John 20
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. IT WAS THE DIVINE PURPOSE THAT JESUS SHOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD. Nothing in the ministry of our Lord was unforeseen and accidental. The closing scenes of that ministry were evidently fore-appointed. The expressions "must" and "must needs" occur frequently in connection with these marvelous and memorable events. They are parts of the plan arranged by Infinite Wisdom.

II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE THAT THE CHRIST SHOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD HAD BEEN HINTED IN OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE. The text seems to refer to one passage of Holy Writ especially. This may be Psalm 16:10 - a passage quoted by St. Peter (Acts 2:24) and by St. Paul (Acts 13:35) as finding fulfillment in the raising of the Redeemer from the grave. There are other passages in the Old Testament which have their full meaning brought out in the light of the same glorious event. But the light of fulfillment is in these cases needed, in order that we may read the predictive meaning in the words of psalmist and of prophet. It is not to be wondered at that disciples of Christ failed to understand the reference of some Old Testament passages to the Messiah. But the reference was there - after the event itself to be brought out in clearness and beauty.

III. JESUS HAD ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS FORETOLD HIS RESURRECTION IN THE HEARING OF HIS DISCIPLES. Early in his ministry he had spoken of the temple of his body, as to be taken down and to be reared again in three days. He had predicted his resurrection by representing Jonah's history as a type of what should happen to himself. Towards the close of his' ministry, before and after his transfiguration, Jesus had, on three several occasions, declared beforehand to his apostles what was about to occur - how he was to be betrayed, condemned, and crucified, and on the third day to rise again from the dead. It is surprising that so faint an impression should have been made upon their minds by these communications. They seem to have been so absorbed by their own expectations that they did not really receive his express teaching.

IV. OUR LORD'S RESURRECTION WAS NOT EXPECTED BY HIS OWN DISCIPLES. We cannot but admire the candor with which the apostles acknowledged their own failings. There is in this language a confession of ignorance and of a lack of sympathy with the purposes of their Lord. John, the most likely of all to seize the spiritual meaning of Christ's words, admits that he had not until this time had any expectation that his Master would die and then rise again. Mary wept because she regarded her Lord as for ever lost to her. The two who walked to Emmaus were distressed and downcast because of Jesus' death. Thomas would not believe that Jesus had risen. It is remarkable that, whilst the disciples forgot, or failed to believe, what their Lord had said, the priests and rulers who had put him to death remembered the words attributed to him, and guarded, as they thought, against any attempt on the part of his followers to remove his body, and so to give color to a report of his resurrection. They looked coolly at the facts; the friends of Jesus were blinded by overwhelming emotion!

V. THE BELIEF WHICH THE DISCIPLES CAME TO CHERISH IN THE LORD'S RESURRECTION WAS THEREFORE ALL THE MORE AN EVIDENCE OF ITS REALITY. It is certain that the twelve were not predisposed to believe in the rising from the dead; they could not have invented such a story as some attribute to them because it was in harmony with their expectations, for they expected nothing of the kind. Yet they did believe; they became heralds of the Resurrection. Every reader of the Book of the Acts knows that it was upon this that they based all their teaching, all their appeals and admonitions. They preached a risen Savior. What plain and powerful evidence there must have been to overcome their doubts, to reverse the current of their thoughts and feelings! John began to believe, even on the morning of the Resurrection, when he saw the grave empty; and all he heard that day, and the appearance he witnessed in the evening, confirmed his faith. If the doubts of the disciples were gloomy and depressing, those doubts were certainly dispelled. Their faith was all the stronger because of the unbelief it contended with and vanquished. Hence the life they led, the labors they undertook, the persecution they braved, the martyrdom they accepted. To account for these facts - among the most wonderful in the world's history - we must receive the teaching of our Gospels, that Jesus rose from the dead, turned his disciples' sorrow into joy, and gave a new impulse to their life.


1. It confirms our faith in the veracity of Scripture.

2. And in the Deity of our Lord.

3. And in his mediation.

4. It yields us a ground of acceptance with God, who gave his Son to die for us, and who raised him from the dead that our faith and hope might be in God.

5. It encourages us to trust that it is well with our departed friends; for their life on high is part of the harvest of which the risen Redeemer was the Firstfruits.

6. It justifies the bright hope of personal immortality. - T.

Among the wonderful events of the first Lord's day morning, the incident here recorded is remarkable for pathos and beauty, and also for spiritual instruction and encouragement.

I. IT WAS A DEAD AND LOST CHRIST THAT CAUSED MARY'S GRIEF AND DISMAY. The woman's attachment and devotion to the Savior were unquestionable. She and her companions seem to have been more faithful to Jesus even than the twelve.

"Who, while apostles shrank, could dangers brave;
Last at his cross, and earliest at his grave." To Mary Jesus was as a dead Friend. She shared the common grief of the disciples, and their common anxiety during the interval between the Crucifixion and the Lord's first appearance to his own. Love induced her to linger near the tomb, and thus occasioned her interview with the angels and with the Master himself. No wonder that she loved much; she was indebted, she may well have thought, more than others to the compassion of Christ, for she had been delivered from the power of demons, and received into the favor and friendship of her Deliverer. And now to lose the Lord she loved and on whom she leaned was a trial to her faith, a grief to her heart; and she would fain care for the lifeless body of the slain One. Emblem of those who have not found Christ; of those who, having found, have then lost him; of those to whom Christ, alas! is as if dead, to whom he is no living reality, no near presence, no Divine power. Yet it is better that sensitive and yearning souls should grieve over the distance between the holy Savior and themselves than that they should acquiesce contented and indifferent - in their privation.

