And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he said unto them, Be not affrighted. Ye see Jesus of Nazareth, Which was crucified: He is risen, He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.
Et cum tranbisset Sabbatum, Maria Magdalene, et Maria Jacobi, et Salome, emerunt aromata ut venientes ungerent Jesum. Et valde mane una sabbatorum, veniunt ad monumentum, orto jam sole. Et dicebant ad invicem: Quis revolvet nobis lapidem ab ostio monumenti? Et respicientes viderunt revolutum lapidem. Erat quippe magnus valde. Et introeuntes in monumentum viderunt juvenem sedentem in dextris, coopertum stola candida, et obstupuerunt. Qui dicit illis, Nolite expavescere: Jesum quaeritis Nazarenum, crucifixum; surrexit, non est hic, ecce locus ubi posuerunt Eum. Sed ite, dicite discipulis Ejus, et Petro quia praecedit vos in Galilaeam: ibi Eum videbitis, sicut dixit vobis.
The sum of this Gospel is a gospel, that is, a message of good tidings. In a message these three points fall in naturally: I. the parties to whom it is brought; II. the party by whom; III. and the message itself. These three: 1. the parties to whom,---three women, the three Maries. 2. The party by whom,--an Angel. 3. The message itself, the first news of Christ's rising again. These three make the three parts in the text. 1. The women, 2. the Angel, 3. the message.
Seven verses I have read ye. The first four concern the women, the fifth the Angel, the two last the Angel's message. In the women, we have to consider 1. themselves in the first; 2. their journey in the second and third; and 3. their success in the fourth.
In the Angel, 1. the manner of his appearing, 2. And of their affecting with it.
In the message, the news itself: 1. that Christ 'is risen;' 2. that 'He is gone before them to Galilee;' 3. that 'there they shall see Him;' 4. Peter and all. 5. Then, the Ite et dicite, the commission ad evangelizandum; not to conceal these good news but publish it, these to His Disciples, they to others, and so to us; we to day, and so to the world's end.
[222/223] As the text lieth, the part that first offereth itself, is the parties to whom this message came. Which were three women. Where, finding that women were the first that had notice of Christ's resurrection, we stay. For it may seem strange that passing by all men, yea the Apostles themselves, Christ would have His resurrection first of all made known to that sex. Reasons are rendered, of divers diversely. We may be bold to allege that the Angel doth in the text, verse 5, Vos enim quaeritis, for they sought Christ. And, Christ 'is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of their love' who seek Him. Verily there will appear more love and labour in these women, than in men, even the Apostles themselves. At this time, I know not how, men were then become women and did animas gerere muliebres, and women were men. Sure the more manly of the twain. The Apostles, they mured up, all 'the doors fast' about them; sought not, went not to the sepulchre. Neither Peter who loved Him, nor John whom he loved, till these women brought them word. But these women we see were last at His Passion, and first at His resurrection; stayed longest at that, came soonest to this, even in this respect, to be respected. Sure, as it is said of the Law, Vigilantibus et non dormientibus succurrit Lex, so may it no less truly be said of the gospel. We see it here, it cometh not to sleepers, but to them that are awake, and up and about their business, as these women were. So that there was a capacity in them to receive this prerogative.
Before I leave this part of the parties, I may not omit to observe Mary Magdalene's place and precedence among the three. All the Fathers are careful to note it. That she standeth first of them, for it seemeth no good order. She had had seven devils in her, as we find, verse 9. She had the blemish to be called peccatrix, as one famous and notorious in that kind. The others were of honest report, and never so stained, yet she is named with them. With them were much, but not only with them, but before them. With them;--and that is to shew Christ's resurrection, as well as His death reacheth to sinners of both sexes; and that, to sinners of note, no less than those who seem not to have gone greatly astray;--but before them too, and that is indeed [223/224] to be noted; that she is the first in the list of women, and St. Peter in that of men. These two, the two chief sinners, either of their sex. Yet they, the two, whose lots came first forth in sorte sanctorum, in partaking this news. And this to shew that chief sinners as these were, if they carry themselves as they did, shall be at no loss by their fall; shall not only be pardoned but honoured even as he was, like these, with stolâ primæ 'the first robe' in all the wardrobe, and stand foremost of all. And it is not without a touch of the former reason, in that the sinner, after his recovery, for the most part seeketh God more fervently, whereas they who have not gone greatly astray, are but even so; if warm, it at all. And with God it is a rule, plus valet hora fervens quam mensis tepens, 'an hour of fervour more worth than a month of tepor.' Now such was Mary Magdalene, here and elsewhere vouchsafed therefore this degree of exaltation, to be 'of the first three;' no, to be the first of the three, who heard of His rising; yea, as in the ninth verse, that first saw Him risen from the dead.
