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SUMMER-PORTION OF THE HOUSE-POSTIL.
FIRST EASTER-SERMON. THE POWER AND THE BENEFIT OF THE RESURRECTION
Matt. 28, 1-10. 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. 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 worshiped Him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see
The present festival directs our attention to
that consolatory and joyful article of our Creed, in which we confess that Christ on the third day arose again from the dead. This requires us, first of all, to know and consider the Easter narrative, then also to learn why this has happened and how to enjoy its benefits.
The Easter events were these. On the evening of Thursday before Easter, when Christ had arisen
from the Supper and had gone into the garden, He was betrayed by Judas and taken prisoner by the Jews. These dragged IIim from one high priest to the other, until they finally concluded to give llim over into the hands of Pilate, who as governor had the power to pronounce judgment. About the third hour of the day sentence was passed upon Ilim, when He was led forth to execution and was crucified. At the sixth hour, about noon, or an liour later, an earthquake occurred and the sun was darkened. Towards the ninth hour, which would be nearly three hours before sunset, Christ died upon the cross. This is according to the statement of Mark; the other Evangelists do not state so definitely the hours in which these events took place.
In our Creed we confess that Christ arose again on the third day, which is far different from saying that IIe arose after three days. The Lord was not (lead three entire nights and days. On Friday evening, about three hours before dark, He died. These three hours are called the first day. During the whole night and day of the Sabbath He remained in the grave, and also the following night until the next morning. This night counts also a
for the Jews begin their day with the night, and count night and day as one whole day. We reverse this method of counting and call the day and the night one day. In the Church, however, the old Jewish method of reckoning the festivals was retained, so that these always begin with the evening of the previous day.
Very early on Sunday morning, which was the third day after the Friday on which Christ was
crucified, at the first dawn of day, when the soldiers were lying around the tomb, Christ, who had died, awoke to a new, eternal life, and arose from the dead in such a manner that the guards around the grave were unaware of His resurrection. From the account which Matthew gives of this event we must infer that Christ did not arise during the earthquake, which evidently began when the angel descended from heaven and rolled away the rock from the entrance of the tomb. Christ, however, passed out from the closed grave without disturbing the seals put upon it, just as on the evening of the same day He also came to His disciples through the doors which were shut.
When the earth began to quake and the angel appeared, the soldiers were so terrified that they lost all consciousness. As soon as they recovered they all ran from the grave, some in this, others in that direction; for the coming of the angel was to them no occasion of rejoicing, but one of terror and distress. There were others, however, who should be comforted by the cheerful tidings of the angel.
While the soldiers ran from the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, also Peter and John soon after, came to see the sepulchre. When the women arrive, the angel comforts them, telling them that Christ had arisen and that they should see Him in Galilee. He also orders them to depart in haste and to announce these things to the disciples. As the women return from the sepulchre the Lord meets Mary Magdalene in the guise of the gardener, and appears also to Peter, as John relates. In the evening of the same day He joins Himselt to the two disciples who are
walking to Emmaus, and revealed Himself unto them when He brake the bread and gave it to them. After these two disciples had hastily returned to Jerusalem, to announce to the others what had happened unto them, how they had seen the Lord, and when the disciples were amazed at this, some however still doubting the truth of such reports, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst, the doors being closed. John 20.
These are the incidents of the holy Easter festival in reference to the revelation of our Lord and Saviour, as we learn from the Evangelists. It behooves us to be well acquainted with these facts; they refer to that article of our Creed which confesses that Christ arose again from the dead on the third day.
The mere knowledge of these events, however, is not enough; we must also realize their meaning and importance. Of these we will now speak a little; for the subject is so fertile and inexhaustible, that we could not fully present it though we preached about it every day of the year.
If we desire to comprehend the benefits of the resurrection of Christ, we must keep in view two distinct pictures. The one is sombre, full of distress, misery, and woes; it is the scene of blood presented to us on Good Friday-Christ crucified between murderers and dying with excruciating pain. This scene we must contemplate with much earnestness, as already said, to realize that it all happened on account of our sins, yea, that Christ as the true High Priest sacrificed Himself for us and paid with His death our debts. We ought all to know that our sins thus wounded and tormented
Christ, and that His sufferings were caused alone by our iniquities. Therefore, as often as we remember or view this doleful, bloody scene, we ought to bear in mind that we have before us our sins and the terrible wrath of God against them, a wrath so dire that no creature could endure it, that all atonement became impossible except the one made by the sacrifice and death of the Son of God. If this awful scene were the only one presented to our sight, and if it remained unchanged, it would be too terrible and painful.
But this picture of sorrow is changed, and in our Creed we join closely together these two articles: “Christ was crucified, died, was buried and descended into hell, and on the third day He rose again from the dead.” Yea, ere three days had gone by, our Lord and Saviour presents to us another picture, beautiful, full of life, lovely and cheerful, in order that we might have the sure consolation that not only our sins were annihilated in the death of Christ, but that by His resurrection a new eternal righteousness and life was obtained, as St. Paul says, Rom. 4: “Christ was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” And 1 Cor. 15: "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.” As in the former scene we saw the burden of our sin upon Him and bringing Him to the cross, so in this other scene of the resurrection we witness no longer sin, pain and sorrow, but only righteousness, joy and happiness. It is the victory of life over death-a life everlasting, with