By the late Rev. Donald Campbell, M.A.*
Preached in Edinburgh in December 1979, and now abridged and edited.
Text:“The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon,” Luke 24:34.
THIS chapter is Luke’s account of the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection. He was in this world for a period of forty days after He rose from the dead, and before He ascended to the right hand of God the Father. We have not only Luke’s history of the Lord during that very important period, but also the accounts given by the other evangelists, Matthew, Mark and John. Putting all these together one has a very full record of that glorious period in the history of the world. There was nothing comparable to it and there never will be.
The resurrection of Christ has been, and continues to be, called in question by many. Not only does this apply to the Jews, who rejected Him as their Messiah, and to other anti-Christian bodies, but also to the professing Church in which are those who question it, and even some who deny it outright. They will not accept that the body of Jesus is now exalted in the person of the Son of God at the right hand of power. We must seek grace to believe the testimony of God’s word regarding this all important matter. This is the testimony that will stand when all others will fail and when all objections will be proved false.
Our text is a statement of the fact of the resurrection of the Saviour. “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” The writer had no doubt regarding the veracity of what he was saying. So we would notice, first, the statement of the fact of the resurrection of Christ:”The Lord is risen indeed”. Secondly, there is the confirmation of this fact given in these words: “and hath appeared to Simon”. The reference is to Simon Peter, who had recently been involved in the very heinous sin of denying his Master. Yet, this is the one to whose testimony the inspired writer is appealing as a reliable ground for accepting the resurrection of the Lord as factual and true.
First, we have the statement of the fact of the resurrection of Christ: “The Lord is risen indeed”. This claim and fact cannot be emphasised enough. It is too important to just mention it and pass over it. We must take account of the attempts being made by very powerful forces to refute this claim and fact. Satan, the father of lies, leads in this evil work. We find the attempt to refute it beginning very soon after the resurrection of Christ, especially when the High Priests and the rulers bribed the soldiers, who had been watching the grave, to give a false report. That false report was accepted, and is yet accepted, by the Jews, as an explanation for the empty grave of Jesus. Unreasonable and manifestly untrue as that report was, it was accepted by a people filled with prejudice against the Saviour. But the fact is irrefutable no matter what unbelieving men and the devil say, or may attempt to do. However successful they may seem to be, the fact remains that “the Lord is risen indeed”. He is not dead but alive, and is alive for evermore, and has the keys of hell and of death.
Notice also the timing of this important event. It was on the first day of the week. People can change dates, and begin their year from a certain important event in their history, as Israel itself did, but no man can change the order of the days as originally created and arranged by their Maker. The resurrection took place on the first day of the week. In the very beginning, on the first day, which itself was divinely created, God “created the heavens and the earth”. He also created the light. Until then, darkness covered the earth, which was void and without form. On that first day God said: “Let there be light: and there was light. . . and God divided the light from the darkness,” Genesis 1:3,4.
We now have our attention directed to this other momentous first day of the week – the day when Christ rose from the dead. This is in order that we may consider the first day of the week: its properties, its origin, its Maker, and the purpose for which the things created on that day were created. Not only were the heavens and the earth created but also light, which is essential to life on the earth. In Christ we have a new light the Light of the World, for the Saviour described Himself as such. In an awful sense, the Light of the World was put out and great darkness covered the earth on the day that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God in our nature, was put to death and His body buried. Surely that event caused no ordinary darkness in Jerusalem, throughout Judah and throughout the world. Now, if the resurrection of Christ had not taken place verily the world would be in darkness. If He had not risen from the dead, the hope of man would have perished forever; for “if Christ be not risen . . . then your faith is also in vain.” If He had not risen, heaven would be devoid of the spirits of just men made perfect, for “if Christ be not raised . . . then they also which are fallen asleep in Jesus are perished”.
That has not happened. Christ rose! Yes, “the Lord is risen indeed”. On the first day of the week the Light of World is, in accordance with prophesy, risen. “But unto you . . . shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings,” Malachi 4:2. The Lord, rising as the Light of the World, as the Sun of Righteousness, about to shine on this benighted world of the human race, as the conclusion of this chapter so clearly shows, was the beginning of a light which would lighten the whole world and would bring hope, peace, order, prosperity, and eternal life to many nations.
