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The Sixth Sunday of Easter is on May 22, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

There are two choices for the Gospel. I have chosen the first, which concerns the first Pentecost.

It is as follows (emphases mine):

John 14:23-29

14:23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you.

14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

14:29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is part of our Lord’s final teaching to the Apostles following the Last Supper. His discourse began after Judas left. This can be found in the reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C).

Only John’s Gospel has this discourse, which runs from John 13 to John 16, with closing prayers in John 17. These are, in my opinion, the most beautiful chapters of the New Testament. Every time I read them, something new stands out to me.

Let us look at the preceding verses in which Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

That Judas was Jude Thaddeus, the author of the one-page letter, the Book of Jude.

He voiced the confusion that the Twelve had. They still expected Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom whereby Israel would triumph over the Romans.

Undeterred, Jesus replied that those who love Him will obey Him; as such, He and His Father will love them and make their home with them (verse 23).

What a generous promise that is.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

First, My Father will love him; this he had said before (John 14:21; John 14:21), and here repeats it for the confirming of our faith; because it is hard to imagine that the great God should make those the objects of his love that had made themselves vessels of his wrath. Jude wondered that Christ should manifest himself to them; but this answers it, “If my Father love you, why should not I be free with you?” Secondly, We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. This explains the meaning of Christ’s manifesting himself to him, and magnifies the favour. 1. Not only, I will, but, We will, I and the Father, who, in this, are one. See John 14:9; John 14:9. The light and love of God are communicated to man in the light and love of the Redeemer, so that wherever Christ is formed the image of God is stamped. 2. Not only, “I will show myself to him at a distance,” but, “We will come to him, to be near him, to be with him,” such are the powerful influences of divine graces and comforts upon the souls of those that love Christ in sincerity. 3. Not only, “I will give him a transient view of me, or make him a short and running visit,” but, We will take up our abode with him which denotes complacency in him and constancy to him. God will not only love obedient believers, but he will take a pleasure in loving them, will rest in love to them, Zephaniah 3:17. He will be with them as at his home.

John MacArthur points out that Jesus spoke of the Holy Trinity, in whom we must believe:

Becoming a Christian is being in living union with the triune God at its core That’s what it is.  It is eternal life.

Jesus went on to say that those who do not love Him do not obey Him; those words come not from Him but the Father (verse 24).

Henry says:

First, the stress of duty is laid upon the precept of Christ as our rule, and justly, for that word of Christ which we are to keep is the Father’s word, and his will the Father’s will. Secondly, The stress of our comfort is laid upon the promise of Christ. But forasmuch as, in dependence upon that promise, we must deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and quit all, it concerns us to enquire whether the security be sufficient for us to venture our all upon; and this satisfies us that it is, that the promise is not Christ’s bare word, but the Father’s which sent him, which therefore we may rely upon.

Jesus said these things while He was with the Twelve (verse 25), to dispel any misunderstandings and to make sure they knew what to expect of this divine promise.

Henry tells us:

That what he had said he did not retract nor unsay, but ratify it, or stand to it. What he had spoken he had spoken, and would abide by it.

Jesus told the Apostles that the Father would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to them to teach them everything and to remind them of our Lord’s words (verse 26).

MacArthur explains the essential nature of and belief in the Holy Trinity:

What does it mean to have eternal life?  It means to have the eternal life in you, the eternal life in you, and the eternal life is none other than God Himself, which then leads us to the third member of the Trinity, and we’ll drop down to verse 24:  “Jesus said, ‘If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word.’”

There it is again.  Again, the qualifier:  This is only a promise to those who are lovers of the Lord and demonstrate it by patterns of obedience

... It is correct to say that you are the temple of the living God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit You need to acknowledge that, and you need to acknowledge each person of the Trinity.

Sometimes we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” because that’s the way the Lord taught us to pray.  But on the other side of the cross, we could easily say, “Blessed Father, who dwelled in me.  Blessed Spirit.”  You can communicate with each member of the Trinity – talk to the Son, talk to the Father, talk to the SpiritCommunicate with the triune God.

This is why a regenerated Christian shuns sin. MacArthur cites verses from 1 Corinthians 6 to prove the point:

You want to be characterized by renewal.  You want to live as one who – ” verse 10 “ – is in the image of the One who created him.  You want to live like One recreated by the Creator, chosen by God, holy and beloved – ” verse 12 “ – so you should be characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance forgiveness, and of course, love, the perfect bond of unity.”

Really, it’s who we are that determines how we act, isn’t it?  Who you are is you are the temple of the living God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Do you adorn that reality? Do you let your light so shine before men that they may glorify your Father in heaven?  Do you bring honor to Christ, honor to the Spirit, honor to the Father?  The Trinity is in complete intimate life-giving union with every true Christian.  That powerful reality should be a purifying reality.

Of the gift of the Holy Spirit, MacArthur explains how it benefited the Apostles:

Even the things Jesus said, they didn’t understand “But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”  What jogged their memories?  What gave them understanding?  The coming of the Holy Spirit It was the Spirit’s coming that enlightened them.  That’s why our Lord said in chapter 16 verse 7: it’s better that I go and the Helper come And He says in verse 12 of 16, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  You – there’s got to be more than I’ve been able to do for you; it’s going to be better for you when the Spirit comes, because He will teach you all things.

You see it in verse 26.  “He will teach you all things.”  There are things I’ve taught you you don’t understand.  Some of them, you’ll begin to understand after the resurrection.  Some of them, you’ll begin to understand after I rise and explain things to you.  Some of them, you will begin to grasp as the days go on and we talk about the kingdom, and the 40 days before the ascension.  But when it comes to knowing all things that I have desired to reveal to you, that necessitates the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, you may not be thinking about this the way you should be thinking about it.  Because He’s not so much talking about what the Holy Spirit’s going to do in you, as what the Holy Spirit’s going to allow the disciples to do for you.  What do you mean by that?  I mean, this is primarily a promise that the Holy Spirit will enable the apostles and their associates to write the New Testament Okay?  To write the New Testament.  And then, the Lord will give us all the things that He couldn’t say, because the disciples weren’t able to handle it.  That’s what this promise is all about.  That’s what it’s all about.

Jesus says that He will give the Apostles peace, His peace, which is not the same peace that the world gives; therefore, their hearts should not trouble them or be afraid (verse 27).

We have heard so much about peace since the late 1960s that the word has lost its meaning. There are times when I cannot bear hearing about ‘peace’ because it is so empty in its temporal meaning.

However, here, we understand that Christ’s peace is not mankind’s peace.

MacArthur explains:

this is a supernatural peace It belongs only to those who are Christ’s There are four features of this peace that I want you to see in this one verse ...

First of all, the nature of this peace, the nature of peace.  When we’re talking about peace, what are we talking about exactly, specifically?  Well let me say very simply, there are two aspects to this: one is objective and one is subjective What do I mean by that?

An objective peace is that peace which is outside of you.  It is not inside of you; it is not experienced by you; it is outside of you.  It is a transactional peace.  And then that’s the objective peace.  The subjective peace is that peace that is inside of you and it is experiential, and the second is based on the first.

So when we talk about peace, let’s look at verse 27 and see how our Lord gives us the nature of this peace inherent in this statement: “Peace I leave with you.”  This is a deposit; this is a gift.  This is not a command, this is a giftHe is not asking them to find this peace, He is saying, “I’m leaving this peace with you.  I’m depositing this peace.  You will possess this peace.”  It is a reality; it is a gift; it is a transaction.  Our Lord grants them this peace and to all who will follow them in loving and serving Him.

What are we talking about?  What is this peace?  Maybe the best way to start explaining it is to have you turn to Romans 5; Romans, chapter 5.  And here it jumps out of the page at you right away; chapter 5, verse 1.  Based on the work of Christ in the end of chapter 4, Him being delivered over because of our transgressions and raised for our justification, based on His work on the cross, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” okay.

So now we’re talking about peace with God Preposition is very important: peace with God.  We are at peace with God, that is why Paul in Ephesians 6:15 calls the gospel, “The gospel of peace,” because the gospel brings peace between the sinner and God That’s what justification does When God declares you just, when He imputes the righteousness of Christ to you, you are declared righteous.  You are justified by faith in Christ and by the work that He did on the cross.

On the cross, He paid the penalty for your sin, and that frees God to forgive you and impute the righteousness of Christ to you That is a declaration; that is a divine decree; that is not an experience That is not inside of you, it is a transaction that takes place outside of you by a sovereign God.

You are justified by God; that means declared righteous based upon your faith in Jesus Christ; and His righteousness then imputed to you, you stand just before God.  Therefore, we have peace with God.  Every Christian has peace with God, every Christian

Put it another way: forever God is on our side Forever He will never leave us or forsake us.  Forever we will be in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Forever we will possess the very life of God, forever.  That is an external, eternal reality, never to change.  That’s objective peace with God.

But that objective peace also provides for us a subjective peace, an internal peace, an experiential peace; a sense of goodness, trust, contentment, tranquility, confidence, well-being

Now this is not a kind of passive peace; it is not just being willing to endure; it is a lot more than that.  It is not some kind of benign reality.  It is a triumphant peace It is an aggressive peace.  It is a peace that moves out.  It is a conquering peace.

It is a peace that not only protects you from anxiety, and fear, and doubt, and despair; but it is a peace that triumphs over everything with courage, confidence, contentment.  It’s a triumphant peace, and you should be experiencing all of it.  So that’s the kind of peace our Lord is saying: “I leave you this peace.”  First of all, objectively, peace with God; and then subjectively, the peace of God, which is what it’s called Philippians 4 as we will see.  So that’s the kind of peace.

All right, just another feature: the source of peace Back to verse 27: “My peace I give to you, My peace.  Peace I leave you, but it’s My peace.”  That is to say it’s divine, it’s supernatural It comes from heaven; it belongs to Christ; it belongs to God many places in the Bible you will find this statement: “The God of peace, the God of peace.”

Again, this is the essence of the Trinity that dwells in the believer; with the eternal life of the presence of the triune God comes divine peace It was the same peace: “My peace,” He said, that kept Him calm on that Thursday night knowing what was about to happen; knowing that His disciples would scatter, Peter would deny Him; knowing that He would go to the cross, bear sin.  It was the same calm really that he exhibited through His whole life when He was treated with mockery, scorn, hostility, hatred, betrayal, all undeserved.

Where did that peace come from?  Well, essentially, it came from perfect trust in the Father, perfect trust in the Father So just mark it down in your mind: peace is connected to trust It’s connected to trust.  His trust in the Father was so clear and so consummate and so complete that Hebrews 12:2 says, “He went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him,” even though in the going, in the garden, He was sweating blood in the agony.

Henry makes an excellent observation on Christ’s peace versus the world’s peace:

As is the difference between a killing lethargy and a reviving refreshing sleep, such is the difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s.

Jesus told the Apostles that He would be going away and He would come again to them; if they loved Him, they would be rejoicing that He would be going to the Father, because the Father is greater (verse 28).

MacArthur explains that this is because Jesus is all human yet all divine. It is because of His human nature that He spoke those words:

Look at Philippians, chapter 2.  Philippians 2 is the explanation of this.  It says He existed in the morph of God.  He existed as God, but He didn’t regard equality with God, something to be held onto, grasped.  He was willing to give up that face-to-face, full, glorious equality with God, and He emptied Himself, He divested Himself of that and took the form of a slave and was made in the likeness of men.

Again, as to His Godhood, He’s equal to God As to His manhood, He’s inferior, He submitsHe’s found in appearance as a man, humbles Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross But for this reason then, God highly exalted him, bestowed on Him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those in heaven and earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

The name is Lord.  God gives Him the name Lord, takes Him back into heaven to sit on His throne from which He had come They should have rejoiced because Jesus’ humiliation was over He had come all the way down to the depths of humiliation, born in a stable, no place to rest His head during His ministry, suffering hatred, abuse, jeers, crucifixion at the hands of evil men, rejected by His own people, bitter cup was almost ended.  They should have rejoiced.

They should have rejoiced that He was going to the Father from whom He had come The garb of lowliness is about to fall from His shoulders, and to love Him would be to rejoice for Him So first of all, they should rejoice because His person will be dignified Secondly, His truth will be documented What’s going to happen is going to validate what He has been saying.  This is very powerful.

Henry has a practical application for us:

Many that love Christ, let their love run out in a wrong channel; they think if they love him they must be continually in pain because of him; whereas those that love him should dwell at ease in him, should rejoice in Christ Jesus.

Jesus said that He told them these things before they happened so that when they did take place the Apostles would believe (verse 29).

Henry explains that verse:

Christ told his disciples of his death, though he knew it would both puzzle them and grieve them, because it would afterwards redound to the confirmation of their faith in two things:– 1. That he who foretold these things had a divine prescience, and knew beforehand what day would bring forth. When St. Paul was going to Jerusalem, he knew not the things that did abide him there, but Christ did. 2. That the things foretold were according to the divine purpose and designation, not sudden resolves, but the counterparts of an eternal counsel. Let them therefore not be troubled at that which would be for the confirmation of their faith, and so would redound to their real benefit; for the trial of our faith is very precious, though it cost us present heaviness, through manifold temptations, 1 Peter 1:6.

These are the final verses of John 14, after which they leave the room where the Last Supper took place. Note that Jesus says that Satan has no power over Him, even in death:

30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.

MacArthur says that Jesus had to tell the Apostles what would happen to Him even if they did not understand why. If He hadn’t said anything about His death and resurrection, they would have scattered, never to gather together again:

Look, could you imagine if He had never told them He was going to die, never told them all the details, and it came to pass; they would have been scattered, never to be recovered They would have been useless.  But all of a sudden, as these things began to unfold – the death, the resurrection – they began to remember that He had said these things specifically, and they were regathered and reconstituted, even before the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2.

They’re all together in the temple.  They’re meeting together in the temple.  They’re meeting with the Lord.  They’re learning about the kingdom in the 40 days of His time on earth before His ascension, and they’re taking it all in They’re listening to Him.  And I’m sure during those times, He was affirming all that He had said that had been historically validated with more to come.

What was to come?  The coming of the Holy Spirit which He promised.  What was to come?  Persecution which He promised.  That would all come.  And every time something happened, it validated Him as the Messiah, the Son of God.  And that’s what empowered them to give their lives to preach the gospel.  That’s why they turned the world upside-down because they knew who He was.  If He hadn’t told them any of these things before they happened, they would have wondered how this all happened and who really was He.

He said He would die; He did.  He said He would be lifted up in death; he was.  He said He would rise; He did.  He said He would ascend to the Father; He did.  He said He would send the Holy Spirit; He did.  He said He would give supernatural life; He did.  Everything He said He would do He did He said they would be persecuted; they were.  Every prophecy, every promise, every pledge, fulfilled in exact precision, documenting His word.

Christ knows that the message has to go forth, the message of the gospel has to be preached There has to be a book of Acts to record and chronicle what happened.  They have to go to preach the gospel and they’re not going to do that unless they believe it, unless they really hold to it with solid conviction.  They have to have confidence, and that can happen only if they believe His word

In closing, Ascension Day is Thursday, May 26. May 28 is the final Sunday in Eastertide for 2022. Pentecost Sunday is June 5 this year.

The Fifth Sunday of Easter is on May 15, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 13:31-35

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

13:33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John’s Gospel has a beautiful and lengthy discourse from Jesus following the Last Supper.

It runs from the end of John 13 through John 17.

Jesus had just dismissed Judas to his sin and treachery; then He said that He has been glorified and God the Father has been glorified in Him (verse 31).

Jesus meant that God’s plan was now in place. Judas would complete his betrayal, Jesus would be crucified for our sins, rise again on the third day and ascend to heaven 40 days later.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses is exceptional.

Henry gives us the following analysis of verse 31, beginning with the Crucifixion:

(1.) That he should himself be glorified in them. Now the Son of man is to be exposed to the greatest ignominy and disgrace, to be despitefully used to the last degree, and dishonoured both by the cowardice of his friends and the insolence of his enemies; yet now he is glorified; For, [1.] Now he is to obtain a glorious victory over Satan and all the powers of darkness, to spoil them, and triumph over them. He is now girding on the harness, to take the field against these adversaries of God and man, with as great an assurance as if he had put it off. [2.] Now he is to work out a glorious deliverance for his people, by his death to reconcile them to God, and bring in an everlasting righteousness and happiness for them; to shed that blood which is to be an inexhaustible fountain of joys and blessings to all believers. [3.] Now he is to give a glorious example of self-denial and patience under the cross, courage and contempt of the world, zeal for the glory of God, and love to the souls of men, such as will make him to be for ever admired and had in honour. Christ had been glorified in many miracles he had wrought, and yet he speaks of his being glorified now in his sufferings, as if that were more than all his other glories in his humble state.

God the Father was glorified in the Crucifixion because it meant redemption, our reconciliation with Him:

(2.) That God the Father should be glorified in them. The sufferings of Christ were, [1.] The satisfaction of God’s justice, and so God was glorified in them. Reparation was thereby made with great advantage for the wrong done him in his honour by the sin of man. The ends of the law were abundantly answered, and the glory of his government effectually asserted and maintained. [2.] They were the manifestation of his holiness and mercy. The attributes of God shine brightly in creation and providence, but much more in the work of redemption; see 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:6. God is love, and herein he hath commended his love.

Then Jesus spoke in the third person. He said that if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself and will glorify Him at once (verse 32).

John MacArthur says:

Our Lord knew.  Judas is gone.  The events are in place.  By tomorrow, I will be glorified on the cross.  By Sunday, I will be out of the grave.  40 days later, I will ascend into heaven.  And that’s the immediately that brings His glory to its culmination

Henry says that verse 32 expands on verse 31:

Observe how he enlarges upon it. [1.] He is sure that God will glorify him; and those whom God glorifies are glorious indeed. Hell and earth set themselves to vilify Christ, but God resolved to glorify him, and he did it. He glorified him in his sufferings by the amazing signs and wonders, both in heaven and earth, which attended them, and extorted even from his crucifiers an acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. But especially after his sufferings he glorified him, when he set him at his own right hand, gave him a name above every name. [2.] That he will glorify him in himselfen heauto. Either, First, In Christ himself. He will glorify him in his own person, and not only in his kingdom among men. This supposes his speedy resurrection. A common person may be honoured after his death, in his memory or posterity, but Christ was honoured in himself. Or, secondly, in God himself. God will glorify him with himself, as it is explained, John 17:5; John 17:5. He shall sit down with the Father upon his throne, Revelation 3:21. This is true glory. [3.] That he will glorify him straightway. He looked upon the joy and glory set before him, not only as great, but as near; and his sorrows and sufferings short and soon over. Good services done to earthly princes often remain long unrewarded; but Christ had his preferments presently. It was but forty hours (or not so much) from his death to his resurrection, and forty days thence to his ascension, so that it might well be said that he was straightway glorified, Psalms 16:10. [4.] All this in consideration of God’s being glorified in and by his sufferings: Seeing God is glorified in him, and receives honour from his sufferings, God shall in like manner glorify him in himself, and give honour to him. Note, first, In the exaltation of Christ there was a regard had to his humiliation, and a reward given for it. Because he humbled himself, therefore God highly exalted him. If the Father be so great a gainer in his glory by the death of Christ, we may be sure that the Son shall be no loser in his. See the covenant between them, Isaiah 53:12. Secondly, Those who mind the business of glorifying God no doubt shall have the happiness of being glorified with him.

