And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:…
The thoughtful traveller in Europe, visiting the churches and cathedrals which are monuments at once to the munificence, religiousness, and superstition of past centuries, cannot fail to notice the many representations of a dead Christ which these buildings enshrine. There are those who insist that this dead Jesus is the symbol of the Christian faith. From that grave in the garden He did not come forth, and all the declarations of His disciples concerning His resurrection, His appearances to them were but dreams and fancies, or at most only mythical and poetic expressions of a continuity of His influence-an influence emanating from the moral beauty of His life and teaching upon the earth. It is against this denial of the actual resurrection of Jesus and the continuance of His personal life that I would speak. Jesus of Nazareth is not dead, but is alive for evermore. We are not unfamiliar with the substitute for this personal immortality, both of our Lord and of ourselves, which is proffered us to-day, namely, "a continuity of spiritual and mental energy and influence, passing from us unto others, and thus on through succeeding generations." The measure of truth in this we do not deny. It is true that all thought, all emotion, all aspiration of past generations enters into the present. It is true that in this sense Jesus Christ is alive, and lives for evermore. Beyond all others His influence is felt in the throbbing life of our own age. But was this posthumous influence all Christ meant in the predictions He made of His conquest over death and His rising again from the grave? He — not simply the memory of His words, not simply the influence His life has exerted upon His disciples — but He Himself will be with them to the end of the world. True, the visible form vanished from their eyes. That must be so. Limited fellowship must give way to universal communion. But did those followers of the Galilean ever, after that memorable scene on Olivet, doubt that their Master was with them? Never! John may be banished by pagan Rome from all the endearing associations of Christian brotherhood; yet no power could bereave him of the Saviour. Christ living in His followers is the secret of the continued life of the Christian Church. Empires have fallen, philosophies have been exploded. But this body of Christ, animated by His Spirit, has lived and grown, sustained by the life of Him who eighteen hundred years ago died and rose again. But I want to set before you the living Christ in relation to the larger life of our age, its theologies, its sociology, its literature, and its art. Jesus Christ is Himself the centre of all theology, The supreme evidence of Christianity is Christ. Never was there such activity in Christian thought as now. Never was the person or the character of Jesus more scrutinised than in this age. The marked feature of present theological discussion is that it centres around the Christ Himself rather than any of the doctrines or theories men have deduced from His words. Again: This living Christ is felt in the political movements of the present century. The nations of the earth are to-day moving in the direction of democracy. Many see and note this; but all do not perceive the character of the democracy which is thus developing. It is not the democracy of Greece or Rome in the days of their republics, but a new democracy which is coming up the steep of time. They were republic of the few. This is a democracy of the whole. The new democracy will know nothing in race, clime, creed, or colour to bar a man out of citizenship. The seeds of this democracy were sown when Christ proclaimed the brotherhood of man and sent forth His disciples to found a religion which aimed at the enfranchisement of all men. Legislation feels His influence. Law is more and more seeking to embody impartial, universal justice. Government seeks to hold its shield over all alike — the feeble, the poor, the unfortunate, as well as the rich, the strong, and the successful. The element of mercy was never so potent in the administration of law as to-day. The hand of Jesus has wiped hundreds of cruel and unjust penalties from the statute-books. The end now sought by punishment is not revenge, or restraint even, alone, but the reformation of the criminal. Some one has said culture and Christianity walk arm in arm. Jesus Christ said, "Go, teach." To whom are we indebted for the greatest educational institutions of the present time? Men in whom Christ lived and who would have culture lay its crown at His feet. The children of the poor and toiling masses are gathered into schools, and the gates of knowledge flung open to them. The blind are made to see with the sensitive finger-tips, and the deaf seem almost to hear under the teaching of those who thus seek to do in the world the work of Him who is their Master and Lord. Note the influence of the Christ in the literature and art of this century. A few words must suffice. Never had literature so many men and women of commanding genius, whose work vibrates with the spirit of the Saviour. The essayists, poets, novelists, who have most deeply stirred the pulses of the present generation are those who in a greater or lesser degree write along the lines of religious thought, emotion, and human sympathy. Art is every year becoming purer. The most immortal work of the painter, ancient or modern, is that which seeks to bring before men something in the life and work of this Christ. Music rises to its highest development and takes its grandest forms of expression when it weds itself to sacred themes. The life of the world — social, moral, intellectual, artistic — the world's nobler life is fed by the unfailing life of Jesus the Christ. Each passing year His presence will be more vividly recalled, His influence more potently felt. "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"
(W. Lloyd, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: