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The Resurrection of Jesus
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
1. Now, on the first day of the week. As the resurrection of Christ is the most important article of our faith, and without it the hope of eternal life is extinguished, for this reason the Evangelists are the more careful to prove it, as John here collects many proofs, in order to assure us that Christ is risen from the dead. It may be thought strange, however, that he does not produce more competent witnesses; for he begins with a woman; but thus the saying is fulfilled, that
God chooseth what is weak, and foolish, and contemptible in the world, that he may bring to nought the wisdom, and excellence, and glory, of the flesh,
(1 Corinthians 1:27.)
There certainly was nothing more of earthly grandeur in the disciples than in the women who followed Christ; but as Christ was pleased to reckon them the principal witnesses of his resurrection, on this single ground their testimony is entitled to the greatest deference, and is not liable to any objection. As to the priests, and scribes, and the whole people, and even Pilate, nothing but gross and wilful blindness prevented them from firmly believing that Christ was risen. All of them, therefore, deserved that seeing they should not see; yet Christ revealed himself to the little flock.
Before proceeding farther, however, it is necessary to show how the Evangelists agree with each other; for, at first sight, there appears to be some contradiction in their words. John mentions but one woman, Mary Magdalene; Matthew 28:1 mentions two, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary; Mark 16:1 mentions three, Mary Magdalene, and Mary (the mother) of James, and Salome; Luke 24:10, 22 does not fix the number, but only relates that women came, who had followed Christ from Galilee. But the difficulty is easily solved in this manner. As Matthew inserts the names of two women who were best known, and had the highest reputation among the disciples, so John satisfies himself with mentioning the name of Mary Magdalene alone, but yet does not exclude the others; and, indeed, it is evident, from viewing his words in their connection, that she was not alone, for, shortly afterwards, Mary Magdalene says, in the plural number, WE know not where they have laid him. Although, therefore, John says nothing about her companions, yet the other Evangelists, who relate that there were many along with her, say nothing that is contradicted by John’s narrative.
The discrepancy as to the time may be easily solved. When John says that they came before daybreak, we must understand, that they had set out on their journey during the darkness of the night; that, before they came to the sepulcher, the day had dawned; and that in the evening, after sunset, when the Sabbath was ended, they had bought the spices; and thus the narrative of the other Evangelists must be reconciled.
It may be thought that there is another appearance of contradiction in its being stated by John, that Mary spoke to none but himself and Peter, while Luke 24:10, 11 relates, that she came to the eleven Apostles, and that her words appeared to them to be idle tales. But this is easily explained, for John intentionally passed by the rest of the Apostles, because it was only himself and Peter that came to the sepulcher. As to Luke mentioning Peter alone, it is for the same reason as we have just now assigned in reference to Mary Megdalene and the rest of the women. It is also probable, that the other nine disciples were restrained by fear, lest they should be too easily observed if they went in a body. Nor is this inconsistent with what Luke appears to suggest, that they despised Mary’s words; for immediately afterwards he adds, that Peter ran, (Luke 24:12.) He therefore means simply that, when they first heard it, they appeared to be astonished, but that at length Peter took courage, and followed her for the purpose of seeing.
When Luke relates that Christ appeared to Mary before that she had informed the disciples that the grave was empty, the order of the narrative is inverted. This is evident from the context, for he adds what, John tells us, happened before she saw Jesus; nor is there any thing strange in this, for the Hebrew writers frequently relate first what is later in the order of time.
On the first day of the week; or, literally, on the first day of the Sabbaths. The Evangelists do not relate when or how Christ rose; for it was enough for them to explain at what time, and to what persons, his resurrection was made known. John therefore says, that Mary came on the first day of the Sabbaths. Literally, the words may be rendered, on One (μιᾷ) day of the Sabbaths; but it is customary with the Hebrews to use the word אהד (ehad) one, instead of first, because in reckoning we begin with one. Now as every seventh day was dedicated to rest, they called the whole week a Sabbath conferring this honor on the sacredness of the day, that the rest of the time was named from it. The women, therefore, came to the sepulcher on the day after the Sabbath, having on the same day (but after sunset) bought spices; and afterwards went out of the city secretly, and during the darkness of the night, as people are wont to do when they are afraid. Now, it was the first day of the Sabbaths, with respect to the following Sabbath, because it was the commencement of the week, of which the Sabbath was the close.
3. Peter therefore went forth. There being so little faith, or rather almost no faith, both in the disciples and in the women, it is astonishing that they had so great zeal; and, indeed, it is not possible that religious feelings led them to seek Christ. Some seed of faith, therefore, remained in their hearts, but quenched for a time, so that they were not aware of having what they had. Thus the Spirit of God often works in the elect in a secret manner. In short, we must believe that there was some concealed root, from which we see fruit produced. Though this feeling of piety, which they possessed, was confused, and was accompanied by much superstition, still I give to it — though inaccurately — the name of faith, because it was only by the doctrine of the Gospel that it was produced, and it had no tendency but towards Christ. From this seed there at length sprang a true and sincere faith, which, leaving the sepulcher, ascended to the heavenly glory of Christ.
When Scripture speaks of the feeble beginnings of faith, it says that Christ is born in us, and that we, on the other hand, are born in him; but the disciples must be placed almost below infancy, for they are ignorant of the resurrection of Christ, but yet the Lord nourishes them as a mother nourishes the child that is contained in her womb. Formerly they resembled children, and had made a little progress, but the death of Christ had rendered them so weak, that they must be again begotten and formed, as Paul says of the Galatians,
My little children, of whom I Travail In Birth again until Christ Be Formed in you,
When we find that Peter, though he made less haste, is the first to enter into the sepulcher, let us learn from it that many persons have more given to them in the end than appears at the beginning. And, indeed, we sometimes see many, who were full of fervour at the commencement, give way when they come to the conflict; while others, who appeared to be slow and indolent, assume new courage when danger is at hand.
5. And seeth the linen clothes lying. The linen clothes might be regarded as the spoils, intended to lead to the belief of Christ’s resurrection; for it was not probable that his body had been stripped naked, in order that it might be removed to another place. This would not have been done by a friend, nor even by an enemy.
7. And the napkin which was about his head. When the Evangelist says, that a napkin was wrapped about his head, this refutes the falsehood of the Papists, who pretend that the whole body was sewed up in one linen garment, which they hold out to the wretched populace, calling it “the holy winding-sheet.” 194194 “L’appelant le sainct suaire.” I say nothing about their gross ignorance of the Latin language, which led them to suppose that the word napkin — denoting what was used for wiping the sweat from the face, such as a handkerchief 195195 “Comme pourroit estre un couvre-chef.” — signified a covering for the whole body; nor do I say any thing about their impudence in boasting that they have this very napkin in five or six different places. But this gross falsehood is intolerable, because it openly contradicts the evangelical history. To this is added a fabulous miracle, which they have contrived, to this effect, that the likeness of Christ’s body continued to be visible in the linen cloth. I appeal to you, if such a miracle had been wrought, would nothing have been said about it by the Evangelist, who is so careful to relate events which were not of so great importance? Let us be satisfied with this simple view of the matter, that Christ, by laying aside the tokens of death, intended to testify that he had clothed himself with a blessed and immortal life.
8. And he saw and believed. It is a poor exposition which some give of these words, that John believed what he had heard Mary say, namely, that Christ’s body had been carried away; for there is no passage in which the word believe bears this meaning, especially when it is used simply and without any addition. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that Peter and John return home, while they are still in doubt and perplexity; for in some passages John had employed this phraseology, when lie intended to describe the increase of faith. Besides, Luke 24:12 relates that Peter wondered at seeing the sepulcher in such good order; meaning by this, that Peter thought of something greater and loftier than what Mary had told him.
9. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. They had often heard from the mouth of Christ what they now saw with their eyes, but this flowed from their hearts. Being now warned by the sight of a strange spectacle, they begin to think of Christ as having something Divine, though they are still far from having a clear and accurate knowledge of him. John, therefore, accuses himself, when he acknowledges that the first time that he believed was, when he beheld the proofs of Christ’s resurrection.
Besides, he represents more strongly his own guilt and that of his brethren, by adding, that they not only had forgotten the words of Christ, but that they did not believe the Scriptures; for to this ignorance he ascribes the deficiency of their faith. Hence, too, we may draw a useful instruction, that we ought, to ascribe it to our carelessness, when we are ignorant of what we ought to know about Christ, because we have not profited as we ought to have done by the Scriptures, which clearly reveal the excellence of Christ.
Not to go farther for an instance of this, it may be thought that the resurrection of Christ is taught in them obscurely, and only under figures; but the attentive reader will find abundantly clear testimonies. Paul proves (Acts 13:34) that Christ must have risen from the dead, because God declares by the prophet Isaiah, (Isaiah 55:3) that, under his reign, the mercy promised to David would be sure. An unskilful person might imagine that what Paul quotes is not at all to the purpose; but they who believe the principles of fkith, and are well acquainted with the Scriptures, have no difficulty in perceiving the force of this argument; for, in order theft Christ may secure to us for ever the grace of God, Christ himself; must live for ever.
There are many passages of the same kind, which it is not, now necessary to collect. Let us therefore rest satisfied with the three following. It is written,
Thou wilt not permit thy Holy One to see corruption,
Peter and Paul explain this prediction as referring to Christ, (Acts 2:27, and Acts 13:35,) and justly; for there is not one of all the sons of Adam who is not of himself liable to corruption. Consequently, the immortality of Christ is there declared. It is likewise beyond all doubt that the following passage refers to Christ,
The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool, (Psalm 110:1.)
Now, death will not be destroyed till the last day. The kingdom is titan given to Christ till the end of the world, and this kingdom cannot exist without his life. But Isaiah speaks more clearly than all the rest when, after having foretold the death of Christ, he immediately adds, that it impossible to declare his age, (Isaiah 53:8.) In short we ought to believe that the doctrine of Scripture is so full and complete in every respect that whatever is defective in our faith ought justly to be attributed to ignorance of the Scriptures.
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 angels — one at the head, and the other at the feet — pointed 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.
16. Jesus saith to her, Mary! That Christ allowed Mary, a short time, to fall into a mistake, was useful for confirming her faith; but now, by a single word, he corrects her mistake. He had formerly addressed her, but his discourse seemed to be that of an unknown person; he now assumes the character of the Master, and addresses his disciple by name, as we have formerly seen that
the good shepherd calleth to him by name every sheep of his flock,
That voice of the shepherd, therefore, enters into Mary’s heart, opens her eyes, arouses all her senses, and affects her in such a manner, that she immediately surrenders herself to Christ.
Thus in Mary we have a lively image of our calling; for the only way in which we are admitted to the true knowledge of Christ is, when he first knows us, and then familiarly invites us to himself, not by that ordinary voice which sounds indiscriminately in the ears of all, but by that voice with which he especially calls the sheep which the Father hath given to him. Thus Paul says,
After that you have known God, or rather, after that you have been known by him,
And said to him, Rabboni! The efficacy of the address is evident from this circumstance, that Mary immediately renders to Christ the honor which is due to him; for the word Rabboni is not only respectful, but involves a profession of obedience. Mary therefore declares, that she is a disciple of Christ, and submits to him as her Master. This is a secret and wonderful change effected on the human understanding, when God, enlightening her by his Spirit, renders her clear-sighted, who formerly was slow of apprehension, and, indeed, altogether blind. Besides, the example of Mary ought to serve the purpose of exhortation, that all whom Christ invites to himself may reply to him without delay.
The word Rabboni is Chaldee, though the Chaldeans pronounce it Ribboni; but it is customary to make a change on words, when they are transferred to a foreign tongue. The meaning is the same as if we were to say, My Lord! or, My Master! But in the time of Christ this mode of expression had gained currency, of using Rabbi and Rabboni instead of Master.
17. Touch me not. This appears not to agree with the narrative of Matthew; for he expressly says, that the women held him By The Feet, and worshipped him, (Matthew 28:9.) Now, since he allowed himself to be touched by his disciples, what reason was there for forbidding Mary to touch him? The answer is easy, provided that we remember that the women were not repelled from touching Christ, till their eagerness to touch him had been carried to excess; for, so far as it was necessary for removing doubt, he unquestionably did not forbid them to touch him, but, perceiving that their attention was too much occupied with embracing his feet, he restrained and corrected that immoderate zeal. They fixed their attention on his bodily presence, and did not understand any other way of enjoying his society than by conversing with him on the earth. We ought, therefore, to conclude, that they were not forbidden to touch him, until Christ saw that, by their foolish and unreasonable desire, they wished to keep him in the world.
For I am not yet ascended to my Father. We ought to attend to this reason which he adds; for by these words he enjoins the women to restrain their feelings, until he be received into the heavenly glory. In short, he pointed out the design of his resurrection; not such as they had imagined it to be, that, after having returned to life, he should triumph in the world, but rather that, by his ascension to heaven, he should enter into the possession of the kingdom which had been promised to him, and, seated at the right hand of the Father, should govern the Church by the power of his Spirit. The meaning of the words therefore is, that his state of resurrection would not be full and complete, until he should sit down in heaven at the right hand of the Father; and, therefore, that the women did wrong in satisfying themselves with having nothing more than the half of his resurrection, and desiring to enjoy his presence in the world. This doctrine yields two advantages. The first is, that those who are desirous to succeed in seeking Christ must raise their minds upwards; and the second is, that all who endeavor to go to him must rid themselves of the earthly affections of the flesh, as Paul exhorts,
If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God,
But go to my brethren. Some limit the word brethren to the cousins and relatives 199199 “Aux cousins et patens de Christ.” of Christ, but, in my opinion, improperly; for why should he have sent to them rather than to the disciples? They reply, Because John elsewhere testifies, that His Brethren did not believe in him. (John 7:5.)
But I do not think it probable that Christ conferred so great an honor on those who are there mentioned. It must also be admitted, that Mary Magdalene 200200 Marie Magdalene. fully obeyed the injunctions of Christ. Now, it immediately follows, that she went to the disciples; from which we conclude, that Christ had spoken of them. 201201 “Que Christ avoit parle de ses disciples et Apostres;” — “that Christ had spoken of his disciples and Apostles.”
Besides, Christ knew that the disciples, whom those men, by their opinion, treat as separated, were assembled in one place; and it would have been exceedingly absurd that he should pay attention to I know not what sort of persons, and disregard the disciples, who, having been collected into one place, were subjected to a violent conflict between hope and fear. To this it may be added, that Christ appears to have borrowed this expression from Psalm 22:22, where we and these words: I will declare thy name to my brethren; for it is beyond all controversy, that this passage contains the fulfillment of that prediction.
I conclude, therefore, that Mary was sent to the disciples in general; and I consider that this was done by way of reproach, because they had been so tardy and sluggish to believe. And, indeed, they deserve not only to have women for their teachers, but even oxen and asses; since the Son of God had been so long and laboriously employed in teaching, and yet they had made so little, or hardly any progress. Yet this is a mild and gentle chastisement, when Christ thus sends his disciples to the school of the women, that by their agency, he may bring them back to himself. Here we behold also the inconceivable kindness of Christ, in choosing and appointing women to be the witnesses of his resurrection to the Apostles; for the commission which is given to them is the only foundation of our salvation, and contains the chief point of heavenly wisdom.