Jesus addressed the Apostles as ‘little children’, telling them He would be with them only for a little while longer; He told them what He told the Jews: they could not go where He was going (verse 33).

Calling the Apostles little children is a sign of our Lord’s affection for them, even though they were childish in being preoccupied by who would be first.

Henry has more:

Little children. This compellation does not bespeak so much their weakness as his tenderness and compassion; he speaks to them with the affection of a father, now that he is about to leave them, and to leave blessings with them. Know this, then, that yet a little while I am with you. Whether we understand this as referring to his death or his ascension it comes much to one; he had but a little time to spend with them, and therefore, [1.] Let them improve the advantage they now had. If they had any good question to ask, if they would have any advice, instruction, or comfort, let them speak quickly; for yet a little while I am with you. We must make the best of the helps we have for our souls while we have them, because we shall not have them long; they will be taken from us, or we from them. [2.] Let them not doat upon his bodily presence, as if their happiness and comfort were bound up in that; no, they must think of living without it; not be always little children, but go alone, without their nurses. Ways and means are appointed but for a little while, and are not to be rested in, but pressed through to our rest, to which they have a reference.

Their lack of understanding comes up again in John 16, as MacArthur explains:

A little later, down in verse 36, He says: you will follow after But for now, you cannot come There’s so much affection in this.  Little childrenRare for Jesus to use that phrase talking to His disciples There’s so much pathos in this They don’t want Him to go.  They’re trying to stand in the way.  They’re trying to bar the events that He keeps talking about They don’t like the idea.  They don’t mind the fact that He said to the Jews in chapter 7:34 and 8:21 and 24, “You’re not going to be able to come where I go.”  When they hear this for themselves, this pushes them over the edge

By His death, He will leave.  His time with them is over.  They can’t stand that thought.  They’ve got all their hope in Him, all their trust in Him.  Everything is tied up with Him.  They are sad.  They are lonely.  They are troubled.  Peter even asks in verse 37, “Lord, why can’t I follow You right now?”  Right now.  If I have to, I’ll die. 

The thought that He would leave them?  Too much for them to bear.  Over in chapter 16 verse 2, He says, “You too have grief now, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.”

What does He want them to know?  You’ve got to be committed to My glory, no matter how it affects you You’ve got to be committed to My glory.  I’ve been telling you I have to go.  It is My time to be glorified Glorified at the cross, glorified through the open tomb, glorified by ascending into heaven, glorified by Him being seated at the right hand of the Father It’s time for My glory.  Time for My glory. 

This was so hard for them, ‘cause they were all caught up in this kingdom concept that this was all leading to their glory, their elevation, their fulfillment of ambition A true disciple, a true believer is completely consumed with the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s glory Whatever happens to me, whether I live or whether I die, whatever happens to me, may Christ be glorified.  The passionate, consuming love for His glory – just wasn’t in their thinking Do they love Him?  Sure.  Did they believe in Him?  Of course.  But they were not consumed with His glory.

Jesus gave the Apostles a new commandment: to love one another as He has loved them (verse 34).

This is much more than loving one’s neighbour, because we are asked to love each other the way Jesus loves us. That is a ‘big ask’, so to speak.

Henry has an excellent interpretation of this commandment:

1. The command of their Master (John 13:34; John 13:34): A new commandment I give unto you. He not only commends it as amiable and pleasant, not only counsels it as excellent and profitable, but commands it, and makes it one of the fundamental laws of his kingdom; it goes a-breast with the command of believing in Christ, 1 John 3:23; 1 Peter 1:22. It is the command of our ruler, who has a right to give law to us; it is the command of our Redeemer, who gives us this law in order to the curing of our spiritual diseases and the preparing of us for our eternal bliss. It is a new commandment; that is, (1.) It is a renewed commandment; it was a commandment from the beginning (1 John 2:7), as old as the law of nature, it was the second great commandment of the law of Moses; yet, because it is also one of the great commandments of the New Testament, of Christ the new Lawgiver, it is called a new commandment; it is like an old book in a new edition corrected and enlarged. This commandment has been so corrupted by the traditions of the Jewish church that when Christ revived it, and set it in a true light, it might well be called a new commandment. Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant, that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people. (2.) It is an excellent command, as a new song is an excellent song, that has an uncommon gratefulness in it. (3.) It is an everlasting command; so strangely new as to be always so; as the new covenant, which shall never decay (Hebrews 8:13); it shall be new to eternity, when faith and hope are antiquated. (4.) As Christ gives it, it is new. Before it was, Thou shalt love thy neighbour; now it is, You shall love one another; it is pressed in a more winning way when it is thus pressed as mutual duty owing to one another.

2. The example of their Saviour is another argument for brotherly love: As I have loved you. It is this that makes it a new commandment–that this rule and reason of love (as I have loved you) is perfectly new, and such as had been hidden from ages and generations. Understand this, (1.) Of all the instances of Christ’s love to his disciples, which they had already experienced during the time he went in and out among them. He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself heartily for them, and for their welfare, instructed, counselled, and comforted them, prayed with them and for them, vindicated them when they were accused, took their part when they were run down, and publicly owned them to be dearer to him that his mother, or sister, or brother. He reproved them for what was amiss, and yet compassionately bore with their failings, excused them, made the best of them, and passed by many an oversight. Thus he had loved them, and just now washed their feet; and thus they must love one another, and love to the end. Or, (2.) It may be understood of the special instance of love to all his disciples which he was now about to give, in laying down his life for them. Greater love hath no man than this, John 15:13; John 15:13. Has he thus loved us all? Justly may he expect that we should be loving to one another. Not that we are capable of doing any thing of the same nature for each other (Psalms 49:7), but we must love one another in some respects after the same manner; we must set this before us as our copy, and take directions from it. Our love to one another must be free and ready, laborious and expensive, constant and persevering; it must be love to the souls one of another. We must also love one another from this motive, and upon this consideration–because Christ has loved us. See Romans 15:1; Romans 15:3; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25; Philippians 2:1-5.

MacArthur echoes Henry in saying that the Jews in that era had fallen far away from loving their neighbour:

This is really critical.  Now, notice this new commandment.  That’s how it starts.  A new commandment.  You say, wait a minute.  New?  To love people?  That’s not new.  Isn’t that in the Old Testament?  Yeah, Leviticus, the law of Moses.  Leviticus 19:18.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And lots of things about love in the Old Testament.  God’s love, love for people, love for strangers, love for family.  Yeah, this isn’t new.  Deuteronomy 6.  Love the Lord with your heart and your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And then, love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s the law and the prophet’s first and second great commandment. 

So why is it new?  Well, let me tell you why it’s new It’s new, first of all, because they haven’t figured it out yet.  It’s got to be new to them because tall they’re doing is arguing with each other about who’s going to sit in the primary place in the kingdom So, I’ve got to teach you something new, something that as of now, you don’t demonstrate that you know.  It was new to them.  They were always quibbling about their positions and prominence.  That is exactly why none of them would wash the feet of the rest in the earlier passage. 

Secondly, to the Jews, it was new, ‘cause Judaism was filled with animosity, bitterness, strife, conflict, separationsThere were all kinds of factions within factions.  The Pharisees, who set the course for the dominant religion looked down on anybody who wasn’t a Pharisee, wouldn’t interact with anybody who wasn’t a Pharisee, had nothing but scorn for anybody who was an outsider or an outcast or a sinner.  But for the Jews, this is new.  If you’re Jewish, this is new.  And even if you’re a disciple, this is new. 

Judaism was loveless.  They loved only those that they chose to love because they saw them as equals It was new also because they had seen an example of it that was new.  Love had come to another level with Jesus.  It was new because rabbis didn’t wash feet And the Son of God washing feet took love to another level And now, He’s on the brink of offering His life as sacrifice for sin, and that’s love at the pinnacle.  Greater love has no one than this, than a man lay down His life for His friend.  So it was new to them in their argumentative attitudes, self-promoting desires, it was new to the Jewish culture because they had no place for love, and it was new in the level that had been set and would be set by Christ.  And it was also new because now, for the first time, they had a new capacity to love Because the love of God is shed abroad in your hearts, Romans 5:5, right?  Now you have a new capacity to love.  Now you can love in a way that only you can love, and only believers can love.  Walk in love, Ephesians 5:2.  Be imitators of God, His beloved children.  Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, a sacrificial, selfless, self-giving love.  That’s how you love.  That’s how you walk in love.

Jesus said that obeying the new commandment would mark the Apostles out as His followers (verse 35).

MacArthur explains:

First John 3:11.  This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  That’s what marks us.  And by this love, all men will know that you are My disciples.  And I say it again: we’re known by our love.  The extent of this love, how far does it go?  Love one another.  The example of this love?  Christ, as I have loved you, sacrificially, humbly.  The effect of this love?  All men will know that you’re My disciples if you have love for one another And in order to love, you have to humble yourself Only humble people love.  Only humble people love.  The disciples weren’t humble.  This was all new to them.

MacArthur has an interesting insight into this from Matthew 18, an instruction from our Lord for the Church which did not exist at that time, having come into being later at the first Pentecost:

We love enough to serve and we love enough to sanctify What does that mean?  Go to Matthew 18.  In Matthew 16 we have the first time in the New Testament where the word “church” is used, Matthew 16Chapter 18, we have the first time there’s instruction given to the church, down in verses 15 and following The church is mentioned.  “Tell it to the church,” verse 17So, the Lord is now talking to His people The church doesn’t start until the Day of Pentecost This is preliminary instruction for the church.  This in chapter 18 is the first instruction given to the church before the church came into existence This is a sub-floor, if you will.  This is footings for life in the church.  Before the foundation is laid at Pentecost, the rest of the apostles’ doctrine is established

What is the point of Matthew 18?  The disciples come to Jesus They’re arguing again about who is the greatest in the kingdom “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  They all wanted to be the greatest.  “Can we sit on your right and left hand?” John and his brother asked with their mother helping them, to kind of illustrate that.  So Jesus is going to give them a lesson on life in the kingdom, okay?  So He calls a little baby to Himself Some think this was actually Peter’s house and one of Peter’s relatives had a little baby, but whatever.  Jesus has a little baby in His arms as an illustration.  He sets the little child before them, and then He begins to speak to them, and what He has to say is so very important.

Remember now, these are the footings for the church.  This is the first instruction given to the church “Unless you are converted,” verse 3, “and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom.”  That’s the humility, the lowliness, the abject recognition of having accomplished nothing, achieved nothing, produced nothing.  You come empty-handed, bankrupt into the kingdom You come like a child Children have accomplished nothing They have to be cared for.  They can’t even care for themselves.  They can’t achieve anything.  They don’t have any history of accomplishments.  That’s how you come in.  You come in with nothing You come in bankrupt.  You enter the kingdom.  “You humble yourself,” verse 4You humble yourself to come in the kingdom Then in the kingdom, you’re all the greatest, right? 

... Greatness is just being in the kingdom, and it’s not relative.  It’s absolute.  It’s absolute. 

I shall close with MacArthur’s insight on being a pastor:

“Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.”  Wow.  When you open up your heart, open up your life, open yourself up to fellowship with another believer, you are receiving Christ Christ comes to you in that believer You got that?  That’s the foundation.  That’s the footings of life in the church.  Every true believer is literally Christ coming into your life That has a lot to do with how I think about how I’m going to treat everybody That’s a pervasive reality as a pastor

When I look out at you, I can honestly say I don’t – I’ve known a lot of people, and I guess it says in there I’ve been here 46 years.  I’ve known a lot of people.  I don’t have some kind of relative scale in my mind.  Everybody is Christ to me.  Everybody is Christ to me.  You are Christs, and when you come to me, Christ comes to me When I minister to you, I minister to one in whom Christ lives, for whom He died, whom He called, and with whom He will live forever in glory This just changes everything about human relationships for believers

Amazing.

I wish Church of England bishops had that same outlook on pastoral care. That, however, is another subject for another day, coming soon.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is May 8, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 10:22-30

10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,

10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

10:25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;

10:26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

10:29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.

10:30 The Father and I are one.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Before beginning today’s verses, I wanted to follow up on last week’s reading from John 21, which involved John and Peter after our Lord’s resurrection.

John MacArthur says that both Apostles were close friends:

It’s very interesting to be going through the Book of John in the morning and Acts at night because in the account of the early chapters of Acts, Peter is the preacher And with the gospel of John, John is the writer And of course, they were buddies They are together in the early chapters of Acts, so it’s a special treat to be hearing from John as he finally gets to say something many, many, many years after Peter preached on Pentecost, and how parallel the writing of John concerning the person of Christ and the preaching of Peter concerning the person of Christ are So we’re sort of doubling down on Peter and John in these days, and presenting the glories of the Savior that they loved and proclaimed. 

MacArthur puts today’s passage, which follows our Lord’s discourse on Himself as the Good Shepherd, into context for us:

Tenth chapter of John is a turning point as you know in John’s history This is the chapter that records the last account that John gives of the public ministry of Jesus At the end of this tenth chapter, Jesus goes away for about three months, and He spends the time with His disciples He comes back in the 11th chapter and raises Lazarus from the dead, does a triumphal entry in the 12th chapter, and then John records chapters 13 through 16 one night, one night in the upper room, the promises the Lord gave to His disciples and all who would come after them, including us.  The 17th chapter then is that incredible entry into the holy of holies, the sanctuary of the private prayer and communion of Christ with His Father, that great high priestly prayer that He prayed before His death.  Chapter 18 is His arrest followed by His death and resurrection.  And then the restitution of Peter and the commissioning of the disciples ends it all in the final chapter.

So, chapter 10 is critical because John wants to make sure nothing is left unclear in terms of the claims of Christ This is, in a sense, a summation of what his purpose was as he states it in chapter 20 and verse 31 “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name.”  John is amassing evidence that you might believe, in order that you might have eternal life.  Eternal life, as we have been learning, comes only through faith in Christ

So, his purpose is culminating here in this tenth chapter And he wants to leave no mistake as to the claim Christ made, and what is necessary to believe about Him to receive eternal life That is why you have the words in verse 30.  Look at chapter 10 verse 30.  “I and the Father are one.”  I and the Father are one.  “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.”  Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”  The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”  Literally. 

Between the Good Shepherd passage and today’s are these intervening verses:

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

From them we can infer that the atmosphere among the Jews listening to Jesus was tense.

The reason they are upset is because this is not the first time that Jesus has stated he is the Son of God.

MacArthur reminds us of the previous events in John’s Gospel leading up to those in Chapter 10:

In the fifth chapter, you remember verse 17 He said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.  I do what the Father does.  I have the prerogatives, the authority, the right, the power, the being to do exactly what God does.”  “They understood what He was saying,” verse 18, “for this reason, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  So let the Jews tell us, the enemies of Jesus, what He meant when He called Himself Son of God.  They knew what He meant.  He was claiming to have the same essence as God as a son has the same essence as his father. 

In that same fifth chapter, there are statements to this effect that are unmistakable.  Verse 23, “So that all will honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.  He who doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent Him.  As the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.  He has equal life, does equal work, has equal authority, has equal power, because He is equal.”  Now, this infuriated the Jews This claim to deity, as we all know.  And as a result, they try to kill Him.  They try to kill Him on the spot Their fury reaches a fever pitch where they become like a mass of vigilantes that want to snuff out His life.  And by the time we get to the end of chapter 10, for the fourth time, they will have designs on killing Him on the spot, and He will have to escapeVerse 39 of chapter 10 tells us that.

At the end of chapter 8, they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple At the end of chapter 10, verse 39, “They were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp.”  Back in chapter 7, just as another illustration, verse 1, “The Jews were seeking to kill Him.”  This is a steady, relentless desire on their part to reach some escalated moment when, in the eyes of the crowds, they will be justified in executing Him on the spot.  They knew exactly what He was intending to say when He said He was the Son of God.  They knew He was claiming the same essence as God That’s how they used the expression, “son of.”  If someone was called a son of Belial, he would be manifesting the same wicked nature as Satan.  If someone was called, as James and John were, sons of thunder, it meant that they had a volatility.  They had a disposition of volatility.  To say you’re the Son of God is to claim to have the same essence as God Himself.

In John 1 verse 34, the testimony of John, “I myself have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”  In John chapter 1 verse 49, Nathaniel says, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God.”  This is how clearly Jesus had declared who He was.  It was absolutely unmistakable.  So when we come to chapter 10, we’re not at all surprised that this has become a huge issue Verse 3[0], Jesus makes the most clear, precise declaration.  “I and the Father are one.”  Verse 31, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.”  Jesus stops them He answered and said, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”  The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

They had no doubt what He was claiming, absolutely no doubt.  They had come to understand that Jesus was claiming to be God, the great I Am, the creator Himself, the one true eternal God in human flesh.  The other writers of the gospels affirm this.  Matthew in chapter 1 verse 23 introduces the child as Emmanuel, which is God with us.  Mark 1:1, Mark begins his history, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Luke launches in chapter 1, a description of the birth of the child, and identifies the child as the Holy Child the Son of God.  John 1:1, “He was God.” 

Listen, any identification, any identification of Jesus by anyone, anytime, that makes Him less than God is blasphemy.  It is blasphemy.  The leaders of Israel had turned blasphemy on its head They had turned Jesus into a blasphemer when they were the blasphemers for denying His deity They accused Him of blasphemy, and they knew that blasphemy, genuine blasphemy had a death penalty placed upon it.  Leviticus 24:16, “The blasphemer is to be stoned to death.” 

In their minds, Jesus was a blasphemer; in reality, they were the blasphemers.  So is anyone who denies the nature of Christ as God.  John certainly features this in his gospel, but he also is clear about it in his epistle.  “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”  This is the anti-Christ.  The one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father.  You get the Son and the Father as one, or you are cursed You are cursed.  You are a blasphemer You are anti-Christ.  Any view of Christ that is less than God is an anti-Christ statement It was for blasphemy, really, in the end, that these leaders of Israel had dogged His steps and eventually got Him to a Roman cross It was blasphemy …

John 19:7 puts it this way: “The Jews said we have a law,” Leviticus 24:16, “and by that law, He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”  Execution because of blasphemy. 

Today’s passage opens in winter and in Jerusalem, at the time of the Feast of the Dedication, which we know as Hanukkah (verse 20).

