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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

John 20

 

 

Verses 1-31

EXPOSITION

John 20:1-31

2. The complete glorification of Jesus in his resurrection. The record pauses for the awful day of that great sabbath, and resumes the marvelous recital when the greatest event in the history of the world is assumed and asserted to have taken place. Heathen and foes admit the fact of the death of Jesus; the evidence is overwhelming, multiform, sufficient to establish itself to the ordinary reason of mankind. It is a matter of indubitable history. The proof was given to all the world; but it is otherwise with the fact of the anastasis of Jesus. That stupendous event was revealed to the eye and mind of faith by a series of communications, which afford to different classes, groups, kinds, and states of mind specimens of the manner and quality of the resurrection-life. "Many infallible proofs" wrought (as St. Luke says, Acts 1:1-26.) irresistible conviction as to the reality of the Resurrection. The Church of Christ was originated by a faith in this new and transcendental mode of existence. A generation of men passed, scores of communities were called into being throughout Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Lybia, Asia Minor, Achaia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Crete, and even in Italy and the capital of the Roman empire, all of them held together by the life-giving conviction of the reality of a world of spiritual body, into which the redeemed enter. Of this reality the resurrection-life of Christ was the type, the proof, the first fruit, and the earnest. This most astounding fact was preached in Galatia and Macedonia, in Corinth and Rome, in Babylon and Alexandria, before one word of the Gospels had been put on parchment. When the preaching of the apostles was reduced to written form, it was not with the idea of recording a fully detailed or easily harmonizable account of the Easter Day, or of providing rational, or juridical, or historic evidence of the method or order of the great events, but rather to provide five independent series of evidences to the revelations which the apostles and apostolic company received of the nature and quality of the new life for humanity which had now begun. Several details of profound interest occur in the synoptic narrative, concerning which John is silent—such e.g. as the rolling of a stone to the door of the sepulcher, the sealing of the stone by the Roman guard, the resurrection-appearances of the saints, the special preparation made by the women for further embalmment on the following days the great earthquake, the two companies of women that resorted to the sepulcher at successive intervals of time, and the different signs and even appearances by which their timorous hope was quickened into an adoring homage and world-compelling faith. Though John does not recite these well-known narratives, he presupposes some of them. Thus

John 20:1-10

(1) The process of John's own personal conviction, by the discovery that the sepulcher was deserted.

John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week. All the evangelists agree about the day of the week, which thenceforward became the new beginning of weeks, "the Lord's day." Cometh Mary £ the Magdalene. Here all the evangelists are at one, although, judging from the synoptists, she must have been accompanied by other women. This is implied in the οἴδαμεν of John 20:2, though Meyer repudiates such a hint by the remark that, in addressing the angels, she uses the singular, οἴδα; but this difference rather confirms, than otherwise, the significance of the plural, when she first breaks on the ear of the astonished disciples the wondrous news. But when she is confronted by the angels she is manifestly alone, and speaks for herself. It is probable that Mary Magdalene had preceded the other women, driven by the intensity of her adoring love and abounding grief, and hence some slight divergency appears as to the time at which she started on her pilgrimage. While it was yet dark, early, in the depth of the dawn (Luke 24:1); before the breaking of full day, and λίαν πρωΐ́, "exceeding early" of Mark, although, as he adds, after sunrise ( ανατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλὶου). This latter expression is difficult to reconcile as a statement of identical time. But many simple suppositions would explain the discrepancy. The Magdalene's home may have been at a greater distance from the sepulcher, down in the shadows of the eastern hills, while the home of the other Marys may have been readily accessible to the sepulcher. After the great earthquake described by Matthew (Matthew 28:2), and the supernatural darkness of the day but one before, there is no incompatibility in the twofold statement that it was yet dark (not night), although the sun had risen. A deep pall may yet be hanging over the world and place which had held in its bosom the body of the murdered Lord of glory. (She) cometh to the sepulcher, obviously with the purpose stated by all the synoptics. She was bringing the spices which she, with others, had bought on the Friday evening. They would not be behind Nicodemus and Joseph in the expression of their boundless love. The critics make merry over the superfluousness of these women purchasing fresh spices when they must have known the lavish expenditure of the two rich men upon the same design. But the combination of the two statements is absolutely true to nature; it is exactly what women would do all the world over, and an evidence of the authenticity of both narratives. And seeth the stone taken away out of the sepulcher. This is all the information that St. John gives us, as antecedent to Mary's flight to Simon Peter and himself. We have to decide between three hypotheses: either

(a) John's narrative entirely differs from the synoptic account of what Mary saw and heard, and what she brought as her contribution to the apostles' ears, and therefore discredits one or the other or both narratives; or

(b) Mary of Magdala, having preceded the other women, found the empty sepulcher, and, without waiting for them, rushed to the home of Peter and John with this preliminary intelligence and nothing else, then, returning with them to the tomb, joined the ether women who had arrived after John and Peter had withdrawn; or

(c) That (Hengstenberg) Mary said more than she is reported by John to have uttered,—that she told them not merely that they (the Jews) had taken away the body, but that she had seen a vision of angels, who affirmed that the Lord had risen, and gave certain commissions. From Luke's account of the first effect of the news from the tomb, the apostles thought them idle tales, but they went to the sepulcher, and found it even as the women had said, but him they saw not. What were the "idle tales"? Not that the tomb was empty, for that was a simple matter of fact, which the two chief apostles verified, but the story of angels who affirmed that Jesus was alive. Still, such a report is very likely to have roused the apostles to the eagerness of their first visit to the tomb, and the effect of it to reappear in the conversation of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. If the third of these hypotheses be followed, then the narrative of John simply records with brevity what the other evangelists had reported at greater length, distinctly omitting the story of the angelic visitors, given in all three synoptists. This seems to me the fairest and best interpretation of the four narratives. On this hypothesis the account which Mary Magdalene brought to Peter and John corresponds with Matthew (Matthew 28:6-8), where the women generally ran with the news, blending fear with great joy, excited beyond all parallel with the strange wonderful assurance which they had received, that they should meet their risen Lord in Galilee. According to Mark (Mark 16:1-8), we hear of angels, the sight of the vacated tomb, and the angelic message to the apostles, specifying Peter as one especially singled out to hear the commission. Trembling, ecstasy, fear, shut their mouths as they hurried to the abode of the eleven; they spake nothing to any man, but the intelligence was conveyed "to the eleven and all the rest" (Luke 24:9). St. Luke afterwards sums up in one statement all the various messages that were brought, and mentions by name, not only the Magdalene but Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and says, "the remaining ones with them" (at λοιπαὶ σὺν αὐταῖς). The effect was so far fruitless; the apostles did not believe the words (Luke 24:10). The fact stands in the synoptics that the first communication which was carried by women to the apostles, and was not confined to them, consisted not only of the fact of the empty tomb, but of the language of angels. The first thing might easily have been set to rest by direct inspection; the other part of the narrative might easily be disregarded as the voice of wild enthusiasm and excited imagination. It should be distinctly perceived that the women must have scattered in diffusing their intelligence, and John positively asserts that the main strain of Mary's report was as to the opening of the tomb and disappearance of the body, and that it was delivered personally to himself and Peter. This solution of the first difficulty was thrown into confusion by the T.R. form of Matthew's account, which says (Matthew 28:9), "As they went to bring his disciples word, behold Jesus met them." If that were the true text of Matthew, it is in irreconcilable antagonism with John's Gospel, i.e. if Mary Magdalene must be regarded as one of the party who were advised to tell the apostles that the tomb was opened and rifled, and that the Lord was risen. It would also be opposed to the statements of both Luke and Mark concerning the first message they brought to the apostles and to the rest, as well as the manner of their departure from the sepulcher. If, however, Matthew is here referring to a second party (called by harmonists the Joanna group), then they must, in their passage to the apostles, have missed Peter and John on their way to and from the sepulcher, and it would contradict the assertion of all four evangelists, that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Lord. This most difficult clause in Matthew's account has, however, been rejected by modern critics,£ and consequently the narrative of Matthew is delivered from its greatest perplexity. The fact that Jesus met them must be identical with the appearance described with far greater detail in John's own statement (verses 11-18). Matthew's Gospel throughout is singularly devoid of notices of time, and we find grouped here, as elsewhere, events or teachings without chronological perspective.

John 20:2

Then she runneth in advance of the other women, who are each intent on communicating what she had seen and heard, and cometh to Simon Peter—why not, if, as Mark says, Peter had been specially mentioned by the angel?—and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved. The form of the expression suggests that they were living in different houses. [There were two disciples on whom Jesus poured out the abundance of his love. The word here used is not ἠγάπα, that which is used in John 13:23 and John 21:7-20, and which denotes the love of high regard, but ἐφίλει, the love of personal affection, the kind of love showered on Lazarus and his sisters (John 11:5). So far, then, from John especially exalting himself at the expense of Peter, he gives to Peter the first place in the affection of his Master.] And she saith to them, They have taken away the Lord—even the corpse of Jesus was the Lord to this urgent and impassioned disciple—out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they—Joseph and Nicodemus, or the chief priests, or Roman soldiers, or Jews—have laid him. We know not what other burying-place "they" have chosen! The anti-harmonistic commentators, with ponderous literalism, insist that Mary could have said nothing more. A gushing woman like Mary of Magdala uttered one sentence, and that was all: It is, however, entirely evident that she must have said enough to excite great wonderment, haste, and activity in the breasts of these two disciples (see above on the three hypotheses).

John 20:3, John 20:4

Peter therefore went forth ( ἐξῆλθεν, aorist). This is a fact affirmed also by Luke (Luke 24:12), "But Peter arose and ran to the sepulcher." John adds, and the other disciple joined Peter, filled with a common amazement, and ( ἤρχοντο, imperfect) they went on their way toward the sepulcher. Now they were running ( ἔτρεχον, imperfect) both of them together: and the other disciple did outrun—or, literally, ran in advance, more quickly than—Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. The opponents of this Gospel supply numerous suggestions, with the view of obliterating this natural and lifelike touch. ( εἰς is used instead of the πρὸς of verse 2 or the ἐπὶ of Luke 24:1; but it is clear from the form of the following sentence, that ἦ;θεν εἰς is different in meaning from εἰσῆλθεν εἰς, and does not mean "right into," but "towards.") John, as the younger man, would soon outstrip the elderly disciple; and he simply records what in one sense is an insignificant detail, but one that could never be forgotten by him. There is no disposition to magnify himself, as Peter's part is obviously the more conspicuous. John runs more rapidly from his youth, the fervor of his nature, and the warmth of his affection; the reflection that he might have directly to convey the strange news to the mother of his Lord assisted to hurry him.

John 20:5

And having stooped down. παρακύπτω is the verb used in Luke 24:12 to describe Peter's conduct and gesture. It was a necessary preliminary of the subsequent act of Peter, though Luke does not refer to it. Peter himself uses the same word (1 Peter 1:12). It means literally "bending on one side," with a desire to gaze intently on an object (Ec Luke 14:23; Luke 21:23; James 1:25). He seeth the linen clothes lying (see John 19:40), untenanted and unused, those very cerecloths which he had helped to wind round the sacred, wounded body, with their affluence of sweet spices. Yet entered he not within. Awe, reverence, mystery, fear, nascent hope, the thought most possibly, "Not here, but risen," began to dawn faintly on his mind. There was ringing in his ears," Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." The touch of the eye-witness, and the personal part of one who is describing his own activity. Weft-stein, on οὐ μέντοι εἰσῆλθεν, adds, "no pollueretur," and quotes numerous Talmudieal authorities to show how the corpse and the grave and gravestone would pollute the living (cf. Numbers 19:16). If so, then Peter, before he came to the conclusion that there was no death in the sepulcher, broke a ritual law which John respected. There seems also rabbinical authority for the fact that disciples might carry "the just" to their grave without such tear of pollution. But at this moment they were both lifted above the region of ritual altogether.

John 20:6, John 20:7

John stood gazing, waiting, wondering, and, while doing this, then cometh Simon Peter following him across the very garden which must have borne many marks of the dreadful tragedy that had been hurriedly terminated before the commencement of the sabbath. The expression, "following him," may refer to what Luke (Luke 24:12) says that Peter did, viz. that he too stooped down and looked as John had done. £ Westcott says, "without a look or pause." But why need we suppose a point-blank contradiction of Luke? Such a mode of entrance is almost unthinkable. But he did more: And entered into the sepulcher. How strangely impulsive this man! how characteristic of every other recorded action of Peter! There must have been a Peter who corresponded to the four- or five-fold portraiture of the evangelistic history. The last time that Peter saw his Lord was when a "look" of his cruelly insulted Friend and Master had broken his own heart; yet now he was rushing impulsively to gaze again upon that face with, so far as he knew, all the marks of infernal insult yet upon it. The contrast of character between John and Peter is everywhere maintained. John, in John 21:7, first recognizes the Lord; Peter hurries through the waters to fall once more at his feet. John is lost in silent meditations; Peter exclaims, and wonders. And he beholdeth ( θεωρεῖ, with a closer and more careful, vivid, and instructive gaze, not merely βλέπει, the word used by John of his own conduct) the linen cloths lying, and the napkin (sudarium, schweisstueh) which was (had been) upon his head. He does not say whose head. How full the writer's mind was of Christ! Not lying with the linen cloths, but separately in one place, rolled up, as if it had been folded up or wrapped together. It was clear, then, that the body had not been carried away for another burial, nor had it been hastily removed, seeing that there were signs of deliberation, choice, and care. All that was suggested by this wonderful appearance of the grave, all that it means to us, we cannot fathom. The new life has raiment of its own, belonging to a higher region of existence, woven in spiritual looms; yet the hands that unwound these bandages and head-cloth, and laid them as Peter and John saw them, were capable of physical exertions and activity. What dogmatic hints are involved in this recital! He is a living Person, not an abstract principle or vague force. There are evident proofs that, however great the change which had passed over him, the Living One was the same man that he had ever been.