II. IT WAS A LIVING CHRIST THAT TURNED MARY'S SORROW INTO JOY. Observe that Jesus knew Mary before she recognized him. The language he used was intended to draw out her best feelings. Very beautiful and touching was the way in which Christ revealed himself to her heart, uttering simply the familiar name, dear from the hallowed intercourse of friendship. It was, perhaps, the name he had used in dispossessing the demons, and its utterance must have awakened many a tender memory in her heart. The living Christ thus, in a way truly human, revealed himself to his friend in one moment to banish her forebodings and assuage her grief. Her cry, "My Master!" was enough to reveal her gratitude and joy - her joy again to see him, her gratitude that the appearance and revelation were to her. Emblem of those souls to whom - is their darkness and sadness, their skepticism and despondency - Christ appears in his own Divine dignity and human sympathy, addressing them in language of compassion, and gladdening them by the vision of his risen form and his glorified and gracious countenance. - T.

= - the women rose early On the third Day, but there was one who rose earlier. They were Last at the cross, and First at the grave. Mary Magdalene was the First of the group. She ran back to Peter and John with the tidings. there was a Race between the Two

I. THE DEVOTION OF LOVE. This is seen:

1. In her persistent and patient lingering on the spot. "Mary stood without," etc. She did not enter with the two disciples; she was too weak for that. But weaker in nature, she was stronger in affection. If she did not enter, she stood longer at the grave. They were gone, but she was tied to the spot by the words of love, watching for some clue to the mysterious disappearance. Love lingers with patience and devotion at the sacred graves which hold the dust of dear ones.

2. In her increased courage. She does now what she could not do before - stoops down and looks into the sepulcher, as did John before her. His example encouraged her. It was more for her to look than for them to enter. She looked, not that she expected to find him more than the others, but to see for herself, and see even where he had lain. Love acts often from instinct rather than from reason. We look to the grave.

3. In her intense feelings. She stood without, weeping. As she stood she wept, and she stooped. She wept and looked through her tears. And as she wept she stooped down. Intense feelings brought her to her knees. These were not the wailings of ostentation and selfishness: there was no one to see her tears or to pay heed to them; but they were the tears of genuine affection, the sighs of devoted love, and the moans of intense sorrow. She stood and stooped and looked, weeping. This is the only thing which even devoted love could do under the circumstances.


1. The vision of angels. Notice:

(1) Their number. Two. Angels are social; seldom if ever one appeared in this world alone. They were sent two and two. At the birth a host sang over the fields of Bethlehem. Two appeared at the Resurrection. More may be there; only two were seen, and only one was seen by the others - two by love.

(2) Their appearance. In white, the color of heaven, the fashion of the better land. Everything is white there. It is the color of peace, purity, happiness, and glory. It is a treat to see the color in this dark world of sin and sorrow, and especially see it in a grave.

(3) Their posture. "Sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where," etc. They loved even the place where he land lain. They had finished their work, rolled away the stone, shook the earth, sent away the guard in terror, and waited upon their Master, and helped him to strip and be clothed; and now they sit at ease, as if taking rest.

(4) Their sympathy. "Woman, why weepest thou?" This is a question of kind sympathy. One would think that the weeping of a poor woman would not affect an angel at all. They never shed tears, and experimentally know no sorrow; but they are sympathetic and friendly; perhaps they had attended so much upon the Lord, that they would naturally learn sympathy.

(5) Their inspiring confidence. It is not to every one she would disclose the cause of her grief. She would instinctively be suspicious; but the appearance and language of these inspired her at once with confidence, that they were honorable and friendly, and probably closely related to her Master; hence she trusted them at once with the secret of her sorrow.

(6) This vision of angels was very natural. The naturalness of the incident is to us much more important than the literal harmony of the narrative. The appearance of angels is natural at the Resurrection, and a befitting introduction to what followed; and as the Master had left the house, it was natural that he should leave the servants there to answer certain calls which would be made, and entertain visitors.

2. The vision of Jesus. (Ver. 13.)

(1) Her conversation with the angels finished abruptly. Her conduct might appear almost rude, except in the light of what followed. She turned back, beckoned, perhaps, by the angel to do so, or she instinctively felt some presence behind her. The servants will ever point to the Master when present, and will observe becoming silence.

(2) She knew not Jesus, and why? She did not expect to meet him alive. She suspected that the body had been stolen, but little suspected that Life was the thief. She was too much enrapt in anxiety about her dead Lord to recognize him living. Intensity of feeling is often unfavorable to immediate recognition, and Jesus did not assume the old appearance.

(3) She made a good guess, but still a mistake. She thought that he was the gardener, from his garb and the time of his appearance. This was a natural thought, and true in a sense of Jesus. He was a gardener, and the best that ever was in this world. She was glad to meet Joseph's gardener. "Sir, if thou hast borne him," etc. She at once told her story, sought information, and her love made her feel strong enough to take the body away herself.

(4) The Master addressed her in much the same way as the servant - only added, "Whom seekest thou?" The angel's question was only an echo of his. It is worthy of notice that this is the first question of Jesus after the Resurrection. "Why weepest thou?" etc. He asks the question still: he rose to wipe away tears, and to remove the cause of human sorrow.

(5) These visions were granted to love. Where were the angels and the risen Lord when Peter and John were at the grave? They were there, but love alone could see them. Angels and Jesus appear to intense and devoted love; if we had more of it we should have more spiritual visions.


