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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Friendship; Jesus, the Christ; Jesus Continued; Love; Mary; Trouble; Weeping; Women; Thompson Chain Reference - Dead, the; Grief; Joy-Sorrow; Love; Love-Hatred; Mary; Mortality-Immortality; Mourning; Resurrection; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Love to Christ;
Verse John 20:11. But Mary stood without — She remained some time after Peter and John had returned to their own homes.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 20:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-20.html. 1832.
RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
161. Morning of the resurrection (Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18)
It is not surprising that there are differences in the accounts of what people saw on the Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead. The sight of the empty tomb and the heavenly messengers produced a mixture of reactions - excitement, joy, anxiety, fear, wonder. There was confusion as people rushed here and there to tell others. One writer records what he heard from some, another what he heard from others. But there is no variation in the basic facts: the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen. The following summary suggests the possible order of events.
1. At the first sign of dawn two groups of women set out from separate places to take spices to anoint the body of Jesus. One group consisted of three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome the mother of the apostles James and John). The other group consisted of Joanna and some friends (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1,Luke 24:10).
2. The group of three women arrived at the tomb first and found the stone rolled away. Mary Magdalene panicked and, without seeing the angel or hearing the voice, ran to tell Peter and John that the body had been stolen (John 20:1-2). But the other Mary and Salome remained. They met one angel sitting on the stone outside the tomb, and another sitting inside the tomb. Upon hearing that Jesus had risen and desired to be reunited with his disciples in Galilee, they rushed off to the place where the apostles were gathered, eager to pass on the exciting news (Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:4-8).
3. Meanwhile the Roman guards fled the tomb and hurried across the city to tell the chief priests what had happened. These priests were the ones who had set the guard in the first place, and their purpose was to prevent Jesus’ followers from stealing the body. Now the same priests bribed the guards to spread the story that Jesus’ followers stole the body while the guards slept. The priests had earlier been worried that Jesus’ disciples might deceive people, but now they themselves were the deceivers (Matthew 28:11-13; cf. 27:62-66). If Pilate heard the story of the guards sleeping on duty, the Jewish leaders promised to protect them by bribing Pilate (Matthew 28:14-15).
4. Back at the tomb, a few minutes after the first group of women had departed, Joanna and her friends arrived. They went inside, met two angels, heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection, and hurried off to tell the apostles (Luke 24:2-8).
5. Soon after the women left the tomb, Peter and John arrived, went inside and saw the linen cloth lying neatly folded. They believed the evidence they saw that Jesus must have risen from the dead, but they left the tomb confused, not understanding the significance of the event (John 20:3-10; Luke 24:12).
6. Mary Magdalene, who followed Peter and John back to the tomb, arrived after they had left. She remained there alone, weeping. Then she saw the two angels inside the tomb and, on turning round, saw a man whom she did not immediately recognize (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-15). When she discovered that the man was Jesus, she took hold of him as if not wanting to let him go. Jesus told her she had no need to cling to him in this way, as he was not ascending to heaven immediately (though he would within a few weeks). She should not become dependent on his physical presence, otherwise she would be disappointed again. She was to go and tell the apostles what he had told her (John 20:16-17).
7. Shortly after appearing to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appeared to the other women of her group (the other Mary and Salome) as they were on their way to tell the apostles of their discovery (Matthew 28:8-10).
8. The two groups of women reached the house of the apostles about the same time, followed soon after by Mary Magdalene. They told the apostles of what they had seen at the tomb and of their separate meetings with the risen Jesus, but the apostles believed neither Mary nor the other women (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18). (All the events summarized in sections 1 to 8 above probably happened within the space of an hour or so.)
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/john-20.html. 2005.
But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping: so as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.
Mary did not leave the tomb, as did Peter and John, but remained there to weep. It is not known if she was alone, or what time of day this occurred. It is received in faith and reverence, as from the eyewitness account of an apostle, and with full consciousness that the revelation we have received, though inspired: is nonetheless fragmentary, but fragmentary only as regards inconsequential details. Of the great central facts, there is an overwhelming profusion of faith-inducing information.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
For an account of the resurrection of Christ, see the notes at Matthew 28:0.
The scripture - See Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46. The sense or meaning of the various predictions that foretold his death, as, for example, Psalms 2:7, compare Acts 13:33; Psalms 16:9-10, compare Acts 2:25-32; Psalms 110:1, compare Acts 2:34-35.
For an account of the resurrection of Christ, see the notes at Matthew 28:0.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-20.html. 1870.
11. But Mary stood at the sepulcher without. The Evangelist now begins to describe the manner in which Christ appeared both to the women and to the disciples, to testify his resurrection. Though he mentions but one woman, Mary, yet I think it is probable that the other women were also along with her; for it is not reasonable to suppose, as some have done, that the women fainted through fear. Those writers wish to avoid a contradiction, but I have already shown that no such contradiction exists.
As to the women remaining at the sepulchre, while the disciples return to the city, they are not entitled to great accommodation on this account; for the disciples carry with them consolation and joy, but the women torment themselves by idle and useless weeping. In short, it is superstition alone, accompanied by carnal feelings, that keeps them near the sepulchre
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-20.html. 1840-57.
Shall we turn in our Bibles now to the gospel according to John, chapter 20.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and she saw the stone was taken away from the sepulchre. Then she ran, and came to Simon Peter, and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we don't know where they have laid him ( John 20:1-2 ).
Now, the other gospels tell us that Mary came with several of the women. And there is no need to think a discrepancy, nor to think that Mary did not come with several women early to the sepulchre. John makes mention of Mary because she is the one that ran to his house and brought Peter and him the news of the empty tomb. But notice what she said when she brought the news. "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre and we..." not, "I know not," but, "we know not," inferring indeed that the other ladies were with her, as the other gospels relate. And they came to the sepulchre and found the stone rolled away. And so, this account is not contradictory to the other gospels as some people would suppose.
There are differences in the accounts of the resurrection morning and of the events that happened which can all be harmonized very easily. But some people see insolvable differences and, of course, the Bible critics like to play up the differences in the various accounts that are given. Instead of proving that the Bible is not the Word of God, it definitely proves that the writers did not get together in collusion, and say, "Alright, let's keep our stories straight, fellows! This is the way we've got to tell it." And if every story was exactly the same and all of the details, then there would be great cause to question whether or not there was not collusion in the writing of the story. But because we get it from different angles, it precludes collusion.
Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple [who we know to be John], and they came to the sepulchre ( John 20:3 ).
Now, Mary, no doubt, was there at the home of John when Mary Magdalene came with the news, because John took her to his house, the nineteenth chapter, and she stayed with him. So Peter and John went running to the sepulchre to find out just what had happened.
They ran both of them together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter ( John 20:4 ),
Now, I don't know that John needed to add that to the record, but perhaps a bit of boasting there. He was a younger man, and so he did outrun Peter.
and he came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying there; yet he did not go in. When Peter following him, went into the sepulchre, and he saw the linen clothes lie ( John 20:4-6 ),
Now, the Greek construction indicates that the linen clothes that were wrapped around Jesus were still lying in a circular form as though a body were in them.
And the napkin, that had been about his head, was folded in a corner by itself ( John 20:7 ).
So that they could see that there was no body within the linen wrappings. This, of course, brings up the question of the shroud of Turin, as to whether or not it was actually the shroud that was wrapped around Jesus Christ. And there are many who do believe that it was indeed the shroud wrapped around Christ. I have difficulty with that, inasmuch as John's gospel tell us distinctly that the linen cloth that was about His head was folded and over in a corner by itself. And in the shroud of Turin, it has the entire form including the head. And so, that it was indeed the shroud that was around Jesus, I seriously question myself.
I think that the Lord has deliberately allowed all of those relics that involve the life and the ministry of Christ to be lost in obscurity through the years. Because He knows that tendency of man to worship an object. And God doesn't want us worshipping objects; He wants us worshipping Him. And so, the silver chalice of Antioch, which they say was the very cup that Jesus drank from, or the disciples drank from at the last supper--Jesus did not drink from it--I question its authenticity. For years they sold splinters from the cross, and you could purchase little splinters from the cross. Of course, this was a practice that began around the year 400. When they had finally sold enough splinters, putting them together, you could have built a good-sized house. Someone was now pointing out the fact that there were enough splinters now to make a house, and so the church developed the dogma of the miraculous multiplication of the cross. And so, according to this dogma of the miraculous multiplication of the cross, every time they took a splinter out a new one would form, so that they could keep selling them.
It is tragic that man has such difficulty worshipping the unseen God and needs an object, which so easily becomes an idol. Or idolatry. And that is the worship of any object, is idolatry. And that is something that is forbidden by the scriptures. But it is something that man is so prone to do. And because of man's penchant towards idolatry, I do feel that the Lord deliberately just X'd out all of the stuff that related to Jesus Christ. Things that He may have touched, the coin that Peter took out of the fish's mouth, and all of these kind of things. And I believe that the Lord just deliberately has removed these artifacts to keep us from idolatry.
Now, whenever a person begins to worship an artifact, there's always a twofold revelation. Number one: it reveals that that man has lost the consciousness of the power and the presence of God in his life. The moment I am worshipping some artifact, it means I have lost that vital consciousness of God's presence. It means that I am somehow longing for that which I lost. And so, I have a reminder of what God had done. But idolatry, any idolatry, always speaks of a degraded state of spiritual experience. Well, of course, just the very way that the shroud of Turin is treated as an artifact of which great reverence and all is placed upon, is just a classic indication of why the Lord, I think, allowed all of the things to deliberately be lost or discarded.
the other disciple [after Peter went in], also went in to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed ( John 20:8 ).
So, John bears record of his own belief. When he saw the clothes lying there, he realized that Jesus must have risen.
For as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. And the disciples went away again unto their own homes ( John 20:9-10 ).
Probably back to tell Mary what they had discovered. That is, Mary the mother of Jesus who was staying at John's house.
To me, it is interesting; "for they did not yet know the scripture." And yet Jesus had told them that He would rise again the third day. Yet, they just did not still fully comprehend this.
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping ( John 20:11 ):
Now, John and Peter had run to the sepulchre. They went in, saw the grave clothes lying there, and went on back to John's house. Mary, after telling them that the sepulchre was empty, made her way back again to the sepulchre, this time alone.
and as she was there weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and she saw two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? And she said unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus ( John 20:11-14 ).
Now, it is interesting to me how that Mary wasn't interested in the angels. These two men sitting there in white, saying, "Why are you weeping?" Now, what would be your response if you saw angels? I'm sure we would be very fascinated. We'd be intrigued. But you know, when your heart is longing for Jesus, even angels won't do! And she was longing for Jesus; she was wanting Jesus. And angels are not even a decent substitute when your heart is yearning after Jesus. And so, she turned away from the angels, not really interested in angels. "I want my Lord." And Jesus was standing there and she did not recognize Him.
Now, it is interesting how that there did seem to be a certain difficulty in recognizing the risen Christ, and the difficulty, it would appear, was on the part of the beholder. We read that the two fellows were on the road to Emmaus and Jesus joined with them, but they did not recognize Him. It said, "For their eyes were holden that they could not see." In other words, there was an actual spiritual thing involved here, where the recognition of Him was something that was held back by God. And it was not until He had broken the bread and they probably saw the nail prints in His hands that they recognized Him.
When we get into the next chapter of John's gospel here, when Jesus had prepared the fish for them on the shore, again it said, "And none of them dared ask Him, 'Who are you?,' knowing that it was Jesus." So, there was probably a difference in His physical appearance, enough in His resurrected body that He was not easily identifiable by just the appearance alone.
Now, Mary did not know that it was Jesus. She thought maybe He was the gardener standing there. It is possible that it was early in the morning, and because she had been weeping so much that her vision was distorted by the tears in her eyes. Though she did not recognize that physical form, she sure did recognize the voice. But first of all, He said unto her the same thing that the angels had said,
Woman, why weepest thou? who are you looking for? ( John 20:15 )
Now, I heard a fellow the other night say that Jesus did not know everything while He was in this body on the earth, therefore He asked questions. For He really didn't know the answers. I heard that on channel 40. And just be careful what you hear on that channel; it isn't always sound biblical doctrine. The Bible says, "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good." I think that it is very presumptive for a person to make that declaration, and I think that it borders on blasphemy of Jesus Christ.
Do you think that Jesus said to Mary, "Why weepest thou?" because He didn't know why she was weeping? Of course He knew why she was weeping! Questions are often used in teaching methods; not so that the teacher can find out the answer, but so that the person can find out what they know or can express what they know. And it is a very common teaching practice to ask questions, not because you don't know the answers, but you want people to start thinking. Our minds are lazy oftentimes, and if someone asks a question, they think, "Well, what is that?" And it starts you thinking, and it starts drawing out from you. And it's a very common teaching practice.
In fact, I heard of a little kid who went home from kindergarten. And his mother said, "Well, how was your first day of school?" He said, "It was terrible, I'm never going back to that place again. That teacher is the most stupid person in the world." And the mother said, "What do you mean?" He said, "All day long all she did was ask questions. 'What's one and one?' She doesn't know anything!"
And to say, "Well, Jesus asked questions because He didn't know" is absolutely wrong. That is an assumption that is not correct. In fact, it's unbiblical because John told us that Jesus didn't need for any man to testify to Him about other men, because He knew men and He knew what was in men. And when Jesus the third time said, "Peter, do you love Me?" Peter said, "Lord, you know all things." Yet Peter had just been asked a question. Peter recognized that Jesus wasn't asking the question for His own benefit; He was asking it for Peter's benefit. "Lord, you know all things." And so, to suggest that Jesus was asking questions in order that He might gain information is unbiblical and manifestly wrong.
"Woman, why weepest thou? Whom are you seeking?" He knew good and well why she was weeping and who she was looking for.
She, supposing him to be the gardener, said unto him, Sir, if you have born him away from here, if you'll just tell me where you have laid him, I will take him away ( John 20:15 ).
In this I see the strength of love. We're all familiar with the picture of the little guy carrying the boy in his arms, and he's looking up to the man and saying, "He ain't heavy, mister. He's my brother." The power of love, the strength of love. I imagine that Jesus was a fairly robust person physically. And a limp, dead body is hard to lift. But yet, Mary says, "Hey," and I don't suppose she was that big, she said, "If you'll just tell me where you've taken Him, I'll carry Him away." And I'll bet she could have. The strength of love.
Jesus said unto her, Mary ( John 20:16 ).
Now, there were many Mary's that followed Jesus. There was His mother Mary. There was that other Mary mentioned at the cross. There was Mary Magdalene. And with all of these Mary's around, it could get confusing. In our household it was confusing because of Chuck Jr. So, someone called, "Chuck," and oftentimes both of us would answer. So, I imagine that Jesus had a certain way of saying "Mary" in a personalized way for each of them. So that when He would say "Mary" or "Ma-r-y," that they would recognize from His intonation which Mary He was talking to. And I imagine that He had a way of saying "Mary" that was just specially and specifically for Mary Magdalene, this woman out of whom seven devils had been cast, who became a fervent disciple. And He said, "Mary!" in such a tone that she knew exactly who it was that she cried, "Rabboni! Master!"
And Jesus said unto her, Touch me not ( John 20:17 );
Now, here again the Bible critics have a field day, because in the other gospels it tells us that the women came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. And later on in this chapter, He is going to say to John, "Take your finger and put it into My hand. See if it isn't Me. Put it there in the prints. You say you won't believe until you see the prints and the scar in My side, go ahead! Do it, Thomas." So, the fact that the one gospel says the woman held Him by the feet and worshipped Him, and in John's gospel Jesus said to Mary, "Touch Me not." "Naturally the Bible can't be the Word of God; it's just the confused writings of men."
If you'll look more carefully at what Jesus said in the Greek language, He said to Mary, "Mary, don't cling to Me." I can imagine that when Jesus said "Mary" and she cried out "Master!" that she fell upon Him and grabbed Him around the neck in a chokehold, as if to say, "You got away from me once, but You'll never get away from me again. I'm not letting go." And thus, He said, "Mary, don't cling to Me."
I'm not yet ascended to my Father: but go and tell my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and to your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her ( John 20:17-18 ).
Now, though Mary had come and told the disciples, "I've seen the Lord. He talked to me, He told me to come and tell you that He hasn't yet ascended to the Father," I would imagine that they must have just passed it off as the hysterics of an excited woman.