Further, we are told that it was early on the first day of the week. We read that the women (Mary Magdalene and the other women who accompanied her to the sepulchre) went there “very early in the morning”. But they were too late to see the resurrection of the Lord Jesus actually taking place. The morning, according to the Jewish reckoning, was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., so that the Saviour must have risen from the dead about 3 o’clock in the early morning. The possibility is that the women were there very shortly after that, for they seem to have left home to go to the sepulchre soon after the Sabbath was ended. By the time they reached the sepulchre they were too late to see the great event of the rising of the Saviour of men from the state of death. That, however, did not deprive them of blessing and joy, for they eventually had these.
Even although they had been there, there is no assurance that they would have been privileged to see Him coming out of the grave. There were soldiers there, but they did not see Him. While we must make a distinction between those gracious women and the soldiers who were guarding the grave, there was no assurance that the women would have seen the Lord coming forth out of the grave, had they been there. The soldiers were like dead men. They were there; they could have seen it, but they did not. They did not see it because they were smitten and helpless in that glorious situation. Although the soldiers did not have that privilege, they did have an extraordinary experience which no one before or after had, but that did not change their foolish, covetous hearts. They were prepared, after all, to accept a bribe to tell what they knew very well was untrue. They accepted the security offered to them in order that they and their masters could spread a lie a lie that is perpetuated in the hearts and lives of generations of the human race.
The fact that the resurrection of the Saviour was “very early in the morning” implies also that He did not wait one moment beyond the appointed time of His rising. He did not wait one second in the grave beyond the moment when it was proper, and in accordance with the mind of God, that He should rise. He came forth in the power of eternal life to live after the power of an endless life. Nor did He wait for anyone to be there at the sepulchre.
It was soon afterward, we believe, that the women were there. It is altogether out of the question, indeed inconceivable, that they could have been guilty of staging the resurrection; or that their report of His having risen was based on false zeal. There is nothing to substantiate such an inference. They came to the grave with an intention, and they “prepared spices and ointment” for accomplishing that intention. Their intention was to anoint the holy body of Jesus, for they were expecting to find the body as they had left it in the sepulchre. They did not come to the grave with any false pretension or intention. They came in all sincerity in order that they might use this opportunity to give expression to their love for, deep admiration of, and indebtedness to, the One whom their souls loved.
So they came. In doing so they found themselves involved, and very deeply involved, in this great event the resurrection of the Saviour. They came with their fears and their wondering, and in the face of many obstacles. They arrived to find that the stone was removed from the door of the sepulchre; that obstacle was now gone and one fear was removed. They discovered an empty sepulchre, but now they were discomfited, especially Mary Magdalene. She, and no doubt the others also, could not accept that the body of their Saviour was lost. Mary did not then understand, and neither did the others, the significance of the empty grave. As far as one can judge from their response to the empty grave, their preference was to find the body still there.
We see also that the women were not alone at the sepulchre. Angels were there, in the form of human beings, as messengers to console, to help, to direct those who would come to the grave and find themselves confused and afraid, as the women were. Notice that it was not Peter and John, nor any of the disciples, who were there; neither was it one of the glorified saints such as Elijah, or Moses, or Samuel, or Daniel. The angels were there to minister comfort and to give assurance to those who were perplexed on account of not understanding the significance of the situation confronting them. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” they asked the women. “He is not here.” They were saying to the women, as it were, “Can you not remember what He said? Have you forgotten His words? Are you so swallowed up by your sorrow, and that unnecessarily, that you have forgotten all that He said during those years you were in His company? And among His many sayings, He had much to say about His own resurrection. As He told you about His sufferings and death, so He told you also that He would rise again; and not only so but He made an appointment with you, and with His disciples, to meet Him in Galilee. Have you forgotten all this? Are you now so overcome by your grief, and so relying on your own interpretation of this day’s developments, that the words of Him who has the words of eternal life are forgotten?” And so the angels declared plainly, “He is risen, as He said,” Matthew 28:6. The angels were not delivering that message by their own authority. They did not say that the Lord was risen because they were saying it, but “He is risen, as He said.”, that is, “As He Himself said; this is but the fulfilment of His own words.”
