A Declaration of Our Lord's Divinity
A GREAT festival of the Christian
Church like Easter appears to have one drawback attending it, from
The rays of truth which flash
forth from a fact like the Resurrection of our Lord are so many and so
bright that, if we do not fix our minds upon some one of them, and do what
we may to understand its importance, we may only be dazzled into bewilderment
by the splendid whole, and may carry away with us nothing that afterwards
will shape our thoughts or influence our lives. And here St. Paul comes
to our assistance by suggesting at the beginning of his greatest Epistle
a point which may well engage our earnest attention, namely, the bearing
of the Resurrection on the Divinity of our Lord. Among other things, the
Resurrection, he tells us, did this : it threw a special light on the higher
Nature of Jesus Christ. He was declared to be the
Now, let us note for a moment that in the text St. Paul, summarily describing the contents of the Gospel, says that it was wholly concerned with Jesus Christ our Lord, and with two facts about Him more especially. The first fact : that He was really man, with a human body and a human soul This was clear from His being a member of a particular and well-known Jewish family. According to the flesh that is, in respect of His human nature He was born of the seed of David. The second fact: that, although man, He was more than man. According to the Spirit of holiness that is, in respect of His higher and superhuman Nature, He was declared to be the Son of God. The phrase, "according to the Spirit of holiness," in the second clause, corresponds to and contrasts with the phrase, " according to the flesh," in the first. And as the flesh in this passage certainly means human nature, and not, as often, the corrupt or animalized principle in human nature, so the Spirit of holiness means, not the Third Person in the Godhead, Who sanctifies us, but the higher or Divine Nature of Christ, somewhat vaguely described and set over against His human nature. For this less common use of the word " spirit," we have a warrant in at least two other passages * of the New Testament.
The resulting sense is that, as our Lord was seen to be truly man by the fact of His birth of the family of David, so the true character and import of His higher Nature became apparent when He rose from the dead.
Here, then, is opened to
us a subject of the highest interest on this the greatest of Christian
I. That which the Apostle
s words may first of all suggest to us is the importance of events.
He attributes to a
Some times, indeed, they are written in a familiar alphabet; their meaning is so clear that all men may read it. All who believe that the world is ruled by a Moral God understand what was meant by the fall of Babylon, or the capture of Rome by Alaric, or the close of the career of Napoleon. Sometimes they are written in characters as wholly unintelligible to all living men as were the Egyptian hieroglyphics half a century ago, though they may be read by the high Intelligences around the Throne in heaven, or hereafter, for all that we know, by highly endowed men on earth; and in the book of history there is much writing of this kind, which eludes the efforts of man s inquisitive and constant gaze. But sometimes, also, the meaning of God s writing in events is hidden from the mass of men at first sight, but becomes plain to them when the key to its interpretation has been given them by a competent instructor; like the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, traced on the wall of the banqueting chamber of the Eastern monarch, the sense of which was plain when a Daniel had been summoned to decipher it. Of such handwriting as this, too, history is full ; but we must not linger on it, since we have to fix our attention on one great sample of it on a particular event, the Resurrection of our Lord.
Now, that a strictly supernatural occurrence such as the Resurrection would have a special meaning, or several meanings, is surely an obvious supposition ; the odd thing would be, if such an event could occur without any purpose or meaning at all. And St. Paul tells us what, in his inspired judgment, that meaning was ; it was to declare that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
Endeavour, my brethren, to
think what sort of impression would be created in your minds if, after
following to the grave one whom you had dearly loved for many years, and
after listening to the last office of the Church, and watching the sod
as it was thrown in upon the coffin, you should see that same friend or
relative enter your room, with the old aspect, the well-known figure and
expression, the accustomed voice, remaining just long enough to assure
you that he was here again, and then passing swiftly away to comfort and
encourage some other mourner. And yet this is what did happen in substance
to Mary Magdalene and the holy women, and Peter and James, and the two
disciples and the ten, on the day of our Lord s rising from the dead. Such
an event could not but be of great significance. Even if the risen one
should not utter a word, the mere appearance of such a visitor would be
pregnant with meaning ; it would declare a great deal that at first we
should find it hard to put into words about the unseen world and this,
about life and death, about the ways of
You will allow this and much
more. But why, you may ask, should our Lord s Resurrection have the higher
The answer is, first of all, that the Resurrection of our Lord was a verification of the proof which He had offered of His own claim.