Matthew Henry describes it not as a holy feast but a private one celebrated at home, as there was no commandment to celebrate it in Jerusalem:

It was at the feast of dedication, and it was winter, a feast that was annually observed by consent, in remembrance of the dedication of a new altar and the purging of the temple, by Judas Maccabæus, after the temple had been profaned and the altar defiled; we have the story of it at large in the history of the Maccabees (lib. 1, cap. 4); we have the prophecy of it, Daniel 8:13; Daniel 8:14. See more of the feast, 2 Mac. i. 18. The return of their liberty was to them as life from the dead, and, in remembrance of it, they kept an annual feast on the twenty-fifth day of the month Cisleu [Kislev], about the beginning of December, and seven days after. The celebrating of it was not confined to Jerusalem, as that of the divine feasts was, but every one observed it in his own place, not as a holy time (it is only a divine institution that can sanctify a day), but as a good time, as the days of Purim, Esther 9:19. Christ forecasted to be now at Jerusalem, not in honour of the feast, which did not require his attendance there, but that he might improve those eight days of vacation for good purposes.

The events in Maccabees took place during the reign of a Syrian monarch, Antiochus, who referred to himself as Antiochus Epiphanes: Antiochus the Supreme.

MacArthur says:

The people changed one letter and called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means “The Madman.”

Antiochus would not allow the Jews to practise their religion. He wanted everyone under his rule to practise polytheism as the Greeks did and instituted a law to that effect.

MacArthur has more:

he is the first pagan king who ever persecuted Jews for their religion He’s the first … He wanted to standardize everybody, and the Jews wouldn’t accept pagan religion.  So he entered Jerusalem with a mighty force in 170 BC, and he conquered the temple, and he immediately went inside the temple into the holy of holies, and slaughtered a pig in the holy of holies Then, he erected a statue of Zeus there That was the start of a systematic effort to stamp out Judaism.  He was brutal in his oppression of the Jews And by the way, as they always do, they clung tenaciously to their religion.  Under his direction, they were slaughtered They were required to make sacrifices to pagan gods or die

They were not allowed to carry, to read, or possess any portion of Old Testament Scripture Whenever Old Testament scrolls could be found, they were collected and burned They were forbidden to give any kind of honor on the Sabbath day They were forbidden to circumcise their children.

This was a ten-year period during the 400-year era when God sent no new prophets to His people, which demoralised them. It was a judgement:

… between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a 400 year period We refer to it obviously as the intertestamental period The last prophet in the Old Testament goes silent.  There’s no prophecy, no revelation, until John the Baptist shows up, and the word of the Lord comes to Zechariahs and Elizabeth about John, and then you have the story of Christ.  But in the middle, there’s 400 years.  That was 400 very, very difficult years for the Jews Very difficult.  They were apostateThey rejected God, went through lots of Judgment, lots of suffering But it sort of reached an epic level around 170 years before Christ So, 160 to 170 BC.

The Jews fought back — and eventually won:

They were led by a priest named Mattathias And Mattathias had sons.  One of his sons was a man named Judas Maccabeus Under the leadership of this really effective, powerful warrior-leader, Judas Maccabeus, they retook, the Jews retook Jerusalem.  And interestingly enough, it was on the 25th of Kislev that they liberated the temple, rededicated it, and established the Feast of Dedication to commemorate the liberation of the temple, the rededication of the temple There’s some historical information that Antiochus did what he did on the 25th of Kislev, and they liberated it on the 25th of Kislev years later

So that date became an important date.

Also interesting is that winter, that most desolate season north of the Equator, seems to symbolise the Jews’ spiritual darkness with which they encountered Jesus.

MacArthur says:

It was winter not only on the calendar, November, December, but it was winter spiritually.  The Son of righteousness who had arisen with healing in His beams had run His orbit and faded back to blackness.  It was winter on the calendar, and it was winter in the hearts of the Jews

Jesus was walking in the portico of Solomon at the temple (verse 23).

MacArthur describes this part of the temple:

When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, 586, they destroyed the temple But they didn’t destroy that back wall on the eastern side that 600 feet of retaining wall That was left from the original Solomonic temple And so it was called the porch of Solomon In front of that wall, they built a great patio porch, put 40 foot high colonnades and a roof, and that’s where people would need to go when they came to the temple if it was winter And in the winter in Israel, it can rain.  It can become very cold.  It can snow in Jerusalem at the altitude.  Winter becomes a little bit of a metaphor of the spiritual reality

So Jesus is walking in that part of the temple which is all that was left of the massive, glorious temple of Solomon This was His final public appearance.  The rest is going to be private.  Verse 40 says, after this, He went away.  He went away.  He went away for three months When He came back, it was raise Lazarus, come into the city; a week later, crucifixion, resurrection

This is a very significant moment It really is winter So, they are celebrating their great human deliverer while murdering their Savior Amazing.  Amazing. 

The Jews gathered around Jesus and asked, mockingly, how long He would keep them in suspense about His identity, saying that if He is the Messiah, He should just come out and say so (verse 24).

Henry gives us this analysis:

They came round about him, to tease him; he was waiting for an opportunity to do them a kindness, and they took the opportunity to do him a mischief. Ill-will for good-will is no rare and uncommon return. He could not enjoy himself, no, not in the temple, his Father’s house, without disturbance. They came about him, as it were, to lay siege to him: encompassed him about like bees. They came about him as if they had a joint and unanimous desire to be satisfied; came as one man, pretending an impartial and importunate enquiry after truth, but intending a general assault upon our Lord Jesus; and they seemed to speak the sense of their nation, as if they were the mouth of all the Jews: How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ tell us.

Now, [1.] It was the effect of their infidelity, and powerful prejudices, that after our Lord Jesus had so fully proved himself to be the Christ they were still in doubt concerning it; this they willingly hesitated about, when they might easily have been satisfied. The struggle was between their convictions, which told them he was Christ, and their corruptions, which said, No, because he was not such a Christ as they expected. Those who choose to be sceptics may, if they please, hold the balance so that the most cogent arguments may not weigh down the most trifling objections, but scales may still hang even. [2.] It was an instance of their impudence and presumption that they laid the blame of their doubting upon Christ himself, as if he made them to doubt by inconsistency with himself, whereas in truth they made themselves doubt by indulging their prejudices. If Wisdom’s sayings appear doubtful, the fault is not in the object, but in the eye; they are all plain to him that understands. Christ would make us to believe; we make ourselves to doubt.

Jesus called out the Jews’ unbelief by saying that He had already told them who He is and that the works He did in His Father’s name testified to Him (verse 25); they could not believe because they were not of His flock (verse 26).

MacArthur explains:

That’s the problem You don’t believe I told you.  You don’t believe.  And not only did I tell you, but “the works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify of Me”.  But you do not believe. 

Also:

Then verse 26 says this: “Because you are not of My sheep.”  What a statement.  That’s the divine side.  You don’t believe, and you’re fully culpable for that unbelief, and you will be held responsible eternally for that unbelief.  You will receive a just punishment for that unbelief.  But the divine side is: you don’t believe because you are not of My sheep.  Really, a stunning statementYou don’t belong to me

Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that His sheep hear His voice; He knows them and they follow Him (verse 27).

MacArthur explains how shepherding is done collectively. Each shepherd knows his sheep and they recognise his voice:

… when a shepherd goes into a fold in the morning, the sheep have been held there, the village sheep, there are many shepherds who have put all of their sheep together collectively in one fold overnight, and in the morning come and get their own sheep and each sheep knows the voice of his own master That was something they were familiar with. 

Jesus emphasised that what God had given Him, no man can take away from Him.

Jesus gives them eternal life and they will never die; no one can take those souls away from Him (verse 28).

He adds that what the Father has given Him is greater than all else and that no one can take that away from the Father (verse 29).

Jesus closes by saying that He and His Father are One (verse 30).

Henry says that our Lord’s words are a rebuke to His audience and a statement that He and God are united in purpose for our redemption:

Note, Those are safe who are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. The saints are preserved in Christ Jesus: and their salvation is not in their own keeping, but in the keeping of a Mediator. The Pharisees and rulers did all they could to frighten the disciples of Christ from following him, reproving and threatening them, but Christ saith that they shall not prevail. (b.) His Father’s power is likewise engaged for their preservation, John 10:29; John 10:29. He now appeared in weakness, and, lest his security should therefore be thought insufficient, he brings in his Father as a further security. Observe, [a.] The power of the Father: My Father is greater than all; greater than all the other friends of the church, all the other shepherds, magistrates or ministers, and able to do that for them which they cannot do. Those shepherds slumber and sleep, and it will be easy to pluck the sheep out of their hands; but he keeps his flock day and night. He is greater than all the enemies of the church, all the opposition given to her interests, and able to secure his own against all their insults; he is greater than all the combined force of hell and earth. He is greater in wisdom than the old serpent, though noted for subtlety; greater in strength than the great red dragon, though his name be legion, and his title principalities and powers. The devil and his angels have had many a push, many a pluck for the mastery, but have never yet prevailed, Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:8. The Lord on high is mightier. [b.] The interest of the Father in the sheep, for the sake of which this power is engaged for them: “It is my Father that gave them to me, and he is concerned in honour to uphold his gift.” They were given to the Son as a trust to be managed by him, and therefore God will still look after them. All the divine power is engaged for the accomplishment of all the divine counsels. [c.] The safety of the saints inferred from these two. If this be so, then none (neither man nor devil) is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand, not able to deprive them of the grace they have, nor to hinder them from the glory that is designed them; not able to put them out of God’s protection, nor get them into their own power. Christ had himself experienced the power of his Father upholding and strengthening him, and therefore puts all his followers into his hand too. He that secured the glory of the Redeemer will secure the glory of the redeemed. Further to corroborate the security, that the sheep of Christ may have strong consolation, he asserts the union of these two undertakers: “I and my Father are one, and have jointly and severally undertaken for the protection of the saints and their perfection.” This denotes more than the harmony, and consent, and good understanding, that were between the Father and the Son in the work of man’s redemption. Every good man is so far one with God as to concur with him; therefore it must be meant of the oneness of the nature of Father and Son, that they are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory.

MacArthur tells us:

This is where our Lord found His encouragement If one is chosen to be a sheep; if one is designed to be a love gift from the Father to the Son, to love and serve Him forever in eternal glory, he is secure in that, listen, choice.  He is secured in that choice, which is then worked out in redemptive history Eternal life is eternal.  Does that seem like a stretch?

People say, can you lose your salvation?  What kind of life is it?  Temporary life?  Temporal life?  It’s eternal life.  And just in case that’s confusing, Jesus says, “And they will never perish.”  So you have positive I give them eternal life And a negative: and they will never perish Never.  To perish is to be separated from eternal life into eternal death.  No one will be separated from eternal life who possesses it.  No one.  All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me All who come to Me, I receive.  I don’t turn any away.  I raise them all to glory

Your eternal salvation rests in God’s eternal decree You will live forever because God chose you to live forever You will never perish because God designed salvation that way.  To give to you a salvation that is eternal that is literally born along by a faith that cannot die

That divine promise gives us much to consider in the week ahead.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Third Sunday of Easter is May 1, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 21:1-19

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John MacArthur says that this visit from Jesus took place around the time He gave the Apostles the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20):

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

MacArthur says that the Apostles did not go immediately to the mountain and, according to him, went fishing instead:

The problem is when this narrative opens they aren’t at the mountain, they’re at the lake. So immediately were confronted with their disobedience. They are not in the place He told them to be. They shouldn’t have been where they were.

In any event, John’s account of this fishing expedition and our Lord’s preparation of breakfast for the Twelve shows, in MacArthur’s words that He will be there to provide for them — and for us:

He’s going to be there to provide. He’s going to be there to meet their needs. Even the simplest needs of their hunger, He’s going to care for them; that’s not going to change. Even though it’s after the resurrection, even though He’s in a glorified form, He will have the same compassion and care, and make the same provisions for them that they’ve known Him to make.

This is John’s third recorded account of our Lord appearing to the Apostles (verse 14).

Jesus showed Himself — manifested Himself, in some translations — to the Apostles again at the Sea of Tiberias, which is the Sea of Galilee, later renamed for the Roman emperor (verse 1).

MacArthur tells us what happened after they saw Jesus for the second time in the room where Thomas saw His wounds (last week’s reading):

Sometime between the eighth day when Jesus appeared to the apostles, and the fortieth day when He ascended into heaven, this third appearance occurred – third as it’s designated in verse 14.

We know from Acts 1:3 that He was with them for forty days. It doesn’t mean that He was with them all forty of those days, because there are only three times that He appeared to them up to this incident, and this incident happened in Galilee. They had to go from Judea to Galilee, which could be a journey that might take them some time. Before, they had seen Him in Judea in the upper room; now they’re in Galilee. They’ve been waiting awhile for Him; finally He makes an appearance. So to say that He taught them the things concerning the kingdom throughout a period of forty days is not to say that it was all forty days. Sometime between the eighth and fortieth day Jesus manifested Himself.

He uses that term twice in verse 1: manifested, manifested. You have to understand this: as a supernatural, sudden, startling appearance of Christ as if out of nowhere. In the same way, He appeared to those on the road to Emmaus, the same way He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the others, the same way He appeared to the apostles in the upper room, coming into the room and appearing instantaneously with the door shut and locked. He is now in His glorified resurrection form. He manifests Himself.

And I remind you that even though He could be seen because He was alive physically, He was not known, because His body was different. His glorified body was different. Mary Magdalene thought He was somebody else; she thought He was the gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had no idea who He was, and not a glimpse, but rather a long drawn out conversation with Him in the daylight, and then in the house and around the table, and they still didn’t know who He was.

And here, again, He appears, and they don’t know who He is, because they couldn’t know who He was in the glorified form, because the glorified form is so different. He has to therefore disclose Himself. He has to identify Himself, and He does that on this occasion. His body is so different. It is a body for eternity, not a body for time. It is a body for heaven, not a body for earth.

So this time He manifests Himself in Galilee by the Sea of Tiberias. Can I just comment on that? That is a lake 12 miles long, about 7 miles wide, 650 feet below sea level in the northern part of the land of Israel in Galilee, surrounded pretty much by mountains on the west, north, and east. It is familiar in the Old Testament. It’s called Kinneret or Chinnereth or sometimes Gennesaret Lake. It is also the Sea of Galilee as we know it, because it is in the region of Galilee. The Romans renamed it to honor Tiberius Caesar and they called it the Sea of Tiberias as its Roman name.

Jesus had told the disciples to go to Galilee back in Matthew 28 after He had appeared to them from His resurrection. He said, “You need to leave for Galilee,” Matthew 28:10 – “and there you will see Me. You go to Galilee, you’ll see me there.”

Verse 16: “The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.” So they not only were told to go to Galilee, they were told to go to Galilee to a mountain, the very mountain Jesus designated. We don’t know what it was, but perhaps it was what we know as the mountain where there was the Sermon on the Mount, and can’t be certain about that. But that’s one very near that slopes up from the sea to the north. The problem is when this narrative opens they aren’t at the mountain, they’re at the lake. So immediately were confronted with their disobedience. They are not in the place He told them to be. They shouldn’t have been where they were.

A familiar list of names shows up in verse 2, ones we have run across before: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin (Didymus, in some translations, which means ‘twin’), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

MacArthur says:

this is the group – the six of them minus Thomas – this is the group that Jesus first called as His disciples back in chapter 1. This is the group that discovered they have found the Messiah, so we know them very well ... Interestingly enough, this doubting Thomas and this denying Peter are the first two named. They’re given prominence in the list, and that’s an illustration of grace: Simon Peter the denier and Thomas the doubter. Didymus mean he was a twin, he had a twin.

MacArthur thinks they had all gone to the mountain as Jesus instructed, then decided to leave when Peter announced he was going fishing and they agreed to accompany him, although they caught nothing that night (verse 3):

Well, they’re up in the mountain for awhile; we don’t know how long, we don’t have time indicators here. “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I’m going fishing.’” And in the form of the original language that’s a final statement: “I’m going back to my old career. I’m going fishing.”

I read it differently, but I am not a Bible scholar. Fishermen went about their business at night, when waters were cooler. They also could not preach and teach at night, when people would have been asleep.

Incidentally, Matthew Henry says there was no rebellion among the Apostles and that they did the right thing by going fishing, calling it ‘an instance of their humility’:

Their agreement to go a fishing. They knew not well what to do with themselves. For my part, says Peter, I will go a fishing; We will go with thee then, say they, for we will keep together. Though commonly two of a trade cannot agree, yet they could. Some think they did amiss in returning to their boats and nets, which they had left; but then Christ would not have countenanced them in it with a visit. It was rather commendable in them; for they did it, (1.) To redeem time, and not be idle. They were not yet appointed to preach the resurrection of Christ. Their commission was in the drawing, but not perfected. The hour for entering upon action was to come. It is probable that their Master had directed them to say nothing of his resurrection till after his ascension, nay, not till after the pouring out of the Spirit, and then they were to begin at Jerusalem. Now, in the mean time, rather than do nothing, they would go a fishing; not for recreation, but for business. It is an instance of their humility. Though they were advanced to be sent of Christ, as he was of the Father, yet they did not take state upon them, but remembered the rock out of which they were hewn. It is an instance likewise of their industry, and bespeaks them good husbands of their time. While they were waiting, they would not be idling. Those who would give an account of their time with joy should contrive to fill up the vacancies of it, to gather up the fragments of it. (2.) That they might help to maintain themselves and not be burdensome to any. While their Master was with them those who ministered to him were kind to them; but now that the bridegroom was taken from them they must fast in those days, and therefore their own hands, as Paul’s, must minister to their necessities and for this reason Christ asked them, Have you any meat? This teaches us with quietness to work and eat our own bread.

Henry is generous about this gathering of apostolic fishermen and commends their model to us:

Observe here, 1. It is good for the disciples of Christ to be much together; not only in solemn religious assemblies, but in common conversation, and about common business. Good Christians should by this means both testify and increase their affection to, and delight in, each other, and edify one another both by discourse and example. 2. Christ chose to manifest himself to them when they were together; not only to countenance Christian society, but that they might be joint witnesses of the same matter of fact, and so might corroborate one another’s testimony. Here were seven together to attest this, on which some observe that the Roman law required seven witnesses to a testament. 3. Thomas was one of them, and is named next to Peter, as if he now kept closer to the meetings of the apostles than ever. It is well if losses by our neglects make us more careful afterwards not to let opportunities slip.

As for the Apostles catching nothing, which some may interpret as divine payback, Henry says that these things happen, often out of divine providence — and for good reason:

Even good men may come short of desired success in their honest undertakings. We may be in the way of our duty, and yet not prosper. Providence so ordered it that all that night they should catch nothing, that the miraculous draught of fishes in the morning might be the more wonderful and the more acceptable. In those disappointments which to us are very grievous God has often designs that are very gracious. Man has indeed a dominion over the fish of the sea, but they are not always at his beck; God only knows the paths of the sea, and commands that which passeth through them.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not recognise Him (verse 4). Again, that refers to His glorified body, which they could not identify.

Henry says this tells us that Jesus is nearby when we need Him most:

Christ’s time of making himself known to his people is when they are most at a loss. When they think they have lost themselves, he will let them know that they have not lost him … It is a comfort to us, when our passage is rough and stormy, that our Master is at shore, and we are hastening to him.