John 20:8

Then, emboldened by the observation of Peter, with a courage reviving from his awe-struck stupefaction, entered in, therefore, the other disciple also, he who came first to the sepulcher. Surely the charge that this writer, under the teaching of second-century tendencies, was systematically endeavoring to lower the common estimate of Peter in favor of John, breaks to pieces on the self-condemnation, which is here recorded. The writer, whoever he was, emphasizes his own smaller courage, his tardy recognition of the fact; but he adds, And he saw, and believed. According to Augustine, Erasmus, and Luther, he believed what Mary had said. He saw now that the tomb was empty, and believed her report, whether it went on to describe the first angelic message or not; but Lucke, Lange, Meyer, and Moulton, following Chrysostom, etc., rightly interpret "he believed" that Jesus had not been taken by others from the grave. He saw there were no signs of haste or confusion, or of a rifled tomb. He believed that he had risen, that this death of his had been done away, that he was living, as he said. This is one of the most vivid indications that the writer assumes acquaintance with the most inward experience of that disciple whom Jesus loved. Luke says that "Peter wondered in himself at that which had happened." John tells us that, from that moment, the whole thing flashed upon himself. There was something for him to see which shed a burning light upon Holy Scripture, upon the promises and acts of Jesus; and he "believed" in the triumph which had been achieved. Godet thinks more—he believed in the Messiah-ship and Sonship in a sense which had not dawned upon him before. The apostle seems to link himself with those who had the smaller and less perfect benediction subsequently pronounced upon Thomas.

John 20:9

For not as yet did they know ( ᾖδεισαν has an imperfect, not pluperfect tense) the Scripture, which, if rightly interpreted, ought to have made them triumphant in the hour of the Lord's deepest humiliation, and ought to have convinced them that the ideal Sufferer of Psalms 22:1-31. would prove to be Lord of all; and that the Lamb of God of Isaiah 53:1-12. must see his seed, and prolong his days; that God's "Holy One" of Psalms 16:1-11. could not see corruption; that the Messiah of a hundred prophetic hopes must conquer all his foes. The words of Jesus himself, in the memory of John and that of the synoptists, had been dark and confused, and they had not put all together into one glorious conviction that he must ( δεῖ, by a Divine necessity) rise from among the dead; nor had they grasped the fact that it was not possible that he should be holden in the travail-pangs of death. The signs which John saw now brought all his hopes together.

John 20:10

The disciples then again departed to their own homes. πρὸς αὐτοῦς £ corresponds with Luke 24:12, to the πρὸς ἑαυτόν to which Peter returned. Here, again, there is a vivid touch of individuality. £ John's own home contained the mother of the Lord. Around Peter were gathered the other apostles, and they were shortly to be joined by John himself. To them the more detailed report of the language of the angel would be repeated a hundred times. The "other Mary," Salome, Joanna, all press the wondrous assurance upon the eleven, as they mourned and wept, and for the most part were either bewildered or unbelieving. The two disciples start for Emmaus, and all that these knew as yet was that "certain women affirmed the tomb to be empty, that they had seen a vision of angels, which declared him to be alive," and "that certain of our company had visited the sepulcher, and found it even as the women 'had said, but him they saw not" (Luke 24:22-24).

John 20:11-18

(2) The revelation made to adoring love, answering to the first portion of the high-priestly prayer.

John 20:11, John 20:12

But Mary, who had followed Peter and John to the grave, and witnessed their amazement, and the gleam of hope in the face of John, was standing at the sepulcher without—not within it—weeping. She had not overcome her fears. She had not grasped the idea of resurrection or life. One crushing overmastering grief was still weighing heavily upon her, obscuring her vision, and breaking her heart. While she was continuously weeping, she, as Peter and John had done before her, stooped down (see verse 5, note) to look into the sepulcher, and beholdeth two angels in white ( λευκοῖς) or glittering garments—the adjective so often used for the precious heavenly things, for the garments of the glorified (Revelation 3:4, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:18; Acts 1:10; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13, etc.)—sitting, the one at the head, and the (other) one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Here rationalism has come with various explanations. Some have said two white-robed Essenes like those who are also supposed to have appeared to our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, his secret friends, who had really spirited the body of Jesus away, lingered yet in the tomb, and duped Mary by a lying story. Scorning this hypothesis, legendarists have said—Here we see the subjective creation of the terrified and weeping women, who took white clothes for men or angels, and whose fancies were readily believed; while mythical hypotheses have suggested that a glamour of love, many years after the event, created a pathetic and beautiful fiction of what may have happened on that memorable dawn. Every one of these interpretations vanishes before the authenticity of John's Gospel. The disciple whom Jesus loved, the author of the Apocalypse, was personally acquainted with Mary of Magdala, and had much communion with her, and could heartily believe her story. If there be no spiritual world, no kind nor modes of existence beyond what we call the seen and temporal, and no thought higher than man's thought; if every testimony to this spiritual world right through the ages is a delusion, and can be explained away; if it be an irrational or impossible supposition;—why, then this vision must pass away with the rest. But the entire teaching of the Bible from end to end reveals and bears witness to a world ordinarily unseen by human eyes, but none the less real. To some the door thus opened into heaven is closed and sealed by the seven seals of materialism, agnosticism, dogmatism, scientism, worldliness, indifference, and unspirituality. How much do men forget that all human life is but a very temporary, ever-vanishing robe around a permanent and abiding spirit! that it is entirely conceivable that even pure spirit can come for our advantage into still more evanescent forms than those we now possess, which yet make appeal to what we call our senses of sight and hearing! Objective as such manifestations are, they are no more visible to all eyes or ears than the mysteries of art are open to all human sensibility. The harmonies of heaven are not heard by those who are muffled up with vesture of decay, and there is nothing lying beyond or behind the veil of sense to the unspiritual. The whole critical school might have rambled about the garden, with hammer and spectacles, and would never have seen an angel or the risen Christ; but, thank God, all eyes were not so dim. Some were there who saw and believed; and they have revolutionized the world's thought. Their vision is the key of time; their voice, the word that wakes the dead. This manifestation of the unseen world does not contradict the statement of Matthew that an angel of the Lord had been seen sitting on the displaced stone, and terrified the Roman guard; nor Mark's assurance that the women had seen a young man clothed in a white robe, who gave the Divine assurance which perplexed the eleven; nor Luke's description of two men clothed in glittering apparel, who told them that the Lord was living. Surely it is impossible to represent Mary of Magdala's present vision as identical with that which had occurred at an earlier hour; but it is clear that, if she shared in the earlier vision at all, she had not been convinced by it, for still she wept in utter despair. The fact that these angelic appearances should take different forms to different witnesses belongs to their very nature. Such visions, translated into words, would naturally differ. If there had been rigid uniformity in the statements of the three evangelists, and of the fourth with them, grave suspicion would have been attached to the entire recital. The experiences of several different women would be repeated a thousand times. They would be questioned separately and together in every possible way; and it appears from all four narratives that three forms of the ultimate traditions alike declare that hope and fear arising from the empty grave were quickened and stimulated by angelic ambassadors, who variously prepared their mind to receive the grand objective fact.

John 20:13

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? "' εκεῖνοι here," says Westcott, "like the name inserted in John 20:15, marks the pause during which Mary regarded those before her without speaking." Here we witness angelic wonder at human incredulity. Angelic ministry to human sorrow; for the mystery of our tears does not arrest the sympathy of these triumphant spirits. Often, if we are compelled to put into words the supposed cause of our bitterest agony, we deliver ourselves from our fears. She saith unto them, as if she were speaking simply and naturally to human beings. However, Mary of Magdala alone of the women knows them to be "angels," but is so overpowered with the loss of her Lord that she does not quail or flee, but wails forth anew the language she had already uttered to the disciples. I weep because they have taken away my Lord. That "my" makes a characteristic difference from "the Lord" of whom she had spoken to Peter and John. She did not at the instant know that her Lord was the Lord of angels. The "I know," rather than "we know," shows unquestionably that now she is alone, and the other women have left her and are electrifying the city with their strange tales. I know not where they (who have taken his sacred body) have laid him.

John 20:14

Then follows the simple record of the most wonderful event in the history of the world. There and then a flash of light broke on one human soul, and on human life at large, which has been brightening and broadening in its luster till this very hour. With what awful and tender simplicity is it related! When she had said this, she turned herself back ( εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω) to what was behind her, away from the angels, and from their apparent but fruitless offer of sympathy, still weeping passionately in the utter desolation of a broken heart. But why did she turn? Was she not conscious of a presence near her which she had not seen? The blind are Often aware of the presence of unseen persons, when no footfall is heard and no word spoken. And beholdeth ( θεωρεῖ) Jesus standing ( ἑστῶτα, perfect participle), as though for some time he had been standing there, watching her (cf. that which he had said to the eleven (John 16:22), "I will see you"). But strange, mysterious, unutterably wonderful, entirely and absolutely inconsistent with the hypothesis, to which we have often referred, that this book is a theological romance, John, on Mary's own authority, adds, She knew not that it was Jesus. This is one of those remarkably vivid and autoptic touches that carry conviction of truth, whatever may be the explanation or the conclusion to be drawn from it. How far was this lack of recognition due to her, and how far to this the first manifestation made of "spiritual body" to human ken? Some have frigidly taken a commonplace explanation. Her eyes were blinded with continuous weeping; or the darkness of the morning; or Jesus may have stood in the shadows of the city wall, as the glare of the first beam of sunrise broke out of the purple mists on the Moab hills; or Christ's appearance was so changed by the agony through which he had passed, and by the recovery and reconstitution of his humanity, that the signs of his identity were obscured. He could not have clothed himself with the glittering garments of the Transfiguration, or with the dazzling robes of angels; for she mistook him for the keeper of the garden, either for Joseph of Arimathaea himself or his steward. "She knew not that it was Jesus." Human eyes are often holden so that they do not see the Lord, even when by some objective manifestation he makes it possible to do this thing. Thus ( 13:16), "Manoah knew not that it was the angel of the Lord." And several other of the theophanies of the Old Testament, encountering the blindness of human vision, slowly dawn upon even prophetic intelligence. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, are all instances. And we find that in Matthew 28:16, Matthew 28:17, "some doubted" the Resurrection, even when the vision led others to adore (Luke 24:16). The eyes of Cleophas and his friend were holden, even though their hearts were burning. Those who traveled with Paul to Damascus saw a light and heard a sound, but they did not see nor did they hear what the apostle saw and heard. The μορφή of the risen Jesus was not, according to Mark (Mark 16:12), always the same. For the vision and perception of this mode of being, the eye needs special training and preparation. Though the eyes of love are the quickest to discern these wondrous realities, yet the vision tarries, and is for an appointed time, and even they who ultimately see have to wait for it.

John 20:15

Jesus saith to her, in the words of the angels, Woman, why weepest thou? These are the first words of the risen Jesus, for Mark tells us, "He appeared first of all to Mary of Magdala." And Matthew's summation of the entire narrative makes it clear that she was at least one of the first group who saw the risen Lord. He recalls her to herself. He seeks to assuage the grief of desolation, the bitterness of despairing love. As his first great Beatitudes had been "Blessed are the poor in spirit," "Blessed are those who mourn and weep," and "Blessed are the meek," so the first words he uttered after he rose from the dead were intended to console human weeping over the most irremediable of human sorrows. They are the beginning of a fulfillment of the Divine promise "to wipe away tears from off all faces." But the Lord adds, Whom seekest thou? She has lost some one, not some thing. Questions these which he has been asking the souls of men and women ever since, when their grief and tears, their unconscious and unsatisfied yearnings after himself, have confused their perceptions and riven their hearts. She, supposing him to be the gardener, a friend, not a stranger, a disciple, not a Roman soldier or a hostile priest, perhaps some man who had been with Joseph of Arimathaea on the Friday evening, or even the senator himself, said to him, Lord, (Sir,) if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. This passionate burst reveals the blinding dominance of a fixed idea. She had no notion of the Resurrection. She was utterly overwhelmed with one bitter, cruel thought. The sacred body was to be embalmed with the precious spices which she had spent her all to buy. Others have forestalled her. Perhaps unsympathizing hands have been doing their worst. She does not know, in her terrified grief, if some wicked hands have not cast out his body into the valley of Hinnom. She seems to imply that the κηπουρός has heard the words of the angels, and her previous reply to them. She is so filled with one thought, that the him, not it, explains itself. She is reckless of herself, and does not stay to count the cost. Had she not poured the precious ointment on his feet, in happier days, and washed them with her tears? Of whom can she speak but of him who said, "Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven;" "She loved much;" "Thy faith hath saved thee"? So far all is preparation for the great revelation. "The Lord has risen indeed;" but, unlike what poetry or theology might have pictured, or the mythopceic faculty have woven out of its strong persuasion of the Lord's indissoluble life, he has chosen first of all to present this signal manifestation of spiritual corporeity to a loving heart crushed with grief, to one groaning over irreparable wrong, without a spark of hope, that death was indeed vanquished. But she who received the objective presentation was too much preoccupied to feel her footing and her home in two worlds. It was not "an enthusiast (une hallucinee, Renan) who gave the world (un Dieu ressuscite) a resuscitated God," but a doubter, a despairing, broken-hearted sufferer, who did not know him when she saw him.

