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Mary cometh to the sepulchre: so do Peter and John, ignorant of the resurrection: Jesus appeareth to Mary Magdalene, and to his disciples. The incredulity and confession of Thomas. The scripture is, under divine grace, sufficient to salvation.
Anno Domini 33.
John 20:2. Then she runneth—to Simon Peter,— See the note on Luke 24:5. The reader of the following annotations on this and the next chapter, will be pleased to refer to the notes on the parallel places.
John 20:3. Peter therefore went forth,— Peter and John only are mentioned in this relation; but the circumstances taken notice of by the other evangelists shew, that the apostles lodged all together in one house, as they used to do while their Master was alive: if so, it is reasonable to believe, that they all heard Mary Magdalene's report, and were anxious to know the truth of it. But in their present situation, they would judge it imprudentto go out in a body to examine the matter, and would rather depute two of their number for that purpose. Accordingly we suppose that Peter and John went to the sepulchre by the advice and appointment of the rest. Instead of came to the sepulchre, the Greek should rather be rendered went. The fact mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 24:12.) has been commonly taken to be the same with this related by St. John; from which, however, Mr. West observes, it differs, among other things, in this material circumstance, viz. that whereas St. John expresslysays, that Peter went into the sepulchre, while he [John], who got thither first, contented himself with barely stooping down and looking into it, St. Luke tells us, that Peter stooping down and looking in, beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed. The original word παρακυψας, stooping down and looking in, used by both evangelists, and in the latter applied only to St. Peter, in the former only to St. John, is in St. John's gospel plainly distinguished from the word εισηλθεν, entered in, and set in direct opposition to it; and that not bythe force of etymology and construction only, but by some particulars resulting from the actions signified by those two words, which prove them to be distinct and different from each other. He who went into the sepulchre, saw more than he who, standing without, only stooped down and looked in. Thus Peter and John, when they entered into the sepulchre, saw not only the linen clothes lie, but the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself: but when they only stooped down and looked in, they could see only the linen clothes, as is evident from the words of St. John, John 20:3-43.20.8. Now these two actions being by these marks as clearly distinguished from each other in St. John, as the different places where they were performed can be by the terms entrance and inside of the sepulchre, and, as so distinguished, having been separately performed by that apostle, they must also necessarily be taken for separate and distinct actions, when related of St. Peter. And if it be reasonable to conclude from St. John's account, that Peter, when he came with him to the sepulchre, did not stop at the entrance, stoop down and look in, but that he entered into it; it is no less reasonable to conclude from St. Luke's narration, that when he came at the time mentioned by him, he did not enter in, but stooping down, beheld the linen clothes and departed; especially if the force of the Greek word μονα (rendered by themselves) be considered, and the whole passage rendered, as it ought to have been, "Beheld the linen clothes only lying." From all which it appears, that the fact related of St. Peter by St. Luke, and that here related by St. John, are separate and distinct facts, and not one and the same, as has been imagined. And as the facts were different, so did they take their rise from two different occasions; or in other words, as it is evident from all that has been just now said, that Peter went twice to the sepulchre, so there are two distinct reasons for his so doing, assigned in the gospels of Luke and John, viz. the report of Mary Magdalene, and that of Joanna and the other women. By the former having been told that the body of Jesus was taken out of the sepulchre, he ran in great haste to examine into the truth of that account; and in pursuance of this intent entered into the sepulchre, that hemight receive a thorough satisfaction upon that point. In the latter were two additional circumstances of importance, sufficient toawaken the curiosity of a less zealous disciple than St. Peter, whose affection for his Lord was like his natural temper, fervent and impetuous. When he heard therefore from Joanna and the other women of a vision of angels, who had appeared to them at the sepulchre, and informed them that Christ was risen, can we wonder at his running thither a second time, in hopes of receiving some confirmation of the truth of that report, which, though treated by the rest as an idle tale, he certainly then gave credit to, as the whole tenor of this passage implies? We say a second time, because had he gone for the first time upon the report of Joanna, he could have had no inducement to have gone to the sepulchre a second time from any thing he could learn from the first report made by Mary Magdalene, whose account contained nothing but what was implied in that given by Joanna and the other women. His behaviour also upon this occasion, when he only stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, so different from the former, when he entered into it, is very consonant with the purpose of this second visit, which was, to see if the angels who had appeared to the women at the sepulchre, were still there: this could as well be discovered by looking, as by going into the sepulchre, as is plain from the account given by Mary Magdalene, who, stooping down and looking in, saw two angels sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Having now proved that the visit of St. Peter to the sepulchre, mentioned by St. Luke, must have been his second visit, this passage is cleared from two objections which lay against it; one, that it did not agree with the relation given by St. John; and the other, that it disturbed and confounded the whole order of St. Luke's narration. This point being settled, the reader will permit a few inferences in order to explain some passages in the preceding part of that chapter of St. Luke's gospel. First then, it is plain from Joh 20:9 that St. Peter, after he had been with St. John and Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre, was now got among the other apostles and disciples, whom, in all probability, he and John had assembled upon the occasion of Mary Magdalene's report. Peter, we say, and John had, in all probability, assembled the other apostles and disciples, to inform them of what they had heard from Mary Magdalene, and of their having been themselves at the sepulchre to examine into the truth of her report. For it is not to be imagined, that these apostles would not have immediately communicated to the rest an event of so much consequence to them all, as that of the Lord's body being missing from the sepulchre. And as we now find them gathered together, and Peter with them, it is no unnatural supposition, that they had been summoned thither by Peter and John; at least their meeting together so early in the morning, is this way accounted for. Here then we see the reason of St. Luke's naming Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, among those who told these things to the apostles, John 20:10. For although these two women were with Joanna and her party, and, consequently, could not have joined them in relating to the apostles the vision of the two angels, &c. yet, as the account of their having found the stone rolled away, and the body of Jesus missing, had been reported from them by Peter and John to the other apostles before the return of Joanna from the sepulchre, St. Luke thought fit to set them down as evidences of some of the facts related by him; and indeed it was proper to produce the testimony of the two Mary's concerning these facts, because they first went to the sepulchre, and first gave an account of those two particulars to the apostles. Secondly, It may hence be inferred, that the reports of the women were made separately and at different times. For if St. Peter went twice to the sepulchre, there must have been two distinct reasons for his so doing, the distinct reports of Mary Magdalene and of Joanna: and as there was a considerable interval between his first and second visit, a proportionable space must have intervened between the two reports. After Mary Magdalene's report, he had been at the sepulchre, had returned thence to his own home, and was now got with the other apostles and disciples, whom, as we have said, he and St. John had in all probability called together, before Joanna, and the women with her, came to make theirs. Thirdly, as the reports were made at different times, and by different women; as the facts reported were different, and said to have happened all in the same place, viz. at the sepulchre, and as these facts must of consequence have happened at different times; it follows, that the women who reported those facts as happening in their presence, must have been at the sepulchre at different times. For had they been all present at each of these events, no reason can be assigned for their differing so widely in their relations; and pretty difficult will it be to account for their varying so much as to the time of their making their reports. Here then is a strong argument in favour of the women's coming at different times to the sepulchre. Their different motives for going, some intending only to view the sepulchre, and others to embalm the body, is still another argument; and as this gave occasion to two appearances of Christ, and as many of the angels, it consequently multiplied the proofs and witnesses of the resurrection, and established this important truth upon stronger evidence.