And now, because their endeavours were so well liked as they were for them counted worthy this so great honour, it falleth next to consider what those were, that we being like prepared may partake the like good hap. So seeking as they, we may find as they did. They were four in number. The first and third in the second, the second in the first, and the last in the third verse. All reduced, as Christ reduced them in Mary Magdalene, to dilexit multum, 'their great love,' of which these four be four denominations; or, if love be an 'ensign' as it is termed Cant. 2. the four colours of it. 1. That they went to the sepulchre;--love to one dead. 2. That they bought precious odours;--love that is at charges. 3. That out they went early, before break of day;--love that will take pains. 4. That for all the stone, still they went on; love that will wrestle with impediments. The first is constant as to the dead; the second bounteous, as at expense; the third diligent, as up betimes; the last resolute, be the stone never so great. According to which four, are the four denominations of love. 1. Amor, a mor-te, when it surviveth death. 2. When it buyeth dearly, it is charitas. 3. When it sheweth all diligence, it is dilectio. 4. When it goeths per saxa, [224/225] when stones cannot stay it, it is zelus, which is especially seen in encountering difficulties. It shall not be amiss to touch them severally; it will serve to touch our love, whether ours be of the same assay.
The first riseth out of these words, 'They went to the sepulchre,' and indeed, ex totâa substantiæ 'out of the whole text.' For, whom is all this ado, is it not for Christ? But Christ is dead, and buried three days since, and this is now the third day. What then, though He be dead, to their love He liveth still: death may take His body from their eyes, but will never take His remembrance from their hearts. Herein is love, this is the first colour, saith a great master in that faculty, fortis sicut mors, 'love that death cannot foil,' but continueth to the dead, as if they still were alive, And when I say the dead, I mean not such as the dead hath left behind them, though that be a virtue, and Booz worthily blessed for it that shewed mercy to the living for the dead's sake; but I mean performing offices of love to the dead himself; to see he have a sepulchre to go to; not to bury his friend, as he would bury his ass being dead. To see he have one, and not thither to bring him, and there to leave him, and bury him and his memory in a grave. Such is the world's love. Solomon sheweth it by the lion and the dog. All after Christ living, but go to His sepulchre who will, not we. The love that goeth thither, that burieth not the memory of Him who is buried, is love indeed.
The journey to the sepulchre is iter amoris; had it been but to lament, as Mary Magdalene to Lazarus:--but then here is a farther matter, they went to anoint Him. That is set for another sign, that they spared for no cost, but bought precious odours wherewith to embalm Him.
1. To go to anoint Christ, is kindly; it is to make Him Christ, that is 'Anointed.' That term referreth principally to His Father's anointing. I grant; but what, if we also anoint Him, will Her take it in evil part? Clearly not, niether quick, nor dead. Not quick, Luke 7. Mark 14. Not dead; this place is pregnant, it is the end of their journey to do this. He is well content to be there, and our Anointed, not His Father's only; yea, it is a way to make Him Christum nostrum, our Christ, [225/226] if we break our boxes, and bestow our odours upon Him.
2. To anoint Him, and not with some odd cast ointment, lying by them, kept a little too long, to throw away upon Him; but to buy, to be at cost, to do it emptis odoribus, 'with bought odours.'
3. This to do Him alive, that would they with all their hearts; but if that cannot be, to do it to Him dead, rather than not at all. To do it to whatsoever is left us of Christ, to that do it.
