The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Verses 1-31. - 2. The complete glorification of Jesus in his resurrection. The record pauses for the awful day of that great sabbath, and resumes the marvelous recital when the greatest event in the history of the world is assumed and asserted to have taken place. Heathen and foes admit the fact of the death of Jesus; the evidence is overwhelming, multiform, sufficient to establish itself to the ordinary reason of mankind. It is a matter of indubitable history. The proof was given to all the world; but it is otherwise with the fact of the anastasis of Jesus. That stupendous event was revealed to the eye and mind of faith by a series of communications, which afford to different classes, groups, kinds, and states of mind specimens of the manner and quality of the resurrection-life. "Many infallible proofs" wrought (as St. Luke says, Acts 1.) irresistible conviction as to the reality of the Resurrection. The Church of Christ was originated by a faith in this new and transcendental mode of existence. A generation of men passed, scores of communities were called into being throughout Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Lybia, Asia Minor, Achaia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Crete, and even in Italy and the capital of the Roman empire, all of them held together by the life-giving conviction of the reality of a world of spiritual body, into which the redeemed enter. Of this reality the resurrection-life of Christ was the type, the proof, the first fruit, and the earnest. This most astounding fact was preached in Galatia and Macedonia, in Corinth and Rome, in Babylon and Alexandria, before one word of the Gospels had been put on parchment. When the preaching of the apostles was reduced to written form, it was not with the idea of recording a fully detailed or easily harmonizable account of the Easter Day, or of providing rational, or juridical, or historic evidence of the method or order of the great events, but rather to provide five independent series of evidences to the revelations which the apostles and apostolic company received of the nature and quality of the new life for humanity which had now begun. Several details of profound interest occur in the synoptic narrative, concerning which John is silent - such e.g. as the rolling of a stone to the door of the sepulcher, the sealing of the stone by the Roman guard, the resurrection-appearances of the saints, the special preparation made by the women for further embalmment on the following days the great earthquake, the two companies of women that resorted to the sepulcher at successive intervals of time, and the different signs and even appearances by which their timorous hope was quickened into an adoring homage and world-compelling faith. Though John does not recite these well-known narratives, he presupposes some of them. Thus
(1) although, unlike the synoptists, he says nothing of the stone that was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, yet (ver. 1) he refers to the fact that (τὸν λίθον) the stone was taken up or away.
(2) Although he says nothing of the two groups of women, yet he implies that Mary Magdalene was not alone at the sepulcher (οὐκ οἴδαμεν): "We know not where they have laid him." With far greater particularity than St. Luke (Luke 24:12), he describes Peter's visit to the sepulcher, and gives further details of facts which occurred at more than one interview between our Lord and his apostles, of which Luke and Mark had given a more shadowy outline (cf. here vers. 19-25 with Luke 24:36, etc.; Mark 16:14). But we are not intending here to produce a history or harmony of these records, but to follow throughout the impressions produced by the Lord's self-manifestation upon the mind of the beloved disciple; not passing over the difficulties which his peculiar experiences have occasioned, when brought side by side with the synoptic and Pauline narratives. John first of all (vers. 1-10) describes how he came to believe personally in the resurrection of Jesus; then (vers. 11-18) the way in which the first manifestation was made to Mary of Magdala (vers. 19-23); how ten of the apostles, including himself, received a full and satisfying assurance of the stupendous fact (vers. 24-29); how once more, after an interval of eight days, not only Thomas, the most anxious, doubting, and incredulous of the eleven, but the entire group, came into full persuasion, not only of Christ's resurrection, but of his Divine nature and claims, his Messiahship and Sonship, and of their own personal possession of life in him and through him. Verses 1-10. -
(1) The process of John's own personal conviction, by the discovery that the sepulcher was deserted. Verse 1. - Now on the first day of the week (τῶν σαββάτων, σαββάτα, in the plural, is used for the whole of the week, sabbaton including in itself the various days that intervened between sabbath and sabbath, the first, second, third, etc. Μιᾷ here and in Luke 24:1 and Matthew 28:1 corresponds with the πρώτῃ. of Mark 16:9). All the evangelists agree about the day of the week, which thenceforward became the new beginning of weeks, "the Lord's day." Cometh Mary the Magdalene. Here all the evangelists are at one, although, judging from the synoptists, she must have been accompanied by other women. This is implied in the οἴδαμεν of ver. 2, though Meyer repudiates such a hint by the remark that, in addressing the angels, she uses the singular, οἴδα; but this difference rather confirms, than otherwise, the significance of the plural, when she first breaks on the ear of the astonished disciples the wondrous news. But when she is confronted by the angels she is manifestly alone, and speaks for herself. It is probable that Mary Magdalene had preceded the other women, driven by the intensity of her adoring love and abounding grief, and hence some slight divergency appears as to the time at which she started on her pilgrimage. While it was yet dark, early, in the depth of the dawn (Luke 24:1); before the breaking of full day, and λίαν πρωι'´, "exceeding early" of Mark, although, as he adds, after sunrise (ανατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλὶου). This latter expression is difficult to reconcile as a statement of identical time. But many simple suppositions would explain the discrepancy. The Magdalene's home may have been at a greater distance from the sepulcher, down in the shadows of the eastern hills, while the home of the other Marys may have been readily accessible to the sepulcher. After the great earthquake described by Matthew (Matthew 28:2), and the supernatural darkness of the day but one before, there is no incompatibility in the twofold statement that it was yet dark (not night), although the sun had risen. A deep pall may yet be hanging over the world and place which had held in its bosom the body of the murdered Lord of glory. (She) cometh to the sepulcher, obviously with the purpose stated by all the synoptics. She was bringing the spices which she, with others, had bought on the Friday evening. They would not be behind Nicodemus and Joseph in the expression of their boundless love. The critics make merry over the superfluousness of these women purchasing fresh spices when they must have known the lavish expenditure of the two rich men upon the same design. But the combination of the two statements is absolutely true to nature; it is exactly what women would do all the world over, and an evidence of the authenticity of both narratives. And seeth the stone taken away out of the sepulcher. This is all the information that St. John gives us, as antecedent to Mary's flight to Simon Peter and himself. We have to decide between three hypotheses: either
(a) John's narrative entirely differs from the synoptic account of what Mary saw and heard, and what she brought as her contribution to the apostles' ears, and therefore discredits one or the other or both narratives; or
(b) Mary of Magdala, having preceded the other women, found the empty sepulcher, and, without waiting for them, rushed to the home of Peter and John with this preliminary intelligence and nothing else, then, returning with them to the tomb, joined the ether women who had arrived after John and Peter had withdrawn; or
(c) That (Hengstenberg) Mary said more than she is reported by John to have uttered, - that she told them not merely that they (the Jews) had taken away the body, but that she had seen a vision of angels, who affirmed that the Lord had risen, and gave certain commissions. From Luke's account of the first effect of the news from the tomb, the apostles thought them idle tales, but they went to the sepulcher, and found it even as the women had said, but him they saw not. What were the "idle tales"? Not that the tomb was empty, for that was a simple matter of fact, which the two chief apostles verified, but the story of angels who affirmed that Jesus was alive. Still, such a report is very likely to have roused the apostles to the eagerness of their first visit to the tomb, and the effect of it to reappear in the conversation of the disciples on their way to Emmaus. If the third of these hypotheses be followed, then the narrative of John simply records with brevity what the other evangelists had reported at greater length, distinctly omitting the story of the angelic visitors, given in all three synoptists. This seems to me the fairest and best interpretation of the four narratives. On this hypothesis the account which Mary Magdalene brought to Peter and John corresponds with Matthew (Matthew 28:6-8), where the women generally ran with the news, blending fear with great joy, excited beyond all parallel with the strange wonderful assurance which they had received, that they should meet their risen Lord in Galilee. According to Mark (Mark 16:1-8), we hear of angels, the sight of the vacated tomb, and the angelic message to the apostles, specifying Peter as one especially singled out to hear the commission. Trembling, ecstasy, fear, shut their mouths as they hurried to the abode of the eleven; they spake nothing to any man, but the intelligence was conveyed "to the eleven and all the rest" (Luke 24:9). St. Luke afterwards sums up in one statement all the various messages that were brought, and mentions by name, not only the Magdalene but Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and says, "the remaining ones with them" (at λοιπαὶ σὺν αὐταῖς). The effect was so far fruitless; the apostles did not believe the words (Luke 24:10). The fact stands in the synoptics that the first communication which was carried by women to the apostles, and was not confined to them, consisted not only of the fact of the empty tomb, but of the language of angels. The first thing might easily have been set to rest by direct inspection; the other part of the narrative might easily be disregarded as the voice of wild enthusiasm and excited imagination. It should be distinctly perceived that the women must have scattered in diffusing their intelligence, and John positively asserts that the main strain of Mary's report was as to the opening of the tomb and disappearance of the body, and that it was delivered personally to himself and Peter. This solution of the first difficulty was thrown into confusion by the T.R. form of Matthew's account, which says (Matthew 28:9), "As they went to bring his disciples word, behold Jesus met them." If that were the true text of Matthew, it is in irreconcilable antagonism with John's Gospel, i.e. if Mary Magdalene must be regarded as one of the party who were advised to tell the apostles that the tomb was opened and rifled, and that the Lord was risen. It would also be opposed to the statements of both Luke and Mark concerning the first message they brought to the apostles and to the rest, as well as the manner of their departure from the sepulcher. If, however, Matthew is here referring to a second party (called by harmonists the Joanna group), then they must, in their passage to the apostles, have missed Peter and John on their way to and from the sepulcher, and it would contradict the assertion of all four evangelists, that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Lord. This most difficult clause in Matthew's account has, however, been rejected by modern critics, and consequently the narrative of Matthew is delivered from its greatest perplexity. The fact that Jesus met them must be identical with the appearance described with far greater detail in John's own statement (vers. 11-18). Matthew's Gospel throughout is singularly devoid of notices of time, and we find grouped here, as elsewhere, events or teachings without chronological perspective.