John 20:6-43.20.7. Simon Peter—went into the sepulchre, and seeth, &c.— These circumstances were very awakening, and very proper to prepare the minds of the disciples for something extraordinary, since nothing but the resurrection of Jesus could in right reason be concluded from them. The body they saw was gone; but by whom could it be taken away, and for what purpose? Not by friends; for then, in all probability, they would have known something about it. Not by the Jews; for they had nothing to do with it. Pilate, to whom alone the disposal of it belonged, as the body of a supposed malefactor executedby his orders, had given it to Joseph of Arimathea, a friend and secret disciple of Christ, who laid it in the sepulchre but two days before. And wherefore should they remove it again so soon?—Not to bury it; for in that case they would not have left the winding-sheet, and the napkin folded up, behind them. Whoever therefore had removed the body, they could not have done it with a design to bury it; and yet no other purpose for the removal of it can be imagined. Besides, it must have been removed in the night by stealth, and consequently in a hurry. How then came the winding-sheet and napkin to be folded up and disposed in so orderly a manner, in the sepulchre? Add to this that the stone was very large, and therefore many people must have been concerned in this transaction; not one of whom was there to give an answer to any such questions. These and such like reflections could not but rise in their minds, and these difficulties could not but dispose them to expect some extraordinary event. They knew the life of Jesus was a life of miracles, and his death was attended with prodigies and wonders; all which could not but come crowding into their memories; and yet none of them at that time believed that he was risen from the dead; (See on John 20:8.) for, as yet, the evangelist assures us, John 20:9. They knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead; that is, they did not understand from the prophets, that the Messiah was to rise again from the dead; being on the contrary persuaded, that these very prophets had foretold, that the Messiah should not die, but abide for ever. And, as they did not know from the scripture, nor yet from our Lord's own predictions, that he was to rise again; so neither could they collect it from any thing which Mary Magdalene hadtold them; for she herself had not the least notion of it, even when Jesus appeared to her; as is plain from what she says in the 13th and 15th verses. See the note on Matthew 28:11; Matthew 28:20.
John 20:8. And believed.— The plain interpretation of this passage seems to be, that John entering into the sepulchre, saw every thing as above related, and consequently believed, not that Christ was risen, but that the body was taken away, as Mary Magdalene had informed them: for the apology which he immediately subjoins, evidently proves that a belief in the resurrection could not be meant; because St. John declares that they knew not, they had not the least idea of those scriptures which foretold his resurrection from the dead. See the note on Luke 24:11.
John 20:10. Then the disciples went away— The disciples; that is, Peter and John: to their own home, is in the original, προς εαυτους, which seems evidently to signify "to their companions." Accordingly, soon after this, the women found the eleven and the rest together. Luke 24:9. It probably appeared prudent to Peter and John to retire immediately, lest they should have been questioned by the rulers, if found near the sepulchre; and it was certainly necessary for them to acquaint the rest of the disciples with this important circumstance as soon as possible, and to collect their sentiments upon it. Mary Magdalene, however, who it seems had followed Peter and John to the sepulchre, did not return home with them, being anxious to find the body. See the next verse.
John 20:11-43.20.14. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping:— The vision mentioned in Matthew and Mark was of one angel; that seen by Mary was of two; as was likewise that by Joanna and those with her. And whereas the first angel was found by the women upon their entering the sepulchre, sitting on the right side, the two last-mentioned appearances were abrupt and sudden. For the angels which Mary Magdalene discovered sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid, were not seen by Peter and John, who just before had entered the sepulchre, and viewed every part of it with attention; and Joanna, and those with her, had been some time in the sepulchre before they saw any angels; which angels seem also to have appeared to them in a different attitude from those seen by Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. As the number of angels, and the manner of their appearance, was different, so likewise were the words spoken to them by the women, and their behaviour upon those several occasions. Mary and Salome were seized with fear and fled from the sepulchre; Joanna, and those with her, were struck with awe and reverence; but Mary Magdalene seems to have been so immersed in grief, at not being able to findthe body of the Lord, as to have taken little or no notice of so extraordinary an appearance; she sees, hears, and answers the angels without any emotion, and without quitting the object upon which her mind was wholly fixed, till she was awakened out of her trance by the well-known voice of her Master calling her by her name.—But here let us stop a little, and inquire—Could this appearance be an illusion? Could a mind so occupied, so lost in one idea, attend at the same time to the production of so many others of a different kind? Or could Mary's imagination be strong enough to see and converse with angels, and yet too weak to make any impression on her, or call off her attention from a less affecting, less surprising subject? Real angels she may indeed be supposed to have seen and heard, and not to have regarded them; but apparitions raised by her own fancy, could not have failed engaging her notice. For although when we are awake, we cannot avoid perceiving the ideas excited in us by the organs of sensation, yet is it, in most instances, in our power to give them what degree of attention we think fit; and hence it comes, that when we are earnestly employed in any action, intent upon any thought, or transported by any passion, we see, and hear, and feel a thousand things, of which we take no more notice than if we were utterly insensible of them: but to the ideas not proceeding from sensation, but formed within us from the internal operation of our minds, we cannot but attend; because, in their own nature, they can exist no longer than while we attend to them. It is evident, that the mind cannot apply itself to the contemplation of more than one object at a time; which, as long as it keeps possession, excludes or obscures all others. Mary Magdalene therefore, having persuaded herself, upon seeing the stone rolled away from the mouth of the sepulchre, that some persons had removed the body of her Lord; in which notion the was still more confirmed, after her return to the sepulchre with Peter and John; and grieving at being thus disappointed of paying her last duty to her deceased Master, whose body (as Peter, his most zealous, and John, his most beloved disciple, knew nothing of its removal) she might imagine had fallen into the hands of his enemies, to be exposed perhaps to fresh insults and indignities, or at least to be deprived of the pious offices which the duty and affection of his followers and disciples were preparing to perform—MaryMagdalene, falling into a passion of grief at this unexpected distress, and abandoning herself to all the melancholy reflections that must naturally arise from it, with her eyes suffused with tears, and thence discerning more imperfectly, looking as it were by accident, and while she was thinking on other matters, into the sepulchre, and seeing the angels, might, according to the reasoning above laid down, give but little heed to them, as not perceiving on a sudden, and under so great a cloud of sorrow, the tokens of any thing extraordinary in that appearance. She might take them for two young men, which was the form assumed by those who appeared to the other women, without reflecting that it was impossible such young men should have been in the sepulchre without being seen by John and Peter, and improbable that they should have entered into it after their departure,without having been observed by her. Intent upon what passed in her own bosom, she did not give herself time to consider and examine external objects; and, therefore, knew not even Christ himself, who appeared to her in the same miraculous manner; but, supposing him to be a gardener, begged him to tell her, if he had removed the body, where he had laid it, that she might take it away. By which question, and theanswer the made to the angels immediately before, we may perceive upon what her thoughts were so earnestly employed, and thence conclude still farther, that the angels were not the creatures of her imagination, since they were plainly not the objects of her attention. The appearances therefore of the angels were real.