4. To embalm Christ, Christ dead, yea though others had done it before, for so is the case. Joseph and Nicodemus had bestowed myrrh and aloes to that end already. What then? though they had done it, it is not enough, nay, it is nothing. Nay, if all the world should have done it, unless they might come with their odours and do it too, all were nothing. In hoc est charitas, 'herein is love,' and this is a sign of it. A sign of it everywhere else, and to Christ a sign it was. Indeed, such a sign there was, but it is beaten down now. We can love Christ absque hoc, and shew it some other way well enough. It sheweth our love is not charitas, no dear love; but vilitas, love that loves to be as little charges with Christ as may be, faint love. You shall know it thus: Ad hoc signum se contrahit, 'at the sign it shrinks,' at every word of it. 1. 'They bought,' that is charge; we like it not, we had rather hear potuit vendi. 2. 'Odours.' What need odours? An unnecessary charge. We like no odours but odor lucri. 3. To Christ. Nay, seeing it is unnecessary, we trust Christ will not require it. 4. Not alive, but especially dead. There was much ado while He lived to get allowance for it; there was one of His own Apostles, a good charitableman, pater pauperum, held it to be plain perditio. Yet, to anoint the living, that many do, they can anoint us again; but to the dead, it is quite cast away. But then, if it had been told us, He is embalmed already, why then, take away their odours, that at no hand would have been endued. this sheweth our love is not charitas. But so long as this is a Gospel, it will sound every Easter-day in our ear, that the buying of odours, the embalming of whatsoever is left us of Christ, is and will be a sign of our loving [226/227] and seeking Him, as we should; though not heretofore, yet now; now especially, when that objection ceaseth, He is embalmed enough already. He was indeed then, but most of the myrrh, and aloes is now gone. That there is good occasion left, if many be disposed in hoc signo signari, 'with this sign to seal his love to Christ anew again'.
From this of their expense, charitas, we pass to the third, of their diligence, dilectio, set down in the second verse in these words 'very early,' &c. And but mark how diligent the Holy Ghost is in describing their diligence. 'The very first day of the week,' the very first part of that first day, in the morning, the very first hour of that first part, 'very early, before the sun was up,' they were up. Why good Lord, what need all this haste? Christ is fast enough under His stone. He will not run away you may be sure; you never need break your sleep, and yet come to sepulchre time enough. No, if they do it not as soon as it may be done, it is nothing worth. Herein is love, dilectio, whose proper sign is dilegentia, in not slipping the first opportunity of showing it. They did it not at their leisure, they could not rest, they were not well, till they we were about it. Which very speed of theirs doubles all the former. For cito we know is esteemed as much as bis. To do it at once is to do it more than once, is to do it twice over.
Yet this we must take with us, Diagenom.e/non sabb£tou. Where falleth a very strange thing, that as we have commended them for their quickness, so must we now also for their slowness, out of the very first words of all. 'When the Sabbath was past,' then, and not till then, they did it. This diligence of theirs, as great haste as it made, stayed yet still the Sabbath were past, and by this means hath two contrary commendations: 1. One, for the speed; 2. another for the stay of it. Though they fain would have been embalming Him as soon as might be, yet not with breach of the Sabbath. Their diligence leapt over none of God's commandments for haste. No, not this commandment, which of all other the world is boldest with; and if they have haste, somewhat else may, but sure the Sabbath shall never stay them. The Sabbath they stayed, for then God never stay them. But that was no sooner over, but their diligence appeared straight. [227/ 228] No other thing could stay them. Not their own sabbath, sleep--but 'before day-light' they were well onward on their way.
The last is in the third verse, in these words, 'As they went, they said,' &c. There was a stone, a very great one, to be rolled away ere they could come at Him. They were so rapt with love, in a kind of ecstasy, they never thought of the stone; they were well on their way before they remembered it. And then, when it came to their minds, they went not back though, but on still, the stone non obstante. And herein is love, the very fervour of it, zeal; that word hath fire in it. Not only diligence as lightness to carry it upward, but zeal as fire to burn a hole and eat itself a way, through whatsoever will oppose to it. No stone so heavy as to stay them, or turn them back. And this is St. John's sign: foras pellit timorem, 'love, if it be perfect, casts out fear;' et erubescit nomen difficultatis, 'shames to confess anything too hard for it.' Ours is not so; we must have, not great stones, God wot, but every scruple removed out of our way, or we shall not stir. But as, if you see one qui laborem fingit in præcepto, 'that makes a great deal more labour in a precept' than needs, that is afraid where no fear is; of leo in viâ, 'a lion' or I wot not what perilous beast 'in the way,' and no such matter; it is a certain sign his love is small, his affection cold in the business in hand; so, on the other side, when we see, as in these here, such zeal to that they went about, as they first forgot there was any stone at all, and when they bethought them of it, they broke not off, but went on though; you may be bold to say of them, dilexerunt multum, their love was great that per saxa, through stones and all, yet goeth forward; that neither cost nor pains nor peril can divert. Tell them the party is dead they go to; it skills not, their love is not dead; that will go on. Tell them He is embalmed already, they may save their cost; it is not enough for them except they do it too, they will do it nevertheless for all that. Tell them they make time then, and do it; no, unless it be done the first day, hour, minute, it contents them not. Tell them there is a stone, more than they remember, and more they can remove; no matter, they will try their strength and lift at it, though they take the foil. Of these thus qualified [228/229] we may truly say, They that are at all this cost, labour, pains, to anoint Him dead, show plainly, if it lay in them to raise Him again, they would not fail but to do it; consequently would be glad to hear He were risen, and so are fit hearers of this Gospel; hearers well disposed, and every way meet to receive this Messenger, and this message. Now to the success.