Then 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, and we know not where they have laid him.
Verse 2. - Then she runneth in advance of the other women, who are each intent on communicating what she had seen and heard, and cometh to Simon Peter - why not, if, as Mark says, Peter had been specially mentioned by the angel? - and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved. The form of the expression suggests that they were living in different houses. [There were two disciples on whom Jesus poured out the abundance of his love. The word here used is not ἠγάπα, that which is used in John 13:23 and John 21:7-20, and which denotes the love of high regard, but ἐφίλει, the love of personal affection, the kind of love showered on Lazarus and his sisters (John 11:5). So far, then, from John especially exalting himself at the expense of Peter, he gives to Peter the first place in the affection of his Master.] And she saith to them, They have taken away the Lord - even the corpse of Jesus was the Lord to this urgent and impassioned disciple - out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they - Joseph and Nicodemus, or the chief priests, or Roman soldiers, or Jews - have laid him. We know not what other burying-place "they" have chosen! The anti-harmonistic commentators, with ponderous literalism, insist that Mary could have said nothing more. A gushing woman like Mary of Magdala uttered one sentence, and that was all: It is, however, entirely evident that she must have said enough to excite great wonderment, haste, and activity in the breasts of these two disciples (see above on the three hypotheses).
Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
Verses 3, 4. - Peter therefore went forth (ἐξῆλθεν, aorist). This is a fact affirmed also by Luke (Luke 24:12), "But Peter arose and ran to the sepulcher." John adds, and the other disciple joined Peter, filled with a common amazement, and (ἤρχοντο, imperfect) they went on their way toward the sepulcher. Now they were running (ἔτρεχον, imperfect) both of them together: and the other disciple did outrun - or, literally, ran in advance, more quickly than - Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. The opponents of this Gospel supply numerous suggestions, with the view of obliterating this natural and lifelike touch. (Αἰς is used instead of the πρὸς of ver. 2 or the ἐπὶ of Luke 24:1; but it is clear from the form of the following sentence, that η΅;θεν εἰς is different in meaning from εἰσῆλθεν εἰς, and does not mean "right into," but "towards.") John, as the younger man, would soon outstrip the elderly disciple; and he simply records what in one sense is an insignificant detail, but one that could never be forgotten by him. There is no disposition to magnify himself, as Peter's part is obviously the more conspicuous. John runs more rapidly from his youth, the fervor of his nature, and the warmth of his affection; the reflection that he might have directly to convey the strange news to the mother of his Lord assisted to hurry him.
So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
Verse 5. - And having stooped down. Παρακύπτω is the verb used in Luke 24:12 to describe Peter's conduct and gesture. It was a necessary preliminary of the subsequent act of Peter, though Luke does not refer to it. Peter himself uses the same word (1 Peter 1:12). It means literally "bending on one side," with a desire to gaze intently on an object (Ecclus. 14:23 Ecclus. 21:23; James 1:25). He seeth the linen clothes lying (see John 19:40), untenanted and unused, those very cerecloths which he had helped to wind round the sacred, wounded body, with their affluence of sweet spices. Yet entered he not within. Awe, reverence, mystery, fear, nascent hope, the thought most possibly, "Not here, but risen," began to dawn faintly on his mind. There was ringing in his ears," Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." The touch of the eye-witness, and the personal part of one who is describing his own activity. Weft-stein, on οὐ μέντοι εἰσῆλθεν, adds, "no pollueretur," and quotes numerous Talmudieal authorities to show how the corpse and the grave and gravestone would pollute the living (cf. Numbers 19:16). If so, then Peter, before he came to the conclusion that there was no death in the sepulcher, broke a ritual law which John respected. There seems also rabbinical authority for the fact that disciples might carry "the just" to their grave without such tear of pollution. But at this moment they were both lifted above the region of ritual altogether.
Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
Verses 6, 7. - John stood gazing, waiting, wondering, and, while doing this, then cometh Simon Peter following him across the very garden which must have borne many marks of the dreadful tragedy that had been hurriedly terminated before the commencement of the sabbath. The expression, "following him," may refer to what Luke (Luke 24:12) says that Peter did, viz. that he too stooped down and looked as John had done. Westcott says, "without a look or pause." But why need we suppose a point-blank contradiction of Luke? Such a mode of entrance is almost unthinkable. But he did more: And entered into the sepulcher. How strangely impulsive this man! how characteristic of every other recorded action of Peter! There must have been a Peter who corresponded to the four- or five-fold portraiture of the evangelistic history. The last time that Peter saw his Lord was when a "look" of his cruelly insulted Friend and Master had broken his own heart; yet now he was rushing impulsively to gaze again upon that face with, so far as he knew, all the marks of infernal insult yet upon it. The contrast of character between John and Peter is everywhere maintained. John, in John 21:7, first recognizes the Lord; Peter hurries through the waters to fall once more at his feet. John is lost in silent meditations; Peter exclaims, and wonders. And he beholdeth (θεωρεῖ, with a closer and more careful, vivid, and instructive gaze, not merely βλέπει, the word used by John of his own conduct) the linen cloths lying, and the napkin (sudarium, schweisstueh) which was (had been) upon his head. He does not say whose head. How full the writer's mind was of Christ! Not lying with the linen cloths, but separately in one place, rolled up, as if it had been folded up or wrapped together (see for this use of χωρίς, AEschylus, 'Again.,' 623; Homer, 'Iliad,' η. 470 - this is the only time that χωρίς is thus adverbially used in the New Testament - and see for ἐντετυλιγμένον, present participle, Luke 23:53). It was clear, then, that the body had not been carried away for another burial, nor had it been hastily removed, seeing that there were signs of deliberation, choice, and care. All that was suggested by this wonderful appearance of the grave, all that it means to us, we cannot fathom. The new life has raiment of its own, belonging to a higher region of existence, woven in spiritual looms; yet the hands that unwound these bandages and head-cloth, and laid them as Peter and John saw them, were capable of physical exertions and activity. What dogmatic hints are involved in this recital! He is a living Person, not an abstract principle or vague force. There are evident proofs that, however great the change which had passed over him, the Living One was the same man that he had ever been.
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
Verse 8. - Then, emboldened by the observation of Peter, with a courage reviving from his awe-struck stupefaction, entered in, therefore, the other disciple also, he who came first to the sepulcher. Surely the charge that this writer, under the teaching of second-century tendencies, was systematically endeavoring to lower the common estimate of Peter in favor of John, breaks to pieces on the self-condemnation, which is here recorded. The writer, whoever he was, emphasizes his own smaller courage, his tardy recognition of the fact; but he adds, And he saw, and believed. According to Augustine, Erasmus, and Luther, he believed what Mary had said. He saw now that the tomb was empty, and believed her report, whether it went on to describe the first angelic message or not; but Lucke, Lange, Meyer, and Moulton, following Chrysostom, etc., rightly interpret "he believed" that Jesus had not been taken by others from the grave. He saw there were no signs of haste or confusion, or of a rifled tomb. He believed that he had risen, that this death of his had been done away, that he was living, as he said. This is one of the most vivid indications that the writer assumes acquaintance with the most inward experience of that disciple whom Jesus loved. Luke says that "Peter wondered in himself at that which had happened." John tells us that, from that moment, the whole thing flashed upon himself. There was something for him to see which shed a burning light upon Holy Scripture, upon the promises and acts of Jesus; and he "believed" in the triumph which had been achieved. Godet thinks more - he believed in the Messiah-ship and Sonship in a sense which had not dawned upon him before. The apostle seems to link himself with those who had the smaller and less perfect benediction subsequently pronounced upon Thomas.
For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
Verse 9. - For not as yet did they know (η΅ιδεισαν has an imperfect, not pluperfect tense) the Scripture, which, if rightly interpreted, ought to have made them triumphant in the hour of the Lord's deepest humiliation, and ought to have convinced them that the ideal Sufferer of Psalm 22. would prove to be Lord of all; and that the Lamb of God of Isaiah 53. must see his seed, and prolong his days; that God's "Holy One" of Psalm 16. could not see corruption; that the Messiah of a hundred prophetic hopes must conquer all his foes. The words of Jesus himself, in the memory of John and that of the synoptists, had been dark and confused, and they had not put all together into one glorious conviction that he must (δεῖ, by a Divine necessity) rise from among the dead; nor had they grasped the fact that it was not possible that he should be holden in the travail-pangs of death. The signs which John saw now brought all his hopes together.
Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
Verse 10. - The disciples then again departed to their own homes. Πρὸς αὐτοῦς corresponds with Luke 24:12, to the πρὸς ἑαυτόν to which Peter returned. Here, again, there is a vivid touch of individuality. John's own home contained the mother of the Lord. Around Peter were gathered the other apostles, and they were shortly to be joined by John himself. To them the more detailed report of the language of the angel would be repeated a hundred times. The "other Mary," Salome, Joanna, all press the wondrous assurance upon the eleven, as they mourned and wept, and for the most part were either bewildered or unbelieving. The two disciples start for Emmaus, and all that these knew as yet was that "certain women affirmed the tomb to be empty, that they had seen a vision of angels, which declared him to be alive," and "that certain of our company had visited the sepulcher, and found it even as the women 'had said, but him they saw not" (Luke 24:22-24).