John 20:15. She, supposing him to be the gardener, &c.— It is very probable that Jesus might speak low, or in a different way from what he usually did; and Mary's taking him for the gardener, seems to intimate, that there was nothing very splendid in his dress. Accordingly, when he appeared to the two disciples in their way to Emmaus, they seem to have taken him for a person of a rank not much superior to their own. Her eyes might also be withheld at first from knowing Jesus, as theirs were, Luke 24:16. It is observable, that Mary accosts this stranger in respectful language, even when she took him for a servant; for the word κηπουρος cannot with propriety signify the owner of the garden. She prudently reflected that an error on that hand would be more excusable than on the other; supposing he should have proved one of superior rank in a plain dress. It is also observable, that she does not name Jesus, but speaks in indefinite terms, If thou hast borne him hence; intimating, that he was the one person of whom her own thoughts and heart were so full, that she took it for granted every one must know whom she meant. Such language in such circumstances was perfectly natural.
John 20:16. Jesus saith unto her, &c.— Christ had stood by her some time, had spoken to her, and she answered him before she knew him to be Christ; on the contrary, she took him for the gardener; by all which it is manifest, that it was not a spectre of her creating. Her mind, as we have observed in a preceding note, was otherwise engaged; and had it been either at leisure or disposed to raise apparitions, it is most likely she would have called up some person with whom she had more acquaintance and concern than a keeper of a garden, whom probably she had never seen or known before. Besides, Jesus called her by her name, by which she discovered him; for turning immediately about, she accosted him with the respectful title, Rabboni, my Master; and, as may be inferred from the ensuing words of Christ, offered to embrace him. His voice and his countenance convinced her that it was Christ himself.
John 20:17. Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended, &c.— The objectors to the resurrection of Jesus, have inferred fromthis circumstance, that Christ's body was not a real tangible body: but this could never be inferred from the words Touch me not; for thousands make use of that expression every day, without giving the least suspicion that their bodies are not tangible, or capable of being touched: nor could this conclusion be built upon the words, I am not yet ascended to my Father; for though there is a difficulty in those words, there is no difficulty in seeing that they have no relation to Christ's body; for as to his body nothing is said. The natural sense of the place, as collected from comparing it with Mat 28:9 is this, "Mary Magdalene, upon seeing Jesus, fell at his feet, and laid hold on them, and held them as if she meant never to let them go. See 2 Kings 4:27. Luke 7:38. Christ said to her, Touch me not, or embrace me not now, you will have other opportunities of seeing me, for I go not yet to my Father; lose no time then, but go quickly with my message to my brethren." In the Jewish language, to touch, often signifies to embrace, with affection and regard. Thus Mark 10:13. They brought young children, that he should touch them; that is, express his affection to them by the imposition of hands, accompanied with blessings; accordingly it is added, He took them up in his arms, laid his hands upon them, and blessed them. So also, Luke 7:39. Simon the Pharisee observing a woman, who was a sinner, washing the feet of Christ with her tears, and kissing them, expressed her action by the word απτεσθαι . This man, if he were a prophet, would, &c. who touched him. In this sense the word απτου, touch, was used by our Lord on the present occasion.—In the words of this verse is contained a most clear proof that it wasChrist himself who uttered them. To understand this, it must be remembered, that they allude to the long discourse which our Saviour held with his disciples, the very night in which he was betrayed, Ch. 14: John 15:16 : wherein he told them, that he should leave them for a short time. A little while, and ye shall not see me; and that he should come to them again, though but for a short time, And again a little while, and ye shall see me, because, added he, I go to my Father. By the phrase, I go to my Father, Christ meant his final quitting this world; as he himself explained it to his disciples, who did not then understand either of the above expressions, I came forth, &c. Ch. John 16:28. But, lest they should fall into despair at being thus forsaken by him, for whom they had forsaken all the world, he at the same time promised to send them a comforter, even the Holy Spirit, who should teach them all things, and enable them to work miracles; and that finally, though they should for a season be sorrowful, yet their sorrow should soon be turned into joy, &c. Ch. John 14:16; John 14:26; John 16:13; John 16:20-43.16.21. These were magnificent promises, which, as the disciples could not but remember Christ had made to them, so they might be assured, that no one but Christ was able to make them good; and therefore, when they came to reflect seriously on the import of these words, Touch me not, &c. it was impossible for them to conclude otherwise than that it was Christ himself who appeared to Mary Magdalene. For as the latter expression, I ascend to my Father, &c. implied a remembrance, and consequently a renewal of those promises which were to take place after the ascension to the Father, so did the former, I am not ascended to my Father, give them encouragement to expect the performance of that other promise of his coming to themagain before his ascension, by his giving them to understand that he had not yet quitted this world. And Christ's forbidding Mary Magdalene to touch or embrace him, might have been meant as a signification of his intending to see her and his disciples again, just as in ordinary life, when one friend says to another, "Don't take leave, for I am not going yet," he means to let him know, that he purposes to see him again before he sets out upon his journey. That this is the true import of the words, Touch me not, is evident, not only from the reason subjoined in the words immediately following, For I am not yet ascended, &c. (by which expression, as we have shewn above, Christ meant he had not finally quitted the world) but from these farther considerations:
Christ, by shewing himself first to Mary Magdalene, intended, doubtless, to give her a distinguishing mark of his favour, and therefore cannot be supposed to have designed at the same time to have put a slight upon her, by refusing her an honour which he granted not long after to the other Mary and Salome: and yet this must be supposed, if touch me not be understood to imply a prohibition to Mary Magdalene to embrace him, for any reason consistent with the regard shewn to the other women, and different from that now contended for, namely, that he intended to see her again and his disciples. On the contrary, if these words be taken to signify only that this honour was denied to Mary till some fitter opportunity, they will be so far from importing any unkindness or reprehension to her, that they may be rather looked upon as a gracious assurance, a kind of friendly engagement to come to her again. In this sense they correspond exactly with Christ's purpose in sending this message by her to his disciples; which, as we observed before, was to let them know that he remembered his promise of coming to them again, and was determined to perform it, not having finally quitted this world: and of his intention to perform it, this, his refusing to admit the affectionate or reverential embraces of Mary Magdalene, was an earnest; as his coming to them would be a pledge of his resolution to acquit himself in due time of those promises, which were not to take effect till after his final departure out of the world. And thus this whole discourse of our Saviour with Mary Magdalene will be, in all its parts, intelligible, rational, andcoherent; whereas, if it be supposed that Mary Magdalene was forbidden to touch Christ for some mystical reason, contained in the words, I am not yet ascended, &c. it will be very difficult to understand the meaning or intent of that message, which she was commanded to carry to the disciples; and still more difficult to account for his suffering, not long after, the embraces of the other Mary and Salome.