1. Her recognition was in consequence of a direct revelations.

(1) By the voice. The other disciples recognized him by sight. Thomas said once that he would not recognize him except by touch, but Mary by his voice.

(2) His voice, uttering a single word - her name, "Mary." She had not heard her name pronounced in the same way since he had last called it. She recognized the old voice which spoke to her first and often afterwards.

(3) Jesus knew how to reveal himself best. He knew how to touch a chord in her heart which would bring her back to herself and to him.

2. Her recognition was warm and reverential. "Rabboni!" "O my Master!" and she fell at his feet, and was about to embrace them. If her recognition was not so high and advanced as that of Thomas, it was warm and enthusiastic.

3. Her recognition in one of its modes was gently checked. "Touch me not [or, 'do not cling to me']."

(1) This was incompatible with the laws of the new life and relationship. He was not to be known henceforth after the flesh, nor to be reverenced after the old fashion of physical existence.

(2) This would be an impediment to his upward progress. "For I have not," etc. He had not finished his glorious course nor reached his high goal. He was on the way, and such clinging to him would interfere with his ascension. Besides it being incompatible with the new life, there was no time. He was ascending, and her service was required in another way.

(3) The new mode of homage to him was revealed to Magdalene first. She was the only one who attempted the old; this was checked, and the new method was hinted. She had in heart devotional feelings advantageous to revelation. Devotion to him henceforth was to take a higher aim and assume a higher form. After his ascension to the Father, the new life would be complete, then in heart and spirit she could cling to him for ever.

IV. THE MISSION OF LOVE. "But go," etc.

1. This mission contains as its substance his ascension. "I ascend." It is not "I have risen," but "I ascend." It includes his resurrection, and more. He could not ascend unless he had risen. The first movement of the new life in Jesus was a movement upwards; from the grave he began to ascend, and the first intelligence obtained of him was that he was already ascending.

2. The mission includes his destination. "I ascend unto my Father." It was ascending somewhere, but unto a special spot and special Personage - unto his Father; he was going home whence he came. The intelligence of his final destination was important. The time would soon arrive when he would be due at the right hand of power on high. There was the attraction now. It was more natural for the risen Lord to ascend to the Father than to remain here.

3. This mission was to the disciples. "But go unto my brethren, and say," etc. They are the first to hear; they are the most concerned in the matter; they are the nearest to Jesus' heart. The world is to hear the news, but through them. The risen Savior is the same as of old.

4. This mission is to them in a new relationship. "My brethren." The terms of the mission explain the new relationship. "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father," etc. And having one Father and one God, they were brethren and fellow-subjects of the same kingdom; brethren in spirit, in faith, in love, in circumstances, and in common relationship. The risen Lord was more nearly related to the disciples than ever. Death and resurrection made the union nearer: he was their firstborn Brother from the dead. And the Ascension would make it nearer still: then they would be one in a common Father.


1. The obedience is most prompt. There is no delay. In spite of a strong temptation to cling to him, she goes at once. There is no mention of her leaving Jesus; only of her coming to the disciples. No sooner had she left the former than she was with the latter. The obedience of love is swift and prompt.

2. Her obedience is full. She told the whole story and delivered the whole message. "I have seen the Lord," etc. And she did not stop there, but related all he had told her.

3. Her obedience was joyous. Her weeping was turned into laughter, her sorrow into ecstatic joy; and the dew of her grief was kissed away by the rays of the risen Sun. The news was good and joyous; it thrilled her own heart, it thrilled the heart of the disciples, and it has thrilled the heart of the world ever since.


1. The risen Lord first appeared to a woman. Her heart and eyes of love were the first to behold the welcome vision, because she had the greatest love.

2. A woman was the first missionary of Jesus. She was the first to publish the tidings of his resurrection, because she was the first to get those tidings. She was the first at the grave, and her love would not permit her to leave till she could find Jesus. She waited at the king's gate till he appeared, and she was employed in his service. The feminine heart can do much in the mission of life and love.

3. Love is rewarded with visions, revelations, and employment. In the degree we love, we shall see, know, and understand the spiritual, and be employed in its glorious missions.

4. We must not cling to Jesus when we are wanted to do something for him. We must not even revel at his feet when others require the news of his love.

5. Love is surprised with more than it expects. Mary only expected to find the dead body, but she found her living Lord. The highest expectations of love will be more than realized and rewarded. - B.T.

I. THE CAUSE OF MARY'S WEEPING. Try for a moment to think of the body of Jesus as being only that of a common mortal. Let the instance be that of one dear to yourself. The body has been safely laid away, and the earth heaped over it. Suppose, then, that in a morning or two you find the grave broken open and the body removed. Your feelings upon such an outrage would enable you to understand the feelings of Mary here. No feeling is more proper than that which regards the body of a dead friend as something sacred. Consider, too, what an extraordinary Benefactor to Mary Jesus had been. Out of her he had cast seven demons.