We see what they sought, we long to see what they found. Such love and such labour would not be lost. This we may be sure of, there is none shall anoint Him alive or dead, without some recompense or consideration; which is set down of two sorts. 1. 'They found the stone rolled away,' as great as it was. That which troubled them most, how it might be removed, that found they removed ere they came. They need never take pains with it, the Angel had done it with their hands. They found not indeed Whom they sought, Christ, but His Angel they found, and heard such a gospel of Him, so good news, as pleased them better than if they had found His body to embalm it. That news which of all other they most longed to hear, that He they came to anoint needed no such office to be done to Him, as being alive again. This was their success.
And from this success of theirs our lesson is. Firstly, that as there is no virtue, no good work, but has some impediment, as it were some great stone to be lifted at,--Quis revolvet? so that it is ofttimes the lot of them that seek to do good, to find many imaginary stones removed to their hands; God so providing, ut quod admovit Satanas, amoveat angelus, 'what Satan lays in the way, a good angel takes out of the way; that it may in the like case be a good answer to Quis revolvet? to say, angelus Domini, 'the Angel of the Lord,' he shall do it, done it shall be: so did these here, and as they did, others will find it.
2. Again, it is the hope that all may have that set themselves to do Christ any service, to find His Angel at least, though not Himself; to hear some good news of Him, though not see Him at the first. Certain it is with ungentes ungentur, 'none will seek ever to anoint Him but they will be anointed by Him again,' one way or other; and find, though not always what they seek, yet some supply that shall be [229/230] worth the while. And this we may reckon of, it will never fail us.
To follow this farther. Leave we these good women, and come first to the Angel, the messenger, and after to his message. An Angel was the messenger, for none other messenger was meet for this message. For if His birth were tidings of so great joy as none but an Angel was meet to report it, His resurrection is as much. As much? nay, much more. As much; for His resurrection is itself a birth too. To it doth the Apostle apply the verse in the Psalm, 'This day I have begotten Thee.' Even this day when He was born anew, tanquam ex utero sepulchri, 'from the wob of the grave.' As much then, yea much more. For the news of His birth might well have been brought by a mortal, it was but his entry into a mortal life; but this here not properly but by an Angel, for that in the Resurrection we shall be 'like the Angels,' and shall die no more; and therefore an immortal messenger was meetest for it.
We first begin with what they saw,--the vision. They saw an Angel in the sepulchre. An Angel in a sepulchre is a very strange site. A sepulchre is but an homely place--neither savoury, nor sightly, for an Angel to come in. the place of dead's men's bones, of stench, of worms, and of rottenness;--What doth an Angel there? Indeed no angel ever came there till this morning. Not till Christ had been there; but, since His body was there, a great change hath ensued. He hath left there odorem vitæ, and changed the grave into a place of rest. That not only this Angel here now, but after this, two more, yea divers Angels upon divers occasions, this day did visit and frequent this place. Which very finding of the Angels thus, in the place of dead bodies, may be and is to us a pledge, that there is a possibility and hope, that the dead bodies may come also into the place of Angels. Why not the bodies in the grave to be in heaven one day, as well as the angels of heaven to be in the grave this day?
This for the vision. The next for the manner of His appearing, in what form He shewed Himself. [230-231]A matter worth our stay a little as a good introduction to us, in him as in a mirror to see what will be the state of us and our bodies in the Resurrection, inasmuch as it is expressly promised we shall then be io£ggeloi, 'like and equal to the Angels themselves.'
