This sermon was written over 60 years ago by my dad, the late Rev. A. Donald Magaw.
I found it among his papers and wanted to share it with everyone..
The Cross seen through the open tomb
Have you ever looked at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through the open tomb? Have you ever gone back to Calvary by way of the resurrection? To me it is unfortunate that we approach the cross of Jesus Christ as though it were the climax of His life instead of a great episode that led to the much greater event of the resurrection and all that followed it. The Apostle Paul did not know the cross from the incarnation side but from the resurrection side. Indeed, he wrote to the Corinthians, “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5.16). Every Christian needs to see Christ from the resurrection side of Calvary. We must see Him through the open tomb.
In the time of the Apostle Paul, believers did not read the four Gospels, for the Gospels had not yet been written.
Paul never heard John 3.16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The Gospels were written for that generation of believers who never knew Jesus Christ in the flesh, who knew Him only through the epistles of Paul. The Gospels were written under the Holy Spirit’s direction so that the Church might know more about our Lord. That is why we find verses in the epistles that are far more significant than some verses in the Gospels. The Gospels tell us that Jesus Christ died on the cross. The epistles explain why Jesus Christ died on the cross and why it was necessary for Him to rise from the dead.
The early believers approached the Gospels through the epistles; they approached the earthly life of Christ from the point of view of His present heavenly life; they approached the cross through the open tomb.
I believe it is not wise to teach the crucifixion as the climax of the life of Christ. Such teaching not only minimizes the resurrection, but it also robs the believer of a sense of the ever-living presence of his Lord in daily life.
As we approach the cross from the resurrection side, through the open tomb, let us consider it in three aspects: First, what the cross means in relation to our past sins; second, what it means in our present daily life; and third, what it means in relation to our future hope. Reflecting on these things, we shall be filled with great joy.
First, as we think of the cross in connection with our past sin, we shall know only sorrowing defeat unless we see the death of Jesus Christ through the open tomb, for our sin nailed Jesus Christ to that cross. If we see Him merely dying, then there is nothing for us. But Christ arose from the grave, and His resurrection assures us that He has overcome death. The importance of this fact can be illustrated by an incident, well known in England, which took place after the Waterloo campaign of June, 1815. All England was awaiting news of the campaign in which the Duke of Wellington opposed Napoleon Bonaparte. Since it was long before the days of telegraph, watchers were stationed along the coast to catch semaphore signals from sailing vessels. Finally one watcher spied a sailing vessel beginning to wig-wag a message. The words were, “Wellington defeated.” Then fog closed in. These words were relayed across England and all the nation was plunged into gloom. The fog then cleared and the message came through, “Wellington defeated the enemy.” Sorrow was banished and all England rejoiced.
This story admirably illustrates what was the state of mind of people when Christ died. Jesus had claimed to be God. He had said, “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. I came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give my life a ransom for many.” Then He was crucified. It was a terrible day. The sun was blotted from sight and there was darkness over the face of the earth. There was an earthquake. Events took place which caused even the Roman centurion to exclaim, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Then Christ died and His body was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The Pharisees smacked their lips and dusted their hands as if to say, “Well, that’s that! We have gotten rid of this man who caused us so much trouble.” Jesus defeated! Jesus defeated! Jesus defeated!
Then came the resurrection! The news was, “Jesus defeated the enemy.” He had vanquished earth and all its power. And so today we can sing:
My sin - - O the bliss of this glorious thought! - -
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Thus the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the triumphant cross. There our sin was dealt with; there our sin was paid for; there our enemy was defeated; there death with all its powers was vanquished and we have life in Christ. And so the Apostle Paul writes, “Christ was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 4.25-5:1). If you still harbor the fear of death, remember that the tomb is open. By rising from the dead, Christ robbed death of its sting, and so we can exult with the Apostle: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15.55-57).
Second, through the door of the open tomb, the cross means that we have a living Savior, a Savior of our present day life.
Years ago there was a missionary in Turkey who was having a great difficulty making the Mohammedans understand why they should trust in Christ. One day he was traveling with some Muslims along an unmarked road when they came to a fork in the road. At this point there was a tomb of a Mohammedan “holy man.” While they were trying to decide which fork to take, the missionary said, “Let’s go to that tomb and ask the dead man.” They all protested, “The dead man can give us no information! See that little house over there? Let’s go and ask a living man.” “You are quite right,” said the missionary. “Never forget that Mohammed is dead; he can give you no help or information; in him is no life. But Jesus Christ is alive, and He will give you eternal life if you will trust in Him as your Savior!”