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
Verses 11-18. -
(2) The revelation made to adoring love, answering to the first portion of the high-priestly prayer. Verses 11, 12. - But Mary, who had followed Peter and John to the grave, and witnessed their amazement, and the gleam of hope in the face of John, was standing at the sepulcher without - not within it - weeping. She had not overcome her fears. She had not grasped the idea of resurrection or life. One crushing overmastering grief was still weighing heavily upon her, obscuring her vision, and breaking her heart. While she was continuously weeping, she, as Peter and John had done before her, stooped down (see ver. 5, note) to look into the sepulcher, and beholdeth two angels in white (λευκοῖς) or glittering garments - the adjective so often used for the precious heavenly things, for the garments of the glorified (Revelation 3:4, 5, 18; Acts 1:10; Revelation 7:9, 13, etc.) - sitting, the one at the head, and the (other) one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Here rationalism has come with various explanations. Some have said two white-robed Essenes like those who are also supposed to have appeared to our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, his secret friends, who had really spirited the body of Jesus away, lingered yet in the tomb, and duped Mary by a lying story. Scorning this hypothesis, legendarists have said - Here we see the subjective creation of the terrified and weeping women, who took white clothes for men or angels, and whose fancies were readily believed; while mythical hypotheses have suggested that a glamour of love, many years after the event, created a pathetic and beautiful fiction of what may have happened on that memorable dawn. Every one of these interpretations vanishes before the authenticity of John's Gospel. The disciple whom Jesus loved, the author of the Apocalypse, was personally acquainted with Mary of Magdala, and had much communion with her, and could heartily believe her story. If there be no spiritual world, no kind nor modes of existence beyond what we call the seen and temporal, and no thought higher than man's thought; if every testimony to this spiritual world right through the ages is a delusion, and can be explained away; if it be an irrational or impossible supposition; - why, then this vision must pass away with the rest. But the entire teaching of the Bible from end to end reveals and bears witness to a world ordinarily unseen by human eyes, but none the less real. To some the door thus opened into heaven is closed and sealed by the seven seals of materialism, agnosticism, dogmatism, scientism, worldliness, indifference, and unspirituality. How much do men forget that all human life is but a very temporary, ever-vanishing robe around a permanent and abiding spirit! that it is entirely conceivable that even pure spirit can come for our advantage into still more evanescent forms than those we now possess, which yet make appeal to what we call our senses of sight and hearing! Objective as such manifestations are, they are no more visible to all eyes or ears than the mysteries of art are open to all human sensibility. The harmonies of heaven are not heard by those who are muffled up with vesture of decay, and there is nothing lying beyond or behind the veil of sense to the unspiritual. The whole critical school might have rambled about the garden, with hammer and spectacles, and would never have seen an angel or the risen Christ; but, thank God, all eyes were not so dim. Some were there who saw and believed; and they have revolutionized the world's thought. Their vision is the key of time; their voice, the word that wakes the dead. This manifestation of the unseen world does not contradict the statement of Matthew that an angel of the Lord had been seen sitting on the displaced stone, and terrified the Roman guard; nor Mark's assurance that the women had seen a young man clothed in a white robe, who gave the Divine assurance which perplexed the eleven; nor Luke's description of two men clothed in glittering apparel, who told them that the Lord was living. Surely it is impossible to represent Mary of Magdala's present vision as identical with that which had occurred at an earlier hour; but it is clear that, if she shared in the earlier vision at all, she had not been convinced by it, for still she wept in utter despair. The fact that these angelic appearances should take different forms to different witnesses belongs to their very nature. Such visions, translated into words, would naturally differ. If there had been rigid uniformity in the statements of the three evangelists, and of the fourth with them, grave suspicion would have been attached to the entire recital. The experiences of several different women would be repeated a thousand times. They would be questioned separately and together in every possible way; and it appears from all four narratives that three forms of the ultimate traditions alike declare that hope and fear arising from the empty grave were quickened and stimulated by angelic ambassadors, who variously prepared their mind to receive the grand objective fact.
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.
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.
Verse 13. - And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? "'Ακεῖνοι here," says Westcott, "like the name inserted in ver. 15, marks the pause during which Mary regarded those before her without speaking." Here we witness angelic wonder at human incredulity. Angelic ministry to human sorrow; for the mystery of our tears does not arrest the sympathy of these triumphant spirits. Often, if we are compelled to put into words the supposed cause of our bitterest agony, we deliver ourselves from our fears. She saith unto them, as if she were speaking simply and naturally to human beings. However, Mary of Magdala alone of the women knows them to be "angels," but is so overpowered with the loss of her Lord that she does not quail or flee, but wails forth anew the language she had already uttered to the disciples. I weep because they have taken away my Lord. That "my" makes a characteristic difference from "the Lord" of whom she had spoken to Peter and John. She did not at the instant know that her Lord was the Lord of angels. The "I know," rather than "we know," shows unquestionably that now she is alone, and the other women have left her and are electrifying the city with their strange tales. I know not where they (who have taken his sacred body) have laid him.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
Verse 14. - Then follows the simple record of the most wonderful event in the history of the world. There and then a flash of light broke on one human soul, and on human life at large, which has been brightening and broadening in its luster till this very hour. With what awful and tender simplicity is it related! When she had said this, she turned herself back (εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω) to what was behind her, away from the angels, and from their apparent but fruitless offer of sympathy, still weeping passionately in the utter desolation of a broken heart. But why did she turn? Was she not conscious of a presence near her which she had not seen? The blind are Often aware of the presence of unseen persons, when no footfall is heard and no word spoken. And beholdeth (θεωρεῖ) Jesus standing (ἑστῶτα, perfect participle), as though for some time he had been standing there, watching her (cf. that which he had said to the eleven (John 16:22), "I will see you"). But strange, mysterious, unutterably wonderful, entirely and absolutely inconsistent with the hypothesis, to which we have often referred, that this book is a theological romance, John, on Mary's own authority, adds, She knew not that it was Jesus. This is one of those remarkably vivid and autoptic touches that carry conviction of truth, whatever may be the explanation or the conclusion to be drawn from it. How far was this lack of recognition due to her, and how far to this the first manifestation made of "spiritual body" to human ken? Some have frigidly taken a commonplace explanation. Her eyes were blinded with continuous weeping; or the darkness of the morning; or Jesus may have stood in the shadows of the city wall, as the glare of the first beam of sunrise broke out of the purple mists on the Moab hills; or Christ's appearance was so changed by the agony through which he had passed, and by the recovery and reconstitution of his humanity, that the signs of his identity were obscured. He could not have clothed himself with the glittering garments of the Transfiguration, or with the dazzling robes of angels; for she mistook him for the keeper of the garden, either for Joseph of Arimathaea himself or his steward. "She knew not that it was Jesus." Human eyes are often holden so that they do not see the Lord, even when by some objective manifestation he makes it possible to do this thing. Thus (Judges 13:16), "Manoah knew not that it was the angel of the Lord." And several other of the theophanies of the Old Testament, encountering the blindness of human vision, slowly dawn upon even prophetic intelligence. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, are all instances. And we find that in Matthew 28:16, 17, "some doubted" the Resurrection, even when the vision led others to adore (Luke 24:16). The eyes of Cleophas and his friend were holden, even though their hearts were burning. Those who traveled with Paul to Damascus saw a light and heard a sound, but they did not see nor did they hear what the apostle saw and heard. The μορφή of the risen Jesus was not, according to Mark (Mark 16:12), always the same. For the vision and perception of this mode of being, the eye needs special training and preparation. Though the eyes of love are the quickest to discern these wondrous realities, yet the vision tarries, and is for an appointed time, and even they who ultimately see have to wait for it.
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.
Verse 15. - Jesus saith to her, in the words of the angels, Woman, why weepest thou? These are the first words of the risen Jesus, for Mark tells us, "He appeared first of all to Mary of Magdala." And Matthew's summation of the entire narrative makes it clear that she was at least one of the first group who saw the risen Lord. He recalls her to herself. He seeks to assuage the grief of desolation, the bitterness of despairing love. As his first great Beatitudes had been "Blessed are the poor in spirit," "Blessed are those who mourn and weep," and "Blessed are the meek," so the first words he uttered after he rose from the dead were intended to console human weeping over the most irremediable of human sorrows. They are the beginning of a fulfillment of the Divine promise "to wipe away tears from off all faces." But the Lord adds, Whom seekest thou? She has lost some one, not some thing. Questions these which he has been asking the souls of men and women ever since, when their grief and tears, their unconscious and unsatisfied yearnings after himself, have confused their perceptions and riven their hearts. She, supposing him to be the gardener, a friend, not a stranger, a disciple, not a Roman soldier or a hostile priest, perhaps some man who had been with Joseph of Arimathaea on the Friday evening, or even the senator himself, said to him, Lord, (Sir,) if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. This passionate burst reveals the blinding dominance of a fixed idea. She had no notion of the Resurrection. She was utterly overwhelmed with one bitter, cruel thought. The sacred body was to be embalmed with the precious spices which she had spent her all to buy. Others have forestalled her. Perhaps unsympathizing hands have been doing their worst. She does not know, in her terrified grief, if some wicked hands have not cast out his body into the Valley of Hinnom. She seems to imply that the κηπουρός has heard the words of the angels, and her previous reply to them. She is so filled with one thought, that the him, not it, explains itself. She is reckless of herself, and does not stay to count the cost. Had she not poured the precious ointment on his feet, in happier days, and washed them with her tears? Of whom can she speak but of him who said, "Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven;" "She loved much;" "Thy faith hath saved thee"? So far all is preparation for the great revelation. "The Lord has risen indeed;" but, unlike what poetry or theology might have pictured, or the mythopceic faculty have woven out of its strong persuasion of the Lord's indissoluble life, he has chosen first of all to present this signal manifestation of spiritual corporeity to a loving heart crushed with grief, to one groaning over irreparable wrong, without a spark of hope, that death was indeed vanquished. But she who received the objective presentation was too much preoccupied to feel her footing and her home in two worlds. It was not "an enthusiast (une hallucinee, Renan) who gave the world (un Dieu ressuscite) a resuscitated God," but a doubter, a despairing, broken-hearted sufferer, who did not know him when she saw him.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Verse 16. - Jesus saith unto her, Mary. The more general expression, "woman" (ver. 15), makes her seem to us the representative of the whole of suffering humanity, weeping over the inability to find any link of fellowship between itself and the invisible God, feeling unconsciously after the Christ and haply not finding him, weeping because hostility had obliterated him or superstition had concealed him, while all the while he is near at hand. But now Jesus stirred the affection of the living, weeping person at his side by uttering her own name in tones that thrilled her to the heart, and created the new sublime conviction that he had risen, as he said. She turned herself, as though the previous glance had been momentary and partial, and now the vision and voice blended, and she knew him. And saith unto him in Hebrew, Rabbouni Ἑβραίστι is here introduced by modern editors, This word only occurs in this Gospel and the Apocalypse), a word (the evangelist adds) which is to say, Master. The Hebrew term - probably preserved in its Galilaean form, רַבּוּנִי, rabbouni, rather than in the ordinary form (see Authorized Version) רַבּרֹנִי, rabboni - if strictly translated, would be "my Teacher," or "my Master," yet the personal pronoun must not be pressed. It doubtless had lost its specialty as we find in many other languages (monsieur, mein herr, "my Lord," are familiar instances). Even if the full force of the pronoun were urged, Mary's faith had not gone beyond the ideal of her devotedly loved Teacher, Friend, Master, and fell far short of the insight which even the incredulous Thomas would soon exhibit, that the Lord had put on Divine glory, and filled all things. She apparently fell in speechless, passionate affection at his feet, as the other women did shortly afterwards (see Matthew 28:9); but with the idea that now the old relations between Teacher and loving disciples would be resumed. She was in no mood answering to the doubtfulness of the disciples who desired proof of his identity, of the fact of his corporeity, before they could understand his claim to be their perpetual Guide, and his promise to be with them "unto the end of the world;" but she thought at once of the old life in Galilee. Her joy knew no bounds, but her conception of the reality of that which was revealed to her was most imperfect. It was the realization of love rather than the perception of intellect. She rushed hastily to a very limited conclusion; and she suffered an obvious correction, if not repulse, which has been interpreted in many ways.
