...And now let us open
that “bundle of myrrh,” [Song of Sol. i. 13, et cetera.] full of sweetness
though it savour of the grave; which hath combined with it the balm of
immortality, and speaks of “love strong as death;” which comes of “faith out
of a pure heart,” with the sweet “frankincense,” or the breath of early
morn, which while it is “yet dark” sees “the day break, and the shadows flee
away.” Let us, I say; now open the short Gospel for this day.
The first day of the
first day was it indeed of the new creation, “the day which the Lord hath
made;” the first of the days of Heaven; the day of the everlasting Light,
though it be yet dark. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene
early, when it was yet dark; unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken
away from the sepulchre. She sought while “it was yet dark.” How full
of significancy, how much of faithful penitential love is contained in these
words! She sought “when it was yet dark.” What encouragement to ourselves
sounds in the words! She sought, and “Thou, Lord, hast never failed them
that seek Thee.” [Ps. ix. 10] “I sought Him, but I found Him not;” but
love is kindled the more by seeking; and because she sought while it was yet
dark, as soon as it was light she found. Who is he “that walketh in
darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the Lord, and stay upon his
God.” [Isa. l. 10.] We also have to seek, and our best seeking is but as
it were in the dark; but if we “see the stone taken away,” and the sepulchre
open, it is enough; for Him we have to seek elsewhere where He is to be
found, which is at the Right Hand of God. It is enough for us below that
the sepulchre is open and the stone gone. Worthy is she, the first to find,
who first seeketh. “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee.” [Ps.
lxiii. 1.] To seek early is to have a double title to a blessing. And she
that had “seven devils “ hath known the depths of our mother Eve’s
inheritance of woe; “all Thy waves and storms are gone over me;” [Ps. xlii.
9.] and when one deep calleth unto another, where the lowest depth is found,
the deep of His mercy answereth first of all to the deep of our misery.
Then she runneth, and
cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and
saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we
know not where they have laid Him.
He that was slain by a death so miserable hath been
thought unworthy of the rich man’s sepulchre, and taken out from thence, and
cast forth I know not whence. Desolation and misery could go no further
than this: for she knew not as yet that the tide was already turned, and the
overflowing seas of man’s malice had come to their height, and were now to
be driven back for ever. She knew it not, and therefore was endurance in
this most perfected; and greater the joy that came in this bereavement. The
heaviness which endureth for a night was yet upon her, for it was yet dark;
and she knew not as yet the joy that cometh with the morning. [Ps. xxx. 5.]
She came—she came early—she came while yet dark—she came and found not—and fearing still sought—and her fears but kindled
more her zeal; “she runneth,” as first to bear tidings of that which for
four thousand years creation had been listening to hear—that the stone was
rolled away; “she runneth,” for speed is well needed to keep alive the torch
which is to kindle the world; which must first awaken Apostles, and guide
them on their way while it was yet dark.
Peter therefore went
forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both
together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the
sepulchre; and he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes
lying; yet went he not in.
The disciple whom
Jesus loved “did outrun Peter;” not that his love for his Lord was greater,
as St. Augustin would say; yet faith was stirred by hope, and hope added
wings to zeal; and hopeful faith does perhaps precede the love which is
weighed down by penitential sorrow. In him who lay on Jesus’ breast, and
who stood by His Cross in death, there may have been with love, greater
knowledge of the Divine power which his Master had, even in death. Or more
lively recollection of His oft-repeated declarations, which they understood
not, of His rising again. Or may be that, setting aside spiritual
significancy, it was but youth and age balanced together, each in turn to
prevail; the one preceding by the way, the other by entering in. Yet the
“entering not in” was as of wisdom that feeds on contemplation, and seeks
not evidence of sense. “Stooping down and looking in he saw,” but he
entered not. All is expressive; humility that stoops to look in, and
reverential awe that stands aloof, are the parts of wisdom. While in St.
Peter, that pastoral love to which it is given to feed the flock, is more
bold in search, to investigate the evidences of truth. Thus both are alike,
both running together; one follows for a time and then precedes.
Then cometh Simon
Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen
clothes lie; and the napkin that was about His head, not lying with the
linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
These were no signs of
indecent haste and irreverence, as in those who from hostile motives would
disinter and dishonour the dead; but of Him Who hath implanted in our nature
the feelings of reverential regard for the poor clothings of mortality.
Nay, far more; it speaks of that awful veneration for holy things, which
touched and handled with extreme care and circumspection the Ark of God, and
all that pertained to the sanctuary.
Then went in also that
other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and
believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again
from the dead.
That is, “he saw”
those evidences of Christ risen, “and believed.” The light of Divine grace
within his heart giving him eyes to read these tokens aright; “the Father of
lights” within was revealing His Son and “the power of His Resurrection” to
one who had kept so close to Him in “the fellowship of His sufferings;” and
who already seemed to have died with Him in that keener martyrdom, which
love supplied, when “the sword pierced through” his “own soul,” as, together
with the Virgin Mother, he watched his Lord’s dying agonies.
Then the disciples,
it is added, went away again unto their own home; leaving the
faithful Mary there at the tomb. In the dusk of the evening, in the
twilight of the morning, she is there; if she departs, it is but on the same
sacred errand and inquiry of love, and again to return. She, out of whom
went seven devils, hath well known what it is to find, and what it is to
lose; and shall soon know what it is so to find as never to lose again her
And here we may
observe what has probably occurred to us as remarkable in the selection of
this passage for the Gospel of Easter Day; that there is no mention in it of
Christ risen, no evidence beyond that of the open grave, no appearance of
our, Lord stated in it, not even the Angel’s declaration that Christ is
risen; but the great end and object of it is contained in this which is
stated of the beloved disciple, from whose Gospel it is taken, that “he saw
though he had “not seen.” It is the greater blessing, declared by our Lord
Himself, and apparently with a reference to this very circumstance of St.
John, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” It
is, moreover, the duty and crown especially held out to ourselves, that we
believe in Him while withdrawn from sight. It connects together the Epistle
and the Gospel. For the Epistle exhorts, us to believe in Him though we see
Him not, so as to be risen together with Him; and the Gospel shows us how
Divine love is ready to do this, even from the very first, and while as yet
they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
of the Lord,” says, St. Augustin, “is not absence: have faith and He is with
thee, Whom thou seest not.” And the history of this great and glorious day
itself will supply us with every form and variety of faith, in which He is
found by those that seek Him. He was found this day by St. John through
faith which needed not sight; in that purity of heart which hath the vision
of God; He was found by St. Peter, the chief of Apostles, and the chief of
penitents; He was found in the assembling together of the Church and the
Apostolic company, the doors being closed; He was found and known in the
breaking of bread; He was also found, and first seen by her who first sought
Him, early and in the dark, by Mary Magdalene, by the loving,
earnestly-seeking, mourning sinner, the returning daughter of Eve. She
first saw “the bright and Morning Star,” and she wears for ever the crown of
this great day. And what if on this day in all these ways we seek Him; ere
the rise of the morning, in the setting of the sun, with loving penitence,
with contemplative wisdom, in Apostolic fellowship, in the assemblage of the
faithful, and in the breaking of bread.