At this point, Thomas was not the only doubter. They were, all of them, pretty much still doubting at this point. In fact, the two disciples, you remember, who took off for Emmaus, according to Luke's gospel, and who were walking on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus joined with them, and He said unto them, "Hey, fellows, why do you look so sad?" Oh, here He is asking questions again. Doesn't He know anything? "What's wrong with you fellows?" They said, "You must be a stranger around here if you don't know the things that have been happening lately in Jerusalem." And again, Jesus asked a question, "What things?" You really don't think Jesus didn't know what had happened in Jerusalem? And they said unto Him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people." Both His deeds and words, a mighty prophet. "And how the chief priests and our own rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and have crucified Him, but we had trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel. And beside all this, it's the third day since these things were done. Yes, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, who went early to the sepulchre. When the found not His body, they came, saying that they also had seen a vision of angels which said He was alive. These ladies, they have visions of angels, and said He was alive! And certain of them which were with us," that is Peter and John, "they went to the sepulchre and found it even so as the women had said. But they didn't see Him." And he said unto them, "Oh, fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not the Messiah to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" You see, you still hadn't believed, though the women came and said, "Hey, we saw the angels," they said, "He's alive." Peter and John went; they found the tomb empty, but, you know, "no one's seen Him." Of course, at this point, they didn't have Mary Magdalene's story. They had taken off for Emmaus.
That same evening ( John 20:19 ),
Earlier in the afternoon, He appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And it is interesting to me the very first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was a woman. And He appeared to her who loved ?Him so much. Jesus said, "He who is forgiven much, loves much." And His response to Mary's weeping, His response to her love, was that she was the first one that He appeared to. Then to the other women who held His feet and worshipped Him. And then to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And now it's the evening. Jesus made a quicker trip back from Emmaus than the other two disciples, though I imagine that they were pretty fast getting back. "Then the same day at evening,"
being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you ( John 20:19 ).
The typical Jewish salutation of peace, shalom.
When he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side ( John 20:20 ).
Now, Jesus at this point still is bearing the marks of the cross. He showed them His hands, His side. "It's Me." When He is in heaven, He will still be bearing the marks of the cross, for in Revelation chapter 5, when the scroll is in the right hand of Him who is sitting upon the throne and the angel proclaims with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to take the scroll and loose the seals?" And John is weeping because "no one is found worthy in heaven and earth under the sea to take the scroll, or even to look thereon." The elders said unto John, "Behold, weep not, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has prevailed to take the scroll and loose the seals." And John said, "I turned and I saw Him as a lamb that had been slaughtered." Still the marks of the cross. Isaiah in chapter 52 tells us that all that look upon Him will be astonished, shocked, because His face has been so marred, you can't recognize Him as a human being. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, he tells us that "we, as it were, hid our face from Him." The idea being that His appearance was so shocking that you can't really stand to look. But then he goes on to say, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities." Now, when Jesus returns, He will still be bearing the marks, "for they shall look on Him whom they have pierced." How long will He bear these marks? I don't know; surely not all of eternity. For John sees Him in the book of Revelation in chapter 1 in that glory of the kingdom, and he describes that glorious vision of Christ in Revelation, chapter 1. But for a time, and I'm sure, as a shocking reminder to us of just what He was willing to endure in order to bring us salvation, your first view of Jesus is apt to be a very shocking experience. Just be prepared for it. So often, we think, "Oh, to look upon the face of Jesus," and we behold a perfect face. The Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star, fairer than ten thousand. But your first view is apt to be very shocking, as shockingly you are reminded how much God loves you, as you see what He was willing to endure to bring you salvation.
So, Jesus showed them His hands and His side.
And then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then Jesus said unto them again, [Shalom] Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you ( John 20:20-21 ).
"The Father sent Me." To what? "To serve, to give my life for others, so send I you." How? For what? To serve and to give yourself for others.
I cannot abide that teaching that declares that it is God's will that all of us be prosperous and healthy and, you know, "If you're not driving a Mercedes, it's because you lack faith. That it is never God's will for His children to suffer. God is never glorified by His children suffering." That is a denial of Jesus Christ and the cross. Surely it was God's will that He suffer for our sins. And Peter, writing his epistles said, "And those who suffer according to the will of God, just commit your souls unto Him as a faithful creator." But he speaks of suffering according to the will of God. Such a thing is indeed possible. And that doctrine that is being taught is scriptural garbage. "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." To give yourself, to serve; not to lord over people, but to give yourself.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit ( John 20:22 ):
"He breathed on them." It is interesting to me that the word for spirit in Hebrew is ruwach, which is the same Hebrew word for breath. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which is the Greek word for air. Pneumatic tires means tires that you fill with air. Pneuma--air. But it also the Greek word for spirit. So, in the Old Testament, when God formed man out of the dust of the earth, He breathed into man. Now, when the Hebrew scholars translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, which is known as the Septuagint, it's a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, done by seventy scholars some 200 years before Christ. When they made this Septuagint translation, the Greek word "breathed into man, and he became a living soul," is the same word that John uses here and it's the only place it's used in the New Testament. "Jesus breathed on them." Even as God breathed into that shell that He had formed out of the dust of the earth and man became a living spirit. But that spirit, you remember, died when man sinned and man lost fellowship with God. Now Jesus is restoring that which was lost by Adam, as He breathed in them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit, that life of God, that Spirit of God, that spiritual life." And so, that which was lost by Adam is now restored by Jesus Christ. The life of God within man, that God had breathed into man in the beginning now restored.
Jesus had said to His disciples just four nights earlier, "I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you." And I believe that when Jesus breathed on them, and they became, at that point, once more living spirits, restored as was Adam in fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. And I believe that that was the point when the Holy Spirit came into their lives.
Now, Jesus is going to be telling them, "Now you wait in Jerusalem, for in a few days the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. You're going to be empowered now by the Spirit, empowered now for your service for God. Now you wait until you get this endowment of power for service." But I believe, at this point, when He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," that there was the born again experience. There was where God's life was again placed into man, the Spirit of God. And man came by that Spirit into the union and fellowship with God.
Then Jesus said,
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained ( John 20:23 ).
Does this mean that Jesus gave His disciples the power to forgive sins?
When they had brought to Jesus a man who was bedfast as the result of palsy, you remember they tore up the roof and let him down in the midst of the room in front of Jesus? And Jesus said unto him, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." And the Pharisees among themselves said, "Oh, that's blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God?" They were correct in that statement. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus was only proving to them that He was God. They didn't recognize that. But their assumption was correct, only God can forgive sins.
You remember in the fifty-first Psalm, that penitent Psalm of David, after he had been faced by Nathan the prophet because of his sin with Bathsheba. "Have mercy unto me, Oh Lord, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out Thy transgression and hide this sin from my sight. For against Thee and Thee only have I sinned and done this great iniquity in Thy sight. Against Thee, Oh God, have I sinned." Sin is against God, and thus, God is the only one who can forgive sins.
Then what did Jesus mean when he said to His disciples, "Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted; whose soever sins you retain, they are retained"? I think that one of the most joyful experiences that a child of God has is to lead a person through the sinner's prayer. To me, it's always a joy to have a person who is come and says, "I want to receive Jesus Christ." And I'll say, "Alright, follow me in this prayer." And as we prayed that God would forgive our sins, and as we pray that the Holy Spirit would come and begin to indwell our lives, and that we might now have this new relationship with God as we just invite Him to come in and take over, in Jesus' name; when they say their "Amen," it's always a joy to me to be able to look them square in the eye and say unto them, "God has nothing against your account; you're completely forgiven, every sin you've ever committed." Oh, how I love to say that! What a thrill that gives to me to be able to say that to a person!
Now, on what basis do I say that? Because here I am, I have the power to say, "Hey, it's alright! Cancelled, man!"? No way! I make that statement on the basis of their confession by faith, that Jesus Christ is the Lord and they've invited Him to come in and be the Lord of their life. And upon the basis of what they have confessed with their mouths, and knowing that if we ask God anything in the name of Jesus, it will be done. And because they've asked the Lord in Jesus' name to forgive them and cleanse them of all of their sins, I can say according to the Word of God, "Your sins are forgiven!"
Now, if someone comes and says, "Well, I don't like Jesus Christ. I don't want to have anything to do with Him. He might cramp my style," I can't say to them, "That's alright, your sins are forgiven anyhow. I'm going to forgive them." No way! But to that person I can say, "Friend, one day, if you do not receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, you're going to have to stand before God and answer for your sin. And your sins are going to condemn you. You're still in your sin." And even if a person comes and says, "Well, I've done so many good deeds. Now, I know that I did some pretty bad stuff, but I've made up for it for all the good deeds that I've done." I say unto them, "Look, all of your good deeds cannot put away your guilt of sin; you're still guilty before God." "Well, I meditate and I go through my little thing." "You're still guilty before God. Until you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you're still guilty." And so, "Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted; whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained." But I only do that on the basis of what they have done or declare.
Now, there's a lot of times that people who have even gone through the sinner's prayer are still reluctant to believe the Word of God. "Oh, but I'm such a horrible wretch; I can't believe that God can just forgive me just that easy, just that simply. Surely there's something that I've got to do, because I was so horrible." But it's glorious to be able to just say, "No, there's nothing you can do, except what you've already done, and that is just to believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him as your Lord. Your sins are forgiven." And many times that word of faith to them is the thing that triggers their faith, and causes them to realize.
I went down one night to a lady who had come forward to receive Jesus Christ. And I said to her, "How do you feel now?" And she started crying and she said, "I still feel miserable. I still feel all of my guilt and I still feel miserable." And so, I went through, "Now have you asked Jesus Christ to come into your heart?" "Oh, yes." "Did you ask Him to forgive you of your sins?" "Oh, yes." I said, "Then, your sins are forgiven. God has nothing against you. Now, if I should suddenly come and give you a glorious, fabulous gift, what would be your response?" She said, "Oh, I would thank you." I said, "Alright. God has just given you a glorious, fabulous gift of eternal life. Don't you think you ought to thank Him?" And as she started thanking the Lord, hey, the old burden of sin rolled off and the joy of the Lord and the power of the Spirit just came upon her life in such a glorious way. Your sins are forgiven. I can declare that to a person on the basis of the Word of God and the confession of their faith.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called the twin ( John 20:24 ),
Didymus is twin, so Thomas evidently had a twin brother.
was not with them when Jesus came ( John 20:24 ).
Now, Thomas was a very practical sort. He was never one to pretend to believe something that he did not really believe. For instance, when Jesus was talking to His disciples that final night, He said unto them, "And if I go away, I'm going to come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." And Thomas said, "Wait a minute, Lord! We don't know where You're going and how can we know the way?" You see, he was never one to pretend to know something he doesn't really know, or believe something he doesn't really believe.
When Jesus was with His disciples down at the Jordan River, and they received word of Lazarus's illness and finally Jesus said, "Let's go that I might awake Lazarus out of his sleep." And the disciples said, "Lord, if he's sleeping, he's probably getting better." Jesus said, "No, he's really dead. But I'm glad for My sake I wasn't there, that you might really see the glory of God." And Thomas said, "Well, let's go and die with him."
Now the disciples said, "Hey, we've see Him. He showed us His hands, His side. We've seen Him. He's alive; He's risen." Thomas said,
Unless I see his hands in the print of the nails, and I put my finger into the print of the nails, and I thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe ( John 20:25 ).
"I've got to see it for myself." Now, you'd think that he would trust these guys. He had been around them for a long time. But Thomas was just the kind that's from Missouri, "You've got to show me."
After eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas was with them ( John 20:26 ):
Now, notice after eight days, they had gathered together on the first day of the week. Eight days later they were gathered together, which would have been the first day of the week again. And, it is believed that here is where the practice of gathering together on the first day of the week for worship actually began, right after the resurrection. That's how early Sunday became the day that the disciples gathered to worship the risen Lord, and thus, the church meets today on Sunday, rather than the Sabbath day, which is Saturday. The first two gatherings of the disciples were on the first day of the week. Eight days later would be the Sunday again, the first day of the week. They were gathered together again. This time,
the doors were shut, and Jesus stood in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you. Then he said to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing ( John 20:26-27 ).
This indicated that when Thomas was expressing his doubts, Jesus was right there listening to his expressions. For the first thing Jesus said, "Hey, Thomas, okay, you want to do it? Go ahead." Now, what Jesus was actually seeking to train the disciples at this point was that He was present with them even as He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." That He was present with them even though they did not see Him, and that is the consciousness He wants us to develop, the presence of Jesus with us. Though we do not see Him, He is with us always. And He wants us to be aware, to be conscious of His presence at all times. And so, He's training the disciples now in this very way that they will realize that He is present with them, though they don't see Him.
Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God ( John 20:28 ).
Thomas acknowledged Jesus as his God. John acknowledged Him as God, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God" ( John 1:1 ). Paul acknowledged Him as God, "For we look for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" ( Titus 2:13 ). And even God Himself acknowledged Him as God, for in Hebrews we read that God declared Him, actually, to be God. Speaking of Him, He said, "But unto the Son He saith, 'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness, the scepter of Thy kingdom" ( Hebrews 1:8 ). Now, the Jehovah Witnesses do not want to acknowledge Him as God. But if Thomas says, "My Lord and my God," and John said He is God, and Paul the apostle speaks to Him as God, and if God Himself calls Him God, then who am I to believe, the Jehovah Witnesses? I would rather believe God.
Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed ( John 20:29 ).
That's good, you see and you believe, that's alright. But hey, blessed are they who believe without seeing.
Now many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and that believing you might have life through his name ( John 20:30-31 ).
So, John was writing his gospel with a definite purpose in mind, and that is to make believers out of people. That's why this gospel was written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, or the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and by believing might have life in His name. That is why the gospel of John is the best thing you can put into the hands of a sinner to read. Encourage them to read the gospel of John, because God's Word will not return void. This gospel was written to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, in order that by their believing they might have life through Him.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/john-20.html. 2014.
F. Jesus’ resurrection 20:1-29
"If the Gospel of John were an ordinary biography, there would be no chapter 20. I am an incurable reader of biographies, and I notice that almost all of them conclude with the death and burial of the subject. I have yet to read one that describes the subject’s resurrection from the dead! The fact that John continued his account and shared the excitement of the Resurrection miracle is proof that Jesus Christ is not like any other man. He is, indeed, the Son of God." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:387.]
John viewed Jesus’ resurrection as part of His exaltation. Jesus’ exaltation would have been incomplete without His resurrection. Because of John’s viewpoint I have outlined the Resurrection as part of the passion ministry of Jesus even though in another sense Jesus’ passion ended with His death.
"For John, as for all the early Christians, the resurrection of Jesus was the immutable fact upon which their faith was based; and their faith in large part depended on the testimony and transformed behaviour of those who had actually seen the resurrected Jesus. Their Master was not in God’s eyes a condemned criminal; the resurrection proved that he was vindicated by God, and therefore none less than the Messiah, the Son of God he claimed to be [cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-17]." [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., pp. 631-32.]
"In each of the following [resurrection appearances] we will discover a pattern with the following features: (1) The beneficiaries of the appearance are engulfed in a human emotion (Mary, grief; the disciples, fear; and Thomas, doubt). (2) The risen Christ appears to them in the midst of their condition. (3) As a result, their condition is transformed (Mary, mission; the disciples, gladness; Thomas, faith)." [Note: R. Kysar, John, p. 299.]
"With Mary, the emphasis is on love; with the ten, the emphasis is on hope; and with Thomas, the emphasis is on faith." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:387.]
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2. The discovery of Mary Magdalene 20:10-18 (cf. Mark 16:9-11)
This is the first of four of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances that John included in his Gospel. It is very difficult to place these appearances in exact chronological order. The New Testament simply does not give enough detailed information to do so. Consequently the major value of the chart below is that it places the post-resurrection appearances that the New Testament writers mentioned in general chronological order.
|Jesus’ Post-resurrection Appearances|
|to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18)|
|to other women (Matthew 28:9-10)|
|to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)|
|to two disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-32)|
|Jesus’ Post-resurrection Appearances (cont.)|
|to about 12 disciples excluding Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19 - 23)|
|The following Sunday|
|to 11 disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)|
|The following 32 days|
|to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)|
|to 500 people including the Eleven at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)|
|to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)|
|to His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:7)|
|to His disciples on Mount Olivet (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)|
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Apparently Mary Magdalene had returned to the empty tomb after she had informed Peter and John about it. Perhaps she returned with them. The other women had evidently left by then. John presented her as lingering there after Peter and John departed. She was still grieving over the death and now the missing body of Jesus. She had not yet realized what John did. She then peered into the tomb for the second time (cf. Mark 16:5).
"I recall Proverbs 8:17 -’I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me. . . . Another verse comes to mind-Psalms 30:5, ’Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’" [Note: Ibid., 1:389.]
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BEWILDERED LOVE ( John 20:1-10 )
20:1-10 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary from Magdala came to the tomb; and she saw the stone taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them: "They have taken the Lord away from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they set out for the tomb. The two were running together. The other disciple ran on ahead faster than Peter, and he was the first to come to the tomb. He stooped down and he saw the linen clothes lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and he went into the tomb. He saw the linen clothes lying there and he saw the napkin, which had been upon Jesus' head, not lying with the rest of the linen clothes, but lying apart from them, still in its folds, by itself. So then, the other disciple, who had arrived first at the tomb, went in too, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they did not realize the meaning of scripture, that Jesus should rise from the dead. So the disciples went back to their lodgings.
