This is my sermon on John 6:37 from Sunday, July 20th. This is one of the most precious verses in all the Bible to the instructed child of God. It has so much to teach us about God’s sovereign election, so much comfort to provide for the evangelist, and such great comfort for the child of God in all adverse circumstances. Christ’s promise that He will never cast out any who come to Him is also one of the greatest evangelical summons in all the scriptures, one to which we do well to give full heed.
The holy women approached this scene after the resurrected Saviour had departed, and were greeted, not by a guard of soldiers, but by a heavenly angel. The strange sight must have intimidated these pious women, for the angel hastens to bid them fear not. God will never respond in anger to those who are humbly seeking after His Son. The angel assures them that he knows the purpose for which they came: “Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.” This is high praise for these devoted saints, that although they thought their Lord to be dead, slain by crucifixion as a hateful criminal, yet they still sought His presence, and desired to do Him honor. Surely, those who remain devoted to Christ at the bleakest times will be rewarded in full splendor at the hour of His coming!
This said, the angel delivers to them news so happy that it reverberates around the world to this very day. The glad tidings that Jesus Christ is no longer dead and entombed, but has risen, is indeed the word which has turned the world upside down. Speak no more of Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius as great religious leaders. Their bodies lie moldering in the tomb, and can no longer impart any benefit to their followers. But the tomb of the blessed Jesus is empty, and He can never be put back into it. His bitter foes are still trying to disprove this resurrection story, and put Him back in the grave, but they will no more succeed than could the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ own day. “He is risen” are three words that delight the heart of every child of God, and make him confident that he has rested his hopes for eternal life in the right place. A dead savior would be no solace to us at all, but the knowledge that Christ has risen from the dead energizes our faith, and enables us to confront the world, the flesh, and the devil, in the hope of certain victory. He is risen, just as He prophesied, and will never return to the grave. “Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more. Death hath no more dominion over Him.” Nor can death prevail finally over the believer, for he will be given a spiritual body just as Christ possessed after His resurrection. Our Lord was the firstfruits of them that sleep, a token of the far greater harvest yet to come when the final trumpet shall wake the dead from their deep slumber.
This news that Jesus was risen from the dead is a message that is not to be hidden, but proclaimed to the world. The angel beckons them to see the place where the Lord lay, that they might produce solid eyewitness testimony of the empty tomb. That was an age which put little stock in the testimony of women, but God thought it proper to have women be included among the witnesses of His Son’s most glorious triumph. Having seen that the body of Jesus was vanished, the angel commands them to go tell the disciples that Christ was risen, and would precede them into Galilee, whither they should haste to meet Him.
I generally like Walter Williams articles, and this one is no exception. He does a great job of exposing the fallacy of our modern system of “discipline,” which is successful at nothing except turning little barbarians into big barbarians. I can’t say I agree entirely with his rather hawkish views on Iran, but other than that is definitely an article worth reading.
But that morning, there was yet another upheaval of nature, which showed that a mighty work of God was being done in the world. This act in fact heralded the greatest act of God recorded in the history of mankind, namely, the resurrection of His dear Son from the dead. The earth shook and trembled, and an angel descended from the skies to the place of the sepulcher. Without fear of the guard, this angel proceeded to the tomb of Jesus. He was there, as it were, to roll out the carpet for the entrance of the King of kings back into the land of the living. Life had been infused by God back into the corpse of the man Jesus. He left behind the grave clothes, and when the angel had rolled away the great stone, out came the Lord of glory. Thus, death was abolished, and life and immortality were brought to light through the Gospel!
Upon the terrifying shock of the earthquake, and the descent of the angel from heaven, the soldiers collapsed and lay inert upon the ground. It is doubtful they actually witnessed Jesus emerge from the tomb, yet what they had witnessed was surely enough to convince them that this was a supernatural event. This makes their unbelief and covetousness, which Matthew reveals a little farther on, all the more startling.