Further, the women were given a duty to perform a very important and weighty duty. They were sent to tell His disciples. As far as one knows, there was no move on the disciples’ part to come to the sepulchre on the morning of the first day to see for themselves whether or not those words they had heard from Him were, or could be, fulfilled. It was on the third day that the two disciples on the way to Emmaus had the whole matter on their minds. “Today is the third day since these things were done,” they said, Luke 24:21. If the fulfilment of His words had been on the minds of the disciples at the time of His burial, why were they not waiting at the grave on that first day morning? Why did they not make sure that they would be watching there also, not with the intention of stealing His body, but to see whether the truth spoken by Himself concerning His resurrection would be fulfilled? No, it was the women’s role that day to convey this message of hope, of joy and of security to His disciples and, indirectly, to the world of sinners. “He is not here,” said the angel, “for He is risen. . . And go quickly, and tell His disciples that he is risen from the dead;” saying, as it were, “Let this no longer be a secret known to angels only and to God in heaven. Let the church waken up, even such as are sleeping. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.’ That first day of the week has brought into the experience of the human race a Light which will lighten the Gentiles and fill the world with the glory of that Light. Yes, the Lord is risen, He is no longer buried in the earth. His body is not stolen. His body and soul, together in His divine person, are somewhere in Judah, and you will find Him if you keep the appointment He made with you. Go to Galilee and there you will meet Him.” The women then carried out their mission, and the disciples were informed of the glorious fact, “He is risen from the dead.”
Secondly, there is the confirmation given of this fact in these words: “and hath appeared to Simon”. As John tells us, the result of the disciples being informed by the women of the resurrection of their Lord was that two of the disciples went to the sepulchre to investigate. This was a new development in the history of the church of God, and it required examination and proof. Peter and John, who were even then pillars in the church of God, must know whether or not this be true. So, we find this investigation beginning, but with very little result. They, of course, discovered that the body of their Master was not there. They also discovered that by whatever means the body was removed, there was no hurry, no confusion and all was done very orderly. The linen, in which His dead body had been wrapped, was lying there and the napkin about His head also folded and lying there. Whoever was responsible for the removal of His body from the grave could not have been disturbed at any stage of the operation. That was not enough, but it was so much, for it provided ground for speculation. There was this possibility, and that possibility, but they were after the truth. They had heard the truth from the women, of course, and they were there to do what they could to confirm it for themselves and for those whom they represented, and would represent. The message sent by the angel, that the Lord was risen, was both the truth and the explanation of the situation that confronted them. The empty grave was there because He had risen from the dead. He left behind Him evidence, not of confusion, but of peace and order, for God is not the author of confusion but of peace, and of order. However, the disciples were not left to conjecture. They were delivered out of that situation which gave rise to questions and investigation.
We see that deliverance came with a further proof of the resurrection of Christ. Two of the disciples were on the way to a certain village, Emmaus. As they proceeded to their destination, the theme of their conversation was what had taken place in Jerusalem the death of their Master and the sadness which that brought in its wake, in the experience of themselves and others. They were probably thinking, and no doubt saying to one another, “We thought that He would deliver Israel. We were expecting so much from Him; our opinion of Him was so high. We accepted Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, who should come into the world to save the world. Now here we are, leaving Jerusalem, sad and without the Master, and not likely to see Him again.”
Then they were joined by someone whom they did not recognise. “Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.” To them He was a stranger, albeit one who indicated genuine sympathy with them, for He noted that they were sad and that their conversation was of such a sad nature. He asked them the reason for it. They told Him that Jesus of Nazareth, “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people”, had been condemned to die, and crucified in Jerusalem. They told Him also of their disappointed hopes concerning Him, and that now was the third day since those sad events took place. They expressed their wonder too that He had not heard of those things, and doubted that anyone could possibly have been in Jerusalem and not known. (This shows us the widespread nature of the reports of this dreadful event. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was an event which was known far beyond the bounds of His own city or His own country). That anyone should be in Jerusalem and not know it was hardly acceptable to them. Then they listened with wonder as He proceeded to instruct them from the Scriptures.