It ought likewise to be observed, however, that this occurrence was extraordinary, and — we might almost say — accidental. They are commanded to make known to the Apostles what they afterwards, in the exercise of the office committed to them, proclaimed to the whole world. But, in executing this injunction, they do not act as if they had been Apostles; and, therefore, it is wrong to frame a law out of this injunction of Christ, and to allow women to perform the office of baptizing. Let us be satisfied with knowing that Christ displayed in them the boundless treasures of his grace, when he once appointed them to be the teachers of the Apostles, and yet did not intend that what was done by a singular privilege should be viewed as an example. This is peculiarly apparent in Mary Magdalene, who had formerly been possessed by seven devils, (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2;) for it amounted to this, that Christ had brought her out of the lowest hell, that he might raise her above heaven.
If it be objected, that there was no reason why Christ should prefer the women to the Apostles, since they were not less carnal and stupid, I reply, it does not belong to us, but to the Judge, to estimate the difference between the Apostles and the women. But I go farther, and say, that the Apostles deserved to be more severely censured, because they not only had been better instructed than all others, but, after having been appointed to be the teachers of the whole world, and after having been called the light of the world, (Matthew 5:14,) and the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13,) they so basely apostatized. Yet it pleased the Lord, by means of those weak and contemptible vessels, to give a display of his power.
I ascend to my Father. By using the word ascend he confirms the doctrine which I have lately explained; that he rose from the dead, not for the purpose of remaining any longer on the earth, but that he might enter into the heavenly life, and might thus draw believers to heaven along with him. In short, by this term he forbids the Apostles to fix their whole attention on his resurrection viewed simply in itself, but exhorts them to proceed farther, until they come to the spiritual kingdom, to the heavenly glory, to God himself. There is great emphasis, therefore, in this word ascend; for Christ stretches out his hand to his disciples that they may not seek their happiness anywhere else than in heaven;
for where our treasure is, there also must our heart be,
Now, Christ declares, that he ascends on high; and, therefore, we must ascend, if we do not wish to be separated from him.
When he adds, that he ascends To God, he quickly dispels the grief and anxiety which the Apostles might feel on account of his departure; for his meaning is, that he will always be present with his disciples by Divine power. True, the word ascend denotes the distance of places; but though Christ be absent in body, yet, as he is with God, his power, which is everywhere felt, plainly shows his spiritual presence; for why did he ascend to God, but in order that, being seated at God’s right hand, 202202 “A sa dextre glorieuse;” — “at his glorious right hand.” he might reign both in heaven and in earth? In short, by this expression he intended to impress on the minds of his disciples the Divine power of his kingdom, that they might not be grieved on account of his bodily absence.
To my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. The benefit and efficacy of that brotherly union, which has been lately mentioned, is expressed, when Christ declares that we have this in common with himself, that he who is his God and his Father is also our God and our Father. I ascend, says he, to my Father, who is also your Father. In other passages we learn that we are made partakers of all the blessings of Christ; but this is the foundation of the privilege, that he imparts to us the very fountain of blessings. It is, unquestionably, an invaluable blessing, that believers can safely and firmly believe, that He who is the God of Christ is their God, and that He who is the Father of Christ is their Father. Nor have we any reason to fear that this confidence will be charged with rashness, since it is founded on Christ, or that it will be proud boasting, since Christ himself has dictated it to us with his own mouth.
Christ calls Him his God, in so far as, by
taking upon him the form of a servant, he humbled himself,
This is, therefore, peculiar to his human nature, but is applied to his whole person, on account of the unity, because he is both God and Man. As to the second clause, in which he says that he ascends to his Father and our Father, 203203 “Ou il dit qu’il monte a son Pere et nostre Pere.” there is also a diversity between him and us; for he is the Son of God by nature, while we are the sons of God only by adoption; but the grace which we obtain through him is so firmly established, that it cannot be shaken by any efforts of the devil, so as to hinder us from always calling him our Father, who hath adopted us through his Only-begotten Son.
