"If an angel walks besides me it is because ahead of me is a work that only an angel can do!"

First To Mary

“He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” Mark 16:9.

First to Mary!

Artists and poets alike have been captivated by the Magdalene – whom they have painted and described as a beautiful and voluptuous enchantress.

Many have written of her sinful past – and so spoken of her immorality – that we now find there has passed into our language a word to describe an adulteress: A Magdalene.

It has been said that the woman in Luke’s Gospel “who was a sinner” was Mary Magdalene.

There is no foundation for any of this teaching – yet it has stuck, as mud will stick!

But we do know that out of her “He had cast seven devils.” Apart from that, we are told only five things:

  1. She was one of the Galilean women, including Mary and Salome, who “ministered to Him of their substance.”
  2. She was at the cross and saw Him put into the garden grave.
  3. She came to the sepulchre, heard the angel’s message, went and told John and came back to the grave.
  4. Standing outside the tomb she saw the Lord, heard His voice, and clasped His feet[i].
  5. Returned to the little company and is not mentioned ever again…

That is all!

Mark lays emphasis on two of these facts:-

“He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”

What a morning that was…

Sorrow always wakes early. Their loving hearts were impatient to bring their tributes. Morning had not broken, darkness was in the silent streets as three women left their lodgings to enter Joseph’s garden. Reaching the rock-hewn tomb, the sun was just rising over Olivet.

“Looking up,[ii]” they saw the stone rolled away, and Mary fled to tell John.

To tell him what?

Of a resurrection? No! Only of an empty tomb!

“They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him.”

“Supposing him to be the gardener, she saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” John 20:15.


“Jesus saith unto her, MARY. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, MASTER.” John 20:16.

Think of what the Resurrection is:

The pivot of the centuries…

…The most stupendous fact in history…

…The most staggering event from Old Eternity.

Who would God allow to witness first this wonder that makes creation itself insignificant?

What mind shall first have the privilege of knowing?

Whose eyes will the Lord first dazzle with His risen splendour?

Am I uttering the truth when I repeat: “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”?

“FIRST TO MARY!” I am uttering the sober truth.

The first to see the risen Lord was this poor sin-stained woman. O let us bow at the feet of divine GRACE!

  1. Notice the Depths to Which a Soul Can Sink.

Unless you charge Jesus Christ of upholding the grimmest superstition held by men – devil-possession is a fact…

Unless you can believe Jesus was capable of making mistakes – devil-possession is the condition in which Mary had been living.

This is the state of existence in which some folk lived – a condition so frightful, that onlookers were terrified.

In all ways Jesus confirmed the truth of demonism.

a). He said: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils…” Matthew 10:8.

An ever descending scale! As though to be devil-ridden were worse than death.

b). He not only speaks about demons, He spoke TO them. Holds conversations with them. Charges them to hold their peace.

c). In the Bible men were dominated by evil. Held by an alien power.

d). There was a strange double-consciousness: “We are many!” “My name is Legion.”

e). A power – aye a personality – which like a worm or  parasite had rooted itself within the poor wretch, and there lived upon his life and blood – But the difference being that the devils lived in the spirit and dominated the whole man.

Once in some Galilean village there had played a little girl – she had bloomed to womanhood –

And suddenly the havoc!  The distorted face! The blasphemous thoughts!

Into the abyss – seven devils! The numerical sign for completeness.

What devilry exists in men today?

What lies? What hypocrisy?

  1. What Power in Christ Resides

We know nothing of the circumstances of how she met Jesus. Like Eve with whom the serpent was so intertwined, this woman needed help.

“I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” Psalms 89:19.

Let us learn:-

  1. None is so bad as to be excluded from the purpose of His death.
  2. None has wandered so far as to be out of HIS sight.

iii. The sacrifice is sufficient even for scarlet sins.

  1. SHE became “one of the women who ministered to Him.”

SHE was the first to experience the beatific vision. “First to Mary.”

  1. A Forgiven Past Can Be A Present Blessing

Mary always tried to be beside Him

The cure was complete – BUT there was a fear, as in the man who prayed “that he might be with Him.” Mark 5:18.

  1. Conscious of weakness, she longed for His security. “Temptations lose their power when thou art nigh.”
  2. Deep love – made His presence a joy unspeakable.

iii. Gratitude – made her long to seize the opportunities to serve Him.

Sinners forgiven lead the anthem yonder.

Next to the very throne stands one out of whom He cast seven devils!



[i] See Matthew 28:9.

[ii] Mark 16:4 RV.


Isaiah 53:2 “A root out of a dry ground.”

This verse applies to Jesus himself and to his Kingdom. It applies to Himself personally and to Himself mystically.

Here is a strange fact.

A root springing up in a fertile field, owes very much to the soil in which it grows.

But Christ does not live because of his surroundings, He makes those to live who are around Him.

He is self contained and self sustained.