As to why Jesus did not walk on water towards the boat, scholars through the ages say that His work in that respect had now been accomplished with the Resurrection. However, the Apostles’ toil in ministry — and persecution — had only just begun:

Some of the ancients put this significancy upon it, that Christ, having finished his work, was got through a stormy sea, a sea of blood, to a safe and quiet shore, where he stood in triumph; but the disciples, having their work before them, were yet at sea, in toil and peril.

Jesus knew they had no fish but asked them nonetheless, addressing them as ‘children’, or, in British English, ‘lads’; they responded in the negative (verse 5).

Henry discusses His affectionate address and question at length, as well as the Apostles’ terse reply:

He called to them, Children, paidia–“Lads, have you any meat? Have you caught any fish?” Here, (1.) The compellation is very familiar; he speaks unto them as unto his sons, with the care and tenderness of a father: Children. Though he had now entered upon his exalted state, he spoke to his disciples with as much kindness and affection as ever. They were not children in age, but they were his children, the children which God had given him. (2.) The question is very kind: Have you any meat? He asks as a tender father concerning his children whether they be provided with that which is fit for them, that if they be not, he may take care for their supply. Note, The Lord is for the body, 1 Corinthians 6:13. Christ takes cognizance of the temporal wants of his people, and has promised them not only grace sufficient, but food convenient. Verily they shall be fed, Psalms 27:3. Christ looks into the cottages of the poor, and asks, Children, have you any meat? thereby inviting them to open their case before him, and by the prayer of faith to make their requests known to him: and then let them be careful for nothing; for Christ takes care of them, takes care for them. Christ has herein set us an example of compassionate concern for our brethren. There are many poor householders disabled for labour, or disappointed in it, that are reduced to straits, whom the rich should enquire after thus, Have you any meat? For the most necessitous are commonly the least clamorous. To this question the disciples gave a short answer, and, some think, with an air of discontent and peevishness. They said, No; not giving him any such friendly and respectful title as he had given them. So short do the best come in their returns of love to the Lord Jesus. Christ put the question to them, not because he did not know their wants, but because he would know them from them. Those that would have supplies from Christ must own themselves empty and needy.

Jesus told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat and they would find fish; there were so many that they were not able to haul in their catch (verse 6).

MacArthur says that this would have reminded the Apostles of the time three years earlier when He first called them to follow Him:

They were to drop their nets, stop fishing for fish and start fishing for men. Luke 5, listen: “Crowds pressing Jesus, He’s on the edge of the lake. He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake. The fishermen had gotten out of them, washing their nets. So He got into one of the boats, the boat was Simon’s boat. Got into Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a little way from the land. He had to push off from the shore because the crowd was pressing Him, and He needed a little distance and the water’s a pretty good conductor of voice. So when he had finished speaking from Peter’s boat He said to Simon, ‘Put out in the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’

“Simon answered Him and said, ‘Master, I need to inform you about fishing. We worked hard all night and caught nothing; this doesn’t make sense. I know you’re not a fisherman, but I’m telling You we’ve been there, done that; this is not a good time to fish. But’ – he says – ‘I will do as you say and let down the nets. I’m going to go prove my point that I know more about fishing that You do.’

“When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat” – probably belonged to some of the other disciples – “for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I’m a sinful man!’” He knew who he was dealing with: Lord God, and he saw his own wretched sinfulness. He was so sinful in the attitude that he had conveyed to the Lord.

“Amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken, and they were James and John and Peter. And then Jesus says to them” – in verse 10 – ‘Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.’ When they brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” Now they’re going to go catch men …

Well, they got so many fish that it was shocking; and, of course, this had happened three years earlier, so they knew who He was immediately. So now you know that this is the same Christ, risen from the dead, performing a miracle very much like at the beginning of His relationship with them.

MacArthur says this is the only post-Resurrection creative miracle that Jesus performed, although He did enter the Apostles’ room in Judea twice after rising from the dead by passing through a wall:

… this is the one post-resurrection miracle, apart from walking through walls, which is simply the supernatural body of Christ and its capability.

Henry says this miracle is an illustration of our Lord’s generosity in the age of the New Covenant, although we must be diligent:

As a mystery, and very significant of that work to which Christ was now with an enlarged commission sending them forth. The prophets had been fishing for souls, and caught nothing, or very little; but the apostles, who let down the net at Christ’s word, had wonderful success. Many were the children of the desolate, Galatians 4:27. They themselves, in pursuance of their former mission, when they were first made fishers of men, had had small success in comparison with what they should now have. When, soon after this, three thousand were converted in one day, then the net was cast on the right side of the ship. It is an encouragement to Christ’s ministers to continue their diligence in their work. One happy draught, at length, may be sufficient to repay many years of toil at the gospel net.

The huge haul of fish caused John, the author of this Gospel — ‘that disciple whom Jesus loved’ — to exclaim to Peter that this was the Lord; Peter, having stripped down to bare essentials, put on some clothes and jumped into the sea (verse 7).

Looking at John’s character and recalling that he was the only Apostle to be at the Crucifixion, Henry says:

John had adhered more closely to his Master in his sufferings than any of them: and therefore he has a clearer eye and a more discerning judgment than any of them, in recompence for his constancy. When John was himself aware that it was the Lord, he communicated his knowledge to those with him; for this dispensation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal. Those that know Christ themselves should endeavor to bring others acquainted with him; we need not engross him, there is enough in him for us all.

Peter was in a conflicted state of mind at this time. How could he forget that he denied Jesus three times in the early hours of Good Friday? He loved our Lord, yet he had denied Him. He was weak, as we all are, often at the most crucial times. He felt badly and probably wanted His personal forgiveness in words.

Henry says:

John tells Peter particularly his thoughts, that it was the Lord, knowing he would be glad to see him above any of them. Though Peter had denied his Master, yet, having repented, and being taken into the communion of the disciples again, they were as free and familiar with him as ever.

2. That Peter was the most zealous and warm-hearted disciple; for as soon as he heard it was the Lord (for which he took John’s word) the ship could not hold him, nor could he stay till the bringing of it to shore, but into the sea he throws himself presently, that he might come first to Christ. (1.) He showed his respect to Christ by girding his fisher’s coat about him that he might appear before his Master in the best clothes he had, and to rudely rush into his presence, stripped as he was to his waistcoat and drawers, because the work he was about was toilsome, and he was resolved to take pains in it. Perhaps the fisher’s coat was made of leather, or oil-cloth, and would keep out wet; and he girt it to him that he might make the best of his way through the water to Christ, as he used to do after his nets, when he was intent upon his fishing. (2.) He showed the strength of his affection to Christ, and his earnest desire to be with him, by casting himself into the sea; and either wading or swimming to shore, to come to him. When he walked upon the water to Christ (Matthew 14:28), it was said, He came down out of the ship deliberately; but here it is said, He cast himself into the sea with precipitation; sink or swim, he would show his good-will and aim to be with Jesus. “If Christ suffer me,” thinks he, “to drown, and come short of him, it is but what I deserve for denying him.” Peter had had much forgiven, and made it appear he loved much by his willingness to run hazards, and undergo hardships, to come to him. Those that have been with Jesus will be willing to swim through a stormy sea, a sea of blood, to come to him …

The other Apostles stayed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were only about 100 yards from the shore (verse 8).

Henry says that we all have our own personalities and characteristics; God makes use of all of these in the Church:

Now here we may observe, (1.) How variously God dispenses his gifts. Some excel, as Peter and John; are very eminent in gifts and graces, and are thereby distinguished from their brethren; others are but ordinary disciples, that mind their duty, and are faithful to him, but do nothing to make themselves remarkable; and yet both the one and the other, the eminent and the obscure, shall sit down together with Christ in glory; nay, and perhaps the last shall be first. Of those that do excel, some, like John, are eminently contemplative, have great gifts of knowledge, and serve the church with them; others, like Peter, are eminently active and courageous, are strong, and do exploits, and are thus very serviceable to their generation. Some are useful as the church’s eyes, others as the church’s hands, and all for the good of the body. (2.) What a great deal of difference there may be between some good people and others in the way of their honouring Christ, and yet both accepted of him. Some serve Christ more in acts of devotion, and extraordinary expressions of a religious zeal; and they do well, to the Lord they do it. Peter ought not to be censured for casting himself into the sea, but commended for his zeal and the strength of his affection; and so must those be who, in love to Christ, quit the world, with Mary, to sit at his feet. But others serve Christ more in the affairs of the world. They continue in that ship, drag the net, and bring the fish to shore, as the other disciples here; and such ought not to be censured as worldly, for they, in their place, are as truly serving Christ as the other, even in serving tables. If all the disciples had done as Peter did, what had become of their fish and their nets? And yet if Peter had done as they did we had wanted this instance of holy zeal. Christ was well pleased with both, and so must we be. (3.) That there are several ways of bringing Christ’s disciples to shore to him from off the sea of this world. Some are brought to him by a violent death, as the martyrs, who threw themselves into the sea, in their zeal for Christ; others are brought to him by a natural death, dragging the net, which is less terrible; but both meet at length on the safe and quiet shore with Christ.

When the Apostles reached the shore, they found that Jesus had made breakfast for them — bread and fish — with the aid of a charcoal fire (verse 9). How wonderful! It was the best tasting breakfast in history, because He made it.

The resurrected Jesus was still serving His disciples. How many other religions can say that their original leader did the same? Not one.

Of this creative miracle, Henry says:

When they came to land, wet and cold, weary and hungry, they found a good fire there to warm them and dry them, and fish and bread, competent provision for a good meal. (1.) We need not be curious in enquiring whence this fire, and fish, and bread, came, any more than whence the meat came which the ravens brought to Elijah. He that could multiply the loaves and fishes that were could make new ones if he pleased, or turn stones into bread, or send his angels to fetch it, where he knew it was to be had. It is uncertain whether this provision was made ready in the open air, or in some fisher’s cabin or hut upon the shore; but here was nothing stately or delicate. We should be content with mean things, for Christ was. (2.) We may be comforted in this instance of Christ’s care of his disciples; he has wherewith to supply all our wants, and knows what things we have need of. He kindly provided for those fishermen, when they came weary from their work; for verily those shall be fed who trust in the Lord and do good. It is encouraging to Christ’s ministers, whom he hath made fishers of men, that they may depend upon him who employs them to provide for them; and if they should miss of encouragement in this world, should be reduced as Paul was to hunger, and thirst, and fastings often, let them content themselves with what they have here; they have better things in reserve, and shall eat and drink with Christ at his table in his kingdom, Luke 22:30. Awhile ago, the disciples had entertained Christ with a broiled fish (Luke 24:42), and now, as a friend, he returned their kindness, and entertained them with one; nay, in the draught of fishes, he repaid them more than a hundred fold.

Jesus instructed the men to bring some of the fish they had just caught (verse 10).

Henry says this is because He wanted them to enjoy the fruits of their labour:

The command Christ gave them to bring their draught of fish to shore: “Bring of the fish hither, which you have now caught, and let us have some of them;” not as if he needed it; and could not make up a dinner for them without it; but, [1.] He would have them eat the labour of their hands, Psalms 128:2. What is got by God’s blessing on our own industry and honest labour, if withal God give us power to eat of it, and enjoy good in our labour, hath a peculiar sweetness in it. It is said of the slothful man that he roasteth not that which he took in hunting; he cannot find in his heart to dress what he has been at the pains to take, Proverbs 12:27. But Christ would hereby teach us to use what we have. [2.] He would have them taste the gifts of his miraculous bounty, that they might be witnesses both of his power and of his goodness. The benefits Christ bestows upon us are not to be buried and laid up, but to be used and laid out. [3.] He would give a specimen of the spiritual entertainment he has for all believers, which, in this respect, is most free and familiar–that he sups with them, and they with him; their graces are pleasing to him, and his comforts are so to them; what he works in them he accepts from them. [4.] Ministers, who are fishers of men, must bring all they catch to their Master, for on him their success depends.

Peter boarded the boat and hauled the net ashore, full of 153 fish, the weight of which did not tear the net (verse 11), unlike the first time three years before.

These fish are now called St Peter’s fish (John Dory). The dark, round mark each has is said to be St Peter’s thumbprint.

Peter must have been a large and strong man to bring the net in himself.

MacArthur says:

This is where he gets the term “the big fisherman.” Years ago there was even a book and a movie when I was a little kid called The Big Fisherman, and I used to ask, “Why does everybody think Peter is big?” This is it right here, because six guys have been dragging this thing in, the other disciples in verse 8.

But in verse 11 it says, “Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, large fish.” A large fish in the Sea of Galilee, I’ve eaten those fish; some of you have been there. They’re now called St. Peter’s fish; they weren’t then, but they are now, obvious reason. They can get as big as two pounds plus.

The number is fascinating to me. This is something Scripture does very frequently to let you know the reality of it. This isn’t mystical, this is actually 153 fish, times two pounds, you’re looking at three hundred pounds of fish in wet nets and paraphernalia; and this is where Peter gets the name “big fisherman,” because he pulls it ashore by himself. He’s a formidable guy. So he drags in 153 fish, and even though there were so many, too many for the nets to hold, the net was not torn – which is another part of the miracle.

Jesus invited the Apostles to breakfast; none of them asked who He was because they knew it was He (verse 12).

Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them before doing the same with the fish (verse 13). Note that He continued to serve them throughout. He did not ask them to help themselves.

MacArthur makes an important point:

the risen Christ is not some detached ethereal being. The risen Christ can sit down and have breakfast with His disciples; and more importantly, He’s not all of a sudden disinterested in them, because He’s back in His heavenly mode and they don’t matter anymore. He makes sure they have breakfast and He serves it to them.

John makes it clear that this was the third time Jesus had appeared to them after the Resurrection (verse 14).

After breakfast, our Lord turned His attention to Peter, knowing what remorse was in the Apostle’s heart (verse 15); He addressed him by his birth name, Simon son of John, or Simon bar-Jona(s), as a way of humbling him, which Peter certainly would have understood.

‘Bar’ means ‘son’. ‘Bat’ means ‘daughter’. Hence, Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. In Arabic, the equivalents are ‘bin’ and ‘bint’.

Henry explains Peter’s state of mind and Christ’s tenderness towards him, waiting until after breakfast to talk to him:

It was after they had dined: they had all eaten, and were filled, and, it is probable, were entertained with such edifying discourse as our Lord Jesus used to make his table-talk. Christ foresaw that what he had to say to Peter would give him some uneasiness, and therefore would not say it till they had dined, because he would not spoil his dinner. Peter was conscious to himself that he had incurred his Master’s displeasure, and could expect no other than to be upbraided with his treachery and ingratitude. “Was this thy kindness to thy friend? Did not I tell thee what a coward thou wouldest prove?” Nay, he might justly expect to be struck out of the roll of the disciples, and to be expelled the sacred college. Twice, if not thrice, he had seen his Master since his resurrection, and he said not a word to him of it. We may suppose Peter full of doubts upon what terms he stood with his Master; sometimes hoping the best, because he had received favour from him in common with the rest; yet not without some fears, lest the chiding would come at last that would pay for all. But now, at length, his Master put him out of his pain, said what he had to say to him, and confirmed him in his place as an apostle. He did not tell him of his fault hastily, but deferred it for some time; did not tell him of it unseasonably, to disturb the company at dinner, but when they had dined together, in token of reconciliation, then discoursed he with him about it, not as with a criminal, but as with a friend. Peter had reproached himself for it, and therefore Christ did not reproach him for it, nor tell him of it directly, but only by a tacit intimation; and, being satisfied in his sincerity, the offence was not only forgiven, but forgotten; and Christ let him know that he was as dear to him as ever. Herein he has given us an encouraging instance of his tenderness towards penitents, and has taught us, in like manner, to restore such as are fallen with a spirit of meekness.

Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than ‘these’ (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Jesus is not speaking of the other ten Apostles gathered but of boats and fishing:

He says, “Do you love Me more than these?” These what, these men? No, because they had all done the same thing. They were all guilty of a loveless disobedience. He means nets, boats, fish. “Do you love Me more than these things that go with your former life? Are you prepared to give this up, to abandon all your successes, your chosen career? Are you willing to give it all up? Do you love Me enough to do that?

Then, there is the word that Jesus used for ‘love’:

the word He uses is agapaó. That’s that high love – the noblest, purest, best; the love of the will. We talk about agape love; that’s a noun form of it. It is love in its fullest sense, love in its deepest sense, love in its greatest sense, love, I guess you could say, in its purest form – divine love.

“Do you really love Me, Peter, at the highest level?” That is the critical question. And that is the key to commitment

“Do you love Me enough to live for Me? Do you love Me enough to walk away from this? Are you constrained by loving Me? Do you have a love for Me” – in the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:24“that is incorruptible love? Do you really love Me in the fullest sense?”

Peter answered in the affirmative (verse 15) but used a milder word for love, because he did not want our Lord to call him out for hypocrisy:

So Peter replies, “He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’” But he changed the word. Jesus used the word agapaó, Peter used the word phileó, he dropped down a notch. Phileó is a kind of brotherly love, kind of warm affection, a friendship love.

Look, Peter couldn’t say, “Yes, You know that I love You at the highest level of love.” That just wouldn’t fly. I mean he had denied Him, and now He had disobeyed Him, and he had enough sense not to be an absolute hypocrite and say, “Of course, I love You at the highest level.” So he says, “Lord, I have great affection for You.” He dared not claim agapaó, but he did claim phileó. But even with that, he has to lean on omniscience: “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

Our Lord asked Peter if he loves Him a second time, as if this were to make up for Peter’s second denial of Him. Peter again said, ‘Yes, Lord. You know that I love you’, to which Jesus replied, inviting him to tend His sheep (verse 16).

Notice that Jesus refers to ‘My sheep’.

MacArthur makes these observations:

This is amazing. He said to him, “Tend” – or – “feed” – boskó is the verb – “pasture My lambs, pasture My lambs.” Amazing. With a less than perfect love, with a less than ideal love, with a less than noble love, with a less than elevated love, the Lord accepts him and says, “Pasture My lambs. Feed My lambs.”

And I just want to call to your attention that personal pronoun is very important, because whoever we shepherd doesn’t belong to us. This is a calling that Peter reminds all of us about in 1 Peter 5 when he writes and he says, “We are all under-shepherds and Christ is the Chief Shepherd.”

If you’re in ministry, if you’re caring for any other believers in any way, you are shepherding His sheep, not yours. No congregation belongs to a pastor or an elder. No Sunday School class belongs to a teacher. No believers in a family belong, in a spiritual sense, to parents. They’re His. It’s a stewardship that in some ways is really frightening. That’s why in Matthew the Lord tells us to be careful how we treat each other, because not only do they belong to Christ, but Christ is in them. So many people don’t understand pastoral ministry as caring for His sheep.

Jesus asked Peter the same question a third time, which hurt Peter, because he knew our Lord was referring to Peter’s three denials of Him; Peter replied the same way, although acknowledging His omniscience in his answer, and Jesus told him to feed His sheep (verse 17).

