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John 20:10-15

10. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher, weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down to the sepulcher, 12. And seeth two angels in white garments sitting, one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13. And they say to her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14. Having said this, she turned back, and seeth Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15. Jesus saith to her, Woman, why weepest thou? She, thinking that he was the gardener, saith to him, Sir, if thou hast carried him hence, tell me where thou hast laid hint, and I will take him away.

 

10. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. It is possible that their minds were still in a state of doubt and uncertainty, when they returned home; for, though John says that they believed, yet their faith was not strong, but was only some confused remembrance of the miracle and resembled a trance, until it was more fully confirmed; and indeed, a strong faith could not be produced merely by the sight which they had beheld. Besides, Christ did not present himself to their view, until they had been more fully awakened from their carnal stupidity. They had indeed given a praise worthy demonstration of their zeal, in hastening to the sepulcher; yet Christ hid himself from them, because they sought him with too great superstition.

11. But Mary stood at the sepulcher without. The Evangelist now begins to describe the manner in which Christ appeared both to the women and to the disciples, to testify his resurrection. Though he mentions but one woman, Mary, yet I think it is probable that the other women were also along with her; for it is not reasonable to suppose, as some have done, that the women fainted through fear. Those writers wish to avoid a contradiction, but I have already shown that no such contradiction exists.

As to the women remaining at the sepulchre, while the disciples return to the city, they are not entitled to great accommodation on this account; for the disciples carry with them consolation and joy, but the women torment themselves by idle and useless weeping. In short, it is superstition alone, accompanied by carnal feelings, that keeps them near the sepulchre

12. And seeth two angels. What an amazing forbearance displayed by our Lord, in bearing with so many faults in Mary and her companions! For it is no small honor which he confers on them by sending his angels, and, at length, making himself known to them, which he had not done to the apostles. Though the apostles and the women were afflicted with the same disease, yet the stupidity of the apostles was less excusable, because they had profited so little by the valuable and careful instruction which they had received. One purpose, certainly, which Christ had in view in selecting the women, to make the first manifestation of himself to them, was, to fill the apostles with shame.

In white garments. Whether Mary knew them to be angels, or thought that they were men, is uncertain. We know that white garments were an emblem of the heavenly glory; as we find that Christ was clothed in white garments, when he was transfigured on the mountain, and showed his glorious majesty to his three apostles, 196196     “Quand il se transfigura on la montague, e, monstra sa majeste glorieuse a ses trois apostres.” (Matthew 17:2.) Luke relates that the angel who appeared to Cornelius stood before him In Bright Clothing, (Acts 10:30.) Nor do I deny that linen garments were commonly used by the inhabitants of Eastern countries; but by the dress of the angels God pointed out something remarkable and uncommon, and put marks on them, as it were, that they might be distinguished from men. Besides, Matthew 28:3 compares the countenance of the angel, who conversed with the women, to lightning. And yet it is possible that their fear arose solely from their minds being struck with admiration, for it appears that they stood astonished.

Again, whenever we read that the angels appeared in the visible form of men and clothed with garments, this was done on account of the ignorance of men. For my part, I have no doubt that they sometimes were clothed with real bodies; but whether or not those two angels had merely the appearance of bodies, would be a useless inquiry, and I shall therefore leave it undetermined. To me it is enough that the Lord gave them a human shape, that the women might see and hear them, while the magnificent and uncommon dress which they wore distinguished them from the ordinary rank of men, and pointed out something divine and heavenly.

One at the head, and the other at the feet. One angel only is mentioned by Matthew, (Matthew 28:2.) This, however, does not contradict John’s narrative; for both angels did not address Mary at the same time, but only one of them who had a commission to speak. There is no good ground for Augustine’s allegory, that the position of the angelsone at the head, and the other at the feetpointed out that the Gospel would be preached from the East to the West. It is more worthy of observation, that Christ, by preparatory arrangements of this nature, made a commencement of the glory of his kingdom; for, by the honor which the angels render to the sepulcher, not only is the ignominy of the cross taken away, but the heavenly majesty of Christ shines.

13. Woman, why weepest thou? From the statements of the Evangelists, it may be readily concluded, that the angel held a long conversation; but John gives a brief summary of what was spoken, because this was sufficient for proving the resurrection of Christ. The conversation consists of reproof mingled with comfort. The angel reproves Mary for her excessive weeping, but, at the same time, mingles joy, when he says that there is no reason to weep, since Christ has risen.

14. And seeth Jesus standing It may be asked, Whence arose this mistake, that Mary does not recognize Jesus, with whom she must have been intimately acquainted? Some think that he appeared in a different form, but I think that the fault lay rather in the eyes of the women, as Luke (Luke 24:16) says of the two disciples, their eyes were withheld from knowing him We will not say, therefore, that Christ was continually assuming new shapes, like Proteus 197197     Proteus, (Πρωτεύς,) a king of Egypt, is mentioned by Herodotus, who relates that at Memphis, his native place, a magnificent temple was erected for him. The historian quotes as his authorities, the Egyptian priests with whom he had conversed, and who detailed to him the most mentorable transactions of that reign, connected with the carrying of Helena into Egypt; and he produces passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey, to prove that Homer was well acquainted with the leading facts, though he chose to disguise or palliate them, so as to make a better figure in his story, (Herodotus, Book 2 112-116.) The key to the present allusion, however, must be found in the fabulous accounts of Proteus, as a sea deity, whom Ovid describes as Protea Ambiguum, the shape-changing Proteus, (Metamorphoses, Book 2. Fable 1. 5:9,) and whose alleged habit frequently changing his shape passed into a proverb. “he had (says Lempriere) received the gift of prophecy from Neptune, and from his knowledge of futurity mankind received the greatest services. He was difficult of access, and, when consulted, he refused to give answers, by immediately assuming different shapes, and eluding the grasp, if not properly secured by fetters.” Proverbial references to this fable occur frequently in the ancient writers. — Ed. but that it is in the power of God, who gave eyes to men, to lessen their sharpness of vision whenever he thinks proper, that seeing they may not see.

In Mary we have an example of the mistakes into which the human mind frequently falls. Though Christ presents himself to our view, yet we imagine that he assumes various shapes, so that our senses conceive of any thing rather than of the true Christ; for not only are our powers of understanding liable to be deceived, but they are also bewitched by the world and by Satan, that they may have no perception of the truth.

15. Lord, if thou hast carried him hence. She calls him Lord, according to the custom of her nation; for the same appellation, Lord, (Κύριε 198198     The salutation, Κύριε was addressed to persons of various ranks, and answers to the modern term, Sir.Ed. ) is employed by the Hebrews in addressing laborers and other persons of low condition. We see that Mary has no view of this matter but what is earthly. She desires only to obtain the dead body of Christ, that she may keep it hidden in the sepulcher; but she leaves out the most important matter, the elevation of her mind to the divine power of his resurrection. We need not wonder, therefore, if such grovelling views place a veil before her eyes.


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