2. They saw 'a young man,' one in the vigour and strength of his years, and such will be our estate then; all age, sickness, infirmity removed clean away. Therefore it was also that the Resurrection fell in the spring, the freshest time of the year; and in the morning, the freshest time of the day, when saith Esay, 'the dew is on the herbs.' Therefore that it was in a garden, (so it was in Joseph of Arimathea's garden) that look, as that garden was at that time of the year, the spring, so will our estate then be in the very flower and prime of it.
They saw him 'sitting' which is we know the site of rest and quietness, of them who are at ease. To show us a second quality of our estate then; that in it all labour will cease, all motions rest, all troubles come utterly to an end for ever, and the state of it a quiet, a restful state.
They saw him sit 'on the right side. And that side is the side of pre-eminence and honour, to show that those also will accompany us rising again. That we may fall on the left side, but we shall rise on the right; be 'sown in dishonour,' but 'shall rise again in honour,' that honour which His saints and Angels have and shall have for ever.
Lastly, they saw him 'clothed all in white.' And white is the colour of gladness, as we find Eccles. 9.8. All to shew still, that it will be a state, as of strength, rest, and honour, so of joy likewise. And that, robe-wise; not short or scant, but as his stole, all over, down to the ground.
Neither serves it alone to shew us, what then we shall be, but withal what now we ought to be this day, the day of His rising. In that we see, that as the heavens at the time of His passion were in black, by the great eclipse shewing us it was then a time of mourning; so this day the angels were all in white, to teach us thereby with what affection, with how great joy and gladness, we are to celebrate and solemnize this feast of our Saviour's rising.
Their affection here was otherwise, and that is somewhat strange. In the apparition there was nothing fearful as ye see, yet it is said, 'they were afraid.' Even now they feared nothing, and now they fall to be afraid at this so [231/232] conformable a sight. Had they been guilty to themselves of any evil they came to do, well might they then have feared, God first, as the malefactor doth the judge. and the His Angel, as the executioner of His wrath. But their coming was for good. But I find it is not the sinner's case only, but even of the best of our nature. Look the Scripture; Abraham and Jacob in the Old, Zachary and the Blessed Virgin in the New, all strucken with fear, at the sight of good Angels; yea, even then, when they came for their good.
It fareth with the Angels of light, as it doth with the light itself. Sore eyes and weak cannot endure it, no more can sinners them. No more can the strongest sight neither bear the light, if the object be too excellent, if it be not tempered to a certain proportion; otherwise, even to the best that is, is the light offensive. And that is their case. Afraid they are, not for any evil they were about, but for that our very nature is now so decayed, ut lucem ad quam nata est sustinere nequeat, as the Angels' brightness, for whose society we were created, yet as now we are, bear it we cannot, but need to be comforted at the sight of a comfortable Angel. It is not the messenger angelical, but the messenger evangelical that must do it.
Which leadeth us along from the vision that feared them, to the message itself that relieved them; which is the third part. The stone lay not more heavy on the grave, than did that fear on their hearts, pressing down hard. And no less needful was it, the Angel should roll it away, this spiritual great stone from their hearts, than he did that other material from the sepulchre itself. With that he begins.
1. 'Fear not.' A meet text for him, that maketh a sermon at a sepulchre. For the fear of that place maketh us out of quiet all our life long. It lieth at our heart like a stone, and no way there is to make us willing to go thither, but by putting us out of fear; by putting us in hope, that the great stones shall be rolled away again from our sepulchres, and we from thence rise to a better life. It is a right beginning for an Easter-day's sermon, nolite timere.
2. And a good reason he yields, why not. For it is not every body's case, this nolite timere vos, 'fear not you.' Why not? For 'you seek Jesus of Nazareth. Which hath been [232/233] crucified.' 'Nazareth' might keep you back, the meanness of His birth, and 'crucified' more, the reproach of His death. Inasmuch as these cannot let you, but ye seek Him; are ashamed neither of His poor birth, nor of His shameful death, but seek Him; and seek Him, not as some did when He was alive, when good was to be done by him, but even now, dead, when nothing is to be gotten; and not to rob or rifle Him but to embalm Him, an office of love and kindness, (this touched before) 'fear not you,' nor let any feat that so seek Him.
