Reading: Mark 16:9; John 20:1,11-18; 1 Cor. 15:3-8.
The forty days after the
Resurrection established a new spiritual régime. The end of the
phase of Christ's earthly life has - from some standpoints and in
some ways - to have "Failure" written over it - failure
in the world: failure with the disciples: failure of His
teaching: failure of His works: failure of His claims. These
failures were due to the natural and earthly level or horizon
within which those concerned were living. It was in themselves
that He was "straitened"; their spiritual bondage and
mental darkness. The forty days were not only evidence of His
resurrection, but of the change which resurrection makes. This is
demonstrated in the cases of His contact during that period. The
first in order was
The record seems to be quite
precise about this priority and precedence. Much that is
sentimental has been made of it. Viewed from the standpoint of
our present purpose, that is, the spiritual change by
resurrection, there is little doubt that this priority is the
right one. It does contain the most definite and emphatic change
of position and footing in resurrection.
The words of the risen Lord to
Mary were certainly not a rebuff, as they seem to be. This was
surely not a time or occasion for a rebuff, when, apparently, the
Lord allowed other women to take Him by the feet, and invited
Thomas to touch Him, and disciples to "handle" Him.
There must be something special here. As we see it, it is nothing
less than the change in dispensation, to which He had so often
alluded and given intimation, as, for instance, with the woman at
Sychar's well (John 4:21,23).
explained it on the basis of His further words: "For I have
not yet ascended... Whether this pre-ascension ascension be true
or not, the real meaning is not in our text as translated -
"Touch me not"; but, as the margin corrects - "Lay
not hold on me".
After all that
Mary had experienced and gone through His words would imply that
she was not letting Him go again, not even to the Father! She had
got Him back, and she was keeping Him. This would have reversed
all His teaching, and this would have been to her own very
serious loss. It pointed to
Way of Possessing Christ
It represented the
change from the outward to the inward, which is the very essence
of the new order. It represented the change from the earthly to
the heavenly, which is equally characteristic of this
dispensation. "I go", He had said. Mary's attempted
hold meant, "I will not let you go". Here, once more,
we are in the presence of that incorrigible tendency and habit of
the natural man, the man of soul rather than spirit, to bring
Christ and heavenly things down to earth in some form that can be
held by man. This is the way of systematization, formality,
crystallization, organization, and aspects of materialism: the
'we must do something' propensity, we must attach titles,
reputations, symbols of success, human honours, and a
thousand-and-one other things to Christ to give substance to Him
in this world. How impossible it is for well-meaning and even
deeply-devoted people, like Mary, to keep their hands off
spiritual things. How well-nigh impossible it is to believe that
the Lord can do anything without the aid of organization,
publicity, advertisement, committees, etc.
But His best and
most real work has been, and still is, without all this. There
are works of God, beautiful, fruitful, and powerful, of which you
will never read in the press, secular or religious. That such
should be come upon often provokes astonished exclamations -
"But we have never read about this in the press".
"Why have you never published this?"
flesh must insinuate itself into heavenly things and draw them to
himself. There is a battle related to keeping things truly
spiritual and all of God. The risen Lord will not put Himself in
the hands that want to use Him in any way to make something for
There is a holding
which is unto loss: there is a letting go which is unto gain.
Ask Abraham. Ask
David. Ask Paul. Yes, above all, ask Jesus.
If there is
tragedy in Church history, surely it can be traced to this very
earth-gravitation. The two letters to Timothy clearly point to
the beginnings of this down-grade movement; this change from the
pure spirit to the clericalism and secularism which took
possession as the Apostolic age was closing. It was with this
that John was contending in all of his writings.
As with Israel and
Saul in days of spiritual declension, it is ever and always -
"make us... like unto..." It can even be - 'make
churches like unto New Testament churches'! And so a certain
technique, form, practice, etc., is established, without the
sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, the anointing, and the
heaven-given instruments. It is all dead, imitation,
make-believe, and artificial.
wept because - "They have taken away my Lord". Jesus
asked why the tears. Really He was given to her in a fuller, more
intimate, and more enduring way than ever before. Heaven took Him
away later, but Mary did not weep then. She came to see the
immense gains and advantages of the changed dispensation.
