"Thy brother shall rise again." It is the first time her Lord has spoken. She now once more hears those well-remembered tones which were last listened to, when life was all bright, and her home all happy.
It is the self-same consolation which steals still, like celestial music, to the smitten heart, when every chord of earthly gladness ceases to vibrate. And it is befitting too that Jesus should utter it. He alone is qualified to do so. The words spoken to the bereaved one of Bethany are words purchased by His own atoning work. "Thy brother -- thy sister -- thy friend, shall rise again!"
This brief oracle of comfort was addressed, in the first instance, specially to Martha. It had a primary reference, doubtless, to the vast miracle which was on the eve of performance. But there were more hearts to comfort and souls to cheer than one; that Almighty Saviour had at the moment troops of other bereaved ones in view; myriads on myriads of aching, bleeding spirits who could not, like the Bethany mourner, rush into His visible presence for consolation and peace. He expands, therefore, for their sakes the sublime and exalted solace which He ministers to her. And in words which have carried their echoes of hope and joy through all time, He exclaims -- "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die!"
If Bethany had bequeathed no other "memory" than this, how its name would have been embalmed in hallowed recollection! Truly these two brief verses are as apples of gold in pictures of silver. "Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life." Himself conquering death, He has conquered it for His people -- opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
The full grandeur of that Bethany utterance could not be appreciated by her to whom it was first spoken. His death and resurrection was still, even to His nearest disciples, a profound mystery. Little did that trembling spirit, who was now gazing on her living Lord with tearful eye, dream that in a few brief days the grave was to hold HIM, too, as its captive; and that guardian angels were to proclaim words which would now have been all enigma and strangeness, "The Lord is risen!" With us it is different. The mighty deed has been completed. "Christ has died; yea, rather has risen again!" The resurrection and revival of Lazarus was a marvellous act, but it was only the rekindling of a little star that had ceased to twinkle in the firmament. A week more -- and Martha would witness the Great Sun of all Being undergoing an eclipse; in a mysterious moment veiled and shrouded in darkness and blood; and then all at once coming forth like a Bridegroom from his chamber to shine the living and luminous centre of ransomed millions!
Christians! we can turn now aside and see this great sight -- death closing the lips of the Lord of life -- a borrowed grave containing the tenantless body of the Creator of all worlds! Is death to hold that prey? Is the grave to retain in gloomy custody that immaculate frame? Is the living temple to lie there an inglorious ruin, like other crumbling wrecks of mortality? The question of our eternal life or eternal death was suspended on the reply! If death succeeds in chaining down the illustrious Victim, our hopes of everlasting life are gone for ever. In vain can these dreary portals be ever again unbarred for the children of fallen humanity. He has gone there as their surety-Saviour. If his suretyship be accepted -- if He meet and fulfil all the requirements of an outraged law, the gates of the dismal prison-house will and must be opened. If, on the other hand, there be any flaw or deficiency in His person or work as the Kinsman-Redeemer, then no power can snap the chains which bind Him; the tomb will refuse to surrender what it has in custody; the hopes of His people must perish along with Him! Golgotha must become the grave of a world's hopes!
But the stone has been rolled away. The grave-clothes are all that are left as trophies of the conqueror. Angels are seated in the vacant tomb to verify with their gladdening assurance His own Bethany oracle, "The Lord has risen." "He is indeed the resurrection and the life; he that liveth and believeth on Him shall never die!"
Yes! however many be the comforting thoughts which cluster around the grave of Lazarus, grander still is it to gather, as Jesus Himself here bids us, around His own tomb, and to gaze on His own resurrection scene! It was the most eventful morning of all time. It will be the focus point of the Church's hope and triumph through all eternity.
"The Lord is risen!" It proclaimed the atonement complete, sin pardoned, mediation accepted, the law satisfied, God glorified! "The Lord is risen!" It proclaimed resurrection and life for His people -- life (the forfeited gift of life) now repurchased. That mighty victor rose not for Himself, but as the representative and earnest of countless multitudes, who exult in His death as their life -- in His resurrection as the pledge and guarantee of their everlasting safety; -- "I am He that liveth," and "because I live ye shall live also."
Anticipating His own glorious rising, He might well speak to Martha, standing before Him as the representative of weeping, sinful, woe-worn humanity, "He that liveth and believeth on Me shall never die." "In Me, death is no longer death; it is only a parenthesis in life -- a transition to a loftier stage of being. In Me, the grave is the vestibule of heaven, the robing-room of immortality!"
Reader, yours is the same strong consolation. "Believe," "Only believe" in that risen Lord. He has purchased all, paid all, procured all! Look into that vacant tomb; see sin cancelled, guilt blotted out, the law magnified, justice honoured, the sinner saved!
Ay, and more than that, as you see the moral conqueror marching forth clothed with immortal victory, you see Him not alone! He is heading and heralding a multitude which no man can number. Himself the victorious precursor, he is shewing to these exulting thousands "the path of life." He tells them to dread neither for themselves or others that lonesome tomb. The curse is extracted from it; the envenomed sting is plucked away. In passing through its lonesome chambers they may exult in the thought that a mightier than they has sanctified it by His own presence, and transmuted what was once a gloomy portico into a triumphal arch, bearing the inscription, "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction!"