To the same, or even greater difficulties, will that interpretation of this passage be liable, which supposes that the prohibition to Mary Magdalene was grounded upon the spiritual nature of Christ's body, which, it is presumed, was not sensible to the touch or feeling. And indeed both these reasons for the behaviour of Christ to Mary Magdalene are overturned by his contrary behaviour to the other Mary and Salome. But besides the assurance given by Christ to his disciples, in the words here spoken, of his intention of performing his promises, &c. he might have a farther view, which is equally deducible from those words. That remarkable expression, I ascend to my Father, Christ undoubtedly made use of upon this occasion, to re-cal to their minds the discourse that he held with them three nights before, in which he explained clearly what he meant by going to his Father, Ch. John 16:29. But this was not the only expression that puzzled them; they were as much in the dark as to the meaning of, A little while, and ye shall not, &c. Joh 20:16-18 which they likewise confessed they did not understand. But Christ left those words to be explained by the events to which they severally related, and which were then drawing on a-pace. For that very night he was betrayed, and seized, and deserted by his disciples, as he himself had foretold: the next day he was crucified, expired upon the cross, and was buried. Upon this melancholy catastrophe, the disciples could be no longer at a loss to understand what Christ meant, when he said to them, A little while, and ye shall not see me: he was gone from them, and, as their fears suggested, gone for ever, notwithstanding he had expressly told them he would come to them again, in the words, Again, a little while, and ye shall see me.This latter expression was fullas intelligible as the former; and as the one now expounded by the event, was plainly a prophesy of his death, so must the other be understood as a prophesy of his resurrection. But if they understood it in that sense, they were very far from having a right notion of the resurrection from the dead; as is evident from their imagining when Christ first shewed himself to them after his passion, that they saw a spirit; even though they had just before declared their belief that he was risen indeed. The resurrection of the body, it should seem, made no part of their notion of the resurrection from the dead: to lead them therefore into a right understanding of this important article of faith, Christ, in speaking to Mary Magdalene, &c. makes use of terms which strongly imply his being really, that is, bodily risen from the dead: I am not yet ascended—but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, &c. The words, I go to my Father, Christ, as has already been observed, explained by the well understood phrase of leaving the world; and to this explanation the words immediately foregoing give so great a light, that it is impossible to mistake their meaning. The whole passage runs thus: I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father, Chap. John 16:28. By the expression, and am come into the world, Christ certainly meant to signify his being and conversing visibly and bodily upon earth; and therefore by the other expression, I leave the world, he must have intended to denote the contrary, viz. his ceasing to converse visibly and bodily upon earth. But as they very well knew that the usual road by which all men quitted this world, lay through the gates of death, and were assured that their Master had trodden the irremediable path, they might naturally conclude, that what he had said to them about leaving the world, &c. was accomplished in his death; and consistently with that notion might imagine, that by his coming again, no more was intended, than his appearing to them in the same manner as many persons have appeared after their decease. To guard against this double error, Christ plainly intimates to his disciples, in the words, I am not yet, &c. that his dying, and his final leaving of the world, were distinct things; the latter of which was still to come, though the former was past: he had indeed died and quitted the world like others; but he was now risen from the dead, returned into the world, and should not leave it finally till he ascended to his Father. Of his being returned into the world, his appearing to Mary Magdalene was intended for a proof; and yet of this it could be no proof at all, if what she saw was no more than what is commonly called a spirit; since the spirits of many people have appeared after their decease, who, notwithstanding, are supposed to have as effectually left this world by their death, as those who have never appeared at all. If therefore Christ was risen from the dead, as the angels affirmed he was; if he had not finally left the world, as the words, I am not yet ascended, &c. plainly import; and if his appearing to Mary Magdalene was intended as a proof of these two points, as undoubtedly it was; it will follow, that he was really, that is bodily, risen from the dead; that he was still in the world, in the same manner as when he came forth from the Father, &c. and that it was he himself, and not a spirit without bodily parts, that appeared to Mary Magdalene.
The term ascend is twice used by our Saviour in the compass of these few words. In the discourse alluded to, he told his disciples he should go to his Father, and he now bids Mary Magdalene tell them that he should ascend to his Father; a variation which had its particular meaning. For as by the former expression he intended to signify in general his final departure, so by the latter is the particular manner of that departure intimated; and, doubtless, with a view of letting his disciples know the precise time, after which they should no longer enjoy his converse, or expect to see him upon earth. When the disciples therefore beheld their Master taken up into heaven, they could not but know assuredly, that this was the event foretold about forty days before to Mary Magdalene; and, knowing that, could no longer doubt whether it was Christ himself who appeared and spoke those prophetic words to her. For if it was not Christ who appeared to her, it must either have been some spirit, good or bad; or some man, who, to impose upon her, counterfeited the person and voice of Christ; or lastly, the whole must have been forged and invented by her. The first of these suppositions is blasphemous, the second absurd, and the third improbable. For, allowing her to have been capable of making a lie for the sake of carrying on an imposture from which she could reap no benefit, and to have been informed of what our Saviour had spoken to his disciples the night in which he was betrayed, which does not appear, it must have been either extreme madness or folly in her, to put the credit of her story upon events, such as the appearing of Christ to his disciples, and his ascending into heaven, which were so far from being in the number of contingencies, that they were not even in the number of natural cau
Thus Jesus, having finished the great work of atonement, contemplated the effects of it with singular pleasure. The blessed relation between God and man, which had been long cancelled by sin was now happily renewed. The disciples had now a fresh assurance given them that God was reconciled to them; that he was become their God and Father; that they were exalted to the honourable relation of Christ's brethren, and God's children; and that their Father loved them with an affection greatly superior to that of the most tender-hearted parent. The kindness of this message will appear above all praise, if we call to mind the late behaviour of the persons to whom it was sent. They had every one of them forsaken Jesus in his greatest extremity; but he graciously forgave them; and, to assure them of their pardon in the strongest manner, without so much as hinting at their fault, he called them by the endearing name of his brethren.