No one ever loved Jesus so much as Mary Magdalene. He had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she could never forget. Tradition has always had it that Mary was a scarlet sinner, whom Jesus reclaimed and forgave and purified. Henry Kingsley has a lovely poem about her.
"Magdalen at Michael's gate
Tirled at the pin;
On Joseph's thorn sang the blackbird,
'Let her in! Let her in!'
'Hast thou seen the wounds?' said Michael,
'Knowest thou thy sin?'
'It is evening, evening,' sang the blackbird,
'Let her in! Let her in!'
'Yes, I have seen the wounds,
And I know my sin.'
'She knows it well, well, well,' sang the blackbird.
'Let her in! Let her in!'
'Thou bringest no offerings,' said Michael,
'Nought save sin.'
And the blackbird sang, 'She is sorry, sorry, sorry.'
'Let her in! Let her in!'
When he had sung himself to sleep,
And night did begin,
One came and opened Michael's gate,
And Magdalen went in."
Mary had sinned much and she loved much; and love was all she had to bring.
It was the custom in Palestine to visit the tomb of a loved one for three days after the body had been laid to rest. It was believed that for three days the spirit of the dead person hovered round the tomb; but then it departed because the body had become unrecognizable through decay. Jesus' friends could not come to the tomb on the Sabbath, because to make the journey then would have been to break the law. Sabbath is, of course, our Saturday, so it was on Sunday morning that Mary came to the tomb. She came very early. The word used for early is proi ( G4404) which was the technical word for the last of the four watches into which the night was divided, that which ran from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was still grey dark when Mary came, because she could no longer stay away.
When she arrived at the tomb she was amazed and shocked. Tombs in ancient times were not commonly closed by doors. In front of the opening was a groove in the ground; and in the groove ran a stone, circular like a cartwheel; and the stone was wheeled into position to close the opening. Further Matthew tells us that the authorities had actually sealed the stone to make sure that no one would move it ( Matthew 27:66). Mary was astonished to find it removed. Two things may have entered her mind. She may have thought that the Jews had taken away Jesus' body; that, not satisfied with killing him on a cross, they were inflicting further indignities on him. But there were ghoulish creatures who made it their business to rob tombs; and Mary may have thought that this had happened here.
It was a situation Mary felt that she could not face herself; so she returned to the city to seek out Peter and John. Mary is the supreme instance of one who went on loving and believing even when she could not understand; and that is the love and the belief which in the end finds glory.
THE GREAT DISCOVERY ( John 20:1-10 continued)
One of the illuminating things in this story is that Peter was still the acknowledged leader of the apostolic band. It was to him that Mary went. In spite of his denial of Jesus--and a story like that would not be long in being broadcast--Peter was still the leader. We often talk of Peter's weakness and instability, but there must have been something outstanding about a man who could face his fellow-men after that disastrous crash into cowardice; there must have been something about a man whom others were prepared to accept as leader even after that. His moment's weakness must never blind us to the moral strength and stature of Peter, and to the fact that he was a born leader.
So, then, it was to Peter and John that Mary went; and they immediately set out for the tomb. They went at a run; and John, who must have been a younger man than Peter since he lived on until the end of the century, outstripped Peter in this breathless race. When they came to the tomb, John looked in but went no farther. Peter with typical impulsiveness not only looked in, but went in. For the moment Peter was only amazed at the empty tomb; but things began to happen in John's mind. If someone had removed Jesus' body, if tomb-robbers had been at work, why should they leave the grave-clothes?
Then something else struck him--the grave-clothes were not dishevelled and disarranged. They were lying there still in their folds--that is what the Greek means--the clothes for the body where the body had been; the napkin where the head had lain. The whole point of the description is that the grave-clothes did not look as if they had been put off or taken off; they were lying there in their regular folds as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them. The sight suddenly penetrated to John's mind; he realized what had happened--and he believed. It was not what he had read in scripture which convinced him that Jesus had risen; it was what he saw with his own eyes.
The part that love plays in this story is extraordinary. It was Mary, who loved Jesus so much, who was first at the tomb. It was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved and who loved Jesus, who was first to believe in the Resurrection. That must always be John's great glory. He was the first man to understand and to believe. Love gave him eyes to read the signs and a mind to understand.
Here we have the great law of life. In any kind of work it is true that we cannot really interpret the thought of another person, unless between us and him there is a bond of sympathy. It is at once clear, for instance, when the conductor of an orchestra is in sympathy with the music of the composer whose work he is conducting. Love is the great interpreter. Love can grasp the truth when intellect is left groping and uncertain. Love can realize the meaning of a thing when research is blind. Once a young artist brought a picture of Jesus to Dore for his verdict. Dore was slow to give it; but at last he did so in one sentence. "You don't love him, or you would paint him better." We can neither understand Jesus nor help others to understand him, unless we take our hearts to him as well as our minds.
THE GREAT RECOGNITION ( John 20:11-18 )
20:11-18 But Mary stood weeping outside at the tomb. As she wept she stooped down, and looked into the tomb, and she saw two angels sitting there in white robes, one at the head, and the other at the feet of the place where Jesus' body had been lying. They said to her: "Woman, why are you crying?" She said to them: "Because they have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned round, and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her: "Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said to him: "Sir, if you are the man who has removed him, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her: "Mary!" She turned, and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" which means, "Master!" Jesus said to her: "Do not touch me! For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them that I am going to ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary of Magdala came to the disciples, telling them: "I have seen the Lord," and telling them what he had said to her.
Someone has called this story the greatest recognition scene in all literature. To Mary belongs the glory of being the first person to see the Risen Christ. The whole story is scattered with indications of her love. She had come back to the tomb; she had taken her message to Peter and John, and then must have been left behind in their race to the tomb so that by the time she got there, they were gone. So she stood there weeping. There is no need to seek for elaborate reasons why Mary did not know Jesus. The simple and the poignant fact is that she could not see him through her tears.
Her whole conversation with the person she thought to be the gardener shows her love. "If you are the man who has removed him, tell me where you have laid him." She never mentioned the name of Jesus; she thought everyone must know of whom she was thinking; her mind was so full of him that there was not anyone else for her in all the world. "I will take him away." How was her woman's strength to do that? Where was she going to take him? She had not even thought of these problems. Her one desire was to weep her love over Jesus' dead body. As soon as she had answered the person she took to be the gardener, she must have turned again to the tomb and so turned her back on Jesus. Then came his single word, "Mary!" and her single answer, "Master!" (Rabbouni ( G4462) is simply an Aramaic form of Rabbi ( G4461) ; there is no difference between the words).
So we see there were two very simple and yet very profound reasons why Mary did not recognize Jesus.
(i) She could not recognize him because of her tears. They blinded her eyes so that she could not see. When we lose a dear one, there is always sorrow in our hearts and tears shed or unshed in our eyes. But one thing we must always remember--at such a time our sorrow is in essence selfish. It is of our loneliness, our loss, our desolation, that we are thinking. We cannot be weeping for one who has gone to be the guest of God; it is for ourselves we weep. That is natural and inevitable. At the same time, we must never allow our tears to blind us to the glory of heaven. Tears there must be, but through the tears we should glimpse the glory.
(ii) She could not recognize Jesus because she insisted on facing in the wrong direction. She could not take her eyes off the tomb and so had her back to him. Again it is often so with us. At such a time our eyes are upon the cold earth of the grave; but we must wrench our eyes away from that. That is not where our loved ones are; their worn-out bodies may be there; but the real person is in the heavenly places in the fellowship of Jesus face to face, and in the glory of God.
When sorrow comes, we must never let tears blind our eyes to glory; and we must never fasten our eyes upon the grave and forget the heavens. Alan Walker in Everybody's Calvary tells of officiating at a funeral for people to whom the service "Was only a form, and who had neither Christian faith nor Christian connection. "When the service was over a young woman looked into the grave, and said brokenly: 'Goodbye, father.' It is the end for those who have no Christian hope." But for us at such a time, it is literally "Adieu!" "To God!" and it is literally "Until we meet again."
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS ( John 20:11-18 continued)
There is one very real difficulty in this passage. When the recognition scene is complete, at first sight, at all events, Jesus said to Mary: "Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." Just a few verses later we find him inviting Thomas to touch him ( John 20:27). In Luke we read of him inviting the terrified disciples: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see that I have" ( Luke 24:39). In Matthew's story we read that "they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him" ( Matthew 28:9). Even the form of John's statement is difficult. He makes Jesus say: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father," as if to say that he could be touched after he had ascended. No explanation of this is fully satisfying.
(i) The whole matter has been given a spiritual significance. It has been argued that the only real contact with Jesus does in fact come after his Ascension; that it is not the physical touch of hand to hand that is important, but the contact which comes through faith with the Risen and Ever-living Lord. That is certainly true and precious but it does not seem to be the meaning of the passage here.
(ii) It is suggested that the Greek is really a mistranslation of an Aramaic original. Jesus of course would speak in Aramaic, and not in Greek; and what John gives us is a translation into Greek of what Jesus said. It is suggested that what Jesus really said was: "Hold me not; but before I ascend to my Father go to my brethren and say to them..." It would be as if Jesus said: "Do not spend so long in worshipping me in the joy of your new discovery. Go and tell the good news to the rest of the disciples." It may well be that here we have the explanation. The Greek imperative is a present imperative, and strictly speaking ought to mean: "Stop touching me." It may be that Jesus was saying to Mary: "don't go on clutching me selfishly to yourself. In a short time I am going back to my Father. I want to meet my disciples as often as possible before then. Go and tell them the good news that none of the time that we and they should have together may be wasted." That would make excellent sense, and that in fact is what Mary did.
(iii) There is one further possibility. In the other three gospels, the fear of those who suddenly recognized Jesus is always stressed. In Matthew 28:10 Jesus' words are: "Do not be afraid." In Mark 16:8 the story finishes: "For they were afraid." In Luke 24:5 it is said that they were "frightened." In John's story as it stands there is no mention of this awe-stricken fear. Now, sometimes the eyes of the scribes who copied the manuscripts made mistakes, for the manuscripts were not easy to read. Some scholars think that what John originally wrote was not ME ( G3361) HAPTOU ( G680) , Do not touch me, but, ME ( G3361) PTOOU ( G4422) , Do not be afraid. (The verb PTOEIN ( G4422) means to flutter with fear.) In that case Jesus was saying to Mary: "Don't be afraid; I haven't gone to my Father yet; I am still here with you."
No explanation of this saying of Jesus is altogether satisfying, but perhaps the second is the best of the three which we have considered.
Whatever happened, Jesus sent Mary back to the disciples with the message that what he had so often told them was now about to happen--he was on his way to his father; and Mary came with the news, "I have seen the Lord."
In that message of Mary there is the very essence of Christianity, for a Christian is essentially one who can say: "I have seen the Lord." Christianity does not mean knowing about Jesus; it means knowing him. It does not mean arguing about him; it means meeting him. It means the certainty of experience that Jesus is alive.
THE COMMISSION OF CHRIST ( John 20:19-23 )
20:19-23 Late on that day, the first day of the week, when for fear of the Jews the doors had been locked in the place where the disciples were, Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said: "Peace be to you." And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced because they had seen the Lord. Jesus again said to them: "Peace to you. Even as the Father sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you remit the sins of any, they are remitted; if you retain them they are retained."
It is most likely that the disciples continued to meet in the upper room where the Last Supper had been held. But they met in something very like terror. They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jews who had compassed the death of Jesus, and they were afraid that their turn would come next. So they were meeting in terror, listening fearfully for every step on the stair and for every knock at the door, lest the emissaries of the Sanhedrin should come to arrest them too. As they sat there, Jesus was suddenly in their midst. He gave them the normal everyday eastern greeting: "Peace be to you." It means far more than: "May you be saved from trouble." It means: "May God give you every good thing." Then Jesus gave the disciples the commission which the Church must never forget.
(i) He said that as God had sent him forth, so he sent them forth. Here is what Westcott called "The Charter of the Church." It means three things.
(a) It means that Jesus Christ needs the Church which is exactly what Paul meant when he called the Church "the body of Christ" ( Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:12). Jesus had come with a message for all men and now he was going back to his Father. His message could never be taken to all men, unless the Church took it. The Church was to be a mouth to speak for Jesus, feet to run upon his errands, hands to do his work. Therefore, the first thing this means is that Jesus is dependent on his Church.
(b) It means that the Church needs Jesus. A person who is to be sent out needs someone to send him; he needs a message to take; he needs a power and an authority to back his message; he needs someone to whom he may turn when he is in doubt and in difficulty. Without Jesus, the Church has no message; without him she has no power; without him she has no one to turn to when up against it; without him she has nothing to enlighten her mind, to strengthen her arm, and to encourage her heart. This means that the Church is dependent on Jesus.
(c) There remains still another thing. The sending out of the Church by Jesus is parallel to the sending out of Jesus by God. But no one can read the story of the Fourth Gospel without seeing that the relationship between Jesus and God was continually dependent on Jesus' perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God's messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and love. It follows that the Church is fit to be the messenger and the instrument of Christ only when she perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate her message; she must be out to propagate the message of Christ. She must never be out to follow man-made policies; she must be out to follow the will of Christ. The Church fads whenever she tries to solve some problem in her own wisdom and strength, and leaves out of account the will and guidance of Jesus Christ.
(ii) Jesus breathed on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that, when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the old story of the creation of man. There the writer says: "And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" ( Genesis 2:7). This was the same picture as Ezekiel saw in the valley of dead, dry bones, when he heard God say to the wind: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain that they may live" ( Ezekiel 37:9). The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the wakening of life from the dead. When he comes upon the Church she is recreated for her task.
(iii) Jesus said to the disciples: "If you remit the sins of anyone, they are remitted; if you retain them, they are retained." This is a saying whose true meaning we must be careful to understand. One thing is certain--no man can forgive any other man's sins. But another thing is equally certain--it is the great privilege of the Church to convey the message of God's forgiveness to men. Suppose someone brings us a message from another, our assessment of the value of that message will depend on how well the bringer of the message knows the sender. If someone proposes to interpret another's thought to us, we know that the value of his interpretation depends on his closeness to the other.
The apostles had the best of all rights to bring Jesus' message to men, because they knew him best. If they knew that a person was really penitent, they could with absolute certainty proclaim to him the forgiveness of Christ. But equally, if they knew that there was no penitence in his heart or that he was trading on the love and the mercy of God, they could tell him that until his heart was altered there was no forgiveness for him. This sentence does not mean that the power to forgive sins was ever entrusted to any man or men; it means that the power to proclaim that forgiveness was so entrusted; along with the power to warn that forgiveness is not open to the impenitent. This sentence lays down the duty of the Church to convey forgiveness to the penitent in heart and to warn the impenitent that they are forfeiting the mercy of God.
THE DOUBTER CONVINCED ( John 20:24-29 )
20:24-29 But Thomas, who is called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him: "We have seen the Lord." He said to them: "Unless I see the print of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Eight days later the disciples were again in the room, and Thomas was with them. When the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said: "Peace be to you." Then he said to Thomas: "Stretch out your finger here, and look at my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side; and show yourself not faithless but believing." Thomas answered: "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him: "You have believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and who have believed."
To Thomas the Cross was only what he had expected. When Jesus had proposed going to Bethany, after the news of Lazarus' illness had come, Thomas' reaction had been: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" ( John 11:16). Thomas never lacked courage, but he was the natural pessimist. There can never be any doubt that he loved Jesus. He loved him enough to be willing to go to Jerusalem and die with him when the other disciples were hesitant and afraid. What he had expected had happened, and when it came, for all that he had expected it, he was broken-hearted, so broken-hearted that he could not meet the eyes of men, but must be alone with his grief.
King George the Fifth used to say that one of his rules of life was: "If I have to suffer, let me be like a well-bred animal, and let me go and suffer alone." Thomas had to face his suffering and his sorrow alone. So it happened that, when Jesus came back again, Thomas was not there; and the news that he had come back seemed to him far too good to be true, and he refused to believe it. Belligerent in his pessimism, he said that he would never believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had seen and handled the print of the nails in his hands and thrust his hand into the wound the spear had made in Jesus' side. (There is no mention of any wound-print in Jesus' feet because in crucifixion the feet were usually not nailed, but only loosely bound to the cross.)
Another week elapsed and Jesus came back again; and this time Thomas was there. And Jesus knew Thomas' heart. He repeated Thomas' own words, and invited him to make the test that he had demanded. And Thomas' heart ran out in love and devotion, and all he could say was: "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him: "Thomas, you needed the eyes of sight to make you believe; but the days will come when men will see with the eye of faith and believe."
The character of Thomas stands out clear before us.
(i) He made one mistake. He withdrew from the Christian fellowship. He sought loneliness rather than togetherness. And because he was not there with his fellow Christians he missed the first coming of Jesus. We miss a great deal when we separate ourselves from the Christian fellowship and try to be alone. Things can happen to us within the fellowship of Christ's Church which will not happen when we are alone. When sorrow comes and sadness envelops us, we often tend to shut ourselves up and refuse to meet people. That is the very time when, in spite of our sorrow, we should seek the fellowship of Christ's people, for it is there that we are likeliest of all to meet him face to face.
