this throne of ivory, is His own. He is regarded as an ideal. What did the angel say? He spoke other language, he spoke in accordance with tragic facts; the air was still hot with the terrible tragedy, and the angel caught its spirit and expressed it in a word. He said, 'I know ye seek Jesus'—yes, but what Jesus? the ideal, poetic, transcendental Jesus? No—'I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified'. That is His title; do not abbreviate it, do not corrupt it by excision; it will bleed to death if you do not give the full style, title, and address of the Son of God. 'Jesus, which was crucified '—the man in whose palms the nails were driven and on whose brow the thorns were enwreathed; I know the Christ you are seeking; you know Him by blood-marks. That is the Christ we have too much forgotten. We are admirers, but not believers. Drop your admiration, and get back to living faith in Him who was crucified. Crucifixion meant redemption. On the one side the crucifixion was a Jew's murder; on the other, a Divine expiation, a new illumination, of the will of God, a grand interpretation of the purpose of the creation of human nature.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 194.
References.—XXVIII. 5, 6.—F. W. Farrar, Expository Sermons on the New Testament, p. 38. XXVIII. 5-7.—J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 11. XXVIII. 5-8.—R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 63. XXVIII. 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 18; vol. xviii. No. 1081. W. C. E. Newbolt, Church Times, vol. xlix. 1903, p. 512. I. Lloyd, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 246. R. W. Dale, ibid. vol. lxviii. 1895, p. 230. A. L. Kemp, ibid. vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 233. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 313; see also Sermons for the Aged (3rd Series), p. 53. R. J. Campbell, New Theology Sermons, p. 17. T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, p. 295. A. G. Mortimer, Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 109. J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 523. D. Rose, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i. p. 321. G. W. McCree, ibid. vol. xxxix. p. 314. Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix. p. 214; vol. x. 117. Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii. p. 562. Armitage, American Pulpit of the Day, vol. i. p. 251. XXVIII. 7.—T. T. Munger, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. p. 273. XXVIII. 8-10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2323.
Two Environments (Preached on Easter Sunday Morning)
Jesus had a way of meeting people unexpectedly. He has never abandoned that significant and blessed way. Jesus waylays men; Jesus watches the travellers, counts their footfalls, observes the whole manifestation of their personality when they are in grief and wonder and tender communication one with another; and at the right moment, for Jesus keeps all the moments, He joins them, faces them, suddenly encounters them, and asks them delicate and feeling questions. The appearances of Jesus Christ would seem to be always sudden, though they have been expected for centuries; for they have been foretold by the most elaborate and dignified prophecy.
I. Shall we look at the environment of the Resurrection? What is that first object that you see? 'It is a garden; there is a tomb in it.' I do not speak of that, I reverse your sentence, retaining its history and enlarging its meaning. We could say moaningly and fretfully, almost, indeed, atheistically, There was a tomb in the garden. That is poor talk. How can you improve it? Easily, by almost inverting it: there was a garden round the tomb. That is better, the Gospel gleams in that nobler talk. In my lowest moods, in my saddest depression, I see only the tomb, and after some spirit has talked with me for a moment I lose sight of the tomb in the broader, lovelier view of the garden. Let the athiest say there was a tomb in the garden; I pray my God to help me to say there was a garden around the tomb.
Is there anything in the environment of the resurrection to match the garden beauty and the garden fragrance? Yes. What is it? Morning: 'As it began to dawn'. It always begins to dawn when we are conscious of the presence and the blessing of the dear Lord. His coming means light, morning, something that has to grow, an increasing light, a gleam of the heavenly lightning that makes and seeks the eternal that it means. So far, then, the environment is right, garden and morning, how they match one another! what a duet is that! let them sing their music to the accompaniment of the spheres. Garden and morning—what next? What we call spring, April, the time when the green blade is coming up or the little flower has fought its way through the frost and snow. When Christ rises all things rise; when Jesus comes up from the tomb there is no tomb, He has left it; now there is nothing but vernal beauty, vernal music thrills the responding air. A lovely environment, garden, morning, spring—what more? Angels. A beautiful picture it is to see the angel of the Lord coming and thrusting back the little pebble that was rolled to the door of the tomb, and—oh the subtle irony! oh the holy contempt!—rolling back the stone and sitting on it! Marmion waved the fragment of his blade in sign of victory, a sign in its way and at the time pardonable, but there stands out one utterance and expression of victory grander than Marmion's waving of his blade. The angel of the Lord flicked away the stone with its red Roman seal, and having set it a few inches away sat upon it. It is then a right beautiful environment, and full of holy suggestion, and wet with a very gracious pathos, wet as with sacred teal's, such as might have dropped from heaven. Garden, morning, spring, angels; that is resurrection, resurging, coming back to flood and throne and final diadem.