He derived nothing from his natural descent. The Davidic family had fallen into obscurity. No crown was treasured among the heirlooms of Joseph; no sceptre lay amongst Mary’s trousseau

He derived nothing from his nationality. The ritualism of the Pharisee, the unbelieving modernism of the Sadducee had corrupted all of Jewish faith and revelation. It was indeed a dry ground out of which Jesus sprang.

He owed nothing to His followers. He might have called a discipleship from men of renown – A Caesar from Rome – a philosopher from Greece – a man of eloquence from the Senate and an orator from the Tribune. But see how He hastens to the fishing boats of old Galilee – “unlearned and ignorant men.”

He is a “root out of dry ground as to the means he has chosen for the growth of his body – the church. The Muslims won their way by the sharp arguments of sword and scimitar.

Give a man a strong arm and a steel sword and he is a fit missionary for Mohammed. But Jesus said put up again your sword into its place!

I find no rubric in scripture that Paul shall robe himself in blue or scarlet – Or that Peter shall wear a surplice. No chanting or groaning was enlisted to foster the growth of the Church, the body of Christ.

The sensuous delights of sound and sight where never enlisted by the Lord.

Our holy religion owes nothing to any carnal means. It is a root out of a dry ground. It is said Christianity commends itself to human nature!

Mohammed prospered because he promised delights to the flesh. Christ did not say: “increase thy physical and lustful delights!” – But “take up thy cross!” Does that run in the same vein as Human Nature?

In Christ’s Day, REVENGE was sung of and preached of! But Jesus said “love your enemies!” –  is that in human nature?

And to know how Jesus loved, let us stand at the foot of the Cross, where the red blood drops are falling in a shower of mercy and hear the prayer of his broken heart: “Father – Forgive them!”

Lesson: Hebrews 6:20; 7: – 27.

“Now consider how great this man was…” Hebrews 7:4.

There is something majestic about every movement of the dimly seen person of Melchizedek: a king and priest. We see but little OF him, yet we see nothing little IN him.

Here is here – and gone, yet he is a ‘priest for ever’!

Consider how great this man was in the power of his benedictions (Heb. 7:7).

Consider how great this man was in his supremacy over the Levitical Priesthood. (Heb. 7:8/9).

Consider how great this man was in the uniqueness of his person. (Heb. 7:3).

Now this Melchizedek is but a type of One even greater than himself, (of Jesus Christ): “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” (Heb. 7:11).

If Melchizedek was wonderful – how much more the One of Whom he was but a type…

“Now consider how great this Man (Jesus) was.”

  1. Here is an Exhortation – “Now consider how great THIS Man was.”

The subject claims our consideration.

  1. Not optional – it is His right and due. His blessed Person and work should occupy our minds.

The subject needs our consideration.

Here is a subject that requires great thoughtfulness. In centuries to come philosophies of this generation will be laughed at. We must therefore come back to the revelation of God.

If in these 30 minutes I shall excel in my showing forth of His glories – I shall still know I have failed. It is like holding a candle to the sun!

Secondly, we will obey the exhortation – and will…

  1. “Now Consider How Great This Man Was.”

“In His relationship to God.”

I do not think of Him as a Divine man or a Human god. He was God and Man in One Person. O how my heart loves Him – My soul bows in His presence. The greatness of the Man Who is God is inconceivable.

“In His relationship to men.”

Adam was the representative man – the fountain of the human race. When he fell – we fell. Christ Jesus is the Second Man – in Whom none fall – but multitudes may rise again.

The divine Mind that cannot look upon sin without indignation, was so charmed to look upon the Person of this glorious Man that an amnesty has been proclaimed to the sons of men, bidding them repent.

“In His relationship with His own People.”

Before time began God saw His Son and all His elect accepted in the Beloved. See how great this Man was – for on the strength of His bare promise the Lord continued to save men for thousands of years before Jesus ever bled for sins on Calvary’s brow.


Let me help you a little further, dear friends, to consider how great this Man was by reminding you of …

The surroundings of His cradle

i. Prophets for thousands of years had predicted His arrival.

ii. Types and shadows pointed to the Coming One.

iii. Saints, like Anna and Simeon, awaited Him.

iv. Angels heralded Him.

The surroundings of His earthly course

He was tender but never weak. Strong but never brutal.

Alexander was a conqueror – but he was defeated by wine.  Napoleon Bonaparte (whose name means “good part”) was a frequenter of the lust houses of France.

But consider how great this Man Jesus was – never an unworthy act! Never a regretted word.

Consider how great this Man was on His cross:

“Father forgive them” – the most gracious words ever spoken.

“Lama sabacthani – “- the most terrible words on human lips.

“It is finished!” – the most glorious words ever heard. Who shall contradict Him? It IS finished!

Consider how great this Man was when He arose.

Consider how great this Man IS! (The word WAS is not in the original).

Consider how great this Man IS – Now angels bow before Him.

Consider how great this Man IS – Who shall judge the world.