Now, that they may not fear, He imparts them His message full of comfort. And it containeth four comforts of hope, answerable to the four former proofs of their love: '1. He is risen;' 2. But 'gone before you;' 3. 'Ye shall see Him;' 4. 'All His disciples,' 'Peter' and all; 'Go tell them so.'
In that you thus testify your love in seeking Him, I dare say ye had rather He ye thus come to embalm, that He were alive again; and no more joyful tidings could come to you than He were so. Ye could I dare say with all your hearts be content to lose all your charge you have been at, in buying your odours, on condition it were so. Therefore I certify you that He is alive, He is risen. No more than Gaza gates could hold Samson, or the whale Jonas, no more could this stone keep Him in the sepulchre, but risen He is.
First, of this ye were sure, here He was; ye were at His laying in, ye saw the stone sealed, and the watch set, so that here He was. But here is not now; come see the place, trust your own eyes, non est hîc.
But what of that, this is but a lame consequence for all that; He is not here, therefore He is risen. For may it not be, He hath been taken away? Not with any likelihood; though such a thing will be given out, that the Disciples stole Him away while the watch was asleep. But your reason will give you; 1. small probability there is, they could be asleep, all the ground shaking and tottering under them by means of the earthquake. 2. And secondly, if they did sleep for all that, yet then could they not tell sleeping, how, or by whom, He was taken away. 3. And thirdly, that His Disciples should do it; they you know of all other were utterly [233/234] unlike to do any such thing; so fearful as miserably they forsook Him yet alive, and have ever since shut themselves up since He was dead. 4. And fourthly, if they durst have done such a thing, they would have taken Him away, linen, clothes, and all, as fearful men will make all haste they can possibly, and not stood stripping Him and wrapping up the clothes, and laying them, every parcel, one by one in order, as men use to do that have time enough and take deliberation, as being in no haste, or fear at all. To you therefore, as we say, ad hominem, this consequence is good; not taken away, and not here, therefore risen He is.
But, to put all out of doubt, you shall trust you own eyes; videbitis, 'you shall see' it is so; you shall see Him. Indeed non hîc would not serve their turns; He knew their question would be, Where is He? Gone He is; not quite gone, but only gone before, which is the second comfort; for if He be but gone before, we have hope to follow after. I præ, sequar; so is the nature of relatives. That we may follow then, whither is He gone? Whither He told ye Himself, a little before His Passion, chap. 14.28. 'into Galilee.'
1. No meeter place for Jesus of Nazareth to go, than to 'Galilee:' there He is best known, there in Nazareth He was brought up; there in Cana He did His first miracle, showed His first glory--meet therefore to see His last; there in Capernaum, and the coasts about, preached most, bestowed most of His labour.
2. 'Galilee,' it was called 'Galilee of the Gentiles,' for it was in the confines of them; to show His resurrection, tanquam in meditullio, 'as in a middle indifferent place,' reacheth to both, concerneth and benefiteth both alike. As Jonas after his resurrection went to Nineveh, so Christ after His to Galilee of the Gentiles.
3. 'Galilee,' that from Galilee, the place from whence they said, No good thing could ever come, He might bring one of the best things, and of most comfort that ever was; the sight and comfort of His Resurrection.
4. 'Galilee,' last, for Galilee signifies a revolution or turning about to the first point, whither they must go that will see Him, or have any part or fellowship in this feast of His [234/235] Resurrection. Thither is He gone before, and thither if you follow, there you will see Him.
This is the third comfort, and it is one indeed. For sight is the sense of certainty, and all that they can desire, and there they did see Him. Not these here only, or the twelve only, or the one hundred and twenty names in Acts 1 only, but even five hundred of them at once, saith the Apostle; a 'whole cloud of witnesses.'
This was good new for those here, and they were worthy of it, seeking Him as they did. But what shall become of the rest, namely of His disciples that lost Him alive, and seek Him not dead? They shall never see Him more? Yes (which is evangelicum, 'good tidings' indeed, the chief comfort of all) they too that left Him so shamefully but three days ago, them He casts not off, but will be glad to see them in Galilee. Well, whatsoever became of others, Peter who so foully forsook, and forswore Him both, he will never see Him more? Yes, Peter too, and Peter by name. And indeed, it is more than needful He should name him, he had greatest cause of doubt; the greatest stone upon him to be rolled away of any, that had so often with oaths and execrations so utterly renounced Him. This is a good message for him, and Mary Magdalene as a messenger as can be to carry it, one great sinner to another. That not only Christ is risen, but content that His forsakers, deniers, forswearers, Peter and all, should repair to Him the day of His Resurrection; that all the deadly wounds of His Passion have not killed His compassion over sinners who though they have made wrack of their duty, yet He hath not lost His mercy, not left it in the grave, but is as ready to receive them as ever. His resurrection hath made no change in Him. Dying and rising, He is to sinners still one and the same, still like Himself, a kind, loving, and merciful Saviour. This is the last; Peter and all may see Him.
