And all this joy is because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
On Good Friday afternoon we learned how Jesus died, and we sorrowed over the sins which caused His Death. After He was dead His friends came and took His poor bruised and wounded Body down from the cross. They took It down so tenderly and lovingly, and wrapped It up in fine linen, putting myrrh and spices with It to preserve It. Then they laid that Body they loved so much in a new tomb, in which no one had been buried before, and rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb. When they had done all that could be done they went home very sorrowful, and yet glad that they had been able to do a little for their dear Lord Jesus. So the Body of Jesus rested in the grave.
But the Soul of Jesus was not there: that was gone. His Soul was gone to Paradise, that is, to the place of departed spirits. There, in that world of spirits, many were waiting and longing for Him. Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Joseph, David, and all the prophets who had spoken of His coming, all were there expecting. Oh, what joy when He came among them and told them that His work for them was done, that He had died to save them !
We do not know exactly what Jesus did in that place of spirits. We are told that " He went and preached to the spirits in prison." What a wonderful preaching that was ! How they gathered round to listen ! No one got tired there, no one went to sleep there, of that we may be quite sure.
But this was not all He did. It had been said before He came that He should set free those that were bound. And this He did. He set those souls free! Satan, the prince of that world of spirits, had had them under his power so long, but he should have them no more ; Jesus came there to set them free. He set them free and gave them life.
The joy of Easter began in Paradise.
But Jesus did not stay long there. His Body lay in the grave just long enough to show that He was really dead. His Soul remained in the place of spirits long enough to do His Father's Will. When He could say there, as He said before He died on earth, "It is finished," He came back. His Soul came back to His Body, His Body came to life again, Jesus rose from the dead.
Now we know indeed that He was God. We have believed it all the time, because God said so. And we have seen the miracles that He did. But this is the greatest miracle of all, so great that the Bible says, "He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." If you were asked, " How do you know that Jesus is God," you might say, " Because on the third day He rose again from the dead," and you could give no better answer.
This is why for more than eighteen hundred years the Church has kept Easter Day. Easter Day tells us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He has risen from the dead.
What a glorious sight His Resurrection must have been ! But no one saw it except the angels. This is why we have no picture today. None can tell what the Resurrection was like, for no man saw it. The soldiers who were watching the grave saw a glorious angel, so beautiful that they nearly died of terror. What, then, must the glory of Jesus have been! We cannot picture it, and indeed we do not need a picture today; our hearts are full of joy. Our dear Lord will never suffer any more. He will never be hungry nor tempted again. His enemies will not be able to scourge Him or crucify Him. He has borne all that once, but now He is out of their power. He is risen from the dead.
"He Who on the cross a Victim
For the world's salvation bled,
Jesus Christ, the King of glory,
Now is risen from the dead."
The spirits of the departed rejoiced with Him, the blessed angels rejoiced when they saw Him come forth from the tomb, and we rejoice with them, and lift up our hearts and voices to worship Jesus risen from the dead —
"Accept, O glorious risen King,
The homage that we pay ;
Let it ascend the starry sphere
This happy Easter Day."
The angels saw Jesus rise ; and if you had been there, and God had let you see Him too, you would indeed have seen a wonderful sight.
For Jesus did not rise alone. He went to Paradise to set free the saints who were bound, and when He came back He brought them with Him. We are not told who they were that rose with Him ; we are only told that " many bodies of the saints that slept arose, and came out of their graves, after His Resurrection."
That must have been a glorious sight to see. Jesus going first, and all these rejoicing saints following Him, and all the blessed angels around. Think of the joy of those who rose with Jesus on that first Easter Day —
"Devouring depths of hell their prey
At His command restore,
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before."
We are glad when we hear of this, because we know that what Jesus did for those saints He will do for us. We look forward to the day when we shall rise again.
Jesus Christ is called the " Firstfruits from the dead." Where we get firstfruits we know that others are to follow. You know how when the cold of winter is passing away we begin to look out for the birds coming back again, and when we see one swallow how glad we are ! We know then that more will soon come; winter is gone, summer will soon be here. So, too, when the snow is beginning to melt perhaps we see one little flower beginning to show itself. How we wish the snow to be all gone that all the other beautiful flowers may come out and make the whole earth beautiful !
"The Spirit of Him Who raised up Jesus from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies." That is, God will bring our bodies to life again. We must be thinking about this and looking forward to it, because it will help us in our life now. We want to live like Jesus our Lord, and we want to be able to die like Him, commending our spirit into our Father's hands. We must remember what is beyond all this. We are to rise again. How glad we shall be then ! There will be no more pain, no more sorrow ; we shall not suffer any more persecution or trouble for the sake of Jesus Christ, but we shall be perfectly like Him and share in His joy.
Will not that be beautiful? It ought to help you much to think of this. You can bear pain, for the time is coming when there will be no more pain. You can endure trouble for your Lord's sake, for it will not last for ever, and will end in joy. You will do your best to keep from sin, because you would not like anything to prevent you: being like Jesus Christ when you rise again from the dead. When any pain or trouble comes, or when you are tempted to sin, say, "I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD," and you will find your heart grow strong and brave to bear all and wait that you may be like Jesus Christ.
There was once a little girl whose father went away into a distant country. Before he went he gave her clothes enough to last until his return, and he left her in the care of some distant relatives. He was gone a long, long time, much longer than she expected. Her relatives got tired of keeping her, and used to treat her very cruelly, because they said she cost them so much. They made her do all kinds of hard and dirty work. Her clothes got shabby and too small, and they would give her no more, but only laughed at her looks. When she talked of her father they laughed and said he would never come back. Altogether her life might have been very sad ; but it was not, for she was always bright and -cheerful. Whatever they said she answered cheerfully ; or if she could not
do that, she said nothing. She did all her work well. She wore her shabby clothes as gladly as if they had been the most beautiful new silks. She did all this, and why? Because she knew her father would come, and then all would be different; he would change it all.
At last he came, and oh, what a change it was ! They hardly knew her now. When she had proper clothes on they saw that she had grown almost to a woman, and was tall and beautiful Her face, which had so long been pleasant with smiles, was now sweeter than any her friends had ever seen before. All her toil had made her only the better able to help her father in the new home to which he took her. In after years she would look back, and sometimes she would say to her father, "Oh, how long you were away! I wondered when you would come, though I knew I could trust you. Now and then, when I had so much to bear, I was tempted to think whether it would not be better to be dead. But now I am glad. And oh, father, you have made such a difference in my life, I cannot tell you ! It has been like a resurrection, like life from the dead."
Indeed, children, none of us know what the change and joy will be when Jesus comes to raise us from the dead and take us to our new home in the Kingdom of Heaven. Try and live always remembering the Resurrection.
"Save us, Lord, from sinning,
Watch us day by day,
Help us now to love Thee,
Take our sins away ;
Then when Thou shalt call us
To our heavenly home,
We will gladly answer,
Saviour, Lord, we come."
Source: The Children's