It is a word Jesus used in that last long quiet talk. It's the key-word to this added chapter, occurring three times. In the old version it is the word "shew"; in the revision "manifest." "After these things Jesus manifested Himself again ... and He manifested Himself on this wise." "This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples after that He was risen from the dead."
The word used underneath literally means "to make manifest or visible or know, what has been hidden or unknown." Then each time it is used it gets its local colouring from its connection. The simple tremendous meaning here clearly is this: Jesus let Himself be seen and known. He did not come. He was there.
But their eyes couldn't see Him. In effect He was hidden, not seeable. Now the change that comes is this: He is seen. And He is seen in His true native character; so certain results follow. He had said, "I will manifest Myself." And this was now the third time that He did it, to the disciples, after that He was risen.
This is the advance illustration of the Book of Acts. This is the tremendous thing He is burning into their hearts through eyes and ears: -- He is always present. He, whose power they had felt so stupendously, and whose warm sympathy so tenderly, He is always with them. The coming of the Holy Spirit meant just this. The Spirit would be as Jesus' other self, as Jesus Himself. The one thing the Spirit would do would be to manifest, to shew openly, the power of Jesus.
Then four pictures pass before their eyes to illustrate the meaning, a fishing picture and a breakfast picture in action; then in words, a love-service-suffering picture, and a picture of Jesus returning in person seen by all to take an advance-step.
The fishing picture clearly meant this: great numbers of people, surprisingly great numbers, coming, drawn not by any human skill, but by the supernatural power of Jesus manifesting Himself in that way. The breakfast picture meant this: that this wondrous Jesus would take tender personal care of those in this blessed gathering ministry, even to their bodily needs and strength.
And the love-service-suffering word-picture said so plainly this: true service grows out of love. The chief thing is the loyal tender attachment to the person of Jesus. Then out of this will naturally come service, and willingness to suffer. The touchstone won't be service but personal love. The service will simply be an expression of the love.
And the Jesus-return word-picture fills their vision with this same Jesus coming in open glory before all eyes to carry out the kingdom plan. As these men learned to live always in the presence of a Jesus whom their outer eyes saw not, these pictures would become living pictures seen in open daily life.
So this is a further bit of the tryst appointment. This is the fuller tryst, the greater, the yet more wondrous tryst. Not only would He rise up out of death, and appear to them in person seen by the outer eyes, but He would be with them continually manifesting Himself in rarest power of action, in tenderest personal care, in talking and walking with them.
They would see the power plainly at work; then they would say with a soft hush, "He is here." They would find new bodily strength, new guidance in perplexity, new peace in the midst of confusion, and they would say to each other in awed tones, "He is here: it's the Master's touch."
And so it would come to be a habit to anticipate His presence. They would figure Him in, and figure Him in big, as big as He is, in all sorts of circumstances and planning and meeting of difficulties.
It is most striking that John closes his Gospel so differently from the others. They close with the Master rising up and disappearing on a cloud into the upper blue. John closes with Jesus walking along the beach, talking with the little group of trusted ones. Jesus did ascend up into the blue whence He shall some day descend. But the Holy Spirit sends John back to his pen to give us this as the last picture, impressed on the sensitive plate of the eyes of our heart. This: Jesus present with us all the while walking along the shore of our common round of life, clothed with matchless power, and devoting Himself to us as we to Him.
Along about the middle of the eighteenth century there came to England a young French-Swiss, named De la Flechere, hungry hearted for the truth. He was so helped by John Wesley that he cast in his lot with the new Methodist movement and John Williams Fletcher became one of Wesley's most faithful co-labourers. Late in life he married a woman of unusual mental and spiritual attainment.
I ran across a simple story over there of this Mrs. John Fletcher which interested and helped me much. This saintly gifted woman told of a dream which came to her with such vividness as to seem to her mature mind more than a common passing vagary of sleep. In her dream she was engaged in an intense struggle with an evil spirit. She was having a most difficult fight.
She noticed some one standing a little bit to one side watching the fight but taking no active part in it. The fighting became so intense and her strength so sorely strained that she was on the point of giving up. Then this one came over near and touched her gently and said, "Be strong." Instantly a wondrous strength came to her and she held on.
Again the evil one attacked her viciously. She wondered why this helping friend did not come to her assistance in the fight. Then she was moved to say to her enemy, "Depart, in Jesus' Name." And instantly he fled. And she was free and victorious. That was her dream. As she awoke there came to her the most real sense of the presence of her Lord.
This is only one simple illustration from life. I have run across many of the same, wholly different each from the other, but each emphasizing the one simple tremendous fact of the constant presence with us of this same mighty Jesus.
It is of keenest help to mark that humanly the initiative of action is in our hands. The fight is ours. We decide our stand. We choose, and we bear the brunt or result of our choice. We step out as the need comes. Prayer and a spirit of humblest dependence on Another guides our decision and action. But we take the action. The initiative is ours.
And always alongside is One standing close up, putting all His limitless power at our disposal, in our action. All He did in living and dying and rising up out of death was done on our behalf. And now all the tremendous result of His victory is at our command. All the power native in Him is for our use.
This is the other tryst our Lover-Lord makes with us. "Lo! I am with you all the days, sunny days and shadowy, bright days and dark, all the days clear to the end." This is the sacred tryst He has made with us.
And He keeps the tryst. We may count on Him, And as we do we shall cast nets into hopeless waters and get a great haul. We shall find His presence anticipating all our personal needs. We shall rejoice to serve and -- if so it prove to be -- to suffer for the One we love with tenderest devotion.
And we shall look eagerly forward to seeing Him who is always in touch with us, here and now, to seeing Him with these outer eyes of ours, coming in glory with His resistless power, to make some blessed changes.