19. When, therefore, it was evening. The Evangelist now relates that the resurrection of Christ was proved to the disciples by his presence. It did not happen without the providence of God, that all were assembled in one place, that the event might be more certain and more manifest. It is worthy of notice how gently Christ acted towards them, in not keeping them in suspense any longer than till the evening. Besides, he enlightened them, bringing the pledge of a new life, while darkness was overspreading the world.
Where the disciples were assembled. As to their having assembled, it was an indication of faith, or, at least, of religious feelings. As to the circumstance of their keeping themselves concealed by shut doors, we perceive in it some proof of their weakness; for, though the strongest and boldest minds are sometimes seized with fear, yet it may easily be inferred that the apostles, at that time, trembled in such a manner as to manifest the deficiency of their faith. This example is worthy of notice; for, though they are less courageous than they ought to have been, still they do not give way to their weakness. True, they seek concealment for the sake of avoiding danger, but they gather courage so far as to remain together; otherwise they would have been scattered hither and thither, and no man would have ventured to look at his neighbor. In this manner we ought to struggle against the weakness of our flesh, and not to indulge fear, which tempts us to apostacy. Christ also blesses their zeal, when he appears to them while they are assembled; and Thomas is justly deprived of the favor bestowed on all his brethren, because, like a wandering soldier, he had withdrawn from the standard of union. Here, then, is a lesson for those who are excessively timid, to sharpen and encourage themselves to correct their carnal fear; and particularly they ought to beware lest fear should cause them to scatter.
And while the doors were shut. This circumstance was expressly added, because it contains a manifest proof of the Divine power of Christ; but this is utterly at variance with the meaning of the Evangelist. We ought, therefore, to believe that Christ did not enter without a miracle, in order to give a demonstration of his Divinity, by which he might stimulate the attention of his disciples; and yet I am far from admitting the truth of what the Papists assert, that the body of Christ passed through the shut doors. Their reason for maintaining this is, for the purpose of proving not only that the glorious body of Christ resembled a spirit, but that it was infinite, and could not be confined to any one place. But the words convey no such meaning; for the Evangelist does not say that he entered through the shut doors, but that he suddenly stood in the midst of his disciples, though the doors had been shut, and had not been opened to him by the hand of man. We know that Peter (Acts 10:10) went out of a prison which was locked; and must we, therefore, say that he passed through the midst of the iron and of the planks? Away, then, with that childish trifling, which contains nothing solid, and brings along with it many absurdities! Let us be satisfied with knowing that Christ intended, by a remarkable miracle, to confirm his disciples in their belief of his resurrection.
Peace be to you! This is the ordinary form of salutation among the Hebrews; and by the word peace they denote all that cheerfulness and prosperity which is usually desired for a happy life. The phrase, therefore, means, “May you be well and prosperous!” I mention this, because there are some who, in explaining these words, enter into unnecessary discussions about peace and harmony, though Christ intended nothing else than to desire that his disciples might be happy and prosperous.
20. He showed them his hands and his side. It was necessary to add this confirmation, that by all these methods they might be fully assured that Christ was risen. If any person think it strange and inconsistent with the glory of Christ, that he should bear the marks of his wounds even after his resurrection, let him consider, first, that Christ rose not so much for himself as for us; and, secondly, that whatever contributes to our salvation is glorious to Christ; for, when he humbled himself for a time, this took nothing away from his majesty, and now, since those wounds, of which we are speaking, serve to confirm the belief of his resurrection, they do not diminish his glory. But if any person should infer from this, that Christ has still the wounded side and the pierced hands, that would be absurd; for it is certain that the use of the wounds was temporary, until the Apostles were fully convinced that he was risen from the dead.
Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. This means, that all the grief which had been occasional to them by the death of Christ was dispelled by his new life.