John 20:16

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. The more general expression, "woman" (John 20:15), makes her seem to us the representative of the whole of suffering humanity, weeping over the inability to find any link of fellowship between itself and the invisible God, feeling unconsciously after the Christ and haply not finding him, weeping because hostility had obliterated him or superstition had concealed him, while all the while he is near at hand. But now Jesus stirred the affection of the living, weeping person at his side by uttering her own name in tones that thrilled her to the heart, and created the new sublime conviction that he had risen, as he said. She turned herself, as though the previous glance had been momentary and partial, and now the vision and voice blended, and she knew him. And saith unto him in Hebrew, Rabbouni ἑβραίστι is here introduced by modern editors, This word only occurs in this Gospel and the Apocalypse), a word (the evangelist adds) which is to say, Master. The Hebrew term—probably preserved in its Galilaean form, ינִוּבּרַ, rabbouni, rather than in the ordinary form (see Authorized version) ינִרֹבּרַ, rabboni—if strictly translated, would be "my Teacher," or "my Master," yet the personal pronoun must not be pressed. It doubtless had lost its specialty as we find in many other languages (monsieur, mein herr, "my Lord," are familiar instances). Even if the full force of the pronoun were urged, Mary's faith had not gone beyond the ideal of her devotedly loved Teacher, Friend, Master, and fell far short of the insight which even the incredulous Thomas would soon exhibit, that the Lord had put on Divine glory, and filled all things. She apparently fell in speechless, passionate affection at his feet, as the other women did shortly afterwards (see Matthew 28:9 ); but with the idea that now the old relations between Teacher and loving disciples would be resumed. She was in no mood answering to the doubtfulness of the disciples who desired proof of his identity, of the fact of his corporeity, before they could understand his claim to be their perpetual Guide, and his promise to be with them "unto the end of the world;" but she thought at once of the old life in Galilee. Her joy knew no bounds, but her conception of the reality of that which was revealed to her was most imperfect. It was the realization of love rather than the perception of intellect. She rushed hastily to a very limited conclusion; and she suffered an obvious correction, if not repulse, which has been interpreted in many ways.

John 20:17

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for, etc.

John 20:18

Mary the Magdalene cometh and telleth the disciples. She rushes at once with speed and zeal, and the word is on her tongue, I have seen (she does not say, I have grasped him by the hand, or kissed his feet) the Lord, £ and how that he said these things to her. This special message, not recorded in Matthew 28:10, was clearly not given to the women who held his feet. Some harmonists endeavor to identify the narrative in Matthew with this passage and others to make Matthew's narrative identical with the account of the revelations made to Joanna's party at a later hour, and therefore entirely distinct from this. John's account is free from ambiguity in itself, whereas the rapid summary given in Luke and the general impression produced by the whole group of events, as recorded by Matthew, suggest the need of supplementary intelligence. The narratives of the synoptists, then, record that in the course of this Easter Day a company of women who may reasonably be supposed to be those who bore the names of Joanna, Susanna, and others, and who had gone to the tomb with their spices, had been met by the Lord himself, either going or returning, and had received the summons to tell the disciples that he would see them in Galilee. The two disciples on their way to Emmaus had at length discovered that the mysterious stranger who accosted them and discoursed so fully was the Lord himself. They returned to Jerusalem to affirm the fact, and found the eleven rejoicing that the Lord had risen indeed, and that "he had appeared to Simon Peter." It would certainly seem, and is at length admitted by all, that the narrative given in the following verses of events occurring on the late evening of the Easter Day could be none other than that which Luke describes (Luke 24:36). This is rendered somewhat perplexing by the record of Mark 16:12, that the language of the two disciples was not accepted by τοῖς λοιποῖς, "the rest." But it is obvious from every one of the narratives how slow of heart even the apostles themselves were to accept the assurance of such unexpected and wonderful phenomena. The extreme dejection of the disciples, followed by their vigorous and invincible faith, is testified by each evangelist; but from the nature of the ease the resurrection of Jesus was, during the course of the entire day, doubted by some. The nature of the doubt, and the method in which it was put to rest, is portrayed in some detail by John (see note on verse 1).

John 20:19, John 20:20

(3) The manifestation to the ten disciples, corresponding with the second portion of the prayer, and followed by special conference of privilege.

John 20:19

When therefore it was evening, on that day, being the first day of the week; i.e. the close of the day on which the Lord had risen; on "that day" which became so memorable in the history of the Church. Consequently, after most astounding and independent revelations had been made to several individuals, about 8 p.m. there occurred that which John now proceeds to describe. The note of time identifies it with the scene and event described by Luke (Luke 24:36-43); consequently John had the former account before him in the record of his own reminiscences. To understand the full force of the passage we must bring to it the statements of Luke, Mark, and Paul. The disciples had been prepared,

John 20:20

When he had said thisi.e. when he had uttered all that was involved in his Divine salutation—he showed them his hands and his side. Luke says "his hands and his feet;" John calls attention to the special wound in his sacred side, the making of which he had so closely described and verified (John 19:33-35). Igor was this vision of the Lord restricted to the ocular testimony, to the bare fact of the Resurrection, but it was a solemn assurance that he, though risen, had died for them. He is the Living One that was dead, and is alive for evermore. He is in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain. In his greatest glory neither does he nor can his people forget his sacrificial death. "He showed them his hands and his side." Some have argued, from John's silence about his" feet," that he intended to correct a general impression which the synoptic narrative had produced, viz. that our Lord's feet had been nailed to the cross. There is no reason whatever for any such hypothesis. The evangelist simply emphasizes the ghastly proof of his Lord's actual death, with its supernatural accompaniments, as a more vivid evidence of identity than the piercing of the feet: moreover, it was a fact to which he had borne special testimony. Some conception is given in both the Gospels of the marks and vestiges of the earthly pilgrimage which will survive death and pass on into the eternal world. The disciples, therefore, were glad when they saw the Lord. In Luke 24:41 we read that they were incredulous from the excess of their joy, and surcharged with wonder. In the bewilderment of their rapture he added to their assurance, and transformed their joy into faith by publicly and before them all participating in food. Extreme dejection is transformed into triumphant conviction of the truth. A new revelation had been made to them of the very nature of life, while the veil that had from the beginning of time concealed the abode of the blessed dead, had at length been rent in twain. They heard, they saw, they handled, the Word of life. They felt that in their Lord they too were now at home in both worlds. Their fellowship was with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

John 20:21-23

(4) Peace, spiration of the Holy Spirit, and conference of power to remit or retain sin.

John 20:21

Therefore [Jesus £] said unto them again, Peace be unto you. With added emphasis, and in obvious reference to his valedictory discourse, he gave to them the essence of his own sublime repose, the blending of an infinite joy with a measureless sorrow; the equilibrium that springs from the spirit mastering the flesh. Not an ecstatic rapture, nor a joy that would make their life on earth insupportable by its contrast with their abiding frame of mind; but peace—"the peace of God, which passeth understanding." The first "peace" gave to all who were assembled a new revelation; the second "peace," a summons to service. The Lord added the memorable words, As the Father hath sent me £ ( ἀπέσταλκε, hath sent me on a special commission), I also send you ( πέμπω, charge you to go forth and accomplish this commission of mine); see Westcott's excursus on the New Testament usage of the two verbs, which does much to justify these shades of meaning. Both verbs are used of both the mission of the Son and the mission of believers, but in the two senses,

John 20:22, John 20:23

And when he had said this, he breathed upon them, and saith to them, Receive ye (the) Holy Spirit. The word ἐνεφύσησεν is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, but is used by the LXX. in Genesis 2:7 to describe the essential distinction between the living soul of Adam and the living soul of all other animals. Man's life was no evolution of the life in other creatures, or consequence of pre-existent properties in the dust of the ground. A direct volition of the Almighty conferred upon humanity the life of the flesh. So here the second Adam, the life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45), was represented as visibly and sensibly conferring on those whom he now sends forth to complete the mission of his grace the Divine life which would make them new creatures, and bestow on them power to generate the same spirit in others. They will have power to do this by bearing testimony to that which they see and know to be the fact of the ease. The celebrated passage (John 7:39) which asserts the "glorification" of Jesus to be the condition of the mission of the Comforter (cf. John 16:7) makes the bestowment of the Spirit on this occasion a proof that the glorification had already begun. Has he not already said to Mary, "I am ascending to my Father"? So now he implies that the. time will come when, though he is sending his disciples forth from his immediate corporeal presence, they will touch him by other faculties than eye, or ear, or hand. He is about to leave them for seven days; they are to learn the reality of his spiritual presence by an earnest of Pentecost, by such a gift of the Spirit that they will recognize, in the rushing mighty wind, the presence of the same uplifting, revealing, supernatural Energy. It is urged by Hofmann, Luthardt, Gess, Moulton, and to some extent Westcott and Coder, that the absence of the article must be represented in the translation, that we have here either "a holy spirit," or an energy, an impersonal force of Spirit, or "a gift of the Holy Spirit," an effusion of Holy Spirit, and not "the Spirit of the Father and Son," not the fullness of the Holy Ghost, not the realization of the Divine indwelling, only an earnest of the sublime reality, a symbolic expression of the promise of the Father. Godet says, "This communication is to the Resurrection what Pentecost will be to the Ascension. As by Pentecost he will initiate them into his ascension, so now he associates them with the life of the Resurrection." This last may be perfectly true; yet πνεῦμα ἅγιον, with or without article, is "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). Meyer says, "The idea of an intermediate Holy Spirit, distinct from the Holy Spirit, lies outside of Scripture." Nor can we minimize the full force of λάβετε, which emphasizes the special action of Christ, by which he communicated to this first gathering of the Church the sense of his Divine presence, the gift of spiritual insight, the God-consciousness, the experience of two worlds, the unity and community of life with himself, which has been augmenting in positive realization, in vivid proofs, in mighty powers, from that hour to this. Whosoever enters into the sphere of that Divine breath becomes "alive unto God;" his faith is invincible; he comes to know that which passes current experience. This was the beginning of the supernatural life which makes Christian consciousness unique among religious experiences. From that hour the holy world and kingdom in which Christ rules has been an objective fact. It lies far beyond the ken of science, and cannot find any place in a sensational philosophy, because it is not a universal experience. It will become so. The further revelations of the Lord all contributed to create the conviction, and Pentecost sealed it to the world. It is desirable to remember (cf. Luke 24:33, etc.) that not merely the eleven apostles received this Divine girl but all the others who had gathered together with them. This circumstance must be held to govern to some extent the solemn and mysterious privilege which appears to follow the Divine bestowment of the Holy Spirit. We cannot divide the company into two parts, one of which received the Holy Spirit, and the other which did not receive him; one of which became conscious of the Divine reality, and the other not. The women who had been the first witnesses and proclaimers of the resurrection-life of the Lord could not have been deprived of this sublime privilege. To the little society of believers, before long to swell to a company of a hundred and twenty, was this great grace given, and to the new fellowship of faith was the high privilege vouchsafed; for he continued, Whosesoever sins ye (remit) forgive, they are forgiven £ unto them—absolutely forgiven by God; for who can forgive sins but God only, and the Son of man who had and exercised the power on earth to forgive sins?—and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. The history of the interpretation of this remarkable passage is given at length in Herzog's 'Real Encycl.,' art. "Schliisselgewelt," by Stein. The patristic, scholastic, Tridentine,' Reformation doctrines are very carefully treated. The decrees of the Council of Trent, session 16. co. 1.—6., show that every form in which apostolic custom, reformed theology, and modern exegesis have solved the problem of their meaning, was repudiated and anathematized by the Church of Rome, and that the function of forgiving or retaining sin was reserved for the priesthood alone, whether in respect of venial or mortal sin (see ' Ecclesia: Church Problems considered in a Series of Essays,' article by the present writer "On Forgiveness and Absolution of Sins"). It is impossible to sever this passage from those passages in Matthew 16:19 where Peter's confession of the Messiahship draws forth from the Lord the extraordinary benediction and privilege, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Lightfoot and Schöttgen have shown, by numerous quotations from the Talmud, that the phrases "bind" and "loose" are repeatedly used by the rabbis to denote the declaration of what is binding and what is immaterial in ethic and religions life. Thus say they, "The school of Hillel binds, the school of Schammai looses or declares indifferent, this or that regulation." We know that it was given to Peter, by the conference upon him of the powers of the Holy Ghost, to declare the terms of admission and exclusion from the kingdom of God. Thus Acts 2:37-39; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:20-24; Acts 10:34-48; Acts 11:17; Acts 15:8, etc. Now, we find James in the same assembly proceeding still further than Simon Peter (James, who was not even one of the twelve disciples); and Paul repeatedly, in the Acts and in his Epistles, declaring by Divine inspiration the duties, the privileges, the ideas, the redeeming principles, of the kingdom of God, "binding and loosing," in the full confidence that he was the minister and mouthpiece of Jesus Christ. This is not remarkable, because we find that the identical privilege which was in Matthew 16:1-28. described as a privilege of Peter is in Matthew 18:15-19 conferred, not merely on Peter, but on the whole Church, and still more explicitly upon any two who should agree as touching the forgiveness of a brother, to ask the Father in heaven for this great boon. This privilege is based on the ground that "where two or three are gathered together" in Christ's Name, there, says he, "am I in the midst of them." If the offending brother had refused all repentance and neglected to hear the judgment of the Church, this prayer cannot be urged. Peter then seeks for further information, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" In answer to this question Christ reminded Peter of the Father's boundless love, and made it the pattern of human forgiveness; and the whole question of the forgiveness of injuries is shown to be closely associated with this binding and loosing power, this anticipation, this discovery of the will of the Father, this acquisition of the truth in answer to earnest prayer. Prayer is, as we have seen in numberless places, the rising up of human desires into the very purposes and grace of God, not a change wrought by us in the mind and will of God—God forbid that we should ever, to our contusion, secure such a result as that!—but it is in essence a change wrought by God in us, helping us to say, "Thy will be done!" Let it be borne m mind that this privilege of learning and uttering in our prayers the forgiving love of God, upon the conditions of repentance and faith and a forgiving spirit, is not confined to Peter, but conferred on all the disciples, nay, upon any two of them who should agree to pray with the sinning brother for forgiveness. This great law of love, prayer, and forgiveness was doubtless given for all time. Our Lord, in this repetition of a promise made on an earlier occasion, emits all reference to the binding in heaven of what is bound on earth. Yet he does not repeal the promise, but rather specifies the occasions on which the disciples would find that most frequently they would have to exercise it. Whosesoever sins ye, etc. It is as much as to say—Announce boldly remission of sins on conditions of faith and repentance (Luke 24:47) "to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Your forgiveness even of my murderers, your forgiveness of' Samaritans and publicans, of chief priests and Pharisees, of Greeks and Jews, of those that stone you and persecute you; as well as your announcement of the infinite compassion of God, shall be justified and ratified in heaven. This has been the divinest function of the Church and of the disciples of Christ ever since. There is no case that we can find in the New Testament in which the apostles as an order of men, or the ministers of the Church as such, assumed in any other way the power of personally forgiving, in the stead of God, the specific sins of any individuals. We cannot here trace the matter into the controversies that have arisen as to the power of a specially ordered ministry to absolve personally individual sinners from the consequences of their sin against God. Spiritual communion with Christ, personal reception from Christ himself of his own Spirit, is the highest guarantee of power to proclaim with emancipating effect the amnesty of love, or to utter with subduing might the terrors of the Lord.