John 20:19. Then the same day—when the doors were shut, &c.— "After this, in the evening of the very same day on which he arose and appeared to Mary Magdalene, that is to say the first day of the week; when the disciples were gathered together in a private room, and were comparing their informations concerning his resurrection (Luke 24:33-42.24.36.) after the doors were fastened (θυρων κεκλεισμενων ) for fear of being discovered and broke in upon by the Jews, Jesus himself, whose divine power could easily make his way, came in his usual form, before they were aware, to confirm his love to them, and their faith in him; and, standing in the midst of them, he, instead of upbraiding them for, or taking any notice of their having so shamefully deserted him in his late distress, saluted them in a friendly, affectionate, and authoritative manner, saying, All safety, comfort, and quietness, and the best of prosperity, be to you, as consisting of peace with God, with each other, and in your own souls."
John 20:20. He shewed unto them his hands and his side.— Probably the marks made by the nails and the spear were retained, on purpose to give the greater satisfaction to the disciples of the truth of his resurrection, and perhaps for many other reasons; though indeed, without that additional circumstance, the evidence might have been very satisfactory.
John 20:21. As my Father hath sent me, &c.— "As my heavenly Father sent me into the world, to discharge the office of the Messiah; even so I, by my plenary authority, and in proof of my mediatorial commission, send you to discharge the office of apostles and ministers in preaching the gospel to every creature, and to confirm it with miraculous signs wherever you may go." See Mark 16:15; Mark 16:17-41.16.18.
John 20:22-43.20.23. When he had said this, he breathed on them,— St. Luke, Luk 24:35 informs us, that the disciples from Emmaus told their brethren on this occasion, what things were done in the way. Among the rest, no doubt, they repeated the interpretations which Jesus gave of the prophesies concerning his own sufferings and death; but such a sense of the scriptures being diametrically opposite to the notions which the Jews in general entertained, a peculiar illumination of the Spirit was necessary to enable the apostles to discern it. This illustration they now received from Jesus, who, in token that he bestowed it, breathed upon them, and bade them receive it. See on Matthew 18:2. The effect of this illumination was, that by perceiving the agreement of the thing which had befallen him with the ancient prophesies concerning theMessiah, their minds were quieted, and they were fitted to judge of the present appearance, and of the other appearances which Jesus was to make before his ascension. Further, the expression receive ye the Holy Ghost; may have a relation, not only to the illumination of the Spirit which they now received, but to that which they were to receive afterwards in greater measure. Accordingly, it is added, John 20:23. Whose soever sins ye remit, &c. that is to say, "You are soon to receive the HolyGhost in the fulness of hiscommunications, whereby you will understand the will of God for men's salvation in the most comprehensive manner, and so be qualified to declare the only terms on which men's sins are to be pardoned." Some indeed carry the matter higher, supposing that this is the power of what they call "authoritative absolution;" yet the only foundation on which the apostlesthemselves could claim such a power, must either have been the gift of discerning spirits, which they enjoyed after the effusion of the Holy Ghost, 1Co 12:10 and by which they knew the secret thoughts of men's hearts, consequently the reality of their repentance; or it must have been some infallible communication of the will of Godconcerning men's future state, which was made to them: For, properly speaking, they neither forgave nor retained sins; they only declared amatter of fact infallibly made known to them by God. In the mean time, to render this interpretation feasible, the general expressions, whose soever sins ye remit, &c. must be very much limited, since it was but a single individual here and there, whose condition in the life to come can be supposed to have been made known to the apostles by revelation. But there cannot be a doubt that they were at the same time blessed with a greater measure of divine love than they had ever before experienced.
John 20:24. Thomas, one of the twelve,— It is said, Luk 24:33 that the disciples from Emmaus gave the eleven, and those who were with them, an account of their meeting with Christ, and of the other circumstances accompanying that event. The eleven was the name by which the apostles went after the death of Judas, whether they were precisely that number, or fewer; as we have observed in the note on the abovementioned passage in St. Luke: wherefore we are under no necessity, from this expression, of supposing that Thomas was present when the disciples came in. We are sure that he wasnot present at this meeting, when Jesus shewed himself; yet, if St. Luke's expression is thought to imply that Thomas waswith his brethren at the arrival of the disciples, we may suppose that he was one of those who would not believe, and that he went away before they had finished their relation. See Mark 16:1
John 20:25. Except I shall see in his hands the print, &c.— The repetition of the word print seems to be a very great beauty, as it admirably represents the language of a positive man, declaring again and again what he insisted upon. The word εις, rendered into, in the next clause, signifies upon, in Ch. Joh 8:6 and Luke 15:22.; and if that sense be retained here, the words will be, And put my hand upon his sid
John 20:27. Reach hither thy finger, &c.— It is observable, that our Lord here repeats the very words which Thomas had made use of; and thus demonstrated, not only that he was risen, but also that he was possessed of divine knowledge, from his being conscious of the words and actions of men, though spoken or done in secret. It is observable also, that Spinosa himself could find out no more plausible objections against this evidence of the resurrection of Christ, than to say that the disciples were deceived in what they imagined they saw, heard, and felt; which if granted, would be in effect to allow, that no men could be competent judges of any fact whatsoever relating to their own sensations; and, consequently, would overthrow all human testimony.
John 20:28. Thomas answered and said, &c.— Though the nominative often occurs for the vocative, it is the former case which is used here, the words συ ει, thou art, being understood. To this the context agrees; for we are told that these words were addressed to Jesus; wherefore they cannot be taken merely as an exclamation of surprise, which is the Socinian gloss; but their meaning is, "Thou art really he whom I lately followed as my Lord; and I confess thee to be possessed of infinite knowledge, and worship thee as my God." It is not fair that Thomas actually touched our Lord's wounds; and Christ himself says afterwards, Joh 20:29 that his belief was built on sight; which, though it does not exclude any evidence that might have been afforded the other senses, yet seems to intimate, that this condescension of our Lord, together with the additional evidence arising from the knowledge that he plainly had of that unreasonable demand which Thomas had made in his absence, with divine grace accompanying the whole, quite overcame him.
