Sermons on the Resurrection – First Sermon



by B.H. Carroll

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said . Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” — Matt. 28: 5,6.

There are two grand divisions of our Bible, so related and so interdependent that they stand or fall together. Either one apart from the other loses all sanctity and all obligation. Christians accept both of them as the inspired word of God, revealing all human relations to God and to each other, and all obligations arising from these relations, and all destiny determined by responsibility to observe these obligations; but if these books are not inspired they cannot make such revelations, nor create such obligations, nor entail such destiny, and in that case we have no Bible.

The book then becomes no more to us than any other piece of purely human literature. Yea, it is entitled to less respect upon our part than that which is rightly accorded to many books of human literature that make no false pretensions of divine origin. The entire religious value of the Bible, its whole spiritual profitableness to us and its only claim to be an authoritative standard, depend upon its inspiration. The question of the inspiration of the Bible is, therefore, a vital and fundamental question. That settled, all other things relating to it are settled.

Not only so — and I pray you to mark this state ment — if the satisfactory determination of the inspiration of the Bible lies beyond the reach of the average busy man, on account of either the vastness or complexity of the question, that is equivalent to making it a question which cannot be solved. For if, indeed, the nature or extent of the investigation of the subject of its inspiration renders a proper and timely solution possible to experts only, that alone destroys all its claims to inspiration. Hence there must be some simple and easy way of ascertainment and of assurance upon this point, or revelation cannot be revelation.

You may confidently assume that if a God of wisdom and love and power saw fit to reveal not merely important, but vital, matters to his creatures that he would not defeat the purpose of that revelation by putting the proofs of its being a revelation beyond the reach of the people who most need the assurance of that proof. Any proposed method of settling the question of the inspiration of the Bible which confessedly restricts its proof to a learned few may, therefore, be at once rejected, without any hesitation. I submit a simple method:

All the claims of the Old Testament part of our Bible to be the inspired word of God may rest upon the proof of one historical fact, namely, its foretold Messiah has come. And all the claims of the New Testament part of our Bible to be the inspired word of God certainly rest on the proof of another simple historical fact, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, claiming to be the Messiah of the Old Testament, has risen from the dead . In support of the first statement the following simple tests are submitted:

First:- The Old Testament Messiah must be an attested descendant of the first man, through Seth and Abraham and David. Hence the carefully kept genealogical tables of the whole Old Testament period, fully four thousand years. When this period ended proof of lineal descent from David could be made from these tables, but no Jew now living could be so attested. It follows that the Old Testament Messiah has either already come or the inspiration of the book fails. No future claimant could identify himself upon the point of descent.

Second:- The Old Testament Messiah must come before Judah loses all national rule and autonomy, for the prophecy of Jacob declares: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, till Shiloh come. To him belongs the obedience of the nations.” But since the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70, Judah has been without national rule or country. A Shiloh coming since the time of Titus would be no Old Testament Shiloh, and could not on its promises claim the obedience of the nations. Therefore, if the Messiah did not come before the fall of Jerusalem, Old Testament inspiration fails.

Third:- The Old Testament Messiah must come while the second temple is standing, for the prophetic compensation to those who sorrowed over its inferiority to Solomon’s temple was that “the glory of the latter house should exceed the glory of the former,” and that “the Messiah would come to that second temple and purify it.” But that temple perished with Jerusalem, leaving not one stone upon another. For more than 1,800 years there has been no temple. Therefore, either the Old Testament Messiah did come before the destruction of the temple, or its inspiration fails.

Fourth:- In the days of Daniel’s fourth empire the God of Heaven, himself and not by agent, but personally, as the Messiah, was to set up a perpetual kingdom on earth ; but Daniel’s fourth empire passed away ages ago, and though it took Rome seven hundred years to die, it is dead. A Messiah, therefore, who came not in the time of the Roman supremacy is no Old Testament Messiah. If, therefore he has not come already, Old Testament inspiration fails.

Yet, again, the Old Testament Messiah, though a Jew, must be an ensign for the gathering of the Gentiles. The peoples of all other nations must recognize his spiritual supremacy. If, therefore, history cannot identify some Jew, attested as a lineal descendant of David, coming in the days of the Roman empire, coming while Judah yet retains some mark of national rule, coming while the second temple is still standing and after coming establishing a kingdom yet in existence and to whose King the other nations of the world look as a Saviour and ruler, then Old Testament inspiration fails.

Yet again, the whole Old Testament economy was confessedly but a shadow of better things to come. All its institutions of type and ritual were appointed to stand until the substance came. Its temple and sacrifices were to abide until set aside by what they signified. And very clearly does it fix the date when sacrifice and oblation shall cease, when vision and prophecy shall be sealed up, when reconciliation for sin shall be effected, when everlasting righteousness shall be brought in, when the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself.