The Jewish doctors had understood the words in the psalm addressed to Messiah, "Thou art My Son : this day have I begotten Thee," not only of His being before all worlds, as it is understood in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but also of His rising from the dead ; and in this sense it is employed by St. Paul in that wonderful appeal to the Jewish conscience which he made in the Synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. And therefore, our Lord, knowing what was involved in the claim to be Messiah, foretold His Resurrection certainly on six, probably on more occasions: and it was in this fulfilment of His own prediction a prediction based upon the deeper sense of the ancient Scriptures that St. Paul recognized a declaration of the Divine Sonship of Christ. The Resurrection was an intervention of the Almighty Father in behalf of His Well-beloved Son; it was an assertion by the Son of His real relation with the Father; it was a proof that the uncertainties of the future and the laws of the physical world were alike subject to His supreme control ; it was an event, in the manner of its accomplishment, so altogether exceptional and striking that the Apostle s appeal to it as declaratory of our Lord s Divinity is, if the expression might be allowed, only natural. Christ Himself had summoned the widow s son to rise from the bier, and Lazarus to issue from the recesses of the tomb; but no form of majesty or power stood by His grave, no voice of authority was heard to speak when before the dawn His human Soul, returning from the regions of the dead, reunited itself with the holy Body that lay in the sepulchre, and passed forth into the world of living men. The manner of His Resurrection was a declaration that He Who had died and was buried was the Son of God.
But further, in our Lord
s case the Resurrection did not stand alone. It is abstractedly conceivable
II. But the Apostle says that this declaration of the Divine Sonship of Christ, which was made by His Resurrection, was made with power. The Resurrection did not hesitatingly suggest that our Lord might possibly be the Son of God; it amounted, when taken together with the life and character and teaching of our Lord, to a demonstration, irresistible and overwhelming at least, for the Apostle himself that our Lord was the Son of God.
I say for the Apostle himself,
because, looking at the whole connection of the passage, it is scarcely
Saul of Tarsus, at that time
an active young Rabbi in Jerusalem, strongly attached to the cause of the
Pharisaic party, was not one of the privileged company to whom the Risen
Redeemer showed Himself during the Great
And then came the journey
to Damascus, and that scene among the low hills of the desert some eight
miles or so from the city gate, which was to change the foremost persecutor
of Christ into the most devoted of His Apostles. And what was it which
that scene brought home with irresistible power to the mind of Saul of
Tarsus? Many truths, no doubt, but this pre-eminently, that Jesus, of Whom
he had dreamt as stricken and silenced for ever in the stillness and corruption
of the tomb, was alive, and was ruling men and events
It was, then, Jesus, and
not himself or his instructors, Who held the key to the true sense of the
ancient Scriptures; it was the teaching of Jesus, and not that of the Rabbinical
Schools, which followed on in the direct line of Moses and the Prophets.
Those miracles of Jesus at which, with other Pharisees, he had, no doubt,
scoffed, were only what might be expected in the heir of the Messianic
prophecies, and this crowning wonder of all, which Jesus had predicted
as designed to follow on His Death, lifted yet further the veil that hung
before the eyes of the astonished and humbled Rabbi, and showed that He
Who could thus make the past and the present alike minister to His glory;
He Who could rule at once in the conscience of man, and mould at pleasure
the forces of nature; He Who could lie as a corpse in the darkness of the
grave, and then, speaking from the
If to St. Paul, much more, we may well think, to those who saw the Risen Lord once and again saw Him, conversed with Him, ate with Him, touched Him. Such, certainly, was the effect on that Apostle, who was, it might seem, naturally of a sceptical turn of mind, although, as the Collect says, for the greater confirmation of the Faith he was doubtful of Christ s Resurrection. What was Thomas s exclamation when our Lord offered His Hands and His Side to the inquisitive touch of His Apostle? "My Lord and my God!" Those five sacred Wounds in the Risen Body were a revelation, not of Christ s manhood only, but of His Deity, since they proclaimed the veiled power which had conquered death.