II. We do not see all the beauty of that environment until we contrast it with the environment of the birth. What do we see at the nativity of Christ? A manger, and no garden; night—'and there were shepherds keeping their flocks by night'. This Child is going to be born in the darkness, He may bring the light with Him, He has always done so, He will not fail at Bethlehem. A child always brings light with it; the darkness has notice to quit the moment the child cries. Manger, night, and what we call winter. We keep the Saviour's birthday when the snow is on the ground; the keener the frost, the more highly piled the snow, we say, This is true Christmas weather. Not resurrection weather; something has happened between the winter and the spring, something has taken place between the fall of that snow, the growing of that ice, and the breathing of that balmy breeze over Jerusalem. 'This same Jesus,' Jesus of the garden and the morning, of the spring and of the angels, was once the Jesus of the manger and the night and the winter.
III. Look at the spiritual and ideal significance of these two environments, and especially the environment of the resurrection. What is the meaning of all this? The meaning is poetry, ideality, higher consciousness, a continually self-refining spirituality, a continually shedding off of the old and the poor and the mean that belongs to our own nature, and a constant rising into the true manhood. I belong to an ancestry, quoth one, who shot king after king on field after field. And I, quoth another, have no blood records in my family—
Higher far my proud pretensions rise,
A child of parents passed into the skies.
And if you have the gracious soul, the beautiful spirit, the very soul of charity and helpfulness to others, that is fame. All else may be but infamy.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 142.
References.—XXVIII. 9.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 360. J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. i. p. 142. XXVIII. 9, 10.—J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 60. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons (4th Series), p. 144. R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 103. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2628.
In Thomas Boston's Memoirs for 9 December, 1710, the following entry occurs: 'This night I was in bad case. I find it is not easy for me to carry right, either with or without the cross. While I was walking up and down my closet in heaviness, my little daughter Jane, whom I had laid in bed, suddenly raising up herself said, She would tell me a note; and thus delivered herself: Mary Magdalen went to the sepulchre. She went back again with them to the sepulchre; but they would not believe that Christ was risen, till Mary Magdalen met Him; and He said to her, "Tell My brethren, they are My brethren yet". This she pronounced with a certain air of sweetness. It took me by the heart: "His brethren yet" (thought I); and may I think that Christ will own me as one of His brethren? It was to me as life from the dead.'
O infinite mercy! How dost Thou raise their titles with Thyself! At first they were Thy servants, then disciples; a little before Thy death, they were Thy friends; now, after Thy resurrection, they were Thy brethren. O mercy without measure, why wilt Thou, how canst Thou, O Saviour, call them brethren, whom in their last parting, Thou foundest fugitives? Did they not run from Thee? And yet Thou sayest, 'Go, tell My brethren!'
References.—XXVIII. 10.—F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p. 187. XXVIII. 11-16.—C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 100. E. D. Solomon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi. p. 293. Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii. p. 276. A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 383. XXVIII. 11-20.—G. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 275. XXVIII. 16.—R. Linklater, ibid. vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 408. XXVIII. 16, 17.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 369; see also After the Resurrection, p. 102. G. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 234. XXVIII. 16-20.—B. F. Westcott, The Revelation of the Risen Lord, p. 153. R. M. Benson, The Life Beyond the Grave, p. 596. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2330. A. G. Mortimer, Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 215. XXVIII. 17.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 167. A. M. Mackay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 253. XXVIII. 18.—G. W. Kitchin, Christus Impecator, p. 18. A. F. Winnington Ingram, Lenten Mission, 1905, p. 28. W. T. Barber, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 403. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2465. XXVIII. 18, 19.—E. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 11. R. J. Campbell, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 273. C. Brown, ibid. vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 309; see also God and Man, p. 147. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 383.