Eventually the disciples and their divine but unrecognised Teacher came to a point in their journey when they must part. His conversation had captivated their hearts. He was a sympathiser. Here was someone who, when He was told about their feelings, could understand; and their hearts burned within them as He opened to them the Scriptures concerning Christ having to suffer and enter into His glory. They felt that they could not part with Him; they pleaded with Him to remain with them. Even nature was on their side, for the first day of the week was coming to an end. The Light of the world had been set before them in the Scriptures. They must not allow themselves to lose this Light. They persuaded their Teacher, and He tarried with them.
Then they prepared a meal, and as He sat with them to partake of it He blest it, broke the bread, and handed it to them. Suddenly their eyes were opened to know Him. What a discovery, miles away from the city of Jerusalem, miles away from the sepulchre. Here is the living Saviour! Here is the Light of the world. The One who was dead, is here alive. It is He, Himself. “The Lord is risen indeed.” There was no doubt in their minds. He was the One who explained to them the Scriptures, who told them that the inspired writers of the oracles of the Old Testament expected all this to happen and recorded the same. They saw that the body of the Messiah being laid in a grave was something to be expected. It was also foretold and fully expected that He would rise again. As God would not leave the soul of His Holy One in the hell of His sufferings for His people, so He would not permit the body of His Holy One to see corruption. “The Lord is risen indeed.”
To the women at the grave He was risen indeed. There was no doubt in their minds. When Mary Magdalene saw Him and cried out, “Rabboni, Master,” there was no devil in hell who would ever succeed in creating the least doubt in her mind regarding the veracity of the angel’s words: “He is not here, but is risen.” She had met Him herself. He spoke to her. He addressed her as “Mary”. She discovered anew the everlasting tie between her soul and her Saviour which neither death nor life could break. These men also had their hearts prepared and, when their eyes were opened to see Him and His glory, they received Him anew. They had the testimony in their own souls. There was no questioning of it. The testimony they had, and the testimony they gave, were based especially on the eternal truth. As we mentioned at the beginning, it is altogether impossible to prove this fact to be untrue. It is a fact of unassailable truth that “the Lord is risen indeed.” The testimony of the women was based on the witness of angels, and that witness in turn was founded upon the words of both the Holy Spirit, through His inspired writers during the Old Testament dispensation, and of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to His people during the time of His ministry in this world.
The confirmation given by the words, “and hath appeared to Simon”, are very remarkable, having regard to the fact that this disciple had been in disgrace a few days before. He denied his Master with all the vehemence at his disposal. He used swearing and cursing in order to establish in the minds of his hearers the sincerity of his denial. So far as we can follow the record, the Saviour’s appearing to Simon, which the text speaks of, was not when He met him at the Sea of Galilee and asked him, “Lovest thou me?” It was actually on the day of Christ’s resurrection. Simon Peter was still not yet formally restored, although he had genuine repentance in his own soul, and had in his memory the compassionate look of his Saviour. During the ministry of Christ, Peter had been promised a prominent and powerful position in the church, but his sinful conduct would seem a justifiable reason for withholding from him the high position he at one time seemed destined to hold. Yet, he was the one whose testimony on this occasion was recorded as conclusive. Peter saw Him. If Peter reported the matter, that should be acceptable to all. Peter saw Him, therefore He is risen from the dead and, no doubt, this has its own import. Peter became an inspired writer. Peter became an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Peter became a pillar in the Church. But Peter was never given the pre-eminence that the papal system gives to him. He was never given the position and place of being head of the Church, and he was never given infallibility even in the discharge of his official duties or speaking in the discharge of his office. These are the words which should be accepted as reliable and worthy of all acceptation what the Word of the Lord says, what the preachers of the gospel say in preaching the gospel. The gospel is the Word of God and the declaration of it. These sources are absolutely reliable and fully worthy of acceptation, and not for a moment should place be given to those doubts about, and questionings of, the possibility of such an event having taken place. May each one of us discover the blessedness of this eternal truth, and be enabled to say in our own hearts this day, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” May He bless His Word to us.
* The Rev. Donald Campbell, (1908-83), was born in Skye, educated at Edinburgh University, and licensed to preach the gospel by the Western Presbytery of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1942. He then became the pastor of Raasay Congregation, and in 1947 of the Stornoway Congregation. Inducted as the minister of the Edinburgh Congregation in 1951, he laboured there until his sudden call to “the rest that remaineth for the people of God”, on Sabbath, 20th November, 1983, at the age of 75.