John 20:29. Because thou hast seen me, &c.— The word seen, according to the Hebrew idiom, is often applied to the other senses; and therefore may here signify that Thomas had the unitedtestimony of all his senses, that Christ had a real, that is to say, a material body. See 1Jn 1:1 and Acts 10:41. The words, blessed are they, &c. may in their original application be understood as a commendation of those then present, who had believed that Christ was risen before they had seen him, or without requiring such proof as Thomas sought for. But as they are indefinite, and imply no certain time, they may be extended even to the case of those to whom the gospel was to be proposed, by the apostles then, and by their successors after them. Accordingly, as in these words our Saviour tacitly reproves Thomas for his incredulity, in not believing a matter of fact so well attested, unless he himself saw it; so he lays down an universal proposition for the encouragement of all mankind in future ages, to believe in him, though they had not seen him.
John 20:30-43.20.31. And many other signs, &c.— He appeared on several other occasions to his disciples after his resurrection; and by many infallible proofs, which are not written in this book, convinced them that he was alive after his pardon. The appearances mentioned by the evangelists are nine in number; St. Paul speaks of one to James, and one to himself, which they have omitted; and this passage leads us to think that Jesus shewed himself much oftener than there is any account of upon record; performing many mighty works before his disciples, in order to confirm them in the belief of his resurrection and personal identity. But though there were several other appearances and miracles, of which no account is given here, yet what is recorded is sufficient for the evangelist's purpose; which was, to evince that Jesus was the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
Inferences containing a general view of our Lord's resurrection.—The transactions of the day on which our Lord arose from the dead, ended in the manner set forth in this chapter to Joh 20:26 and, in the parallel passages of the preceding sacred writers; a day much to be remembered by men throughout all generations; because it brought fully into act the conceptions which had lodged in the breast of infinite Wisdom from eternity, even those thoughts of love and mercy, on which the salvation of the world depended. Christians, therefore, have the highest reason to solemnize this day with gladness each returning week, by ceasing from labour, and giving themselves up to meditations, and other exercises of devotion. The redemption of the world, which they commemorate thereon, as then receiving its crowning evidence, affords matter for eternal thought, being such a subject as no other, how great soever, can equal; and whose lustre, neither length of time, nor frequent reviewing, can ever diminish: for, as by beholding the sun, we do not find it less glorious or luminous than before, so this benefit which we celebrate, after so many ages, is as fresh and beautiful as ever, and will continue to be so, flourishing in the memories of all the faithful saints of God through the endless revolutions of eternity.
But, that the reader may form a more distinct notion of the history which the evangelists have given of Christ's resurrection, it will not be improper here to join the several circumstances of that important affair together, briefly, and in their order.—The Jewish sabbath being at hand when Jesus expired, his friends had not time to embalm him in the best manner, or even to carry him to the place where they intended he should remain; but they laid him in a new sepulchre hard by, with an intention to remove him after the sabbath was over. The women therefore who were present, observing that the funeral rites were performed in a hurry, made an agreement to come and embalm him more at leisure. Accordingly, as soon as they returned to the city, they bought spices, and prepared them; but the sabbath coming on, they rested from working according to the commandment. When the sabbath was ended, (that is, on our Saturday evening about sun-setting,) the two Marys, by appointment of the rest, set out to see if the stone was still at the door of the sepulchre, because thus they would be certain that the body was within: or, if the sepulchre was open, and the body taken away, they were to inquire of the gardener where it was laid, that the spices might be carried directly to the place. While the women were going on this errand, a great storm and earthquake happened, occasioned by the descent of an angel, who came to wait on Jesus at his resurrection. This storm and earthquake terrifying the women, they turned back and joined their companions, who were going to buy some more spices to complete the preparation. In the mean time, the angel rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, then sat down upon it, and, assuming a very terrible form, affrighted the guards. Soon after this, Jesus arose, and the guards fled in a panic, probably to the first house they could find, where they waited till the morning.
As the morning approached, the storm abated. At length, every thing being got ready, all the women went out together, and arrived at the sepulchre before the rising of the sun. The door was open; they entered, and searched for the body, but it was gone. They were exceedingly perplexed. After consultation, they agreed that, while they searched the garden, Mary Magdalene should go and inform the apostles of what had happened. Coming out of the sepulchre, therefore, she departed, and the rest began to search: but having traversed the garden a while to no purpose, they resolved to examine the sepulchre a second time; and were entering for that end, when, lo! an angel appeared in the farthermost right corner, where the feet of Jesus had lain. He spake to them, desiring them to come and see the place where the Lord lay. Upon this they descended, and saw another angel in the hithermost corner of the sepulchre. The angels desired them to carry the news of their Lord's resurrection to the disciples, and particularly to Peter. They departed, therefore, and made all the haste they could into the city. In the mean time, Mary Magdalene having told the apostles that the sepulchre was open, and the body taken away, they sent Peter and John to see what was the matter. The two apostles, together with Mary Magdalene, set out for the sepulchre about the time that the women, who had seen the vision, were running into the city; but, taking a different road in the fields, or a different street in the city, they did not meet them. When the company of women came, they related their account to the apostles, and then inquired for Peter, having a message to him; but being told that he was gone away with John to the sepulchre, they set out a second time along with some of the brethren who were dispatched to examine the truth of this information; expecting to find Peter either at the sepulchre or on the road. But as they were going out, he and John, having left Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre, came into the city, it seems, by a different street, for the women missed them; nor did these apostles meet the disciples who were going out to examine the truth of the women's report. The disciples, making all the haste they could, soon left the women with whom they had set out, and arrived at the garden about the time that Mary Magdalene was coming away: for, after Peter and John were gone, she stood beside the sepulchre weeping, and happening to look in, she saw first the angels, then Jesus himself, and was departing to tell the news, just as the disciples arrived at the garden. But she did not meet them, happening to be in a different walk from that by which they were coming up. The disciples went straightway to the sepulchre, and saw the angels, and then departed; and being now but a little way behind Mary Magdalene, who was tired with the fatigue she had undergone, they travelled by a nearer road through the fields, or by a different street of the city, with such expedition, that they had related their account in the hearing of the two disciples who went to Emmaus, before she arrived.
While these things were doing, Jesus met the company of women in their way to the sepulchre, and ordered them to go and inform his disciples that they had seen him. Upon this they left off pursuing Peter, and returned to the apostles' lodging, where they found Mary Magdalene relating her new account, which they continued by reporting whatever had happened to themselves. Or, we may suppose that Mary Magdalene fell in with them immediately after Jesus had left them, and that they all came to the apostles in a body.