John 20:24-29

(5) The manifestation made to anxious skepticism, with the blessing on those who have not seen and yet have believed.

John 20:24

This revelation was of supreme importance, and is the climax of the entire Gospel. It is peculiar to John's narrative, and throws light upon the very construction of the Gospel. It reveals the characteristics of honest doubt, and indicates the abundance of the evidence which was offered to specific classes and conditions of mind to help them believe that the Lord had risen. The confession drawn from the heart of this apostle is not only valuable in itself, but it reflects a new luster on the previous manifestation. Moreover, it is cumulative in its argumentative force. The most skeptical is the most enthusiastic of the twelve. But Thomas, one of the twelve (a term of designation for the first group of the apostles, and one which was not renounced, although two of them were absent. The number "twelve" had a symbolic and historic value from its relation to the twelve tribes, and we find (Acts 1:1-26.) that the eleven were anxious to fill up the vacant place left by Judas), called Didymus (Greek for "twin," repeated here from John 11:16, not simply to imply that Thomas was best known by his Greek name, but that there was a blending in him of intense love and a fear which had torment, a great ambition and yet exposure to moods of despondency, a desire to treat the whole manifestation of Christ as complete, to believe that the words of the Lord were all sublimely true,—coupled with a ghastly doubt that all was a delusion, a faculty of constructive faith and speculation, of transcendental intuition side by side with an intense desire for sensible manifestation, a greater belief in the Master than in the disciples, but no unwillingness to accept that which was sufficiently established). Thomas was not with them when Jesus came. We can never know why he was absent. He was given to moody fear, and shrank into solitude; and doubtless in many ways and words, as well as those recorded, had implied the wreck of his hopes. Separated from the fellowship of kindred spirits, he augmented his gloom; he was fast tending to unbelief. The state of his mind throughout the Passover week may have been one reason why the apostles delayed their return to Galilee. They may have come frequently to him with their sublime announcement, not once nor twice only.

John 20:25

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. Mary, Cleopas, Peter, John, bad all tried to animate his drooping spirit. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands (as I presume you have) the print of the nails, and (yet more than you have done—touch as well as see) put my finger into the print £ of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will by no means believe—not merely in the Resurrection, which you attest, but in the grand reality I was fain to admit so recently, the supposed fact that he came from the Father, that he is the Way to the Father, that he is in the Father, that he is all he said he was. If Themas could grasp the new life, the new and hitherto unrevealed order of being, if he could spiritually see the realization of all the mystery of love in the Resurrection, then all that he was doubting would flash forth at once from its hiding-place. Perhaps, if he had been present with the rest, he would have accepted it; but how can he "believe through their word"? The extent of his doubt is further seen in this: he did not say, "If I see the print of the nails... I will believe;" but, "Except I see... I will by no means believe." The first manifestation of our Lord seemed to correspond with the first portion of the Savior's high-priestly prayer, viz. that he might himself be glorified; the second manifestation of the day corresponded with the prayer for the disciples; and now the third manifestation is to meet the difficulties of the third and more numerous class, who must gather all their conviction from the evidence of others. This subtle relation between parts of the Gospel shows how profound is the principle of its construction.

John 20:26

And after eight daysi.e. after the Passover week was over, during which the disciples were pondering the new revelations of the Easter Day, and becoming more able to understand the meaning of a spiritual presence—to understand what the real "touching" of the risen Lord meant—again his disciples were within the same or a similar abode referred to in John 20:19. Some have urged that this manifestation occurred in Galilee, whither the disciples had been directed to journey to receive the most convincing proofs of his power and presence. There is no evidence of this at all, and the form of expression corresponds so closely with the description of the conditions of the first meeting, that we cannot accept the suggestion of Olshausen and others. Some have urged that this is the beginning of the celebration of the Resurrection-day—the sanctification of the first day of the week. Such a conclusion cannot be positively asserted. "Eight days" having fully elapsed might bring them to the evening of the second day of the second week. The expression, "seven days," is unquestionably used for a week in the Old Testament, though Luke (Luke 9:28) seems to use the expression, "about eight days," for a well-known division of time, probably "from sabbath to sabbath;" and from the Jewish way of reckoning the beginning of a day on the sunset of the preceding day, we might reckon that, from the middle of the first Sunday to the evening of the second, the period would include parts of eight days. There is nothing, therefore, to prevent the calculation of parts of eight days from the great events of Easter Day as a whole to the evening of the second Sunday. And though, as Meyer says, there is nothing indicative of any consecration of the first day of the week, it is obviously calculated to explain the custom which so rapidly sprang up in the Christian community. Nor is it without interest that John, in the Apocalypse, described himself as receiving his first great vision on "the Lord's day." And Thomas was with them. He had not broken with the disciples, even if he could not accept their unanimous testimony. He was now, at least, sharing their excitement, and perhaps their hope, and many in addition to the eleven disciples were striving to realize with them the new condition of things, even their common relation to an invisible and triumphant Lord. The Gospel of Matthew and the undisputed portion of Mark 16:1-20. describe no appearance to the apostles in Jerusalem, and consequently the opponents of the Fourth Gospel have commented on the apostles' cowardly flight from Jerusalem, and on the unhistoric character of the two appearances to them in the metropolis. The fact is that there is no indication of flight in the synoptists, and the Fourth Gospel throws light on the return to Galilee in John 21:1-25.. Matthew gives rather a summary of the appearances of forty days (Acts 1:3), in an event to which probably St. Paul refers (1 Corinthians 15:6). When the doors had been shut, Jesus cometh, and stood in the midst, and said (once more, as he saw their natural perturbation; for do not men always shrink from manifestation of pure spirit or spiritual body?), Peace be unto you (see notes on verses 19, 20). The repetition of the appearance at a similar hour and place confirmed and intensified their previous experience. If doubts had crept into any minds, the rectification of the first impression would be secured, and a Divine joy once more surcharge their minds.

John 20:27

Then ( εἶτα, not οὖν; delude, Vulgate; darnach, Luther) saith he to Thomas, as though he had read his heart and sounded the depth of his complicated conflict between hope and fear, despair and love, and moreover intimating the fact that he had heard his disciple's protestations, as well as mercifully appreciated his genuine difficulties, and not unnatural hesitation, Reach hither thy finger, that organ with which thou wouldest test the reality of my being. Do what thou wilt. See! my hands; and as the word was spoken he spread before his doubting, loving disciple those hands which were nailed to the cursed tree, with all the signs of his great agony upon them still. Thomas had said that he must "see," and that he must touch—"lay his finger in the print of the nails." Here was the Divine opportunity for him, with more than one sense, to assure himself of the reality. And reach hither thy hand (again the Lord quoted the very words in which the incredulousness of Thomas had been expressed), and put it into my side. He says nothing of the print of the nails, but offers the sacred privilege to the doubtful disciple. Thomas shall have the precise evidence he craved. The most hesitating of the entire group shall have the aid to his faith which he fancied indispensable in his particular case. How often has the unbeliever said, "If such or such evidence be not granted to me, I cannot, I will not, I by no means will believe"! Thus Gideon proved the Lord's willingness to utilize his feeble strength in delivering Israel from the Midianites; and even Ahaz was summoned by Isaiah to choose any sign whatsoever in heaven above or in the earth to prove the indestructible vitality of the true seed of Israel and real house of David. Consequently, we cannot say with Bengel, "Si Pharisseus its dixisset, 'nisi videro, etc.,' nil impetrasset sed discipulo pridem probato nil non datur." The Lord does sometimes offer exactly what we ask by way of proof; but we cannot know the precise effect it will produce, even when it is bestowed or when something still more explicit is actually provided for our weakness. Just as the cruel taunts which malice heaped or hurled on the name and work of our Divine Lord became wreaths of glory for his brow, so the cruel wounds which unbelief and bigoted hatred of goodness had inflicted on Immanuel became from that very hour the high, main, indelible evidence of his supreme victory. And become not ( μὴ γίνου) what thou art in danger of becoming—the Lord does not say that Thomas's—faithless, but that he runs the risk of ultimately becoming so through the dependence of his spirit upon the outward (so Meyer, Lange, Westcott, etc.); but be believing, faithful. It is impossible fully to express the play upon these two words. ἄπιστος is not so much a worthless, untrustworthy person, as one who has settled down into an abiding condition of unbelief; and πίστος is not simply" believing," but" trustworthy," "trusty," and "trustful."

John 20:28

£ Thomas answered and said to him. Before, so far as we know, any gesture or effort was made on his part to accept the tests which had been so rashly demanded, but so graciously offered. He already found evidence which was far more efficacious than that which he in gross and sensuous fashion had thought indispensable for his peculiarly constituted mind. Before doing more than fill his hungry eyes with these identifying signs of the Lord's actual objective presence, he did in reality touch his Lord by other powers than finger or hand. He bounded from the depths of despondency to the very top of faith, and he "answered"—he responded to the proof he had already received of the Lord's triumph over death, and to the seal that had now been set upon the Lord's own supreme and majestic claims, by an adoring cry. Thomas "said to him." Observe it is not hinted that he uttered a vague and ejaculatory cry to the eternal Father (as Theodore of Mopsuestia, modern rationalists and Unitarians have repeatedly urged—a speculation which is wrecked on the εἶπεν αὐτῷ). Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God. This is the first time that any of the disciples had ever drawn this lofty conclusion of love and reason. They had called him "the Son of God," "the Lord," as a Being of quite immeasurable claims; and John, in the prologue, after years of meditation, declared that "the Loges which was God" and "with God," and the Creator of all things, and "the Light and Life," had "become flesh," and flashed forth" the glory of the only begotten Son," even in his earthly life; but it was reserved for the most depressed and skeptical mind of them all, the honest doubter, the man who needed immediate and irresistible evidence, infallible proofs, triumphant, invincible demonstrations—it was reserved for Thomas to say TO HIM, and to say unrebuked, uncondemned, by the risen Lord," MY LORD AND MY GOD!" Herein is condensed into one burning utterance from the worried heart of humanity the slowly gathering conclusion which had been steadily inwrought in the mind of his disciples by all the teachings of the Savior. It was at last spontaneous and exultant. These words are the climax of the entire Gospel. Every narrative points on to this unchallenged utterance. From the wedding at Cana to the raising of Lazarus, from the testimony of the Baptist to the awful tones of intercessory prayer, every discourse, every miracle, points on to this superlative conclusion, not breathed in loving accents by the enthusiastic Mary, not sounded forth by the rock-like apostle, not whispered in awestruck affection by the beloved disciple, but wrung from the broken heart of the man who had said, "Let us go, that we may die with him;" of him who cried, "We know not whither thou goest: how can we know the way?" of him who had said, "Unless I see the print of the nails, I will not believe." It is not long before it is notorious that St. Paul spoke of him as "God blessed forever," called him the" Image of the invisible God," as endowed with "the Name that is above every name," as "set down on the right hand of the majesty on high;" that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews called him the "express Image of the Father's substance," and "the Effulgence of the Father's glory." The earliest testimonies of heathendom confess that Christians sang hymns to Christ as to God (Pliny, 'Letter to Trajan')! but this was the hour of the great confession; this was the birth-cry of Christendom; this was the epoch-making scene, which guided the pen of John from the prologue to the close of the Gospel Thus Thomas doubted that the Church might believe. Thomas did indeed die with his Master, that he might lead a multitude of the dead from their hopelessness and unrest to the resurrection-life. He received a full and all-sufficing evidence of the supernatural and Divine life, and eighteen hundred years of faith have blessed God for the victory which Thomas gained over his despondency, and for the climacteric force with which St. John tells us of it.

