HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Behold the place where they laid him–Mark 16:6
The Angel Kindly Compelled Them to Come and See
It was a kindly compulsion of the angel that bade the women come and see that place. They would bless him for it in the after-days. The story shows us that they were affrighted, a great dread fell upon their hearts. In hours when the unseen draws very near, such dread is natural to men and women. And these women, when they descried the angel, would be tempted to turn away and flee, in a kind of panic we can understand. It was to such affrighted souls the angel cried, “Come, behold the place where the Lord lay.” They must know for a certainty the place was empty. They must see with their own eyes He was not there. And we can well imagine how in the after-days, when they had to stand the brunt of cross-examination, they would be grateful for that compulsion of the angel. He was not gratifying their curiosity. He was giving them solid ground to rest on. He was giving them something definite and positive wherewith to face the questionings of others. Had they fled affrighted they could have borne no testimony save that the stone was rolled away. Now they could proclaim that He was risen. That was the import of the command for them. Has it any significance for us? Let us meditate a little upon that.
The Message of the Empty Grave: God Had Not Forsaken Jesus
When we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that God had not forsaken Him. We recognize the faithfulness of God in the mysterious darkness of the tomb. On the Cross our blessed Lord had cried, “My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” There was a darkness on His Father’s face as He endured the agonies of Calvary. And then the shadows deepened, and the night encompassed Him, and they removed His body from the Cross, and laid it in the house appointed for all living. Was this the end of all that perfect fellowship? Had God forgotten to be gracious? Was He suffering His Holy One to see corruption, even though the grave was in a garden? Come, says the angel to our questioning hearts, behold the place where they laid Him. Had it been tenanted we might have cried, “It was a beautiful dream, but it is over now.” All that He lived for, all that He came to do, has been flouted by the irony of death. But if the place be empty, when men have done their worst, and carried Him from Calvary to the tomb, then God is present even in the darkness. He has not forsaken His beloved Son. He has justified His claims and sealed His testimony. He has crowned with His divine approval that life of beauty and that death of sacrifice. We hear God saying in that empty grave, as clearly as at the hour of baptism, “This is my beloved Son.”
Death Is Conquered
Again, when we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that death is conquered. The last great enemy is overcome, and the power of the grave is broken. Still death has a dark and awful shadow. Sooner or later it knocks at every door. It touches the fairest flowers and they wither. It robs us of dear ones who made life like music. But the empire of death is now a broken empire, one day to be finally destroyed, because Christ our representative is risen. He is the second Adam. He is the Son of Man. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. He wore a crown of thorns as we all do. He passed into the silence of the grave. And if death was powerless to hold Him, and had to give Him up and let Him go, there steals on the ear the distant triumph song. What a victory it would have been for death if he could have held in his grip that second Adam! How he must have summoned all his powers to keep watch and ward over that peerless Prisoner. And then the angel, sitting in calm confidence, says to our shadowed human hearts, “Come, behold the place where the Lord lay.” He is not here; He is risen. The tyranny of death is broken. The Son of Man has proved too mighty for him, because the Son of Man is Son of God. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We Have a Living Friend
Lastly, when we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that we have a living friend. He meets us as He met Mary in the garden, and as He joined the two on the Emmaus road. Memories are exquisitely precious. They enrich and deepen every life. They touch with beauty the commonest of scenes and set their hallowing on homeliest places. But for the battle of life and for our daily guidance we need more than the most sacred memories: we need the presence of a living friend. We need somebody who understands us, who has been tempted in all points like as we are, who has traveled the rough road our feet must take, who is ready to sympathize and to forgive. And it is then that the angel shines on us, as he shone on the women in the garden, saying, “Come, behold the place where the Lord lay.” Look at it. It is empty. Life is going to have more than memories. He who lay in the grave has left the grave, to be the very same Jesus to the end. Closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet; with us, living, to share our very life. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”