I. Among the characteristics of Jesus' teaching which have passed into the higher consciousness of Christianity is an inextinguishable optimism. If He called apostles they were to disciple every creature, and if He died it was for a world. His generation might condemn Him, but they would see Him again on the clouds of heaven. He looks beyond His own land, and embraces a race in His plans.
1. This high spirit has passed into the soul of Christ's chief servants. The directors and pioneers, the martyrs and exemplars of our faith have no misgivings; the light of hope has ever been shining on their faces. They might be losing but their Commander was winning. The Cross might be surrounded with the smoke of battle, it was being carried forward to victory.
2. They were right in this conviction, but do not let us make any mistake about the nature of this triumph, else we shall be caught by delusions, and in the end be much discouraged. The kingdom of God will not come through organization but through inspiration. Its signs will not be the domination of a Church, but the regeneration of humanity.
II. Have there been no grounds for optimism? Has the splendid hope of Christ been falsified? One may complain that the centuries have gone slowly, and that the chariot of righteousness has dragged upon the road. But Christ has been coming and conquering. We are apt to be pessimists, not because the kingdom of God is halting, but because it has not raced, not because the Gospel has failed to build up native churches in the ends of the earth with their own forms, literature, martyrs, but because every man has not yet believed the joyful sound.
1. There are two grounds for the unbounded optimism of our faith, and the first is God. How did such ideas come into the human mind? Where did the imagination of the Prophets and Apostles catch fire, where is the spring of the prayers and aspirations of the saints? Whence do all light and love come? Surely from God.
2. The other ground for optimism is Jesus Christ. Does it seem that the perfect life for the individual and for the race is too sublime: that it is a distant; and unattainable ideal? Christ lived as He taught. He bade men lose their lives and He lost His; He bade men trample the world under foot, and He trampled it; He commanded men to love, and He loved unto death. This He did as the forerunner of the race. Why not again with Christ as Captain?
Only one institution in human society carries the dew of its youth; and through the conflict of the centuries still chants its morning song. It is the religion of Jesus.
—J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 37.
References.—XXVIII. 18-20.—R. Rainy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 300. C. Gore, ibid. vol. lv. 1899, p. 248; vol. lvii. 1900, p. 283; vol. lxii. 1902, p. 6; see also Three Aspects of the Bible, p. 1. H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 193. J. Foster, ibid. vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 67. Bishop Simpson's Sermons, p. 175. J. Grierson, Scenes and Interviews with the Risen Saviour, p. 247. H. P. Liddon, Easter in St. Paul's, vol. ii. p. 240. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 153. W. J. Knox-Little, The Perfect Life, p. 289. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1200.
The Authority of the King
I. Consider first, the deposit of the Church. The one truth emphasized in this phase of the Missionary Manifesto is that of the absolute authority of Christ; His supremacy and sovereignty; the fact that He shares the throne of empire with none. The word here translated 'authority' does not suggest power in the sense of energy or might. The first intention of the word is that of the power of choice—that is, the right to choose. Its second intention is that of the power of enforcement—that is, the right to insist upon obedience. The third intention is that of the power of government—that is, the right to utter the final verdict and to pass sentence.
Human choice must always be made in submission to a higher will, therefore it can never be said that man can have an absolute right and power of choice. Authority in the last analysis is the right to determine, enforce, and pass sentence.
In these words Jesus, standing on the resurrection side of His grave, in the simplest language made the sublimest claim, when He thus declared Himself to be King by Divine right, and therefore absolute in His Kingship. The word admits of no qualification. The claim admits of no limitation. In that moment He claimed authority in the material, mental, and moral realms.
The application of His claim to this world does by no means exhaust it. He swept the compass with a reach far wider, more spacious, and stupendous. Not only on earth, but in heaven is authority given to Him. The one phrase, 'in heaven and on earth,' includes the whole creation of God. It is manifest that He is excluded Who created, and Who puts all things under the feet of His King. It is equally manifest that all is included which comes within the scope of that comprehensive word, the creation of God. We may interpret this final claim of Jesus by the prayer He taught His disciples: 'Our Father Who art in the heavens. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.' His ministry of teaching having been completed, having accomplished His exodus and resurrection, at last He claimed authority in heaven and on earth, thus assuming the throne of empire over the whole creation of God, included in the terms of the prayer, and now defined in the words, 'in heaven and on earth'.
