[This tract by W. S. Hottel was published by the Union Gospel Press. No date.]
THE FACT OF
W. S. Hottel
“He is risen; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).
The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are eternal facts in the mind and purposes of God the Father. They did not first become realities with God the Father when Jesus hung upon the Cross and died, and when He came forth from the sepulcher leaving the tomb empty behind Him. They were purposed, planned and anticipated from eternity, so that with God the Father they were potential realities just as the finished palace is a reality to the architect who draws the plans and describes the specifications. Our Lord is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8), and since His death and resurrection always go hand in hand and side by side in Scripture, His resurrection was just as certainly an anticipated fact as was His death. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
In due time, the fullness of time, the death and resurrection of Christ became historical facts as well. One day He hung upon the Cross and died. One day He was taken from the Cross and placed in a new hewn sepulcher. And one day He came forth from the tomb, rising from the dead, and leaving the tomb empty as a proof of His resurrection. The empty tomb is tlie best attested fact of history. It is attested by historical, logical and psychological evidence. The best argument that has ever been written on the reality of Christianity was written by the invisible hand of Eternal Power on the rock of our Saviour’s tomb, and in the lives of His own immediate disciples to whom He appeared in bodily form after His resurrection. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was not only a stupendous miracle, but it is also an indisputable and undeniable fact. When we believe in Christ’s physical and bodily resurrection we do not merely believe a dogma, neither a doctrine, nor yet public sentiment, but a fact: a fact which is the solid and enduring bedrock on which alone salvation can ever be built; a fact which demonstrates the Sonship and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eom. 1:4), and establishes His claim to Messiahship and Kingship (Acts 2:22-36), and a fact which in the sweep of its content carries with it, automatically and inevitably, the entire system of Christian Faith. No one need ever be in any doubt concerning the truth of the Christian faith: Christ is risen indeed.
I. We Contemplate the Fact of Christ’s Resurrection.
Look at it. The tomb was empty, sure enough. What of Christ’s body? Why, “He is risen”. The Risen Christ left the tomb empty, for He arose physically and bodily. This is a solid and a stubborn fact. No possible alternative to a risen body has ever been offered.
Did the disciples merely imagine the Lord had risen? “They, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her (Mary), believed not” (Mark 16:11). “And their words (the women’s) seemed to them (the eleven) as idle tales, and they believed them not” (Luke 24:11). At first the disciples did not believe the news of Christ’s resurrection. Well, surely, we could not think of men imagining what they do not believe. Nay, what men do not believe they reject as unworthy of even being imagined.
Did our Lord appear as a spirit? Then what about the empty tomb? And what about the body that had been laid away in the tomb ? These are pertinent questions, and they deserve no foolish answer, but the rather an answer which is both logical and intelligent. We find the answer to these questions in the visit of Peter and John at the tomb on the morning of the resurrection. “And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 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. 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” (John 20:5-9).
Both Peter and John saw and investigated the empty sepulcher. What they saw was a marvelous revelation to them. They saw the graveclothes and the turban about Christ’s head lying by itself. The clothes had sunk empty upon the rock: the napkin was folded inward, and separately, yet so as to preserve the shape and form of the corpse. But the Body was not there. It had not slipped out of the clothes, but passed through them. John believed the moment he saw the graveclothes. He knew Jesus had risen. So the Body of Jesus was not stolen, either by friend or foe; neither was their recovery after a swoon. The empty tomb is the proof and evidence of the bodily resurrection of Christ. This is the answer to the question, What about the empty tomb? as well as to the other question, What about the body of Jesus which had been laid away in the tomb? Jesus appeared to His own after His resurrection, but it was not as a spirit but in a real body of flesh and bones. He offered a tangible evidence of this fact, saying, “Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have” (Luke 24: 39).
If our Lord is still dead, or if His body evaporated in gases, the empty tomb and His bodily appearances still remain, after more than nineteen centuries, an impenetrable mystery, inherently unaccountable and utterly inexplainable. But if He rose, as He said, all is very simplicity itself. And He did arise. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (I Cor. 15:20). “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18).
II. We Observe the Demonstration of the Fact of Christ’s Resurrection.
Every effect has an adequate cause. Every fact has a fact behind it that brought it into existence and life. And a fact becomes in turn the moving cause of adequate consequences. Napoleon the mighty leader and conqueror, one day was master of Europe, allotting thrones at his will and pleasure. He was Napoleon the Great. But some months later, he found himself a lonely captive on a rocky islet in the Atlantic. Something must have happened in between. It did. What was it ? The answer is Waterloo. He had met his defeat and the consequences were inevitable.
In the life and history of the Lord Jesus Christ we see an infinitely more sudden and transcendent change. One day He was tried and condemned and nailed to a Cross, where He was left to die in agony and shame. In that dread hour He was forsaken by all His friends, mocked, laughed at and held in ridicule and contempt by His enemies. He was without any influence whatsoever, and Satan and his forces of darkness and evil must have gloated in triumph at their seeming victory.