John 20:29

Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed. £ Our Lord does not bid him rise, nor say, as the angel did to John in the Apocalypse, "Worship God;" nor did he reject the homage which is here so grandly paid; but he describes this very state of mind which induced the disciple to say, "My Lord and my God!" as that high, holy acquisition which throughout his ministry he had treated as the main, prime condition of all spiritual blessings. "Thou hast believed," said he, "and because thou hast seen me; thou hast become a believer in all that I am, because thou hast received this crowning proof of the reality of my victory over death." There are critics or scholars (Lachmann, Meyer, Ewald, etc.), who treat the expression as an interrogative: Because thou hast seen me, hast thou believed (art thou now a believing man?); and the Revisers have placed this punctuation in their margin. A few cursives thus point the words, but it is improbable, for it would seem, even still, to have suggested a doubt or question in the mind of the Lord touching the reality of the apostle's faith. Moreover, the obvious contrast between those who have seen and those who saw not would be obscured by the punctuation. Observe that Christ did not say, "Because thou hast touched me, thou hast believed." The vision alone brought the apostle back to that high tension of faith which he, with others, had reached on the night of the Passion (see John 16:30-32, and notes). All the tide of overmastering love surged up within him. But the condition of multitudes was even then less privileged than that of Thomas. It could not be a part of the conduct of the kingdom of God that each separate soul should have all the elements of conviction which the apostles had enjoyed, all the vision and all the inspiration of the chosen prophets of the Lord. There may and will come a time when "every eye shall see him" as Thomas saw him, when all shall have the function and powers, equal faculties and opportunity, of seeing him. In the Apocalypse the evangelist, at the very commencement of his visions, saw for himself all the mystery and the certainty of this crowning victory. Meanwhile faith upon testimony, faith in reality through the power of truth, is declared to be the law of the kingdom, and the great beatitude which Christ left as his latest legacy is, Blessed (are) they who saw not, and believed. Of whom is he speaking? Clearly not of those who had already received the same advantage which Thomas had now enjoyed so tardily! The apostles, at first, did not accept the testimony of the women, nor the voices and messages o angels, nor the objective fact of the deserted grave. John rebuked himself for not knowing that the Christ must rise from the dead, whether he should have personal ocular evidence of it or not; and he blamed himself for not believing throughout the earthly ministry of Christ that "the Holy One could not see corruption." Still, the fact was patent, that not until the disciples saw the Lord were they glad. Even in their gladness there was the mingling of surprise and incredulousness. To whom, then, did the blessedness apply? Surely, first of all to the multitudes of loving, waiting souls, who were prepared by their reverence and the new life given to them, and by the bewildering rumors of the Easter week, to believe in the Divine necessity of the Resurrection. Christ told the disciples, on their way to Emmaus, that they were foolish and dull of heart in not accepting all that the prophets had spoken. Before the final assurance given by their identification of his Person, he persuaded them to accept his statements, and believe in all that he was, including the fact of his resurrection. Whether they should ever have more convincing evidence or not, they were bound to believe that the suffering Messiah was, in the very nature of things, and by Divine necessity, Victor of death, and must see the travail of his soul. This does but repeat the same idea, ,' Blessed are they who saw not as Thomas and the other disciples were at this moment doing, and yet believed." But the beatitude includes the whole future of the Church. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." So said St. Peter to the widely scattered Church. The Lord does not sever the link between external facts and spiritual principles, and thus propound a group of subjective conceptions for a series of objective realities (as Baur and others have urged); but he does pronounce a great benediction on those who can rise to faith in himself through the word which he has spoken, and which his apostles would continue to proclaim without intervention of physical contact or visible manifestation. "If Christ be not risen, then is your faith vain; ye are yet in your sins." These words are charged with the grounds of conviction for others. Instead of the first disciples being disposed to transform hallucinations of spiritual manifestation into tangible and visible objective facts, they appear to have been more prone and tempted to transform some utterly indisputable facts into spiritual phenomena. There were objective facts, but every attempt which has been made to discredit the Resurrection while admitting these facts has utterly broken down. Even if the narratives of the four Gospels, with their divergent representation, be left out of sight, nothing can be more certain than that, in the space of a quarter of a century, the Churches of Christ in Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, Ephesus, and Ancyra were existing, and held, without doubt or question, the objective fact. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) simply recounts, not for the first time, but as a resume of long-since-delivered instruction, the indubitable fact of the Resurrection. It was not an incredible thing, even to Agrippa, that God should raise the dead; nor need it be so now to any one who accepts as true Christ's account of the Father. The creation of the Church unquestionably turns on the settled conviction of the first disciples that Jesus rose from the dead. That conviction cannot be accounted for independently of the fact. Every attempt to explain it apart from the fact itself has hitherto been wrecked.

John 20:30, John 20:31

(6) The conclusion of he argument of the Gospel. Controversy has prevailed from the days of Chrysostom to our own, as to whether these verses are the summary and conclusion of the Gospel as a whole, or have special reference to the record only of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. It cannot be doubted that as St. John sums up in John 12:1-50. the general teaching of Christ and its effect upon the people, to the termination of his public ministry, so at the close of this chapter, before recording the special bearing of the resurrection-life and spiritual power of Christ on the subsequent condition of the Church—a narrative of peculiar interest in itself, corresponding with the prologue of the entire narrative—he gathers up the general significance of his Gospel and its relation to other books.

John 20:30

Many other signs therefore did Jesus also in the presence of the £ disciples, which are not written in this book. The "many" and "other" refer to those signs with which his readers may be familiar from other sources, and, as it seems to us, in other ( βιβλία) books. We have seen throughout how thoroughly alive the evangelist is to the minutest details of the synoptic narrative. The word "many" seems most accurately to include more than the few appearances after his resurrection which are not mentioned by John, but which are recorded by the synoptists, and the "other" refers most probably to signs of a different class from those which he has selected. The "signs" written in this book are those central facts which formed the theme and starting-points of his discourses. "Signs" do not necessarily mean miraculous works ( ἐργα), but all "indications" or "tokens" of his higher nature and Divine commission, such as his appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth; the cleansing of the temple, which had so powerfully affected the mind of Nicodemus; the repeated assertion of his pre-existence and eternal glory; the feeling of the officers of the Sanhedrin, that "never man spake like this Man;" the effect produced by his lofty claims to be "Lord of the sabbath" and "greater than the temple;" the arrogation of power to forgive sins; the discomfiture of the deputation from chief priests and elders; the collapse of the Roman soldiers; and all other proofs of his supreme authority. All these σημεῖα were not indispensably connected with corresponding τεράτα. "Before the disciples" suggests a special limitation and condition which took powerful hold upon the mind of the evangelist. We hear in one passage that "he could do no mighty works, because of their unbelief." To prepared minds he came with his spiritual revelations and special suggestions of heavenly origin. John sees the memories passing before him, which have already formed the heritage of the Church, and is reminded of "many ethers" which have never found a chronicler.

John 20:31

But, says he, these are written with a special purpose. The author did not intend to write a full history or a detailed biography; he avowed having made a unique and well-considered selection of "signs," which formed the theme of great discourse, of "words" which revealed the inner depths of that wondrous nature, and which, far from exhausting the theme, only touched its fringes; and he did this with a distinct aim, in order that ye (he here addresses the Churches already founded and waiting for his legacy) might believe. Believe what? Simply in the fact of the Resurrection? Certainly not; but that Jesus, the Man whose life has been enacted on this human stage, is the Christ, has fulfilled the entire idea of the Messiah and is now the realization of the grandest theocratic hope; and further, that he is the" Christ," because he is none other than the Son of God, the Revelation of the Divine nature, the Image of the Father's substance, the Effluence of his glory, seeing that his is the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father. Nor is this all. He adds, And that believing in this glory, in this reality, in this Christhood, in this Sonship, ye might have life, the blessedness of true being, the sacred fellowship with the Eternal, the hold upon FOREVER, the sanctity of "the life" that is "light," the everlasting life of the sons of God. The prologue here finds its true and efficient complement. The purpose now betrayed expounds the structure of the Gospel as a whole. The apostle claims kinship with the central apostolate. The Hebrew prophet does not disdain his true kindred. The evangelist does not disclaim his predecessors. The lover of souls discloses his lofty passion.

HOMILETICS

John 20:1-10

The Resurrection: Peter and John at the sepulcher.

We approach an event which bespeaks a new life for Christ and a new life for man.

I. IT IS A WOMAN WHO IS FIRST AT THE TOMB ON THE RESURRECTION MORN. "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher."

1. She evidently was not alone during the whole scene, but she seems to have reached the sepulcher before the other women of her company (Matthew 28:1). "Certain women of our company were early at the sepulcher" (Luke 24:22, Luke 24:23).

2. Mary's purpose was to embalm the body of Jesus. This implied that she had no more expectation than the apostles of his approaching resurrection.

3. It was an act of great courage to go in the darkness and to confront, if necessary, the rude watchmen.

4. It is suggestive of the loyalty of women to Jesus that "woman was last at the cross, and first at the tomb."

5. Her discovery of the empty tomb was the first indication of a fact which is the most fundamental in Christianity.

II. THE VISIT OF PETER AND JOHN TO THE SEPULCHER.

1. Mary ran in breathless haste to acquaint the two disciples with her discovery. "So they both ran together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in."

2. John, as the younger man, outran Peter, but the eager haste of both disciples indicated their amazement, their curiosity, their expectation.

3. The hesitating look of John, as he stooped down but did not enter the tomb, bespeaks the awe of his deeply contemplative spirit.

4. The alacrity with which Peter entered the tomb without a pause, and descried the empty clothes, is characteristic of the impulsive and eager son of Jonas.

5. Both disciples believed, as the effect of their visit to the sepulcher. Yet there was an evident unreadiness on their part to believe in Christ's resurrection. "For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that be must rise again from the dead." The condition in which they found the clothes would suggest that the body had dot been taken away by enemies. It was still less probable that friends had carried it away.

6. The two apostles left the tomb convinced that the Lord had risen, but still, no doubt, unable to fathom the mystery that underlay the transaction. "Then the disciples went away again unto their own home"—one at least believing, the other meditating deeply, but awaiting the first personal interview with Jesus which dissipates all his doubts.

John 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene the first herald of the risen Lord.

The two apostles withdrew, but Mary remained at the tomb. "A stronger affection riveted to the spot one of a weaker nature".

I. MARY'S LOVE TO HER LORD. It was manifested:

1. By her persistent watching of the tomb.

2. By her passionate weeping.

3. By her anxiety to discover some trace of her Lord. "She stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher." Her love is as strong as death.

II. THE SUCCESSFUL RESULT OF HER LOVE.

1. She first comes into communication with the two angels in the sepulcher. They may have suggested by the direction of their looks that Jesus was near at hand.

2. She next sees Jesus, but does not know him.

3. Her glad recognition of her loving Lord. "She turned herself, and saith to him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master." The sound of her name repeated by those loving lips ended all doubt better than the words of a more common interest, "Woman."

III. OUR LORD'S CHECK TO HER PASSIONATE ARDOUR. "Touch me not; for I ant not yet ascended to my Father."

1. Perhaps she had thrown herself down at his feet, and had attempted to clasp them in her enthusiastic devotion.

2. His words imply that the old forms of familiar intercourse were past. He had entered upon a new mode of existence.

3. They imply that he could not renew the tie that death had severed till he had ascended on high. His ascension would be the condition of a new union fraught with all blessing and consolation.

4. It is better to know Jesus in his glorified humanity than to "know him after the flesh." The Roman theology sees him as a babe in his mother's arms or as the Crucified One; but true theology must behold him in the light of his resurrection as well as his death.

IV. OUR LORD'S MESSAGE TO THE APOSTLES. "GO to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God."

1. A woman is honored as making the first communication between Jesus and his apostles.

2. The name by which our Lord describes them. "My brethren" marks the new relationship into which they are introduced by his resurrection.

3. His ascension to heaven, was just at hand.

(a) Jesus marks the distinction that existed between himself and his apostles in their relation to God. God is Father of Christ by nature, of men by grace. His Sonship is not their sonship.

(b) Jesus, in calling God "his God," does not disclaim Deity, for it is in his perfect humanity that he sees the Father as his God.

V. MARY FULFILS HER GLAD ERRAND. "Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her." Her story would cause

John 20:19-23

The first appearance of Jesus to his disciples.

He meets with them on the evening of the day on which he rose from the dead.

I. THE DISCIPLES WERE GATHERED TOGETHER FOR THE MEMORABLE INTERVIEW.

1. Mary's message had evidently brought them together.

2. Their new hopefulness must have inclined them to resume their old collective life.

3. The meeting-place may have been in "the upper room." (Acts 1:13.)

4. It was a secret assembly, for the doors were shut "for fear of the Jews." The rumors of our Lord's resurrection, going abroad among the Jews on that eventful day, suggested the possibility or the fear of an attack upon the disciples.

II. THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO HIS DISCIPLES. "Jesus came' and stood in the midst, and saith to them, Peace be unto you!"

1. His appearance, while the doors were shut, showed that he was not now subject to the old conditions of material existence.

2. His first Words are the blessedly familiar words of his last address on the night preceding his death. They suggest

3. He gave them visible evidence of his identity. "And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side."

4. The effect of this evidence. "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord."

III. OUR LORD'S RENEWAL TO HIS DISCIPLES OF HIS ORIGINAL COMMISSION. "Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."

1. He assures them of peace in connection with their future apostolic labors. The peace of reconciliation which they are to carry to the world must have its reflex in their own hearts.

2. He confers on them the eject of ministry as the effect of his death.

3. After conferring the office, he conveys the gift. "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith to them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."

(a) The powers here given are not given to the apostles only, but to the whole body of the disciples (Luke 24:33).

(b) The Old Testament priests had no power of absolution. They made atonement for sin through sacrifice, but they never absolved.

(c) The powers here given are similar to those given to Peter (Matthew 16:18), which refer to absolution from Church censures.

John 20:24-29

The second appearance to the disciples.

There was one member of the apostolic band still in doubt and darkness.

I. THE ABSENCE OF THOMAS FROM THE FIRST INTERVIEW WITH THE LORD. "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came."

1. The character of this disciple, as already made known, left him open to profound discouragement at the death of Christ. "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16).

2. His temperament would incline him to await in solitude the solution of the mystery of the Passion of Christ.

3. His absence from the first meeting might have cost him dear, even the loss of his faith, but for Christ's mercy. We know not what we lose by absenting ourselves from the fellowship of Christ's friends,

II. THOMAS'S OBSTINATE UNBELIEF. "When therefore the other disciples said to him, We have seen the Lord, he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

1. Mark the deep interest of the disciples in their skeptical colleague. They were eager to impart to him the gladness of their own satisfied faith.

2. Thomas carries his faith at his fingers' ends, as if he could not believe in a fact amply established by the testimony of worthy brethren. The death of Christ in all its details had made an impression upon his mind so deep that he could not entertain the possibility of life returning to his Lord's body.

III. OUR LORD'S CONDESCENSION TO THOMAS'S UNBELIEF. "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy fingers, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing."

1. This interview occurred a week after the first. The disciples did not leave Jerusalem for Galilee till Thomas's scruples were overcome. They could not think of abandoning him to his unreasonable unbelief.

2. It was the urgency of the disciples which, no doubt, secured the presence of Thomas on this occasion.

3. Our Lord offered to Thomas all the evidence he has been demanding for eight days.

IV. THE CONVICTION OF THOMAS. "Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God!" This exclamation implied:

1. The instant dispersion of all his doubts.

2. The rapture of a holy admiration.

3. An act of sincere adoration. Thomas saw in Jesus supreme Deity. it cannot be maintained that it was a mere exclamation addressed to God rather than Christ.

V. OUR LORD'S PROCLAMATION OF THE HIGHER BLESSEDNESS. "Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

1. It is natural for us to suppose that it would bare been an advantage to us to have seen Christ in the flesh. It was not so, however, to the Jews, Who saw him in the circumstances of his earthly humiliation.