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.
Verse 17. - Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for, etc.
(1) Some, Bengal and others, make the γάρ govern the whole clause that follows, and so give the meaning," Stay not to touch me, but haste to my disciples, and say," etc.; but this would render the first clause very obscure, unless the further supposition be made, as by Baur, Bush, Sears, and many others, that our Lord was just on the point of ascending to heaven, i.e. of one (nay, the first) of his many ascensions to the Father, after which the touching, in the sense either of worship or of verification, would be possible and rightful, and also the supposition that an "ascension" intervened between the appearance to the Magdalene and the other women, or at all events before the revelation to the disciples at Emmaus, to Simon Peter, or to the eleven, at all of which both verification of his personality, if net worship at his feet, was permitted or encouraged. This hypothesis is perilously near to an assumption of a succession of illusive visions of that which had nothing but subjective reality.
(2) Olshausen and Schleiermacher give the utterly naturalistic view, that the Lord's spiritual body was so tender that he could not bear a vigorous grasp or physical touch. Still worse,
(3) Paulus supposed that he was still suffering from his cruel wounds, which, of course, would only imply an apparent death on the cross, and is a denial of the Resurrection altogether.
(4) Meyer's view seems to imply that Mary wondered whether he had only a glorified spirit without bodily form, and she wished to verify the latter by handling his Person, and "Jesus gives her by his verbal assurance the certainty she seeks, adding, For I am not yet ascended to the (my) Father; therefore as yet I am not a glorified spirit who has again come down from heaven, whither he had ascended." This is very subtle, and is equivalent to our Lord's saying, "Do not you, Mary, seek that kind of bodily tangible proof;" "I am not yet a glorified spirit, and have not yet the glorified body which you imagined." The difficulty of this interpretation is not what Godet says, "Jesus glorified does not become pure spirit," but that Mary is credited with a breadth and depth of apprehension so far in advance of her apparent despondency and her small amount of faith in the dignity of her Lord.
(5) Many take the μὴ μου ἄπτου, "Hold me not fast," as though ἄπτομαι were equal to κρατεῖν, "to hold fast," or to hold for purposes of enjoyment, and imply that Mary rushed to "embrace" our Lord (Hengstenberg and Bruckner), to clasp him by the knees or feet; that Jesus warned and repulsed the effort, implying that he repressed the exuberance of the joy which she manifested, pointing to a much higher and holier contact that would be possible when his glorification would be complete. Augustine ('Tract. in Io.,' 121:3), "' Touch me not,' that is, Believe not thus on me according to thy present notions. For how could it be otherwise than carnally that she still believed on him whom she was weeping over as a man? For I am not yet ascended to my Father.' There shalt thou touch me when thou believest me to be God in no wise unequal to the Father." Leo the Great ('Sermo,' 74. 100. 4, quoted by P. Schaff): "I am unwilling that you should approach me (carnaliter) by any mere physical touch, that you should recognize me by the physical senses (sensu carnis). I am drawing you to sublimer things; I am preparing greater things for you. When I shall have ascended to the Father, then you will handle me more perfectly and truly, being ready, as you then will be, to apprehend what you do not touch, and to believe that which you do not perceive." Many of the most able of modern expositors adopt this view or some modification of it (Calvin, Melancthon, Lampe, De Wette, and Tholuck); Luthardt now sees a difficulty in this interpretation, from the twofold sense thus attributed to the word ἄπτεσθαι, and falls back on the earlier view, "Cling not to me, but go and tell my disciples," etc. Godet, however, puts it thus: "I have not yet reached the state by means of' which I shall be able to live with you in the communion which I promised you;" and many of the ecclesiastical divines discover in the words an allusion to sacramental communion which will be possible in the future, when the dispensation of the Holy Spirit shall have beau inaugurated. The ascension of which he speaks is not of one definitive act, but of a continual state (ἀναβέβηκα, not ἀνέβην), and so the idea of the repeated ascensions is precluded. The difficulty arises from the permission the Lord gave to the eleven to prove by tangible evidence, by visible signs, the reality of his resurrection, showing them by way of identification the marks upon his person of the great agony. But there is no need to suppose that Mary was refused one touch when she seemed wishful to cling to his feet, and thus redouble the conviction already wrought in her by sight and hearing of his new mode of being. Ἄπτεσθαι has this double meaning, "to handle" and "to hold fast." The key of the passage is in the οὔπω, "not yet have I ascended to the Father;" and the reasonable, nay, the imperative, inference is that when he shall have ascended to the Father, there will be ample opportunity for that spiritual communion with him which will make him for ever present with his Church. The goal of all Christ's teaching (as recorded by John) is his return to the Father, and the consequent fullness of his disciples' joy. Because he will be glorified straightway in God himself, he will henceforth be as near to them, as competent to teach and guide and protect them, as in the days of his flesh; nay, more so, for they will do greater works than he wrought before them, because he goes to the Father, ascending up to where he was before (John 14:18-21, 23, 28; John 16:14, 17). He will be "seated at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens," he will pass "through these heavens, that he may fill all things." Because he is "the Lamb in the midst of the throne," he will lead them to the living fountains of water. Because he is on the eternal throne, he can dwell in them and manifest himself to them. But go to my brethren. The new name, dearer than "slaves," than "servants," than "disciples," than "ministers," than "apostles," than "friends;" one that involves in itself an eternal inheritance. Observe that, though our Lord (Matthew 12:48, etc.) had prepared the way for this unspeakable privilege, it is not until he has put on the life eternal, the life of victory over death, that he freely confers this lofty designation upon that timid and dispirited band of special followers who had forsaken him and fled in his great humiliation. Peter especially (Mark 16:7) receives this significant assurance and (Luke 24:34) confirms its realization together with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5). These eleven men are henceforth his brethren. And say to them, I am ascending; the process of ascension has begun; I am beginning to assume all the prerogatives of spiritual corporeity; I am clothing myself with my eternal form; I have laid down my life, that I might take it again, and use it for the highest blessedness of my brethren. I am ascending to my Father, and to your Father. Let it be observed that he does not say, "to our Father." "He who is Father of Christ and Father of men, is so in different ways. He is Father of Christ by nature and of men by grace" (Westcott). "He saith not 'our Father;' in one sense, therefore, is he mine, in another sense yours; by nature mine, by grace yours" (Augustine). To my God, and your God. The same remark may be made here. Christ does speak of "my God" from the throne of glory (Revelation 3:2, 12). His human consciousness of God has throughout been unique; his eternal consciousness of the Father's love dignified all his human relations with the Father, and became the true inspiration of all consciousness of God possessed by his disciples. "He appears in the presence [before the face] of God for us," and so we have access unto one Father and draw near to God. Nevertheless, he did not say to "our God," any more than to "our Father."
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
Verse 18. - Mary the Magdalene cometh and telleth the disciples. She rushes at once with speed and zeal, and the word is on her tongue, I have seen (she does not say, I have grasped him by the hand, or kissed his feet) the Lord, and how that he said these things to her. This special message, not recorded in Matthew 28:10, was clearly not given to the women who held his feet. Some harmonists endeavor to identify the narrative in Matthew with this passage and others to make Matthew's narrative identical with the account of the revelations made to Joanna's party at a later hour, and therefore entirely distinct from this (see Commentaries on Matthew, Luke, and Mark). John's account is free from ambiguity in itself, whereas the rapid summary given in Luke and the general impression produced by the whole group of events, as recorded by Matthew, suggest the need of supplementary intelligence. The narratives of the synoptists, then, record that in the course of this Easter Day a company of women who may reasonably be supposed to be those who bore the names of Joanna, Susanna, and others, and who had gone to the tomb with their spices, had been met by the Lord himself, either going or returning, and had received the summons to tell the disciples that he would see them in Galilee. The two disciples on their way to Emmaus had at length discovered that the mysterious stranger who accosted them and discoursed so fully was the Lord himself. They returned to Jerusalem to affirm the fact, and found the eleven rejoicing that the Lord had risen indeed, and that "he had appeared to Simon Peter." It would certainly seem, and is at length admitted by all, that the narrative given in the following verses of events occurring on the late evening of the Easter Day could be none other than that which Luke describes (Luke 24:36). This is rendered somewhat perplexing by the record of Mark 16:12, that the language of the two disciples was not accepted by τοῖς λοιποῖς, "the rest." But it is obvious from every one of the narratives how slow of heart even the apostles themselves were to accept the assurance of such unexpected and wonderful phenomena. The extreme dejection of the disciples, followed by their vigorous and invincible faith, is testified by each evangelist; but from the nature of the ease the resurrection of Jesus was, during the course of the entire day, doubted by some. The nature of the doubt, and the method in which it was put to rest, is portrayed in some detail by John (see note on ver. 1).