Peter is the Apostles’ leader and our Lord has restored him to the fold in order to carry out that mission.

MacArthur says:

Back in chapter 10 He talked about how He loved the sheep, how He gave His life for the sheep, how the sheep knew Him and He knew them. And now He’s handing them over to Peter. “I’m entrusting you with them, and I need to know that you love Me more than you love this, so that you’re going to be faithful to give your life for them.”

Henry makes these observations:

Three times Christ committed the care of his flock to Peter: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; feed my sheep. [1.] Those whom Christ committed to Peter’s care were his lambs and his sheep. The church of Christ is his flock, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), and he is the chief shepherd of it. In this flock some are lambs, young and tender and weak, others are sheep, grown to some strength and maturity. The Shepherd here takes care of both, and of the lambs first, for upon all occasions he showed a particular tenderness for them. He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. Isaiah 40:11. [2.] The charge he gives him concerning them is to feed them. The word used in John 21:15; John 21:17, is boske, which strictly signifies to give them food; but the word used in John 21:16; John 21:16 is poimaine, which signifies more largely to do all the offices of a shepherd to them: “Feed the lambs with that which is proper for them, and the sheep likewise with food convenient. The lost sheep of the house of Israel, seek and feed them, and the other sheep also which are not of this fold. Note, It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers to feed his lambs and sheep. Feed them, that is, teach them; for the doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food. Feed them, that is, “Lead them to the green pastures, presiding in their religious assemblies, and ministering all the ordinances to them. Feed them by personal application to their respective state and case; not only lay meat before them, but feed those with it that are wilful and will not, or weak and cannot feed themselves.” When Christ ascended on high, he gave pastors, left his flock with those that loved him, and would take care of them for his sake … the particular application to Peter here was designed, First, To restore him to his apostleship, now that he repented of his abjuration of it, and to renew his commission, both for his own satisfaction, and for the satisfaction of his brethren … Secondly, It was designed to quicken him to a diligent discharge of his office as an apostle. Peter was a man of a bold and zealous spirit, always forward to speak and act, and, lest he should be tempted to take upon him the directing of the shepherds, he is charged to feed the sheep, as he himself charges all the presbyters to do, and not to lord it over God’s heritage, 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:3. If he will be doing, let him do this, and pretend no further. Thirdly, What Christ said to him he said to all his disciples; he charged them all, not only to be fishers of men (though that was said to Peter, Luke 5:10), by the conversion of sinners, but feeders of the flock, by the edification of saints.

Jesus ended by telling Peter how he would die, beginning with ‘Very truly’, meaning that it would be a certainty. He told the Apostle that when he was younger, he was in charge of his own life, but, as an older man, he would stretch out his hands — meaning crucifixion, which happened in Rome some years later — and someone else would fasten his belt, taking him to a place he did not wish to go (verse 18).

John confirms that verse 18 meant a martyr’s death, one that would glorify God; after that, Jesus told Peter, ‘Follow Me’ (verse 19).

Some might wonder why Jesus told him that.

MacArthur says it was to let Peter know that he would continue to glorify Christ — and, by extension God, throughout his ministry:

… it’s important to tell him that. He needed to know what? He needed to know that the next time he got in a life and death situation he would not deny his Lord. He needed to know that. He needed to know that when they took him and captured him, and tied him up, and stretched out his hands, and nailed him to a cross, he would glorify God.

I think he lived the rest of his life with a newfound confidence that overcame his self-doubt, because he had been such a failure at the trial of Christ. I think this put power into his life. I think this put hope into his heart. I think this added confidence to him and boldness. I think he may have otherwise feared that, “If I ever get into that situation again, what am I going to do?” and that would have sucked all of his confidence out. This is a great gift to this man: “You’re going to be arrested, crucified. You’re going to die, but in it, you’re going to glorify God.” Good news.

This is the ultimate sacrifice, and that’s how believers live. This is the extreme requirement for a committed life. Peter had said, Luke 22, “I’m ready to go with you to prison and death.” Didn’t work out that way first time; it would work out that way the last time. In the end, he will die for his Lord. This is a beautiful life-changing promise. Peter has to be ecstatic, thrilled. His heart has to be soaring. His hopes are flying. His boldness is being elevated as he heads toward a triumphant encounter with those who will kill him for his faithfulness to Christ. That’s what dedication is.

The third thing: a life that is truly dedicated to the Lord is compelled by love for Christ, characterized by sacrifice for Christ, and content with following Christ. The end of verse 19: “When Jesus had spoken the words about Peter’s death, He said this to him, ‘Follow Me! Follow Me!’” So important: “Follow Me!” Simple enough.

I have read and heard this passage many times before, but the expositions from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur really gave it new meaning.

I hope that you benefited similarly, especially those of us, like myself, who have more Petrine than Pauline in our personalities.

The Second Sunday of Easter is April 23, 2022.

Baptismal robes theologianorgThis day is also known traditionally as Quasimodo Sunday, because those who were baptised on Easter Eve, Holy Saturday, worshipped without their baptismal robes for the first time. The Introit was directed at them:

Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite.

This translates to: ‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile’ and is intended for those baptised the week before.  These words send them out into the world with the reminder to receive God’s Word with a pure heart and accept the promise of life eternal through Jesus Christ.  They are called to live a godly life.  For those baptised earlier, it is a reminder of these Christian duties and responsibilities.

After the celebrations in church and out of Easter, things have calmed down. This day is also called Low Sunday. It was also a Low Sunday for the disciples, because Jesus was no longer with them every day, as we see from this reading and John 21. They must have missed His presence terribly.

The Gospel reading is the story of Doubting Thomas (also here), depicted below by Caravaggio in The Incredulity of St Thomas. Did or did not Thomas touch Christ’s wounds?

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 20:19-31

20:19 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.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.“

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We pick up where we left off on Easter Day, although some churches might have read St Luke’s account of the Resurrection.

John MacArthur tells us about the factual nature of the Resurrection:

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the literal physical bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is so critical to the Christian gospel that all four gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – give us an account of the resurrection and provide for us multiple evidences of its reality. The resurrection is a historical fact, as the Lord Jesus was a historical person, died an actual historical death, rose from the dead in real history and in physical form, though a glorified physical form. This is so critical to Christianity that the evidences are piled up by the gospel writers, and then even enhanced by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15.

As you come to the book of Acts which describes the apostles proclaiming the gospel, you find that they preached the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection is absolutely critical to Christianity. It means that God was satisfied with the sacrifice for sin that Christ offered. It means that He conquered death, not only for Himself, but for all of us who put our faith in Him. In His resurrection is our resurrection, as in His cross is our forgiveness.

Furthermore, if the Resurrection had not happened, the Apostles and disciples could not have preached it:

Why is it then that they preached the resurrection all the way to the death? Why is it that they preached the risen Christ against hatred, opposition, and eventually gave their lives as martyrs for the gospel of the resurrection? Anyone who denies the resurrection would have to come up with some other supernatural, inexplicable, massive event that transformed them from frightened, coward, disappointed disciples into bold, relentless, fearless preachers of Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t a resurrection what was it? No other possible miracle has ever been suggested, especially when we recognize that they preached the resurrection. There had to be an event that transformed them. They say the event that transformed them was the resurrection, and they preached that, which is testimony to its reality. John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos, the rest of them were martyred for preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When it was evening on the day of the Resurrection, the first day of the week, the doors of the house where the Apostles gathered was locked to protect them from the Jews, but Jesus entered, stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’ (verse 19).

There is much to ponder in that verse. Keep in mind that our Lord’s body was now in a glorified state, even though He still had His wounds from the Crucifixion.

Matthew Henry says that this reading gives us three secondary Christian ordinances:

There are three secondary ordinances (as I may call them) instituted by our Lord Jesus, to continue in his church, for the support of it, and for the due administration of the principal ordinances–the word, sacraments, and prayer; these are, the Lord’s day, solemn assemblies, and standing ministry. The mind of Christ concerning each of these is plainly intimated to us in these verses; of the first two, here, in the circumstances of this appearance, the other John 20:21; John 20:21. Christ’s kingdom was to be set up among men, immediately upon his resurrection; and accordingly we find the very day he arose, though but a day of small things, yet graced with those solemnities which should help to keep up a face of religion throughout all the ages of the church.

This verse gives us evidence that Sunday is indeed the first day of the week, as ordained by God:

The visit Christ made to his disciples was on the first day of the week. And the first day of the week is (I think) the only day of the week, or month, or year, that is ever mentioned by number in all the New Testament; and this is several times spoken of as a day religiously observed. Though it was said here expressly (John 20:1; John 20:1) that Christ arose on the first day of the week, and it might have been sufficient to say here (John 20:19; John 20:19), he appeared the same day at evening; yet, to put an honour upon the day, it is repeated, being the first day of the week; not that the apostles designed to put honour upon the day (they were yet in doubt concerning the occasion of it), but God designed to put honour upon it, by ordering it that they should be altogether, to receive Christ’s first visit on that day. Thus, in effect, he blessed and sanctified that day, because in it the Redeemer rested.

Note that the Apostles had gathered together on this day for their benefit, one to another:

Here is a Christian assembly solemnized by the disciples, and also owned by the Lord Jesus. Probably the disciples met here for some religious exercise, to pray together; or, perhaps, they met to compare notes, and consider whether they had sufficient evidence of their Master’s resurrection, and to consult what was now to be done, whether they should keep together or scatter; they met to know one another’s minds, strengthen one another’s hands, and concert proper measures to be taken in the present critical juncture. This meeting was private, because they durst not appear publicly, especially in a body.

The Jews were clearly unhappy about our Lord’s rising from the dead — they put out the untruth that His body had been stolen — and, although He would not be visible to them, His disciples clearly were. Nonetheless, even today, as the Apostles did, Christians must endeavour to gather together:

They met in a house, but they kept the door shut, that they might not be seen together, and that no one might come among them but such as they knew; for they feared the Jews, who would prosecute the disciples as criminals, that they might seem to believe the lie they would deceive the world with, that his disciples came by night, and stole him away. Note, (1.) The disciples of Christ, even in difficult times, must not forsake the assembling of themselves together,Hebrews 10:25. Those sheep of the flock were scattered in the storm; but sheep are sociable, and will come together again. It is no new thing for the assemblies of Christ’s disciples to be driven into corners, and forced into the wilderness, Revelation 12:14; Proverbs 28:12. (2.) God’s people have been often obliged to enter into their chambers, and shut their doors, as here, for fear of the Jews. Persecution is allotted them, and retirement from persecution is allowed them; and then where shall we look for them but in dens and caves of the earth. It is a real grief, but no real reproach, to Christ’s disciples, thus to abscond.

We have the mysterious and sudden appearance of Jesus, who has all the capabilities of His Father, i.e. accomplishing the impossible:

When they were assembled, Jesus came among them, in his own likeness, yet drawing a veil over the brightness of his body, now begun to be glorified, else it would have dazzled their eyes, as in his transfiguration. Christ came among them, to give them a specimen of the performance of his promise, that, where two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be in the midst of them. He came, though the doors were shut. This does not at all weaken the evidence of his having a real human body after his resurrection; though the doors were shut, he knew how to open them without any noise, and come in so that they might not hear him, as formerly he had walked on the water, and yet had a true body. It is a comfort to Christ’s disciples, when their solemn assemblies are reduced to privacy, that no doors can shut out Christ’s presence from them.

Jesus greeted them with a benediction of peace, meaning at that moment and forever:

His kind and familiar salutation of his disciples: He said, Peace be unto you. This was not a word of course, though commonly used so at the meeting of friends, but a solemn, uncommon benediction, conferring upon them all the blessed fruits and effects of his death and resurrection. The phrase was common, but the sense was now peculiar. Peace be unto you is as much as, All good be to you, all peace always by all means. Christ had left them his peace for their legacy, John 14:27; John 14:27. By the death of the testator the testament was become of force, and he was now risen from the dead, to prove the will, and to be himself the executor of it. Accordingly, he here makes prompt payment of the legacy: Peace be unto you. His speaking peace makes peace, creates the fruit of the lips, peace; peace with God, peace in your own consciences, peace with one another; all this peace be with you; not peace with the world, but peace in Christ. His sudden appearing in the midst of them when they were full of doubts concerning him, full of fears concerning themselves, could not but put them into some disorder and consternation, the noise of which waves he stills with this word, Peace be unto you.

Jesus showed the disciples His hands, pierced by nails, and His side, pierced by the centurion’s spear; then the disciples rejoiced, recognising the Lord (verse 20). Keep in mind that He had a glorified body, so they would not have immediately recognised Him.

Henry says that Christ will retain His wounds throughout the ages to His Second Coming to prove that He was the One crucified:

They now saw him alive whom multitudes had seen dead two or three days before. Now the only doubt was whether this that they saw alive was the same individual body that had been seen dead; and none could desire a further proof that it was so than the scars or marks of the wounds in the body. Now, First, The marks of the wounds, and very deep marks (though without any pain or soreness), remained in the body of the Lord Jesus even after his resurrection, that they might be demonstrations of the truth of it. Conquerors glory in the marks of their wounds. Christ’s wounds were to speak on earth that it was he himself, and therefore he arose with them; they were to speak in heaven, in the intercession he must ever live to make, and therefore he ascended with them, and appeared in the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain, and bleeding afresh, Revelation 5:6. Nay, it should seem, he will come again with his scars, that they may look on him whom they pierced. Secondly, These marks he showed to his disciples, for their conviction. They had not only the satisfaction of seeing him look with the same countenance, and hearing him speak with the same voice they had been so long accustomed to, Sic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ora, ferebat–Such were his gestures, such his eyes and hands! but they had the further evidence of these peculiar marks: he opened his hands to them, that they might see the marks of the wounds on them; he opened his breast, as the nurse hers to the child, to show them the wound there. Note, The exalted Redeemer will ever show himself open-handed and open-hearted to all his faithful friends and followers. When Christ manifests his love to believers by the comforts of his Spirit, assures them that because he lives they shall live also, then he shows them his hands and his side.

The Apostles felt immeasurable joy and relief, no doubt recalling what Jesus told them at the Last Supper. He would see them again:

First, They were convinced that they saw the Lord: so was their faith confirmed. At first, they thought they saw an apparition only, a phantasm; but now they knew it was the Lord himself. Thus many true believers, who, while they were weak, feared their comforts were but imaginary, afterwards find them, through grace, real and substantial. They ask not, Is it the Lord? but are assured, it is he. Secondly, Then they were glad; that which strengthened their faith raised their joy; believing they rejoice. The evangelist seems to write it with somewhat of transport and triumph. Then! then! were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord, If it revived the spirit of Jacob to hear that Joseph was yet alive, how would it revive the heart of these disciples to hear that Jesus is again alive? It is life from the dead to them. Now that word of Christ was fulfilled (John 16:22; John 16:22), I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. This wiped away all tears from their eyes. Note, A sight of Christ will gladden the heart of a disciple at any time; the more we see of Christ, the more we shall rejoice in him; and our joy will never be perfect till we come where we shall see him as he is.

Jesus repeated His benediction of peace, adding a divine commission for them: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I will send you’ (verse 21) out into the world to preach the Good News of salvation and eternal life.

Henry explains the repetition of the benediction:

This was intended, either, First, To raise their attention to the commission he was about to give them. The former salutation was to still the tumult of their fear, that they might calmly attend to the proofs of his resurrection; this was to reduce the transport of their joy, that they might sedately hear what he had further to say to them; or, Secondly, To encourage them to accept of the commission he was giving them. Though it would involve them in a great deal of trouble, yet he designed their honour and comfort in it, and, in the issue, it would be peace to them. Gideon received his commission with this word, Peace be unto thee, Judges 6:22; Judges 6:23. Christ is our Peace; if he is with us, peace is to us. Christ was now sending the disciples to publish peace to the world (Isaiah 52:7), and he here not only confers it upon them for their own satisfaction, but commits it to them as a trust to be by them transmitted to all the sons of peace, Luke 10:5; Luke 10:6.

MacArthur says:

I can’t even begin to describe what that may have been like, what that conversation was like, what that joy was like. It’s pretty understated; they rejoiced. That’s a pretty understated way to describe those men reacting to the fact that they believed Jesus was dead and He shows up alive coming through the wall. Incredible joy, trying to sort it all out, undoing all the móros, doubts that they had cultivated in the hours since His death, and substituting in their place indescribable joy. They rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

“So” – verse 21 – “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’” He calms them down again. The first time He calm them down because they were traumatized, now He calms them down because they’re exploding, they’re erupting in joy. “Peace be with you. Calm down. I know this is an exhilarating moment like none that ever any human could experience, but calm down.” “Why? Why?” “I have something to say to you.”

Now to the commission, which is the same as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

Henry says:

First, It is easy to understand how Christ sent them; he appointed them to go on with his work upon earth, and to lay out themselves for the spreading of his gospel, and the setting up of his kingdom, among men. He sent them authorized with a divine warrant, armed with a divine power,–sent them as ambassadors to treat of peace, and as heralds to proclaim it,–sent them as servants to bid to the marriage. Hence they were called apostlesmen sent.

Secondly, But how Christ sent them as the Father sent him is not so easily understood; certainly their commissions and powers were infinitely inferior to his; but, 1. Their work was of the same kind with his, and they were to go on where he left off. They were not sent to be priests and kings, like him, but only prophets. As he was sent to bear witness to the truth, so were they; not to be mediators of the reconciliation, but only preachers and publishers of it. Was he sent, not to be ministered to, but to minister? not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him? not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fill them up? So were they. As the Father sent him to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so he sent them into all the world. 2. He had a power to send them equal to that which the Father had to send him. Here the force of the comparison seems to lie. By the same authority that the Father sent me do I send you. This proves the Godhead of Christ; the commissions he gave were of equal authority with those which the Father gave, and as valid and effectual to all intents and purposes, equal with those he gave to the Old-Testament prophets in visions. The commissions of Peter and John, by the plain word of Christ, are as good as those of Isaiah and Ezekiel, by the Lord sitting on his throne; nay, equal with that which was given to the Mediator himself for his work. Had he an incontestable authority, and an irresistible ability, for his work? so had they for theirs. Or thus, As the Father hath sent me is, as it were, the recital of his power; by virtue of the authority given him as a Mediator, he gave authority to them, as his ministers, to act for him, and in his name, with the children of men; so that those who received them, or rejected them, received or rejected him, and him that sent him, John 13:20; John 13:20.

MacArthur makes an excellent point:

Why did the Father send Jesus into the world? He didn’t send Jesus into the world to bring about social justice. He didn’t send Jesus into the world to improve people’s economic condition. He didn’t send Jesus into the world to elevate our understanding of godly morality. He didn’t send His Son into the world to make people’s circumstances better. He didn’t send Him into the world to raise the economic standards. “The Son of Man is come” – He said – “to seek and to” – what? – “save the lost.”

That’s why He came. He had no other purpose; His purpose was salvation. The Father sent the Son to seek and save the lost, to provide the sacrifice necessary in His death, and the triumph necessary in His resurrection, to bring salvation to all God’s chosen people through all of redemptive history. I don’t know if you think about your life this way, but you should.