Now, since we know that at this time no sacrifice for sins smokes upon any Jewish altar, and all its prophetic oracles are dumb, and since the types have perished at the precise time appointed, if no Messiah has come as the great anti-typical sacrifice, then Old Testament inspiration fails.

Finally, the Old Testament predicts repeatedly, and with great precision, that the chosen people would be rejected, their temple destroyed, their city trampled underfoot of other nations, themselves dispersed among all nations, though not destroyed, abiding many days without a king, without a prince, without a sacrifice, without a pillar, without an ephod or priest, or teraphim or prophet, and yet preserved in continual persecution as a distinct people — and all this calamity because they would reject their Messiah coming at the time and in the manner designated by their prophets, and that this state of dispersion and persecution should last until they accepted the Messiah that they had rejected.

So that if these particulars have failed, or any one of them, or if in the 1,800 years since this great calamity came upon their nation, it can be established by historical proof that they have returned to their land, restored their government, rebuilt their temple, reinstituted their priesthood and its sacrifices, and yet not accepted the Messiah which they rejected, then Old Testament inspiration fails.

Even the most carping hypercriticism will not affirm that the interpretation of all these seven distinct lines of thought is unnatural. In every case that interpretation has been given which the language itself naturally suggests to the average mind, but by any one of these lines of thought the inspiration of the Old Testament may be sufficiently attested for all practical purposes. That is to say, one does not have to travel over all the roads which lead to London in order to get there. Any one of them will suffice.

These seven lines of thought have been selected out of a multitude equally good, because the test in each case is so very simple, and in every case is a matter of historical proof. So that we may safely conclude that all claims of Old Testament inspiration rest upon the proof of one historical fact, namely, that its foretold Messiah has come. But if Jesus of Nazareth be not this Old Testament Messiah no other Jew need set up a claim. It will not be denied that he claimed to be the Messiah in all four of the distinct phases of Messiahship, prophet, priest, king and sacrifice. Nor will it be denied that he testified on oath before God in the most solemn manner, when adjured by the high priest, that he was that Messiah.

In like manner we now proceed to show that all New Testament claim of inspiration rests upon the proof of another simple historical fact, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, claiming to be the Messiah of the Old Testament, did arise from the dead. Though all of the seven previous lines of thought focus on Jesus of Nazareth and upon him alone that is to say, in his case proof was established by the genealogical tables that he was a lineal descendant of David ; that he did come in the days of the Roman empire ; that he did come while Judah still retained some marks of nationality; that he did visit the second temple time; that he has been an ensign for the gathering of the Gentiles; that he did fulfill the Jewish types and that since rejecting him and in accordance with his own prophecy, their temple has been destroyed and their nationality lost ; now, although all these focus in himself alone and constitute an argument of no slight force to a fair mind, yet he himself, while living, and in answer to a direct challenge of his claim, appointed as the one supreme test of that claim that after they put him to death he would arise from the dead.

It is, therefore, quite needless to multiply or to complicate issues. All controversies between Christians upon the one hand and the opposers of Christianity, of whatever name, throughout the universe, on the other hand, may be narrowed to one decisive battlefield . The whole case compacts itself as a single kernel into one nutshell of historical fact. If Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead at the date previously assigned by himself, and as a proof of his claim, then he is no impostor nor a deluded enthusiast. God would not raise from the dead one who made such a blasphemous claim, one who was an impostor. So that if he did rise from the dead he is divine. If he be divine just one word from him authenticated the inspiration of both Testaments. The Testaments being inspired by that fact become the supreme standard of human conduct and creed and thought by which the world will be judged and eternal destiny fixed.

Let us, therefore, glance rapidly at the proof that he himself, while living, did propose this test, and that the challenge was accepted, and that the demonstration did come in the way claimed. I read six distinct statements of this proposed issue at different periods of his life here upon the earth, the first early in his ministry, the last at the close of his ministry. This proves that it was no after thought, but that from the beginning he recognized this to be the crucial point upon which all of his claims depended.

When early in his ministry he came suddenly to his temple, in fulfillment of prophecy, and when by virtue of the authority claimed he scourged from that temple the robbers and thieves who held it, then they demanded a sign of his authority. I read it from the second chapter of John, commencing at the eighteenth verse: “The Jews therefore answered and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews, therefore (not understanding), said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When, therefore, he was risen from the dead his disciples remembered that he spake this, and they believed in the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.” It is admitted that when here he first set forth his test, they misapprehended his language.

I read the next instance in the order of time, and from the twelfth chapter of Matthew: He is now in Galilee and not in Jerusalem. “Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign ; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the body of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This time they did not
misunderstand him, as will be clearly shown later.

I cite the next instance in which the test was presented, reading from the sixteenth chapter of Matthew: “From that time Jesus began to shew unto his disciples how that he must go into Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.” Mark’s record and Luke’s record accord exactly with this record by Matthew. This time the test was not proposed to his enemies, but to his friends, to his disciples, but through his disciples the knowledge of it rapidly reached his enemies.

