‘They knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.’
There are two plain reasons why Christ ‘must rise again from the dead.’ The first was that He might overcome Satan in every part of his dominion over men. The second is that we might know for certain that Christ had done so.
Every day that we say our Creed we profess our belief that ‘He rose again the third day from the dead.’ Why do we do this?
It is just this great fact that is our stay in the battle of life and in the hour of death.
I. It is our stay in the battle of life.—Suppose that you are in a great temptation, that your perseverance is growing slack, that you feel you cannot keep your heart pure, that you are going back to worldly and selfish living, or uncharitable feelings towards your neighbours—what are you to do? I answer, look to the risen Christ. The Devil thought he had gained the victory over our Lord once and for all when he compassed His death. But it was not so. It only ended in Christ overcoming him, and taking His body back out of the grave, and making it more glorious than before, and carrying it back into heaven. So the Devil may think he is overcoming you now that you feel failing, but if you will call upon Christ to help you, He will snatch you back out of the Devil’s grasp, and give you even more strength than before, and carry you on in goodness until you, too, are led up to heaven. Whoever you are that now art all but lying in the grave of despair, remember that Satan cannot keep you in the death of sin, but that out of this very trouble you may rise through the power of Christ to a more thorough strength in goodness than if you had never known what trial was.
II. It is our hope and comfort in the hour of death.—The best and holiest of us must have a certain fearful shrinking from the unknown trials which hover round the hour of our decease. To the purest and the most faithful there is an awe about that great going forth of the soul, when it must leave everything it has ever known to go out into a world where all is new and strange and unfamiliar. And then comes the thought of Satan and his evil ones. They will be about our bed. They know it is their last chance. Let the soul escape them and it is safe for ever. Satan has tempted you all your life long. Death is his last arrow, and he hopes to overcome you now. No wonder that earnest Christians feel a dread of that last conflict. No wonder that at every burial of friend and fellow-Christian we pray our Lord to take care lest ‘at our last hour for any pains of death we fall from Him.’ And what is our hope? Is it not in the power of His Resurrection? We have to die—but He died and rose again. Whatever we shall have to go through, He went through. Whatever lions are about our dying path He has encountered and has subdued. And He has come back again to tell us that He did subdue them. After all, they are but beaten enemies; and He Who subdued them eighteen hundred years ago will walk with us through the dark valley, and make them keep their distance from our departing soul if we place ourselves in His hands.
So for life and for death it is the power of His Resurrection that is our stay.