Jesus then breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (verse 22).

Breathing in Scripture refers to the divine power of creation. It is no small act.

MacArthur explains:

If you go back into Genesis, chapter 2, you remember that when God had created Adam it says, “He breathed into him the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul.” That’s the expression of God’s creative power.

In that famous valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, which is a picture of the future corpse of Israel lying like dry bones in the desert, you remember God shows up and says to the prophet, “Breathe on them.” And the breath of God comes and all the dry bones come alive, and that is the future salvation and resurrection of the nation Israel.

And in the great new covenant passage of Ezekiel 36, we hear that God is going to cleanse us from our sins and He is going to give us a new spirit, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God. The Holy Spirit is God in us. The Holy Spirit is the source of power: “You’ll receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Here, our Lord shows them a symbol of this, notice it: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” That did not happen then. That did not happen then. We know that, because of clear revelation.

The full descent of the Holy Spirit happened at the first Pentecost, but, as MacArthur says, this was a symbol, a foretaste, of that day.

Jesus told His disciples that any sin they forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven; likewise, any sin not forgiven on earth will be retained in heaven (verse 23).

Henry explains why Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit before instructing them about forgiveness:

Now this follows upon their receiving the Holy Ghost; for, if they had not had an extraordinary spirit of discerning, they had not been fit to be entrusted with such an authority; for, in the strictest sense, this is a special commission to the apostles themselves and the first preachers of the gospel, who could distinguish who were in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, and who were not. By virtue of this power, Peter struck Ananias and Sapphira dead, and Paul struck Elymas blind. Yet it must be understood as a general charter to the church and her ministers, not securing an infallibility of judgment to any man or company of men in the world, but encouraging the faithful stewards of the mysteries of God to stand to the gospel they were sent to preach, for that God himself will stand to it. The apostles, in preaching remission, must begin at Jerusalem, though she had lately brought upon herself the guilt of Christ’s blood: “Yet you may declare their sins remitted upon gospel terms.” And Peter did so, Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19. Christ, being risen for our justification, sends his gospel heralds to proclaim the jubilee begun, the act of indemnity now passed; and by this rule men shall be judged, John 12:48; Romans 2:16; James 2:12. God will never alter this rule of judgment, nor vary from it; those whom the gospel acquits shall be acquitted, and those whom the gospel condemns shall be condemned, which puts immense honour upon the ministry, and should put immense courage into ministers. Two ways the apostles and ministers of Christ remit and retain sin, and both as having authority:– [1.] By sound doctrine. They are commissioned to tell the world that salvation is to be had upon gospel terms, and no other, and they shall find God will say Amen to it; so shall their doom be. [2.] By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons. “Whom you admit into communion with you, according to the rules of the gospel, God will admit into communion with himself; and whom you cast out of communion as impenitent, and obstinate in scandalous and infectious sins, shall be bound over to the righteous judgment of God.”

However, at this gathering, Thomas, a twin — Didymus is the traditional word use to denote that — was absent when Jesus spoke those words (verse 24).

The first thing we wonder about is if the Holy Spirit reached Thomas. Henry says that Thomas received that same divine gift:

though Thomas was not with them, yet the Spirit of the Lord knew where to find him, as he did Eldad and Medad, Numbers 11:26.

We do not know why Thomas was absent, but Henry cautions us not to be like him:

by his absence he missed the satisfaction of seeing his Master risen, and of sharing with the disciples in their joy upon that occasion. Note, Those know not what they lose who carelessly absent themselves from the stated solemn assemblies of Christians.

The Apostles told Thomas about our Lord’s visit to them, but he said that unless he saw the wounds and put his finger in them, he would not believe (verse 25).

Henry says that Thomas was testing Christ, something we must never do. This also points to the limits of empirical evidence, upon which so many unbelievers boast:

(1.) He had either not heeded, or not duly regarded, what Christ had so often said, and that too according to the Old Testament, that he would rise again the third day; so that he ought to have said, He is risen, though he had not seen him, nor spoken with any that had. (2.) He did not pay a just deference to the testimony of his fellow-disciples, who were men of wisdom and integrity, and ought to have been credited. He knew them to be honest men; they all ten of them concurred in the testimony with great assurance; and yet he could not persuade himself to say that their record was true. Christ had chosen them to be his witnesses of this very thing to all nations; and yet Thomas, one of their own fraternity, would not allow them to be competent witnesses, nor trust them further than he could see them. It was not, however, their veracity that he questioned, but their prudence; he feared they were too credulous. (3.) He tempted Christ, and limited the Holy One of Israel, when he would be convinced by his own method, or not at all. He could not be sure that the print of the nails, which the apostles told him they had seen, would admit the putting of his finger into it, or the wound in his side the thrusting in of his hand; nor was it fit to deal so roughly with a living body; yet Thomas ties up his faith to this evidence. Either he will be humoured, and have his fancy gratified, or he will not believe; see Matthew 16:1; Matthew 27:42. (4.) The open avowal of this in the presence of the disciples was an offence and discouragement to them. It was not only a sin, but a scandal. As one coward makes many, so does one believer, one sceptic, making his brethren’s heart to faint like his heart, Deuteronomy 20:8. Had he only thought this evil, and then laid his hand upon his mouth, to suppress it, his error had remained with himself; but his proclaiming his infidelity, and that so peremptorily, might be of ill consequence to the rest, who were as yet but weak and wavering.

One week later, again on Sunday, the first day of the week, Thomas was with the Apostles; once again, Jesus entered the same way as He had done on the day of the Resurrection, stood among them and gave them His benediction of peace (verse 26).

He singled out Thomas, telling him to touch His wounds before rebuking him with, ‘Do not doubt but believe’ (verse 27).

Then Thomas exclaimed (verse 28), ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus had a further rebuke for Thomas, asking him if he believed only because he saw the wounds: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (verse 29).

Our commentators differ on whether Thomas obeyed our Lord or if he needed only to see the wounds in order to believe.

Henry says that Thomas probably did not need to touch the wounds:

We are not told whether he did put his finger into the print of the nails; it should seem, he did not, for Christ says (John 20:29; John 20:29), Thou hast seen, and believed; seeing sufficed. And now faith comes off a conqueror, after a struggle with unbelief.

MacArthur thinks that Thomas did touch our Lord’s wounds, in line with the Caravaggio at the top of this post:

“Then He said to Thomas,” – I love this; talk about personal care – ‘Reach here your finger,’ – I think he probably took his finger, pressed it into His nail prints – ‘now reach here your hand;’ – he pushed it into the scar in His side – ‘stop unbelieving and believe.’” That was enough for Thomas. “He said, ‘My Lord and my God!’” That is the final evidence of a literal resurrection.

Then John concludes the chapter by saying that Jesus performed many other signs in front of His disciples, too many for this Gospel account (verse 30).

John ends by saying that these signs were written about so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that, by believing in Him, we may have life in His name (verse 31).

He concludes his Gospel in John 21:24-25 similarly:

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

MacArthur says that the miracles — the signs — point to our Lord’s divine nature and His Father’s plan of redeeming us:

Now John introduces the exclusivity and singularity of Christ by saying this in verse 30: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” If you take all the miracles that John records and add all the ones that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record, you have a list of about forty separate miracles that Jesus did. The record of those miracles is laid out in the four gospels. In particular, seven very special sign miracles are identified in John’s gospel.

But that is by no means the sum of all that Jesus did. In fact, I’m sure there were many days when He did forty miracles in a day or more. There were many hours when He did seven miracles or more. For three years His life was marked by miracle, after miracle, after miracle in an explosion of divine power that essentially banished disease from the land of Israel for the duration of His ministry. The gospel writers, and in particular John, record just some of them as evidence for who He is, and it’s important that you understand who He is and that you believe, because this is the only way to escape the consequence of your sins, eternal hell.

Just to remind you that I’m not making a guess at the volume of our Lord’s miracles, look at the last verse in John’s gospel. John, chapter 21, if you glance over to verse 25 you read this: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” That is a staggering statement that the world couldn’t even contain all the displays of divine nature that Jesus demonstrated. His life was marked by these miracles.

Now when we talk about signs we’re simply defining the purpose of a miracle. You could use the word “miracle,” but using the word “sign” give us an indication of the purpose of the miracle. What’s the purpose of a sign? A sign is to point to something. When you’re at the sign you’re not there. When you’re at the sign, you’re simply realizing that you’re going in the direction of the destination. And when you’re at the sign/miracle, you’re at the point where Jesus is directing you to look at Him and see that this sign points to who He is. And verse 31 says, “These signs which have been written by John in this gospel have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

The end goal is eternal life only available in the name of Christ, only available to those who believe in Christ, because they have seen the evidence that He is who He says He is, the Messiah, the Son of God. “These signs” – says John in verse 31 – “these signs have been written” – by him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the gospel of John “that you may believe.”

When someone asks us what the Gospel is about, MacArthur gives us the answer we should use, particularly in these times of egocentricity, equality and climate change:

The gospel is not about social justice. The gospel is not about a better life, it’s not about prosperity, it’s not about solving your problems, it’s not about feeling good, it’s not about fulfilling your dreams and ambitions; nothing to do with any of that. The gospel is about forgiveness based on repentance and faith in Christ.

I would add that when one is truly at peace with Jesus Christ, one is at peace with the world.

That peace with Jesus Christ can be achieved only through prayer, receiving Holy Communion, continued reading of Scripture and true repentance.

I wish everyone reading this a blessed Sunday in the Risen Christ.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomMay I wish all my readers a joyful and blessed Easter. Our Lord Jesus is risen!

Readings for Easter Day can be found here.

There are two Gospel choices for Easter Day. The exegesis on John 20:1-18 can be found here.

Today’s post is about the second Gospel reading, Luke 24:1-12 (emphases mine):

Luke 24:1-12

24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

24:2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

24:3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.

24:4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.

24:5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

24:6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,

24:7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

24:8 Then they remembered his words,

24:9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

24:11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

24:12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Resurrection is another holy mystery:

The manner of the re-uniting of Christ’s soul and body in his resurrection is a mystery, one of the secret things that belong not to us; but the infallible proofs of his resurrection, that he did indeed rise from the dead, and was thereby proved to be the Son of God, are things revealed, which belong to us and to our children. Some of them we have here in these verses, which relate the same story for substance that we had in Matthew and Mark.

John MacArthur reminds us that the Resurrection was the culmination of God’s plan for our redemption. It was certainly a belief in Old Testament times:

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in history, as I said.  It is the main event in God’s redemptive plan It is the cornerstone and foundation of the gospel According to Romans 10:9 and 10, in order to be saved you have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ Now, we understand that the message that God has delivered to sinners throughout all of Scripture is that death does not end our existence That is the message of Scripture from the start to the finish, that death is merely the doorway into eternity And everyone goes through that doorway and everyone lives forever, some to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of damnation, to borrow the words of John 5.  Every human being ever born will live forever, fully conscious either in everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.

For those who, by faith, have come into the Kingdom of God, into the realm of salvation, the promise is that they will experience a resurrection unto life, that not only will their spirits dwell forever in the presence of God in eternal bliss, but they will receive a resurrected body fit for that everlasting joy This has been the hope of God’s people throughout all redemptive history It was the hope of Abraham, as Hebrews 11 tells us.  It was the hope of Moses, as we learn in Scripture as well.  It was the hope of Job It was the hope of Isaiah It was the hope of Daniel, for example.  This has always been the hope of God’s people, whether it is the psalmist who says, “I know that someday I will wake in His likeness,” or whether it is Job who says, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  The hope of resurrection has always been at the heart of believers’ faith.  It comes to crystal clarity through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who says in John 14:19, “Because I live, you will live also.”  He is the firstfruits of the resurrection He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me though he die, yet shall he live.” 

The Gospel accounts differ in detail, however, they all agree that Jesus rose from the dead.

MacArthur’s sermon gives us the whole story, not only through Luke’s version but also of the other three Gospel authors:

As we approach the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re going to work our way through this account very carefully and very thoughtfully.  Since all four gospels deal with the resurrection, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all deal with the resurrection, they bring to bear upon the account of this most significant of all events in human history their own perspectives.  They all cover some of the same things and yet each of them has its own special emphasis, and details common to each writer that are not in the other accounts What this means is: we have to weave all of this together to get the full picture My hope will be that you will be able to follow this multi-faceted event as I endeavor to weave the accounts together around the main focus of Luke.

Luke opens his 24th chapter by telling us that ‘they’ — the women — went to the tomb of Jesus in the early dawn of the third day after His death; they had prepared spices for anointing Him (verse 1).

MacArthur says that Luke is picking up from the end of his 23rd chapter:

Verse 1 of Luke 24, they came to the tomb.  Who are they?  Back to verse 55, “The women who had come with Him out of Galilee,” and that’s a larger group of women So, Luke doesn’t mention Mary Magdalene in his opening section, although we’ll get to the mention of Mary Magdalene down in verse 10 in a minute.

We find out their identities in verse 10, but let us establish them now:

Matthew says Mary Magdalene didn’t start out alone Mary Magdalene was accompanied, the Scripture says, with another Mary: Mary, the mother of James and Joseph; Mary also called the wife of Clopas, another MarySo, these two women, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, also known as the wife of Clopas, they start out together in the early dawn.  Most likely, Mary Magdalene is the youngest of all There are other women, right?

Neither commentator mentioned Joanna. Women in the Bible says that she was an influential woman, the wife of Chuza, who ran the household of Herod Antipas in Galilee. It is thought that Joanna heard about Jesus early on, as the Antipas estate was near Nazareth.

Luke 8 records that Jesus cured Joanna of an infirmity, much like he did Mary Magdalene:

Luke 8:1-3

1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag’dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joan’na, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Women in the Bible says that it is possible that Joanna helped to finance the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles. She also might have had some inside information as to what happened during His trial and torture on Good Friday.

Returning to Luke, the women could not have gone to the tomb the day before because it was the Sabbath, so they were eager to attend to Him as soon as they could on Sunday.

The question arises, ‘How could they get into the tomb to anoint our Lord when there was a heavy stone rolled over the door?’

Other accounts tell us that the women knew about the stone and wondered who would be able to roll it away for them.

However, when they arrived, they found the stone rolled away from the tomb (verse 2).

Furthermore, when they entered the tomb, there was no body (verse 3).

What exactly happened?

MacArthur gives us the narrative from the end of Luke 23, Good Friday:

They had come with him, these women out of Galilee.  And they followed, you remember, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who showed up They followed them to the tomb.  They were still stunned.  They were still in shock.  They had just lived through the most bizarre, horrific experience.  The one who they had put their trust in, the Lord Jesus, had been arrested, He had been beaten, He had been crucified, He’s dead, and here are these men now putting a few spices on His body, not really a few, a hundred pound weight that Nicodemus brought and they’re anointing His body and putting it in the grave And the women are still stunned, they’re not helping, they’re just looking and watching But they determined that they wanted to have a part in it.  And so it says in verse 56 that after watching His body being laid in Joseph’s tomb, they returned and prepared spices and perfume

Now to the other accounts about the women’s arrival:

Here’s what probably happened The women all go to anoint the body of Jesus.  Mary Magdalene starts out with Mary, the mother of James They’re moving faster than the rest who may have been older They’re stringing out in the darkness as they begin.  The two Marys head for the tomb together.  Matthew 28:1 says, “Those two Marys headed for the tomb,” kind of the first of the women.  But John says, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb,” which means she outpaced the other one She gets there by herself according to John’s account.  It’s still dark at this point and it’s light enough maybe that she can discern when she gets close to the tomb that the stone is gone She spins on her sandals and head the other direction She arrives in the dusky dark side of the dawn, but clear enough to see the stone is removed.  She’s the first one there.  Her companion Mary is somewhere back progressing in that direction And the other women, perhaps near her, coming in the dark at a different pace. 

John says that Mary Magdalene saw the open entrance and immediately left, didn’t go in, bolted.  Probably didn’t go back maybe the same way the other women did, so that there’s no indication she ran into them.  She heads directly to Peter and John and the apostle, and she gives this report that the body of Jesus has been stolen That’s an assumption she didn’t check And for that moment then, when John says it was still dark, it was the darkest part of any experience that these women had because she was the first one there.  And as the others came progressively, it became light, and that’s why the other writers when the whole group comes say what Luke says, “At early dawn,” or, “The sun had risen.” 

So, the timing is so wonderful, the explicitness of Scripture.  The earliest one there is Mary.  The rest come, verse 1, to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared They found the same thing Mary had found She’s there and gone, headed for Peter and John.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb This is a shocking sight.  This is a stunning sight because, frankly, they had been having a discussion on the way, according to Mark 16.  Listen to what Mark says.  “Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen and they were saying to one another on the way, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’“ Remember now, they were there on Friday night when Jesus was laid in the tomb, and Joseph and Nicodemus rolled the stone over the entrance They knew it was there and they asked the question: who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?  “And looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.”  So, on the way they’re having the discussion.  We’re going to go there, we’ve got all these spices we’ve prepared on Friday, we’re going to do our part to show our love to the Lord by putting spices, more spices on His body, but who is going to roll away the stone?

Remember that they had rolled the stone across the front.  Mark 15:46 says that he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb, did Joseph of Arimathea They had no idea how they were going to get that stone out of there. 

One aspect the women were unaware of were the Roman guards, who were gone by the time they got there because of a second earthquake that took place early on Sunday. The first earthquake took place on Friday, after Jesus breathed His last:

Furthermore, they had no idea of something else that had happened.  The day after the preparation, Matthew 27:62, “The chief priests and Pharisees gathered together with Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive, that deceiver, Jesus, said after three days I’m going to rise again Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure till the third day lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people He has risen from the dead and the last deception be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard.  Go.  Make it as secure as you know how.’ And they went, made the grave secure and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” 

The women had no idea that had happened on Saturday On Saturday the Jews who were afraid that the disciples would steal the body to fabricate a phony resurrection asked Pilate for a guard.  They got a guard.  The tomb is sealed with an official Roman seal, not to be broken And a Roman guard is placed in front of the tomb They have no idea about that.  They’re going to go thinking it’s just the tomb but the only obstacle they’re going to have is the stone.  So, they would not have known about the guard.  Now, when they get there, interestingly enough, there’s no guard there.  It doesn’t say anything in any of the four gospels about the women ever meeting the Roman guard, never.  You say, “Well, where did they go?”  Well, for that you have to go back to Matthew 28.  And here in Matthew 28 verse 2, what happened on Saturday was they set a guard.  What happened in the early dark hours of Sunday, verse 2, “Behold, a severe earthquake had occurred.”  This would be the second earthquake There was one on Friday, equally severe, that split the rocks, threw open tombs “A severe earthquake had occurred, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came, and rolled away the stone and sat upon it And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow, and the guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.”