Likewise, we do not approach a tomb that has the body of a dead man in it, as those who go to Mecca visit the tomb of Mohammed. The tomb of our Lord is empty and our Savior is in Heaven interceding for us. This makes it possible for you and me to approach our risen Lord, for we read: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not an high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4.14-16).
Furthermore, because Christ is risen, we have the high privilege of walking with Him in newness of life for by His Spirit we are identified with Him, having been made partakers of His divine nature. This enables us to walk as the sons of God among the sons of men. Through the cross our sins are forgiven; by the open tomb the risen Lord imparts to us eternal life. Thus Paul writes: “Do you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death? We were buried with Him by baptism unto death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6.3, 4).
This new life in Christ is real and substantial and practical. God has given us His Holy Spirit in order that we may live daily in the life of our risen Lord, as taught in His Word. Many believers do not appreciate this high privilege for two reasons: first, they do not study the Word of God to see the marks of His risen life; second, they are not willing to allow the Holy Spirit to work that life out through them because they prefer to serve their own sinful interests. This is why Paul writes, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace . . . For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For you did not receive the spirit of sonship to slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father! It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
(Rom. 8.6, 13-16)
When the cross is truly seen through the open tomb, we can be sure of victory in our risen Savior, amid the problems of daily life. God can tame our tongues; He can give us a word of grace instead of words of criticism. God can make us long-suffering instead of short-tempered. In all these things we can be more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Or do we prefer defeat? Do we prefer to indulge our old natures instead of letting our new nature prevail? Paul sums it up in that verse so well known but so little practices “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2.20).
God wants us to live daily the life of our risen Lord because we are to be His ambassadors; we present Christ to the lost. Just as a country cannot export a product which it does not produce, so we cannot demonstrate to the world a life that we do not live. But filled with the power of Christ’s resurrection life and motivated by the love of God, we shall be true epistles of Christ, known and read by all men. Then as God’s ambassadors, “the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5.14, 15)
Perhaps you ask, “Can I really trust the risen Lord to direct my daily life?” I can answer this by the following story. A college girl once said, “I never trusted anyone in my life. How can I trust the Lord Jesus with all the problems of my daily life?” Since it was Easter vacation, she was asked how she was going to get back to college. She said, “I am going to fly.” “Do you have your ticket?” “No I have to find out what time I can get a plane . . . Details of reservation, have you ever met the pilot, the clerk . . .etc.” “You are going to trust a clerk you have never met, a pilot you have never seen, put your life into the hands of people you have never known and probably never even see . . . . .” “But you will not know real trust until you take the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you and rose again, and allow Him to pilot your life by His resurrection power.”
Third, not only is the cross through the open tomb our greatest triumph because our sins are forgiven and redeemed forever; not only do we have confidence and trust for daily life because our Lord is at the right hand of God; but the cross through the open tomb guarantees our future hope. You have lost a loved one in death: What is your hope? Your hope is that Jesus Christ who died for your sins is alive. A mother had lost a son in the war; his body was never found and so he was reported missing in action. How wonderfully I could tell her, “That boy belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. You can be sure that at the second coming of Christ the trumpet will locate him. When the Lord Jesus says “Come forth” that boy of yours will come forth from the grave, and you will be reunited forever.” That is the hope of every child of God.
This is a glorious hope, especially when we realize that it is no figment of our imagination, but the clear teaching of God’s Word:”
(Peter 1. 3-5)
Nothing can destroy this hope, nothing can corrupt it, nothing can defile it, nothing on earth can depreciate it, for this hope is reserved in heaven for us. Through the power of God we are being kept for this glorious hope. Nothing can keep us from it.
When the truth of this hope grips your heart, it will dominate your very life. The fear of death will vanish; the joy of living will be your portion. In fact, what the world calls death will be but the gateway to the full realization of the life which now we know in part. (Phil. 1.21-24).
The open tomb transforms earthly sorrow into heavenly joy. How many of us have experienced the going home of loved ones! Of course, we sorrow, but we do not sorrow as the world does, for we look forward to the day when our blessed Lord will return, bringing our loved ones with Him. (1 Thess. 4.13, 14, 16, 17)
In the light of these three reasons - - past, present, and future . . . we can see why a bare cross, as a symbol of the Christian faith, is superior to a crucifix. The crucifix shows only the death of the Lord Jesus, it does not show the abundant, complete life promised by our risen Lord. As we see the bare cross through the open tomb, we glance away to heaven, where the God-Man who once died is now enthroned at the Father’s side, waiting till all things are put under His feet.