The surest evidence of the resurrection.
G. Campbell Morgan on the enduring witness of the church to Jesus’s rising again.
It’s Easter week — or for you “high church folk,” Holy Week. Those who know and believe that Jesus is their Savior hold in tension the devastation and agony of Good Friday along with the deliverance exultation of Easter Sunday. Those are the twin clouds, so to speak, which hang over these days. And I, for one, am quite happy to have them. Quite happy, that is, to live in this tension. It is, I would say, the beauty of the gospel which we hold dear. We look at the abject suffering of the cross in a new way because we know what came after it — because we know and believe that death proved to be an impotent warden for he who is “the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25; cf. Acts 2:24). The sorrow of Golgotha remains but it is tinged with the success of the empty grave. Such is the thrill of the faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).
What would it mean, though, if Christ hadn’t risen? What if the stone stayed where it was and he never walked out of that grave? What then? Well, St. Paul answers that question for us quite definitively: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). All that the church is and does and stands on is futile, pointless, and gross vanity apart from the resurrection. “If Christ be not raised,” the apostle continues, “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins,” and “we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:17, 19). Which is just to say that it is a sad state of affairs no matter how you look at it if Jesus did rise again the third day. But he did. And how do I know that? Well, as G. Campbell Morgan so eloquently explains in a sermon titled, “If Christ Did Not Rise—What Then?” the church itself is the surest, most enduring witness to the veracity of the resurrection. He writes:
I submit to you that the surest evidence of actual and positive resurrection from the dead is not documentary evidence, is not argumentative evidence . . . The final evidence is the Church, that holy company of men and women, and, thank God, little children, gathered from among all nations irrespective of geographical boundaries or temperaments, or times or seasons, gathered as the result of the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified and risen. The supreme demonstration of the fact of the resurrection is the fruitfulness of faith . . . Faith has taken hold upon this Evangel of the resurrection and believed it, and, lo, chains have fallen, the burden has rolled down the hill into the valley, and Christian has set his face toward the Celestial City with a new song and a new victory. The final demonstration of the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the joy of the Church . . .
If Jesus had never been raised from the dead, there in Joseph of Arimathaea’s garden lay the dust of the fairest dream that ever broke upon the throbbing, surging heart of humanity; but it was past; the whole thing was absolutely over. It was merely that the great dreamer had been murdered, and that is the only meaning of His cross. (1:141, 144–45)
The cross was the snuffing out of maniacal ethicist whose dreams of changing the world were quickly brushed aside if not for the resurrection. “Everything depends upon this one central fact: a risen Christ,” Morgan affirms (1:139). But as the church has endured, so, too, as the evangel upon which its foundation is laid. The tomb is empty. The grave couldn’t hold him. The cross worked. Sinners are free. May you and I find the moorings for our faith in the sure word that he who was nailed to the cross was the incarnate “I am,” who succumbed to death on our behalf that death might, once and for all, be put to an end.
I pray you are having a blessed Easter week! Grace and peace.
G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit: The Preaching of G. Campbell Morgan, Vols. 1–10 (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., 1954).