(ii) But Thomas had two great virtues. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand, or that he believed what he did not believe. There is an uncompromising honesty about him. He would never still his doubts by pretending that they did not exist. He was not the kind of man who would rattle off a creed without understanding what it was all about. Thomas had to be sure--and he was quite right. Tennyson wrote:
"There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds."
There is more ultimate faith in the man who insists on being sure than in the man who glibly repeats things which he has never thought out, and which he may not really believe. It is doubt like that which in the end arrives at certainty.
(ii) Thomas' other great virtue was that when he was sure, he went the whole way. "My Lord and my God!" said he. There was no halfway house about Thomas. He was not airing his doubts just for the sake of mental acrobatics; he doubted in order to become sure; and when he did, his surrender to certainty was complete. And when a man fights his way through his doubts to the conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord, he has attained to a certainty that the man who unthinkingly accepts things can never reach.
THOMAS IN THE AFTER DAYS ( John 20:24-29 continued)
We do not know for sure what happened to Thomas in the after days; but there is an apocryphal book called The Acts of Thomas which purports to give his history. It is of course only legend, but there may well be some history beneath the legend; and certainly in it Thomas is true to character. Here is part of the story which it tells.
After the death of Jesus the disciples divided up the world among them, so that each might go to some country to preach the gospel. India fell by lot to Thomas. (The Thomist Church in South India does trace its origin to him.) At first he refused to go, saying that he was not strong enough for the long journey. He said: "I am an Hebrew man; how can I go amongst the Indians and preach the truth?" Jesus appeared to him by night and said: "Fear not, Thomas, go thou unto India and preach the word there, for my grace is with thee." But Thomas still stubbornly refused. "Whither thou wouldest send me, send me," he said, "but elsewhere, for unto the Indians I will not go."
It so happened that there had come a certain merchant from India to Jerusalem called Abbanes. He had been sent by King Gundaphorus to find a skilled carpenter and to bring him back to India, and Thomas was a carpenter. Jesus came up to Abbanes in the market-place and said to him: "Wouldest thou buy a carpenter?" Abbanes said: "Yes." Jesus said, "I have a slave that is a carpenter, and I desire to sell him," and he pointed at Thomas in the distance. So they agreed on a price and Thomas was sold, and the agreement ran: "I, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, acknowledge that I have sold my slave, Thomas by name, unto thee Abbanes, a merchant of Gundaphorus, king of the Indians." When the deed was drawn up Jesus found Thomas and took him to Abbanes. Abbanes said: "Is this your master?" Thomas said: "Indeed he is." Abbanes said: "I have bought thee from him." And Thomas said nothing. But in the morning he rose early and prayed, and after his prayer he said to Jesus: "I will go whither thou wilt, Lord Jesus, thy will be done." It is the same old Thomas, slow to be sure, slow to surrender; but once his surrender is made, it is complete.
The story goes on to tell how Gundaphorus commanded Thomas to build a palace, and Thomas said that he was well able to do so. The king gave him money in plenty to buy materials and to hire workmen, but Thomas gave it all away to the poor. Always he told the king that the palace was rising steadily. The king was suspicious. In the end he sent for Thomas: "Hast thou built me the palace?" he demanded. Thomas answered: "Yes." "When, then, shall we go and see it?" asked the king. Thomas answered: "Thou canst not see it now, but when thou departest this life, then thou shalt see it." At first the king was very angry and Thomas was in danger of his life; but in the end the king too was won for Christ, and so Thomas brought Christianity to India.
There is something very lovable and very admirable about Thomas. Faith was never an easy thing for him; obedience never came readily to him. He was the man who had to be sure; he was the man who had to count the cost. But once he was sure, and once he had counted the cost, he was the man who went to the ultimate limit of faith and obedience. A faith like Thomas' is better than any glib profession; and an obedience like his is better than an easy acquiescence which agrees to do a thing without counting the cost and then goes back upon its word.
THE AIM OF THE GOSPEL ( John 20:30-31 )
20:30-31 Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which have not been written in this book. These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
It is quite clear that as the gospel was originally planned, it comes to an end with this verse. John 21:1-25 is to be regarded as an appendix and an afterthought.
No passage in the gospels better sums up the aim of the writers than this.
(i) It is quite clear that the gospels never set out to give a full account of the life of Jesus. They do not follow him from day to day but are selective. They give us, not an exhaustive account of everything that Jesus said or did, but a selection which shows what he was like and the kind of things he was always doing.
(ii) It is also clear that the gospels were not meant to be biographies of Jesus, but appeals to take him as Saviour, Master and Lord. Their aim was, not to give information, but to give life. It was to paint such a picture of Jesus that the reader would be bound to see that the person who could speak and teach and act and heal like this could be none other than the Son of God; and that in that belief he might find the secret of real life.
When we approach the gospels as history and biography, we approach them in the wrong spirit. We must read them, not primarily as historians seeking information, but as men and women seeking God.
On any view John 21:1-25 is a strange chapter. The gospel comes to an end with John 20:1-31; and then seems to begin again in John 21:1-25. Unless there had been certain very special things that he wanted to say, the man who put the gospel into its final form would never have added this chapter. We know that in John's gospel there are often two meanings, one which lies on the surface, and a deeper one which lies beneath. So, then, as we study this chapter, we will try to find out why it is so strangely added after the gospel seemed to have come to an end.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 20:11". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-20.html. 1956-1959.
Don’t foncus on the "grave" but on Jesus. Mary couldn’t see Jesus because of the tears.
This is the first of four of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances that John included in his Gospel.
|Jesus’ Post-resurrection Appearances627|
|to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18)|
|to other women (Matthew 28:9-10)|
|to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)|
|to two disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-32)|
|to about 12 disciples excluding Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23)|
|The following Sunday|
|to 11 disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)|
|The following 32 days|
|to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23)|
|to 500 people including the Eleven at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)|
|to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7)|
|to His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:7)|
|to His disciples on Mount Olivet (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)|
627 627. It is very difficult to place these appearances in exact chronological order. The New Testament simply does not give enough detailed information for us to do so. Consequently the major value of this chart is that it places the post-resurrection appearances that the New Testament writers mentioned in general chronological order.
Constable, T. (2003) Constable’s Notes
20:11 Apparently Mary Magdalene had returned to the empty tomb after she had informed Peter and John about it. Perhaps she returned with them. The other women had evidently departed by then. John presented her as lingering there after Peter and John had departed. She was still grieving over the death and now the missing body of Jesus. She had not yet realized what John did. She now peered into the tomb for the second time (cf. Mark 16:5).
“I recall Proverbs 8:17 — ’I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me. -- . Another verse comes to mind— Psalms 30:5, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’”628
- Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on John 20:11". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/john-20.html. 2021.
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre,.... She returned from the city to the sepulchre again, following Peter and John thither, who continued here when they departed, being willing to get some tidings of her Lord, if possible. The word "without", is omitted by the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, but is in the Greek copies; and is properly put by the evangelist, when rightly understood; for the meaning is not, that she stood without the sepulchre, taken in its full extent; for she stood, בחצר, "in the court", where the bearers set down the corpse, in order to carry it into the cave, or vault; she stood without the innermost part of the sepulchre, but not without side the sepulchre itself; as appears from her stooping and looking into it:
weeping; that the body of her dear Lord was taken away, and she was prevented of showing that respect unto it she designed; and not knowing in whose hands it was, but fearing it would be insulted and abused by wicked men, her heart was ready to break with sorrow:
and as she wept, she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre; to see if she could see him, if she and the disciples were not mistaken, being loath to go without finding him: so it is in a spiritual sense, the absence of Christ is cause of great distress and sorrow to gracious souls; because of the excellency of his person, the near and dear relations he stands in to them and on account of the nature of his presence and company, which is preferable to everything in this world; nor can such souls, when they have lost sight of Christ, sit down contented; but will seek after him in the Scriptures, under the ministry of the word, and at the ordinances of the Gospel, where a crucified, buried, risen Jesus is exhibited.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 20:11". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-20.html. 1999.
11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
St. Mark tells us that Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9); that appearance is here largely related; and we may observe,
I. The constancy and fervency of Mary Magdalene's affection to the Lord Jesus, John 20:11; John 20:11.
1. She staid at the sepulchre, when Peter and John were gone, because there her Master had lain, and there she was likeliest to hear some tidings of him. Note, (1.) Where there is a true love to Christ there will be a constant adherence to him, and a resolution with purpose of heart to cleave to him. This good woman, though she has lost him, yet, rather than seem to desert him, will abide by his grave for his sake, and continue in his love even when she wants the comfort of it. (2.) Where there is a true desire of acquaintance with Christ there will be a constant attendance on the means of knowledge. See Hosea 6:2; Hosea 6:3, The third day he will raise us up; and then shall we know the meaning of that resurrection, if we follow on to know, as Mary here.
2. She staid there weeping, and these tears loudly bespoke her affection to her Master. Those that have lost Christ have cause to weep; she wept at the remembrance of his bitter sufferings; wept for his death, and the loss which she and her friends and the country sustained by it; wept to think of returning home without him; wept because she did not now find his body. Those that seek Christ must seek him sorrowing (Luke 2:48), must weep, not for him, but for themselves.
3. As she wept, she looked into the sepulchre, that her eye might affect her heart. When we are in search of something that we have lost we look again and again in the place where we last left it, and expected to have found it. She will look yet seven times, not knowing but that at length she may see some encouragement. Note, (1.) Weeping must not hinder seeking. Though she wept, she stooped down and looked in. (2.) Those are likely to seek and find that seek with affection, that seek in tears.
II. The vision she had of two angels in the sepulchre, John 20:12; John 20:12. Observe here,
1. The description of the persons she saw. They were two angels in white, sitting (probably on some benches or ledges hewn out in the rock) one at the head, and the other at the feet, of the grave. Here we have,
(1.) Their nature. They were angels, messengers from heaven, sent on purpose, on this great occasion, [1.] To honour the Son and to grace the solemnity of his resurrection. Now that the Son of God was again to be brought into the world, the angels have a charge to attend him, as they did at his birth, Hebrews 1:6. [2.] To comfort the saints; to speak good words to those that were in sorrow, and, by giving them notice that the Lord was risen, to prepare them for the sight of him.
(2.) Their number: two, not a multitude of the heavenly host, to sing praise, only two, to bear witness; for out of the mouth of two witnesses this word would be established.
(3.) Their array: They were in white, denoting, [1.] Their purity and holiness. The best of men standing before the angels, and compared with them, are clothed in filthy garments (Zechariah 3:3), but angels are spotless; and glorified saints, when they come to be as the angels, shall walk with Christ in white. [2.] Their glory, and glorying, upon this occasion. The white in which they appeared represented the brightness of that state into which Christ was now risen.
(4.) Their posture and place: They sat, as it were, reposing themselves in Christ's grave; for angels, though they needed not a restoration, were obliged to Christ for their establishment. These angels went into the grave, to teach us not to be afraid of it, nor to think that our resting in it awhile will be any prejudice to our immortality; no, matters are so ordered that the grave is not much out of our way to heaven. It intimates likewise that angels are to be employed about the saints, not only at their death, to carry their souls into Abraham's bosom, but at the great day, to raise their bodies,Matthew 24:31. These angelic guards (and angels are called watchersDaniel 4:23), keeping possession of the sepulchre, when they had frightened away the guards which the enemies had set, represents Christ's victory over the powers of darkness, routing and defeating them. Thus Michael and his angels are more than conquerors. Their sitting to face one another, one at his bed's head, the other at his bed's feet, denotes their care of the entire body of Christ, his mystical as well as his natural body, from head to foot; it may also remind us of the two cherubim, placed one at either end of the mercy-seat, looking one at another, Exodus 25:18. Christ crucified was the great propitiatory, at the head and feet of which were these two cherubim, not with flaming swords, to keep us from, but welcome messengers, to direct us to, the way of life.
2. Their compassionate enquiry into the cause of Mary Magdalene's grief (John 20:13; John 20:13): Woman, why weepest thou? This question was, (1.) A rebuke to her weeping: "Why weepest thou, when thou has cause to rejoice?" Many of the floods of our tears would dry away before such a search as this into the fountain of them. Why are thou cast down? (2.) It was designed to show how much angels are concerned at the griefs of the saints, having a charge to minister to them for their comfort. Christians should thus sympathize with one another. (3.) It was only to make an occasion of informing her of that which would turn her mourning into rejoicing, would put off her sackcloth, and gird her with gladness.
3. The melancholy account she gives them of her present distress: Because they have taken away the blessed body I came to embalm, and I know not where they have laid it. The same story she had told, John 20:2; John 20:2. In it we may see, (1.) The weakness of her faith. If she had had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, this mountain would have been removed; but we often perplex ourselves needlessly with imaginary difficulties, which faith would discover to us as real advantages. Many good people complain of the clouds and darkness they are under, which are the necessary methods of grace for the humbling of their souls, the mortifying of their sins, and the endearing of Christ to them. (2.) The strength of her love. Those that have a true affection for Christ cannot but be in great affliction when they have lost either the comfortable tokens of his love in their souls or the comfortable opportunities of conversing with him, and doing him honour, in his ordinances. Mary Magdalene is not diverted from her enquiries by the surprise of the vision, nor satisfied with the honour of it; but still she harps upon the same string: They have taken away my Lord. A sight of angels and their smiles will not suffice without a sight of Christ and God's smiles in him. Nay, the sight of angels is but an opportunity of pursuing her enquiries after Christ. All creatures, the most excellent, the most dear, should be used as means, and but as means, to bring us into acquaintance with God in Christ. The angels asked her, Why weepest thou? I have cause enough to weep, says she, for they have taken away my Lord, and, like Micah, What have I more? Do you ask, Why I weep? My beloved has withdrawn himself, and is gone. Note, None know, but those who have experienced it, the sorrow of a deserted soul, that has had comfortable evidences of the love of God in Christ, and hopes of heaven, but has now lost them, and walks in darkness; such a wounded spirit who can bear?
III. Christ's appearing to her while she was talking with the angels, and telling them her case. Before they had given her any answer, Christ himself steps in, to satisfy her enquiries, for God now speaketh to us by his Son; none but he himself can direct us to himself. Mary would fain know where her Lord is, and behold he is at her right hand. Note, 1. Those that will be content with nothing short of a sight of Christ shall be put off with nothing less. He never said to the soul that sought him, Seek in vain. "Is it Christ that thou wouldest have? Christ thou shalt have." 2. Christ, in manifesting himself to those that seek him, often outdoes their expectations. Mary longs to see the dead body of Christ, and complains of the loss of that, and behold she sees him alive. Thus he does for his praying people more than they are able to ask or think. In this appearance of Christ to Mary observe,
(1.) How he did at first conceal himself from her.
[1.] He stood as a common person, and she looked upon him accordingly, John 20:14; John 20:14. She stood expecting an answer to her complaint from the angels; and either seeing the shadow, or hearing the tread, of some person behind her, she turned herself back from talking with the angels, and sees Jesus himself standing, the very person she was looking for, and yet she knew not that it was Jesus. Note, First, The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart (Psalms 34:18), nearer than they are aware. Those that seek Christ, though they do not see him, may yet be sure he is not far from them. Secondly, Those that diligently seek the Lord will turn every way in their enquiry after him. Mary turned herself back, in hopes of some discoveries. Several of the ancients suggest that Mary was directed to look behind her by the angels' rising up, and doing their obeisance to the Lord Jesus, whom they saw before Mary did; and that she looked back to see to whom it was they paid such a profound reverence. But, if so, it is not likely that she would have taken him for the gardener; rather, therefore, it was her earnest desire in seeking that made her turn every way. Thirdly, Christ is often near his people, and they are not aware of him. She knew not that it was Jesus; not that he appeared in any other likeness, but either it was a careless transient look she cast upon him, and, her eyes being full of care, she could not so well distinguish, or they were holden, that she should not know him, as those of the two disciples, Luke 24:16.
[2.] He asked her a common question, and she answered him accordingly, John 20:15; John 20:15.
First, The question he asked her was natural enough, and what any one would have asked her: "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? What business hast thou here in the garden so early? And what is all this noise and ado for?" Perhaps it was spoken with some roughness, as Joseph spoke to his brethren when he made himself strange, before he made himself known to them. It should seem, this was the first word Christ spoke after his resurrection: "Why weepest thou? I am risen." The resurrection of Christ has enough in it to ally all our sorrows, to check the streams, and dry up the fountains, of our tears. Observe here, Christ takes cognizance, 1. Of his people's griefs, and enquires, Why weep you? He bottles their tears, and records them in his book. 2. Of his people's cares and enquires, Whom seek you, and what would you have? When he knows they are seeking him, yet he will know it from them; they must tell him whom they seek.