“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31.



“Exhort one another daily, while it is called today: lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13.


“Familiarity breeds contempt,” it is said.

Like all sayings that is not always true – though it is generally a fact. And like all trite sayings it does not embrace all the facts.

Familiarity disarms us.

As youngsters some of you were fascinated by Bible stories – and some of you have breathed the atmosphere of a home familiar with outward Christian ways – and your ears have grown accustomed to religious expressions: “God willing!” – “Praise the Lord!” Grace at mealtimes; Bible reading and prayers.

To you, and to all who are familiar with sacred scenes, is the word of this Scripture sent: “Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

The whole epistle to the Hebrews can be said to be nothing less than an exposition of this verse. As Romans is largely doctrinal, Hebrews is largely exhortation.

There are two views necessary to the right understanding of the things of God: –

The empirical, that is the view from earth level, and the transcendental, that is the view from the heavenlies.

An example is this: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life…” Acts 3:13-15.

Compare those verses with this verse: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…” Acts 2;23.

Because this is not generally known we have difficulty in maintaining unity in Bible schools, peace in the churches, and tranquillity in the hearts of new believers.

God, Who knows the end from the beginning, knows NOW the saved ones, and in His mind the picture is complete. We only know the period described in the text: “While it is called TODAY.”

For us it is the scene of the field not the barn.

Ours is EMPIRICAL knowledge.

This Hebrew epistle speaks from the empirical viewpoint, and gives us a test to help us to a more accurate knowledge – the test of perseverance.

Persevering does neither save nor keep a man – it simply proves that the man is saved, that he is a Christian.

It is often amusing to hear two men of long standing arguing the merits of Free will and Divine Sovereignty. Both are true but impossible of reconciliation unless we admit the two viewpoints: Empirical and Transcendental.

It is amusing to hear a young Arminian pretending to deal with Romans chapter 9, and softening down the truths of election. And it is equally amusing to listen to a budding Calvinist disposing of this Hebrew Epistle.

I discovered many years ago that most preachers fall into the trap of preaching only what they fancy. For me, the two viewpoints I have given you are the complete answer and the only way to deal in honesty with otherwise apparently conflicting Scriptures.

We must not be tempted to turn this verse (Hebrews 3:13) into an exercise for theological discussion. The Devil delights to see Hebrews used for exercising the brain – instead of being used as God intended – for directing the life!

This verse falls into two parts.

  1. A condition – “hardened”.
  2. A cause – “sin”.

First, the condition: Hardened. Men speak about hardened criminals. Preachers speak about hardened sinners! This verse speaks about hardened CHRISTIANS. Not hardened SINNERS but hardened SAINTS – if saints they be.

There was a time when tears blurred your glance at Golgotha’s cross. Now you gaze unmoved. Dry-eyed.

There was a time when you blushed if you told a lie – now you lie and have no inward sense of shame.

There was a time when you respected the servants of Christ, now you despise their Master.

There was a time when you loved the Lord, now it is only rarely you seek His company in private.

The hardening process has gone forward – you have reached the dread condition – you are hardened. Sklerosis! That is the Greek work for hardened.

No tears, no conscience, no warm faith, no zeal – “SKLEROSIS!”

The most difficult people to reach with the Word, are those who know it best, and are not moved by it.

I have more hope for a harlot than for a professing Christian who has a heart of stone.

To avoid this dread disease of the heart we will consider its cause: “SIN!”

Always in the Book of Proverbs a sinner is a fool, and sin is folly.

Within the confines of this glorious Epistle sin has a special significance. To understand this verse we must uncover that significance.

Hebrews is an exhortation to FAITH – it points to the faithfulness of Christ as a reason for our faith (Hebrews 2:17; 10:23; 11:11). Its eleventh chapter features folk of FAITH.

The reverse of faith is UNBELIEF, and the nature of sin in this epistle is UNBELIEF: “an evil heart of unbelief.”

Some have a condition – “hardened” – for which we have seen there is a cause: “sin.”

Now the very word “hardened” presupposes a change. You do not harden diamonds – they are already hardened. You harden clay – soft and plastic things.

You were not always hard. Once you were pliant – capable of moulding – open to be impressed – Now there has been a change.

Now, change is brought about by process. What is that process? DECEIT – you have been deceived. “Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Faith is that which brings a man so into touch with Christ as to save the believer. But faith is not a mental grasping of facts – it is an embracing by the heart, and a yielding of the will.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10.

You tell me you believe. We should watch our conduct, and we can judge our believing by our behaving.

If you are hardened, alas breaking must precede any softening, and breaking is a brutally painful work.

“Therefore, am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. For God makes my heart soft, and the Almighty troubles me…”  Job 23:16.

Herod The Fox

Luke 23:8-9 World English Bible (WEB)

“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some miracle done by him. He questioned him with many words, but he gave no answers.” (WEB)


The Master was brought before four judges: Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod.

