It is concerning this subject, “Alive Again,” that I wish to speak. Let me read from the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre.” (Here is a little touch of her love for the Master. She cannot sleep—early, early while it was yet dark. You have gotten up many a time to get ready to go to a picnic, early, while it was yet dark. Her heart went out to Christ early while it was yet dark. Note this eagerness on Mary’s part that morning, and contrast it with your own heart this Easter Day, “and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciples, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.” (If you had named the two people who loved Jesus most, you would have named Mary first, and John second. Mary was first to the sepulcher, and then John. This was a love match, and Mary came along with first prize, John second and Peter third.)
“And he, stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.”
Now I want to show this morning something that it seems to me is a remarkable proof of the resurrection in this Scripture. There are four distinct references to the cloth that will make you believe, made John believe, made the disciples believe before they saw Jesus after His resurrection. It was not taken off as I would take off my coat and throw it down, but as if I had lain myself down, my face wrapped about with a napkin by itself, as bodies were left in the time of death, wrapped around with spices and wound in cloth—not clothes, but cloth, yards of cloth wound and wound and wound; and they, coming into the sepulchre, saw this cloth undisturbed. They felt of it, and there was no Jesus in it. He had gone through it. He did not have to unwrap it, but just came through it, and the napkin that had been about His head was in its own place by itself, wrapped…in a place by itself, [not] in the place of the head, in its own place. O what a marvelous resurrection!
An Empty Chrysalis
Now you will notice as you read the Scripture, that John saw and believed, though there was no Christ there. The very way in which the linen was left, showing that there had been no unwrapping, convinced him. Thank God, God got out without unwrapping the covering. You could never make any man of them believe any soldier’s story about His body having been stolen. If Mary had stooped down she, too, would have seen, but John stooped down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying and yet went he not in. “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes” (not put down in a bunch with the linen), but wrapped together in a place by itself” (in its own place, [not] in the place where it ought to be, where the napkin would naturally be, around the head). “Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed” (Think of it, he believed the resurrection just from looking at the linen); “for as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” Hallelujah, that is good faith, isn’t it. Just from the linen he saw and believed.
“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down, and looking into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” (That is great! You notice they were not standing, or fidgeting around. Why were they sitting? Oh, my friends, in the Scripture an angel never sits down unless something is completed. Their work was done, thank God; it was done, and they were sitting down with their hands folded. Hallelujah, it was all done and He had passed from death into life. Another reference tells us there was an angel sitting on the stone. It was a task to roll the stone back, and it was all done, and the angels were sitting.)
The Head Gardener
“And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou, She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him; Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” (That is beautiful. I preached you an Easter sermon from this pulpit once, on the text, “She, Supposing Him to Be the Gardener.” He was the gardener. He made every seed that ever went into the soil; He made every blossom that ever bloomed; He made all the babies’ breath, and all the dimples that were ever put in human cheeks; and, thank God, He can take a dead man and make him alive again! He is the gardener, He is THE Gardener; though she thought Him just the gardener of the place, yet He was the Head Gardener, and for all the lore the earthly gardener knew about flowers, he would have to go to Him, the originator of all flowers.)
“Jesus saith unto her, Mary” (That was all that was necessary.) “She turned herself, and saith unto him, Master, Master.” That was enough, just that one word. He did not have to discuss theology with her, the resurrection, or anything else. That was enough, just that one word. He is alive again, Mary, He speaks. Thank God I know His voice this morning. I never saw Him, but I heard His voice, thank God, that majestic voice, the voice of Jesus when I passed out of death into life.
“I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad.
I found in Him a resting place,
And He hath made me glad.”
I know Him; we are here because we know Him, we are here to honor Him, to worship Him. He is in the midst. He is not in the tomb, nor is He to us The Man on the Cross. He is off of the cross, and out of the tomb, and on the throne, thank God, and we are not holding up a dead cross, nor a dead Easter lily, but we have a Christ who is alive from the dead, alive from the dead,this glorious Lord of ours.
A God Of Love
He is a God of love, and He is love itself. In the 13th verse of the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians are these closing words, “And the greatest of these is love.” I would not talk of any physical phenomena; I would not go into the grave and discuss the alchemy by which God transformed human flesh into resurrection flesh; I would not go into physics and discuss how certain elements could receive certain pressure and produce certain results; but I want to set forth God in His love, and to prove that love finds a way. God is love, and the greatest of all things is love.
We are talking these days about machinery, about war, about governments, and about the abilities of men; we are talking about combines, we are talking about union, we are talking about federation; we are talking about heading up, and putting many straws together, many wires together, and producing some mighty cable with a mighty pull; but God can speak nothing greater of Himself than to say “God is love—is love, IS LOVE,” “the greatest of these is love.”
There is no power, no force on Earth like love. All other powers are like servants to a king. The peddler must obey the king, the mechanician must obey the king, the chauffeur must obey the king, doing his bidding, the waiter behind his chair awaits his orders, the florist raises what he wants, the decorator fixes his palace to suit him, the sidewalks are laid at his direction, and men come into army form at his command; it is the king who commands these forces. God can say to the world, wrenched and out of tune, that love, love sits on the throne, and all these other things must come at the bidding of love. God announces ahead of time that at the name of Jesus, who is Love itself, every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to declare the glory of God, that He is both Lord, that is Master, King, Potentate, Ruler, Gardener—and Christ; and all have to come and bow to Him because He is Love. Love is the greatest thing in the world, and God is love; and when we have found Jesus, we have found His bursting heart of love. It is not the ring He puts upon our finger, nor the cloak He puts around us, but it is His kiss of love that has warmed our hearts, “the greatest of these is love.”
Paul, on his pinnacle, could announce, “Now abiedeth faith, hope, love, and the greatest of these is love.” Faith is a mighty force, for faith operates the forces of God; faith operates throughout the world to combine forces so that they can work together to the consummation of some wonderful production. Faith trusts God, through His promises, to do what He has spoken; and faith is a marvelous force. By faith men have subdued nations; by faith Daniel walked into and out of the lions’ den; by faith men walked up against the physical phenomena of fire and were not burned in the furnace; by faith Elijah pulled fire down from heaven; by faith Moses opened the waters of the Red Sea and six hundred thousand men, beside women and children, walked through; by faith the manna came down and they did eat and were satisfied; by faith the sun stood still for Joshua, physical and chemical phenomena had to back up, and governments had to quail at the presence of faith. The walled city of Jericho came down in the presence—not of shrapnel nor of siege-guns, nor of bombs, nor of gas, but came down, thank God, by the operation of the faith in Jehovah, El Shaddai, the God all sufficient. Faith—faith is a greater force than all the forces of men.
But that is not the biggest thing in the world—hope, hope, HOPE is bigger than faith. When it seemed there was no law and no force to contribute to the birth of Isaac, Abraham not only had faith, but he had hope, hope, HOPE. Hope stirs the heart until a man will have faith. Hope does not even need any reasoning; it springs up like a fountain in the mountain, not down in the valley, but up in the altitudes it breaks through the rocky places, breaks through between the crags, springs up and overflows the valley beneath. Hope, hope, hope against a dying world, hope in the face of the fact that Pharaoh’s hand was clenched and would not let the people go; hope in the face of the fact that lice covered the earth, hope in the face of the fact that frogs covered the earth, hope in the face of the fact that flies covered the earth, and then the awful darkness, supernatural with death going from one end of Egypt to the other. Hope—hope kept a little flame alive in the hearts of those Jews, and out of these doors they passed into a new land—hope, my friend, that will not go down even in the storm. Hope shut Noah’s door, and there in the midst of the animals, while the storm raged roundabout, when men and women were dying, and everything else had been killed, with the waves splashing against the ark, he still sang a song. Oh that hope, that hope that will not die though beset by every storm still is buoyant, it still lives, it does not have any grip, it is far above a grip, and it is far above faith; it simply boils and bubbles in the face of disaster and will not down. In the face of death, hope, hope is the thing that keeps us from distraction. When your faith slips and there seems nothing to grip, yet, thank God, there is another force that operates in the heart, and that is hope. It does not have any reason for existing; it does not have anything upon which to pin its faith, but O, it lifts its hands and cries aloud, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.” It hopes; it sees the Jewish race going down, but it believes God and its brow is wreathed with a smile and with optimism as it pushes on toward the thing which God said would be.