Secondly, The reply she made him is natural enough; she does not give him a direct answer, but, as if she should say, "Why do you banter me, and upbraid me with my tears? You know why I weep, and whom I seek;" and therefore, supposing him to be the gardener, the person employed by Joseph to dress and keep his garden, who, she thought, was come thither thus early to his work, she said, Sir, if thou hast carried him hence, pray tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. See here, 1. The error of her understanding. She supposed our Lord Jesus to be the gardener, perhaps because he asked what authority she had to be there. Note, Troubled spirits, in a cloudy and dark day, are apt to misrepresent Christ to themselves, and to put wrong constructions upon the methods of his providence and grace. 2. The truth of her affection. See how her heart was set upon finding Christ. She puts the question to every one she meets, like the careful spouse, Saw you him whom my soul loveth? She speaks respectfully to a gardener, and calls him Sir, in hopes to gain some intelligence from him concerning her beloved. When she speaks of Christ, she does not name him; but, If thou have borne him hence, taking it for granted that this gardener was full of thoughts concerning this Jesus as well as she, and therefore could not but know whom she meant. Another evidence of the strength of her affection was that, wherever he was laid, she would undertake to remove him. Such a body, with such a weight of spices about it, was much more than she could pretend to carry; but true love thinks it can do more than it can, and makes nothing of difficulties. She supposed this gardener grudged that the body of one that was ignominiously crucified should have the honour to be laid in his master's new tomb, and that therefore he had removed it to some sorry place, which he thought fitter for it. Yet Mary does not threaten to tell his master, and get him turned out of his place for it; but undertakes to find out some other sepulchre, to which he might be welcome. Christ needs not to stay where he is thought a burden.
(2.) How Christ at length made himself known to her, and, by a pleasing surprise, gave her infallible assurances of his resurrection. Joseph at length said to his brethren, I am Joseph. So Christ here to Mary Magdalene, now that he is entered upon his exalted state. Observe,
[1.] How Christ discovered himself to this good woman that was seeking him in tears (John 20:16; John 20:16): Jesus saith unto her, Mary. It was said with an emphasis, and the air of kindness and freedom with which he was wont to speak to her. Now he changed his voice, and spoke like himself, not like the gardener. Christ's way of making himself known to his people is by his word, his word applied to their souls, speaking to them in particular. When those whom God knew by name in the counsels of his love (Exodus 33:12) are called by name in the efficacy of his grace, then he reveals his Son in them as in Paul (Galatians 1:16), when Christ called to him by name, Saul, Saul. Christ's sheep know his voice,John 10:4; John 10:4. This one word, Mary, was like that to the disciples in the storm, It is I. Then the word of Christ does us good when we put our names into the precepts and promises. "In this Christ calls to me, and speaks to me."
[2.] How readily she received this discovery. When Christ said, "Mary, dost thou not know me? are you and I grown such strangers?" she was presently aware who it was, as the spouse (Song of Solomon 2:8), It is the voice of my beloved. She turned herself, and said, Rabboni, My Master. It might properly be read with an interrogation, "Rabboni? Is it my master? Nay, but is it indeed?" Observe, First, The title of respect she gives Him: My Master; didaskale--a teaching master. The Jews called their doctors Rabbies, great men. Their critics tell us that Rabbon was with them a more honourable title than Rabbi; and therefore Mary chooses that, and adds a note of appropriation, My great Master. Note, Notwithstanding the freedom of communion which Christ is pleased to admit us to with himself, we must remember that he is our Master, and to be approached with a godly fear. Secondly, With what liveliness of affection she gives this title to Christ. She turned from the angels, whom she had in her eye, to look unto Jesus. We must take off our regards from all creatures, even the brightest and best, to fix them upon Christ, from whom nothing must divert us, and with whom nothing must interfere. When she thought it had been the gardener, she looked another way while speaking to him; but now that she knew the voice of Christ she turned herself. The soul that hears Christ's voice, and is turned to him, calls him, with joy and triumph, My Master. See with what pleasure those who love Christ speak of his authority over them. My Master, my great Master.
[3.] The further instructions that Christ gave her (John 20:17; John 20:17): "Touch me not, but go and carry the news to the disciples."
First, He diverts her from the expectation of familiar society and conversation with him at this time: Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended. Mary was so transported with the sight of her dear Master that she forgot herself, and that state of glory into which he was now entering, and was ready to express her joy by affectionate embraces of him, which Christ here forbids at this time. 1. Touch me not thus at all, for I am to ascend to heaven. He bade the disciples touch him, for the confirmation of their faith; he allowed the women to take hold of his feet, and worship him (Matthew 28:9); but Mary, supposing that he was risen, as Lazarus was, to live among them constantly, and converse with them freely as he had done, upon that presumption was about to take hold of his hand with her usual freedom. This mistake Christ rectified; she must believe him, and adore him, as exalted, but must not expect to be familiar with him as formerly. See 2 Corinthians 5:16. He forbids her to dote upon his bodily presence, to set her heart on this, or expect its continuance, and leads her to the spiritual converse and communion which she should have with him after he was ascended to his Father; for the greatest joy of his resurrection was that it was a step towards his ascension. Mary thought, now that her Master was risen, he would presently set up a temporal kingdom, such as they had long promised themselves. "No," says Christ, "touch me not, with any such thought; think not to lay hold on me, so as to detain me here; for, though I am not yet ascended, go to my brethren, and tell them, I am to ascend." As before his death, so now after his resurrection, he still harps upon this, that he was going away, was no more in the world; and therefore they must look higher than his bodily presence, and look further than the present state of things. 2. "Touch me not, do not stay to touch me now, stay not now to make any further enquiries, or give any further expressions of joy, for I am not yet ascended, I shall not depart immediately, it may as well be done another time; the best service thou canst do now is to carry the tidings to the disciples; lose no time therefore, but go away with all speed." Note, Public service ought to be preferred before private satisfaction. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Jacob must let an angel go, when the day breaks, and it is time for him to look after his family. Mary must not stay to talk with her Master, but must carry his message; for it is a day of good tidings, which she must not engross the comfort of, but hand it to others. See that story, 2 Kings 7:9.
Secondly, He directs her what message to carry to his disciples: But go to my brethren, and tell them, not only that I am risen (she could have told them that of herself, for she had seen him), but that I ascend. Observe,
a. To whom this message is sent: Go to my brethren with it; for he is not ashamed to call them so. (1.) He was now entering upon his glory, and was declared to be the Son of God with greater power than ever, yet he owns his disciples as his brethren, and expresses himself with more tender affection to them than before; he had called them friends, but never brethren till now. Though Christ be high, yet he is not haughty. Notwithstanding his elevation, he disdains not to own his poor relations. (b.) His disciples had lately carried themselves very disingenuously towards him; he had never seen them together since they all forsook him and fled, when he was apprehended; justly might he now have sent them an angry message: "Go to yonder treacherous deserters, and tell them, I will never trust them any more, or have any thing more to do with them." No, he forgives, he forgets, and does not upbraid.
b. By whom it is sent: by Mary Magdalene, out of whom had been cast seven devils, yet now thus favoured. This was her reward for her constancy in adhering to Christ, and enquiring after him; and a tacit rebuke to the apostles, who had not been so close as she was in attending on the dying Jesus, nor so early as she was in meeting the rising Jesus; she becomes an apostle to the apostles.
c. What the message itself is: I ascend to my Father. Two full breasts of consolation are here in these words:--
(a.) Our joint-relation to God, resulting from our union with Christ, is an unspeakable comfort. Speaking of that inexhaustible spring of light, life, and bliss, he says, He is my Father, and our Father; my God, and your God. This is very expressive of the near relation that subsists between Christ and believers: he that sanctifieth, and those that are sanctified, are both one; for they agree in one,Hebrews 2:11. Here we have such an advancement of Christians, and such a condescension of Christ, as bring them very near together, so admirably well is the matter contrived, in order to their union. [a.] It is the great dignity of believers that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is, in him, their Father. A vast difference indeed there is between the respective foundations of the relation; he is Christ's Father by eternal generation, ours by a gracious adoption; yet even this warrants us to call him, as Christ did, Abba, Father. This gives a reason why Christ called them brethren, because his Father was their Father. Christ was now ascending to appear as an advocate with the Father--with his Father, and therefore we may hope he will prevail for any thing--with our Father, and therefore we may hope he will prevail for us. [b.] It is the great condescension of Christ that he is pleased to own the believer's God for his God: My God, and your God; mine, that he may be yours; the God of the Redeemer, to support him (Psalms 89:26), that he might be the God of the redeemed, to save them. The summary of the new covenant is that God will be to us a God; and therefore Christ being the surety and head of the covenant, who is primarily dealt with, and believers only through him as his spiritual seed, this covenant-relation fastens first upon him, God becomes his God, and so ours; we partaking of a divine nature, Christ's Father is our Father; and, he partaking of the human nature, our God is his God.
(b.) Christ's ascension into heaven, in further prosecution of his undertaking for us, is likewise an unspeakable comfort: "Tell them I must shortly ascend; that is the next step I am to take." Now this was intended to be, [a.] A word of caution to these disciples, not to expect the continuance of his bodily presence on earth, nor the setting up of his temporal kingdom among men, which they dreamed of. "No, tell them, I am risen, not to stay with them, but to go on their errand to heaven." Thus those who are raised to a spiritual life, in conformity to Christ's resurrection, must reckon that they rise to ascend; they are quickened with Christ that they may sit with him in heavenly places,Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:6. Let them not think that this earth is to be their home and rest; no, being born from heaven, they are bound for heaven; their eye and aim must be upon another world, and this must be ever upon their hearts, I ascend, therefore must I seek things above. [b.] A word of comfort to them, and to all that shall believe in him through their word; he was then ascending, he is now ascended to his Father, and our Father. This was his advancement; he ascended to receive those honours and powers which were to be the recompence of his humiliation; he says it with triumph, that those who love him may rejoice. This is our advantage; for he ascended as a conqueror, leading captivity captive for us (Psalms 68:18), he ascended as our forerunner, to prepare a place for us, and to be ready to receive us. This message was like that which Joseph's brethren brought to Jacob concerning him (Genesis 45:26), Joseph is yet alive, and not only so, vivit imo, et in senatum venit--he lives, and comes into the senate too; he is governor over all the land of Egypt; all power is his.
Some make those words, I ascend to my God and your God, to include a promise of our resurrection, in the virtue of Christ's resurrection; for Christ had proved the resurrection of the dead from these words, I am the God of Abraham,Matthew 22:32. So that Christ here insinuates, "As he is my God, and hath therefore raised me, so he is your God, and will therefore raise you, and be your God, Revelation 21:3. Because I live, you shall live also. I now ascend, to honour my God, and you shall ascend to him as your God.
IV. Here is Mary Magdalene's faithful report of what she had seen and heard to the disciples (John 20:18; John 20:18): She came and told the disciples, whom she found together, that she had seen the Lord. Peter and John had left her seeking him carefully with tears, and would not stay to seek him with her; and now she comes to tell them that she had found him, and to rectify the mistake she had led them into by enquiring after the dead body, for now she found it was a living body and a glorified one; so that she found what she sought, and, what was infinitely better, she had joy in her sight of the Master herself, and was willing to communicate of her joy, for she knew it would be good news to them. When God comforts us, it is with this design, that we may comfort others. And as she told them what she had seen, so also what she had heard; she had seen the Lord alive, of which this was a token (and a good token it was) that he had spoken these things unto her as a message to be delivered to them, and she delivered it faithfully. Those that are acquainted with the word of Christ themselves should communicate their knowledge for the good of others, and not grudge that others should know as much as they do.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 20:11". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/john-20.html. 1706.
In John 15:1-27 our Lord substitutes Himself for Israel, as the plant of God, responsible to bear fruit for Him on earth (not merely for man, as such, openly sinful and lost). He takes the place of that which most put itself forward as being according to God here below. As our Lord Himself said (in John 4:1-54), "Salvation is of the Jews:" this place of privilege and promise made their actual condition so much the guiltier. Our Lord, therefore, sets aside openly, and for ever, as regards those that He was now calling out of the world, all connection with Israel. "I am the true vine," He says. We all know that Israel of old is called the vine the vine that the Lord had brought out of Egypt. But Israel was empty, fruitless, false: Christ was the only true vine. Whatever might be the responsibility of Israel, whatever their boasted privileges (and they really were much every way), whatever the associations and hopes of the chosen people, all outside Christ had fallen under the power of the adversary. The only blessing for a soul now was found in Christ Himself; and so He opens the discourse (or, as we saw, closes what went before) with "Rise up: let us go hence." There was an abandonment, not only for Himself, but for them, of all connection with nature, or the world, even in their religion. It was Christ now, or nothing. As in the beginning of John 13:1-38, He had risen up anticipatively as a sign of His work for them on high; so here He calls them to quit all their earthly belongings with Himself; they were now definitively done with. Thus we have the Lord taking now the place substitutionally of all that had exercised religious power over their spirits. It was now proved to be neither a blessing nor even safety for a soul on earth.
"I," He says, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." He puts Himself in the place of all to which they had been attached and belonged here below, and the Father in lieu of Almighty God, or the Jehovah of Israel. So had He been known. to the fathers and the children of Israel; but it was His Father, as such, to whose care He commends them now. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit;" for fruit was what God looked for, not merely acts or obligations, but bearing fruit: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." This is the general statement. There is a two-fold dealing with those who took the place of being branches of the true vine. Where no fruit was borne, there was judgment in excision; where fruit appeared, purging followed, that there might be more.
The Lord applies this truth particularly: "Already ye are clean through the word that I have spoken to you. Exhortation follows in verses 4, 5; the results distinctively for "a man," for any one ( τις ) who does not abide, and for the disciples who do, are found respectively in verse 6, and in verses 7, 8.
In this chapter it is never simply a question of divine grace saving sinners, blotting out iniquities, remembering sins and transgressions no more; but the power of the word is morally applied to judge whatever is contrary to God's character displayed in Christ, or, rather, to the Father's will revealed in Him. No standard less than this could be entertained, now that Christ was revealed. They then (for Judas was gone) were already clean through the word Christ had spoken to them. The law of Moses, divine as it was, would not suffice: it was negative; but Christ's word is positive. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." It is not what God is in grace towards those that are outside Him and lost, but the appraisal of the ways of those associated with Christ, the dealings of God, or more strictly of His Father, with those who professed to belong to the Lord. I say "professed," because it is to me evident that He does not contemplate in His view those exclusively who really had life everlasting. Still less do branches of the vine mean the same thing as members of Christ's body, but His followers, who might even abandon Him, as some in the earliest days walked no more with Him. This alone explains our chapter, without forcing it.
The Lord, then, has in view those who then surrounded Him, already branches in the vine, and, of course, in principle, all that should follow, including those that would nominally, and at first to all appearance really, abandon Israel and all things for Him. It was no light matter, but one of much seriousness; and surely, therefore, if a man did thus come out from all that claimed his affections and conscience, from his religion; in short, if a man came out at the cost of every thing, finding most of all foes in those of his own household, there was that which presumed sincerity of conduct, but had still to be proved. The proof would be abiding in Christ. There is no word more characteristic of John than the very word "abiding," and this in the way both of grace and of government. Here it is the disciples put to the proof. For Christianity is the revelation, not of a dogma, but of a person who has wrought redemption; doubtless, also, of a person in whom is life, and who gives it. Thence flows a new sort of responsibility; and a very important thing it is to see this most strikingly kept up in him, who, of all the evangelists, most strongly brings in the absolute unconditional love of God. Take the early part of the gospel, where the gift of Jesus in divine love, the sending Him into the world not to judge, but to save, makes known what God is to a lost world. There we have grace without a single thought of any thing on man's part, save the depth of need. "For God," He says, "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) But here the ground is different. We see those who had come out to Christ from all that they had previously valued in the earth. Alas! flesh is capable of imitating faith; it can go a long way in religiousness, and in renunciation of the profane world. Soon there would be multitudes who would come out from Israel and be baptized unto Christ; but still they must be fully tested. None would stand by baptism, or by any other ordinance, but by abiding in Christ.
"Abide in me, and I in you." Here He always puts man's part first, because it is a question, as we have seen, of responsibility; where it is the grace of God, His part is first necessarily, and, further, it necessarily abides. Whereas, if man's responsibility is before us, it is evident that there can be no necessary permanence here: all turns on dependence on Him who always abides the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Thus the reality of God's work in the soul proves itself, so to speak, by continual looking and clinging to Christ. In verse 4 it is not, "Except I abide in you," but, "Except ye abide in me."
"I am the vine, and ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (Verse 5) It is not here believing, but "doing," though faith be the spring, of course. The Lord would have us bear much fruit, and the only way in which fruit is to be borne is by abiding in Him in whom we believe. What can be a weightier consideration for us, after receiving Christ! Do you go after some other thing or person in order to bear fruit? The result in God's sight is bad fruit.