II. THE QUESTION COMES FROM THOSE WHO HAVE A RIGHT TO ASK IT. It is the question of angels, and it is also the question of Jesus. It is the question of those who know the real state of things, to one who in anguish is following a falsehood - one of the likeliest of falsehoods, indeed, but a falsehood after all. As to Jesus, he would ask the question with a sort of secret joy, well knowing how quickly those tears would be dried up, and how soon Mary would stand awed and gladdened before this stupendous revelation of immortality. The question was neither intrusive nor superfluous. How many are the tears and lamentations of ignorance! It seemed as if, in this matter of the Resurrection, the possible must become the actual, before even the possible could be credited. Jesus would not be astonished at this weeping of Mary; what he wanted was to deal with it promptly. He did not seek to weep with weeping Mary, but rather to have Mary rejoice with rejoicing angels, and with the rejoicing Jesus himself; and for once in the history of human sorrow this was possible. Mary would have been satisfied if she had found the corpse of Jesus: what shall she say when even more than the former Jesus appears? From the sense of absolute loss she passes to the sense of full possession. And yet, great as the joy was, it was not the greatest of joys, seeing it was only a revelation to the senses. This would not be Mary's last experience of weeping. Though risen from the dead, Jesus was about to vanish, so that the life in him might be manifested in another way. Mary had yet to win her way to the sober, steady gladness of the Christian's hope.

III. THE QUESTION IS ONE TO ALL WEEPERS. Many besides Mary have groaned over troubles of their own imagining. Many besides Mary have groaned over one thing, when they should have been groaning over something quite different. The feeling will not bear to be analyzed to its depths, and traced out to all its causes. Jesus can do little for weepers till they weep for the right things and in the right way. Oftentimes the right question would be, "Why are you not weeping?" We are glad when we ought to be sorry, and satisfied when we ought to be anxious. We may have had a very great deal of trouble, and yet all the time our cares have never gone deeper than our outward circumstances. It is hard to satisfy us in some ways, but very, very easy in others. Jesus will never complain that we are troubled about common losses and disappointments. Not to be troubled about these would only argue inhuman want of sensibility. But we should also be troubled because of our weakness towards everything that would make us Christ-like and well-pleasing to God. We need not bemoan the loss of an outward Jesus, a visible Jesus, a Jesus after the flesh; such a Jesus could do us little good. We want a Jesus within, blending with the life and making himself felt everywhere. - Y.

The risen Christ was the link between Deity and mankind. Standing beyond the tomb, yet below the clouds, he sent a message to the disciples whom he was about to leave, concerning the Divine Father whom he was about to join. How fitly, wisely, and tenderly did he communicate with them in these words!


1. His humanity. He still calls the apostles "my brethren." Although he has risen in glory, and is about to ascend in majesty, "he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Having for men's sake passed through sorrow and death, so far from forgetting what he has endured, he regards his humiliation and sorrow as a bond of attachment uniting him to those whose experience he has partaken.

2. His Sonship. He says, "My Father." Though he has been suffered to drink the cup of bitterness, though he has uttered the cry of desolation, though his body has lain in the earth, still his relation to God is the same as before his Passion. In all he has freely done what was pleasing to God. Still and ever is he the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. He is mighty as man's Representative. The Mediator and the Brother of mankind is the Son of God.

3. His subordination. He says, "My God." On three occasions our Lord made use of this appellation - on the cross, in this connection, and in Revelation 3:12 from the throne of glory. Similar language is often used of him by the apostles, who call the Eternal "the God and Father of our Lord." It is not for us to understand all that our Savior means when, in his humiliation and obedience and subjection, he declared, "My Father is greater than I."


1. They are brethren of the risen Savior. So he here expressly calls them, sending them at the same time a fraternal message. It is a gracious word of cheer and encouragement to those who have been enduring suspense, sorrow, and depression.

2. They have with Christ a community of relation with God. What the infinite Father is to Christ, that - such is the unity between the Master and the disciples - that is he also to the lowliest and the feeblest of Christ's friends and followers.

3. In this community, however, there is a marked distinction. Jesus does not say, "Our Father and God," as if there were equality between Jesus and his disciples. In fact, God is Father of Christ according to the nature of the Godhead, of Christians according to grace and adoption; he is God of Christ so far as our Lord's humanity is regarded, of Christians by the covenant relation he has instituted.

4. In this community there is a mediatorial superiority on the one side, and a corresponding dependence on the other. It is through Christ Jesus that the character, the disposition, the gracious purposes of the Father are made known to us, and it is especially through him that the Divine Fatherhood is declared; and it is through Christ Jesus that the relations in question are actually established and are constantly maintained.

APPLICATION. This message, in the first instance addressed to the apostles, is left with the whole Church of the Redeemer, that all Christ's people may not only know where he has gone, but may realize the purpose of his going as far as they are concerned, and may enjoy the assurance that his Father is their Father, and his God their God. - T.

The most wonderful and memorable day in the world's history was drawing to a close. The sun, whose rising beams had shone upon the empty tomb, the affrighted guards, the anxious sorrowing women, had now set.

I. THE NARRATIVE INTRODUCES US TO AN ANXIOUS COMPANY. Ten apostles and some of their intimate friends and fellow-believers were gathered together, drawn by a community of interest in their unseen Savior. They had a common memory, a common love, a common sorrow. They betook them to seclusion, both from fear lest the wrath of their enemies might assail them, and from lack of sympathy outside. They were disappointed and perplexed. Yet there was inquiry, excitement, wonder, speculation, among them; for the news brought by Simon, by the women, by the two from Emmaus, awakened eager interest and most conflicting emotions.

II. THE NARRATIVE RELATES THE ENTRANCE OF A DIVINE VISITOR. Unexpected, amazing, was the approach of the Master. Gracious was his greeting, welcome his familiar tones. He convinced them of his identity by exhibiting his wounds, and proved his humanity by partaking of food. And though his coming was friendly, yet he upbraided his disciples for their unbelief.


