Our Recognition of Christ

Taken from, The Resurrection Body of Jesus
Written by, Rev. Dr. Matheson
Edited for thought and sense

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It is strange, from an artistic point of view…

…that the Christ of Easter Day should have been identified by an attitude bearing the reminiscence of Calvary. One would have thought that the recognition would have fastened on something more majestic –that the Resurrection Form would have reminded the disciples of the after glow of that glory which had illumined Him on the Transfiguration Mount. But no: it is not the Mount but the upper room that is the medium of recognition. It comes from an attitude reminding, not of His glory, but of His humiliation. What they recognize is the broken Body –the Body broken for them. The recognition of the Christ who had passed into a life beyond the grave is effected mainly by the memory of sacrificial love.

With striking consistency is the idea maintained in the episode of Thomas. Thomas recognizes his Lord by the print of the nails. The presence of such a feature in the Resurrection Body of Jesus is artistically startling. To admit a memorial of pain into a picture of the heavenly state was a bold thing. It would have been bold in any age it was specially bold in that age. It was an age that reverenced the strong, that reverenced the beautiful. It was a period when a physical blemish was deemed a disgrace, when Divine power meant bodily power. To such a world the spectacle presented on Easter Morning must have been as new as it was appalling –a Form that has risen to the sphere of the immortals is seen bearing the mark of its earthly wounds! It is the inauguration of a new ideal of heaven, nay, of a new ideal of God –an ideal in which power will be proportionate to suffering, in which the ability to give complete aid for pain will be commensurate with the capacity to feel it.

And what else than this is the meaning of these words of Jesus on the mountain of Galilee, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations”? The power of which Jesus speaks is a sympathetic power; otherwise there would be no meaning in the word “therefore.” He is saying that, “I have received the ability to be sympathetic to the plight of man; go universally therefore, and help Man!”

And where has He received it? On the heavenly side of death? No, on the earthly side. He has received His culminating power, not from resurrection, but from death itself. His last stage of development was in the depths of the valley; there He met man as man. The flower which Jesus wears on Easter Morning is not the flower of Eden, but the flower of Gethsemane. Eden could never unite “all nations” in salvation, but Gethsemane can; there is not a common joy, but there is a common sorrow. Therefore it is His death that makes Him our King! It is His cross that we lift! It is His sorrow that we elevate! It is His pain that we glorify! It is His sacrifice that we perpetuate!

Paul speaks of men being caught up to meet the Risen Christ –the Christ “in the air.” But it is not the elevation that attracts them; it is the object elevated. They were drawn to the height because the valley is mirrored there; they are tempted to the sunbeam because it holds the shadow in its bosom. Thus, we see that the glory of Easter Morning is the sacrificial red upon its sky.