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Summary of chapters 20 and 21
In John 20 we have, in a summary of several of the leading facts among those which took place after the resurrection of Jesus, a picture of all the consequences of that great event, in immediate connection with the grace that produced them, and with the affections that ought to be seen in the faithful when again brought into relationship with the Lord; and at the same time, a picture of all God's ways up to the revelation of Christ to the remnant before the millennium. In John 21 the millennium is pictured to us.
Jesus risen; Mary Magdalene seeking Jesus; proofs of His resurrection
Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons, appears first in the scene — a touching expression of the ways of God. She represents, I doubt not, the Jewish remnant of that day, personally attached to the Lord, but not knowing the power of resurrection. She is alone in her love: the very strength of her affection isolates her. She was not the only one saved, but she comes alone to seek — wrongly to seek, if you will, but to seek — Jesus, before the testimony of His glory shines forth in a world of darkness, because she loved Himself. She comes before the other women, while it was yet dark. It is a loving heart (we have already seen it in the believing women) occupied with Jesus, when the public testimony of man is still entirely wanting. And it is to this that Jesus first manifests Himself when He is risen. Nevertheless her heart knew where it would find a response. She goes away to Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, when she does not find the body of Christ. Peter and the other disciple go, and find the proofs of a resurrection accomplished (as to Jesus Himself) with all the composure that became the power of God, great as the alarm might be that it created in the mind of man. There had been no haste; everything was in order: and Jesus was not there.
Mary's affection: the Good Shepherd and His sheep
The two disciples, however, are not moved by the same attachment
as that which filled her heart, who had been the object of so
mighty a deliverance* on the Lord's part. They see, and, on these
visible proofs, they believe. It was not a spiritual understanding
of the thoughts of God by means of His word; they saw and
believed. There is nothing in this which gathers the disciples
together. Jesus was away; He had risen. They had satisfied
themselves on this point, and they go away to their home. But Mary,
led by affection rather than by intelligence, is not satisfied with
coldly recognising that Jesus was again risen.** She thought Him
still dead, because she did not possess Him. His death, the fact of
her not finding Him again, added to the intensity of her affection,
because He Himself was its object. All the tokens of this affection
are produced here in the most touching manner. She supposes that
the gardener must know who was in question without her telling him,
for she only thought of one (as if I inquired of a beloved object
in a family, "How is he?"). Bending over the sepulchre, she turns
her head when He approaches; but then the Good Shepherd, risen from
the dead, calls His sheep by her name; and the known and loved
voice — mighty according to the grace which thus called her — instantly reveals Him to her who heard it. She turns to Him, and
replies, "Rabboni — my Master."
The Lord's new position and relationship with the remnant
But while thus revealing Himself to the beloved remnant, whom He had delivered, all is changed in their position and in His relationship with them. He was not going now to dwell bodily in the midst of His people on earth. He did not come back to re-establish the kingdom in Israel. "Touch me not," says He to Mary. But by redemption He had wrought a far more important thing. He had placed them in the same position as Himself with His Father and His God; and He calls them — which He never had, and never could have done before — His brethren. Until His death the corn of wheat remained alone. Pure and perfect, the Son of God, He could not stand in the same relationship to God as the sinner; but, in the glorious position which He was going to resume as man, He could, through redemption, associate with Himself His redeemed ones, cleansed, regenerated, and adopted in Him.
The remnant's new position with Him
He sends them word of the new position they were to have in common with Himself. He says to Mary, "Touch me not; but go to my brethren, and tell them that I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." The will of the Father — accomplished by means of the glorious work of the Son, who, as man, has taken His place, apart from sin, with His God and Father — and the work of the Son, the source of eternal life to them, have brought the disciples into the same position as Himself before the Father.
The risen Lord in the midst of the gathered disciples, bringing peace
The testimony borne to this truth gathers the disciples together. They meet with closed doors, unprotected now by the care and power of Jesus, the Messiah, Jehovah on earth. But if they had no longer the shelter of the Messiah's presence, they have Jesus in their midst, bringing them that which they could not have before His death — "Peace."
The disciples sent forth into the world for Him with peace as their starting point
But He did not bring them this blessing merely as their own portion. Having given them proofs of His resurrection, and that in His body He was the same Jesus, He sets them in this perfect peace as the starting point of their mission. The Father, eternal and infinite fountain of love, had sent the Son, who abode in it, who was the witness of that love, and of the peace which He, the Father, shed around Himself, where sin had no existence. Rejected in His mission, Jesus had — on behalf of a world where sin existed — made peace for all who should receive the testimony of the grace which had made it; and He now sends His disciples from the bosom of that peace into which He had brought them, by the remission of sins through His death, to bear testimony to it in the world.
The Holy Spirit given for peace and power
He says again, "Peace be unto you," to send them forth into the world clothed and filled with that peace, their feet shod with it, even as the Father had sent Him. He gives them the Holy Ghost for this end, that according to His power they might bear the remission of sins to a world that was bowed down under the yoke of sin.
The distinction between the bestowal of the Holy Spirit here and at Pentecost
I do not doubt that, speaking historically, the Spirit here is
distinguished from Acts 2, inasmuch as here it is a breath of
inward life, as God breathed into the nostrils of Adam a breath of
life. It is not the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Thus Christ,
who is a quickening Spirit, imparts spiritual life to them
according to the power of resurrection.* As to the general picture
figuratively presented in the passage, it is the Spirit bestowed on
the saints gathered by the testimony of His being risen and His
going to the Father, as the whole scene represents the assembly in
its present privileges. Thus we have the remnant attached to
Christ by love; believers individually recognised as children of
God, and in the same position before Him as Christ; and then the
assembly founded on this testimony, gathered together with Jesus in
the midst, in the enjoyment of peace; and its members, individually
constituted, in connection with the peace which Christ has made, a
witness to the world of the remission of sins — its administration
being committed to them.
Thomas' absence from the first gathering
Thomas represents the Jews in the last days, who will believe when they see. Blessed are they who have believed without seeing. But the faith of Thomas is not concerned with the position of sonship. He acknowledges, as the remnant will do, that Jesus is his Lord and his God. He was not with them in their first church gathering.
The Lord here, by His actions, consecrates the first day of the week for His meeting together with His own, in spirit here below.
The evangelist's object in what he has related
The evangelist is far from exhausting all that there was to relate of that which Jesus did. The object of that which he has related is linked with the communication of eternal life in Christ; first, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and, second, that in believing we have life through His name. To this the Gospel is consecrated.
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