IV. THE NARRATIVE RECORDS THE SACRED COMMISSION WITH WHICH JESUS NOW ENTRUSTED HIS DISCIPLES. It must be borne in mind that these servants of Christ had been for a long time closely associated with him, and had thus been prepared for their life-work. So tremendous a trust as this would otherwise be unaccountable.

1. They were to go among men as Christ's representatives, as those entrusted with Divine authority, and they were to act as ambassadors for God.

2. Their special mission was to declare to men who should receive their message and should truly repent, the absolution and remission of sin. The purpose of Christ's coming was to secure pardon and acceptance for sinful men; and this purpose was to be fulfilled by means of the ministry of the apostles and their successors.

V. THE NARRATIVE MENTIONS THE SPECIAL QUALIFICATION BESTOWED UPON THOSE ENTRUSTED WITH THIS HIGH COMMISSION. The words of Christ, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," were accompanied with the symbolic act of breathing upon them; and both denoted the reality of the Divine gift by which unlearned and feeble men were fitted to fulfill a ministry of blessing to mankind. - T.

Every one in the little company must have heard and used the salutation, "Peace be unto you!" thousands of times. Often must they have heard it, even from Jesus himself. Then, however, it was only the utterance of courtesy, and needed not to be mentioned. Now, being specially mentioned, there is evidently special meaning in it. Jesus was now coming to his disciples in utterly different circumstances from any in which he had come before.

I. CONSIDER HOW THEY HAD PARTED. It was in the darkness of Gethsemane, in utter confusion, and quite unexpectedly so far as the disciples were concerned. Everybody thought of his own immediate safety. Yet the scattering and separating must have been of very short duration. The bond of union was stronger than they yet comprehended. A higher power was at work than their own inclinations and tendencies. Their conduct shows a curious mixture of courage and fear. They fastened the doors; but fastened doors would not have kept out very long any Jews who wanted to get in. If safety was the main thing, then these disciples were remaining in the most dangerous spot of all the world.

II. THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS ON THE SCENE. All at once he came out of the deepest mystery. We cannot but think of his own words to Nicodemus concerning the wind: "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth." No wonder the disciples were terrified. Aforetime they had often been careless and presumptuous in their dealings with Jesus, but now a strange feeling of awe has arisen which effectually stops everything like carelessness or presumption. Then just at the moment when they can say nothing and do nothing, Jesus speaks the right word, "Peace be unto you!" They would feel that not unjustly he might have uttered words of rebuke. One thinks of Jacob's needless fears when he heard of Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men. This assurance from the returning Jesus was much needed - an assurance as well as a salutation. However weak and ignorant, thoughtless and stupid, the disciples might be, the attitude of Jesus was ever the same. He might have to wound their egotism and selfishness; but the wounds were always those of a friend, not of an enemy. There is an immense difference between a surgical operation and a malicious stab.

III. THE SALUTATION IS EVER THE SAME. Out of the invisible he seeks us all, and always with the same utterance. Peace is the desire and intention, and always the end to be secured, however long and troublesome the process may be. Peace is the aim, even when Jesus says that he comes, bringing not peace, but a sword. Men too often approach one another, talking of peace, but preparing for war, and seeking for it. The appeal ever is, "Be ye reconciled to God." It is not we who have to send up the vain and agonizing cry, "O God, wilt thou not be at peace with us?" - Y.

The record of the apostles' emotion serves a purpose of value. They saw his form, his hands, his feet, his side. They heard and recognized his voice when he gave them his salutation of peace. Thus they were convinced of the reality, the identity, of the risen Savior. And their conviction led to their witness, and thus to our faith.


1. The gloomy feelings of doubt and foreboding experienced by them during many hours past now gave way to the contrasting emotions of relief, satisfaction, and joy. The disciples had been disappointed and cast down by the blow which fell upon them when their Lord was slain. Their hopes had been all but extinguished. They had been bewildered and sad. Now their suspense was at an end, their fears were dispelled, their doubts were removed. The reaction was great. The cloud which had overshadowed them had been black; the more welcome was the burst of sunshine which now illumined their hearts.

2. Their gladness was increased by the resumption of Christ's fellowship and friendship. When they saw the Lord, and heard his well-known and well-loved voice, they appreciated his forwardness to show his interest and affection. He was still their Friend, and they could not tell for what period they might be permitted to enjoy his companionship and counsel.

3. The disciples must have been growingly glad, as they gained through the Resurrection a fuller view of the Lord's nature, character, and office. They experienced the fulfillment of Christ's words, "A little while, and ye shall see me;" "On the third day I shall rise again," etc. Their hope that he would prove to be the Messiah revived. Who must this be whom death itself is powerless to hold?


1. Our faith is thus confirmed in the Divinity and authority of our Savior himself.

2. As a consequence of this, our natural and distressing doubts concerning the interest and benevolence of God are effectually removed.

3. A glorious aim in life is thus presented before us; the Church becomes the living witness to the Resurrection and to the gospel, which is based upon this stupendous fact.

4. A welcome and sacred light is thus cast upon the immortal prospects of Christ's people. They who saw him after the Resurrection, and who had heard him say, "Where I am, ye shall be also," could not but cherish the hope of a deathless fellowship with the Lord of life, who has the keys of death and of the unseen world. - T.

A mission involves a sender, the party to whom he sends, the sent one, and a commission to be fulfilled by the sent on behalf of the sender and for the benefit of those whom he visits. A religious mission originates in God, is designed for the welfare of men, and is accomplished in the first instance by the Son of God, and then by his ministers.