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 saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Verses 19, 20. -
(3) The manifestation to the ten disciples, corresponding with the second portion of the prayer, and followed by special conference of privilege. Verse 19. - When therefore it was evening, on that day, being the first day of the week; i.e. the close of the day on which the Lord had risen; on "that day" which became so memorable in the history of the Church. Consequently, after most astounding and independent revelations had been made to several individuals, about 8 p.m. there occurred that which John now proceeds to describe. The note of time identifies it with the scene and event described by Luke (Luke 24:36-43); consequently John had the former account before him in the record of his own reminiscences. To understand the full force of the passage we must bring to it the statements of Luke, Mark, and Paul. The disciples had been prepared,
(1) by the reports of the women, that the grave had been opened and was empty, and that angelic appearances had asserted the resurrection of Jesus.
(2) By the impression made on Peter and John when they found it as Mary and the other women had said. The disappearance of the body of Jesus, confirmed by the four independent lines of testimony, is strangely difficult to account for on any hypothesis except that of the Resurrection. The disciples were evidently confounded by the fact. The Pharisees and priestly party were quite aware that such an event would checkmate their supposed victory over a hated rival. The Roman soldiers were pledged in honor and by pride and passion not to allow themselves thus to be reduced to impotence. Hence there is no explanation of the rise or beginning of such a legend (see B. Weiss, 'Life of Jesus,' 3. pp. 390-395), except the historical fact.
(3) By an assertion of the Magdalene that she had seen the Lord, and that he had sent a special message to his brethren as to the completion of his glorification in his ascent to the Father.
(4) By the announcement, the details of which are not recited, concerning an appearance to Peter: this fact stands on remarkably strong evidence of Mark, Luke, and Paul.
(5) By the immense excitement of the appearance and disappearance of the Lord at Emmaus. This was evinced by the return of the two disciples to Jerusalem, charged with new ideas of the meaning of the Scriptures and of the will and power of God, and with fundamentally new notions of the very nature of spiritual body - body entirely and absolutely under the power of the spirit. The apostles were prepared for the wonderful manifestation of a new mode of being; but they needed something more convincing than they had yet received. They were still suffering from intellectual blindness and slowness of spirit, and were apparently incapable of accepting mere testimony. Mark's statement (Mark 16:14) embraces the special scene which John describes in much more vivid and instructive manner (vers. 26-29). But Luke expressly implies that far more than the eleven had gathered together, either in the room where the Paschal supper had been celebrated, or where the election of Matthias subsequently took place. Joseph and Nicodemus, the women, and some of the seventy disciples were there; nor can we conceive excluded from their fellowship Mary of Bethany, or Lazarus, or Simon the Cyreman, or the "brothers of the Lord" so designated. We are told that after the arrival of the Emmaus disciples, the doors having been locked (shut) where the disciples were [assembled ] because of the (their) fear of the Jews. This expression is once again repeated (ver. 26), showing that, after the lapse of seven days, fear and precautions against surprise still prevailed. They were on both occasions in ignorance of the purpose or meaning of the Sanhedrin, nor could they tell whether the malice of the world would at once compel them to follow their Lord's example, drink of his cup, and be baptized with his baptism. The doors were closed, when Jesus came, and stood in the midst - a phrase which is here identical with that in Luke's narrative. Now, John, who, consonantly with Luke, has recorded his evidence that the body of Christ was not a phantasmal imagination, but a veritable, visible, and tangible reality (see Luke 24:37-43), identifiable with the very body which had been so cruelly wounded and bruised for them, takes special pains to hint, By a single clause, that the body of Christ was a new creation, and was submitted to laws profoundly different from those which we have generalized from the intimations of the five senses only. John does not say that the doors were opened by some magic process, nor that Christ simply passed through the closed doors, nor that they were miraculously removed; but that he had taken up his position before them by a process which, to the body made of the dust of the earth, would be supremely miraculous. Were we have a revelation made to prepared minds of a new order of existence (see Westcott's 'Revelations of the Risen Lord,' and Milligan's 'Resurrection of Christ,' on the likeness and on the unlikeness of the risen body with that which had died). It is more than possible - nay, it is entirely presumable - that the spiritual body becomes possessed of additional senses, of which we have no conception or experience; and, therefore, the spirit clothed with such body is alive to properties of matter and dimensions of space and active forces all of which would be supernatural to us, "cribbed, cabined, and confined" as we are now and here. Our Lord, before his Passion, gave numerous proofs of the dominance of his spirit over the body: his repeated escapes from his enemies, the power of his voice and glance, his transfiguration-glory, his superiority to gravitation in walking upon the sea and hushing its storms. So that he, on this occasion, is revealing to the world some of the functions of spiritual corporeity. He is manifesting the kind of life which will eventually be the condition of all the redeemed - visible and tangible at will to those who are limited to our present condition and stage of being, but also in its normal state invisible, impalpable, to eye and touch of mortal sense. There can be little doubt that John deeply recognized what Paul described as "the spiritual body." Jesus stood suddenly in their midst, not a phantasm, as the disciples (or some of them) were ready to suggest. His first word, though consisting in form of the common salutation of the East, must have meant immeasurably more to them than it does in ordinary parlance. And Jesus saith unto them, Peace be to you! which, uttered in well-remembered tones, reminded them of how he had discriminated his "peace," and his manner of giving it from the world's "peace," and the world's manner of giving (John 14:27). It meant the hushing of their fear, the expulsion of terrible alarm (see Luke 24:37, 38). This is John's summary of all that he said. Luke, with much detail, records how the Lord proved that he was, not a mere subjective vision, but a veritable man, with flesh, and bones, and voice, and power to take food. Consequently the evangelists labor to make evident the fact that the spiritual resurrection-body, though a continuation of the old life, with signs of its identity, is, nevertheless, emancipated from the ordinary conditions of our material corporeity. This is one of the places where the narrative transcends experience and imagination, and appeals to faith in a higher order of being than crosses the field of scientific vision.
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
Verse 20. - When he had said this - i.e. when he had uttered all that was involved in his Divine salutation - he showed them his hands and his side. Luke says "his hands and his feet;" John calls attention to the special wound in his sacred side, the making of which he had so closely described and verified (John 19:33-35). Igor was this vision of the Lord restricted to the ocular testimony, to the bare fact of the Resurrection, but it was a solemn assurance that he, though risen, had died for them. He is the Living One that was dead, and is alive for evermore. He is in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain. In his greatest glory neither does he nor can his people forget his sacrificial death. "He showed them his hands and his side." Some have argued, from John's silence about his" feet," that he intended to correct a general impression which the synoptic narrative had produced, viz. that our Lord's feet had been nailed to the cross. There is no reason whatever for any such hypothesis. The evangelist simply emphasizes the ghastly proof of his Lord's actual death, with its supernatural accompaniments, as a more vivid evidence of identity than the piercing of the feet: moreover, it was a fact to which he had borne special testimony. Some conception is given in both the Gospels of the marks and vestiges of the earthly pilgrimage which will survive death and pass on into the eternal world. The disciples, therefore, were glad when they saw the Lord. In Luke 24:41 we read that they were incredulous from the excess of their joy, and surcharged with wonder. In the bewilderment of their rapture he added to their assurance, and transformed their joy into faith by publicly and before them all participating in food. Extreme dejection is transformed into triumphant conviction of the truth. A new revelation had been made to them of the very nature of life, while the veil that had from the beginning of time concealed the abode of the blessed dead, had at length been rent in twain. They heard, they saw, they handled, the Word of life. They felt that in their Lord they too were now at home in both worlds. Their fellowship was with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
Verses 21-23. -
(4) Peace, spiration of the Holy Spirit, and conference of power to remit or retain sin. Verse 21. - Therefore [Jesus] said unto them again, Peace be unto you. With added emphasis, and in obvious reference to his valedictory discourse, he gave to them the essence of his own sublime repose, the blending of an infinite joy with a measureless sorrow; the equilibrium that springs from the spirit mastering the flesh. Not an ecstatic rapture, nor a joy that would make their life on earth insupportable by its contrast with their abiding frame of mind; but peace - "the peace of God, which passeth understanding." The first "peace" gave to all who were assembled a new revelation; the second "peace," a summons to service. The Lord added the memorable words, As the Father hath sent me (ἀπέσταλκε, hath sent me on a special commission), I also send you (πέμπω, charge you to go forth and accomplish this commission of mine); see Westcott's excursus on the New Testament usage of the two verbs, which does much to justify these shades of meaning. Both verbs are used of both the mission of the Son and the mission of believers, but in the two senses,
(1) that sometimes the special service on which he or they are sent is emphasized by the use of ἀποστέλλω; and
(2) that at other times the simple mission or sending forth is the dominant idea when πέμπω is employed. Thus in John 4:38 the Lord says, "I sent (ἀπέστειλα) you to reap that on which ye bestowed no labor;" and John 17:18 (see note) the same word is appropriately used twice - for the Lord's own commission, and also for the commission of the disciples. Then it seems to point back to an event in their history and the work done already and before Christ's death for the world. Now the disciples have a new conception of Christ and of his work, and they must go forth to fulfill it. This usage of ἀποστέλλω is more or less conspicuous in John 1:6; John 3:28; John 5:33; John 18:24. Πέμπω is used often to describe the Father's mission of the Son, the mission of the Comforter, and the mission of the disciples (John 13:20; John 14:26; John 16:7). Moulton says, " Ἀροστέλλω means 'commission' and πέπμω 'mission.' With the first word our thoughts turn to the 'special embassy;' with the second, to the authority of the ' ambassador' and the obedience of the sent." Another peculiarity of this passage is that the Lord uses the perfect tense, ἀπέσταλκε, rather than the aorist used elsewhere, suggesting a complete commission on his own side, whose meaning and effects are still in operation. Those who have received this revelation are to become at once witnesses to the fact of his resurrection, agents and organs of his Spirit. Moulton suggests that τέμπω is used in order to enforce the physical separation between the Lord and his disciples; and that we cannot overlook in the similarity of the ideas the difference in the manner of the sending, by the Savior of the disciples, from the manner in which the Son had been sent by the Father. Christ came forth from the eternal companionship of the Father, in the fact of his incarnation, taking humanity up into his eternal substance. The disciples were sent forth by the risen Lord, who had called them by grace into fellowship with himself, and who equipped them for his service. The difference in these two methods of sending is as conspicuous as the resemblance.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Verses 22, 23. - And when he had said this, he breathed upon them, and saith to them, Receive ye (the) Holy Spirit. The word ἐνεφύσησεν is not elsewhere used in the New Testament, but is used by the LXX. in Genesis 2:7 to describe the essential distinction between the living soul of Adam and the living soul of all other animals. Man's life was no evolution of the life in other creatures, or consequence of pre-existent properties in the dust of the ground. A direct volition of the Almighty conferred upon humanity the life of the flesh. So here the second Adam, the life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45), was represented as visibly and sensibly conferring on those whom he now sends forth to complete the mission of his grace the Divine life which would make them new creatures, and bestow on them power to generate the same spirit in others. They will have power to do this by bearing testimony to that which they see and know to be the fact of the case. The celebrated passage (John 7:39) which asserts the "glorification" of Jesus to be the condition of the mission of the Comforter (cf. John 16:7) makes the bestowment of the Spirit on this occasion a proof that the glorification had already begun. Has he not already said to Mary, "I am ascending to my Father"? So now he implies that the. time will come when, though he is sending his disciples forth from his immediate corporeal presence, they will touch him by other faculties than eye, or ear, or hand. He is about to leave them for seven days; they are to learn the reality of his spiritual presence by an earnest of Pentecost, by such a gift of the Spirit that they will recognize, in the rushing mighty wind, the presence of the same uplifting, revealing, supernatural Energy. It is urged by Hofmann, Luthardt, Gess, Moulton, and to some extent Westcott and Coder, that the absence of the article must be represented in the translation, that we have here either "a holy spirit," or an energy, an impersonal force of Spirit, or "a gift of the Holy Spirit," an effusion of Holy Spirit, and not "the Spirit of the Father and Son," not the fullness of the Holy Ghost, not the realization of the Divine indwelling, only an earnest of the sublime reality, a symbolic expression of the promise of the Father. Godet says, "This communication is to the Resurrection what Pentecost will be to the Ascension. As by Pentecost he will initiate them into his ascension, so now he associates them with the life of the Resurrection." This last may be perfectly true; yet Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, with or without article, is "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). Meyer says, "The idea of an intermediate Holy Spirit, distinct from the Holy Spirit, lies outside of Scripture." Nor can we minimize the full force of λάβετε, which emphasizes the special action of Christ, by which he communicated to this first gathering of the Church the sense of his Divine presence, the gift of spiritual insight, the God-consciousness, the experience of two worlds, the unity and community of life with himself, which has been augmenting in positive realization, in vivid proofs, in mighty powers, from that hour to this. Whosoever enters into the sphere of that Divine breath becomes "alive unto God;" his faith is invincible; he comes to know that which passes current experience. This was the beginning of the supernatural life which makes Christian consciousness unique among religious experiences. From that hour the holy world and kingdom in which Christ rules has been an objective fact. It lies far beyond the ken of science, and cannot find any place in a sensational philosophy, because it is not a universal experience. It will become so. The further revelations of the Lord all contributed to create the conviction, and Pentecost sealed it to the world. It is desirable to remember (cf. Luke 24:33, etc.) that not merely the eleven apostles received this Divine gift but all the others who had gathered together with them. This circumstance must be held to govern to some extent the solemn and mysterious privilege which appears to follow the Divine bestowment of the Holy Spirit. We cannot divide the company into two parts, one of which received the Holy Spirit, and the other which did not receive him; one of which became conscious of the Divine reality, and the other not. The women who had been the first witnesses and proclaimers of the resurrection-life of the Lord could not have been deprived of this sublime privilege. To the little society of believers, before long to swell to a company of a hundred and twenty, was this great grace given, and to the new fellowship of faith was the high privilege vouchsafed; for he continued, Whosesoever sins ye (remit) forgive, they are forgiven unto them - absolutely forgiven by God; for who can forgive sins but God only, and the Son of man who had and exercised the power on earth to forgive sins? - and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. The history of the interpretation of this remarkable passage is given at length in Herzog's 'Real Encycl.,' art. "Schlüsselgewelt," by Stein. The patristic, scholastic, Tridentine,' Reformation doctrines are very carefully treated. The decrees of the Council of Trent, session 16. co. 1. - 6, show that every form in which apostolic custom, reformed theology, and modern exegesis have solved the problem of their meaning, was repudiated and anathematized by the Church of Rome, and that the function of forgiving or retaining sin was reserved for the priesthood alone, whether in respect of venial or mortal sin (see ' Ecclesia: Church Problems considered in a Series of Essays,' article by the present writer "On Forgiveness and Absolution of Sins"). It is impossible to sever this passage from those passages in Matthew 16:19 where Peter's confession of the Messiahship draws forth from the Lord the extraordinary benediction and privilege, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Lightfoot and Schöttgen have shown, by numerous quotations from the Talmud, that the phrases "bind" and "loose" are repeatedly used by the rabbis to denote the declaration of what is binding and what is immaterial in ethic and religions life. Thus say they, "The school of Hillel binds, the school of Schammai looses or declares indifferent, this or that regulation." We know that it was given to Peter, by the conference upon him of the powers of the Holy Ghost, to declare the terms of admission and exclusion from the kingdom of God. Thus Acts 2:37-39; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:20-24; Acts 10:34-48; Acts 11:17; Acts 15:8, etc. Now, we find James in the same assembly proceeding still further than Simon Peter (James, who was not even one of the twelve disciples); and Paul repeatedly, in the Acts and in his Epistles, declaring by Divine inspiration the duties, the privileges, the ideas, the redeeming principles, of the kingdom of God, "binding and loosing," in the full confidence that he was the minister and mouthpiece of Jesus Christ. This is not remarkable, because we find that the identical privilege which was in Matthew 16. described as a privilege of Peter is in Matthew 18:15-19 conferred, not merely on Peter, but on the whole Church, and still more explicitly upon any two who should agree as touching the forgiveness of a brother, to ask the Father in heaven for this great boon. This privilege is based on the ground that "where two or three are gathered together" in Christ's Name, there, says he, "am I in the midst of them." If the offending brother had refused all repentance and neglected to hear the judgment of the Church, this prayer cannot be urged. Peter then seeks for further information, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?" In answer to this question Christ reminded Peter of the Father's boundless love, and made it the pattern of human forgiveness; and the whole question of the forgiveness of injuries is shown to be closely associated with this binding and loosing power, this anticipation, this discovery of the will of the Father, this acquisition of the truth in answer to earnest prayer. Prayer is, as we have seen in numberless places, the rising up of human desires into the very purposes and grace of God, not a change wrought by us in the mind and will of God - God forbid that we should ever, to our confusion, secure such a result as that! - but it is in essence a change wrought by God in us, helping us to say, "Thy will be done!" Let it be borne m mind that this privilege of learning and uttering in our prayers the forgiving love of God, upon the conditions of repentance and faith and a forgiving spirit, is not confined to Peter, but conferred on all the disciples, nay, upon any two of them who should agree to pray with the sinning brother for forgiveness. This great law of love, prayer, and forgiveness was doubtless given for all time. Our Lord, in this repetition of a promise made on an earlier occasion, emits all reference to the binding in heaven of what is bound on earth. Yet he does not repeal the promise, but rather specifies the occasions on which the disciples would find that most frequently they would have to exercise it. Whosesoever sins ye, etc. It is as much as to say - Announce boldly remission of sins on conditions of faith and repentance (Luke 24:47) "to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Your forgiveness even of my murderers, your forgiveness of' Samaritans and publicans, of chief priests and Pharisees, of Greeks and Jews, of those that stone you and persecute you; as well as your announcement of the infinite compassion of God, shall be justified and ratified in heaven. This has been the divinest function of the Church and of the disciples of Christ ever since. There is no case that we can find in the New Testament in which the apostles as an order of men, or the ministers of the Church as such, assumed in any other way the power of personally forgiving, in the stead of God, the specific sins of any individuals. We cannot here trace the matter into the controversies that have arisen as to the power of a specially ordered ministry to absolve personally individual sinners from the consequences of their sin against God. Spiritual communion with Christ, personal reception from Christ himself of his own Spirit, is the highest guarantee of power to proclaim with emancipating effect the amnesty of love, or to utter with subduing might the terrors of the Lord.
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
Verses 24-29. -
(5) The manifestation made to anxious skepticism, with the blessing on those who have not seen and yet have believed. Verse 24. - This revelation was of supreme importance, and is the climax of the entire Gospel. It is peculiar to John's narrative, and throws light upon the very construction of the Gospel. It reveals the characteristics of honest doubt, and indicates the abundance of the evidence which was offered to specific classes and conditions of mind to help them believe that the Lord had risen. The confession drawn from the heart of this apostle is not only valuable in itself, but it reflects a new luster on the previous manifestation. Moreover, it is cumulative in its argumentative force. The most skeptical is the most enthusiastic of the twelve. But Thomas, one of the twelve (a term of designation for the first group of the apostles, and one which was not renounced, although two of them were absent. The number "twelve" had a symbolic and historic value from its relation to the twelve tribes, and we find (Acts 1.) that the eleven were anxious to fill up the vacant place left by Judas), called Didymus (Greek for "twin," repeated here from John 11:16, not simply to imply that Thomas was best known by his Greek name, but that there was a blending in him of intense love and a fear which had torment, a great ambition and yet exposure to moods of despondency, a desire to treat the whole manifestation of Christ as complete, to believe that the words of the Lord were all sublimely true, - coupled with a ghastly doubt that all was a delusion, a faculty of constructive faith and speculation, of transcendental intuition side by side with an intense desire for sensible manifestation, a greater belief in the Master than in the disciples, but no unwillingness to accept that which was sufficiently established). Thomas was not with them when Jesus came. We can never know why he was absent. He was given to moody fear, and shrank into solitude; and doubtless in many ways and words, as well as those recorded, had implied the wreck of his hopes. Separated from the fellowship of kindred spirits, he augmented his gloom; he was fast tending to unbelief. The state of his mind throughout the Passover week may have been one reason why the apostles delayed their return to Galilee. They may have come frequently to him with their sublime announcement, not once nor twice only.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
Verse 25. - The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. Mary, Cleopas, Peter, John, bad all tried to animate his drooping spirit. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands (as I presume you have) the print of the nails, and (yet more than you have done - touch as well as see) put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will by no means believe - not merely in the Resurrection, which you attest, but in the grand reality I was fain to admit so recently, the supposed fact that he came from the Father, that he is the Way to the Father, that he is in the Father, that he is all he said he was. If Themas could grasp the new life, the new and hitherto unrevealed order of being, if he could spiritually see the realization of all the mystery of love in the Resurrection, then all that he was doubting would flash forth at once from its hiding-place. Perhaps, if he had been present with the rest, he would have accepted it; but how can he "believe through their word"? The extent of his doubt is further seen in this: he did not say, "If I see the print of the nails... I will believe;" but, "Except I see... I will by no means believe." The first manifestation of our Lord seemed to correspond with the first portion of the Savior's high-priestly prayer, viz. that he might himself be glorified; the second manifestation of the day corresponded with the prayer for the disciples; and now the third manifestation is to meet the difficulties of the third and more numerous class, who must gather all their conviction from the evidence of others. This subtle relation between parts of the Gospel shows how profound is the principle of its construction.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Verse 26. - And after eight days - i.e. after the Passover week was over, during which the disciples were pondering the new revelations of the Easter Day, and becoming more able to understand the meaning of a spiritual presence - to understand what the real "touching" of the risen Lord meant - again his disciples were within the same or a similar abode referred to in ver. 19. Some have urged that this manifestation occurred in Galilee, whither the disciples had been directed to journey to receive the most convincing proofs of his power and presence. There is no evidence of this at all, and the form of expression corresponds so closely with the description of the conditions of the first meeting, that we cannot accept the suggestion of Olshausen and others. Some have urged that this is the beginning of the celebration of the Resurrection-day - the sanctification of the first day of the week. Such a conclusion cannot be positively asserted. "Eight days" having fully elapsed might bring them to the evening of the second day of the second week. The expression, "seven days," is unquestionably used for a week in the Old Testament, though Luke (Luke 9:28) seems to use the expression, "about eight days," for a well-known division of time, probably "from sabbath to sabbath;" and from the Jewish way of reckoning the beginning of a day on the sunset of the preceding day, we might reckon that, from the middle of the first Sunday to the evening of the second, the period would include parts of eight days. There is nothing, therefore, to prevent the calculation of parts of eight days from the great events of Easter Day as a whole to the evening of the second Sunday. And though, as Meyer says, there is nothing indicative of any consecration of the first day of the week, it is obviously calculated to explain the custom which so rapidly sprang up in the Christian community. Nor is it without interest that John, in the Apocalypse, described himself as receiving his first great vision on "the Lord's day." And Thomas was with them. He had not broken with the disciples, even if he could not accept their unanimous testimony. He was now, at least, sharing their excitement, and perhaps their hope, and many in addition to the eleven disciples were striving to realize with them the new condition of things, even their common relation to an invisible and triumphant Lord. The Gospel of Matthew and the undisputed portion of Mark 16. describe no appearance to the apostles in Jerusalem, and consequently the opponents of the Fourth Gospel have commented on the apostles' cowardly flight from Jerusalem, and on the unhistoric character of the two appearances to them in the metropolis. The fact is that there is no indication of flight in the synoptists, and the Fourth Gospel throws light on the return to Galilee in John 21. (see Weiss, 'Life of Jesus,' vol. 3:403, 404). Matthew gives rather a summary of the appearances of forty days (Acts 1:3), in an event to which probably St. Paul refers (1 Corinthians 15:6). When the doors had been shut (observe here and in ver. 19 the perfect passive participle), Jesus cometh, and stood in the midst, and said (once more, as he saw their natural perturbation; for do not men always shrink from manifestation of pure spirit or spiritual body?), Peace be unto you (see notes on vers. 19, 20). The repetition of the appearance at a similar hour and place confirmed and intensified their previous experience. If doubts had crept into any minds, the rectification of the first impression would be secured, and a Divine joy once more surcharge their minds.
Then saith he 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.
Verse 27. - Then (εϊτα, not οϋν; delude, Vulgate; darnach, Luther) saith he to Thomas, as though he had read his heart and sounded the depth of his complicated conflict between hope and fear, despair and love, and moreover intimating the fact that he had heard his disciple's protestations, as well as mercifully appreciated his genuine difficulties, and not unnatural hesitation, Reach hither thy finger, that organ with which thou wouldest test the reality of my being. Do what thou wilt. See! my hands; and as the word was spoken he spread before his doubting, loving disciple those hands which were nailed to the cursed tree, with all the signs of his great agony upon them still. Thomas had said that he must "see," and that he must touch - "lay his finger in the print of the nails." Here was the Divine opportunity for him, with more than one sense, to assure himself of the reality. And reach hither thy hand (again the Lord quoted the very words in which the incredulousness of Thomas had been expressed), and put it into my side. He says nothing of the print of the nails, but offers the sacred privilege to the doubtful disciple. Thomas shall have the precise evidence he craved. The most hesitating of the entire group shall have the aid to his faith which he fancied indispensable in his particular case. How often has the unbeliever said, "If such or such evidence be not granted to me, I cannot, I will not, I by no means will believe"! Thus Gideon proved the Lord's willingness to utilize his feeble strength in delivering Israel from the Midianites; and even Ahaz was summoned by Isaiah to choose any sign whatsoever in heaven above or in the earth to prove the indestructible vitality of the true seed of Israel and real house of David. Consequently, we cannot say with Bengel, "Si Pharisseus its dixisset, 'nisi videro, etc.,' nil impetrasset sed discipulo pridem probato nil non datur." The Lord does sometimes offer exactly what we ask by way of proof; but we cannot know the precise effect it will produce, even when it is bestowed or when something still more explicit is actually provided for our weakness. Just as the cruel taunts which malice heaped or hurled on the name and work of our Divine Lord became wreaths of glory for his brow, so the cruel wounds which unbelief and bigoted hatred of goodness had inflicted on Immanuel became from that very hour the high, main, indelible evidence of his supreme victory. And become not (μὴ γίνου) what thou art in danger of becoming - the Lord does not say that Thomas's - faithless, but that he runs the risk of ultimately becoming so through the dependence of his spirit upon the outward (so Meyer, Lange, Westcott, etc.); but be believing, faithful. It is impossible fully to express the play upon these two words. Ἄπιστος is not so much a worthless, untrustworthy person, as one who has settled down into an abiding condition of unbelief; and πίστος is not simply" believing," but" trustworthy," "trusty," and "trustful."