Peter, hearing the women affirm that they had seen, not only a vision of angels, but Jesus himself, went to the sepulchre a second time, but did not enter. He only looked in, and saw the clothes lying as before. In his way home, however, he seems to have had the happiness of meeting with Jesus. The coming of the watch into the city, and their appearing before the council, is fixed by St. Matthew to the women's interview with our Lord. They had fled from the garden when Jesus arose; and, being in a panic, had taken shelter in the first house they could find. But, in the morning, they began to take courage, and, at the time mentioned, went and told what they had seen to the chief priests, who were called together by the high-priest, in order to receive their report. Soon after this, the disciples who travelled to Emmaus were overtaken by Jesus on the road. After he was gone, they returned to Jerusalem, and told their brethren what had happened. While they were speaking, behold, Jesus came in; and, to convince all present of the truth of his resurrection, shewed them his hands and his feet, and called for meat, which he ate in their presence.
This is the method whereby some eminent commentators harmonize this important part of scripture, and which we have in general followed. However, as others have differed a little in their method from the above, we also subjoin their account; and the ingenious reader, after an accurate comparison of the evangelists, must judge for himself.
The women who accompanied our Lord from Galilee, made an appointment to come and embalm him after the sabbath was ended. Very early, therefore, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, in pursuance of their purpose, went out to meet the apostles at the sepulchre. About the time that they were setting out, the earthquake happened; the angel descended, and rolled away the stone; and Jesus arose. The two Marys either met with, or called upon Salome in their way; so the three went on, till they came within sight of the sepulchre, and observed the door open. This circumstance leading them to conclude that the body was removed, Mary Magdalene ran immediately back to tell Peter and John what had happened. In the mean time, the other Mary and Salome, going forward, entered the sepulchre, and had the vision of one angel mentioned by Matthew and Mark; who informed them that Jesus was risen, and bade them carry the news to the disciples.
After they were departed, Peter and John, with Mary Magdalene, came to the sepulchre: an account of this journey we have in ch. John 20:1-43.20.10. The two apostles, having examined every thing, went away; but Mary Magdalene stayed behind them at the sepulchre, and saw first the vision of angels, then Jesus himself. Her joy gave her speed. She ran the second time into the city, that she might impart the news to the rest.
After Jesus had shewed himself to Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre, he went and met her companions; viz. Mary the mother of James, and Salome, as they were going into the town to give an account of the vision they had seen. The apostles and Mary Magdalene had not been long away from the sepulchre, when Joanna and some Galilean women, her companions, arrived with the spices to embalm the body. This company of women had the vision of two angels described by St. Luke, and then departed. But, by some incident or other, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who had been at the sepulchre, and seen the one angel before Joanna came, and who, as they returned, had seen Jesus himself, lingered so long on the road, that Joanna and the women with her, who came to the sepulchre after them, got to the apostles' lodging before them, and had related their account in such good time, that the two disciples of whom St. Luke speaks, Luk 24:13 were set out for Emmaus, and Peter was gone to the sepulchre a second time before they came up. See the Inferences on the next chapter.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, In my Annotations on the four evangelists I have pointed out the harmony which is to be found in their several accounts. The fact itself is proved by a great cloud of witnesses.
1. The first day of the week Mary Magdalene very early, while it was yet dark, set out for the sepulchre, where she arrived about sun-rising, and to her surprise found the stone removed from the door. Hereupon looking in, and missing the body of Jesus, she, with the other women, ran to Peter and John, and, with great concern, informed them of the removal of the body of Jesus they knew not whither. Note; (1.) They who truly love Christ, will delight to meet him early. (2.) It is a bitter grief to a soul which has any sincerity remaining, to feel the absence of Jesus, and not to know where he may be found. (3.) We often make those things causes of our mourning, which should afford us real cause for joy. (4.) The communication of our sorrows is often the nearest way to recover our lost comforts.
2. Peter and John immediately went forth, desirous to inform themselves how matters stood; and running together, John outran Peter, and came first to the sepulchre; where stooping down, and looking in, he saw the linen clothes lying, yet went not in. Peter, more courageous, no sooner reached the place, than he went in to gain the fullest satisfaction possible, and observed the grave-clothes, not carelessly thrown down, but each part separately folded up, and laid by itself; a certain proof, that whoever removed the body, did it deliberately, and not in haste. Hereupon John also now ventured in after Peter, and he saw, and believed, that the body was removed or gone; for hitherto none of the disciples had entertained any perfectly right notions of the Messiah, nor, after all the scripture prophesies, and their Master's predictions, seem at all to have expected his resurrection from the dead.
3. Hereupon the disciples return to their companions, to communicate to them the state of the matter as it happened to them, and to wait the event.
2nd, Christ's first appearance was to Mary Magdalene. Much had been forgiven her, and she had loved much. Her past conduct was all forgotten, and her unfeigned present attachment to Jesus made her now justly dear to him, and she is favoured with this distinguished token of his regard.
1. She stood without at the sepulchre weeping, being returned the second time to seek farther after her dear Lord: and they who wait constantly upon him shall certainly find him; and what they sow in tears, they shall reap in joy.
2. As she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and saw two angels in human forms. They were clothed in white, the emblem of their spotless purity, and sat one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain, to pay him honour, and to be the messengers of his resurrection.
3. They kindly addressed her, Woman, why weepest thou? She, whose heart overflowed with sorrow, as her eyes with tears, replied, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him: and this she thought a sufficient reason for her grief; but our vexations, like hers, are often imaginary, and of our own making: had we but faith, the clouds would immediately disappear.
4. Christ manifests himself to her; for they who can rest in nothing short of Christ and his love, shall not be disappointed. As she turned herself, she saw Jesus standing, and, because either her eyes were holden, or they were so filled with tears, she knew not that it was Jesus: so much nearer is he to mourners than they oftentimes are aware. He kindly addresses her in the words of his angelic ministers, Woman, why weepest thou? and she not attending to him closely, and supposing him probably the gardener, begged to be informed if he had borne the body away, or could give her any intelligence concerning it, that she might give him an honourable interment elsewhere, if it might not lie there. Jesus unto her, Mary: his altered tone of voice, and calling her by her name, assured her instantly who spoke; and, turning to him, she casts herself at his feet with reverence and rapturous joy, crying Rabboni, my Master! how welcome, unutterably welcome to her longing heart!
5. He sends her with the kindest message to his disciples. Touch me not; stay not to express your affectionate regard; the moment is precious; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; you will therefore have other opportunities of seeing and conversing with me. But go to my brethren, without delay; in such affectionate terms does he address those who had so lately shamefully fled and left him; and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your
Father, and to my God and your God. Christ owns them in the endeared relation of brethren; assures them he was now entering into his glory, as the Head of his church; returning to him who is his Father by eternal generation, and theirs by adoption and grace; to his God, whom, as the man Christ Jesus, the head of his church, he obeyed and worshipped; and their God, to bless them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ. Blessed and happy are they, who can say, The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is my Father and my God.
