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§ 301. Christ appears to Peter; and to the rest of the Apostles, except Thomas.—The Breathingupon the Apostles.

The two disciples, on returning to the city, found that Christ had appeared in the mean time to the Apostle Peter.810810   Luke, xxiv., 33, 34; 1 Cor., xv., 5. In the evening of the same day, the Apostles, Thomas excepted, were assembled with closed doors,811811   Luke, xxiv., 36; 1 Cor., xv., 5. Paul says he “was seen of the twelve; but this term might be used even though one of the number were wanting; the point was, Christ’s appearance to the Apostles as a body. The word “twelve” was the common designation of the Apostles; the number was a subordinate point. Perhaps even Paul did not recur at the time to the absence of one of the number. when Christ suddenly appeared in their midst, with the usual salutation, “Peace be unto you”—a salutation which, from his lips, had a peculiar significance.812812   John, xiv., 27. Cf. p. 398. To prove that he was present in body, he showed them the wounds in his hands, feet,813813   It may be the case that, in Luke’s account, this scene is intermingled with that which took place eight days later in presence of Thomas. He relates the proof of corporeity given by Christ in tasting food with the disciples, which John, who does not appear to give full details, may have omitted, or, perhaps, mentioned in another connexion, John, xxi., 13. But these are unimportant points. and side. In taking leave of them, he said, “Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Thus, while announcing to them the peace of fellowship with him, he consecrated them as messengers of peace to all mankind.

He then “breathed” upon them—a symbol of the inspiration they were to receive from heaven, to fit them to preach his Gospel and proclaim forgiveness of sins in his name.814814   In Luke, xxiv., 47, 48, we find a fuller developement—John gives it more in a symbolical form. “The promise of my Father” (Luke, xxiv., 49) seems to allude to Joel, iii., 1 but a comparison with Acts, i., 4, leads us to refer it to a promise given by Christ in the Father’s name; hence to the last discourses recorded by John Cf. Luke, xii., 12; and p. 395. Here, again, he obviously intended to impress vividly upon their minds the promises given in his last discourses.

Christ, having thus given a sign of the bestowing of the Divine “breath”—the Divine life proceeding from him—added, in explanation, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The hearts of the disciples were prepared for this by the reappearance of Christ and his words to them; and the symbolical act, recalling the predictions of his last discourses in regard to the imparting of the Spirit, must have impressed them profoundly. The higher life received from Christ had before been covered and dormant; now, perhaps, a new consciousness of it arose within them. Still the full sense of the sign and of the words was far 432from being realized. Not as yet were they the mighty organs of that Spirit for the diffusion of the kingdom of God. The act, therefore, was in part prophetical.

But it was something more than a sign or symbol; a Divine operation accompanied it. It formed a link of connexion between the promise of the Spirit and its fulfilment; between the impressions which Christ’s personal intercourse had made upon the Apostles, and the great fact which we designate as “the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.” The operation of the promised Spirit on the disciples must be considered, it is true, as a progressive, gradually increasing influence—a new inspiring principle of their whole nature, in all its powers and tendencies. But we must believe, according to the analogy of all religious historical developement, that there was a moment, forming an epoch, in which the consciousness of the common higher life, and of the new creation of which Christ was the origin, broke forth with peculiar power in a general inspiration of the first Christian congregations. All great religious movements set out from such actual epoch-making moments; although, indeed, gradual preparatory stages must always be presupposed.


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