Marvelous is the power of hope, but O far, far above everything of faith, far above everything of hope is love. When faith has lost all its grip, and hope cannot spring, and hope cannot smile—love, love, endures, and love takes the spit and scoff, and still lives. Love can be crushed and maligned, beaten and lied about, stolen from and smeared, ruined in its reputation, but it lives right on just the same, undiminished by any foe of hell or of Earth that springs up within a human breast, born of God that loves.
Martyrs have been dragged from the dungeon, their faith almost gone, having endured the night watches, the howling of the lions, their bloody backs aching, their nails torn, their hearts bleeding, their little ones shut away, their wives put aside—out into the arena, without sleep, without food, dragging their poor frames, for One beloved. The love of God so deep in their hearts that at the last moment, when asked to relinquish their allegiance to Him, when there was hardly strength to lift the head, they whispered one sweet name, “He died for me”; “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” says Stephen. O, there is no power like love. Love, my friend, does not pay any attention to the physical. Faith believes God against every circumstance; hope even hopes when faith fails, but “love never faileth.” It is the one thing that will abide when everything else has passed away. “Love abideth forever.” O what a vision—and God is love.
Love Found A Way
Love—the Comforter had come, the love of God sent down from heaven filled their hearts, and when their poor minds could not believe, they believed anyhow because of the love within their bosoms, marvelous love of God, the greatest thing in the world. Therefore love found a way, love found its way to the cross, love found its way through death and broke its jaw because of what it loved. Because He so loved you and me He went to the cross, He took the spit. He found the keys of death and unlocked the door, and said to the world, “Come on through; I have so loved you I have gone ahead of you.” “Love never faileth.”
They mocked Him and said, “If thou be the Son of God, save thyself and come down from the cross,” but it never even reached His ears—He was on His way. “Where are you going?” “I am going to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, loved one, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Ambition can be made to grow cold, desires can burn out, lust will have its day; but love never gives up, it never gives up! “I go to prepare a place for you,” and that before He had ever sweat in Gethsemane, before they had even torn out His beard, before they ever beat His back, before they ever spit on His face; before they all forsook Him and fled, before the heavens were dark and He was stretched between Earth and heaven, he said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.” Ah, come away from the awfulness of death! No, love started, and it went through. O, thank God, He went through; and He is there yonder in the Glory this morning., love is seated, love is on the throne. He was dead, and is alive again because of His glorious love.
Love is the greatest thing in the world because it forgives. Faith does not forgive; the law does not forgive. Hope may become a little bitter, but love forgives. Faith can say, when you are wrong, “I believe you are right, and I will trust in you,” when you yourself know you are wrong. Faith will trust in you, and Hope will say, “Well, I hope for the best for you; I believe you are coming out all right,” when you know you are going wrong; but Love, Love knows you are rotten, and knows you are wrong, and forgives you. Ah, it is the greatest thing in the world. O for a baptism of the compassion and love of Jesus to come upon Christians to forgive one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you! He said, “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one toward another.” You will see that you are black and dirty, vile and lost, and other men the same, but you will put it aside and love one another even as God hath loved you.
As High As Itself
Love is the greatest thing in the world, because love not only forgives but love forgets. Love is great because it is never happy until it lifts as high as itself. Love will love a man of another race, but true love is never real until both have learned to speak the same language. Either the American has learned to speak French with his French bride, or the French bride has taken up the study of English, but they speak the same language and understand each other. Love is never happy until it lifts as high as itself.