6. Mary hastens to carry the glad news to the disconsolate disciples, and, with a transport of joy, declares that she has seen him, and reports the kind message which he had delivered to her. They who have seen Christ by faith, and tasted of his consolations, cannot but delight to tell of him, and to spread the knowledge of his grace.
3rdly, The reports of Mary and the women produced little conviction in the minds of the disciples; so slow of heart were they to believe: Jesus therefore appears to them himself, to put the matter out of doubt.
1. The apostles were all assembled, Thomas excepted, on the evening of the day on which Christ rose from the dead, which was the first day of the week. For fear of the Jews they had shut and barred the doors, when, on a sudden, probably while they were considering over the strange reports which they had heard, and examining into their credibility, or praying for farther light, and direction, Jesus appears in the midst of them, and, with the kindest salutation, addresses them, Peace be unto you. He upbraids them not with any thing that had passed; it was forgiven and forgotten; and now he is come to put them in possession of that peace which, before his death, he had so solemnly bequeathed to them. Note; (1.) Where the disciples of Jesus assemble in his name, there will he be in the midst of them. (2.) The peace which our Redeemer bestows, lifts us superior to all our fears.
2. To give them undoubted assurance of the identity of his person, and the certainty of his resurrection, he shewed them his hands and his side, which still bore the glorious scars gotten in that conflict he which had endured for their sakes, when all their foes were vanquished; and, fully satisfied that it was indeed their adored Master himself, joy and gladness were diffused through every heart, and sat on every countenance. Note; These love-prints in the Saviour's flesh, should still be gazed upon by us with faith, delight, and wonder.
3. He solemnly invests them anew with their commission from him. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: he would remove every remaining fear, and recover them from their astonishment, that they might hear and receive the commission which he delivered to them. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you; giving you full authority to go and preach the gospel, engaging to qualify you for the work, and to give you to see the most abundant success of your labours. And, when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; by this emblem signifying to them, that the Spirit which proceeded from him, as the breath from the body, should rest upon them as a quickening Spirit, and should enable them, with the abundance of his gifts and graces, to discharge that high office to which they were ordained. And, as one branch of their divinely-delegated authority, he saith, Whose soever sins ye remit, according to the gospel which they preached, and as possessed of that discernment of spirits whereby they were enabled to distinguish the truly faithful, they are remitted unto them; the absolution which they pronounce on earth, he engages to ratify in heaven; and whose soever sins ye retain, because of their impenitence and unbelief, they are retained: and, if they die in their sins, the wrath of God, according to their denunciations, must for ever abide upon them. Note; (1.) Though men may give an outward mission, it is the office of the Holy Ghost to call and qualify every true minister of Christ; and, without his inspiration, they who run unsent, will be accounted as thieves and robbers. (2.) Though ministers have no power of their own to pardon sins, or bind them upon the soul, yet, where they speak according to Christ's word, he will confirm their sentence.
4. Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve apostles who were first ordained, though now reduced to eleven by the apostacy of Judas, happened not to be present when Jesus shewed himself to the rest. By what he was detained, is not said; perhaps the fear which made them lock the doors, kept him away: and, if so, for his cowardice and neglect he is justly punished with the loss of that blessed sight which his brethren enjoyed. But whether he was before in fault or not, his incredulity was justly blameable, when his brethren, in a transport of joy, assured him that they had seen the Lord. Resolute in unbelief, he declares that nothing shall convince him but the evidence of his own senses: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe; a very criminal incredulity; yet was it so over-ruled by divine Providence, as to add additional evidence to the certainty of Jesus's resurrection. So far were his own apostles from easily satisfying themselves about the fact, that nothing but the most infallible evidence could have convinced them: and indeed when they looked forward to what they must expect to meet with on account of their testimony, they needed the fullest conviction of the truth in their own souls, to bear them out in their sufferings.
4thly, Our Lord, by his resurrection, consecrated the first day of the week; then his disciples assembled, and he appeared to them. A week after this he repeated his visit, to put a farther honour on the day, which was henceforward to be observed as the Christian sabbath.
1. Christ appears to them, where they were met together, and Thomas with them, having shut the doors for fear of the Jews. Seven days Thomas was left to his unbelieving doubts, and in a miserable state of suspence; while the other disciples rejoiced in their risen Redeemer. But now being punished for his former neglect and absence, he, being joined again in communion with his fellow-apostles is favoured with the sight of Jesus, who graciously condescends to give him all that satisfaction which he perversely required. He stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you, according to this former gracious salutation: then, particularly addressing himself to Thomas, to rebuke his infidelity, and satisfy his doubts, he bids him, since nothing else would convince him, put his finger upon the scars in his hands, and examine with his hand the wound in his side, and feel and see the certainty of that resurrection which he would not credit; and be not faithless, or incredulous, but believing. (See the Annotations.) Note; Unbelief is the injurious bar which robs us of our comfort, and God of his glory; most justly therefore does it deserve the severest rebuke from Christ, and call for deep humiliation, and must be removed before the soul can enjoy the favour of God.
2. Thomas, quite overcome with the evidence, and confounded and ashamed at his own incredulity, cries out, My Lord and my God, in the fullest assurance of faith, and with the deepest reverence and adoration of his glorious Master. He acknowledges his Divinity, and worships him as the object of highest honour, as very God. Note; (1.) True faith regards Jesus not only as God and Lord, but as my God and my Lord, in whose favour and love we ourselves have an interest. (2.) We are then disciples indeed, when Jesus is exalted in our hearts, and in our lips and life we confess him our Lord and Master.
3. For a reproof to Thomas, and an encouragement to those who shall come after, he replies, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; refusing every proof but the evidence of his own senses; and, though convinced at last, yet was he culpable in rejecting the testimony which his brethren had borne, in which way the rest of the world must be converted to the faith. And therefore Christ adds, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed, as the Old Testament saints had done, and as must be the case with those who afterwards believe the gospel on the testimony of the inspired witnesses; their faith is more noble, spiritual, and honourable to God.
4. The evangelist observes, that many other signs were given of the resurrection of Jesus, during the forty days he was seen of them, than those recorded in the sacred writings; but the evidence contained in the book of God, is fully satisfactory to those who humbly desire information, and who search the scriptures to be made wise unto salvation through them: they will be convinced from the sacred records, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, possessed of the same divine nature and perfections with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and declared to be so by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4.); and they who believe on him may be assured of life through his name; the life of grace with all its comforts here, and, if faithful unto death, the life of glory with all its unutterable blessedness hereafter; both being purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus, who hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, and will bestow it in all its eternal fulness on every persevering saint.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 20". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany