The sepulchre found to be empty. (1-10) Christ appears to Mary. (11-18) He appears to the disciples. (19-25) The unbelief of Thomas. (26-29) Conclusion. (30,31)
Verses 1-10 If Christ gave his life a ransom, and had not taken it again, it would not have appeared that his giving it was accepted as satisfaction. It was a great trial to Mary, that the body was gone. Weak believers often make that the matter of complaint, which is really just ground of hope, and matter of joy. It is well when those more honoured than others with the privileges of disciples, are more active than others in the duty of disciples; more willing to take pains, and run hazards, in a good work. We must do our best, and neither envy those who can do better, nor despise those who do as well as they can, though they come behind. The disciple whom Jesus loved in a special manner, and who therefore in a special manner loved Jesus, was foremost. The love of Christ will make us to abound in every duty more than any thing else. He that was behind was Peter, who had denied Christ. A sense of guilt hinders us in the service of God. As yet the disciples knew not the Scripture; they Christ must rise again from the dead.
Verses 11-18 We are likely to seek and find, when we seek with affection, and seek in tears. But many believers complain of the clouds and darkness they are under, which are methods of grace for humbling their souls, mortifying their sins, and endearing Christ to them. A sight of angels and their smiles, will not suffice, without a sight of Jesus, and God's smiles in him. None know, but those who have tasted it, the sorrows of a deserted soul, which 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? Christ, in manifesting himself to those that seek him, often outdoes their expectations. See how Mary's heart was in earnest to find Jesus. 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. It might be read, Is it my Master? See with what pleasure those who love Jesus speak of his authority over them. He forbids her to expect that his bodily presence look further, than the present state of things. Observe the relation to God, from union with Christ. We, partaking of a Divine nature, Christ's Father is our Father; and he, partaking of the human nature, our God is his God. Christ's ascension into heaven, there to plead for us, is likewise an unspeakable comfort. Let them not think this earth is to be their home and rest; their eye and aim, and earnest desires, must be upon another world, and this ever upon their hearts, I ascend, therefore I must seek the things which are above. And let those who know the word of Christ, endeavour that others should get good from their knowledge.
Verses 19-25 This was the first day of the week, and this day is afterwards often mentioned by the sacred writers; for it was evidently set apart as the Christian sabbath, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. The disciples had shut the doors for fear of the Jews; and when they had no such expectation, Jesus himself came and stood in the midst of them, having miraculously, though silently, opened the doors. It is a comfort to Christ's disciples, when their assemblies can only be held in private, that no doors can shut out Christ's presence. When He manifests his love to believers by the comforts of his Spirit, he assures them that because he lives, they shall live also. A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at any time; and the more we see of Jesus, the more we shall rejoice. He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, thus showing that their spiritual life, as well as all their ability for their work, would be derived from him, and depended upon him. Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith, comes accompanied by this Divine breathing; and without this there is neither light nor life. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt of God, but through this. After this, Christ directed the apostles to declare the only method by which sin would be forgiven. This power did not exist at all in the apostles as a power to give judgment, but only as a power to declare the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have clearly laid down the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a false professor; and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment. When we assemble in Christ's name, especially on his holy day, he will meet with us, and speak peace to us. The disciples of Christ should endeavour to build up one another in their most holy faith, both by repeating what they have heard to those that were absent, and by making known what they have experienced. Thomas limited the Holy One of Israel, when he would be convinced by his own method or not at all. He might justly have been left in his unbelief, after rejecting such abundant proofs. The fears and sorrows of the disciples are often lengthened, to punish their negligence.
Verses 26-29 That one day in seven should be religiously observed, was an appointment from the beginning. And that, in the kingdom of the Messiah, the first day of the week should be that solemn day, was pointed out, in that Christ on that day once and again met his disciples in a religious assembly. The religious observance of that day has come down to us through every age of the church. There is not an unbelieving word in our tongues, nor thought in our minds, but it is known to the Lord Jesus; and he was pleased to accommodate himself even to Thomas, rather than leave him in his unbelief. We ought thus to bear with the weak, ( romans 15:1 romans 15:2 ) . This warning is given to all. If we are faithless, we are Christless and graceless, hopeless and joyless. Thomas was ashamed of his unbelief, and cried out, My Lord and my God. He spoke with affection, as one that took hold of Christ with all his might; "My Lord and my God." Sound and sincere believers, though slow and weak, shall be graciously accepted of the Lord Jesus. It is the duty of those who read and hear the gospel, to believe, to embrace the doctrine of Christ, and that ( 1 John. 5:11 )
Verses 30-31 There were other signs and proofs of our Lord's resurrection, but these were committed to writing, that all might believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Saviour of sinners, and the Son of God; that, by this faith, they might obtain eternal life, by his mercy, truth, and power. May we believe that Jesus is the Christ, and believing may we have life through his name.
John 20:1-18 . MARY'S VISIT TO THE SEPULCHRE, AND RETURN TO IT WITH PETER AND JOHN--HER RISEN LORD APPEARS TO HER.
1, 2. The first day . . . cometh Mary Magdalene early, Matthew 28:1 Matthew 28:2 ).
she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre--Dear disciple! thy dead Lord is to thee "the Lord" still.
3-10. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came first to the sepulchre--These particulars have a singular air of artless truth about them. Mary, in her grief, runs to the two apostles who were soon to be so closely associated in proclaiming the Saviour's resurrection, and they, followed by Mary, hasten to see with their own eyes. The younger disciple outruns the older; love haply supplying swifter wings. He stoops, he gazes in, but enters not the open sepulchre, held back probably by a reverential fear. The bolder Peter, coming up, goes in at once, and is rewarded with bright evidence of what had happened.
6-7. seeth the linen clothes lie--lying.
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes--not loosely, as if hastily thrown down, and indicative of a hurried and disorderly removal.
together in a place by itself--showing with what grand tranquillity "the Living One" had walked forth from "the dead" ( Luke 24:5 ). "Doubtless the two attendant angels ( John 20:12 ) did this service for the Rising One, the one disposing of the linen clothes, the other of the napkin" [BENGEL].
8. Then went in . . . that other disciple which came first to the sepulchre--The repetition of this, in connection with his not having gone in till after Peter, seems to show that at the moment of penning these words the advantage which each of these loving disciples had of the other was present to his mind.
and he saw and believed--Probably he means, though he does not say, that he believed in his Lord's resurrection more immediately and certainly than Peter.
9. For as yet they knew--that is, understood.
not the scripture that he must rise again from the dead--In other words, they believed in His resurrection at first, not because they were prepared by Scripture to expect it; but facts carried resistless conviction of it in the first instance to their minds, and furnished a key to the Scripture predictions of it.
11-15. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping, &c.--Brief was the stay of those two men. But Mary, arriving perhaps by another direction after they left, lingers at the spot, weeping for her missing Lord. As she gazes through her tears on the open tomb, she also ventures to stoop down and look into it, when lo! "two angels in white" (as from the world of light, and "sitting" posture, "as having finished some business, and awaiting some one to impart tidings to" [BENGEL].
12. one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain--not merely proclaiming silently the entire charge they had had of the body, of Christ [quoted in LUTHARDT], but rather, possibly, calling mute attention to the narrow space within which the Lord of glory had contracted Himself; as if they would say, Come, see within what limits, marked off by the interval here between us two, the Lord lay! But she is in tears, and these suit not the scene of so glorious an Exit. They are going to point out to her the incongruity.
13. Woman, why weepest thou?--You would think the vision too much for a lone woman. But absorbed in the one Object of her affection and pursuit, she speaks out her grief without fear.
Because, &c.--that is, Can I choose but weep, when "they have taken away," &c. repeating her very words to Peter and John. On this she turned herself and saw Jesus Himself standing beside her, but took Him for the gardener. Clad therefore in some such style He must have been. But if any ask, as too curious interpreters do, whence He got those habiliments, we answer [with OLSHAUSEN and LUTHARDT] where the two angels got theirs. Nor did the voice of His first words disclose Him to Mary--"Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" He will try her ere he tell her. She answers not the stranger's question, but comes straight to her point with him.
15. Sir, if thou have borne him hence--borne whom? She says not. She can think only of One, and thinks others must understand her. It reminds one of the question of the Spouse, "Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?" ( Solomon 3:3 ).
tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away--Wilt thou, dear fragile woman? But it is the language of sublime affection, that thinks itself fit for anything if once in possession of its Object. It is enough. Like Joseph, He can no longer restrain Himself ( Genesis 45:1 ).
16, 17. Jesus saith unto her, Mary--It is not now the distant, though respectful, "Woman." It is the oft-repeated name, uttered, no doubt, with all the wonted manner, and bringing a rush of unutterable and overpowering associations with it.
She turned herself, and saith to him, Rabboni!--But that single word of transported recognition was not enough for woman's full heart. Not knowing the change which had passed upon Him, she hastens to express by her action what words failed to clothe; but she is checked.
17. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father--Old familiarities must now give place to new and more awful yet sweeter approaches; but for these the time has not come yet. This seems the spirit, at least, of these mysterious words, on which much difference of opinion has obtained, and not much that is satisfactory said.
but go to my brethren--(Compare Matthew 28:10 , Hebrews 2:11 Hebrews 2:17 ). That He had still our Humanity, and therefore "is not ashamed to call us brethren," is indeed grandly evidenced by these words. But it is worthy of most reverential notice, that we nowhere read of anyone who presumed to call Him Brother. "My brethren: Blessed Jesus, who are these? Were they not Thy followers? yea, Thy forsakers? How dost Thou raise these titles with Thyself! At first they were Thy servants; then disciples; a little before Thy death, they were Thy friends; now, after Thy resurrection, they were Thy brethren. But oh, mercy without measure! how wilt Thou, how canst Thou call them brethren whom, in Thy last parting, Thou foundest fugitives? Did they not run from Thee? Did not one of them rather leave his inmost coat behind him than not be quit of Thee? And yet Thou sayest, 'Go, tell My brethren! It is not in the power of the sins of our infirmity to unbrother us'" [BISHOP HALL].
