This whole sixteenth chapter of Mark represents human life in its relation to the Divine Immanence. Its purpose is to show that if we look up for our life and direction we get operated upon by the unseen but all-competent One. Sometimes this unseen, all-competent One is called divine I AM. Sometimes it is called the omnipresent God.
In this chapter the unseen but all-competent One is called Jesus Christ. The narrative is very particular to say, "He is not here." (Verse 6.) It is very careful to say, "He is risen." It is very glad to show us that we need not worry about anything. For, says the lesson, they that seek Him that is above shall find all their stones of difficulty rolled away. (Verse 4.)
They that seek their help from below, among men, shall have to roll away their own stones. There is a great teaching in the mind of the human race that it is better for men to roll away their own stones of difficulty; that it makes them stronger to exercise themselves on hardship. But the Bible teaches a very different mode of life from what any people upon this earth are practicing. Jesus of Nazareth set out to exercise Himself on a difficult line and carried it out. He let something from above manage his life. He is chronicled to have looked up and away from the loaves of bread when he wished to multiply them. He looked up for everything.
He did not say that a man must earn his livelihood by hard labor. He said, practically, if you look up you will be always provided for. He said, practically, that that which is above and is so competent is a man's own divine nature.
This same Jesus Christ taught the Hindu doctrines in some particulars. One of these particulars is very elevating. First, it says that our bodies may be made to have no sensations by reason of our living so entirely above our minds. That which is above mind is divine. If we live in the sensations of our bodies we have to be rolling away disagreeable things and hunting up agreeable things for our bodies all the time. If we live in our thoughts and emotions we have to be avoiding disagreeable people and hunting out and selecting agreeable books or conversations all the time. We are rolling away our own stones all through our existence of mentality. Notice in this lesson how the women at the sepulchre were living in their minds — in their emotions, but when they looked above they found material things all worked out, and their minds were pacified.
Some students have made the golden text of this chapter, "Who shall roll away the stone?" (Verse 3.) But that question is very harassing to a mind. It makes it feel all the time that something is not done which ought to be done, and possibly no one will ever do it on this earth.
The Bible, however, has the statements of some extraordinary people giving positive assurance that nothing is too hard for the One above to do for poor, wretched bodies, and for poor, miserable minds. So it is an unsatisfactory golden text to be repeating, "Who shall help us? Who shall help us?"
The other students take this text, "He is risen." (Verse 6.) This gives us the feeling that some power used to be low down but now it has sailed up. Jesus Christ told the world that the divine nature is above, and was always above. It never dropped down. The human mind seems to draw it down, but in fact it is simply that as the human mind watches the divine it has two sensations: first, as if something came gently down toward it; and second, as if something lifted it up.
There is a kind of bodily cure by rubbing the disease down and sending it away. There is a kind of mental cure by sweetly promising that everything will soon be all right. But no one is such a great power for cure as he whose heart is fixed on high, so He is the Great Physician even to this day.
This sixteenth chapter of Mark reveals that the emotional minds of the three women were not allowed to fix themselves on the great stone of hardship, for "when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away." (Verse 4.)
The Mary dispositon is that soft quality in us which takes if for granted that the hurting principle is the victorious governor of this life; with it we rejoice when pain lets go a moment, weep when it gets hold again, anoint and tend in faithful fondness all plants and children, men, and dogs, but with it we never were known to look for an uncrucified Living Power. We weep when things look down, we smile when they look up, but with our Mary nature we never sit on the right hand of life saying, "Life reigns." But it is the softness of the Mary kindness that first heard the angelic message, "He is not here." (Verse 5.) It is truly to the kind-hearted of the world that the tidings of the unreality of obstacles comes first. (Verse 4.)
It is truly to the Mary quality that is searching around for the best thing to do the last thing to do, early and late, that the man who hath a wonderful character (called in Verse 5 a "garment") and who sits on the right of doctrine and health first says, with a voice that causes the Mary quality to spring, "Be not affrighted; Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; he is risen; he is not here; behold the place where they laid him."
There was never a Mary yet that discovered a risen Christ till she was told by the wonderful being that He was not dead. Mary expects a dead man. It is her ministering nature which leads her to the tomb to comfort herself by doing something or other. When she is told that there is no reality in death, no hindrance in matter, she is amazed and keeps silent for a season that she may tell the world what the wonderful being told her in secret. It is to the heart's own divine secret that we must first be anchored. For at the heart of us all is the Jesus Christ power unkillable.
Thus the joy of the lesson comes in its inspiring us to anchor on high. Jesus taught that the body will shine with beauty if it is anchored above. So will the mind. (Verses 17-20.)
It is certain that all people who anchor their attention above have unusual faces and minds. It is noticeable that they are always drawn and pulled and tempted by some one stone of trouble to look down and worry. This sixteenth chapter of Mark emphasizes the fact that "Every heart knoweth its own bitterness." This bitterness leaves an imprint on the face and mind. When we meet those who think on high and try to anchor all their attention above, we may catch them at one of their times of depression and we are surprised. We feel none of their glory; we get only their gloom. All the minds on earth are caught more or less to some personal trouble or ambition. Young men and women who are trying to anchor on high generally feel the drag of some ambition. Older people generally feel the drag of some personal trial.
The ambition of the young is the sepulchre of their Christ Jesus.
The trial of the old is the sepulchre of their Christ Jesus.
It is said of these people of strong emotions who watched the sepulchre that they turned away from their sepulchre. (Verse 8.) Thus hath God made it possible for you to turn away from your earthly ambition and earthly trial. Never mind if you never have seen any person on this earth turn away from his personal predilection or trouble to anchor utterly on high; this lesson embalms the eternal fact in the amber of this story, that we are all able to look above till He that sitteth on high worketh His willing wonders for us.
When the rose opens her calyx and faces the sky in all the perfume of her splendor she is risen. Jesus opened his eyes on high and the perfume of His life is now shedding its deathless sweetness all over this earth. He is still watching God and so His Godly radiance is penetrating all the world. Nothing ever tempted Jesus of Nazareth to turn His face from His God. What an example! So strong is it that millions say it is matchlessly perfect.
He is not dead. The sepulchre could not hold Him. Ah, matchless and terrible Son of the morning! Nothing can stay His silent influence. Even to think of Him leads the heart upward. Even to know of His steadfastness causes us to forget our personal ambitions and trials, if only for the briefest of times.
Let the bells of the belfries ring out the story of One who could not be caught in the snares of ambition of mind or of bodily pleasure.
Let the lilies on the altars shed abroad their heavenly perfume all full of the story of One who made them the lasting symbol of the Father's providing care.
Let the organs peel and the choir boys chant the story of One whose presence here among us is the healing music of Paradise.
"The healing of the seamless dress is by our beds of pain; We touch Him in life's throng and press, and we are whole again."
April 10th, 1898