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Verse 28. - Thomas answered and said to him. Before, so far as we know, any gesture or effort was made on his part to accept the tests which had been so rashly demanded, but so graciously offered. He already found evidence which was far more efficacious than that which he in gross and sensuous fashion had thought indispensable for his peculiarly constituted mind. Before doing more than fill his hungry eyes with these identifying signs of the Lord's actual objective presence, he did in reality touch his Lord by other powers than finger or hand. He bounded from the depths of despondency to the very top of faith, and he "answered" - he responded to the proof he had already received of the Lord's triumph over death, and to the seal that had now been set upon the Lord's own supreme and majestic claims, by an adoring cry. Thomas "said to him." Observe it is not hinted that he uttered a vague and ejaculatory cry to the eternal Father (as Theodore of Mopsuestia, modern rationalists and Unitarians have repeatedly urged - a speculation which is wrecked on the εϊπεν αὐτῷ). Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God. This is the first time that any of the disciples had ever drawn this lofty conclusion of love and reason. They had called him "the Son of God," "the Lord," as a Being of quite immeasurable claims; and John, in the prologue, after years of meditation, declared that "the Logos which was God" and "with God," and the Creator of all things, and "the Light and Life," had "become flesh," and flashed forth" the glory of the only begotten Son," even in his earthly life; but it was reserved for the most depressed and skeptical mind of them all, the honest doubter, the man who needed immediate and irresistible evidence, infallible proofs, triumphant, invincible demonstrations - it was reserved for Thomas to say TO HIM, and to say unrebuked, uncondemned, by the risen Lord," MY LORD AND MY GOD!" Herein is condensed into one burning utterance from the worried heart of humanity the slowly gathering conclusion which had been steadily inwrought in the mind of his disciples by all the teachings of the Savior. It was at last spontaneous and exultant. These words are the climax of the entire Gospel. Every narrative points on to this unchallenged utterance. From the wedding at Cana to the raising of Lazarus, from the testimony of the Baptist to the awful tones of intercessory prayer, every discourse, every miracle, points on to this superlative conclusion, not breathed in loving accents by the enthusiastic Mary, not sounded forth by the rock-like apostle, not whispered in awestruck affection by the beloved disciple, but wrung from the broken heart of the man who had said, "Let us go, that we may die with him;" of him who cried, "We know not whither thou goest: how can we know the way?" of him who had said, "Unless I see the print of the nails, I will not believe." It is not long before it is notorious that St. Paul spoke of him as "God blessed forever," called him the" Image of the invisible God," as endowed with "the Name that is above every name," as "set down on the right hand of the majesty on high;" that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews called him the "express Image of the Father's substance," and "the Effulgence of the Father's glory." The earliest testimonies of heathendom confess that Christians sang hymns to Christ as to God (Pliny, 'Letter to Trajan')! but this was the hour of the great confession; this was the birth-cry of Christendom; this was the epoch-making scene, which guided the pen of John from the prologue to the close of the Gospel Thus Thomas doubted that the Church might believe. Thomas did indeed die with his Master, that he might lead a multitude of the dead from their hopelessness and unrest to the resurrection-life. He received a full and all-sufficing evidence of the supernatural and Divine life, and eighteen hundred years of faith have blessed God for the victory which Thomas gained over his despondency, and for the climacteric force with which St. John tells us of it.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Verse 29. - Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed. Our Lord does not bid him rise, nor say, as the angel did to John in the Apocalypse, "Worship God;" nor did he reject the homage which is here so grandly paid; but he describes this very state of mind which induced the disciple to say, "My Lord and my God!" as that high, holy acquisition which throughout his ministry he had treated as the main, prime condition of all spiritual blessings. "Thou hast believed," said he, "and because thou hast seen me; thou hast become a believer in all that I am, because thou hast received this crowning proof of the reality of my victory over death." There are critics or scholars (Lachmann, Meyer, Ewald, etc.), who treat the expression as an interrogative: Because thou hast seen me, hast thou believed (art thou now a believing man?); and the Revisers have placed this punctuation in their margin. A few cursives thus point the words, but it is improbable, for it would seem, even still, to have suggested a doubt or question in the mind of the Lord touching the reality of the apostle's faith. Moreover, the obvious contrast between those who have seen and those who saw not would be obscured by the punctuation. Observe that Christ did not say, "Because thou hast touched me, thou hast believed." The vision alone brought the apostle back to that high tension of faith which he, with others, had reached on the night of the Passion (see John 16:30-32, and notes). All the tide of overmastering love surged up within him. But the condition of multitudes was even then less privileged than that of Thomas. It could not be a part of the conduct of the kingdom of God that each separate soul should have all the elements of conviction which the apostles had enjoyed, all the vision and all the inspiration of the chosen prophets of the Lord. There may and will come a time when "every eye shall see him" as Thomas saw him, when all shall have the function and powers, equal faculties and opportunity, of seeing him. In the Apocalypse the evangelist, at the very commencement of his visions, saw for himself all the mystery and the certainty of this crowning victory. Meanwhile faith upon testimony, faith in reality through the power of truth, is declared to be the law of the kingdom, and the great beatitude which Christ left as his latest legacy is, Blessed (are) they who saw not, and believed. Of whom is he speaking? Clearly not of those who had already received the same advantage which Thomas had now enjoyed so tardily! The apostles, at first, did not accept the testimony of the women, nor the voices and messages o angels, nor the objective fact of the deserted grave. John rebuked himself for not knowing that the Christ must rise from the dead, whether he should have personal ocular evidence of it or not; and he blamed himself for not believing throughout the earthly ministry of Christ that "the Holy One could not see corruption." Still, the fact was patent, that not until the disciples saw the Lord were they glad. Even in their gladness there was the mingling of surprise and incredulousness. To whom, then, did the blessedness apply? Surely, first of all to the multitudes of loving, waiting souls, who were prepared by their reverence and the new life given to them, and by the bewildering rumors of the Easter week, to believe in the Divine necessity of the Resurrection. Christ told the disciples, on their way to Emmaus, that they were foolish and dull of heart in not accepting all that the prophets had spoken. Before the final assurance given by their identification of his Person, he persuaded them to accept his statements, and believe in all that he was, including the fact of his resurrection. Whether they should ever have more convincing evidence or not, they were bound to believe that the suffering Messiah was, in the very nature of things, and by Divine necessity, Victor of death, and must see the travail of his soul. This does but repeat the same idea, ,' Blessed are they who saw not as Thomas and the other disciples were at this moment doing, and yet believed." But the beatitude includes the whole future of the Church. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." So said St. Peter to the widely scattered Church. The Lord does not sever the link between external facts and spiritual principles, and thus propound a group of subjective conceptions for a series of objective realities (as Baur and others have urged); but he does pronounce a great benediction on those who can rise to faith in himself through the word which he has spoken, and which his apostles would continue to proclaim without intervention of physical contact or visible manifestation. "If Christ be not risen, then is your faith vain; ye are yet in your sins." These words are charged with the grounds of conviction for others. Instead of the first disciples being disposed to transform hallucinations of spiritual manifestation into tangible and visible objective facts, they appear to have been more prone and tempted to transform some utterly indisputable facts into spiritual phenomena. There were objective facts, but every attempt which has been made to discredit the Resurrection while admitting these facts has utterly broken down. Even if the narratives of the four Gospels, with their divergent representation, be left out of sight, nothing can be more certain than that, in the space of a quarter of a century, the Churches of Christ in Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, Ephesus, and Ancyra were existing, and held, without doubt or question, the objective fact. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) simply recounts, not for the first time, but as a resume of long-since-delivered instruction, the indubitable fact of the Resurrection. It was not an incredible thing, even to Agrippa, that God should raise the dead; nor need it be so now to any one who accepts as true Christ's account of the Father. The creation of the Church unquestionably turns on the settled conviction of the first disciples that Jesus rose from the dead. That conviction cannot be accounted for independently of the fact. Every attempt to explain it apart from the fact itself has hitherto been wrecked.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
Verses 30, 31. -
(6) The conclusion of he argument of the Gospel. Controversy has prevailed from the days of Chrysostom to our own, as to whether these verses are the summary and conclusion of the Gospel as a whole, or have special reference to the record only of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. It cannot be doubted that as St. John sums up in John 12. the general teaching of Christ and its effect upon the people, to the termination of his public ministry, so at the close of this chapter, before recording the special bearing of the resurrection-life and spiritual power of Christ on the subsequent condition of the Church - a narrative of peculiar interest in itself, corresponding with the prologue of the entire narrative - he gathers up the general significance of his Gospel and its relation to other books. Verse 30. - Many other signs therefore did Jesus also in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book. The "many" and "other" refer to those signs with which his readers may be familiar from other sources, and, as it seems to us, in other (βιβλία) books. We have seen throughout how thoroughly alive the evangelist is to the minutest details of the synoptic narrative. The word "many" seems most accurately to include more than the few appearances after his resurrection which are not mentioned by John, but which are recorded by the synoptists, and the "other" refers most probably to signs of a different class from those which he has selected. The "signs" written in this book are those central facts which formed the theme and starting-points of his discourses. "Signs" do not necessarily mean miraculous works (ἐργα), but all "indications" or "tokens" of his higher nature and Divine commission, such as his appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth; the cleansing of the temple, which had so powerfully affected the mind of Nicodemus; the repeated assertion of his pre-existence and eternal glory; the feeling of the officers of the Sanhedrin, that "never man spake like this Man;" the effect produced by his lofty claims to be "Lord of the sabbath" and "greater than the temple;" the arrogation of power to forgive sins; the discomfiture of the deputation from chief priests and elders; the collapse of the Roman soldiers; and all other proofs of his supreme authority. All these σημεῖα were not indispensably connected with corresponding τεράτα. "Before the disciples" suggests a special limitation and condition which took powerful hold upon the mind of the evangelist. We hear in one passage that "he could do no mighty works, because of their unbelief." To prepared minds he came with his spiritual revelations and special suggestions of heavenly origin. John sees the memories passing before him, which have already formed the heritage of the Church, and is reminded of "many ethers" which have never found a chronicler.
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Verse 31. - But, says he, these are written with a special purpose. The author did not intend to write a full history or a detailed biography; he avowed having made a unique and well-considered selection of "signs," which formed the theme of great discourse, of "words" which revealed the inner depths of that wondrous nature, and which, far from exhausting the theme, only touched its fringes; and he did this with a distinct aim, in order that ye (he here addresses the Churches already founded and waiting for his legacy) might believe. Believe what? Simply in the fact of the Resurrection? Certainly not; but that Jesus, the Man whose life has been enacted on this human stage, is the Christ, has fulfilled the entire idea of the Messiah and is now the realization of the grandest theocratic hope; and further, that he is the" Christ," because he is none other than the Son of God, the Revelation of the Divine nature, the Image of the Father's substance, the Effluence of his glory, seeing that his is the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father. Nor is this all. He adds, And that believing in this glory, in this reality, in this Christhood, in this Sonship, ye might have life, the blessedness of true being, the sacred fellowship with the Eternal, the hold upon FOREVER, the sanctity of "the life" that is "light," the everlasting life of the sons of God. The prologue here finds its true and efficient complement. The purpose now betrayed expounds the structure of the Gospel as a whole. The apostle claims kinship with the central apostolate. The Hebrew prophet does not disdain his true kindred. The evangelist does not disclaim his predecessors. The lover of souls discloses his lofty passion.