In chapter 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 chapter 21 the millennium is pictured
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.
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
[see note #68]
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.
[see note #69]
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."
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.
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 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."
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.
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.
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.
[see note #70]
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 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 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.