Afraid that their prisoner would when Pilate found no fault in Him, they raised their voices in FURY – to a screaming crescendo.

And in their cunning brought in a new cry: “GALILEE”! – “He stirs up the people from GALILEE to this place!”

Some have thought that this was to show their contempt for their captive…

… But it seems to me to go much further than that.

They were Galileans “whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices…

The priests used the word GALILEE to inflame Pilate.

The effect however was quite unexpected. Pilate grasped the chance to do two things at once:-

  1. To rid himself of a troublesome case
  2. To gratify Herod – a kinglet under Caesar.

Now the ruler of Galilee was Herod Antipas… and at this very time he was in Jerusalem for Passover.

So our Lord goes on His third march of sorrow through Jerusalem.

First, to Annas and Caiaphas.

Second, to Pilate.

Third to, Herod.

Fourth, back to Pilate.

But read:  Acts 4:27 28 “For truly, in this city against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen.”

  1. Herod

Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great, who had put to death the babes at Bethlehem.

The old Herod was called by some “the Lion” – But Jesus Himself had another name for Herod’s son. He called him “the Fox”! (Luke 13:31).

His title TETRARCH means: Ruler of the 4th part of the kingdom.

He was a sensualist, a man of gross vice.

He had received religious convictions under John the Baptist.

Mark 6: 20 “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly.”

Evidently Herod Antipas reformed for a time. But then he became like the DOG & SOW of whom Peter speaks:

“The dog turns to his own vomit again,” and “the sow that has washed to wallowing in the mire.”

For whilst his brother was still alive he took his brother Philip’s wife to be his mistress.

Herod was rebuked by the Baptist who was shut up in prison, later to be executed at the instigation of the adulteress who shared the royal apartment.


Now Herod is curious to see Jesus

Now, many attend places of worship, just to know how things are going – THEY NEVER INTEND TO BE FOLLOWERS OF THE LAMB.

All the gossip of the churches is known to them – but they have little regard for God in their souls.

The church is their lounge.

The service a short entertainment – a diversion on the week’s dullest day.

The preacher a kind of performer…

Herod is the leader of all such triflers.

Curiosity! It is that feeling which is one step higher than total indifference — but only one step!

At first sight, in Herod’s case – it seems a promising thing:-

“When Herod saw Jesus he was exceeding glad.”

For so were the Apostles when they saw Jesus:- “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord!”

He was glad because he had heard so many things of Him. (Joanna – who accompanied Jesus – worked in the palace – and was the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward! Perhaps she told Herod about Jesus).

And does not faith come by hearing?

Herod “hoped to see some miracle done by Jesus.” Evidently he was not an absolute unbeliever. He hoped for a miracle.

But reflect gear friends:-

Herod’s case was bad. Once he had feared Jesus: “This is John,whom I beheaded. He has risen from the dead.” (Mark 6:16).

Now his conscience is asleep – He is exceeding glad to see Jesus.

There sits the lump of lust and laziness – that mixture of Humpty Dumpty and Blue Beard — waiting as a gleeful child would wait for a conjuror to perform some trick or illusion.

Perhaps he thought Jesus would multiply loaves and fishes in the palace, or perhaps, vanish from their sight – as at Nazareth 3 years ago.


“He questioned Him in many words” – Eagerly the questions came rumbling from his eager lips…

We are not told what the questions or quibbles were. I will tell you – they would be the old sort, like: “Where did Cain get his wife from?” etc.

Fools can ask more questions in an hour than wise men can ask in a week!

But – Jesus answered him nothing. Jesus’ advice had always been: “Do not cast your pearls before swine!”

In the presence of The Fox The Lamb is silent.

  1. Jesus


Our Lord did not come into this world to be a mere wonder-worker.

He did not leave His glory to earn the wondering open-mouthed approval of men: kings or commoners.

The best He could do for Herod was to lessen further responsibility by maintaining silence.

Herod had already silenced THE VOICE (John the Baptist) – how could he then hope to hear THE WORD (Jesus the LOGOS)?

Herod might have heard Jesus scores of times in Galilee. Why had he not troubled to do so?

The street…

The synagogue…

The sea-shore…

All these had been His auditoriums…

Yet Herod had never sought Him.


  1. Herod and Pilate Were Made Friends That Day

Here was a coalition of evil.

Here the proselyte Jew Herod of Edomite descent joins hands with Pilate the pagan.

How often enemies unite against the Lord’s Christ! For example the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

The Bishop of Woolwich and Huxley – the scientist and the humanist, equally oppose the Gospel of Christ.

I hope if there is any ill-will between two Christians: they will think it a shame to see Herod and Pilate made friends in the presence of Jesus – and they themselves unfriendly still.
Jesus is a GREAT DESTROYER OF ENMITY — “He hath made peace by the blood of His cross!”

The Sign

Matthew 17: 25-26

OUR LORD’S miracles are “SIGNS” as well as “WONDERS”.