2. Even those believers who saw him in the flesh had to get beyond the evidence of the senses to see his Godhead and authority. It was not this evidence that convinced Thomas. Eyesight showed him only a wounded man, but something more was needed to enable him to see Christ as Lord and God.

3. Our Lord's rebuke of Thomas marks his consideration for the Church of all ages. He seems to say to him, "You think you were doing a right thing in remaining unconvinced till you could receive the fullest evidence of the senses; but what is to become of future generations if the same evidence is to be demanded by them? All future believers must accept the fact of my resurrection upon your testimony."

4. The higher blessedness is ours; for we can act in the terms of that faith which "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We are to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

John 20:30, John 20:31

The dose of the evangelist's narrative.

It has an abrupt termination. The Gospel began with an assertion of Christ's Deity; it ends with a confession of the same blessed doctrine.

I. THE EVANGELIST'S METHOD OF WRITING HIS NARRATIVE. "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book."

1. These words imply the existence of the other Gospels, with their fuller narratives of miracle. He thus ratifies the contents of those Gospels.

2. The miracles were wrought in presence of the disciples, because they were to be our Lord's witnesses to the world.

II. THE AIM OF THE EVANGELIST. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his Name."

1. It is a blessed security for the faith of the Church of all ages that the gospel was written, and not left to the uncertainties of traditional recollection.

2. The object of Scripture is to minister to faith. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." This faith has:

(a) Faith is a fundamental necessity in Christianity.

(b) It brings life to the soul.

"The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). This life is "through his Name." He is our Life, and he gives life.

HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON

John 20:9

The ignorance which evidence dispelled.

I. IT WAS THE DIVINE PURPOSE THAT JESUS SHOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD. Nothing in the ministry of our Lord was unforeseen and accidental. The closing scenes of that ministry were evidently fore-appointed. The expressions "must" and "must needs" occur frequently in connection with these marvelous and memorable events. They are parts of the plan arranged by Infinite Wisdom.

II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE THAT THE CHRIST SHOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD HAD BEEN HINTED IN OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE. The text seems to refer to one passage of Holy Writ especially. This may be Psalms 16:10—a passage quoted by St. Peter (Acts 2:24) and by St. Paul (Acts 13:35) as finding fulfillment in the raising of the Redeemer from the grave. There are other passages in the Old Testament which have their full meaning brought out in the light of the same glorious event. But the light of fulfillment is in these cases needed, in order that we may read the predictive meaning in the words of psalmist and of prophet. It is not to be wondered at that disciples of Christ failed to understand the reference of some Old Testament passages to the Messiah. But the reference was there—after the event itself to be brought out in clearness and beauty.

III. JESUS HAD ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS FORETOLD HIS RESURRECTION IN THE HEARING OF HIS DISCIPLES. Early in his ministry he had spoken of the temple of his body, as to be taken down and to be reared again in three days. He had predicted his resurrection by representing Jonah's history as a type of what should happen to himself. Towards the close of his' ministry, before and after his transfiguration, Jesus had, on three several occasions, declared beforehand to his apostles what was about to occur—how he was to be betrayed, condemned, and crucified, and on the third day to rise again from the dead. It is surprising that so faint an impression should have been made upon their minds by these communications. They seem to have been so absorbed by their own expectations that they did not really receive his express teaching.

IV. OUR LORD'S RESURRECTION WAS NOT EXPECTED BY HIS OWN DISCIPLES. We cannot but admire the candor with which the apostles acknowledged their own failings. There is in this language a confession of ignorance and of a lack of sympathy with the purposes of their Lord. John, the most likely of all to seize the spiritual meaning of Christ's words, admits that he had not until this time had any expectation that his Master would die and then rise again. Mary wept because she regarded her Lord as for ever lost to her. The two who walked to Emmaus were distressed and downcast because of Jesus' death. Thomas would not believe that Jesus had risen. It is remarkable that, whilst the disciples forgot, or failed to believe, what their Lord had said, the priests and rulers who had put him to death remembered the words attributed to him, and guarded, as they thought, against any attempt on the part of his followers to remove his body, and so to give color to a report of his resurrection. They looked coolly at the facts; the friends of Jesus were blinded by overwhelming emotion!

V. THE BELIEF WHICH THE DISCIPLES CAME TO CHERISH IN THE LORD'S RESURRECTION WAS THEREFORE ALL THE MORE AN EVIDENCE OF ITS REALITY. It is certain that the twelve were not predisposed to believe in the rising from the dead; they could not have invented such a story as some attribute to them because it was in harmony with their expectations, for they expected nothing of the kind. Yet they did believe; they became heralds of the Resurrection. Every reader of the Book of the Acts knows that it was upon this that they based all their teaching, all their appeals and admonitions. They preached a risen Savior. What plain and powerful evidence there must have been to overcome their doubts, to reverse the current of their thoughts and feelings! John began to believe, even on the morning of the Resurrection, when he saw the grave empty; and all he heard that day, and the appearance he witnessed in the evening, confirmed his faith. If the doubts of the disciples were gloomy and depressing, those doubts were certainly dispelled. Their faith was all the stronger because of the unbelief it contended with and vanquished. Hence the life they led, the labors they undertook, the persecution they braved, the martyrdom they accepted. To account for these facts—among the most wonderful in the world's history—we must receive the teaching of our Gospels, that Jesus rose from the dead, turned his disciples' sorrow into joy, and gave a new impulse to their life.

VI. THIS CHANGE OF RELIEF, ON THE PART OF THE DISCIPLES, IS FULL OF SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION AND HELPFULNESS TO ALL WHO HEAR THE GOSPEL.

1. It confirms our faith in the veracity of Scripture.

2. And in the Deity of our Lord.

3. And in his mediation.

4. It yields us a ground of acceptance with God, who gave his Son to die for us, and who raised him from the dead that our faith and hope might be in God.

5. It encourages us to trust that it is well with our departed friends; for their life on high is part of the harvest of which the risen Redeemer was the Firstfruits.

6. It justifies the bright hope of personal immortality.—T.

John 20:11-18

Sorrow and despondency exchanged for joy and service.

Among the wonderful events of the first Lord's day morning, the incident here recorded is remarkable for pathos and beauty, and also for spiritual instruction and encouragement.

I. IT WAS A DEAD AND LOST CHRIST THAT CAUSED MARY'S GRIEF AND DISMAY. The woman's attachment and devotion to the Savior were unquestionable. She and her companions seem to have been more faithful to Jesus even than the twelve.

"Who, while apostles shrank, could dangers brave;

Last at his cross, and earliest at his grave."

To Mary Jesus was as a dead Friend. She shared the common grief of the disciples, and their common anxiety during the interval between the Crucifixion and the Lord's first appearance to his own. Love induced her to linger near the tomb, and thus occasioned her interview with the angels and with the Master himself. No wonder that she loved much; she was indebted, she may well have thought, more than others to the compassion of Christ, for she had been delivered from the power of demons, and received into the favor and friendship of her Deliverer. And now to lose the Lord she loved and on whom she leaned was a trial to her faith, a grief to her heart; and she would fain care for the lifeless body of the slain One. Emblem of those who have not found Christ; of those who, having found, have then lost him; of those to whom Christ, alas! is as if dead, to whom he is no living reality, no near presence, no Divine power. Yet it is better that sensitive and yearning souls should grieve over the distance between the holy Savior and themselves than that they should acquiesce contented and indifferent—in their privation.

II. IT WAS A LIVING CHRIST THAT TURNED MARY'S SORROW INTO JOY. Observe that Jesus knew Mary before she recognized him. The language he used was intended to draw out her best feelings. Very beautiful and touching was the way in which Christ revealed himself to her heart, uttering simply the familiar name, dear from the hallowed intercourse of friendship. It was, perhaps, the name he had used in dispossessing the demons, and its utterance must have awakened many a tender memory in her heart. The living Christ thus, in a way truly human, revealed himself to his friend in one moment to banish her forebodings and assuage her grief. Her cry, "My Master!" was enough to reveal her gratitude and joy—her joy again to see him, her gratitude that the appearance and revelation were to her. Emblem of those souls to whom—is their darkness and sadness, their skepticism and despondency—Christ appears in his own Divine dignity and human sympathy, addressing them in language of compassion, and gladdening them by the vision of his risen form and his glorified and gracious countenance.—T.

John 20:17

A message full of meaning.

The risen Christ was the link between Deity and mankind. Standing beyond the tomb, yet below the clouds, he sent a message to the disciples whom he was about to leave, concerning the Divine Father whom he was about to join. How fitly, wisely, and tenderly did he communicate with them in these words!

I. DOCTRINE CONCERNING CHRIST HIMSELF.

1. His humanity. He still calls the apostles "my brethren." Although he has risen in glory, and is about to ascend in majesty, "he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Having for men's sake passed through sorrow and death, so far from forgetting what he has endured, he regards his humiliation and sorrow as a bond of attachment uniting him to those whose experience he has partaken.

2. His Sonship. He says, "My Father." Though he has been suffered to drink the cup of bitterness, though he has uttered the cry of desolation, though his body has lain in the earth, still his relation to God is the same as before his Passion. In all he has freely done what was pleasing to God. Still and ever is he the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. He is mighty as man's Representative. The Mediator and the Brother of mankind is the Son of God.

3. His subordination. He says, "My God." On three occasions our Lord made use of this appellation—on the cross, in this connection, and in Revelation 3:12 from the throne of glory. Similar language is often used of him by the apostles, who call the Eternal "the God and Father of our Lord." It is not for us to understand all that our Savior means when, in his humiliation and obedience and subjection, he declared, "My Father is greater than I."

II. DOCTRINE CONCERNING CHRISTIANS.

1. They are brethren of the risen Savior. So he here expressly calls them, sending them at the same time a fraternal message. It is a gracious word of cheer and encouragement to those who have been enduring suspense, sorrow, and depression.

2. They have with Christ a community of relation with God. What the infinite Father is to Christ, that—such is the unity between the Master and the disciples—that is he also to the lowliest and the feeblest of Christ's friends and followers.

3. In this community, however, there is a marked distinction. Jesus does not say, "Our Father and God," as if there were equality between Jesus and his disciples. In fact, God is Father of Christ according to the nature of the Godhead, of Christians according to grace and adoption; he is God of Christ so far as our Lord's humanity is regarded, of Christians by the covenant relation he has instituted.

4. In this community there is a mediatorial superiority on the one side, and a corresponding dependence on the other. It is through Christ Jesus that the character, the disposition, the gracious purposes of the Father are made known to us, and it is especially through him that the Divine Fatherhood is declared; and it is through Christ Jesus that the relations in question are actually established and are constantly maintained.

APPLICATION. This message, in the first instance addressed to the apostles, is left with the whole Church of the Redeemer, that all Christ's people may not only know where he has gone, but may realize the purpose of his going as far as they are concerned, and may enjoy the assurance that his Father is their Father, and his God their God.—T.

John 20:19-23

The first Lord's day evening.

The most wonderful and memorable day in the world's history was drawing to a close. The sun, whose rising beams had shone upon the empty tomb, the affrighted guards, the anxious sorrowing women, had now set.

I. THE NARRATIVE INTRODUCES US TO AN ANXIOUS COMPANY. Ten apostles and some of their intimate friends and fellow-believers were gathered together, drawn by a community of interest in their unseen Savior. They had a common memory, a common love, a common sorrow. They betook them to seclusion, both from fear lest the wrath of their enemies might assail them, and from lack of sympathy outside. They were disappointed and perplexed. Yet there was inquiry, excitement, wonder, speculation, among them; for the news brought by Simon, by the women, by the two from Emmaus, awakened eager interest and most conflicting emotions.

II. THE NARRATIVE RELATES THE ENTRANCE OF A DIVINE VISITOR. Unexpected, amazing, was the approach of the Master. Gracious was his greeting, welcome his familiar tones. He convinced them of his identity by exhibiting his wounds, and proved his humanity by partaking of food. And though his coming was friendly, yet he upbraided his disciples for their unbelief.

III. THE NARRATIVE DEPICTS THE COMMON AND SUDDEN JOY WHICH POSSESSED THE BROTHERHOOD. (On this, see homily on John 20:20.)

IV. THE NARRATIVE RECORDS THE SACRED COMMISSION WITH WHICH JESUS NOW ENTRUSTED HIS DISCIPLES. It must be borne in mind that these servants of Christ had been for a long time closely associated with him, and had thus been prepared for their life-work. So tremendous a trust as this would otherwise be unaccountable.

1. They were to go among men as Christ's representatives, as those entrusted with Divine authority, and they were to act as ambassadors for God.

2. Their special mission was to declare to men who should receive their message and should truly repent, the absolution and remission of sin. The purpose of Christ's coming was to secure pardon and acceptance for sinful men; and this purpose was to be fulfilled by means of the ministry of the apostles and their successors.

V. THE NARRATIVE MENTIONS THE SPECIAL QUALIFICATION BESTOWED UPON THOSE ENTRUSTED WITH THIS HIGH COMMISSION. The words of Christ, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," were accompanied with the symbolic act of breathing upon them; and both denoted the reality of the Divine gift by which unlearned and feeble men were fitted to fulfill a ministry of blessing to mankind.—T.

John 20:20

The glad vision.

The record of the apostles' emotion serves a purpose of value. They saw his form, his hands, his feet, his side. They heard and recognized his voice when he gave them his salutation of peace. Thus they were convinced of the reality, the identity, of the risen Savior. And their conviction led to their witness, and thus to our faith.

I. THE REASONS FOR THE GLADNESS WHICH THE DISCIPLES EXPERIENCED WHEN THEY SAW THE CHRIST.

1. The gloomy feelings of doubt and foreboding experienced by them during many hours past now gave way to the contrasting emotions of relief, satisfaction, and joy. The disciples had been disappointed and cast down by the blow which fell upon them when their Lord was slain. Their hopes had been all but extinguished. They had been bewildered and sad. Now their suspense was at an end, their fears were dispelled, their doubts were removed. The reaction was great. The cloud which had overshadowed them had been black; the more welcome was the burst of sunshine which now illumined their hearts.