II. The debt? It is clearly indicated as to its widest scope in the words 'disciple the nations'. The Church's responsibility as indicated by these words is that of the proclamation of the Lordship of Christ, the insistence upon the supremacy of his ethic in every nation, among all peoples. His messengers are charged to proclaim the fact of His Lordship, to announce to men everywhere that He is king. They are to pass through all nations proclaiming Him King upon the basis of His resurrection, and all that it involves. This means therefore, that the Church is to proclaim and insist upon His ethical standards; that His ideal of intellectual greatness is the knowledge of God; that His ideal of emotional function is to love God and our neighbour; that His ideal of volitional fulfilment is to seek first the kingdom of God.
III. Finally, a brief word concerning the dynamic. If the Church is to fulfil this great responsibility, she must enter into the full meaning of the final words of the Lord: 'Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the consummation of the age'. We must understand the meaning of the phrase 'end of the world'. Too often we think of it as some catastrophe or destruction of the earth. That is not the meaning of the words of which the Lord made use. The superior translation is undoubtedly 'consummation of the age'. The earth will continue long after the completion of this age. The promise is that of the abiding presence of the King through the present age. It is impossible to preach His Lordship prevailingly, save in living fellowship with Himself. We may discuss it and demonstrate it intellectually, but the demonstration will lack compelling power, save as the truth is proclaimed in living, personal comradeship with Him. In his phrase 'all the days,' is inferred mastery of circumstances, the inference vindicated, as we have seen, by His resurrection. The One Who through defeat proceeded to absolute victory accompanies His people, as in obedience to His command they go forth to proclaim His Kingship.
In the words already dealt with, 'the consummation of the age,' His ultimate victory is implied. There was no fear of failure in the heart of the King. The age initiated by His first advent will be consummated at His second; and through all the toil He abides with His people, leading them in perpetual triumph as they abide in fellowship with Him.
—G. Campbell Morgan, The Missionary Manifesto, p. 27.
References.—XXVIII. 19.—R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 225. W. A. Whitworth, Christian Thought on Present-Day Questions, p. 168. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. ix. p. 221. H. J. Van Dyke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 142. J. Guinness Rogers, ibid. vol. xl. 1891, p. 387. A. H. Bradford, ibid. vol. xli. 1892, p. 364. A. H. Rix, ibid. vol. xli. 1892, p. 376. John Clifford, ibid. vol. xliii. 1893, p. 264. James Culross, ibid. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 19. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lx. 1901, p. 337. J. Agar Bert, ibid, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 91. C. Silvester Home, ibid. vol. lxv. 1904, p. 360. G. A. Johnston Ross, ibid. vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 244. M. J. Stone-Wigg, ibid. vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 408. Henry Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 319. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 276; see also Selected Sermons, p. 136. G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 95. A. G. Mortimer, Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 224. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. ii. p. 1. F. D. Huntington, Christian Believing and Living, p. 366. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 173. A. W. Potts, School Sermons, p. 305.
This idea, that the sense of Christ's presence is vouchsafed to obedience and service, is illustrated by Mr. Hutton's well-known phrase about 'the sacramental power of common everyday duty'.
'No one who does not go away, leaving all and going alone,' said Gilmour of Mongolia as he sailed from England, 'can feel the force of this promise; and when I begin to feel my heart threatening to go down, I betake myself to this companionship, and, thank God, I have felt the blessedness of this promise rushing over me repeatedly when I knelt down and spoke to Jesus as a present companion from whom I am sure to find sympathy.'
References.—XXVIII. 19, 20.—F. D. Maurice, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, vol. iv. p. 29; see also Sermons, p. 33.