In the order of history I read the next instance from the seventeenth chapter of Matthew: “And while they abode in Galilee Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And they were exceedingly sorry.”

I read the next presentation of the test in the order of the history, and this time from the tenth chapter of John. He had just told them that he was the good shepherd, and would lay down his life for the sheep, adding the significant statement: “No one taketh my life away from me, but I lay it down myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again. This is the commandment I received from my Father. There arose a division therefore among the Jews because of these words.”

I cite the next instance. This time Matthew, Mark and Luke all record it. I read from the twentieth chapter of Matthew, commencing at the seventeenth verse: “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem he took the twelve disciples apart while on the way, and he said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify, and the third day he shall be raised up.”

After these citations it is necessary to show you how this proposed test, that is, the proof of one historical fact, was considered by his enemies. I now read from the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew. He is hanging on the cross. He has been delivered up, and they are putting him to death, and while he is dying they say this: “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it again in three days, save thyself.”

I submit a much more conclusive statement. He is now dead. Those who have had charge of his execution have officially certified that he is dead. His body has been taken down from the cross, pronounced dead by the official executioner, received as dead by his friends, both hands and feet pierced and a spear driven into his heart; cold and dead, and he had been put in the grave and an immense stone rolled to the mouth of that sepulchre. I read from the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, commencing at the sixty-second verse: “Now on the morrow, which is the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together unto Pilate, saying, We remember that this deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest haply his disciples come and steal him away and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead; and the last error will be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them: Ye have a guard. Go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stones and setting a watch.”

Now I submit to you if I have not proved from this book that while he was alive he himself rested all of his claims upon the proof of one historical fact, and that he gave this as the sign, and that the challenge was accepted by his enemies? They understood its significance . They did not understand the resurrection of the dead, as some moderns claim, to mean regeneration. They did not understand it to mean the deliverance of the soul from the body at the dissolution of the body. They understood it to apply to the body and not to the soul. They brought no word to Pilate as to the whereabouts of his disembodied soul. They sought not to seal up the gate that hides the invisible world. They sealed a grave. They established a guard to see that the body should not be wrested from the grave. They understood his test to be that his body, put to death upon the cross, would rise from the dead upon the third day, and any man who talks about the resurrection meaning any other thing does violence to the literal, primary and commonly accepted signification of the word, and advertises himself as incompetent to deal with a critical question.

Now, let us see where we stand. First, according to these records, there was a Jew named Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah of the Old Testament; second, that the scribes and the Pharisees disputed his claim, demanding a sign; third, that he, while living, repeatedly to his friends, and repeatedly to his enemies and in answer to the demand that one who made such claims should have some adequate credentials, must furnish some proof of such high claim, gave as his credentials, as the authentication of his mission, as the divine establishment of his divinity, that after they put him to death on the third day he would rise again.

The record shows that they did take him, and try him, and condemn him, and crucify him, and that the authentication of his death was everything that evidence could supply. You cannot meet this question by saying that he only seemed to be dead, and his alleged resurrection merely a resuscitation of suspended life. A Roman centurion, charged with the execution of the prisoner, who goes back to the one in authority and reports that this prisoner has been executed and is dead, would make no mistake upon a point of that kind. You could not consistently affirm that anyone now sleeping in our cemetery is dead and then deny the sufficiency of the evidence that the man Jesus of Nazareth died and was buried. So thus far we are clear.

I cite next the Scripture in connection with the text. The third day is just about to dawn, the critical hour, the precise time. The lesson reads: “Now late on the Sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. His countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as white as snow. And for fear of him the watchers did shake and become as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified . Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, for he is risen, as he said.”

So that we have come to this fact, that at the time designated by the test, the tomb is empty, the body is gone. So far there has been perfect agreement upon every fact stated: there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth ; he claimed to be the Messiah of the Old Testament; he was challenged to give a sign that would authenticate his high claim; he did fix this as the sign and specified the time of the test; that he did die, he was buried, and at the appointed time, though a guard stood there to prevent imposture, the body is gone. What, then, became of the body of Jesus of Nazareth? If he did not rise either the Jews got the body or the disciples got it. The Jews were in this dilemma: If they took that body away why didn’t they exhibit it as dead and identify it as the very body that had been crucified, and disprove all claim of the resurrection?

To say that the disciples took away the dead body forces a question of unavoidable logic: What did they want with it dead? What could they do with it dead? What purpose would it answer for them? They felt that the battle was lost. They were cowed to death. They supposed that they were orphaned. What courage could come into their hearts by stealing that body, then lying with reference to it, and then destroying it so that it never could be found? A man’s gullibility must be huge to believe that these cowed disciples stole that body and reported that he was risen from the dead.

So the important question is now fairly stated. In the following sermon the evidence will be examined, and in a subsequent discourse the reasonableness of the test proposed by Jesus will be shown.