And with this He dismisseth them, with ite et dicite, with a commission and precept, by virtue whereof He maketh these women Apostolos Apostolorum, 'Apostles to the Apostles themselves'--for this article of the Resurrection did they first learn of these women, and they were the first of all that [235/236] preached this Gospel--giving them in charge, that seeing this day is a day of glad tidings, they would not conceal it, but impart it to others, even to so many as then were, or would ever after be Christ's disciples.
They came to embalm Christ's body natural; that needs it not, is past embalming now. But another Body He hath, a mystical body, a company of those that had believed in Him, though weakly; that they would go and anoint them, for they need it. They sit drying away, what with fear, what with remorse of their unkind dealing with Him; they need to have some oil, some balm to supple them. That they do with this Gospel, with these four; of which four ingredients is made the balm of this day.
Thus we see, these who were at cost to anoint Christ were fully recompensed for the costs they had been at; themselves anointed with oil and odours of a higher nature, and far more precious than those they brought with them. Oleum lætitiæ, saith the Psalm, Odor vitæ, saith the Apostle. And that so plenteously, as there is enough for themselves, enough too for other, for His disciples, for Peter and all.
But what is this to us? Sure, as we learned by way of duty how to seek Christ after their example, so seeking Him in that manner, by way of reward we hope to have our part in this good news no less than they.
1. 'Christ is risen.' That concerneth us alike. 'The head' is got above the water, the root hath received life and sap, 'the first fruits' are lift up and consecrate; we no less than they, as His members, His branches, His field, recover to this hope.
2. And for His going before, that which the Angel said here once, is ever true. He is not gone quite away, He is but gone before us; He is but the antecedent, we as the consequent to be inferred after. Yes, though He be gone to Galilæa superior, 'the Galilee that is above,' Heaven, the place of the celestial spheres and revolutions, even thither is He gone, not as a party absolute, of or for Himself, but as 'a Harbinger,' saith the Apostle, with relation to others who are coming after, for whom He goeth before to take up a place. So the Apostle there, so the Angel here. So He Himself, Vado; not Vade alone, but Vado parare locum vobis, [236/237] 'I go to prepare a place wherein to receive you,' when the number of you and your brethren will be full.
3. To us likewise pertaineth the third videbitis, that is, the Gospel indeed. 'He is risen.' Rising of itself is no Gospel, but He is risen and we shall see Him; that is it. That the time will come also, that we shall see Him in the Galilee celestial that is above; yea, that all will see Him, even 'they that pierced Him.' But they that came to embalm Him, with joy and lifting up their heads they will see Him; with that sight will they see Him, That shall evermore make them blessed.
4. Lastly, which is worth all the rest, That we shall not need to be dismayed with our unworthiness, in that willing He is Peter should have word of this, and Mary Magdalene should carry it. That such as they were, sinners, and chief sinners, should have these tidings told them, this Gospel preached them; that He is as ready to receive them to grace as any of the rest, and will be as glad to see them as any others in Galilee.
But then are we to remember the condition, that here we get us into Galilee, or else it will not be. And Galilee is a 'revolution, or turning' ad principia, 'to the first point,' as doth the zodiac at this time of the year. The time of His resurrection is pascha, 'a passing over;' the place Galilee, 'a turning about.' It remaineth then that we pass over as the time, and turn as the place, putteth us in mind. Re-uniting ourselves to His Body and Blood in this time of His rising, of the dissolving and renting whereof our sins were the cause. The time of His suffering, keeping the feast of Christ our new Passover offered for us; leaving whatsoever formerly hath been amiss in Christ's grave as the weeds of our dead estate, and rising to newness of life, that so we may have our parts 'in the first resurrection;' which they are happy and blessed that shall have, for by it they are sure of the second. Of which blessing and happiness, He vouchsafe to make us all partakers, That this day rose for us, Jesus Christ the Righteous!