1. The origin of thin mission must be sought in the love and pity of the Father towards sinful men, and in the condition of humanity which rendered a Divine interposition desirable.

2. The condition of this mission was the incarnation and advent of the Son of God.

3. The evidence and authentication of this mission are found in Christ's mighty works and benevolent ministry on earth.

4. The completion of this mission was effected when the Lord Jesus laid down his life for the sheep.

II. THE MISSION ON WHICH CHRISTIAN APOSTLES AND EVANGELISTS WERE SENT BY THEIR LORD. The twelve were, because thus sent, designated "apostles." There is no reason to limit the mission to these; it was shared by the evangelists who were associated with them, and indeed by the whole Church of the Redeemer.

1. Apostolic conditions. These are

(1) sympathy with the mind of Christ;

(2) compassion for the world;

(3) renunciation of selfish ends in life.

2. The apostolic spirit. This is preeminently a spirit of dependence upon the gospel and upon the Spirit of Christ.

3. Apostolic methods.

(1) The proclamation of distinctively Christian truth;

(2) the institution of Christian societies;

(3) the continuous employment of the Christian example, and the witness of the Christian life.


1. A relation of dependence. The mission of apostles and preachers would be impossible, had it not been preceded by that of the Divine Lord himself. The mission of the Son made possible that of the servants.

2. A relation of similarity. Notwithstanding the difference between Divinity and humanity, between the work of mediation and that of publication, the mission of the followers is as that of the Leader. In both cases the work is God's, the authority is God's, the favor and assistance is God's, and the end sought is God's. The recompense and the joy ensuing in both cases upon success is one and the same. How honorable is the Christian calling! how noble the Christian aim! how sacred the Christian fellowship! how bright the Christian hope! - T.

I. THOMAS AND HIS FELLOW-APOSTLES. When they told Thomas they had seen Jesus, and he refused to believe, they must have been rather staggered at first. They would insist on how they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, and heard him with their own ears; not one of them, but all. They would point out how the sepulcher was empty, and how Jesus had said that it behooved him to be raised from the dead. They might ask whether Thomas imagined that they were all in a conspiracy to play an unseemly practical joke upon him. Yet there was really nothing to complain about in the incredulity of Thomas. Who of them had believed Jesus as he deserved to be believed? Their thoughts had never been really directed towards resurrection. They had been dreaming of individual glory and sell: advancement, and all that tended in a different direction had been unnoticed. We must do them the justice to say that no tone of complaint against Thomas appears. They would be too conscious that with the beam so recently taken out of their own eye, they had no right to declaim against the mote in their brother's eye.

II. THOMAS AND JESUS. What is Jesus to do with Thomas? Is he to remain in this state of emphatic unbelief, with no means taken to help him into faith? Will Jesus make a special appearance, all for Thomas's satisfaction? Surely that can hardly be, but time will tell. A week elapses, and the disciples are gathered again, Thomas being with them. Jesus reappears, just after the former fashion. What, then, will Thomas do? Will he rush to Jesus, confessing and bewailing the wickedness of his unbelief? Jesus removes all difficulty by taking the first step himself. All the apostles need to be taught a lesson. Jesus knows well that faith can never originate in things that can be seen and felt and handled. Such things may help faith, but cannot produce it. The confession of Thomas, prompt and ardent as it seems, counts for little with Jesus. He does not say, "Blessed art thou, Thomas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Thomas had to be both lovingly helped and delicately rebuked.

III. PROBABLE AFTER-EXPERIENCES OF THOMAS. Thomas would meet many of an unbelieving spirit, who could not, just upon his word, accept the resurrection of Jesus. And then Thomas would have to reply, "I once thought as you do; I insisted on seeing the marks of the wounds; and my Master, in his boundless condescension to the infirmities of his servants, let me see what I wanted to see. But, at the same time, he taught me a lesson, in the strength of which I have gone ever since." All the apostles had soon to believe in One whom they could not see. Where he had gone, they knew not; and how he was to communicate with them and they with him, they could not explain; but most assuredly a real and fruitful communication was established. Jesus was not speaking of an impossible blessedness, or dangling the attractions of a dream before the eyes of his disciples. The unseen, and not the seen, is what strengthens faith. What men see is the very thing that makes them unbelievers, confusing them, perplexing them, utterly disabling them from laying hold on anything solid and comforting. If the seen hides the unseen, so that Jesus himself becomes the merest of tames, then there is dreadful misery. - Y.

If St. John begins his Gospel with a clear and full declaration of our Lord's Deity, he here towards its close gives his readers to understand that his conviction was shared by others who, like himself, had the advantage of prolonged and continuous fellowship with Jesus.


1. This witness is all the more important, because

(1) given after our Lord's resurrection from the dead, when his ministry was completed, and when its impression was single and perfect; and

(2) given by an incredulous apostle, whose unbelief was overcome by the force of evidence, and whose conviction was accordingly the more valuable.

2. This witness was full and explicit. When Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God!" the two appellations were unquestionably addressed to one and the same Person, who stood before him. The language constitutes a confession of our Lord's Divinity. This must be acknowledged, even by those who regard the nature of the union of the human and Divine in Christ as matter of speculation, because unrevealed.

3. This witness was accepted by the Savior, who would certainly have rejected it had it been the utterance of mistaken enthusiasm. Jesus, however, in reply to Thomas, said, "Thou hast believed," meaning by this language, "believed the truth concerning me."


1. When we cry, "My Lord and my God!" we imply that, to our apprehension, Christ has not only given himself for us, but has given himself to us. He could not otherwise be ours. The only claim we can have upon him is founded upon his own generosity and sacrifice.