I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God--words of incomparable glory! Jesus had called God habitually His Father, and on one occasion, in His darkest moment, His God. But both are here united, expressing that full-orbed relationship which embraces in its vast sweep at once Himself and His redeemed. Yet, note well, He says not, Our Father and our God. All the deepest of the Church fathers were wont to call attention to this, as expressly designed to distinguish between what God is to Him and to us--His Father essentially, ours not so: our God essentially, His not so: His God only in connection with us: our God only in connection with Him.
18. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her--To a woman was this honor given to be the first that saw the risen R edeemer, and that woman was not His mother.
John 20:19-23 . JESUS APPEARS TO THE ASSEMBLED DISCIPLES.
19-23. the same day at evening, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus--plainly not by the ordinary way of entrance.
and saith unto them Peace be unto you--not the mere wish that even His own exalted peace might be theirs ( John 14:27 ), but conveying it into their hearts, even as He "opened their understandings to understand the scriptures" ( Luke 24:45 ).
20. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side--not only as ocular and tangible evidence of the reality of His resurrection that resurrection" dispensing all His peace to men.
Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.
21. Then said Jesus--prepared now to listen to Him in a new character.
Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, so send I
22. he breathed on them--a symbolical conveyance to them of the Spirit.
and saith, Receive ye the Holy Ghost--an earnest and first-fruits of the more copious Pentecostal effusion.
23. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, &c.--In any literal and authoritative sense this power was never exercised by one of the apostles, and plainly was never understood by themselves as possessed by them or conveyed to The power to intrude upon the relation between men and God cannot have been given by Christ to His ministers in any but a ministerial or declarative sense--as the authorized interpreters of His word, while in the actings of His ministers, the real nature of the power committed to them is seen in the exercise of church discipline.
John 20:24-29 . JESUS AGAIN APPEARS TO THE ASSEMBLED DISCIPLES. was not with them when Jesus came
--why, we know not, though we are loath to think (with STIER, ALFORD and LUTHARDT) it was intentional,
from sullen despondency. The fact merely is here stated, as a loving apology for his slowness of belief.
25. We have seen the Lord--This way of speaking of Jesus (as John 20:20 and John 21:7 ), so suited to His resurrection-state, was soon to become the prevailing style.
Except I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my linger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe--The very form of this speech betokens the strength of the unbelief. "It is not, If I shall see I shall believe, but, Unless I shall see I will not believe; nor does he expect to see, although the others tell him they had" [BENGEL]. How Christ Himself viewed this state of mind, we know from Mark 16:14 , "He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen." But whence sprang this pertinacity of resistance in such minds? Not certainly from reluctance to believe, but as in Nathanael from mere dread of mistake in so vital a matter.
26-29. And after eight days--that is, on the eighth, or first day of the preceding week. They probably met every day during the preceding week, but their Lord designedly reserved His second appearance among them till the recurrence of His resurrection day, that He might thus inaugurate the delightful sanctities of THE LORD'S DAY ( Revelation 1:10 ).
disciples were within, and Thomas with them . . . Jesus . . . stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither . . . behold . . . put it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing--"There is something rhythmical in these words, and they are purposely couched in the words of Thomas himself, to put him to shame" [LUTHARDT]. But wish what condescension and gentleness is this done!
28. Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God--That Thomas did not do what Jesus invited him to do, and what he had made the condition of his believing, seems plain from John 20:29 ("Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed"). He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven. On the striking parallel in Nathanael, of the supreme divinity of Christ here manifestly taught--as if it were a mere call upon God in a fit of astonishment--is beneath notice, save for the profanity it charges upon this disciple, and the straits to which it shows themselves reduced.
29. because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed--words of measured commendation, but of indirect and doubtless painfully--felt rebuke: that is, 'Thou hast indeed believed; it is well: it is only on the evidence of thy senses, and after peremptorily refusing all evidence short of that.'
blessed they that have not seen, and yet have believed--"Wonderful indeed and rich in blessing for us who have not seen Him, is this closing word of the Gospel" [ALFORD].
John 20:30 John 20:31 . FIRST CLOSE OF THIS GOSPEL.
The connection of these verses with the last words of John 20:29 is beautiful: that is, And indeed, as the Lord pronounced them blessed who not having seen Him have yet believed, so for that one end have the whole contents of this Gospel been recorded, that all who read it may believe on Him, and believing, have life in that blessed name.
30. many other signs--miracles.
31. But these are written--as sufficient specimens.
the Christ, the Son of God--the one His official, the other His personal, title.
believing . . . may have