John Chapters 20 & 21
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject - 'EASTER' and the 'EPILOGUE'.
Study Portion ~ Chapters 20 and 21.
WE NOW COMB TO THE FULFILMENT of the Saviour's words 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up . . . He spake of the temple of his body', John 2. 19, 21.
Neither friend nor foe witnessed the rising of the Lord Jesus, but He was seen by His own as the risen Lord.
On this resurrection morning, it was Mary of Magdala, who came first to the sepulchre. Groping through the darkness of that early dawn, came one who owed so much to her Lord and Saviour, for 'she had been forgiven much'.
While strong disciples tarried awhile at home, after the terrible events of the previous days, with the memories of the betrayal, the trial, the cross and the burial still vivid in their minds, a woman loyally and devotedly made her way to the sepulchre. What courage was demanded to move through the darkness to a garden grave and to stand alone before the sepulchre! So great was her devotion that unaided she would have borne away the precious body for safekeeping, v. 15.
The opened grave and the ordered garments.
v. 2. When Mary saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre, she quickly ran to bear the news to Peter and John.
v. 4. John outran Peter, probably because he was younger, he saw the linen clothes lying, but did not enter the tomb.
v. 6. Then came Simon Peter following him and went into the sepulchre and saw the linen clothes he, and the napkin, that was about his head not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
v. 8. John now followed and went in also and he saw and believed. Of Mary and John, vv. 1 and 5, it is recorded that they saw or 'noticed' in the general sense, that the stone had been taken away.
Of Peter, v. 6, that he 'beheld' as a spectator, indicating the careful perusal of details in the object.
Of John, v. 8, that he saw and believed, that is, he saw and understood the situation.
Here, then, is a deepening of discovery indicating that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was no hurried or disorderly removal of a dead body but an act of tranquility and dignity.
'Then the disciples went away again unto their own home', v. 10. As they journeyed homewards, were they discouraged and disappointed? They had witnessed an empty tomb but as yet they had not seen the living Lord - but Mary stood at the tomb outside Sobbing. Her waiting was soon rewarded, for stooping down and peering into the tomb she beheld the angels, sitting, in the attitude of a finished task and waiting to impart the blessed news of the risen Lord and Saviour.
Unsatisfied with the vision of angels, her sole desire was to find her Lord.
The angels addressed her as 'Woman', v. 13, as also did Jesus in v. 15. Why did she not then recognize Ilis voice? He will try her ere He tell her. The language of intense affection, prepared as she was, if needs be, to carry away her Lord unaided, brings forth the word, which links her to Himself - 'Mary', v. 16.
In endeavouring to express her deep emotion she would hold Him lest again she lose Him. She must, however, enter into a new relationship, a deeper spiritual experience, not now on the old familiar plane and so He bids her 'not to cling' 10 Him for He has not yet ascended to the Father.
How intensely intimate is this new relationship 'my brethren . . . my Father and your Father ... my God and your God'.
'Jesus in the midst', v. 19. Here is the revelation of -
His presence Neither closed doors nor cautious disciples could bar the entrance of the risen Christ. Thus, it is now, for 'where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst'. A shack becomes a shrine when graced by the presence of the Saviour. 'Where'er men seek Thee, thou art found And every place is holy ground.' Here, too, is the expression of -
His peace He had left them with His peace, ch. 14, but now He comes in person to them, He Himself, their peace. They beheld His hands and
His side, the evidence of Calvary and ground of peace; 'having made peace by the blood of his cross'.
Then were the disciples filled with joy, when they saw the Lord.
His power 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you', v. 21. We must distinguish the two words used for 'send' in this verse. The first apostello (from which is derived "apostle', one set apart and sent forth with a mission) is used of His own mission. The Father delegates authority to the Son. The second word is pempo and is never used of delegated authority. They were to go and act under His authority.
Theirs was not the power to forgive sins but to proclaim forgiveness in His name and by the Spirit's power, on the ground of His atoning death.
An interval of eight days and Thomas had missed the first appearance of the Saviour in the upper room. We shall not speculate on the reason for his absence but note that Thomas expressed his -
'But . . . except ... I will not believe', v. 25.
ONE WEEK LATER,
Once more the disciples are together, behind dosed doors and Thomas with them, when the Lord appears in their midst.
From the lips of Thomas comes the highest confession of faith which has yet been made - 'My Lord and my God', v. 28.
Alford remarks 'He saw Christ as man and confessed Him as God'. 'Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed', v. 29. This was the true purpose of the Gospel narrative that 'ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name', v. 31. His Lordship and His life are ours by faith.
'After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples', v. 1, R.V.
The theme and purpose of this incident is not the failure or success of the disciples but the revelation of the Saviour - 'and on this wise manifested he himself. Let us note that -
HE SAW THEIR FAILURE
Peter said, 'I go . . . they said. We go . . . and they caught nothing'.
Failure is certain apart from the Lord. The word had been given to wait until they were endowed with power from on high; the impetuous Peter found this too difficult and once again acted with human rashness.
'Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples knew not that it was
Jesus' - their vision of Christ was blurred by the magnitude of bitter failure.
'Then Jesus saith unto them. Children, have ye any meat? They answer him, No.'
When life is frought with failure, it is often due to lack of spiritual food.
HE STRENGTHENED THEIR FAITH vv. 6-9
'Cast the net on the right side of the ship.'
They heard His voice and obeyed, with resounding success. When faith is lowest, Christ is closest. The net must be cast in the right place, at the right time and in the right way. John, who had reclined upon the Saviour's breast, exclaimed 'It is the Lord'; Peter, true to his natural disposition, wrapped his coat about him and plunged into the sea.
HE SHARED THEIR FELLOWSHIP vv. 10-13
'Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught', v. 10. But was this mighty catch their work? Only as they worked with Him and obeyed His word did they succeed in their task.
It is God's prerogative to save, the servants' privilege to serve.
'Jesus saith unto them, come and dine . . . "and taketh bread and giveth them and fish likewise" ', vv. 12, 13. Not only did He invite them to eat of that which He had prepared but in His wondrous grace took the place of a waiting servant.
He still promises to sup with those who have Him as their guest, Rev. 3. 20. He becomes guest and host.
HE SPOKE OF FEEDING vv. 15-17
'So when they had dined' . . . there were others to feed - Iambs, v, 15, sheep, v. 16, and young sheep, v. 17. It was their privilege not only to fish but to feed; to seek and to shepherd.
Distinguish between the words for 'love' used by the Saviour in His question and that used by Peter in his reply, vv. 15, 16. Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou Me -
Here it is a love of utter devotion and deliberate choice. Peter replied, 'Yes Lord, thou knowest that 1 love thee' - or that I am your friend.
A third time He said, 'Are you my friend?' and Peter was hurt that He asked him a third time. Lord, he said, you know everything, you know, I love you (that I am your friend) Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep'.
HE SOUGHT THEIR FOLLOWING w. 18-23
'Following with me' this involved -
Sacrifice of self, v. 18 And this even to death, perhaps death by crucifixion.
Submission of will, v. 18 'Whither thou wouldest not.'
Singleness of purpose, v. 22 'What is that to thee? Follow thou me.'
Conclusion, vv. 24, 25 The writer affirms the truth of his testimony and the impossibility of his task to record all that should be written - but 'these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is die Christ, the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through his name'.