2. If we have property in Christ, it follows that we feel towards him a spiritual and affectionate attachment.

"Jesus, thou art my Lord and God,
I joy to call thee mine;
For on thy head, though pierced with thorns,
I see a crown Divine!"

3. The appropriation by the soul of Christ himself is the appropriation of him in all his offices. In approaching the Savior, the soul addresses him thus: "My Prophet! my Priest! my King!"

4. When this exclamation is sincere, it is a confession that Christ is an all-sufficient and an everlasting Portion. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!" - T.

This saying of Christ was not so much a reproach directed against Thomas, as it was a comfort and benediction for the Church of the future. The apostles had their advantages, in that they had personal intercourse with Jesus. Yet we are not without our counterbalancing advantages, in that we can believe in him whom we have not seen. Let Christ's faithful disciples and friends take to themselves this consolation, and let them be assured that wise and benevolent purposes are secured by the provision that they must walk, not by sight, but by faith.

I. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. It seems as if our Lord's ministry were itself an evidence of the difficulty of establishing a universal religion by a living Lord in the body and accessible to all men's sight and knowledge. It would have been, as far as we can see, physically impossible for men of all lands and through all ages to have seen Jesus. His ministry was confined to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and even in Palestine there must have been multitudes who were never brought into contact with him, who never knew him. Whereas the spiritual dispensation permits of disciples being gathered to Christ from every country, and through all the centuries, all of whom can fulfill the required conditions of faith.

II. IT IS UNNECESSARY FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS NECESSARY FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. It was indeed needful that some should see. Our Lord's personal friends and attendants saw and heard him, and had the opportunity of knowing him as he was in his humiliation and ministry. But when their ears had heard, their eyes seen, their hands handled, the Word of life, they were competent to testify of him whom they had come to know so well. Then the testimony of the few was sufficient to convince many. The sight of some was the means, the preparation, for an end, and that end was the faith of all. In order that men may enjoy the favor of God and may participate in the Divine nature and life, it is indispensably necessary that they believe the gospel, and exercise faith in Christ. Sight may be dispensed with, but not faith.

III. IT IS INEXPEDIENT AND UNDESIRABLE FOR ALL TO SEE; IT IS EXPEDIENT AND DESIRABLE FOR ALL TO BELIEVE. 'We know that it is possible for men to see Jesus, and not to believe. The Jews saw our Lord and his miracles, yet many of them were none the better for the sight. There is danger lest sight should end in itself, lest men should be satisfied when their curiosity is gratified. But the ends of the Christian religion are secured through faith. The higher life of the spirit is by this means secured.

IV. IT IS WELL TO SEE AND TO BELIEVE; IT IS BETTER TO BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING. Those who see and believe may indeed be happy; but they are happier still who accept testimony, who exercise spiritual intuition, who gain experience which itself confirms their faith. This happiness is not - as is sometimes supposed - the happiness of ignorance. It consists in submission to the Divine plan and appointment, in the pure spirituality of the process of religious experience, in the harmony which exists between the foundation and the superstructure of the new life, and in the prospect which animates the heart of those who look forward to that bright vision of the future - the seeing the Savior as he is. - T.

This statement comes in very fitly after the narrative of Thomas's doubt. Many more things might have been told, but a mere record of actions is nothing in itself; it is precious just as it reveals the nature, the character, and the office of the actor. A record of Jesus more encumbered with details, and longer spun out, might not have given so clear a view of him.

I. JOHN'S PURPOSE. Many books have been written to destroy faith; here is a book written to produce it. If a man believes a lie, it is true kindness to destroy his faith in it; equally, if he does not yet believe the truth, it is a duty to do all one can to help him into faith. This was the bright work of John, not to pull down, but to build up; not to destroy faith, but to produce it. Certainly in producing a new faith he destroyed an old one; but the decaying and vanishing of the old was not felt in the joy of welcoming the new. To believe is to be strong, to doubt is to be weak. And now suppose one begins to read through John's Gospel, musing over the strange things there recorded - miracles of healing, language about the life, the light, the bread, the vine, the shepherd, pondering the raising of Lazarus, and still later the raising of Jesus - he might be inclined to say, "I cannot make anything of it; it looks utterly inexplicable." Then he comes to the words here, and how he ought to be helped. This work was not written to bewilder; if it does bewilder, such was not the writer's intent. John, a believing man himself, wanted to lead others to believe. His attachment to Christ was not the blind attachment of a fanatic. It was not an ignorant trust. John was not a hired advocate, not a skilful arranger of facts, hiding away what might be difficult to explain or awkward to reveal.

II. THE EVIDENT RESULT. Let us be true to ourselves, giving the book fair play, and the end will be the receiving of eternal life. Out of Christ we are all made to feel that the excellency of our present life is indeed in earthen vessels. A sudden accident, a few hours of disease, and all is gone. Without Jesus we know not where we are going, or what may happen to us. But, believing in Jesus, we are sure of a life hid away from all the perils of this present world. John does not put forward this book as furnishing the best arguments he can supply. It is rather Christ's own sufficient appeal to all who have an honest desire for salvation and eternal life. If there be not enough in this book to persuade us, neither would we be persuaded if Jesus himself were to come in bodily form. They that love the New Testament will be fullest of eternal life, for they will be fullest of faith and freest from doubts. The words of Jesus will never be to them as common words. Looking round on the widely spread and deeply penetrating evil of the world, they will feel that only he holds in his hands the complete remedy for it. The claim of Jesus is one that can never pass away, seeing it is the claim of the Son of God - the claim not merely of his appointment, but of his nature. - Y.