Thus Christ is not only everlasting life to the soul that believes in Him, but He is the only source of fruit-bearing, all the course through, for those that have received Him. The secret is the heart occupied with Him, the soul dependent on Him, Himself the object in all trials, difficulties, and duties even; so that, though a given thing be a duty, it be not done now barely as such, but with Christ before the eye of faith. But where there is not a life exercised in self-judgment and in enjoyment of Christ. as well as prayer, men get tired of this; they turn away from Him to the nostrums of the day, whether novel or antique, moral or intellectual. They find their attraction in religious feelings, experiences, frames, or visions; in imagining some new good self, or in anatomizing the old bad self; in sacerdotalism, ordinances, or legalism, of one sort or another. Thus they really return, in some shape or degree, to the false vine, instead of cleaving to the true. They lose themselves thus. It may even be a slip back into the world, into the open enemy of the Father; for this is no uncommon result, where there is for a time an abandonment of the old fleshly vine, the religion of ordinances, of human effort, and of assumed privilege. All this was found in its fulness and apparent perfection in Israel; but it was now discovering its utter hopeless hollowness and antagonism to the mind of God; and this was manifested, as we shall find later on in this chapter, in their causeless hatred of the Father and the Son. Christ is ever the test, and this the close declares, as much as the beginning sets Him forth as the only power of preparing for, and producing fruit.
This appears again in the sixth verse, and remarkably too: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch." Apply such language to life everlasting, or, still more, to union with Christ, and there is nothing but endless confusion. Where Scripture speaks of union with Christ, or, again, of life in Him, you never have such a thought as a member of Christ cut off, or one that had eternal life losing it. It is very possible that some who have accurate knowledge might give it, or plunge into all; and this is what Peter speaks of in his second epistle. There is no preservative energy in knowledge ever so full. Such might allow stumbling-blocks, disappointments, etc., to hinder their following Christ, and so practically abandon what they know, the result of which would be the surest and most disastrous ruin. They are worse even than before. So Jude speaks of men twice dead; and, in fact, experience proves that men who have no life in Christ, after having professed awhile, become fiercer adversaries, if not grosser sinners, against the Lord than before any such profession was made.
This is the case our Lord describes here: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." It was one who had come out from the world, and had followed Christ. But there was no attraction of heart, no power of faith, and consequently no dependence on Christ; and this is the Lord's sentence pronounced on all such, whether in that day or in any other.
On the other hand, He says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Not only is the heart occupied with Christ, but also His words weigh there. The Old Testament alone would not suffice. It had been used of God when there was nothing more. Blessed of God at all times it would surely be; and he that valued Christ's words would never slight those that witnessed of Christ before He came. But the soul that would make light of the words of Christ, or do without them, after they were communicated, would evince its own faithlessness. The Christian that really prizes the word of God in the Old Testament would still more set his heart on that in the New. He that had no more than a naturally reverent attachment to the law and the prophets, without faith, would prove his real condition by inattention to Christ's words. Thus, to this day, the Jews are themselves the great witness of the truth of our Lord's warning. They are clinging to the empty vine; and so all their religious profession is as empty before God. They may seem to cleave to the words of Moses, but it is mere human tenacity, not divine faith: else the words of Christ would be welcome above all. As the Lord had told them at an earlier moment, had they believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. for Moses wrote of Christ: in truth, there was no divine persuasion as to either. Again, the great test now is Christ's words abiding in us. Old truth, even though equally of God as the new, ceases to be a test when new truth is given and refused, or slighted; and the same thing is true not merely of God's word as a whole, but of a particular truth, when God reawakens it at any given time for the actual exigency of the Church or of His work. It is vain, for instance, to fall back now on the principles put forward and acted on two or three hundred years ago. Of course it is right and of God to hold fast all He gave at any time; but if there be real faith, it will be found out ere long that the Holy Ghost has before Him the present need for the Lord's glory in the Church; and those that have real confidence in His power will not merely hold fast the old but accept the new, in order so much the more to walk in communion with Him who ever watches and works for the name of Christ and the blessing of His saints.
In this case, however, it is the larger subject the all-importance of Christ's words abiding in us: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you." There is first the person, then the expression of His mind. Prayer follows: "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." It is not prayer first (for this should not take the place either of Christ or of intelligence in His mind), but Christ Himself, the prime object; then His words, as forming fully the heart, according to His thoughts and will; and, lastly, the going out of the heart to the Father, on the ground both of Christ and of His revealed mind, with the annexed assurance that so it should come to pass for them. (Verse 7)
The prayer of Christians is often far from this. How many prayers are there where nothing seems to be done! This way be true, not merely of poor failing souls, such as any of us here; but even an apostle might find the same thing in his course, and God Himself be the witness of it. Indeed, the apostle Paul is the chronicler of the fact to us, that his prayers were not always in this communion. We know he besought the Lord thrice to take away that which was an immense trial to him, making him despicable in the eyes of the less spiritual. We can understand this: nothing is more natural; but, for that very reason, it was not all in the power of the Spirit of God, with Christ as the first object. He was thinking of himself, of his brethren, and of the work; but God graciously brought him to Christ, as the One sustained and sustaining object to abide in Him, as it is said here, and to have Christ's words abiding in himself, and then all the resources of God were at his command. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (Compare also Philippians 4:6-13) It is only so that there is the certainty of the answer, at least, of what we ask being done.
The object is to show how God the Father answers and acts in accordance with those who are thus practically associated in heart with Christ. And so it is written, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples." (Verse 8) "Disciples," be it noted; for we must carefully bear in mind that we have not the Church as such here, and, indeed, we have never the Church, strictly speaking, in John. The reason is manifest, because the object of this gospel is not to point out Christ in heaven, but God manifesting Himself in Christ on the earth. I do not mean that we have no allusion to His ascent or presence there; for we have seen that there is here some such allusion, especially when the Holy Ghost replaces Him here, and we shall have it repeatedly in what follows. At the same time, the main testimony of John is not so much Christ as man in heaven, but God in Him manifest on the earth. It is evident that, He being the Son, the special place of privilege found in the gospel of John is that of children not members of Christ's body, but sons of God, as receiving and associated with the Son, the only-begotten Son of the Father.
Here He speaks of them as disciples; for, in point of fact, the relationship of which John 15:1-27 speaks was already true. They had already come to Christ; they had forsaken all to follow Him, and were then around Him. He was the Vine now and here. It was not a new place He was going to enter. They, too, were branches then, and more than that, they were clean through the word He had spoken to them. Not that they were then cleansed by blood, but, at least, they were born of water and of the Spirit. They had this cleansing, this moral operation, of the Spirit wrought in their souls. They were bathed or washed all over, and henceforth needed not save to wash their feet.
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue [abide] ye in my love." (Ver. 9) It is all a question of the Father's government and the disciples' responsibility; not of a people having to do with a governor nationally, as Jehovah was to Israel, but of Christ's disciples in relation with the Father, according to the revelation of Himself in Christ. Nor is it here His grace delivering souls, but, what is true along with that, the full maintenance of individual responsibility, according to the manifestation of His nature and relationship in Christ here below. Thus, as compared with the past, the standard is raised immensely. For when once God had brought out Christ, He neither could nor would go back to anything less. It is not merely that He could not own anything short of Christ as a means of salvation, because this is always true; and never was any one brought to God at any time since the world began save by Christ, however scanty the testimony or partial the knowledge of Him. Under the law there was, comparatively speaking, little or no acquaintance with His work as a distinct thing, nor could there be, perhaps (at any rate there was not), even after He came, till the work was done. But here we have God's ways and character as manifested in Christ, and nothing less than this would suit His disciples, or be agreeable to the Father. As already remarked, the application of this to life everlasting only induces contradiction. Thus, if we suppose that the subject of the chapter is, e.g., life or union with Christ, just see into what difficulties this false start plunges one at once: all would be made conditional, and those united to Christ might be lost. "If ye keep my commandments" what has that to do with life eternal in Christ? Does union with Christ, does life eternal, depend on keeping His commandments? Clearly not; yet there is a meaning, and a most weighty meaning for those that belong to Christ, in these words. Apply them, not to grace but to government, and all is plain and sure and consistent.
The meaning is, that it is impossible to produce fruit for the Father, impossible to keep up the enjoyment of Christ's love, unless there be obedience, and this to Christ's commandments. I repeat, that he who values the Master will not despise the servant; but there are many who do acknowledge their responsibility to the law of Moses without appreciating and obeying the words of Christ. He that loves Christ will enjoy all truth, because Christ is the truth. He will cherish every expression of God's mind; he will find guidance in the law, the prophets, the psalms everywhere; and so much the more where there is the fullest revelation of Christ Himself. Christ is the true light. Therefore, as long as Christ is not the One in and through whose light the Scriptures, whether old or new, are read, a man is but groping his way in the dark. When he sees and believes in the Son, there is for him a sure way through the wilderness, and also a bright way in the word of God. The darkness passes away; bondage is no more; there is no condemnation, but, on the contrary, life, light, and liberty; but, at the same time, it is a liberty used in the sense of responsibility to please our God and Father, measured by the revelation of Himself in Christ.
So the Lord says, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." The consequence is, that where there is carelessness in one who belongs to Christ, in a living, branch of the vine, the Father as the husbandman deals in purging judgment. Where habitual obedience is found, there is habitual enjoyment of Christ's love. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Supposing that for a time there is a departure from Christ, what is the effect of it? No matter how really a man may be a child of God, he is miserable; the more real, the more miserable. One that had not a conscience exercised before God might sleep over sin and accustom himself to evil for a while; and an unreal disciple would grow. tired of carrying on the profession of Christ along with indulged evil; nor would God allow it to go beyond a certain point as an ordinary rule. But for a saint, true-hearted in the main, nothing is more certain than that Christ would deal with him, and that he would lose meanwhile all sense of the love of Christ as a present practical thing. It is a matter of communion, not of salvation. And surely it ought to be so, and we would not desire it to be otherwise. Who would desire an unreal thing the keeping up an appearance, the parade of words and sentiments beyond the heart's state? There is nothing more calamitous for a soul than to be going on badly, and withal keeping up a vain, exaggerated semblance of feeling, where there is a scanty answer to it within.
With the enjoyment of Christ's love, then, goes obedience; and where the disciple fails in obedience, there cannot be a real abiding in His love. Here it is not a question of love everlasting, but of present communion. He only abides in Christ's love who walks in His will faithfully. We must discriminate in the love of Christ. Unconditionally, of pure grace, He loved them that were His. Again, there was love, in a broad sense even for those that were not His, as we have seen more than once. Besides, there is the special personal love of approbation for him who is walking in the ways of God.
Some there are a little sensitive on these subjects. They do not like to hear, save of eternal love of the elect; and certainly, if this were weakened or denied, they might have reason to resent it. But as it is there cannot be a more painful proof of their own state. The reason why they cannot bear this farther truth is because it condemns them. If these things are in Scripture, (and deny them who dares?) our business is to submit; our duty is to seek to understand them; our wisdom is to correct and challenge ourselves, if peradventure we find insubjection within us to anything that concerns Him and our own souls. Not to speak of Christ, even on the lowest ground, we are depriving ourselves of what is good and profitable. What, indeed, can be more ruinous than putting aside that which condemns any state in which we find ourselves?
I need not enter into all the details of our chapter, though I have rather minutely gone over it thus far, believing it to be of special importance, because it is so much and generally misunderstood. Here the Lord presents Himself as the only source, not of life, as elsewhere, but of fruit-bearing for disciples, or His professed followers. What He shows is, that they need Him just as much for every day as for eternity; that they need Him for the fruit the Father expects from them now, just as much as for a title to heaven. Hence He speaks of that which pertains to a disciple on the earth; and accordingly the Lord speaks of having Himself kept His Father's commandments, and of His own abiding in His love; for, indeed, He had ever been here below the dependent man, to whom the Father was the moral source of the life He lived; and so He would have us now to live because of Himself.
I entreat any who have misread this chapter to examine thoroughly what I am now urging on my hearers. It is incalculable the quantity of scripture that is passed over without distinct exercise of faith. Souls receive it in a general way; and too often one reason why it is received so easily is, because they do not face the truth, and their conscience is not exercised by it. If they thought, weighed, and let into their souls the real truth conveyed, they might at first be startled, but the way and the end would be blessed to them. What a return for these wondrous communications of Christ, just to slip over them perfunctorily, without making the light our own! Our Lord then clearly shows that He, as man here below, had Himself walked under the government of His Father. It was not merely that He was born of a woman, born under the law, but, as He says here, "Even as I have kept my Father's commandments." It went much farther than the ten words, or all the rest of the law; it embraced every expression of the Father's authority, from whatever quarter it came. And as He could not but perfectly keep His Father's commandments, He abode in His love. As the eternal Son of the Father, of course He was ever loved of the Father; as laying down His life (John 10:1-42), He was therefore loved of His Father; but, besides, in all His earthly path, He kept His Father's commandments, and abode in His love. The Father, looking upon the Son as man walking here below, never found the slightest deflection; but, on the contrary, the perfect image of His own will in Him who, being the Son, made known and glorified the Father as He never was nor could be by any other. This was not simply as God, but rather as the Man Christ Jesus here below. I admit that, being such an One, there could be no failure. To suppose I will not say the fact, but the possibility even, of a flaw in Christ, either as God or as man, proves that he who admits the thought has no faith in His person. There could be none. Still, the trial was made under the most adverse circumstances; and He who, though God Himself, was at the same time man, walked as man perfectly, as truly as He was perfect man; and thus the Father's love rested governmentally upon Him fully, unwaveringly, absolutely in all His ways.
Now we, too, are placed upon the true ground as the disciples, strictly speaking, who were then there; but, of course, the same principle applies to all.
Another thing comes in after this. Gathered round Christ, the disciples were called on by Christ to love one another. (Ver. 12) Loving one's neighbour was not the point now; nor is it so here. Of course, loving one's neighbour abides always, but this, no matter how accomplished, ought not to be enough for a disciple of Christ. Such a demand was right and seasonable for a man in the flesh for a Jew especially; but it could not suffice for the heart of a Christian, and, in fact, he who denies this, quarrels with the Lord's own words. A Christian, I repeat, is not absolved from loving his neighbour nobody means that, I trust; but what I affirm is, that a Christian is called to love his fellow Christian in a new and special manner, exemplified and formed by the love of Christ; and I cannot but think that he who confounds this with love to his neighbour has a great deal to learn about Christ, and Christianity too.
The Lord evidently introduces it as a new thing. "This is my commandment." It was His commandment specially. He it was that first gathered the disciples. They were a distinct company from Israel, though not yet baptized into one body; but they were gathered by Christ, and round Himself, severed from the rest of the Jews so far. "This is my commandment, that ye love one another." But according to what measure? "As I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Shall I be told that any man ever loved, before Christ came into the world, as He loved? If a man will be ignorant, let him be ignorant, and show his unbelief by such an assertion, if he will. Now I say that there is a love looked for, such as could only be since Christ manifested it, and that His love fills and fashions after its own nature and direction. The disciples were now to love one another according to the pattern of Him who laid down His life for them as His friends. Indeed, He died for them when they were enemies; but this is out of sight here. They were His friends, if they did whatever He commanded them. (Ver. 14) He called them friends, not slaves; for the slave knows not what his master does; but He called them friends, for He made them His confidants in all He had heard of His Father. They had not chosen Him, but He them, and set them to go and bear fruit, abiding fruit, that He might give them whatsoever they asked the Father in His name. 'These things I command you, that ye love one another." (Verses 15-17)
And truly they would need the love of one another, as Christ loved them. They had become objects of the hatred of the world. (Verses 18, 19) The Jews knew no such experience. They might be disliked of the Gentiles. They were a peculiar people, no doubt, and the nations could ill brook a small nation raised to such a conspicuous place, whose law condemned them and their gods. But the disciples were to have the hatred of the world, of the Jew as much or more than of the Gentile. They had this indeed already, and they must make up their minds to it from the world. The love of Christ was on them, and, working in them and by them, would make them the objects of the world's hatred, and after that sort which He had Himself known. As He says here: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." I refer to this for the purpose of showing, that the revelation of Christ has brought in not merely a total change in the consciousness of eternal life and salvation when the work was done, as well as the overthrow of all distinctions between Jew and Gentile, which we find, of course, in the epistles but, besides that practically, has 'brought in a power of producing fruit that could not be before, a mutual love peculiar to Christians, and a rejection and hatred from the world beyond all that had been. In every way possible Christ gives us now His own portion, from the world as well as from the Father. "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (Verse 20)
Fully do I admit that there were works of faith, deeds of righteousness, holy, wise, obedient ways, in saints of God from the beginning. You could not have faith without a new nature, nor this again without the exercise practically of that which was according to God's will. Therefore, as all saints from the beginning had faith, and were regenerate, so also there were spiritual ways in accordance with it.
