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THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
from the Writings of William Fenton Tyree, Sr.
The subject of the lesson today, as stated, is rather unfortunately worded. It would probably have been better to have said "The Power of His Resurrection." The word resurrection has no vital meaning separate from and apart from its association with Jesus. Each Sunday morning we repeat the Apostles Creed and say - "That he suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried. That He rose again the third day." He says of himself - "Therefore doth my father love me because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. "No man taketh it from me but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment I have received of my father." Any man has power to lay down his own life but is without power to take it again. Such power belongs to God alone. The statement of Jesus that he had power to lay down his own life and power to take it again is equivalent to a declaration of his divinity. Again he says - "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" These declarations of Jesus were made early in his ministry. His enemies confronted him with them at the time of his trial. They said - "This fellow said I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days." And while he was hanging on the cross the revilers passed by wagging their heads - And saying, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the son of God come down from the cross." And Mark reports the witnesses against Jesus as saying - "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and within three days I will build another made without hands." Neither the disciples, the elders of Israel nor the false witnesses understood what Jesus meant when he said he had power to lay down his life and power to take it again. While the crucifixion of Jesus as the substitute for and redeemer of mankind was the greatest event that has ever taken place in the history of the world, the final seal and sublime proof of its greatness rests in his resurrection. Death claimed him upon the cross. Claimed him as the representative of and the substitute for the race of men. He was paying the uttermost farthing of the indeptedness of a sinful world to divine law. If the shackles of death had held him death would have triumphed over him and would have led him captive. Sin would have reigned supreme and the door of salvation would have been closed against mankind. The resurrection of Jesus is infinitely more than the mere proof of immortality. It is the lofty exhibition of his power to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him. Because he was God; because of his infinite power he bowed his shoulders under the gates of death and tore them from their hinges. He brought liberty to the captive. Freedom to the slave, - beauty for ashes and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Therefore - "His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace." "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever." (Isaiah) Certainly, from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus until his actual death upon the cross he was at all times fully conscious that unmerited death awaited him. How little did his companions and associates understand the tremendous burden that lay always on the heart of Jesus. One of his most remarkable characteristics is to be observed in his quietness of spirit and gentleness of demeanor while bowed beneath such a load. What tremendous heroism, unmatched and unequaled in the life of any man was exhibited from day to day by our gracious Lord, as he moved ever onward toward the cross. "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah) He carried to the cross the hope of a world. He brought forth from the tomb deliverance for a world. Paul had no illusions in reference to the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. He took the position that the Christian religion amounted to nothing without it, yea even worse than nothing. He said - "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." and again - "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." He gloried in his personal knowledge of the risen Christ. He recounts the evidences submitted by witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus in this language - "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of Me also, as of one born out of due time." Paul never forgot the revelation which the risen Christ made of himself to him. That revelation colored his whole life and ministry. In writing to the Philippians he uses these words - "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him not having mine own righteousness, which if of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" He needed no secondary testimony as proof of the resurrection of Jesus. He had the witness within himself. It has always been the claim of Methodism that a like witnessing is available to all men. The same sincerity of purpose to serve God; the same earnest seeking after God; the same devotion to the highest and best that is in us that characterized the life of Saul of Tarsus will just as certainly bring us to a place of meeting where Jesus will reveal himself unto us even as he revealed himself to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road. Pauline experiences belong to Pauline personalities and if you long to-day for those uncontrovertible proofs of the resurrection of Jesus that seemed to have been so firmly established in the experiences of the Apostle Paul, know this; similar proofs will come to you if you walk in the path of honest and sincere devotion to a life of righteousness. The power of his resurrection is commensurate with the power of Jesus. Concerning his own power he said, at the time he issued his great commission to the apostles - "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Therefore, he possesses infinite power and is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him. Power may either curse or bless. Great power has often been exercised by despots and tyrants to the hurt and sorrow of men. Power, not associated with wisdom and love, is destructive, dangerous, and to be dreaded. Most of us desire power. Few of us could use power wisely and well if we had it. The infinite power of Jesus is controlled by and subservient to his wisdom and love. With confidence we may depend upon him to use this great power only in a beneficent and helpful way. He says - "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you"; and John says in this connection - "He came unto his own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God;" and Paul states - "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." We have, in a very limited degree, drawn upon this available source of power. We very imperfectly understand what Jesus meant when he said - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my father." After all, is it not the highest honor that can be conferred upon us that we, as Paul puts it, may become - "Laborers together with God." For what do we desire power? That we may be known in the gates? That we may occupy positions of authority? That we may amass wealth and acquire honors? "After all these things do the gentiles seek." It is certain that Jesus looked upon the world of men as being dead in trespass and in sin. After his resurrection, and after his disciples had come to more thoroughly understand his mission, they likewise proclaimed the great truth - "That as in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive." With a fuller appreciation of what Jesus meant when he said - "I am come that they might have life." This truth prompted John to say - "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." In that hour of sorrow when Jesus was on his way to the tomb of Lazarus, and Martha met him with the cry - "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died", You will remember that Jesus made this reply - "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Which statement of Jesus was followed by the exhibition of his power when he called Lazarus forth from the tomb. I do not know the extent of the power of Jesus. It is limitless, boundless, infinite. I do know that he invites us to become instruments in his hands through which his power may be constantly exercised and manifested. This power is within the reach of and available to all men. It is the power to serve God. It is the power that enables us to walk in his way. It is the power that brings with it security and peace that enables us to say, with peace in our souls; "Though an host should encamp against me my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me in this will I be confident." And to say with all humility and assurance - "I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep me in that which I have committed unto him against that day." My friends, Jesus is both the power of God and the wisdom of God, the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, among other great truths revealed: The triumph of Love over Law. Back of the crucifixion of Jesus forever stands the unchangeable law, the violation of which "brought death into the world, and all our woe." - the condemnation of our race and the sentence of the law upon us. In that sense, the law nailed Jesus to the cross - not because he had violated the law, but because he loved us to a sufficient degree to move him to take our place, and die, according to the law, in or stead. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness." Love has always been greater and higher than law. No hardship, no peril, no sacrifice, no suffering, no distress can halt the winged feet of love. Love disregards all difficulties, all besetments, all hazards, all dangers, all privations and with utter and unselfish abandon and indescribable joy, gives itself to the protection, the support and the happiness of the object of its devotion. No journey too long; no mountain too steep; no road too rough, for the feet of love. All commandments, all precepts, all law give way before the onward march of love, for - "Love is the fulfilling of the law." I have said that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus portray the triumph of Love over Law. I may more properly say that they stand as the exhibition and demonstration of the supreme law of love, for, after all love is the highest law. God is very much more interested in how you love than in how you live. Jesus so taught when he said - "Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." We are still busy tithing mint, and rue, and anise and cummin; still busy making clean the outside of the cup and the platter; still compassing sea and land to make a proselyte; still making broad our phylacteries; still loving the uppermost seats in the synagogue, while we leave undone these weightier things of the law. The power of our risen Lord is the power of love. He could have called legions of angels; he could have marshalled the armies of the skies, with flaming swords and chariots of fire, to sweep over and ride down his enemies, but he did not. He stands, through all time, crying - "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls." He said - "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." And Paul asserts - "God commendith his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That dear old saint, John, late in life and after a long Christian experience, was moved to exclaim - "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." By the power of His love, Jesus is calling us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He gave all. He asks all. He is entitled to all. What is our answer? "Jesus, thy dying love thou gavest me nor would I ought withhold dear Lord from Thee."
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