To judge aright of any book, it is necessary to take into consideration the purpose of the writer.

"In every work regard the author's end,
For none can compass more than they intend." If we wish to understand this treatise, the so-called Gospel of John, we shall act wisely to consult the treatise itself, and learn what its author had in view as his purpose in preparing and publishing it. It has often been treated as if it were something very different from what it actually professes to be. Happily, in this verse we have clear information as to the design which the writer set before him in composing his narrative and record.

I. THE WRITER'S RECORD. Many of the works of Jesus were not written in this short treatise; "but these," says John, "are written."

1. This is a record of facts, and not of "cunningly devised fables;" of events which actually took place, and of words which were really spoken. This Gospel contains neither falsehoods nor fictions; nor is it a dramatic or poetical composition wrought by the force and delicacy of imagination.

2. This is a record of facts in themselves so important as to be worthy of being held in memory. They are the events which occurred in no ordinary life, but in a life distinguished from all other lives by its commencement, by its close, and by very many circumstances in its course. In this passage the writer speaks of some of the chief events which he records as "signs." This is a designation of miracles, and it is observable that John relates at length about ten miracles performed by the Lord Jesus. But the word especially refers to the signification, the moral meaning, of Christ's mighty works; to the revelation they afford of his character, his Divine mission, his intentions of grace towards mankind. The reference is not only to our Lord's appearances after his resurrection, but to the whole manifestation of himself throughout his earthly career.

3. This is a record of facts to which the writer bears his own personal witness. What is set down is not so set down upon" hearsay evidence." John himself saw Jesus do some of the works attributed to him; John himself heard Jesus deliver some of the discourses which none else has recorded. In other cases, where he was not present, John had every opportunity of knowing what Jesus had said, from the very persons to whom he had spoken. There can be no doubt that John heard Jesus deliver the discourse recorded in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters, that he heard Jesus offer the prayer which occupies the seventeenth chapter. That those who first read and accepted this document, and who commended it to the attention of Christian people generally, were convinced of its authenticity, appears from the imprimatur which they added, "This is the disciple which beareth witness of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his witness is true."

II. THE READERS' FAITH. We read some books for the charm of their style, for the insight they afford into the author's mental peculiarities. We read other books for their sparkling wit, their delightful humor. Others, again, we read that our tenderer feelings may be awakened, or that we may be lifted out of the sordid cares and anxieties of life into a fresher, more inspiring atmosphere. There are works which are read for the sake of acquiring knowledge of a scientific, or technical, or historical character. Now, this treatise was written for one definite purpose, which is here exactly stated by the writer. If it fails of this purpose, it so far fails to effect that for which its author wrote it. In a word, John's aim was that his readers might believe aright about Jesus.

1. That they might believe him to be the Christ; i.e. the Messiah expected by the Jews, because foretold in their prophetic books; One anointed, commissioned by the Eternal to do great things for Israel and for mankind. In the course of his ministry, such inquiries were started as," Is not this the Christ?" "Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?" It is to enable all fair-minded men to come to a satisfactory conclusion upon this point that John wrote. He does not conceal his own conviction; but, on the whole, he keeps himself in the background; he sets his glorious subject in the full light of day, and he leaves his readers to form their conclusion.

2. That they might believe him to be the Son of God. If the Hebrew people were most likely to shape their inquiry as above, to the world at large the problem was less special. Has the Sovereign Ruler of the universe any interest in this human race? Is it possible that, to teach and guide and save mankind, he has sent his own Son into the world - a man, yet Divine in authority, in righteousness, in love? Before any one decides for himself upon this question, he must read the record of the son of Zebedee, and acquire the means for forming a satisfactory judgment. John's conviction was that the proper result of considering his record is faith. And in this all Christians are agreed. Theirs is a reasonable faith, based upon sufficient evidence - historical, moral, miraculous evidence - evidence which will bear all scrutiny, which has convinced the wisest and the best of men. At the same time, it is religious faith; for it is fixed upon a Divine Being, has respect to Divine government, and issues in spiritual and eternal results. This explains the memorable words of Jesus himself: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

III. THE RELIEVERS' LIFE. Precious as it is, faith is but the means to an end. Faith is a posture of the soul; life is a state of the soul.

1. Life is the natural result of faith. Every man's life is affected by what he believes; in fact, a man's beliefs become the principles of his conduct. It is so in politics, in literature, in art.

2. Faith in Christ is the means towards a spiritual life. If belief in fictitious, vicious deities makes men superstitious and immoral; if faith in corrupt representations of Christianity has a debasing influence; surely faith in a Being so true, so holy, so affectionate as Jesus, must have power to assimilate the believing soul to the Object of its attachment. The human nature cannot be said to live that is dead to all that is pure, unselfish, and morally beautiful. Christ came that we might have life, and that more abundantly.

3. This spiritual life is eternal. By this it is not intended to say that the mere continuance of conscious existence is linked with faith with Jesus; but rather that upon such faith depends all that makes life worth living in this and in all worlds. "More life and fuller 'tis we want." The life which is hid with Christ in God is independent of the accidents of earth and of time. It is immortal as is he who gives it. APPLICATION. Let the reader of this Gospel ask himself - Have I been led by its perusal to receive Jesus as the true God and the Eternal Life?

"For better they had ne'er been born,
Who read to doubt, or read to scorn." ? T.

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