But God's revelation in Christ makes an immense accession of blessing; and the consequence is, that this brings out the mind of God in a way that was not and could not have been before, just because there was no manifestation of Christ, and nobody but Christ could bring it adequately out. With this revelation the hatred of the world is commensurate; and the Lord puts it in the strongest possible way. "But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." (Ver. 21, 22) What can be plainer than the enormous change that was coming in now? We know that there had been sin all along, in the dealings of God with His ancient people; but what does the Lord here mean? Are we to fritter away the meaning of His language? Are we not to believe that, whatever there was before, the revelation of Christ brought sin to such a head, that what had been before was, comparatively speaking, a little thing when put beside the evil that was done against, and measured by, the glory of Christ the Son, the rejection of the Father's love; in short, the hatred shown to grace and truth yea, the Father and the Son fully revealed in the Lord Jesus? Clearly so. It is not, then, a question of judging sin by right and wrong, by law, or by conscience all well and in place for Israel and man as such. But when One who is more than man comes into the world, the dignity of the person sinned against, the love and light revealed in His person, all bear on the estimate of sin; and the consequence is, there could be no such character of sin till Christ was manifested, though, of course, heart and nature are the same.
But the revelation of Christ forced everything to a point, sounded the condition of man as nothing else could, and proved that, bad as Israel might be, when measured by a law a holy, just, good law of God, yet, measured now by the Son of God, all sin previously was as nothing compared with the still deeper sin of rejecting the Son of God. "He that hateth me hateth my Father also." (Ver. 23) It is not merely God as such, but "my Father" that was hated. "If I had not done among them" not now His words only, but works "if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." (Verse 24) There was a full testimony, as we have seen already, in John 8:1-59; John 9:1-41. (His words in John 8:1-59, His works in John 9:1-41); but the manifestation of His words and of His works only brought out man thoroughly hating the Father and the Son. Had they only failed to meet the requirements of God, as man had done under the law, there was ample provision to meet him in mercy and power; but now, under this revelation of grace, man, and Israel most of all, the world (for in this they are all merged now) stood out in open hostility to, and implacable hatred of, the fullest display of divine goodness here below. But this dreadful hopeless hatred, evil as it was, ought not to surprise one who believes the word of God; it was, "that the word might be fulfilled which was written in their law, They hated me without a cause." (Verse 25) There is nothing that so demonstrates man's total alienation and enmity. This is precisely what Christ here urges. The disciples accordingly, having received this grace in Christ, were called into a like path with Him, the epistle here below of Christ who is above. Fruit-bearing is the great point throughout John 15:1-27, as the end of it and John 16:1-33 bring before us testimony. "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Here is a twofold testimony that of the disciples who had seen Christ and heard His words. Hence they were called to bear witness of Him "because ye have been with me from the beginning." It was not only the great manifestation at the end, but the truth from the beginning, grace and truth always in Him. Dealing differently, no doubt, according to that which was before Him; still it was in Christ ever the value of what came, not what He found, which was the great point. And to this testimony (for He is showing now the full testimony which the disciples were called to render) the Holy Ghost would add His, (wondrous to say and know it true!) as distinct from the witness of the disciples. We know right well that a disciple only renders testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost. How, then, do we find the Holy Ghost's testimony spoken of as distinct from theirs? Both are true, especially when we bear in mind that He would testify of the heavenly side of truth. In John 14:26, it was said, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." There the Holy Ghost is both a teacher and helper. As it is said, "He will teach you all things" what they never knew, besides bringing to remembrance things that they had known.
In the end ofJohn 15:1-27; John 15:1-27 there is a good deal more. The Holy Ghost, "when he is come," (not "whom the Father will send," but) "whom I will send from the Father." (Ver. 26) The Holy Ghost was both sent by the Father, and sent by the Son; not the same thing, but quite consistent. There is a distinct line of truth in the two cases. You could not transplant from John 15:1-27 into John 14:1-31, nor the reverse, without dislocating the whole order of the truth. Surely it all deserves to be weighed, and demands from us that we should wait upon God to learn His precious things. In John 14:1-31 it is evidently the Father giving another Comforter to the disciples, and sending Him in Christ's name: Christ is looked at there as One who prays, and whose value acts for the disciples. But in John 15:1-27 it is One who is Himself everything for the disciples from on high. Here He was the one spring of whatever fruit was borne, and He is gone on high, but is the same there; and so not merely asks the Father to send, but Himself sends them from the Father the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from with the Father, if so literal a turn may be allowed. His own personal glory on high is in full view, and so He speaks and acts, while the connection with the Father is always kept up. Still, in the one case it is the Father who sends; in the other, the Son; and this last, where the point is to show the new glory of Christ above. "He shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." There would be the testimony of the Holy Ghost sent from the Son, and bearing witness of Him according to the place whence He came to replace Him here. The Holy Ghost, sent thus from above, would bear witness of the Son in heaven; but the disciples also would bear witness of what they knew when He was upon the earth, because they had been with Him from the beginning ( i.e. of His manifestation here). Both we have in Christianity, which not only maintains the testimony of Christ, as manifested on the earth, but also the Holy Ghost's witness of Christ known on high. To leave out either is to strip Christianity of half its value. There is that which never can make up for Christ on the earth; and certainly there is that revealed of Christ in heaven which no manifestation on the earth can supply. They have, both of them, a divine place and power for the children of God.
John 16:1-33 seems to be based rather on this last. The main difference is, that the Holy Ghost is more spoken of here apart from the question of who sends. It is more the Holy Ghost coming than sent here; that is, the Holy Ghost is looked at not certainly as acting independently, but yet as a distinct person. He comes, not to display His own power and glory, but expressly to glorify Christ. At the same time, He is looked at in more distinct personality than in John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27. And our Lord had the wisest reason for making known to the disciples what they had to expect. They were now entering on the path of testimony, that always involves suffering We have seen what should befall them in bearing fruit as Christ's disciples and friends. This is enough for the world, which hates them as Him, because they are not of it, but are loved and chosen of Christ. These two things unite the disciples. The hatred of the world and the love of Christ press them so much the more together. But there is also the hatred which befalls them in testifying, not as disciples so much as witnesses. Witnessing as the disciples did of what they had known of Christ here, witnessing of what the Spirit taught them of Christ on high, the consequence would be, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." It is clearly religious rancour created by this full testimony, not the world's general ill-feeling, but special hatred to their testimony. Hence, it would be putting them, not merely into prisons, but out of the synagogues; and this under the notion of doing God service. It is religious persecution. "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. How perfectly the truth shines here on Christian as well as on Jewish hatred of all full testimony to Christ! Spite of the liberalism of the day, this peeps out where it dares. They talk about God; they speculate about the Deity, providence, fate, or chance. They may even be zealous for the law, and tack on Christ to it. There a great deal of the world's religion ends. But they know not the Father nor the Son. It is irreverence to draw near and cry, Abba, Father! It is presumption for a man in this life to count himself a child of God! The consequence is, that wherever there is this ignorance of the Father and the Son, there is inveterate hostility against such as are joyful in the communion of the Father and the Son. This hatred every true witness, without compromise, and separate from the world, must more or less experience. The Lord would not have them surprised. Jewish brethren might have thought that, having received Christ, everything was to be smooth, bright, and peaceful. Not so. They must expect special and increasing, and, worst of all, religious hatred. (Verses 1-4)
"But now I go my way to him that sent me." The path lay through death, no doubt; but He puts it as going to Him that sent Him. Let them be comforted, then, as surely they would if they rightly thought of His Father's presence. But "none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?" (Ver. 5) They felt natural sadness at the thought of His departure. Had they gone a step farther, and asked whither He was going, it would have been all right, they would have felt glad for Him; for though it were their loss, it was most surely His gain and joy the joy that was set before Him, the joy of being with His Father, with the comfort for His own of an accomplished redemption (attested by His thus going on high). "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." (Ver. 7) It is the Comforter coming. No doubt Christ sends; and there lies the connection with the end of John 15:1-27. Still there is the special form of presenting Him as one that comes, which is confirmed in the next verse. "And when he is come, he will reprove [or convince] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (Ver. 8) This is a sentence much to be pondered. It is now God's Spirit dealing according to the gospel with individual souls, which is perfectly true and most important. Conviction of sin is wrought in all who are born of God. What confidence could there be in a soul professing to have found redemption, even forgiveness of sins, through His blood, unless there were an accompanying sense of sin? The Spirit of God does produce this. Souls must be simple and distinct in it as truly as in believing in Christ Jesus. There is a real individual work in those, yea, in all brought to God. For a sinner, repentance remains an eternal necessity.
Here, however, the Holy Ghost is not spoken of as dealing with individuals when He regenerates them and they believe, but as bringing conviction to the world of sin because of unbelief There is no real conviction of sin unless there be faith. It may be but the first working of God's grace in the soul that produces it. There may not be faith so as to have peace with God, but assuredly enough to judge of one's own ways and condition before God; and this is precisely the way in which He does ordinarily work. At the same time there is also the conviction of which the Lord speaks: the Holy Ghost, when He is come, will convince the world of sin. Why? Because they have broken the law? Not so. This may be used, but is not the ground nor the standard when Christ is the question. The law remains, and the Spirit of God often employs it, specially if a man be in self-righteousness. But the fact is clear, that the Holy Ghost is sent down; as it is also clear, that the Holy Ghost, being here, convicts the world i.e., what is outside where He is. Were there faith, the Holy Ghost would be in their midst; but the world does not believe. Hence Christ is, as everywhere in John, the standard for judging the condition of men. "When he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, [not when they begin to believe in me, but] because they believe not in me." Again, the conviction of righteousness is equally remarkable. There is no reference even to the blessed Lord when on earth, or to what He did here. "Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more." (Verses 8-10)
Thus there is a twofold conviction of righteousness. The first ground is, that the only righteousness now is in Christ gone to be with the Father. So perfectly did Christ glorify God in death, as He always did in life the things that pleased His Father, that nothing short of putting Him as man at His own right hand could meet the case. Wondrous fact! a man now in glory, at the right hand of God, above all angels, principalities, and powers. This is the proof of righteousness. It is what God the Father owed to Christ, who had so perfectly pleased and so morally glorified Him, even in respect of sin. All the world, yea, all worlds, would be too little to mark His sense of value for Christ and His work nothing less than setting Him as man at His right hand in heaven. But there is another though negative, as that was the positive, proof of righteousness that the world has lost Christ, "and ye see me no more." When Christ returns, He will gather His own to Himself, as inJohn 14:1-31; John 14:1-31. But as for the world, it has rejected and crucified Christ. The consequence is, that it will see Christ no more till He comes in judgment, and this will be to put down its pride for ever. Thus there is this double conviction of righteousness: the first is Christ gone to be with the Father on high; the second is Christ seen no more consequently. The rejected Christ is accepted and glorified in the highest seat above, which condemns the world and proves there is no righteousness in it or man; but more than this, the world shall see Him no more. When He returns, it is to judge man; but as far as concerns the offer of blessing to man in a living Christ, it is gone for ever. The Jews did and do look for Him; but when He came, they would not have Him. The best of the world, therefore, the choicest and most divinely privileged of men, have turned out the most guilty. A living Messiah they will never see. If any have Him now, it can only be a rejected and heavenly Christ.
But there is another thing the Spirit will convince the world "of judgment." What is the conviction of judgment? It is not the destruction of this place or that. Such was the way in which God manifested His judgment of old; but the Holy Ghost bears witness now, that the prince of this world is judged. He led the world to cast out the truth, and God Himself, in the person of Christ. His judgment is sealed. It is fixed beyond hope of change. It is only a question of the moment in God's hands, and the world with its prince will be treated according to the judgment already pronounced. "Of judgment," He says, "because the prince of this world is judged." (Verse 11) In John we have the truth, without waiting for what will be manifest. The Spirit here judges things at the roots, dealing with things according to their reality in God's sight, into which the believer enters.
Thus everywhere there is absolute opposition between the world and the Father, expressed morally when the Son was here, and proved now that the Spirit is come. The great mark of the world is that the Father is unknown. Hence, like Jews, or even heathen, they can pray to Almighty God to bless their leagues, or their arms, their crops, their herds, or what not. Thereby they flatter themselves perhaps that they may do God service; but the Father's love is unknown never in such a condition can He be fully known. Even when we look at children of God, scattered here and there in the waste, they are trembling and fearful, and practically at a distance, instead of consciously near in peace, as if it were God's will that His children should now stand off in Sinai distance and terror. Who ever heard even of an earthly father, worthy of the name, so sternly repelling his children? Certainly this is not our Father as we know Him through Christ Jesus. Brethren, it is the spirit of the world which, when sanctioned, invariably tends to destroy the knowledge of the Father, and of our proper relationship, even among His real children, because it necessarily slips more or less into Judaism.
But the Holy Ghost has another work. He convinces the world of the truth they do not know, by the very fact that He is outside the world, and has nothing to do with it. He dwells with the children of God. I do not deny His power in the testimony of the gospel to souls. This is another thing not spoken of here. But, besides, we have His direct immediate action among the disciples. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (Verses 12, 13) Thus the disciples, favoured as they were, were far from knowing all that the Lord desired for them, and would have told them if their state had admitted of it. When redemption was accomplished, and Christ was raised from the dead, and the Holy Ghost was given, then they were competent to enter into all the truth, not before. Hence, Christianity awaits not only Christ's coming, but the accomplishment of His work, and also the mission and personal presence of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, consequent on that work. But He would take no independent place, any more than the Son had. "He shall not speak from himself; but whatever he shall hear, he shall speak: and he will report (or announce) to you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall report it to you." (Verses 13, 14)
It is not said, as some think, that He shall not speak about Himself; for the Holy Ghost does speak, and tells us much concerning Himself and His operations; and never so much as under the Christian revelation. The fullest instruction as to the Spirit is in the New Testament; and, pray, who speaks of the Holy Ghost if it be not Himself? Was it merely Paul? or John? or any other man? The fact is, that the Authorised Version gives rather obsolete English. The meaning is, that He shall not speak of His own authority, as if He had nothing to do with the Father and the Son. For He is come here to glorify the Son, just as the Son, when here, was glorifying the Father. And this explains why, although the Holy Ghost is worthy of supreme worship, and of being, equally with the Father and the Son, personally addressed in prayer, yet, having come down for the purpose of animating, directing, and effectuating the work and worship of God's children here, He is never presented in the epistles as directly the object, but rather as the power, of Christian prayer. Therefore, we find them praying in, and never to, the Holy Ghost. At the same time, when we say "God," of course we do mean not only the Father, but the Son, and the Holy Ghost too. In that way, therefore, every intelligent believer knows that he includes the Spirit and the Son with the Father, when he addresses God; because the name "God" does not belong to one person in the Trinity more than to another. But when we speak of the persons in the Godhead distinctively, and with knowledge of what God has done and is doing, we do well to remind ourselves and one another, that the Spirit has come down and taken a special place among and in the disciples now; the consequence of which is, that He is pleased administratively (without renouncing His personal rights) to direct our hearts thus towards God the Father and the Lord Jesus. He is thus (if we may speak so, as I believe we may and ought reverentially) serving the interests of the Father and the Son here below in the disciples. The fact we have noticed, the administrative position of the Spirit, is thus owing to the work He has voluntarily undertaken for the Father and the Son, though, of course, as a question of His own glory, He is equally to be adored with the Father and the Son, and is always comprehended in God as such.
The rest of the chapter, without entering into minute points, shows that the Lord, about to leave the disciples, would give them a taste of joy a testimony of what will be. (Verses 16-22) The world might rejoice in having got rid of Him; but He would give His own joy, which would not be taken from them. In measure, this was made good by our Lord's appearing after He rose from the dead; but the full force of it will only be known when He comes again.
Then there is another privilege. The Lord intimates a new character of drawing near to the Father, which they had not yet known. (Verses 23-26) Hitherto they had asked nothing in His name. "In that day," He says, "ye shall ask me nothing." 'We are in "that day" now. "In that day" does not mean in a future day, but in one that is come, Instead of using Christ's intervention as Martha proposed, instead of begging Christ to ask* the Father, demanding each thing they needed of Christ Himself, they might reckon on the Father's giving them whatsoever they should ask Him in Christ's name. It is not a question of a Messianic link to get what they wanted, but they would be able to ask the Father in His name themselves. How blessed to know the Father thus hearkening to the children asking in the Son's name! It is of children on earth now the Lord speaks, not of the Father's house by-and-by. Evidently this is a capital truth, bearing powerfully on the nature of the Christian's prayers, as well as on his worship.
*It is remarkable that Martha puts a word ( αἰτήσῃ ) into Christ's mouth (that is, uses an expression for asking the Father), which is never used nor warranted by Himself. It makes the Lord a mere petitioner, lowering the glory of His person, and obscuring, if not denying, the intimacy of His relationship with the Father.