2. Their gladness was increased by the resumption of Christ's fellowship and friendship. When they saw the Lord, and heard his well-known and well-loved voice, they appreciated his forwardness to show his interest and affection. He was still their Friend, and they could not tell for what period they might be permitted to enjoy his companionship and counsel.

3. The disciples must have been growingly glad, as they gained through the Resurrection a fuller view of the Lord's nature, character, and office. They experienced the fulfillment of Christ's words, "A little while, and ye shall see me;" "On the third day I shall rise again," etc. Their hope that he would prove to be the Messiah revived. Who must this be whom death itself is powerless to hold?

II. THE BROADER REASONS FOR OUR GLADNESS BECAUSE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.

1. Our faith is thus confirmed in the Divinity and authority of our Savior himself.

2. As a consequence of this, our natural and distressing doubts concerning the interest and benevolence of God are effectually removed.

3. A glorious aim in life is thus presented before us; the Church becomes the living witness to the Resurrection and to the gospel, which is based upon this stupendous fact.

4. A welcome and sacred light is thus cast upon the immortal prospects of Christ's people. They who saw him after the Resurrection, and who had heard him say, "Where I am, ye shall be also," could not but cherish the hope of a deathless fellowship with the Lord of life, who has the keys of death and of the unseen world.—T.

John 20:21

The mission of the Son and of the servants.

A mission involves a sender, the party to whom he sends, the sent one, and a commission to be fulfilled by the sent on behalf of the sender and for the benefit of those whom he visits. A religious mission originates in God, is designed for the welfare of men, and is accomplished in the first instance by the Son of God, and then by his ministers.

I. THE MISSION ON WHICH CHRIST WAS SENT BY THE FATHER.

1. The origin of thin mission must be sought in the love and pity of the Father towards sinful men, and in the condition of humanity which rendered a Divine interposition desirable.

2. The condition of this mission was the incarnation and advent of the Son of God.

3. The evidence and authentication of this mission are found in Christ's mighty works and benevolent ministry on earth.

4. The completion of this mission was effected when the Lord Jesus laid down his life for the sheep.

II. THE MISSION ON WHICH CHRISTIAN APOSTLES AND EVANGELISTS WERE SENT BY THEIR LORD. The twelve were, because thus sent, designated "apostles." There is no reason to limit the mission to these; it was shared by the evangelists who were associated with them, and indeed by the whole Church of the Redeemer.

1. Apostolic conditions. These are

2. The apostolic spirit. This is preeminently a spirit of dependence upon the gospel and upon the Spirit of Christ.

3. Apostolic methods.

III. THE RELATION BETWEEN THE MISSION OF CHRIST AND THAT OF HIS CHURCH.

1. A relation of dependence. The mission of apostles and preachers would be impossible, had it not been preceded by that of the Divine Lord himself. The mission of the Son made possible that of the servants.

2. A relation of similarity. Notwithstanding the difference between Divinity and humanity, between the work of mediation and that of publication, the mission of the followers is as that of the Leader. In both cases the work is God's, the authority is God's, the favor and assistance is God's, and the end sought is God's. The recompense and the joy ensuing in both cases upon success is one and the same. How honorable is the Christian calling! how noble the Christian aim! how sacred the Christian fellowship! how bright the Christian hope!—T.

John 20:28

The cry of faith and joy.

If St. John begins his Gospel with a clear and full declaration of our Lord's Deity, he here towards its close gives his readers to understand that his conviction was shared by others who, like himself, had the advantage of prolonged and continuous fellowship with Jesus.

I. THE WITNESS OF THIS CRY TO THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF CHRIST.

1. This witness is all the more important, because

2. This witness was full and explicit. When Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God!" the two appellations were unquestionably addressed to one and the same Person, who stood before him. The language constitutes a confession of our Lord's Divinity. This must be acknowledged, even by those who regard the nature of the union of the human and Divine in Christ as matter of speculation, because unrevealed.

3. This witness was accepted by the Savior, who would certainly have rejected it had it been the utterance of mistaken enthusiasm. Jesus, however, in reply to Thomas, said, "Thou hast believed," meaning by this language, "believed the truth concerning me."

II. THE WITNESS OF THIS CRY TO THE APPROPRIATING POWER OF FAITH.

1. When we cry, "My Lord and my God!" we imply that, to our apprehension, Christ has not only given himself for us, but has given himself to us. He could not otherwise be ours. The only claim we can have upon him is founded upon his own generosity and sacrifice.

2. If we have property in Christ, it follows that we feel towards him a spiritual and affectionate attachment.

"Jesus, thou art my Lord and God,

I joy to call thee mine;

For on thy head, though pierced with thorns,

I see a crown Divine!"

3. The appropriation by the soul of Christ himself is the appropriation of him in all his offices. In approaching the Savior, the soul addresses him thus: "My Prophet! my Priest! my King!"

4. When this exclamation is sincere, it is a confession that Christ is an all-sufficient and an everlasting Portion. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!"—T.

John 20:29

The blessedness of faith.

This saying of Christ was not so much a reproach directed against Thomas, as it was a comfort and benediction for the Church of the future. The apostles had their advantages, in that they had personal intercourse with Jesus. Yet we are not without our counterbalancing advantages, in that we can believe in him whom we have not seen. Let Christ's faithful disciples and friends take to themselves this consolation, and let them be assured that wise and benevolent purposes are secured by the provision that they must walk, not by sight, but by faith.

I. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. It seems as if our Lord's ministry were itself an evidence of the difficulty of establishing a universal religion by a living Lord in the body and accessible to all men's sight and knowledge. It would have been, as far as we can see, physically impossible for men of all lands and through all ages to have seen Jesus. His ministry was confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and even in Palestine there must have been multitudes who were never brought into contact with him, who never knew him. Whereas the spiritual dispensation permits of disciples being gathered to Christ from every country, and through all the centuries, all of whom can fulfill the required conditions of faith.

II. IT IS UNNECESSARY FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS NECESSARY FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. It was indeed needful that some should see. Our Lord's personal friends and attendants saw and heard him, and had the opportunity of knowing him as he was in his humiliation and ministry. But when their ears had heard, their eyes seen, their hands handled, the Word of life, they were competent to testify of him whom they had come to know so well. Then the testimony of the few was sufficient to convince many. The sight of some was the means, the preparation, for an end, and that end was the faith of all. In order that men may enjoy the favor of God and may participate in the Divine nature and life, it is indispensably necessary that they believe the gospel, and exercise faith in Christ. Sight may be dispensed with, but not faith.

III. IT IS INEXPEDIENT AND UNDESIRABLE FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS EXPEDIENT AND DESIRABLE FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. 'We know that it is possible for men to see Jesus, and not to believe. The Jews saw our Lord and his miracles, yet many of them were none the better for the sight. There is danger lest sight should end in itself, lest men should be satisfied when their curiosity is gratified. But the ends of the Christian religion are secured through faith. The higher life of the spirit is by this means secured.

IV. IT IS WELL TO SEE AND TO BELIEVE; IT IS BETTER TO BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING. Those who see and believe may indeed be happy; but they are happier still who accept testimony, who exercise spiritual intuition, who gain experience which itself confirms their faith. This happiness is not—as is sometimes supposed—the happiness of ignorance. It consists in submission to the Divine plan and appointment, in the pure spirituality of the process of religious experience, in the harmony which exists between the foundation and the superstructure of the new life, and in the prospect which animates the heart of those who look forward to that bright vision of the future—the seeing the Savior as he is.—T.

John 20:31

Scripture, faith, and life.

To judge aright of any book, it is necessary to take into consideration the purpose of the writer.

"In every work regard the author's end,

For none can compass more than they intend."

If we wish to understand this treatise, the so-called Gospel of John, we shall act wisely to consult the treatise itself, and learn what its author had in view as his purpose in preparing and publishing it. It has often been treated as if it were something very different from what it actually professes to be. Happily, in this verse we have clear information as to the design which the writer set before him in composing his narrative and record.

I. THE WRITER'S RECORD. Many of the works of Jesus were not written in this short treatise; "but these," says John, "are written."

1. This is a record of facts, and not of "cunningly devised fables;" of events which actually took place, and of words which were really spoken. This Gospel contains neither falsehoods nor fictions; nor is it a dramatic or poetical composition wrought by the force and delicacy of imagination.

2. This is a record of facts in themselves so important as to be worthy of being held in memory. They are the events which occurred in no ordinary life, but in a life distinguished from all other lives by its commencement, by its close, and by very many circumstances in its course. In this passage the writer speaks of some of the chief events which he records as "signs." This is a designation of miracles, and it is observable that John relates at length about ten miracles performed by the Lord Jesus. But the word especially refers to the signification, the moral meaning, of Christ's mighty works; to the revelation they afford of his character, his Divine mission, his intentions of grace towards mankind. The reference is not only to our Lord's appearances after his resurrection, but to the whole manifestation of himself throughout his earthly career.

3. This is a record of facts to which the writer bears his own personal witness. What is set down is not so set down upon" hearsay evidence." John himself saw Jesus do some of the works attributed to him; John himself heard Jesus deliver some of the discourses which none else has recorded. In other cases, where he was not present, John had every opportunity of knowing what Jesus had said, from the very persons to whom he had spoken. There can be no doubt that John heard Jesus deliver the discourse recorded in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters, that he heard Jesus offer the prayer which occupies the seventeenth chapter. That those who first read and accepted this document, and who commended it to the attention of Christian people generally, were convinced of its authenticity, appears from the imprimatur which they added, "This is the disciple which beareth witness of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his witness is true."

II. THE READERS' FAITH. We read some books for the charm of their style, for the insight they afford into the author's mental peculiarities. We read other books for their sparkling wit, their delightful humor. Others, again, we read that our tenderer feelings may be awakened, or that we may be lifted out of the sordid cares and anxieties of life into a fresher, more inspiring atmosphere. There are works which are read for the sake of acquiring knowledge of a scientific, or technical, or historical character. Now, this treatise was written for one definite purpose, which is here exactly stated by the writer. If it fails of this purpose, it so far fails to effect that for which its author wrote it. In a word, John's aim was that his readers might believe aright about Jesus.

1. That they might believe him to be the Christ; i.e. the Messiah expected by the Jews, because foretold in their prophetic books; One anointed, commissioned by the Eternal to do great things for Israel and for mankind. In the course of his ministry, such inquiries were started as," Is not this the Christ?" "Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?" It is to enable all fair-minded men to come to a satisfactory conclusion upon this point that John wrote. He does not conceal his own conviction; but, on the whole, he keeps himself in the background; he sets his glorious subject in the full light of day, and he leaves his readers to form their conclusion.

2. That they might believe him to be the Son of God. If the Hebrew people were most likely to shape their inquiry as above, to the world at large the problem was less special. Has the Sovereign Ruler of the universe any interest in this human race? Is it possible that, to teach and guide and save mankind, he has sent his own Son into the world—a man, yet Divine in authority, in righteousness, in love? Before any one decides for himself upon this question, he must read the record of the son of Zebedee, and acquire the means for forming a satisfactory judgment. John's conviction was that the proper result of considering his record is faith. And in this all Christians are agreed. Theirs is a reasonable faith, based upon sufficient evidence—historical, moral, miraculous evidence—evidence which will bear all scrutiny, which has convinced the wisest and the best of men. At the same time, it is religious faith; for it is fixed upon a Divine Being, has respect to Divine government, and issues in spiritual and eternal results. This explains the memorable words of Jesus himself: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

III. THE RELIEVERS' LIFE. Precious as it is, faith is but the means to an end. Faith is a posture of the soul; life is a state of the soul.

1. Life is the natural result of faith. Every man's life is affected by what he believes; in fact, a man's beliefs become the principles of his conduct. It is so in politics, in literature, in art.

2. Faith in Christ is the means towards a spiritual life. If belief in fictitious, vicious deities makes men superstitious and immoral; if faith in corrupt representations of Christianity has a debasing influence; surely faith in a Being so true, so holy, so affectionate as Jesus, must have power to assimilate the believing soul to the Object of its attachment. The human nature cannot be said to live that is dead to all that is pure, unselfish, and morally beautiful. Christ came that we might have life, and that more abundantly.

3. This spiritual life is eternal. By this it is not intended to say that the mere continuance of conscious existence is linked with faith with Jesus; but rather that upon such faith depends all that makes life worth living in this and in all worlds. "More life and fuller 'tis we want." The life which is hid with Christ in God is independent of the accidents of earth and of time. It is immortal as is he who gives it.

APPLICATION. Let the reader of this Gospel ask himself—Have I been led by its perusal to receive Jesus as the true God and the Eternal Life?

"For better they had ne'er been born,

Who read to doubt, or read to scorn."—T.

HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS

John 20:11-18

The powers of holy love.

The women rose early on the third day, but there was One who rose earlier. They were last at the cross, and first at the grave. Mary Magdalene was the first of the group. She ran back to Peter and John with the tidings. There was a race between the two to the tomb. John outran Peter. Love is swifter of foot than faith, but faith is more courageous and was in the sepulcher first. Love followed. Mary is for a moment lost in the narrative, but appears again as the chief figure. We have an illustration of passionate love to Jesus. Notice—

I. THE DEVOTION OF LOVE. This is seen:

1. In her persistent and patient lingering on the spot. "Mary stood without," etc. She did not enter with the two disciples; she was too weak for that. But weaker in nature, she was stronger in affection. If she did not enter, she stood longer at the grave. They were gone, but she was tied to the spot by the words of love, watching for some clue to the mysterious disappearance. Love lingers with patience and devotion at the sacred graves which hold the dust of dear ones.

2. In her increased courage. She does now what she could not do before—stoops down and looks into the sepulcher, as did John before her. His example encouraged her. It was more for her to look than for them to enter. She looked, not that she expected to find him more than the others, but to see for herself, and see even where he had lain. Love acts often from instinct rather than from reason. We look to the grave.