THIS MIRACLE IS UNLIKE all the other miracles of our Lord.

  1. It is the only miracle in which our Lord uses power for Himself.
  2. It seems done for a very TRIVIAL END – the providing of some three shillings of our money.

Therefore, it is MORE of a “SIGN” than a “WONDER”

Tonight we shall hope to show the THINGS “SIGNIFIED”-


This tribute money was not a CIVIL but an ECCLESIASTICAL tribute.

It started in the WILDERNESS “a ransom for his soul”

NOW in Jesus’ day it was a TAX for UPKEEP of the TEMPLE

So they came to see if this JEW, with such tax views on Pharisaic matters, was loyal to the TEMPLE.

PETER – anxious to defend told them “YES!”

Then came the Lord’s parable to him:  “And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.”


He did not say “Believe in VIRTUE”

Or “Believe in TRUTH”

Not even “Believe  in my WORD”



What is this EXEMPTION of the Son?

The tribute had a dual meaning

It was a ransom.

  1. It was to support the Temple.

So, He claims to have no need of a ransom for HIMSELF

“Thou art fairer than the CHILDREN OF MEN”

He needed no TEMPLE! – IT WAS –

  1. The dwelling place of God. “God was in CHRIST
  2. The place of SACRIFICE. “Through the eternal spirit OFFERED HIMSELF”.

Meeting place of MAN OF GOD. “No man cometh unto the FATHER BUT BY ME

JESUS WAS ALL THESE “He is greater than the Temple”.



He is tender beyond all telling.

God walked down the stairs of heaven with a baby in His arms……

“Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself”

This was the point of departure”



The King is Son, though free, goes among HIS FATHER’S SUBJECTS, hardens His hands by toil – learned a servant’s heart….  WAS FREE FROM NECESSITY OF DEATH.



Men have made merry with this MIRACLE – but there is a deep, divine decorum.

Humiliation’s gloom is ever intertwined with gleams of His glory!-

AT HIS MANGER-BED – the angels sang!




AT THIS seemingly TRIVIAL MIRACLE  – Showed the CHRIST even in His LOWLINESS was the SON OF GOD!


Does not say, “for us



Both CONSCIENCE & the LAW grasps us by the THROAT & screams “Pay what thou owest ” alas, we are BANKRUPT.


“Take(Calvary’s finished work – All thy debt will thus be paid.




Acts 26:8 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? ”

Concerning the souls of our believing friends who have departed this life – we have no distress.

“Absent from the body – present with the Lord.”

We are often concerned about their body, which we have committed to the deep dark grave.

It is horrible to reflect that their dear faces are being stripped of their beauty by the fingers of decay.

That all the noble fabric we knew – should be broken to ruin and dissolved in dust.

Though we may with bravery face the future- we never really forget the divine decree “it is appointed unto all en once to die.” This flesh shall see corruption.This glorious doctrine of the resurrection of the body is intended to take fear away.

That very flame which we lay in the dust shall wake at the trumpet of the Archangel…  Wake to superior beauties and with attributes never known before.

Remember the Lord loved us not as disembodied spirits, but as men and women robed in flesh and blood.

God has put a value on our bodies:-

The Bible says: “Present your BODIES a living sacrifice.”

“Your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost.”

  1. My friends, it would not be a complete victory over sin and Satan if the Saviour left a part of His people in the grave.

Not a bone will be forgotten – Death’s prison house will be utterly rifled of every trophy.

Alas – we in unbelief ask “Is it possible ? — Can it be true?”

To such questions my text is pointed. See Acts 26:8 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? ”

  1. Let us Face the ProblemsSome misguided preachers have sought to water down this doctrine. Thinking to make it more acceptable to critics.

No man has been impressed by discovering preachers are half-ashamed of their faith.

How can a man be convinced by preachers who do not believe their own faith?

  1. When we modify doctrine and trim scripture, we defeat ourselves.

Nothing of that kind affects me!

  1. We are to remember that though we die with the same body with which we were born – life does cause great changes, BUT THOSE CHANGES DO NOT AFFECT IDENTITY.
  2. Though we shall be raised in very different bodies – yet the identity will be retained.

It is sown in weakness – it is raised in power.”

it is sown in dishonour – it is raised in glory.”

We do not ask scientists to support us – let them keep to their sphere and we will keep to ours.

The doctrine we teach neither FEARS NOR FLATTERS human learning.

“Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? ”

The Problems:-

  1. When we see a mummified corpse we say – well maybe if all dead bodies were embalmed we could believe resurrection.

But how utterly have the ancient dead disappeared – where now is the dust of Paul?

Of Festus? Who sent him to Rome.

Of Nero? the emperor who condemned him.

Of the unknown executioner? who beheaded him.

Atoms once wedded in a man’s life may be divorced poles apart.

  1. The difficulty increases when we think of the number of the dead – “THE MAJORITY” – and our doctrine is that ALL MEN SHALL BE RAISED!