The Abiding Presence
I. Such is the promise of the Lord Christ. It is exactly like Himself. It is like Him, first, because of its sublime, unhesitating self-assertion. He speaks and acts always as with an absolute certainty that to the salvation of the world, and of the soul, to the whole depth and range of human need—its sin and its sorrow, its perplexity, its death—He is necessary and He is adequate. Listen to this imperial Prince and Leader, who is so absolutely sure of Himself, and then, with hearts open and unreserving, make sure for yourselves of Him. The human soul that has come to know itself, its sin, its wants, its hunger and thirst, its true ideal, and then comes to look with worshipping desire towards Christ, finds Christ, in self-evidencing justness, the key to fit its lock, and thus knows Him with a knowledge as unshakable as our certainty of ourselves. And to know Him, what is it in its issues? It is the life eternal. It is heaven poured out into the necessities of time.
II. Further, these words of our Lord are just like Him because what they promise is His personal presence with His followers. And this is just like the Lord Jesus Christ, because at every turn in the Gospel story you see Him as the leader who not only leads but also positively delights in the company of His followers. He haunts them through the Forty Days, week after week, in His new and wonderful life, till at last He ascends indeed out of their sight, but with a final positive promise to return in visible glory, and undertaking meanwhile to be with them all the days and all day long, in a mysterious unseen companionship, as intimate as possible, even to the end.
Such is the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ towards us. We are entirely unworthy of Him; we are ignorant, we are far more sinful than we know, we are indeed a contrast to His pure glory. Yet such is His heart. 'His delights are with the sons of men.' As Creator of our nature, as Redeemer of our souls, He takes pleasure in us. There is no surer index of a perfect affection than the desire and purpose of perpetual company. And He says, 'I am with you, all the days and all day long'.
III. The Christian life—what is it at its heart? It is to know that we belong to the Christ of God, and to live that condition out.
How shall it be lived? Who is sufficient for such a life? The answer, as I take it, is given us here, direct and clear: He is sufficient, be he man or boy, who uses his Lord as a living Presence all the days and all day long.
—H. C. G. Moule, Christ's Witness to the Life to Come, p. 135.
The Real Presence
Jesus is here! If we could repeat these words with the reverent simplicity of little children, a new power of believing prayer would be kindled in the heart of the Church of England.
I. We modern Christians explain the promise of the abiding presence of Jesus as a theological influence. The first disciples accepted it as a concrete fact, verified from day to day in a rich and living experience.
II. Now it is just when we look at the life of the early Church that we see how simple was their belief in the real presence of their Lord. It was because they believed that Jesus was really with them still, that the brotherhood of which they were members became the home and temple of His Spirit, that the sacraments whereby it was welded into one were a ministration of the life and powers of the world to come. Jesus was there—not merely the Spirit manifested through Him, but the very Lord who showed them His hands and His side. Jesus was there in the midst of the Church, guiding, controlling, inspiring, choosing His ministers, comforting His saints!, receiving His martyrs.
This was the secret of the grand and simple faith of the early Christians. To them Jesus was no sentimental idea, no romantic abstraction of the mind which a warm and ardent fancy clothed with the attributes of a tender personality.
III. What a majestic faith is here! It is the faith of children. But alas! our lot has fallen upon other days. We falter where they firmly trod. And yet no other faith is Christian. It is what the Church needs Today, the sure and certain conviction that Jesus is Himself here, that Christ is with us always even to the end of the days.
—J. G. Simpson, Christian Ideals, p. 309.
The Presence That Never Faileth (Whitsunday)
It was the last promise that He gave to His disciples. And now we read them as the Saviour's legacy to the Church. For these words are unlimited in their application. Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the ages, even to the final consummation, when His purpose will be completed and the work of the Church done.
I. This is substantially the truth which is brought before our minds Today, the truth which Whitsuntide recalls and emphasizes. The one Divine fact which underlies all the rest is this: that Christ on that day began to fulfil and prove His last promise. All that they saw and felt on that day and every day afterwards were manifestations of His presence. He had come again; He was in their midst; His spirit was in contact with theirs; His power rested upon them; He swayed them, in fact, more mightily than ever He had done during His life. Aforetime He had been outside their lives, a face to behold, a voice to hear, a master to follow. Now He was even nearer, He was within them; they were the temple in which He dwelt; He had become a part of their very nature, and in all they said and did they felt the movements of His spirit, and laboured and suffered with a power greater and Diviner than their own.
