“Let us look a little more minutely into Christ’s resurrection, lest we should be led to undervalue it. The resurrection must not hide the cross; neither must the cross hide the resurrection. The words of the angel to the women are meant for us: ‘He is not here for He is risen’ (Matt. 28:6).
Man did all that he could to hinder the resurrection of the Son of God. He had succeeded in slaying the Prince of life; and he is resolved that, if he can help it, the dead shall not arise. Samson is in prison, and must be kept there. The great stone, the watch, the Roman seal, are all proofs of this determination.
But he knows not his prisoner. He might as well bind the whirlwind with a cord of silk, or shut up the lightning in one of his chambers, and say to it, ‘Thou shalt not go forth.’ Death itself, stronger than man, could not hold its prey. Ere the dawn of the third day, the earthquake shook the tomb, the angel of the Lord descended, the stone was rolled away, the seal was broken, and the dead came forth.
Even His own believe not that He will rise. They would not try to hinder His resurrection, but, treating it as a thing incredible, they act as those who believe that all is over, and that the cross has destroyed their hopes. They would not close the sepulchre, nor seal it; nay, they would roll away the stone and break the seal: but this is only to anoint Him for His final burial. It is not the expression of hope, but of despair.
But the tomb of the Son of God is the place of light, not of darkness; of hope, not of despair; of life, not of death. They come to look on the dead, they find the living. The seekers of the crucified Jesus find the risen Son of God. The garments of death are all that the tomb contains; the linen clothes, still stained with blood, and the carefully—folded napkin,—folded by angels’ hands, if not by His own.
They had brought their myrrh and aloes and spices to keep corruption from entering; forgetful that it is the Incorruptible whose body they are thus needlessly though lovingly embalming, and ignorant of the meaning of the ancient promise, ‘Thou wilt not suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.’
But friend and enemy are both at fault. The unbelief of the former and the resistance of the latter are met equally with a strange surprise. For God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. The angel of the Lord descends; he rolls back the stone; he sits upon it, to show himself in his brightness to the watchers; he opens the gate, that the Holy One may go forth. Not that he raises or assists in raising the Son of God.
That is beyond the mightiest of these mighty ones, those angels that excel in strength. But he is honoured to have a share in the scene, as porter or doorkeeper of that glorious shrine. With him came the earthquake— the second that had occurred during these three days: the first being when the Prince of life entered the chambers of death, and at the open door many of the dead saints of other days came forth; the second being when this same Prince of life left these chambers, and burst the bands of death, shaking creation with the tread of His feet as He marched forth in triumph.”
–Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness; or, How Shall a Man be Just with God? (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1874/1993), 127-9.