3. In her intense feelings. She stood without, weeping. As she stood she wept, and she stooped. She wept and looked through her tears. And as she wept she stooped down. Intense feelings brought her to her knees. These were not the wailings of ostentation and selfishness: there was no one to see her tears or to pay heed to them; but they were the tears of genuine affection, the sighs of devoted love, and the moans of intense sorrow. She stood and stooped and looked, weeping. This is the only thing which even devoted love could do under the circumstances.

II. THE VISIONS OF LOVE.

1. The vision of angels. Notice:

2. The vision of Jesus. (verse 13.)

III. THE RECOGNITION OF LOVE.

1. Her recognition was in consequence of a direct revelations.

2. Her recognition was warm and reverential. "Rabboni!" "O my Master!" and she fell at his feet, and was about to embrace them. If her recognition was not so high and advanced as that of Thomas, it was warm and enthusiastic.

3. Her recognition in one of its modes was gently checked. "Touch me not [or, 'do not cling to me']."

IV. THE MISSION OF LOVE. "But go," etc.

1. This mission contains as its substance his ascension. "I ascend." It is not "I have risen," but "I ascend." It includes his resurrection, and more. He could not ascend unless he had risen. The first movement of the new life in Jesus was a movement upwards; from the grave he began to ascend, and the first intelligence obtained of him was that he was already ascending.

2. The mission includes his destination. "I ascend unto my Father." It was ascending somewhere, but unto a special spot and special Personage—unto his Father; he was going home whence he came. The intelligence of his final destination was important. The time would soon arrive when he would be due at the right hand of power on high. There was the attraction now. It was more natural for the risen Lord to ascend to the Father than to remain here.

3. This mission was to the disciples. "But go unto my brethren, and say," etc. They are the first to hear; they are the most concerned in the matter; they are the nearest to Jesus' heart. The world is to hear the news, but through them. The risen Savior is the same as of old.

4. This mission is to them in a new relationship. "My brethren." The terms of the mission explain the new relationship. "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father," etc. And having one Father and one God, they were brethren and fellow-subjects of the same kingdom; brethren in spirit, in faith, in love, in circumstances, and in common relationship. The risen Lord was more nearly related to the disciples than ever. Death and resurrection made the union nearer: he was their firstborn Brother from the dead. And the Ascension would make it nearer still: then they would be one in a common Father.

V. THE OBEDIENCE OF LOVE.

1. The obedience is most prompt. There is no delay. In spite of a strong temptation to cling to him, she goes at once. There is no mention of her leaving Jesus; only of her coming to the disciples. No sooner had she left the former than she was with the latter. The obedience of love is swift and prompt.

2. Her obedience is full. She told the whole story and delivered the whole message. "I have seen the Lord," etc. And she did not stop there, but related all he had told her.

3. Her obedience was joyous. Her weeping was turned into laughter, her sorrow into ecstatic joy; and the dew of her grief was kissed away by the rays of the risen Sun. The news was good and joyous; it thrilled her own heart, it thrilled the heart of the disciples, and it has thrilled the heart of the world ever since.

LESSONS.

1. The risen Lord first appeared to a woman. Her heart and eyes of love were the first to behold the welcome vision, because she had the greatest love.

2. A woman was the first missionary of Jesus. She was the first to publish the tidings of his resurrection, because she was the first to get those tidings. She was the first at the grave, and her love would not permit her to leave till she could find Jesus. She waited at the king's gate till he appeared, and she was employed in his service. The feminine heart can do much in the mission of life and love.

3. Love is rewarded with visions, revelations, and employment. In the degree we love, we shall see, know, and understand the spiritual, and be employed in its glorious missions.

4. We must not cling to Jesus when we are wanted to do something for him. We must not even revel at his feet when others require the news of his love.

5. Love is surprised with more than it expects. Mary only expected to find the dead body, but she found her living Lord. The highest expectations of love will be more than realized and rewarded.—B.T.

HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG

John 20:15

Weeping for the wrong thing.

I. THE CAUSE OF MARY'S WEEPING. Try for a moment to think of the body of Jesus as being only that of a common mortal. Let the instance be that of one dear to yourself. The body has been safely laid away, and the earth heaped over it. Suppose, then, that in a morning or two you find the grave broken open and the body removed. Your feelings upon such an outrage would enable you to understand the feelings of Mary here. No feeling is more proper than that which regards the body of a dead friend as something sacred. Consider, too, what an extraordinary Benefactor to Mary Jesus had been. Out of her he had cast seven demons.

II. THE QUESTION COMES FROM THOSE WHO HAVE A RIGHT TO ASK IT. It is the question of angels, and it is also the question of Jesus. It is the question of those who know the real state of things, to one who in anguish is following a falsehood—one of the likeliest of falsehoods, indeed, but a falsehood after all. As to Jesus, he would ask the question with a sort of secret joy, well knowing how quickly those tears would be dried up, and how soon Mary would stand awed and gladdened before this stupendous revelation of immortality. The question was neither intrusive nor superfluous. How many are the tears and lamentations of ignorance! It seemed as if, in this matter of the Resurrection, the possible must become the actual, before even the possible could be credited. Jesus would not be astonished at this weeping of Mary; what he wanted was to deal with it promptly. He did not seek to weep with weeping Mary, but rather to have Mary rejoice with rejoicing angels, and with the rejoicing Jesus himself; and for once in the history of human sorrow this was possible. Mary would have been satisfied if she had found the corpse of Jesus: what shall she say when even more than the former Jesus appears? From the sense of absolute loss she passes to the sense of full possession. And yet, great as the joy was, it was not the greatest of joys, seeing it was only a revelation to the senses. This would not be Mary's last experience of weeping. Though risen from the dead, Jesus was about to vanish, so that the life in him might be manifested in another way. Mary had yet to win her way to the sober, steady gladness of the Christian's hope.

III. THE QUESTION IS ONE TO ALL WEEPERS. Many besides Mary have groaned over troubles of their own imagining. Many besides Mary have groaned over one thing, when they should have been groaning over something quite different. The feeling will not bear to be analyzed to its depths, and traced out to all its causes. Jesus can do little for weepers till they weep for the right things and in the right way. Oftentimes the right question would be, "Why are you not weeping?" We are glad when we ought to be sorry, and satisfied when we ought to be anxious. We may have had a very great deal of trouble, and yet all the time our cares have never gone deeper than our outward circumstances. It is hard to satisfy us in some ways, but very, very easy in others. Jesus will never complain that we are troubled about common losses and disappointments. Not to be troubled about these would only argue inhuman want of sensibility. But we should also be troubled because of our weakness towards everything that would make us Christ-like and well-pleasing to God. We need not bemoan the loss of an outward Jesus, a visible Jesus, a Jesus after the flesh; such a Jesus could do us little good. We want a Jesus within, blending with the life and making himself felt everywhere.—Y.

John 20:19

A memorable salutation.

Every one in the little company must have heard and used the salutation, "Peace be unto you!" thousands of times. Often must they have heard it, even from Jesus himself. Then, however, it was only the utterance of courtesy, and needed not to be mentioned. Now, being specially mentioned, there is evidently special meaning in it. Jesus was now coming to his disciples in utterly different circumstances from any in which he had come before.

I. CONSIDER HOW THEY HAD PARTED. It was in the darkness of Gethsemane, in utter confusion, and quite unexpectedly so far as the disciples were concerned. Everybody thought of his own immediate safety. Yet the scattering and separating must have been of very short duration. The bond of union was stronger than they yet comprehended. A higher power was at work than their own inclinations and tendencies. Their conduct shows a curious mixture of courage and fear. They fastened the doors; but fastened doors would not have kept out very long any Jews who wanted to get in. If safety was the main thing, then these disciples were remaining in the most dangerous spot of all the world.

II. THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS ON THE SCENE. All at once he came out of the deepest mystery. We cannot but think of his own words to Nicodemus concerning the wind: "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth." No wonder the disciples were terrified. Aforetime they had often been careless and presumptuous in their dealings with Jesus, but now a strange feeling of awe has arisen which effectually stops everything like carelessness or presumption. Then just at the moment when they can say nothing and do nothing, Jesus speaks the right word, "Peace be unto you!" They would feel that not unjustly he might have uttered words of rebuke. One thinks of Jacob's needless fears when he heard of Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men. This assurance from the returning Jesus was much needed—an assurance as well as a salutation. However weak and ignorant, thoughtless and stupid, the disciples might be, the attitude of Jesus was ever the same. He might have to wound their egotism and selfishness; but the wounds were always those of a friend, not of an enemy. There is an immense difference between a surgical operation and a malicious stab.

III. THE SALUTATION IS EVER THE SAME. Out of the invisible he seeks us all, and always with the same utterance. Peace is the desire and intention, and always the end to be secured, however long and troublesome the process may be. Peace is the aim, even when Jesus says that he comes, bringing not peace, but a sword. Men too often approach one another, talking of peace, but preparing for war, and seeking for it. The appeal ever is, "Be ye reconciled to God." It is not we who have to send up the vain and agonizing cry, "O God, wilt thou not be at peace with us?"—Y.

John 20:24-29

The unbelief of Thomas.

I. THOMAS AND HIS FELLOW-APOSTLES. When they told Thomas they had seen Jesus, and he refused to believe, they must have been rather staggered at first. They would insist on how they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, and heard him with their own ears; not one of them, but all. They would point out how the sepulcher was empty, and how Jesus had said that it behooved him to be raised from the dead. They might ask whether Thomas imagined that they were all in a conspiracy to play an unseemly practical joke upon him. Yet there was really nothing to complain about in the incredulity of Thomas. Who of them had believed Jesus as he deserved to be believed? Their thoughts had never been really directed towards resurrection. They had been dreaming of individual glory and sell: advancement, and all that tended in a different direction had been unnoticed. We must do them the justice to say that no tone of complaint against Thomas appears. They would be too conscious that with the beam so recently taken out of their own eye, they had no right to declaim against the mote in their brother's eye.

II. THOMAS AND JESUS. What is Jesus to do with Thomas? Is he to remain in this state of emphatic unbelief, with no means taken to help him into faith? Will Jesus make a special appearance, all for Thomas's satisfaction? Surely that can hardly be, but time will tell. A week elapses, and the disciples are gathered again, Thomas being with them. Jesus reappears, just after the former fashion. What, then, will Thomas do? Will he rush to Jesus, confessing and bewailing the wickedness of his unbelief? Jesus removes all difficulty by taking the first step himself. All the apostles need to be taught a lesson. Jesus knows well that faith can never originate in things that can be seen and felt and handled. Such things may help faith, but cannot produce it. The confession of Thomas, prompt and ardent as it seems, counts for little with Jesus. He does not say, "Blessed art thou, Thomas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Thomas had to be both lovingly helped and delicately rebuked.

III. PROBABLE AFTER-EXPERIENCES OF THOMAS. Thomas would meet many of an unbelieving spirit, who could not, just upon his word, accept the resurrection of Jesus. And then Thomas would have to reply, "I once thought as you do; I insisted on seeing the marks of the wounds; and my Master, in his boundless condescension to the infirmities of his servants, let me see what I wanted to see. But, at the same time, he taught me a lesson, in the strength of which I have gone ever since." All the apostles had soon to believe in One whom they could not see. Where he had gone, they knew not; and how he was to communicate with them and they with him, they could not explain; but most assuredly a real and fruitful communication was established. Jesus was not speaking of an impossible blessedness, or dangling the attractions of a dream before the eyes of his disciples. The unseen, and not the seen, is what strengthens faith. What men see is the very thing that makes them unbelievers, confusing them, perplexing them, utterly disabling them from laying hold on anything solid and comforting. If the seen hides the unseen, so that Jesus himself becomes the merest of tames, then there is dreadful misery.—Y.

John 20:30, John 20:31

The purpose of John's Gospel.

This statement comes in very fitly after the narrative of Thomas's doubt. Many more things might have been told, but a mere record of actions is nothing in itself; it is precious just as it reveals the nature, the character, and the office of the actor. A record of Jesus more encumbered with details, and longer spun out, might not have given so clear a view of him.

I. JOHN'S PURPOSE. Many books have been written to destroy faith; here is a book written to produce it. If a man believes a lie, it is true kindness to destroy his faith in it; equally, if he does not yet believe the truth, it is a duty to do all one can to help him into faith. This was the bright work of John, not to pull down, but to build up; not to destroy faith, but to produce it. Certainly in producing a new faith he destroyed an old one; but the decaying and vanishing of the old was not felt in the joy of welcoming the new. To believe is to be strong, to doubt is to be weak. And now suppose one begins to read through John's Gospel, musing over the strange things there recorded—miracles of healing, language about the life, the light, the bread, the vine, the shepherd, pondering the raising of Lazarus, and still later the raising of Jesus—he might be inclined to say, "I cannot make anything of it; it looks utterly inexplicable." Then he comes to the words here, and how he ought to be helped. This work was not written to bewilder; if it does bewilder, such was not the writer's intent. John, a believing man himself, wanted to lead others to believe. His attachment to Christ was not the blind attachment of a fanatic. It was not an ignorant trust. John was not a hired advocate, not a skilful arranger of facts, hiding away what might be difficult to explain or awkward to reveal.

II. THE EVIDENT RESULT. Let us be true to ourselves, giving the book fair play, and the end will be the receiving of eternal life. Out of Christ we are all made to feel that the excellency of our present life is indeed in earthen vessels. A sudden accident, a few hours of disease, and all is gone. Without Jesus we know not where we are going, or what may happen to us. But, believing in Jesus, we are sure of a life hid away from all the perils of this present world. John does not put forward this book as furnishing the best arguments he can supply. It is rather Christ's own sufficient appeal to all who have an honest desire for salvation and eternal life. If there be not enough in this book to persuade us, neither would we be persuaded if Jesus himself were to come in bodily form. They that love the New Testament will be fullest of eternal life, for they will be fullest of faith and freest from doubts. The words of Jesus will never be to them as common words. Looking round on the widely spread and deeply penetrating evil of the world, they will feel that only he holds in his hands the complete remedy for it. The claim of Jesus is one that can never pass away, seeing it is the claim of the Son of God—the claim not merely of his appointment, but of his nature.—Y.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 20:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/john-20.html. 1897.

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