II. This is the greatest of Christian facts. It is the truth which gives our faith all its substance and certainty and which inspires the believing heart with all its confidence and hopefulness. That which makes the Christian life is an undoubting belief in a present living mightily working Christ. His ministry was not for three years, but for all the ages.
III. His unseen presence and power make the perpetual miracle of Church history and Christian life. It is a strange thing that since He vanished from the view of the disciples He has never been seen again by mortal eyes, never again, save by one man—Paul. But there is a far stranger thing than that It is an infinitely more wonderful thing that He has done all His most wonderful works among men since His visible presence was taken away, and without showing Himself at all. Millions of men and women in every period of Christian history have been more moved and inspired by the unseen Christ than the most devoted of His disciples were moved and inspired by the sight of His bodily form. He is to the moral world what the vital forces are in the natural world. No one can see those vital forces or explain how they work. We can only see the results. They clothe the landscape with verdure, they cover the hedges with blossoms, they change ugliness into beauty, and waste places into gardens of delight. And thus the unseen Christ works in the moral world. Everywhere moral life springs into beauty where His visible hand has been.
—J. G. Greenhough, Christian Festivals and Anniversaries, p. 123.
The Abiding Presence (Ascension Day)
To none whom we have known was it ever given to say, 'I am with you alway'. And one intention of their going, and of our going presently, is to make us turn from all that is dying and changing, to Him to Whom alone it belongs to say, 'Lo, I am with you alway'.
The contrasts of this world are essential to the setting forth of the eternity of the Resurrection-life of Christ, and the value of His abiding presence.
I. He spake these words after He had Himself passed through death, after He had proved and tasted the bitterness of separation.
What joy to hear the voice of some lost dear one at our side once more, saying, 'I left you for a little while; it was needful that I should go; but now I am back again, to stay with you for ever!' Listen, then, to Him Whose love surpasseth every love: 'I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore'. 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.'
But some man will say, 'Oh! that that presence were but visible! I cannot realize, or enjoy, an invisible presence.'
Certainly. It does require strong exercise of faith; that other sense added to the natural faculties—a gift of God—to be prayed for and cherished. But that invisible presence once apprehended, it is more real, more precious, than a visible. For a visible must come and go, as Christ did in the flesh. We could not have it always; it is not in the compass of our present nature. But now, always and everywhere, we carry it along with us without the possibility of interruption, without the shadow of a change, because it is invisible: 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world'.
After our Lord's Resurrection He never once showed Himself, or uttered a single word, to unbelievers; all that He said and did was for believers only. To His own people alone Christ spake during those forty days, and His last and best words were, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world'.
II. But observe the full meaning of the words more literally rendered. 'Lo, I am with you all the days, until the consummation of the age.'
What force and beauty there is in those words, 'all the days'. They convey, before the mind of the Speaker, that 'all the days' lay ranged in order, to the end of time. To Him they were altogether but so many 'days'; and yet each 'day' was distinct and separate, with its own proper history, in His sight. And all along that line of 'days,' and around the 'days' of our fathers' lifetime and our own, and our children, and children's children, on each and on all the 'days' He saw the Changeless Presence in the midst of the changeable and changing—that constant, lasting presence. 'Lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world' (or, the consummation of the age). 'Amen.' We are always stepping out into an unknown future; but the foot cannot fall outside the presence of Jesus.
III. As to the method and nature of that presence, it were better to leave it, as if some dear dying friend had said, in his last moments, 'I shall never be far from you: though you see me not, I shall be about your path and about your bed; and not a single day or night shall pass but I shall be with you there'. So simply did my Saviour say it, and so simply would I take His words.
References.—XXVIII. 20.—W. Branscombe, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 235. T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. 1899, p. 167. A. Murray, ibid. vol. lxx. 1906, p. 62. E. L. Hull, Sermons Preached at King's Lynn (3rd Series), p. 168. H. C. G. Moule, Fordington Sermons, p. 46. G. A. Chadwick, Aids to Belief, p. 84. W. J. Knox-Little, The Perfect Life, p. 301. Henry Jellett, Sermons on Special and Festival Occasions, p. 123. George A. Gordon, Christian World Pulpit, lxxvii. p. 227.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.