by Noel Smith, Baptist Bible Tribune, April 9, 1971.
Spring brings the jonquils, the tulips, the smells of brush a burning and mule sweat on new leather; and, down in the Fort Valley, Ga., country, acres of fragrant purple. Not to mention the woodpecker pecking away on a dead tree and, at intervals, stopping to scream out his wild joy of freedom; and the cow’s coat getting shiny, and the calves racing across the pasture with their tails rolled over their backs, and the pleasant feel of bare feet on the green grass, and boys with their tin cans and worms and poles; and the twilights and the light of soft and beautiful lamps, and strains of a great music, and the odors from the kitchen, and the red-checked tablecloth and the flowers and china on the table.
And the coming of the Passover moon, and the light and anthems of Resurrection, and reassurance of music and faces and voices beyond the lonely grave.
And spring brings, also, the annual revival of one of the world’s oldest delusions: the “resurrection” of nature guarantees the resurrection of the children of men.
But you have to reflect but a moment to see the fallacy of the analogy. In the spring there is no “resurrection” in nature — only a revival of the life already there. You never saw a resurrection of a dead stump, of a dead tree, of a dead rose bush. Of a dead anything else.
As I sit here in the light of this spring afternoon, my memories trail back across the mysterious years to a June afternoon in a Middle Tennessee town of 3,000. For months, my mother has endured without complaint the agonies of a savage cancer. It has reduced her strong and well-proportioned body to a weak and helpless thing, and her gentle and appealing voice to a whisper.
Yesterday afternoon she turned her weary head toward the west and fell asleep. She didn’t awake.
Today her frail body is dressed in white, and is lying in a gray coffin. A white hearse, drawn by two white horses, comes for it. It is quietly borne to the First Baptist Church, where rich and poor, black and white, are waiting, They sing about all being well “with my soul.”
And then to Evergreen Cemetery, where a wounded spot of Tennessee earth is waiting to embrace it.
I have seen more than 50 springtimes come and go since that June afternoon. But none of them has affected that grave. It is there today, as lonely, as quiet, as helpless as that June afternoon when we stood in silence as long as we could, and then went away and left it.
And, somehow, it seems but yesterday.
The proof of the resurrection of the sons of men is not in nature. It is in a Person. It is in the Person of Him whose voice quieted the winds and hushed the roar of the seas.
“I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25f.).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:25-28).
Apart from the resurrection of the Son of God, there is no ground for hope that anybody ever will be resurrected.
And when we are considering the A resurrection of Jesus Christ, we must not forget that the Ascension is decisively associated with it.
At Pentecost, Peter not only emphasized that God had raised up the One they had crucified, but that God had exalted Him. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32f.).
You can’t separate the Resurrection from the Ascension. When He died on that terrible afternoon at 3 o’clock, “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matt. 27:52f.). They came up out of the graves and went into the city and looked up their friends and acquaintances.
But, eventually, all of them went back into death. And today, like all the dead, they are awaiting the Resurrection.
And the same was true of the child of Jairus and of Lazarus.
But the Son of God not only arose and remained with His followers for 40 days, He ascended. He didn’t go back into the grave. “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50f.).
Jesus Christ was raised never to die again. He broke the power of death once for all time to come. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9).
The resurrection means, as G. Campbell Morgan once emphasized in a powerful expository sermon, that God rejects everything that rejects His Son.
During the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension, not an eye of an enemy saw Him. Not a hand of an enemy touched Him. The Roman government, through the order of Pilate, sealed the tomb. But God disregarded the seal — and the Roman government.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1ff.).
The Resurrection means that Jesus Christ is the ultimate voice, the final voice. Everything that rejects Him is rejected by God. Every religion, every philosophy, every government.
The only Man that God ever resurrected from the dead and lifted from the earth, above sun and moon and stars to His own Right Hand, is the Man Jesus. The only humanity that will ever be raised from the dead and exalted to heaven, will be the humanity that is organically united to the Man Jesus.
This is what the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of the Man Jesus — 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is all about. The Good News is that if you will genuinely believe the Gospel and publicly confess your belief, the Holy Spirit will work a miracle in your life; and in some way that a legion of archangels could never understand, make you an organic part of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Man Jesus.
His death will be your death. His burial will be your burial. His resurrection will be your resurrection. His ascension will be your ascension. His exaltation will be your exaltation.
Whatever He is you will be.
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).
Buried WITH Him.
Raised WITH Him.
The Holy Spirit put those two “withs” in there.
Are you A Christian? If you go to Jerusalem and visit the Garden Tomb, stand there and look up at Golgotha’s Hill. And say to yourself: “Yonder, 2000 years ago, He and I died. All the sin and guilt and shame of the world pressed down upon us.”
And then look into the Empty Tomb, and say to yourself: “Here is where they buried us. We were here three days and three nights. During those three days and three nights we descended into death deeper than Jonah descended. All the billows and waves of justice’s outraged wrath passed over us. But we came back up. And on the third day, he and I arose.
“And just a little way from here — Bethany — after 40 days
He and I ascended — beyond sun and moon and stars, to the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Buried WITH Him.
Raised WITH Him.
“The word is nigh thee, even in mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:8f.).
If you haven’t already done it, fall on your knees right where you are and do it. Then believe that God says what He means and means what He says. Hold up the Word of God and believe it, cling to it — in spite of your doubts and fears, in spite of all the denials of earth and hell.
If you do, God will meet you more than half way. You will know Whom you believe. You will feel a new life surging through the veins of your mind and body and soul.
And if you are already a Christian, get down on your knees and say: “O God, I believe I died with the Man Jesus near 2000 years ago. I believe I was buried with Him. I believe I went down into the depth of death with Him. I believe I arose with Him on the third day. I believe I ascended with Him.”
So far as a Christian’s standing before God is concerned, so far as the judgment of God is concerned, all of that is true. A Christian is IN Christ and Christ is IN the Christian. They are organically united by the same Holy Spirit who brought cosmos out of chaos as recorded in Genesis.