It is exactly what accounts for the fact, that we are here on ground quite different from that of the precious and blessed form of prayer which the Lord gave His disciples when they wanted to know how to pray, as John taught his disciples. The Lord necessarily gave them that which was suited to their then condition. Now, I believe, it is little to say that there is not, nor ever was, a formula of prayer comparable with the Lord's prayer. Nor is there, to my thinking, a single petition of that prayer which is not a model for the prayers of His followers ever since; but all remains true and applicable at all times at least, till our Father's kingdom come. Why, then, was it not employed formally by the apostolic Church? The answer lies in what is now before us. Our Lord here, at the end of His earthly course, informs the disciples that hitherto they had demanded nothing in His name. They had, no doubt, been using the Lord's prayer for some time; nevertheless they had asked nothing in His name. In that day they were to ask the Father in His name. What I gather from this is, that those who had even used the Lord's prayer, as the disciples had done up to this time, did not know what it was to ask the Father in the Lord's name. They still continued at a comparative distance from their Father; but this is not the Christian state. By the Christian state I mean that in which a man is conscious of his nearness to his God and Father, and able to draw near in virtue of the Holy Ghost even. On the contrary, prayers that suppose a person to be an object of divine displeasure, anxious, and doubtful whether he is to be saved or not such an experience supposes one incapable of speaking to the Father in Christ's name. It is speaking as still tied and bound with the chain of their sins, instead of standing in known reconciliation, and, with the Spirit of adoption, drawing near to the Father in the name of Christ. Who can honestly, or at least intelligently, deny it? Thus, whatever the blessing through the Lord's ministry, there was certainly an advance here foreshown, founded on redemption, resurrection, and the Spirit given. Why should men limit their thoughts, so as to ignore that incomparable blessing to which even in this gospel Christ was ever pointing, as the fruit of His death and of the presence of the Comforter who would bring in "that day"? It was impossible to furnish a prayer which could reconcile the wants of souls before and after the work of the cross, and the new place consequent on it. And, in fact, the Lord has done the contrary; for He gave the disciples a prayer on principles of everlasting truth, but not anticipating that which His death and resurrection brought to view. Of these new privileges the Holy Ghost sent down was to be the power. Be assured this is no secondary matter, and that traditional views slight unwittingly the infinite efficacy and value of what Christ has wrought, the results of which the Holy Ghost was sent down to apply to our souls. And the gift of that divine person to dwell in us is this, too, a secondary matter? or is there no radical change which accompanies the work of Christ when accomplished and known? If, indeed, everything be secondary to the supply of man's need, if the unfolding of God's glory and ways in Christ be comparatively a cipher, I understand as much as I hate a principle so base and unbelieving.
It appears to me that the Lord Jesus Himself clearly sets forth the new thing at the highest value, which no general reasonings of men ought to weaken in the least. That immense change, then, let us accept on His authority who cannot deceive us, assured that our brethren, who fail to see how full association with the efficacy of His work and the acceptance of His person, made good in the presence of the Spirit, accounts for the difference between prayer before and prayer after, put no intentional slight on His words in this chapter, or on His work of atonement. But I beseech them to consider whether they are not allowing habits and prejudices to blind them to what seems to me the mind of Christ in this grave question.
In the close ofJohn 16:25-33; John 16:25-33, the Lord puts, with perfect plainness, both their coming position in His name, and as immediate objects of the Father's affection, and His own place as coming from and going to the Father, above all promise and dispensation. This the disciples thought they saw distinctly; but they were mistaken: their words do not rise higher than "We believe that thou camest forth from God." The Master thereon warns them of that hour, even then come in spirit, when His rejection should prove their dispersion deserted, yet not alone, "because the Father is with me." He spoke, that in Him they might have peace, as in the world they should have tribulation. "But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." It was an enemy of the Father and of them, but an enemy overcome of Him.
On John 17:1-26 I must be brief, though its treasures might well invite one to devote ample space to weigh them. A few words, however, may perhaps give the general outline. The Lord, lifting up His eyes to heaven, no longer speaks to the disciples, but turns to His Father. He lays a double ground before Him: one, the glory of His person; the other, the accomplishment of His work. He seeks from the Father for His disciples a place of blessing in association with Himself suitable both to His person and work.
Be it observed, that from verse 6 He develops the relationship of the disciples with His Father, having manifested the Father's name to those who were the Father's, and given them the words which the Father gave Him, and spoken as He did now that they might have His joy fulfilled in them. From verse 14 He develops it with the world, they being not of it, and wholly sanctified from it, while sent into it like Himself. And observe, here, that He has given them the Father's word ( λόγον ) for their testimony (as before His words, ῥήματα ), but sanctifies them, not by this only, which kept them from the evil of the world, but by Himself, always separate from sin, but now made higher than the heavens, so as to fill them with an object there that could engage and expand and purify their affections. From verse 20 He extends this place of privilege and responsibility to those who should believe on Him through the word of the apostles, the moral unity of verse 11 being now enlarged into a unity of testimony, that the world might believe that the Father sent the Son; and carried onward, even to the display of glory "I in them, and thou in me" when they shall be perfected into one, and the world shall know (not then "believe") that the Father sent the Son, and loved them as He loved Him. (Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:10)
Lastly, from verse 24 to the end, we have, if possible, deeper things than even these; and here the Lord expresses His heart's desire, for it is no longer, as before, in the form of a request ( ἐρωτῶ ) but, "Father, I will," or desire ( θέλω ). This word indicates a new character of plea: "I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." The earlier section laid His person and His work as the ground for His being glorified on high, according to the title of the one, and in the accomplishment of the other. Verse 24, as it were, takes up that position of glory with the Father before the world was, into which Christ has gone, with His heart's expression of desire that they should be with Him where He is, that they might behold His glory, which the Father gave Him; "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." Thus, if the central portion gave us the disciples on the earth in relation with the Father on the one hand, and in total separation from the world on the other, with subsequent believers brought into one, both in testimony and in glory by-and-by before the world, the closing verses take up Christians, as it were, with the Father in an unearthly, heavenly glory, and His desire that they should be with Him there. It is not merely sought for them, that they should be thoroughly, as far as, could be, in His own place of relationship with the Father, and apart from the world, but also that they should be brought into intimacy of nearness with Himself before the Father. Then, in verse 25, the breach between the world and the Father and the Son being complete, He says, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." There is always this opposition between the Father and the world, proved by His person in the world. But the disciples had known that the Father sent the Son, as the Son knew the Father. He had made known to them the Father's name, and would yet more, "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them;" this last verse bringing into them, as it were, the Father's love, as the Son knew it, which was the secret source of all the blessing and glory, and Christ Himself in them, whose life by the Spirit was the sole nature capable of enjoying all. Thus they should have a present enjoyment of the Father, and of Christ, according to the place of nearness they had as thus associated with Him.
On the concluding chapters of our gospel I cannot speak particularly now. Yet I must, in passing point out that even in these solemn closing scenes the glory of the Son's person is ever the prominent figure. Hence we have no notice of His agony in the garden, nor of God's forsaking Him on the tree. Matthew depicts Him as the suffering Messiah, according to psalms and prophets; Mark, as the rejected Servant and Prophet of God; Luke, as the perfect and obedient Son of man, who shrank from no trial either for soul or body, but even on the cross prayed for His enemies, filling a poor sinner's heart with the good news of salvation, and committing His spirit with unwavering confidence to His Father. The point here is the Son of God with the world, the Jews especially being His enemies. Hence, John tells us (John 18:1-40) what no other gospel does, that when the band came to take Jesus, led by one who knew too well the spot where His heart had so often, poured itself out to the Father, at once they went backward, and fell to the ground. Do you suppose Matthew let it slip? or that Mark and Luke never heard of it? Is it conceivable that a fact so notorious the very world being the objects of the divine power that cast them prostrate to the ground could be hidden from, or forgotten by, friends or foes? Or if even men (not to speak of the Spirit's power) would forget such a thing, did the rest think it too slight for their mention? All such suppositions are preposterous. The true explanation is, that the gospels are written with divine design, and that here, as everywhere, John records a fact which falls in with the Spirit's object in his gospel. Did these men come to seize Jesus? He was going to be a prisoner, and to die; in the one case, as much as in the other, He would prove it was not of man's constraint, but of His own will and in obedience to His Father's. He was a willing prisoner, and a willing victim. If none could take His life unless He laid it down, so none could take Him prisoner unless He gave Himself up. Nor was it simply that He could ask His Father for twelve legions of angels, as He says in Matthew; but, in John, did He want angels? They might and did ascend and descend on Him as Son of man; but He had only to speak, and it was done. He is God.
The moment He said, "I am he," without lifting a finger, or even audibly expressing a desire, they fell to the ground. Could this scene be suitably given by any other than John? Could he leave it out who presents his Master as the Son and the Word who was God?
Again, we have our Lord's calm rebuke to Peter, who had cut off the ear of Malchus. Let Luke alone tell us of the Lord's gracious healing (for Jehovah's power to heal was not absent); John alone adds, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" He preserves throughout His personal dignity and His conscious relationship, but withal in perfect submission to His Father.
Then follows the notice of Peter's sad history with that other disciple which was known to the high priest. Next, our Lord is before the high priest, Caiaphas, as previously before his father-in-law Annas, and, finally, before Pilate. Suffice it to say, that the one point which meets us here, as distinct from the other gospels, is His person. Not that He was not King of the Jews, but His kingdom is not of this world, not from hence, and He Himself is born and come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Here it is the Jews insist He ought by their law to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. (John 19:1-42) Here, too, He answers Pilate, after scourging and mockery, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (Verse 11) It was the Jews, led on by Judas, that had this greater sin. The Jew ought to have known better than Pilate, and Judas better than the Jew. The glory of the Son was too bright for their eyes. Afterwards there is another characteristic scene, the blending of the most perfect human affection with His divine glory He confides His mother to the disciple whom He loved. (Verses 25-27)
The gospel which most of all shows Him to be God is careful to prove Him man. The Word was made flesh.
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." I know not a more sweet and wonderful proof of how completely He was divinely superior to all circumstances. He had before Him with perfect distinctness all the truth of God. Here was a scripture which He remembers as unaccomplished. It was a word in Psalms 69:1-36. It was enough. "I thirst." What absorption in His Father's will! "Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished." (Verses 29, 30) Where could such a word as this be but in John? Who could say, "It is finished," except Jesus in John? Matthew and Mark both give our Lord saying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This could not be in John. Luke gives us, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," because there the perfect man never abandons His perfect reliance on God. God must, in the judgment of our sins, forsake Him, but He would never forsake God. The atonement would not have been what it is unless God had thus forsaken Him. But in Luke it is the sign of absolute trust in His Father, and not God's abandonment. In John He says, "It is finished," because He is the Son, by whom all worlds were made, Who but He could say it? Who but John could mention that He delivered up ( παρέδωκε ) His spirit? In every point of difference the fullest possible proof of divine glory and wisdom appears in these gospels. Put to death no doubt He was but at the same time it was His own voluntary will; and who could have this about death itself but a divine person? In a mere man it would be sin; in Him it was perfection. Then come the soldiers, breaking the legs of the others crucified with Him; but finding Jesus dead already, one pierces His side, land forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record."
Thus a double scripture is fulfilled. The apostle John does not quote many scriptures; but when he does, the person of the Son is the great point. Accordingly this was the case now; for not a bone was to be broken. It was true. Nevertheless, He was to be pierced. He was singled out from the others, even while dead between the dying thieves. He has a place even here that belonged to Him alone.
Joseph charges himself with the body too; and Nicodemus, who came first by night is here by day, honoured by association with Jesus crucified, of whom he had been ashamed once, spite of the miracles He was doing.
In John 20:1-31 is the resurrection, and this in a remarkable light. No such outward circumstance is here as in Matthew, no soldiers trembling, no walk with disciples, but as ever the person of God's Son, though disciples prove how little they entered into the truth. Peter "saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that He must rise again from the dead." (Verses 8, 9) It was evidence; and there is no moral value in accepting on evidence. Believing the word of God has moral value, because it gives God credit for truth. A man gives up himself to confide in God. Believing the Scriptures, therefore, has another character altogether from a judgment formed on a matter of fact. Mary Magdalene, with as little understanding of the Scriptures as they, stood without at the sepulchre weeping, when they went to their own homes. Jesus meets her in her sorrow, dries her tears, and sends her to the disciples with a message of His resurrection. But He does not permit her to touch Him. In Matthew the other women even retain Him by the feet. Why? The reason appears to be that in the earlier gospel it is the pledge of a bodily presence for the Jews in the latter day; for whatever be the consequences of Jewish unbelief now, God is faithful. The gospel of John has here no purpose of showing God's promises for the circumcision; but, on the contrary, sedulously detaches the disciples from Jewish thoughts. Mary Magdalene is a sample or type of this. The heart must be taken off His bodily presence. "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." The Christian owns Christ in heaven. As the apostle says, even if we had known Christ after the flesh, "henceforth know we him no more." The cross, as we know it, closes all connection with even Him in this world. It is the same Christ manifested in life here upon earth. John shows us, in Mary Magdalene contrasted with the woman of Galilee, the difference between the Christian and the Jew. It is not outward corporeal presence on earth, but a greater nearness, though He is ascended to heaven, because of the power of the Holy Ghost. "But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (Verse 17) Never had He put Himself and His disciples so together before.
The next scene (verses 19-23) is the disciples gathered together. It is not a message individually, but they are assembled on the same first day at evening, and Jesus stands, spite of closed doors, in the midst of them, and showed them His hands and His side. "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." It is a picture of the assembly that was about to be formed at Pentecost and this is the assembly's function. They have authority from God to retain or to remit sins not at all as a question of eternal forgiveness, but administratively or in discipline. For instance, when a soul is received from the world, what is this but remitting sins? The Church again, by restoring a soul put outside, puts its seal, as it were, to the truth of what God has done, acts upon it, and thus remits the sin. On the other hand, supposing a person is refused fellowship, or is put away after being received, there is the retaining of sins. There is no real difficulty, if men did not pervert Scripture into a means of self-exaltation, or cast away truth, on the other side, revolting from the frightful misuse known in popery. But Protestants have failed to keep up consciously the possession of so great a privilege, founded on the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Eight days after we have another scene. (Verses 24-29) One of the disciples, Thomas, had not been with the others when Jesus had thus appeared. Clearly there is a special teaching in this. Seven days had run their course before Thomas was with the disciples, when the Lord Jesus Christ meets his unbelief, pronouncing those more blessed who saw not, and yet believed. Of what is this the symbol? Of Christian faith,? The very contrary. Christian faith is essentially believing on Him that we have not seen: believing, "we walk by faith, not by sight." But the day is coming when there will be the knowledge and the sight of glory in the earth. So the millennium will differ from what is now. I deny not that there will be faith, as there was faith required when Messiah was on earth. Then faith saw underneath the veil of flesh this deeper glory. But, evidently, proper Christianity is after redemption was wrought, and Christ takes His place on high, and the Holy Ghost is sent down, when there is nothing but faith. Thomas, then, represents the slow mind of unbelieving Israel, seeing the Lord after the present cycle of time is completely over. What makes it the more remarkable is the contrast with Mary Magdalene in the previous verses, who is the type of the Christian taken out of Judaism, and no longer admitted to Jewish contact with the Messiah, but witnesses of Him in ascension.
Mark, too, the confession of Thomas; not a word about "My Father and your Father," but, "My Lord, and my God." Just so the Jew will acknowledge Jesus. They shall look on Him whom they pierced, and own Jesus of Nazareth to be their Lord and their God. (See Zechariah 12:1-14) It is not association with Christ, and He not ashamed to call us brethren, according to the position He has taken as man before His and our God and Father, but the recognition forced on Him by the marks of the cross, which drew out the confession of Christ's divine glory and Lordship.
In John 21:1-25, the appended scene is the fishing. After a night of failure, a vast multitude of fish is taken in the net, without breaking it or risking the ships (Luke 5:1-39), or the need of gathering the good into vessels and of casting the bad away. (Matthew 13:1-58) This I conceive to be a gathering in from the Gentiles. The sea is continually used in contrast to the land in prophetic Scripture. Thus, if the last was the Jewish scene when the Church state closed, this is the figure of the Gentiles in the great day of the earth's jubilee, the age to come contrasted with this age. From verse 15 to the end is the deep personal dealing of our Lord with Peter; also John's place. As I have no doubt there is a significance typically in what we have just glanced at, so it appears to me with regard to this also. The intermediate ministry of Paul is, of course, not here noticed; for he was the witness of Christ glorified in heaven Head of the Church His body, wherein is neither Jew nor Gentile. To Peter, the Lord, thoroughly restoring his soul after proving him to the core, commits His sheep and lambs (His Jewish flock, as we know from elsewhere). A violent end comes, though to God's glory. But if the full heavenly testimony is left for its own due place in Paul's completing the word of God that hidden mystery, John is seen witnessing in principle to the end. (Compare verses 22, 23 with the Revelation) However, I do not enlarge here, but rather apologise for the time that I have occupied in going over so large an extent of God's word. I pray the Lord that even these suggestions may be blessed of God in stirring up fresh desire to study, and weigh, and pray over these precious gospels. Surely it will be sweet reward now, if God deign thereby to give some of His children to approach His word with more reverence and a more childlike trust in every word He has written. May He vouchsafe this through Christ our Lord.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 20:11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/john-20.html. 1860-1890.
the Fifth Week after Easter