And so it has been ever since. The Resurrection has been felt to be the fact which, beyond all others, proclaims Christ as the Son of God with power. When Judas went his way, the important requisite in his successor was that he was to be a witness to the Resurrection. The Resurrection was the burden of all the recorded preaching of the earliest Church; the Gospel which it preached was a Gospel of the Resurrection whether in the mouth of Peter, or Stephen, or Paul, it was the same. And at this moment, all who think seriously about the matter know that the Resurrection is the point at which the Creed, which carries us to the heights of heaven, is most securely embedded in the soil of earth, most thoroughly capable of asserting a place for its Divine and living Subject in the history of our race. Disprove the Resurrection, and Christianity fades away into the air as a graceful but discredited illusion: but while it lasts it does its work as at the first; more than any other event, it proclaims Christ to be the Son of God with power in millions of Christian souls.
It is said, I know, that
a wonder of this kind, however calculated to impress the mind of bygone
When does a fellow-man arrest our attention? Is it when he is acting as is his wont, or when he is acting in some manner which we did not anticipate excelling himself, as we say, or falling below himself; a good man, as we thought, letting his mouth speak wickedness, or being partaker with an adulteress; or a bad man, as we held him, rising to the heights of generosity or self-sacrifice; a wise man committing himself for a moment to some startling folly; or a foolish man uttering some opinion, the value of which commands the respect of the wise? And when the Ruler of the Universe suspends for a moment His wonted rule of working by such a miracle as raising the dead, the importance of His act will not be disposed of by a passing mood of thought, which, fresh from laboratories and observatories, thinks more of law than of suspensions of law. No; our Lord's Resurrection is an occurrence which will declare to our children, as it has declared to our forefathers, the Divine Sonship of Jesus, and it will do this, as it has done it hitherto, with power. We know what death is ; we have known, most of us, at some moment in our lives, what we would have given to be able to break its chain when wound round those we have loved; and in the light or memory of this experience we may own the true Majesty of Him Who liveth and was dead, and behold, He is alive for evermore. and has the keys of hell and of death.
III. But there is another sense in which the Resurrection from the dead is a declaration with power that Jesus is the Son of God. No one can read St. Paul s Epistles without observing that he constantly speaks of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, not only as events in the life of Jesus on earth, but as spiritual transactions which take place in the Christian soul or character. 1. He bids Christians crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. 2. He says of Himself, " I am crucified with Christ." 3. Addressing his readers at Ephesus, he quotes a Christian hymn of the earliest age: Awake, thou that sleepest, And arise from the dead, And Christ shall give thee light." 4. He exclaims in this in the Epistle to the Colossians, "If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above." 5. It is true that this language of St. Paul is more particularly connected with the entrance of new converts into the Christian Church by baptism. Conversion had involved a crucifixion of the old corrupt nature ; and then, as the convert was dipped beneath the baptismal waters and raised again by the minister of the Sacrament, he was, in St. Paul s words, "buried with Christ in baptism, and raised again to newness of life."
Is it nothing that a soul
should lie in the grave of sin, and then, touched by a mighty inspiring
Force bidding it
You may, some of you must,
have known men, the bearers of less famous names, or living in private
When the old Christians whom
Saul of Tarsus had so cruelly wronged beheld his converted life, his clear
God grant that this Easter
the Heart of the Risen and glorified Jesus may be gladdened by many such
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