Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared…
I. THE DEAD ARE THE LIVING. Language, which is more accustomed and adapted to express the appearances than the realities of things, leads us astray very much when we use the phrase "the dead" as if it expressed the continuance of the condition into which men pass in the act of dissolution. It misleads us no less, when we use it as if it expressed in itself the whole truth even as to that act of dissolution. "The dead" and "the living" are not names of two classes which exclude each other. Much rather, there are none who are dead. Oh, how solemnly sometimes that thought comes up before us, that all those past generations which have stormed across this earth of ours, and then have fallen into still forgetfulness, live yet. Somewhere at this very instant, they now verily are! We say, they were, they have been. There are no have beens! Life is life for ever. To be is eternal being. Every man that has died is at this instant in the full possession of all his faculties, in the intensest exercise of all his capacities, standing somewhere in God's great universe, ringed with the sense of God's presence, and feeling in every fibre of his being that life, which comes after death, is not less real, but more real; not less great, but more great; not less full or intense, but more full and intense, than the mingled life which, lived here on earth, was a centre of life surrounded with a crust and circumference of mortality. The dead are the living. They lived whilst they died; and after they die, they live on for ever. And so we can look upon that ending of life, and say, "it is a very small thing; it only cuts off the fringes of my life, it does not touch me at all." It only plays round about the husk, and does not get at the core. It only strips off the circumferential mortality, but the soul rises up untouched by it, and shakes the bands of death from off its immortal arms, and flutters the stain of death from off its budding wings, and rises fuller of life because of death, and mightier in its vitality in the very act of submitting the body to the law, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Touching but a part of the being, and touching that but for a moment, death is no state, it is an act. It is not a condition, it is a transition. Men speak about life as "a narrow neck of land, betwixt two unbounded seas": they had better speak about death as that. It is an isthmus, narrow and almost impalpable, on which, for one brief instant, the soul poises itself; whilst behind it there lies the inland lake of past being, and before it the shoreless ocean of future life, all lighted with the glory of God, and making music as it breaks even upon these dark, rough rocks. Death is but a passage. It is not a house, it is only a vestibule. The grave has a door on its inner side. God has taken our dead to Himself, and we ought not to think (if we would think as the Bible speaks) of death as being anything else than the transitory thing which breaks down the brazen walls and lets us into liberty.
II. SINCE THEY HAVE DIED, THEY LIVE A BETTER LIFE THAN OURS. In what particulars is their life now higher than it was? First, they have close fellowship with Christ; then, they are separated from this present body of weakness, of dishonour, of corruption; then, they are withdrawn from all the trouble, and toil, and care of this present life; and then, and not least, surely, they have death behind them, not having that awful figure standing on their horizon waiting for them to come up with it I These are some of the elements of life of the sainted dead. What a wondrous advance on the life, of earth they reveal if we think of them I They who have died in Christ live a fuller and a nobler life, by the very dropping away of the body; a fuller and a nobler life by the very cessation of care, change, strife and struggle; and, above all, a fuller and nobler life, because they "sleep in Jesus," and are gathered into His bosom, and wake with Him yonder beneath the altar, clothed in white robes, and with palms in their hands, "waiting the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." For though death be a progress — a progress to the spiritual existence; though death be a birth to a higher and nobler state; though it be the gate of life, fuller and better than any which we possess; though the present state of the departed in Christ is a state of calm blessedness, a state of perfect communion, a state of rest and satisfaction; yet it is not the final and perfect state, either.
III. THE BETTER LIFE, WHICH THE DEAD IN CHRIST ARE LIVING NOW, LEADS ON TO A STILL FULLER LIFE when they get back their glorified bodies. The perfection of man is, body, soul, and spirit. That is man, as God made him. The spirit perfected, the soul perfected, without the bodily life, is but part of the whole. For the future world, in all its glory, we have the firm basis laid that it, too, is to be in a real sense a material world, where men once more are to possess bodies as they did before, only bodies through which the spirit shall work conscious of no disproportion, bodies which shall be fit servants and adequate organs of the immortal souls within, bodies which shall never break down, bodies which shall never hem in nor refuse to obey the spirits that dwell in them, but which shall add to their power, and deepen their blessedness, and draw them closer to the God whom they serve and the Christ after the likeness of whose glorious body they are fashioned and conformed. "Body, soul, and spirit," — the old combination which was on earth is to be the perfect humanity of heaven. We have nothing to say, now and here, about what that bodily condition may be — about the differences and the identities between it and our present earthly house of this tabernacle. Only this we know — reverse all the weakness of flesh, and you get some faint notion of the glorious body. Why, then, seek the living among the dead? "God giveth His beloved sleep"; and in that peaceful sleep, realities, not dreams, come round their quiet rest, and fill their conscious spirits and their happy hearts with blessedness and fellowship.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.