If it were a few – say Elijah – Lazarus – well we may accept that  –


But think of the MILLIONS SINCE THEN

But think of the MYRIADS TODAY —

That not one shall sleep forever – Huxley says it is a “MONSTROUS MIRACLE & WEARS THE ASPECT OF A THING INCREDIBLE”

  1. Let me make it more incredible!

In doing so I feel like Elijah on Carmel – pouring water on the sacrifice before he prayed for fire from heaven to burn it up.

Think where some bodies are:

In deep mines.

Carried by the wash and swell of tides to unknown shores.

They lie in pathless desert – far as vultures eye can see.

They enrich the fields of Flanders  and of France.



  1. And remember – our doctrine says – the Resurrection is not simply RESTORATION – TRANSFORMATION.

We plant a bulb – it rises a lovely lily.

We sow in the soil a seed – there comes forth a resplendent flower, with exquisite perfume.

I tell you who are afraid of scientists and humanists and philosophers – OUR FAITH IS INCREDIBLE TO CARNAL MINDS – AND NO WONDER!


SISTERS – It shall be as though a tattered torn moth-eaten garment were suddenly to be bleached to dazzling, glistening, glittering, gleaming, whiteness – its every threa restored and then adorned with embroideries such as women’s fingers have never woven on this earth.

  1. Let me pour on some more water – Let me help the prophets of Baal – assist the scientists

– fend for the philosophers

– undergird the unbelievers

My help for them shall be in vain.


Every analogy breaks down.


Ah! but even in sleep life is present!


But though the grub sleeps – it also lives

  1. Now To The Simple Solution

This is no empty boast — the matter IS SIMPLE!

  1. Read the text with proper emphasis and DIFFICULTIES MELT LIKE SNOW IN SUNSHINE…

“Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? ”

  1. It might seem a thing incredible that the dead should be raised, but it is certainly not incredible that GOD, the Almighty, the INFINITE, should raise the dead.


  1. We do not run to the armouries of reason to defend our faith. ONE WORD FROM GOD OUTWEIGHS FOR US A LIBRARY OF HUMAN LORE.
  2. When Paul uttered this text he was speaking to a Jew – AGRIPPA – to whom he could say: “Believest thou the prophets – I know that thou believest.”

For he had the testimony of…

Job: “I know that my Redemmer lives and though skin worms destroy this body yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

Isaiah: Chapter 26.

Daniel: Chapter 12.

Hosea: Chapter 13.

  1. To us as Christians we have fuller scriptures.

John 5:28; John 6:40; Philippians 3:21; and the monumental 15th Chapter of 1st Corinthians.

Everything is wonderful until we are used to it, and resurrection owes the incredible portion of its marvel to the fact of our never having come across it in our observation – that is all!

We were born but lately and have seen nothing as yet.

Will resurrection be a greater wonder than creation? –

To creat out of nothing is more wonderful than to collect scattered atoms, surely!

How would your eyes have opened – if, standing in the inky blackness you had heard “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” AND LIGHT LEPT AT YOU AS A LIVING THING.

How would your jaw have gaped, had you seen from the dust an unseen hand fashion a form – and you had heard a gust of breath fill the uninflated being – and Adam had got up from Mother Earth.

Friends – if it did not happen so often, the birth of every child would be regarded as a miracle of God – and such indeed it is.

Remember too – the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He is the guarantee of my resurrection: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Fellow saints: Remember too that you have already had a work of resurrection done within you.

“You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

This is the forerunner of your physical quickening.

  1. Our Relation To This Truth

CHILDREN OF GOD: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”

UNCONVERTED HEARER:  Jesus said – “Fear Him Who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”

The Bible speaks of the Resurrection to Damnation – Daniel names it, a rising to “everlasting shame and contempt.”

Are you ready should Jesus come tonight? He said: “I am the resurrection and the life!”

An inconceivable number shall be raised in the First Resurrection. “A multitude that no man can number.”

SUDDENLY they shall start up from their beds of dust and silent clay. God’s workshop shall not be long engaged in fitting atom to atom – bone to bone.

Man needs time, but God created time and needs it not!

“We shall all be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye!”

Why The Waste?

(Preached at Fleetwood, in May1961)

