Rev. VanderWal is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
The women feared indeed! They came with fear to the grave early that morning on the first day of the week. They had witnessed the horrible death of their beloved Lord upon the tree of the cross. They grieved at the shame He endured at the hands of men. They trembled before the power of God’s wrath executed in the three hours of darkness. They were deeply troubled by their Lord’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then He had been taken from them by the cold hand of death. Their hearts were rent asunder by their Lord’s death. They were also filled with fear. How much light they had by His teaching! Now that light was extinguished. How much peace they felt in His company! Now there was only restless brooding. What would their future hold? Would they suffer the same ridicule and scorn, perhaps the very same death?
In that fear they came to the grave where their Lord had been laid.
Approaching nigh to that grave, they met with another cause for fear!
That cause, and that fear, was altogether different.
This fear was the fear of sinners before the glory of a holy and majestic God. The angels, sent by God to bear these glad tidings, brought with them the glory of God. Before that brilliant glory these women were filled with great fear. They were weak creatures. They were sinners. Before that glory they felt their sins and their corruption as never before. It lay upon them as a heavy weight. Where was the peace they thought they possessed? Would not this burning fire of God’s glory consume them utterly?
Fear of men! Fear of God! Where would they turn? Where was any comfort and peace to be found?
That fear of men must be banished. Their fear of God must not be terror at impending destruction. That fear must give way to peace. A proper, holy fear it must rather be. Their fear of God must rather be mingled with joy and love. It must be that the great God of heaven and earth has saved them by great and terrible works, works far beyond their ability to conceive. Their tumult of soul must be stilled.
Peace is the purpose of the glorious, glad tidings given on this first day of the week.
He is not here: for He is risen, as He said!
The angel himself speaks these words. What a difference this must make! Suddenly, his glory is no longer a thing to terrify! That glory now gives these words all the weight necessary to cut through every doubt and every fear. By grace, that glory drives the glad tidings to the depths of the soul, banishing all dread. There is now peace and calm.
He is risen!
The Lord had been taken from the women by the enemy. He had borne the shame and ridicule of His enemies. The crown of thorns, the lash of the whip, the nails, the cross, the spear He endured, even as instruments to bring Him to death. Into that cold hand of death His enemies thought to have given Christ over forever.
But now death is subject to Him! Over His enemies and their horrible instruments He has triumphed gloriously! Let them now fall silent, put wholly to shame.
Three days earlier the Lord had left these women. Lonely must have been the way to Calvary’s hill. No room had there been for the disciples, let alone the women. The Mediator must carry on His work alone. Alone He must bear the wrath of God. He must be cut off out of the land of the living. Alone He must suffer in absolute darkness the hell into which He descended. Alone He must sink, even into death and the grave.
But now He has returned from death and the grave. He has returned to be their Savior and Lord!
He is risen!
As the words of the angel filled the ears of these women, their hearts are filled with joy. Their sorrow is gone. How great their Lord is! They had known something of His greatness by His past words and works. How much greater He must be by His resurrection! How much more glorious is He by His triumph over death and the grave! He is the Lord of glory!
Of that glorious triumph, which gives true peace and joy, there is absolute proof. Not only does the angel have something to tell, he has something to show. He ushers the women into the tomb with the words, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay!”
Those words were of great significance.
The women had before seen that place of which the angel spoke. They beheld Joseph and Nicodemus lay the body of their dead Lord there. Earlier on Sunday morning they had fully expected to find that body in exactly the same place. To that body they wished to attend, bestowing upon it the last care they might ever give.
Apart from the glorious words of the angel, an empty tomb would only have increased their sorrow. They could have only supposed that someone had stolen the body of their dead Lord. Frustrated would have been their desire to bestow this last act of love. The one final opportunity to show honor to their departed Master would have been denied them. Their Lord’s body was no longer there.
But with the words spoken by the angel, all is joy. The heavy burden is lifted from their shoulders. Fear is banished. Peace now floods their soul.
Now that grave is a place of great joy. For where the Lord lay He lies no more. He has been raised. The emptiness of His grave is the joyful proof that the Lord lives.
Hear with the ear of faith the call of the angel, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” See with your eye of faith the empty tomb. Know and understand that there the Lord did lie, but no longer. He has been raised by the mighty power of God.
Rejoice in that empty grave! Nothing there to see! Empty and void!
Grand and eloquent is the testimony of this empty grave, accompanied by the words of the heavenly messenger! It speaks of great things. It speaks not only of the glory of the Lord who had been laid there, but also of our salvation by that glory.
We bring to that empty grave our questions. From it we hear answers most blessed!
It bears witness of the forgiveness of our sins. The One whose body was laid there died for our sins. In our stead He died on the cross. At Calvary He took our guilt upon Himself, that we might be declared innocent. Upon that cross He died, going to death for us His people. Only by suffering that bitter end might He wholly remove our sin.
Was that suffering complete? Did He remove all our guilt and sin? Did God find the sacrifice of His dear Son the perfect atonement for all our sins? Might there be a sin remaining, one neglected out of so many, left uncovered? Might there be a sin so heinous that it could not be covered?
Come, see the place where the Lord lay!
That sacrifice is the full payment. Our sins are forgiven. We are given the title to heaven, our inheritance by His perfect sacrifice alone. Nothing can possibly be added! Nothing was left undone!
That empty grave also testifies to us of our present condition. We sin often, and we sin grievously against God. We determine to obey, and we disobey. We seek the glory of God, but we fall far short. We find within us every token of the corruption of sin. Is there no deliverance? Must we groan, despairing of ever doing anything good, anything pleasing to God?
Come, see the place where the Lord lay!
Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so are we raised up to a new life. Joined as we are to Christ by the Holy Spirit of Christ, the chains of sin are broken. We are freed to love and serve God. So must we also, having reckoned ourselves dead unto sin by the death of Christ, reckon ourselves to be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Risen with Christ! The empty grave is the destruction of sin’s dominion, never again to reign.
That empty grave also testifies to us of our future. Apart from that empty grave, our future would be truly bleak. Should the Lord tarry, we will follow the generation before us into the grave. There our bodies will lie, undergoing corruption. They will fall into the very dust from which they came. Generation after generation, born, dying, buried, corrupted beyond any possible restoration. Where is the hope? Where is the comfort? How can we possibly bury our beloved in their graves in hope? Why should we have any hope or confidence, before the truth of our own death?
Come, see the place where the Lord lay!
Just as Christ is risen, so also shall we who die in the Lord rise in Him and by Him. Through death unto life! As Christ has risen, so shall He cause all His elect to rise again on the blessed day of His return. He shall utter His voice, and the dead shall rise. The elect He shall conform, even in their bodies, to the pattern of His blessed, glorious body. All of them shall He take to live with Him forever and ever.
His empty grave will become our empty graves!
By faith hear the word of the angel that drives out all fear. “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.” By faith see the place where the Lord lay. Rejoice in His glorious resurrection! No fear: only wondrous peace! Justified, sanctified, glorified. All by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Come, see the place where the Lord lay!”