Well, some interesting things have been going on while these ladies were away.  The guard is set on Saturday and on Sunday morning an angel comes down out of heaven, there is a massive earthquake, the angel rolls the stone away and the guards are shocked into some kind of a coma By the way, the angel did not roll the stone away to let Jesus out, he rolled the stone away to let the people in Jesus could walk through walls He did that a little later, right?  The door being shut, He appeared to the apostles.

Now, what happened?  Well I’ll tell you basically, it’s pretty obvious.  By the time the women get there, there aren’t any soldiers there.  If there were any soldiers there, they would have commented about them, they would have had a conversation with them.  They would have asked them: how did this happen?  What happened?  It is reasonable to assume that in the deep dark night of that Sunday morning when the earthquake came, and the soldiers were knocked into their coma, they eventually they came out of it and they realized what had happened The stone was gone, they had these shaken visions of a blazing angel, the reverberations of a massive earthquake They realized that the body of Jesus is gone They had therefore failed in their duty.  They understood the implications of that.  They know something powerful, if not supernatural, has happened.  They head back into the city. 

As soon as they wake up, there’s no reason to stay there anymore ‘cause Jesus is gone.  They must have gone inside in the pitch darkness and found that He was not there.  So, they have to face reality.  They have to go to the Jewish leaders to try to explain to them what happened And by the time the women get there, they’re gone.  They’re gone …

So, let’s pick up what they said Go back to Matthew 28.  When they finally got to the Jewish leaders to try to explain.  Verse 11, “While they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city, reported to the chief priests all that had happened.”  Just exactly what did they say?  Well they reported all that had happened.  What would they then say?  “Sir, there was this really, really severe earthquake, and then there was this blazing, flashing, dazzling being who rolled the stone away.  And then we were knocked out.  And when we came to, the body was gone.”  That’s what they said because that’s what happened.  Verse 12, “And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.”  Really?  You reward them for that?  Oh, they said to them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’“ Huh, they’re not likely to say that because a Roman soldier who slept on his guard would be more than court marshaled; he could even be executed But you’re to lie And if it comes to the governor’s ears, Pilate, who was the commander in Chief of all soldiers, they knew they would be in trouble.  The Jewish leaders say, “We’ll win him over and keep you out of trouble.  We’ll save your hide.” 

And they took the money and did as they had been instructed, and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day, to the day that Matthew is writing, that is still the story the disciples came and stole the body The Roman soldiers knew it was a lie; they were bribed The Jews knew it was a lie; they paid the bribe The tomb was empty.  There was no explanation other than the soldiers’ experience and they were paid off not to tell the truth.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, it would have been an easy thing for the Jews to prove Just bring out His body But they couldn’t, so they entangled themselves in this hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain away the empty tomb.  And they came up with a lie, a huge lie to cover the truth They never, no Jewish leaders, no Jewish people ever denied the tomb was empty They just invented the lie that the disciples had stolen it, a lie that is impossible because the disciples, the women, the men had no expectation that Jesus would rise.

It’s important, folks, to understand the tomb is empty There is no explanation for that on a human level The only explanation is the text of Scripture: an angel came, rolled the stone away and Christ, who promised to rise, was alive and walked out And by the way, the empty tomb alone was enough to convince John He was the only one really convinced According to John 20 verses 6 to 8, “John saw the empty tomb, saw the clothes lying there, and believed.”  Nobody else did.

Returning to Luke, the women were perplexed about the stone and the lack of a body when, suddenly, two men — angels — in dazzling clothes appeared beside them (verse 4).

Upon seeing the men, the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground; the men asked them why they sought the living among the dead, when He had risen (verse 5).

MacArthur brings in the other accounts of the angels in the Resurrection story:

the second great evidence of the resurrection is divine revelation.  They are perplexed, back to verse 4, they are perplexed, no idea what occurred.  The whole ordeal, the trial, the cross, the whole thing is surreal, if not outright bizarre.  As they stand in the dawning sunlight and shadows, they’re jolted into the most frightening scene they have ever experienced in their entire lives.  There’s no reason to assume that any of these women had seen angels, apart from the mother of our Lord.  Two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing.  John describes them as two angels Angels appear often in human form Mark describes one of them as a young man, so they are angels, spiritual beings who can take on human form and take on the form of a young man That would be a consistent thing for an angel to do because angels don’t age

Clearly there are two of them, perhaps because of Deuteronomy 19:15, two witnesses to validate anything However, Matthew and Mark speak only of one who speaks Matthew and Mark say, “An angel spoke.  An angel spoke.”  They don’t refer to two, simply identifying the fact that there were two angels but they spoke one at a time.  They spoke separately, and I am sure they probably spoke repeatedly, because you have a little bit of variation of what they say.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke give you a little variation on what they actually said which would indicate to me that it was a very somewhat supernatural conversation, that they would say something and the women would be hard pressed to process that.  And one at a time, not in unison, they would speak.  And so Matthew and Mark tell us what the individual angels said, but we know from John and Luke there were two of them.

The angels reminded the women that when Jesus was in Galilee (verse 6), He said that He would be handed over to sinners, be crucified and rise again on the third day (verse 7).

The women then remembered what Jesus had said (verse 8).

MacArthur expands on these verses:

This is a reminder This is why there’s a mild rebuke.  Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  It’s a mild rebuke He’s been saying this for a long time.  If you go back in to Luke 9 when He’s still in Galilee and verse 22, He warns them and says, “Son of Man must suffer many things.  Be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”  He told them that.  He reiterated again in chapter 9 verse 43, “They were all amazed at the greatness of God, while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, ‘Let these words sink in to your ears, the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’“ But they didn’t understand this statement.  It was concealed from them so they might not conceive it and they were afraid to ask Him about it Even though He said it.  And by the way, He repeats it and repeats it and repeats it.  He makes the same promise several times recorded in the book of Matthew, several times recorded in the book of Mark Another time in the 18th chapter of Luke This is what’s going to happen.  And it started all the way back in Galilee; don’t you remember that He’s going to be delivered?  He’s going to be crucified?  And He’s going to be raised?  Delivered, crucified and raised. 

So, the evidence concerning the resurrection is the empty tomb, and there is no other explanation for the empty tomb than a resurrection The Jews didn’t steal His body.  The Romans didn’t steal His body.  The Apostles didn’t steal His body.  The women didn’t steal His body.  His enemies had no reason to steal His body and fabricate a resurrection.  His friends didn’t even believe in a resurrection, and nor would they steal His body, fabricate a false resurrection and then go out and die as martyrs for a phony.  The angels give the only possible explanation: He’s not here because He’s risen

The aforementioned women (verse 10) left the tomb and told the eleven remaining Apostles what had happened (verse 9).

Some astute readers might be wondering about the other Resurrection accounts concerning Mary Magdalene (verse 10).

MacArthur explains:

The last thing we heard about Mary Magdalene, she went there, saw nothing but an empty grave, came back with the wrong information Up to now, as far as we know, she hasn’t come to any conclusion except that somebody stole the body.  She’s told Peter and John her conclusion that somebody stole the body, which sent them on their way back.  How does she get into this group?  Well, Luke is condensing this story I’ll tell you how she got into this group.  Turn to John 20 – this is just so wonderful.  How can she belong to the group of eyewitnesses when she didn’t go in the empty tomb, and she didn’t hear the angels say anything?  She left before the angels spoke, or appeared.  And she had not seen the risen Christ, so how can she be one of the witnesses?

Answer: This lady went back to the tomb This lady went back to the tomb.  At some point she decides she has to go back And so in John 20, verse 11, we find her standing outside the tomb weeping She’s all alone.  “And so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beheld two angels in white sitting” – now they’re sitting on the inside.  These are two different scenes at two different times, and this one is a private viewing for Mary And they’re sitting there, “one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.  And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’”  I mean it just seems so – like you walk in an empty tomb and an angel talks to you, and he just says, “Hey, why you crying, lady?”  It’s just such a natural conversation.  “She said, ‘Because they have taken away My Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.’”  She’s still sticking with her theory.  “And when she had said this, she turned around and behold – or beheld Jesus standing there and didn’t know that it was Jesus.”  Why?  I don’t know; maybe she couldn’t see through her tears.  But then, nobody after the resurrection of Jesus could really know who He was until He revealed Himself, right?  That was true of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

And Jesus asked the same question, “‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Why are you crying?  Whom are you seeking?’  Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You’ve laid Him, and I’ll take Him away.’”  That’s a really stupid thing, why would the gardener steal a body out of tomb?  I love this – “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’  She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, Teacher).”  And then she grabbed Him, hung on to Him, probably on His feet and ankles.  “‘Stop clinging to Me,’ He said to her, ‘I’ve not yet ascended to the Father; go to My brothers, say to them, “I ascend to My Father, Your Father, My God and Your God.”’”  “Now, Mary, you go, you tell them you saw Me.  I am alive for a while, you can’t keep Me here, I’m going to ascend to heaven, I’m going to go back to the Father, but I will meet you all in Galilee for a while.”  In fact, He met them that night, and the next Sunday night as well, and many other appearances in the 40 days before He ascended So He says to Mary, “You go,” and this is wonderful, verse 18, “Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and said that He had said these things to her.”

Returning to Luke, the Apostles did not believe the women, thinking that their account was but an idle tale (verse 11).

Henry has a stinging comment:

Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. They thought it was only the fancy of the women, and imputed it to the power of imagination; for they also had forgotten Christ’s words, and wanted to be put in mind of them, not only what he had said to them in Galilee some time ago, but what he had said very lately, in the night wherein he was betrayed: Again a little while, and ye shall see me. I will see you again. One cannot but be amazed at the stupidity of these disciples,–who had themselves so often professed that they believed Christ to be the Son of God and the true Messiah, had been so often told that he must die and rise again, and then enter into his glory, had seen him more than once raise the dead,–that they should be so backward to believe in his raising himself. Surely it would seem the less strange to them, when hereafter this complaint would justly be taken up by them, to remember that there was a time when it might justly have been taken up against them, Who hath believed our report?

Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb, where he saw but the linen cloths; he returned home, amazed by what had happened (verse 12).

This part is a bit confusing, too, but MacArthur says:

Peter arose earlier – this is a flashback – and he had gone to the tomb, stooped, looked in, saw the linen wrappings only; went away to his home marveling at what had happened.  What do you think he was thinking?  What do you mean marveling at what had happened?  Thaumaz, he was traumatized, he – I think he was beginning to think, “This is a resurrection – this is a resurrection.”

Now, when Peter did go to the tomb, it was before Mary Magdalene came back It was before the full testimony of the women The chronology is clear in John, so let’s turn to John chapter 20 This is wonderful.  Verse 3, Peter leaves after hearing from Mary Magdalene, “and the other disciple” – that’s how John refers to himself, in his humble way – Peter goes to the tomb with John, and they’re running They’re going to verify Mary Magdalene’s story that somebody stole the body And the other disciple is faster than Peter, which knowing Peter’s personality was something to bother him.  He always wanted to be the first.  So John’s faster, younger; came to the tomb first, stooping, looking in.  He’s a little more retiring and shy.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there, he didn’t go in.  He’s trying to process this.  “Simon Peter therefore also came following him and entered the tomb.”  Of course, just blows right by John and goes in there.  And he sees “the linen wrappings lying there, and the face cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings,” like it was all jumbled up and thrown in a corner, but lying exactly where it had been when it was put on His head.

“So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also.  He saw and” – what?  “He believed.”  The empty tomb and the grave clothes was all it took Now remember, they at this point have only heard the testimony of Mary Magdalene, right?  They haven’t heard the other women.  They left when Mary told them to leave.  In the meantime, the women came to the tomb, saw Jesus, came back with the story So all they have, all John has is an empty tomb and grave clothes, and that’s enough – that’s enough.  He knew that stone couldn’t be moved from the inside by a dead Jesus.  And he had seen Him dead, he was there.  He knew.  There was no other explanation but that He rose, and he believed.  “For as yet” – or up to that time – “they didn’t understand the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead.”  But he understands it now.  “So the disciples went away again to their own homes.” 

That’s interesting, isn’t it?  I’m sure they didn’t know, “What do we do next?”  So they went home Go back to Luke, and that’s what Luke says Peter did in verse 12 After he saw the linen wrapping also, “he went away to his own home, marveling – marveling at what had happened.”  Hey, this is not a grave robber’s scene, folks.  Grave robbers, if you wanted the body, you just take the body intact, you don’t fool around in there unwrapping it, and then laying everything in perfect order.  You take the body, and you run.  It was very convincing.  John believed.  Peter – still struggling when he goes home.  Meanwhile, the women have these other nine guys on their hands, and they’re trying to convince them that this thing really happened, and they’re not buying it at all Why are they so stubborn?  Go over to verse 19 of Luke 24, this is on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus shows up later that day These two disciples are walking to Emmaus.  Jesus comes, they don’t know who He is, and He starts a conversation with them They’re looking sad.  “Why are you sad?”  Well, verse 19, “Ah, it’s about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty indeed in the Word in the sight of God and all the people, and the chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death and crucified Him.”  And verse 21, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” – oh boy.  “Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.”  Huh – it’s the third day, they haven’t seen Him.  The women told them He was alive, they don’t buy thatThey don’t believe that.

“It’s the third day, nothing’s happened.  We were hoping it would happen.  And also – this is the throwaway, verse 22 – “some women among us amazed us.  When they were at the tomb early in the morning, didn’t find His body, they came saying they had seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.  And some of those who were with us went to the tomb” – namely Peter and John – “and found it exactly as the women had also said.  But Him they didn’t see.”  Peter and John didn’t see Him, but they sent word back.  “Hey, we went to the tomb, and He may be alive, but we didn’t see Him.”  They’re still processing this on the side of believing it, but not fully convinced And so this is the reflection of their stubborn unwillingness to believe until they see You know, you fault Thomas because he didn’t believe Remember, he said, “If I don’t see the nails in His hands, and where the spear went into His side, I won’t believe.”  Well, they were just as bad as Thomas They didn’t want to believe the testimony of the women And Peter and John came back and said, “Well, it’s a bizarre deal.  The tomb is open, and the tomb is empty, and the grave clothes are lying there.  And, you know, He may be alive.”  But they’re not ready to fully commit However, before the day is over, He appears to all of them But the reason the Scripture lays out the unbelief of the disciples is to dispel any ridiculous theories that they invented a resurrection because they wanted one so badly That’s just not the case. 

In closing, MacArthur gives us more thoughts about Easter Day:

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is not the epilogue to the story It is not the epilogue to the life of Christ.  It is the goal of His life, it is the objective of His life, it is the purpose of His life The church has always understood that.  In fact, the church understood it right from the day of the resurrection on.  For since that time, the church has chosen to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, to commemorate the most important event in His life, and the most important event in human history, His resurrection from the dead The church did not choose to meet on Friday.  The church chose to meet on Sunday, because Sunday is the interpretation of Friday.  Easter is the interpretation of Good Friday Resurrection is the divine interpretation of the death of Christ.  Resurrection is the divine vindication of the work that He did on the crossWithout the resurrection, the cross means nothing, for it has no validation, it has no vindication, it has no affirmation.  But when God raised Jesus from the dead, He was affirming, and validating, and vindicating the fact that He had indeed borne our sins in His own body on the cross, and had satisfied the justice of God with His sin-bearing Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless, just another death.

The resurrection is everything The resurrection vindicates the great reason for the gospel, and for all redemption.  The purpose of the gospel is not just that we might experience the forgiveness of sin.  The purpose of the gospel is that we, having been forgiven of our sin, could enter into eternal life, and live in the bliss of heaven forever, in perfect holiness and perfect joy, in glorified, physical, resurrected bodies.  Bodily resurrection is peculiar to Christianity, and bodily resurrection is essential to Christianity.  The Christian gospel is not designed to deliver you from your troubles here; not at all, not even close.  The Christian gospel is not so that your spirit can float on into eternity in some nebulous way.  The Christian gospel does not promise that you will live on in influence in some way, nor is the gospel saying that Christ lives on in His influence, or Christ lives on in spiritual form.  The Christian message is that Jesus Christ rose from the grave in a glorified, physical body, in some way like the body you have now, only stripped of all that is sinful and fatal; and that we one day will receive a body like unto His glorified body, and we will live in bodily resurrected form through all the eons of eternity That is the Christian message.

That is not the message of the other religions of the world There is no resurrection in Buddhism There is no resurrection of the body in Hinduism, just a recurring, cycling, reincarnation in some different form.  Christianity teaches a bodily resurrection, and that is the goal of redemption, that we might, in glorified human bodies, live forever with our glorified Christ, and serve Him, and worship Him, in joy and peace Christianity promises a physical resurrection.  Now, your body will be different, thankfully.  It will have nothing about it that’s fatal, terminal, nothing about it that’s sinful, or wicked.  Nothing about it that’s imperfect, but it will be a physical body in a glorified form.  You say, “What’s the model for that” the glorified resurrection body of the Lord Jesus It could be seen, it could be touched It had scars He ateHe walkedHe talkedHe thoughtHe heard He acted in that body in ways familiar to those He met.

I hope that this adds to our understanding of Easter.

May we celebrate it in joy and thanksgiving, praising our Lord God for His goodness and favour towards us.

Pentecost2Pentecost Sunday is May 23, 2021.

Readings for Year B in the three-year Lectionary can be found here.

The feast of Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church, as the baptism of the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples, including the Apostles, enabling them to spread the Good News, the Gospel story.

Acts 2:1-21 can be read either as the First Reading or as the Epistle. As I have been writing about Acts 1 for Ascension Day and Exaudi Sunday, it seemed apposite to continue with Acts 2.

Emphases below are mine.

Acts 2:1-21

2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is how the true gift of tongues — enabled for the Apostolic Era — worked. Those Galileans with this special gift spoke in existing foreign languages fluently and eloquently, easily understood by outsiders who spoke those languages.

Jews from many foreign countries went up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks, or Shavuot. It takes place 50 days after Passover. Pentecost is 50 days after Easter; the word itself means ‘fiftieth’. In 2021, Shavuot was commemorated from May 16 to May 18. Hebcal describes its significance:

Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day G-d gave the Torah to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text. The holiday is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. It marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer.

Jesus rose from the dead on the day of the offering of the First Fruits. Fifty days later, on Shavuot, the Holy Spirit descends upon His disciples.

The disciples were gathered in one place (verse 1), possibly in the upper room where they drew lots for Matthias’s accession to apostleship. In any event, they would have been in Jerusalem, along with Jewish pilgrims for Shavuot.

Suddenly, they heard the sound of a violent wind, which filled the entire house (verse 2).

Matthew Henry’s commentary describes it as follows:

Probably it alarmed the whole city, but, to show that it was supernatural, presently fixed upon that particular houseThis would direct the people who observed it whither to go to enquire the meaning of it. This wind filling the house would strike an awe upon the disciples, and help to put them into a very serious, reverent, and composed frame, for the receiving of the Holy Ghost. Thus the convictions of the Spirit make way for his comforts; and the rough blasts of that blessed wind prepare the soul for its soft and gentle gales.

Tongues of fire appeared, one tongue over each of them (verse 3).