Lesson: John 12: 1-8.
John’s Gospel tells us where this was, and that the anointing was done by Mary of Bethany.
The first critic was Judas, to whom it seemed folly and ‘waste.’
The disciples chimed in with objections, not because they were superior in wisdom to Mary, but because they were inferior in consecration.
Martha too was there – “amongst them that served.” The two sisters give us difficulty in appreciating and doing justice to either.
Christ understands and does justice to BOTH.
Martha is busy to her fingertips. We are short of such women today. A bustling practical woman. She loves Jesus with all her heart, and shows it in her own busy way – by getting the meal ready for Him.
But Mary could no serve – her fingers were all thumbs; yet she must show the Lord how much she loved Him…
She had one precious thing – her own!
And in a burst of emotion, she smashed the thing… the alabaster box, and poured all the liquid perfume over His head and His feet.
It was a prodigal act. An utterly useless thing. A sheer waste – but it told her love for the Lord.
O that we could see today, more extravagant acts to show our love for Jesus.
1. Christ Shielded Her By Pointing To Her Motive
a. “She hath wrought a good work ON ME.”
Anything that is “on Him” is a good work. Anything which has not that saving grace is not a good work. So many “good works” fail to qualify.
b. What an amazing position for a man to take up – “If it’s done for Me – then it’s alright.”
c. He took the best – and still does – of what we give Him. He never said “You are going too far.” ” You exaggerate Me.”
He taught: “All men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father.”
d. There is too much nicely calculated service today. So many are careful not to be fanatical.
I would like to see more things done for Him that the world would count “sheer waste” – absolutely useless things.
Jesus Christ has in His treasure-house a great many ‘foolish things.’
For instance: Two mites. Cups of cold water. Mary’s broken box. Has He anything of yours?
2. He Showed The Measure Of Her Service
a. Jesus said: “She hath done what she could.”
That was not an excuse for her. He was saying in effect – “What she could do – she has done, and nothing less.”
He could not have said that had Mary but taken a spoonful of perfume from the box.
It all went. And that is the measure of her love. She was utterly abandoned in her love for the Nazarene.
Of course, it was not a wise thing to do, if by that you mean economical.
c. It was not Martha’s way – but then it was Mary’s way. So Jesus is saying – “She has done what SHE could.”
Do not envy others – but do what YOU can.”
3. He Gives Meaning To Her Loving Deed
a. “She hath come beforehand to anoint My body to the burying.”
I do not suppose MARY knew or thought of His coming death and burial, as she snatched up the precious vase and broke it upon Him in fragrant worship.
b. But He put the meaning to it. Saying in effect – “She has brought the tribute before the funeral.” THAT’S THE TIME FOR FLOWERS!
Is it not wonderful when He puts meaning into our works BUT HE ALWAYS DOES.
c. We do not know the value of our own work.
For example, the disciples asked Him: “When did we see Thee hungry ” etc.
His response: Inasmuch as you did it unto these little ones, you did it unto Me.”
d. So poor Mary, trembling before her critics with the broken casket in her hands, smiles in wonder as the Lord translated her act into a higher meaning than she or Judas understood.
Other women had to wait for “the first day of the week” – and though they came with their spices early to embalm the body they found the tomb empty – they brought their spikenard too late!
e. Finally – Christ makes perpetual the deed that took but a fleeting moment.
In one breath-taking emotion-packed moment of loving ecstasy she had shown her deep devotion.
f. It was passed in a moment – but He made it an eternal deed. “Verily, I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
g. O the fragrance of that one wild, useless expression of love unspeakable – that fragrance, I say, not only filled the house – IT HAS FILLED THE WORLD.
“To what purpose is this waste?” – To show the love of a forgiven sinner for her Saviour.

(Preached at Fleetwood, 1965)

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” Ephesians 3:8.

a. For 37 years I have personally had the privilege of preaching the Gospel of Christ. From numbers between half a dozen to 1500 have been my listeners.
b. If this should be my last sermon, I have already enjoyed enough privilege for one man. To God be thanks.
c. Tonight I shall ask you to consider the opinions and estimates of a preacher of olden time – Paul.
This is what he says: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” Ephesians 3:8.

1. Paul Had a Poor Opinion of Himself
“The least of all saints!”

a. This is not mock modesty. No adjective fit to express his opinion – so he does violence to language and talks about “less than the least!”
b. Why did he feel thus?…
i. Many of his colleagues were “in Christ before him.”
ii. He had been a persecutor of Christians – and he never forgave himself.
iii. Note: Not only least of Apostles – but of saints!
c. How very different from the self-advertising of some. They announce themselves with terms like “God’s man for the hour!” – “His Holiness.” etc.

2. Paul Had an Excellent Opinion of his Brethren
A poor opinion of self is a great help to a good opinion of the saints.
Yet Paul was no dreamer –
He had sharp contention with Barnabas over John Mark.
He had rebuked Peter to the face.
Nor was he insensible to the low spirituality of those saints to whom he wrote: “carnal babies!” “When you ought to be teachers, you need to be taught!”
“Oh foolish Galatians!” etc.
They are faulty no doubt, but they are the people of God.
The truly regenerate ones are the real aristocracy.

“My soul shall pray for Zion still
For there my friends and kindred dwell.”