What an immense
content this first appearance of the risen Lord has! We do not
read things into it. The whole later New Testament shows this to
be its meaning. In that tearful and yet glorious eternal few
moments the Lord laid the foundation, and established the
principle of His relationship to the Church for the whole of a
new dispensation; a dispensation horizoned by resurrection.
(2) The Two
on the Emmaus Road
This story of the
Emmaus Road could be described as the story of seven-and-a-half
miles transformed by a touch of the Risen Lord.
These two were
disciples; probably living at Emmaus. Many efforts have been made
to identify them, especially the unnamed one, but with
unconvincing results. At some time, somewhere, they had come into
disciple-relationship with Jesus. There must have been a first
outward eventful journey which ended in this relationship, and
perhaps a period before returning home. This period of companying
with Him either created or stimulated their hopes and led them to
the conclusion - "We hoped that it should be he who would
redeem Israel". They came to esteem Him as "a prophet,
mighty in deed and word". Then clouds began to gather on the
horizon, and rumblings of the coming storm became increasingly
audible. At length the storm broke. He was taken and cruelly
killed and laid in the tomb. Their hopes were shattered. The
vision was desolated. Their Sun was in eclipse. Their minds were
bewildered. After a day or two they heard some rumours that He
was alive, but rumours are not enough to mend and restore broken
hearts and desolated lives. So - 'Let us go home'. 'Let us get
away from it all, and think.'
Thus on their
mournful and so-different, homeward journey, as they talk in
melancholy and hushed tones, the Stranger joins them. He asks a
question. Then with deft touch He helps them to their own
conclusions, that is, the conclusions of the Scriptures with
which they were already familiar. A touch of reproach and then
the matchless exposition. Was there ever such a 'Bible Reading'?
The embers upon their hearts which had almost died began to glow
afresh as He talked; the dawn sent streaks of new light across
their horizon - a dawn at eventide. 'Come in', they said as they
reached home, and He made as if He would go further. 'Come in and
abide.' We know the rest - the simple repast: the mysterious
something bringing back a memory so vividly: the rent Heaven, the
recognition, and He is gone.
seven-and-a-half miles of familiar and lately despairingly-sombre
travel so transformed. A light heart takes miles off the road
says the song.
There are some incidentally
helpful things here.
1. The Risen Lord
knows where we are.
2. The Risen Lord knows how we are.
3. The Risen Lord knows what we need.
4. The Risen Lord is the answer to all our need.
The Risen Lord is
new light; new hope; new motive; new energy; new testimony.
But when we have
said all that, we have not touched the heart of this event.
Note. 1. These men
knew the Scriptures; that is assumed.
2. These men had a
knowledge of 'Jesus of Nazareth'.
(a) They had been
associated with Him.
(b) They knew His teaching and His works.
This represented a
considerable fulness. But, they were none the better for it all
in the day of crisis. They were 'straitened in themselves', and
'He was straitened in them'. They lacked spiritual
'understanding', and upon that deficiency they foundered.
But the "many
things" which He had said that He had to say to them, but
could not, are now released.
Why? and How?
Because the law of spiritual release is that we must go through
experience so deep that we must know or die; we must be in a
condition which makes revelation the only way of life and
survival. Our souls must be broken. It is not enough to possess
objective knowledge, by ear and eye. It is not enough to have
pain and despair when our ideas and ambitions suffer a set-back
and reverse. What we must have is an experience of
resurrection in a spiritual way. We must have an open Heaven,
(a) A new Lord.
(b) A new Bible.
(c) A new anointing
(d) A new commission and vocation.
This is what vital
union with the Risen Lord, in the power of the Spirit, means.