But look! Some weeks pass into eternity, hardly months, and He is believed in and worshiped as the Son of God by thousands, and they were all Jews. What a miracle! Every Jew was bound, by every tie of religion and patriotism, to expect a conquering, delivering and reigning Messiah. Even if a feeble rem-nant among them, on the strength of certain predictions of their own Prophets indicating the rejection, death and cutting off of Messiah, looked for a slaughtered Christ, one thing is certain; the slaughter was not to be on a cross. Their own Law clearly said, “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 31:23). Jesus, nailed to the Cross, was hanged on a tree and therefore became a curse. And now behold the mystery. A Messiah cursed by Jehovah could not be accepted by a Jew. This was a moral impossibility, as men say today. Humanly speaking, and by any ordinary and natural process, the Jews will never believe in Christ.
But now behold. On the Day of Pentecost, as the result of one sermon, delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit, about three thousand Jews are converted to faith in Christ (Acts 2:41). And later we read, “Howbeit many of them which heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thou-sand” (Acts 4:4). And the tide rises, so that numbers are no longer given, because “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5:14), while still later, “A great, company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Thus the stern, stubborn and opposing Jews bent before a Messiah whom their own Law cursed. Something must have happened in between. And so it did. What was it? A stupendous act of God. “This Jesus hath God raised up” (Acts 2:32). “Let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). God had acted and the honest Jews had no other way open but to bow to His decision. But mark you: nothing short of the miracle of resurrection, wrought by the hand of God Himself, could have convinced Israel that Jesus was Jehovah’s Messiah.
But here is another illustrious example of the conviction of the fact of Christ’s resurrection. It is Saul of Tarsus. Saul is of noble birth, a brilliant scholar, and an exceedingly religious Jew. He was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, but was brought up in Jerusalem as the pupil of Gamaliel, a great Jewish scholar and instructor (Acts 22:3). By reason of his brilliant mind, under this able teacher, Saul became a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and as “touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless” (Phil. 3:6). His zeal for God and the Law made him a passionate and enthusiastic Jewish religionist and patriot.
Some three to five years after Christ had been crucified Saul is employed by the Sanhe-drin to stamp out this new sect. He pursued his task with relentless energy, so that he did not leave one stone unturned in his search for argument and reason to put an end to these hated followers of the Christ. As the appoint-ed confuter of the resurrection, every clue must have been in his possession, every means of adverse evidence was before him, every alternate theory he had mastered on the spot. He was well qualified and fully furnished to pursue his task with perfect efficiency. No critic since Saul has possessed even a tithe of his mastery of the evidence against the resurrection of Jesus.
But did he succeed? No, indeed not. True, he went a great way in his murderous persecution of the Christians. He persecuted them unto death, sparing neither women nor children. In his fury and madness he made havoc of the Church and wasted it, in the hope that he might exterminate every believer in this despised and hated Christ. But all at once the scene changes. Saul is Divinely arrested, humbled, converted and transformed. The enemy of Christ became His warmest friend, and the persecutor became the preacher and defender. He cut himself off from his family and kin, dropped his religion, and became an outcast from his nation. Saul was buffeted, persecut-ed, hated and assaulted. He lived a wanderer, finding himself beset with dangers and trials of various kinds, and at last died at the hands of a common executioner. Paul poured out his life as a drink offering for the faith he once sought to destroy.
Something must have happened in between. And so it did. What was it? Why, he had seen the Risen Christ. On his way to Damascus the Lord met him, and speaking with him said: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes!” (Acts 22:8): so that he could say later—”Am I not an Apostle? * * have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord”? (I Cor. 9:1). Could evidence be more convincing? Thirty years of travail and a martyr’s death are the proofs of what Paul saw. The resurrection of Christ made all the difference.
This crucified and risen Lord and Christ has been exalted by God the Father to be both Lord and Christ. He now lives in the Glory, seated at God’s right hand. To deny His resurrection is to declare the Apostles to have been false witnesses; for they say they saw Him bodily. To say that He did not rise, when God says He raised Him, is to make God a liar. If Christ did not rise there is no hope of salvation or eternal life. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (I Cur. 15:17). On the other hand, to accept Jesus as the One having died for our sins and having been raised again for our salvation, is to be saved, instantly, perfectly and eternally. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Dost thou believe in the Son of God? If not, God grant you may do so this very moment.
THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES
What a difference it would have made to us all if more often we had seen the angel at the grave; radiant life in the place of death! “He is risen; He is not here”. The mighty deed is done; the victory is won: death is destroyed, and the grave is conquered. The light of that Easter morning floods all the landscape of Gospel story. Then “go * * tell”. Who dare keep such news as this to himself? Christ is Risen! What difference does it make to you? Can you faintly imagine what life would be if He had not risen? The Cross, the Grave, the Throne, that is the way He went, and He calls us to go with Him, all the way.
– Dr. W. Graham Scroggie.