God persevered, my friend, when you wanted to give up. O how comforting has been the joy of the Holy Ghost in your heart, saying, “If God be for you, who can be against you!” Love is never satisfied until it reaches to the depths and pulls somebody up to where it stands. It never worries about ruining its reputation. That is how Jesus proved that he was love—He never minded for a minute about that reputation of His. “Why,” they said, “He receives sinners and eats with them.” Sure, because He did not want what they wanted, but He wanted them. He proved His deity by His love, and I say to you, my friend, we have a lot of people these days who are straight on their doctrine, but are awfully crooked on their love. They would separate from this one, and that one, but they would not love; they forgot love. O let us not forget it today.
He came where we were, broken and undone, thrown to the roadside. The law passed by and condemned us, but He came and poured in oil and wine, and put us on His own beast. He took us to the inn, paid our board-bill in advance, and said, “If there is any more, when I come again I will pay that.” I am eating at that boarding house this morning, thank God for the love-life that pours in like a river, a love that lifts as high as itself.
When Jesus came to Calvary to save us from sin, He did not lift us back to the place where we were in Adam, but O beloved, He gave Himself for us, and gave us all that He was, so that the Scriptures say, “When we see Him we shall be like Him.” That is the love of God—love, the greatest thing in the world, for it does not break off a crust of its bread and give it to you, but is never satisfied until it gives itself. God has given Himself for us.
O if you think God is just patient with you, that God just forgives you, God just forgets, you are mistaken. No, He never is satisfied until you see that He gave Himself. He wants you to open your heart and allow the Third Person of the Trinity in all His fullness to come into your heart and abide—the Comforter. He says, “I will send Him.” “I will send a person.” See it, O see it. Love must give itself. A man sends presents to the woman he loves, but they are only a token that he is thinking. “If you want me I’ll come,” that’s all. “Here are a few flowers, but I would rather give you myself, then you will get the other things too.” He puts the diamond ring on her finger, but, after all, nothing satisfies her but him, and nothing satisfies him but her.
I am so glad my Jesus is not satisfied with my lip worship alone, He is never satisfied until He has gotten me, until I renounce everything else and give myself to Him. Love must lift as high as itself.
“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” Halleluah, He is alive again. What for? To lift us up to where He is. He died; He took our sin, that we might take His righteousness and then stand in fellowship with Him. Oh what joy, what glory. Love is the greatest thing in the world because it lays its laurels at the feet of the one it loves. Through the future its activities, its laurels, its victories are all brought and placed at the feet of the one it loves.
God, my friend, throughout the ages, is going to let us be the ones that see His glory.
He says that where He is there we may be also, that He might show through eternal ages His glory in our behalf. We are to pass from glory to glory while He gives us His glory. Through the eternal ages, look at the house we have! Look at the servants we have! Look at the position we have! Higher than angels, to whom we would now have to bend if they came into our midst. But we, accepted in the beloved, shall come into His banqueting house, “and thus shall we ever be with the Lord.”
He is coming back with His chariots to the earth, with great power, but we are coming along. Look, look at our calling in Christ Jesus. Glorious eternal life is ours, the gift of our Bridegroom. O bless God for such a God! The greatest thing in the world is love for when love has gained all its victories, it is never satisfied with them until it lays them on somebody else.
Our Bridegroom is Christ, Who has gone through death, and down through Hades, broken it open and beat the devil, and defied every element and every enemy against us, and destroyed the work of the devil, and is seated at the right hand of God—out of that old grave, out of that sepulchre onto the throne; and of those victories. He says “I won them that I might bestow them upon you.”
Oh unworthy, Lord, unworthy, unworthy! On this Easter morning, since He is yonder, having broken the tomb, what manner of Bride ought we be? I can only stand and say to Him, “Lord, I am unworthy, but I want to wear Your clothes well, I want You to put the ring on my finger in such a place that it will sparkle so that everyone will know that You did it.”
Friend, won’t you go out this morning to tell others that they can have it? To tell others, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life?” All that God is He is going to bestow. That is what love does.
Oh, on this Easter morning, I want to give an invitation to those of you who may have gotten away from Jesus. The veil is open, the tomb is open, His arms are open—won’t you open your heart?