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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.”

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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and Thomas is justly deprived of the favor bestowed on all his brethren, because, like a wandering soldier, he had withdrawn from the standard of union.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.