Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
The Collect for the day, which is ancient, seems to have suggested to our Reformers that more suitable passages might be selected for the Epistle and Gospel than those before in use. We have, therefore, in the Gospel the account of the Resurrection as given in St. John, and in the Epistle the doctrine of the resurrection of all Christian people in baptism as stated by St. Paul. Thus the unity of the Feast has been secured and very practical instruction given.
THE EPISTLE – Colossians 3:1-4 – BAPTISMAL RESURRECTION.
There is a close connection between Christ’s Resurrection and Christian baptism. This connection is no mere metaphor from descent into and rising from the baptismal water. S. Paul teaches that his baptism has been to the Christian exactly what the Resurrection was to Christ.
It is not said merely that the baptized must “die to sin and rise again to righteousness” (cf. baptismal service), but that they have died to sin and have risen to righteousness, and are (Rom. vi. 11) “to reckon themselves as dead in respect to sin and as alive in respect to God.”
This baptismal change is continually used by S. Paul as the great motive and power for newness of life. Thus we must not invert the order of this Epistle—risen, dead, mortify—nor insert the word “true” before Christian, for our baptism is to be our great motive to true and real Christianity of life.
A. Baptismal Resurrection.
By our Lord’s Resurrection He entered upon a new and risen life and a new relation to God. His old life passed away, and alt things became new. Thus by baptism into Christ the Christian enters upon a new life and a new relation towards God. Baptism conveys this change, which was once for all accomplished for the whole Church by the Resurrection of Christ, to the individual.
S. Paul can, therefore, say to all baptized Christians: “If ye were raised with Christ.” This “if” implies no uncertainty as to the fact, but only uses the fact as an argument—
(1) To heavenly effort.
The risen Christian is to pursue and aim at all that is consistent with his new position, to seek the things above.
(2) To heavenly affections.
He is to mind the things above—i.e., to make the new life not only his effort, but his delight. The order is significant; effort must precede pleasure, and then pleasure will surely follow, and where our treasure is (i.e., that for which we have laboured) our hearts will be also.
B. Baptismal Death.
The death and resurrection of Christ were not only His entrance upon a new sphere of life, but marked the severance of His connection with the past. Thus by baptism into Christ the Christian severs his relation to the world. The baptismal water is the Christian’s Rubicon.
Rom. vi. 4. “We were buried with Him through baptism into death.”
Col. ii. 12. “Having been buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with Him.”
This is no mere metaphor, but a statement of actual fact; the Christian as baptized and incorporated into Christ is thereby taken out of relation to the world to which he is dead and even buried. Baptism, like death, severs worldly ties and cancels human engage. ments. He who is “in Christ” is out of the world.
C. Baptismal Duty.
Our duty is to live a life consistent with our baptism. Resurrection with Christ implies death to the world, and death to the world implies that we “put to death our members that are upon the earth.” The baptismal change of relation demands also a change of conduct, a life of purity in action and thought, and a life of unselfishness, for since baptismal resurrection demands death to the world, to love the world is, therefore, the worst of sins, and deserves the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
THE GOSPEL – S. JOHN 20:1-10 – THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
This short Gospel shows the Resurrection not as a doctrine, but as a fact to be verified on evidence like all other facts. Three witnesses are adduced and three remarkable signs.
A. The Three Witnesses.
These are three: Mary Magdalene, S. Peter, and S. John. The value of their witness appears from the following consideration.
It was an event entirely unexpected by them.
(1) Mary had come in the evident expectation of finding the Body, for she had come bringing spices to complete the embalmment. Her perplexity is shown by her haste, and her breathless description—she has no time to explain either the “they” or the ‘‘ we.”
(2) S. Peter and S. John are equally surprised. They, too, run—and run each as fast as they can, thus separating, and the younger and more active arriving first.
They are both taken by complete surprise, and consider the facts without any preconceived theory. This done, they depart home.
B. The Three Signs.
These are only to be explained by the Resurrection, and are not consistent either with robbery of the tomb by the Jews, by removal of the Body by the disciples, or the supposition that Christ had revived while in the grave.
(1) The Stone Rolled Away.
Christ’s foes would not move it, for they had both sealed it and watched it to prevent this very thing. Christ’s friends could not move it thus guarded, and Christ Himself, even supposing His recovery from His terrible injuries, could not have moved it, for it was “exceeding great.”
(2) The Empty Grave.
The Lord’s Body was gone, and whither gone and how? His foes would not have taken it, and had they taken it, would have produced it to confute the belief of the disciples. Christ’s friends could not, and would not if they could, for His rising again had never entered their minds.
(3) The Condition of the Grave.
All was in order—the grave-clothes lying in one place, the napkin folded lying by itself. Here was no thieves’ work. Hurried fear does not leave behind it marks of deliberation. Here was no deception, but resurrection. The conviction of the first witnesses was based on observed facts—“they saw and believed.” Only the fact of the Resurrection explains what was seen on the first Easter morning.
C. The Faith of the Church.
This rests upon two foundations—
(1) The lives of the first witnesses, which give the strongest possible confirmation of their belief—by what they were and by what they did.
(2) The life of Christ Himself. This might well, in the absence of all other evidence, make us ready to believe that it was not possible for Him to be holden of death.
This simple Easter prayer combines the teaching of the Gospel with that of the Epistle.
A. The Resurrection of Christ.
By this our Lord not only overcame death Himself as recorded in the Gospel, but “opened unto us the gate of everlasting life,” that we might pass through the “grave and gate of death to a joyful resurrection.”
B. Our Baptismal Resurrection.
Through incorporation into Christ, the only begotten Son, we are made sons of God by adoption, and not only so, but receive the Spirit of His Son to quicken our souls to life by infusing good desires by “His special grace preventing us.”
C. Our Easter Prayer.
We pray that He Who has raised up Christ for us, and raised us up with Christ, would by His continual help enable us to live the risen life, as described in the close of the Epistle, of practical duty.