Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


EPISTLE—Colossians III. 1, etc.

GOSPEL—St. John XX. 1, etc.

Our Prayer Book has two Epistles and Gospels for Easter Day. The Easter story told in both Gospels is almost the same, and it has been already dealt with in the Lesson on St. Mark xvi.—"The Resurrection." Let the teacher read that Lesson carefully for teaching the story, and then go on with the further Easter Lessons as taught below.

Name of day? Meaning? Commemorate what? (Now question on Resurrection story as indicated in Lesson, Mark xvi.) Did disciples expect Resurrection? How do you know? Why not expect it? Too wonderful to believe. Why did they believe it at last? Because they saw it, and were thoroughly convinced of it. Why do you believe that I am teaching this class to-day? Have you any doubt about it? Apostles felt like that. Mary saw Him—and Peter—and the men at Emmaus, and the eleven disciples, and Thomas—and the 500 brethren, etc. Were they glad? Why?

Have we  any reason to be glad about it? Would it matter to us if story not true, if disciples really stole away body while soldiers slept? Why should it matter to us?

§ 1. Makes us sure that Jesus was God.

Resurrection most important proof of this. One had come on earth not to be distinguished in appearance from other men. But He said that He was God. That He had come down to die for men—that through His death there was forgiveness of sins—that if a man believed in Him, though he were dead, yet should he live, etc. And people said:—"This would be blessed news if true, but it is not."  "Aye, but it is true," said the Apostles, and "God has proved it in that He raised Him from the dead."

This the Apostles especially insisted on. They pledged the very existence of Christianity to the truth of it. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." See 1 Corinthians xv. 12-19. In the Acts of the Apostles we find it was the main subject of their preaching, and the main thought about themselves was as "witnesses of the Resurrection." See Acts i. 8, 21, 22; iii. 15; iv. 2, 33; xvii. 18; xxiv. 21, etc. "We are sure of it," they said. "We are witnesses. We twelve men saw Jesus of Nazareth. Some of us lived near Him as boys. We lived with Him as men. We saw Him work miracles; saw Him arrested, tried, crucified, dead. And then we saw Him risen again—and if you don't believe us, ask the 500 brethren and the others who saw Him. We are sure, positively and certainly. Therefore we know that Christ is God, and that we may depend on all that He told us of His power and glory, and the heaven by-and-by."

And because they were so sure they could bear everything—trouble, torture, imprisonment. "We don't care," they said, "the Lord Jesus is risen—gone up to heaven. He sees it all. We are only glad to bear anything or do anything for Him."

§ 2. Makes us sure that we shall rise again.

What an enormous difference that would make in this poor world of sorrow and death! Think of the world before Christ—and poor heathen world to-day. Think of poor mother breaking her heart over her dead child. Tell you of funeral 2,000 years ago. A girl, daughter of a great wise Roman named Cicero—beautiful procession—people standing silent around—mother sobbing—father pale and stern, but too proud to cry over his dead child. No one to comfort him but one old friend named Sulpicius, who had written him a letter of comfort. Poor old man, it was the best comfort that he could give. Should you like to hear it? "Don't fret," he said; "everybody must die—it is only a girl—remember that you are the great wise Cicero. You should, therefore, have great fortitude. You should be too proud to cry over your dead child." That was all the comfort he could give. What a miserable comfort!

Then came the priests in their stately robes to sing the sad burial words at the tomb. Guess what they sang? "There will be no parting there"? "Safe in the arms of Jesus"? Ah! no. This is their hymn: "Vale, vale, in aeternum vale," i.e.,  "Farewell, farewell, for ever and ever, farewell!" Alas for the poor sorrowing pagan world who did not know of Christ and Easter. What a glad thing for us who do! How we should rejoice and thank God! How we should pray for His grace that some of us might be sent out by-and-by to the poor heathen, to comfort their poor sorrowful hearts with the Easter story.

What should we be able to tell the poor heathen mother about Easter to make her heart glad? (1) That we know Jesus Christ was God, He who took the children in His arms; and therefore we know God's feelings towards the children. (2) That He promised that there should be an eternal life after death, and proved it by rising Himself after death. (3) That, therefore a poor mother can with fearless heart commit her dying child to Him who loved the little children. Death is now for us but the threshold of the great glad eternal life. The dying child is but as the dying caterpillar on the leaf, who shall by-and-by burst its withered shell and soar out in the sunshine a glorious butterfly. "Them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him; wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians iv. 14, 18).

If there is time, emphasize here the lesson of the Epistle for the day—"Seek the things which are above," for "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." Therefore let us live as those with such noble prospects before us; and let us go forth to-day with bounding hearts, thanking God for this glad Easter Gospel. Let all around us this spring-time remind us of the Easter message when the world of nature is arising from its winter death, and every budding hedge and every leafy tree is like a message of God to earth preaching "Jesus and the Resurrection."

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