Below is a letter I sent to the officials of Washington and Lee University. For those who do not know, because of the agitation of a mere six liberal students, they are removing the Confederate battle flags from the Lee Chapel. They deserve to be called out for this despicable capitulation to the forces of political correctness. If anyone wants the e-mail addresses of the officials, contact me and I will get them to you.
I was frankly appalled to learn that Washington and Lee University determined to remove the Confederate battle flags from the Lee Chapel. It appears to be nothing less than a cowardly capitulation to the whining of half a dozen liberal agitators. I suppose that the injured feelings of those like myself who regard General Lee and our Confederate ancestors with honor count for nothing, because they are not politically correct. In the name of tolerance, you are joining the most hateful, bigoted, and intolerant people in the world, while maligning the large numbers of us who still believe General Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia in a noble cause against the tyrannical usurpations of a tyrannical administration, and that the Southern battle flag is worth honoring.
I strongly recommend that you return these venerable flags to their place of honor, and inform the agitators that if they don’t like them they are welcome to withdraw and attend another university. However, I don’t expect you to listen to me. I have learned long ago that George Orwell was speaking prophetically in Animal Farm when he wrote, “All animals are equal; but some are more equal than others.” Apparently white Southerners who honor their Confederate ancestors are officially on the lower rung of equality.
As Matthew begins to unfold the story of the resurrection morning, we see the deep loyalty towards Jesus exhibited by His female followers. While the Lord’s chosen twelve disciples kept themselves concealed for fear of the Jews, the holy women unabashedly returned to the sepulcher to do honor to the body of their crucified Lord, even though they thought Him to still be dead. This is the highest form of female piety, or indeed of the piety of any believer. To seek out Christ and to do Him honor ought to be the delight of our hearts, and our daily desire. These women did it under sad and adverse circumstances, and so ought we, even when the world frowns at us and persecutes us.
Matthew mentions only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary,” who I suppose to be Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. From the other gospels we gather that other women accompanied them, to decorate the body of Jesus with spices and odors.
The day after Christ’s burial, His enemies, still obsessed with Him, gathered together and went to Pilate to request a favor. It is very noteworthy here that they well remembered that Christ had prophesied He would rise from the dead after three days, when the Lord’s own disciples seem to have forgotten! As willing agents of Satan, they were ready to do anything to prevent any further mischief from the enemy they had finally gotten crucified. While Christ’s disciples cowered in fear, probably ready to scatter and return to their former occupations, the chief priests and Pharisees desired an armed guard to prevent that band from spiriting away the body of Jesus out of the tomb! These wicked men sought to prevent the very thing the Saviour had predicted, and which would shortly come to pass. Not all the care and power of the enemies of God can prevent Him from working His sovereign will, particularly in matters which concern the glory of His Son, and the salvation of those sinners chosen to eternal life.
Pilate was willing to acquiesce in the request, fearful of risking any further brouhaha. He had had acted the part of the consummate politician all along, with the single exception of refusing to remove the sign from the top of the cross which proclaimed Jesus the King of the Jews. Though he had been unwilling to condemn Jesus, he had done so to deter political agitation. Now that the deed has been done, he is most agreeable to avoiding any further complications which might arise from the prophet of Nazareth. He tells them that they have a guard, and orders them to make the tomb as secure as they can until the three days be past. This the chief priests and Pharisees hastened to do, though they need not have wasted much energy, as Christ’s disciples were in no mind at all to do anything but hide and stay out of sight.
There is some dispute among commentators and historians as to whether this guard was a Roman guard, or whether Pilate’s words “ye have a watch” was a reminder that they had their own temple guard which they could use. Regardless, the men assigned to watch the tomb were trained warriors, who should easily have been more than a match for a motley collection of fishermen, tax collectors, and other common men, no matter how desperate they might be. But they were no match at all for the splendid power of God, which would soon be exerted in its most matchless glory by resurrecting the body of Jesus out from among the dead.