3. Paul Thought Very Highly of his Work
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” Ephesians 3:8.

a. He looked upon his ministry as a gift from God – a favour bestowed.
Yet speaking humanly it was a very poor job..
i. He was no Lord Bishop. He had no palace. Not even a house!
ii. His stipend was such that he said: ” I know how to suffer hunger and nakedness.”
iii. His comfort was such that prisons afforded.
Not many clergymen would apply for Paul’s job!
b. His glory was in his dishonour – his boast in his losses:-
“Stripes and imprisonments await me in every city.”
“I have suffered the loss of all things that I might win Christ.”
c. Yet he literally marvelled at his privilege – I see him raising his hands in astonishment… “Unto me – Unto me is this grace given, that I should preach!”
d. Of course, Paul had a very clear idea of what it was that he had to do:- TO PREACH!
Not to sprinkle with holy water.
Not to carry a crucifix and dress in strange millinery.
Not to set himself up as a demi-god, distributing pardons and placing empty hands on empty heads.
e. Wherever he went among the Gentiles this one thing he did – He preached Christ and Him crucified.
You cannot find me one instance where he played at being a priest.
At Athens he did not build another altar.
At Corinth he did not say mass.
At Rome he did not teach ordinands the ins and outs of genuflections – the art of intonation with voice of misery
Nor did he demonstrate the art of waving incense.
What do you say Paul? –

“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

4. Paul Thought Kindly of his Congregation
“Among the Gentiles.”
Peter had a more respectable sphere; the ancient Hebrew.
Paul thanked God for his call – yet they were an awful crew:-
i. Greeks – full of lust and learning.
ii. Romans – noted for profligacy and power.
iii. Scythians – barbaric, uncouth.
Is it not touching to hear some missionary speak with affection and tenderness of the natives among whom they labour?
Paul had become a Gentile to the Gentiles!

5. Paul Loved his Message Most of all
“The unsearchable riches of Christ.”
To Paul – and to us – no message is comparable to the message of the Gospel…
a. He preached Christ
What riches were in Christ-
The winds knew Him and were still
The waves knew Him and fell at His feet.
The water recognised its Creator and blushed into wine.
Sinners loved Him and washed His feet with tears.
Devils feared and fled Him.
Today He has put off His servant’s form. He has laid aside the towel wherewith Her washed the disciples’ feet – and “all power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth.”
He is crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords – and His Name is “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
b. But Paul preached “Chris – and Him crucified!”
Of all unsearchable riches His blood is most precious.
It is the only antidote for your sin:-
Water cannot wash the stain away.
Fire cannot burn it out.
Hammers cannot pound it out.
But His precious blood can wash it out and make you white as snow.
The Saviour every sinner needs is the bleeding Saviour – Those ruby drops are “the unsearchable riches of Christ!”

A Faithful God

“He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13.
The faithfulness of God is a familiar theme and a great favourite with Paul. He speaks of it in his first letter and here in his last he comes back to it. After a lifetime in “testing” God he cries: “He abideth faithful.”
Other New Testament writers loved this truth and we will gather a few expressions in connection with God’s faithfulness.
First of all: what God’s faithfulness means.
When we speak of “keeping faith” we mean keeping our word. My word is my bond, we say. “He is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). “She judged Him faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 11:11).
He is true to His word.
Now it is remarkable that these 2 scriptures are the only New Testament references that carry the idea that God’s faithfulness means He is faithful to His word.
But our text witnesses to a deeper meaning: “He cannot deny Himself.” His nature and character constitute a solemn obligation. He is His own law – He is bound by what He is.
We (humans) drop below our best selves. No man is always himself.
God is always Himself. He cannot fail for HE IS GOD.
Even the sun has spots. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1-5. He is true to Himself.
He is also true to His past. This is brought out in two different ways.
Peter says to troubled disciples: “Commit the keeping of your souls to Him in well-doing, as unto the faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:19.
The other application of God’s faithfulness in connection with His past bears on man’s redemption:-
“God is faithful by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son.” 1 Corinthians 1:9.
Now let us look at what this all guarantees to us.
Remember – He is faithful to His word. He is faithful to Himself. He is faithful to His past. His faithfulness as Creator guarantees He will care for His creatures. Creation is not merely a work of power, but of love. “To Him Who made great lights; for His mercy endureth for ever.” He poured Himself into beings because His name is love. His faithfulness to His past in creation guarantees to us that the DESIRES implanted by Him will be satisfied.
It also guarantees that tasks will be proportionate to our strength. “God is faithful Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
His faithfulness to His past as REDEEMER guarantees FORGIVENESS. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Since Christ has died God’s faithfulness is implicated in pardoning mercy. Mercy is the outcome of God’s faithfulness.
And then again, His faithfulness guarantees the perfecting of Christian character. “Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
He does not begin a work and then get disgusted with it, or turn to something else. He never stops until He completes. There are no unfinished works in God’s workshop.
What is more, His faithfulness guarantees bliss and blessedness. If these poor natures of ours as they NOW are – were all that Christ had won by His agony and blood – then, I say, He paid too high a price. We need Heaven to vindicate the faithfulness of God.
Finally, God’s faithfulness demands a corresponding attitude in us:-
“Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised.”
If He is worth trusting at all, let us trust Him altogether.