Of these flames, Henry says:

The flame of a candle is somewhat like a tongue; and there is a meteor which naturalists call ignis lambens–a gentle flame, not a devouring fire; such was this.

Henry explains how God used outward signs to designate prophets and fire in the Old Testament :

(1.) There was an outward sensible sign, for the confirming of the faith of the disciples themselves, and for the convincing of others. Thus the prophets of old had frequently their first mission confirmed by signs, that all Israel might know them to be established prophets.

(2.) The sign given was fire, that John Baptist’s saying concerning Christ might be fulfilled, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; with the Holy Ghost as with fire. They were now, in the feast of pentecost, celebrating the memorial of the giving of the law upon mount Sinai; and as that was given in fire, and therefore is called a fiery law, so is the gospel. Ezekiel’s mission was confirmed by a vision of burning coals of fire (Acts 1:13; Acts 1:13), and Isaiah’s by a coal of fire touching his lips, Acts 6:7; Acts 6:7. The Spirit, like fire, melts the heart, separates and burns up the dross, and kindles pious and devout affections in the soul, in which, as in the fire upon the altar, the spiritual sacrifices are offered up. This is that fire which Christ came to send upon the earth. Luke 12:49.

Shavuot traditionally involved an offering of wheat. John MacArthur says that the Jews made loaves of bread, signifying their unity as God’s people.

He applies this to the first Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the Church:

Now, I want you to know that, so that you’ll be able to understand your identity in Christ. You’re one with Him. You’re one with every other Christian. That’s what occurred in verse 2 when it says, “There came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind,” – we know that to be the breath of God, the Holy Spirit – “filled the house where they were sitting.” And if He filled that house, He filled them who were in it. And I believe at that point the baptism of the Spirit took place.

Kind of an interesting play on words, if you take the idea that it filled all the house, and carry it to Ephesians 2:22. There’s a new house there where all the believers are called the house or the habitation of the Spirit. So He filled the physical house in Acts 2:2; but in the same moment, He filled the spiritual house, and all believers became His new house.

Now, let me add another thought here, because I want you to understand this. The baptism of the Spirit is also extremely important understood this way, because if it isn’t, then Jesus’ prayer in John 17 goes unanswered, and then you’ve got some real problems. You see, Jesus prayed this four times: verse 11, 21, 22, 23. He said, “Father, I pray that they be” – what? – “one. One, one, one.”

Now, my friends, this happened right here. This is the answer to Jesus’ prayer. When the Spirit of God came, He made us one positionally. Now, we aren’t always one practically, are we? There’s divisions and strife among us when we’re carnal. But, positionally, are we one blended together? Are we that common loaf? Sure we are. We’re not just a loosely-gathered sheaf tied together with string, we are one in Christ, inner-dependent and mutually-dependent on life from each other in the ministry of our gifts and fellowship. And so we must assume the baptism of the Spirit to be that baptizing all believers into oneness, or the prayer of Jesus Christ goes unanswered.

Now, notice another phenomenon that happened in verse 3 accompanying the first; and this is all proof that the Spirit came. Verse 3: “And there appeared unto them,” – that is to those believers who had been baptized, immersed at that moment into the body of Christ by the Spirit – “appeared unto them cloven” – or parted – “tongues as of fire,” – they weren’t fire, they were as like fire – “and it sat upon each of them.” Now, here’s another interesting phenomenon. These parted tongues that appeared over everyone of them was testimony that with no exception, each of them had received the Holy Spirit.

As the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit at that point, they began speaking in other languages — tongues — ‘as the Spirit gave them ability’ (verse 4). This was in order to spread the Good News to those from other nations who were celebrating Shavuot in Jerusalem (verse 5).

As Henry surmises above, the roar of the wind must have drawn a large crowd to the house where the disciples were gathered, because the foreigners were ‘bewildered’ to find that the people inside were speaking their own languages (verse 6).

They were amazed to hear, each in his own language, humble Galileans proclaim the mighty works of God (verses 6-11).

Henry contrasts this with the Tower of Babel from Genesis:

The tongues were divided, and yet they still continued all of one accord; for there may be a sincere unity of affections where yet there is a diversity of expression. Dr. Lightfoot observes that the dividing of tongues at Babel was the casting off of the heathen; for when they had lost the language in which alone God was spoken of and preached, they utterly lost the knowledge of God and religion, and fell into idolatry. But now, after above two thousand years, God, by another dividing of tongues, restores the knowledge of himself to the nations ...

And we may suppose that they understood not only themselves but one another too, which the builders of Babel did not, Genesis 11:7. They did not speak here and there a word of another tongue, or stammer out some broken sentences, but spoke it as readily, properly, and elegantly, as if it had been their mother-tongue; for whatever was produced by miracle was the best of the kind. They spoke not from any previous thought or meditation, but as the Spirit gave them utterance; he furnished them with the matter as well as the language.

MacArthur says:

Now, the miracle of languages here was important because of the strategy of the spread of the gospelin Jerusalem at this time there were people from all over the Jewish world and there could have been as many as one million. You could fit 200,000 of them into the temple courtyard alone. They were jammed into this place. And this specific miracle was … not to become the pattern or the norm for all Christians ...

In other words, if the gift still exists, then God for some strange reason has put unnecessary, crippling strings on the gospel because He makes people go through years of studying languages before they can ever begin to witness. And if people have this so-called gift to speak in foreign languages, it would seem rather unnecessary. And if God had designed such a language miracle for today, it would seem as though it could be put to great use. And if there is a gift of languages, my friends, let me ask this: Why is it only for certain special people in certain special movements who get together in special prayer meetings and speak it to each other who already speak the same language and who already know the truth? And if unbelievers are present, Paul says they will say you’re mad because it will only confuse them.

You see, if such still exists, why doesn’t it exist for missionaries? Or better yet, why are there some missionaries who claim to have the gift but still go to language school? So, you see, this experience in Acts is by no means the norm. We cannot make it the norm for all Christians. You cannot say that every Christian is supposed to be speaking foreign languages.

Those in the crowd asked what such a phenomenon could mean (verse 12). However, others were sceptical, accusing the disciples of being drunk on ‘new wine’, which was rather weak in alcohol content (verse 13).

MacArthur says:

They did not understand and they tried to explain it away by mocking them and saying, “Look at these babies, can’t handle grape juice.”

That accusation galvanised Peter, ever the boldest of the Twelve, into standing up to address the Judeans and those from Jerusalem (verse 14). The other Eleven were around him.

Once the Holy Spirit entered into Peter, he now understood Christ’s ministry and could competently preach about it, as his sermon shows. He addressed it to the local Jews and not the foreigners, so he spoke in his own language.

MacArthur sets the scene for us:

So Peter stands up. Now, the moment is fantastic. The Holy Spirit has set the stage. The people are confused. Their minds are all messed up. They can’t understand what’s been going on. From their standpoint everything is ready. From Peter’s standpoint everything is ready. He’s been filled with the Spirit of God. He’s about to open his mouth and God is going to speak and so he stands up. And then I like this, it says he lifted up his voice. Oh, preachers love that verse because that’s a wonderful text that grants New Testament precedent for yelling. And Peter lifted up his voice.

Peter refuted the idea of drunkenness, especially as it was nine o’clock in the morning (verse 15). Nine o’clock was the time for private prayers. The Jews did not eat or drink anything until afterwards.

He then launched into a prophecy from Joel (verse 16), citing Joel 2:28-32 (verse 17), wherein the prophet said that in the last days — and we are still in those ‘last days’, even now — God declared that He would pour out his Spirit upon humankind at which point men and women would preach (the original meaning of the word ‘prophesy’):

and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Joel’s prophecy included slaves who would prophesy (verse 18).

Joel spoke of the coming day of judgement, with visible, terrible signs in the skies as well as on the earth (verse 19). The sun will become dark and the moon become like blood just before the Lord comes to us again (verse 20).

Everyone at that time who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (verse 21).

Henry says that Peter was using Joel’s prophecy to alert the Jews that the temple would be destroyed, which it was in AD 70. There were a number of phenomena that occurred in Jerusalem around that time:

Those that would not submit to the power of God’s grace, in this wonderful effusion of his Spirit, should fall and lie under the pourings out of the vials of his wrath. Those shall break that will not bend. First, The destruction of Jerusalem, which was about forty years after Christ’s death, is here called that great and notable day of the Lord, because it put a final period to the Mosaic economy; the Levitical priesthood and the ceremonial law were thereby for ever abolished and done away. The desolation itself was such as was never brought upon any place or nation, either before or since. It was the day of the Lord, for it was the day of his vengeance upon that people for crucifying Christ, and persecuting his ministers; it was the year of recompences for that controversy; yea, and for all the blood of the saints and martyrs, from the blood of righteous Abel,Matthew 23:35. It was a little day of judgment; it was a notable day: in Joel it is called a terrible day, for so it was to men on earth; but here epiphane (after the Septuagint), a glorious, illustrious day, for so it was to Christ in heaven; it was the epiphany, his appearing, so he himself spoke of it, Matthew 24:30. …

Secondly, The terrible presages of that destruction are here foretold: There shall be wonders in heaven above, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood; and signs too in the earth beneath, blood and fire. Josephus, in his preface to his history of the wars of the Jews, speaks of the signs and prodigies that preceded them, terrible thunders, lightnings, and earthquakes; there was a fiery comet that hung over the city for a year, and a flaming sword was seen pointing down upon it; a light shone upon the temple and the altar at midnight, as if it had been noon-day

The blood points at the wars of the Jews with the neighbouring nations, with the Samaritans, Syrians, and Greeks, in which abundance of blood was shed, as there was also in their civil wars, and the struggles of the seditious (as they called them), which were very bloody; there was no peace to him that went out nor to him that came in. The fire and vapour of smoke, here foretold, literally came to pass in the burning of their cities, and towns, and synagogues, and temple at last. And this turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood, bespeaks the dissolution of their government, civil and sacred, and the extinguishing of all their lights.

Yet, when the temple was destroyed, those who believed in Christ were not harmed:

Thirdly, The signal preservation of the Lord’s people is here promised (Acts 2:21; Acts 2:21): Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus (which is the description of a true Christian, 1 Corinthians 1:2) shall be saved, shall escape that judgment which shall be a type and earnest of everlasting salvation. In the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, there was a remnant sealed to be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger; and in the destruction by the Romans not one Christian perished. Those that distinguish themselves by singular piety shall be distinguished by special preservation. And observe, the saved remnant are described by this, that they are a praying people: they call on the name of the Lord, which intimates that they are not saved by any merit or righteousness of their own, but purely by the favour of God, which must be sued out by prayer. It is the name of the Lord which they call upon that is their strong tower.

There was much more to Peter’s first sermon, the first fire and brimstone sermon in the history of the Church.

The result was this (Acts 2:41):

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

From there, the Church in Jerusalem grew dramatically day by day:

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What an awe-inspiring experience that period after the first Pentecost must have been.

Pentecost Sunday concludes Eastertide. Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter, or Exaudi Sunday, is May 16, 2021.

The readings for Year B are here.

Traditionally, this particular Sunday, the one between Ascension Day and Pentecost, is known as Exaudi Sunday, so called because of the old Latin Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

Some theologians say it is the saddest Sunday in the Church year because the faithful recall the forlorn disciples, among them the Apostles, who saw Christ for the last time as He ascended into Heaven. They then awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit, not knowing what to expect. You can read more about Exaudi Sunday here.

The First Reading for Year B in the three-year Lectionary picks up from the First Reading for Ascension Day and is as follows (emphases mine below):

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,

1:16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus —

1:17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

1:22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”

1:23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.

1:24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen

1:25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

1:26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

To put the reading into context, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from watching Jesus ascend to heaven on the Mount of Olives (Mount Olivet):

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

Peter stood up before this group of 120 people in an upper room and began to speak (verse 15).

John MacArthur describes the location. A ‘Sabbath day’s journey’ was 2,000 cubits, not very far:

they would have just barely gotten inside the eastern gate of Jerusalem, and likely they would have been right where they were when they gathered together for the upper room occasion for that last Passover; and, perhaps, they were in the very same upper room where Jesus had appeared to them in resurrection. But it couldn’t have been very far inside the eastern wall; and as best we can tell, that’s the same area where the upper room was in proximity to the temple and all of the rest of the thing. And so they took the journey of about two-thousand cubits. That would be three-thousand feet for you that are still trying to figure that out, or a little over a half a mile. And in verse 13, it says, “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room.” They came into the city of Jerusalem into a house and into an upper room.

Now, the houses were very commonly possessing upper rooms – or upper chambers, used four times in the New Testament, that particular designation. They were used for many purposes. Evidently, it was kind of like a living room. You know, it was kind of where you keep the kids out kind of thing for meditation, devotions, prayer. And when somebody died they usually got stuck in the upper room. So it had a multi-purpose both for the living and the dead. The reason I say the dead got put there was because in Acts 11 that’s where they put Dorcas when she died.

And so houses would have it. It was elevated from the regular pattern of the house, which was below. And so it must have been a big upper room. Must have been a pretty wealthy guy who had an upper room that size, because they got a lot of people in that upper room. They all went into that upper room.

They did not stay there round the clock. They would have also been praying at the temple, but this was their assembly room:

And so they were in and out of this upper room. But they came there to meet together, and then would go out from time to time.

Matthew Henry’s commentary has more:

Here was the beginning of the Christian church: this hundred and twenty was the grain of mustard-seed that grew into a tree, the leaven that leavened the whole lump. 2. The speaker was Peter, who had been, and still was, the most forward man; and therefore notice is taken of his forwardness and zeal, to show that he had perfectly recovered the ground he lost by his denying his Master, and, Peter being designed to be the apostle of the circumcision, while the sacred story stays among the Jews, he is still brought in, as afterwards, when it comes to speak of the Gentiles, it keeps to the story of Paul.

Peter wanted to replace the twelfth apostle Judas (verse 17), who died on the day of the Crucifixion. Judas’s betrayal of Christ was a fulfilment of Scripture (verse 16).

Henry explains why Peter wanted the apostolic replacement:

They were ordained twelve, with an eye to the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from the twelve patriarchs; they were the twelve stars that make up the church’s crown (Revelation 12:1), and for them twelve thrones were designated, Matthew 19:28. Now being twelve when they were learners, if they were but eleven when they were to be teachers, it would occasion every one to enquire what had become of the twelfth, and so revive the remembrance of the scandal of their society; and therefore care was taken, before the descent of the Spirit, to fill up the vacancy, of the doing of which we now have an account, our Lord Jesus, probably, having given directions about it, among other things which he spoke pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, the Lectionary omits the verses about the prophecy which Judas fulfilled. The following verses should not have been omitted:

18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
    and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’

The first verse cited, about the desolate camp, comes from Psalm 69:25 and the second from Psalm 109:8.

MacArthur, who wrote his seminary thesis on Judas, explains the Field of Blood and the betrayer’s death:

It’s called the Field of Blood because it was purchased with blood money. You’ve heard of blood money, haven’t you? This is where it all comes from: blood money, Judas money

Evidently Judas tried to hang himself on one of the rocky parapets that surround that field which is somewhere between the flux of the valley of Hinnom and the valley of Kidron. And in that particular field, elevated, there are very rocky areas. And, evidently, he had tried to suspend himself – maybe with a branch over the edge or something – and hang himself. But somehow the rope had snapped, and he had fallen on the rocks below, and burst asunder. What a tragedy. What an unbelievable tragedy …

Henry, who died in the early 18th century, says that bowels in this death were particularly important:

If, when the devil was cast out of a child, he tore him, threw him down, and rent him, and almost killed him (as we find Mark 9:26; Luke 9:42), no wonder if, when he had full possession of Judas, he threw him headlong, and burst him. The suffocation of him, which Matthew relates, would make him swell till he burst, which Peter relates. He burst asunder with a great noise (so Dr. Edwards), which was heard by the neighbours, and so, as it follows, it came to be known (Acts 1:19; Acts 1:19): His bowels gushed out; Luke writes like a physician, understanding all the entrails of the middle and lower ventricle. Bowelling is part of the punishment of traitors. Justly do those bowels gush out that were shut up against the Lord Jesus. And perhaps Christ had an eye to the fate of Judas, when he said of the wicked servant that he would cut him in sunder, Matthew 24:51.

MacArthur gives his verdict on Judas:

I think the attitude toward Judas is a tremendous sense of sorrow, a tremendous sense of awareness that any man who lives in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and walks away from that light brings upon himself damnation upon damnation. To know the truth and walk away from it, to sin willfully means there’s no sacrifice for sin. And of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. Judas: tragedy upon tragedy.

The Scripture, verse 20, Judas fulfilled it. It’s no accident that Judas dropped out, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein.’” In other words, Peter is saying, “It is prophesied by David” – that’s Psalms 69:25 – “that the habitation of Judas would be desolate, that he would be removed, that Judas would be wiped out.” And then in a purer sense, he would really never be replaced.

And then it says, “His bishopric” – or his oversight, his overseeing, his episkopē, which means overseer – “let another take.” And that’s Psalm 109:8. Quotes two Psalms. And this simply means that he would be replaced. Judas’ place removed, somebody else placed in: not to take the place of Judas – nobody could ever do that, that was a place completely just taken away – but a twelfth brought in.

Peter gave his criterion for the replacement. The man had to have been a disciple throughout our Lord’s ministry (verse 21) all the way back to His baptism by John the Baptist through to the Resurrection then the Ascension (verse 22).

They decided on two candidates: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias (verse 23).

Wisely, they prayed for guidance, relying on the Lord’s knowledge of everyone’s heart (verse 24).

They also mentioned Judas, saying that he turned aside ministry and apostleship ‘to go to his own place’ (verse 25).

I read verse 25 closely for first time today and thought, ‘Wow!’

MacArthur would agree:

Verse 25 – ‘that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell,’ – and then this shocking statement – ‘that he might go to his own place.’” Boy, that’s shocking statement.

Hell is the place where people belong who go there. Did you know that? They go there because it’s their own place. Did you know that death doesn’t change anything, it only crystallizes into permanency what you are in life; and by your own choice death becomes the securing of your own place? When Judas went to Hell it wasn’t out of the ordinary, that’s where he belonged; for that’s where he chose to go. He went to his own place – a fearful statement. Every man has a place in eternity that is his own by what he does with Jesus Christ.

They cast lots and the majority voted for Matthias (verse 26).

Oddly, this is the only time that Matthias and Justus are mentioned in the New Testament.

MacArthur says:

You know, it’s not always the shining lights, it’s not always the stars on the horizon that the Lord chooses to do the things He wants done, is it? Sometimes it’s the people you don’t even know that are really moving and doing the job for God. And here are two guys that nobody knows from anybody else. We have no idea who they are. They don’t appear before or after this.

There is much to contemplate here, especially with the missing verses about Judas added.

We do not know much about St Matthias. Some historians say he preached in Ethiopia and died there. Others say he died of old age in Jerusalem. Another group of scholars believe he was martyred in Jerusalem: stoned then beheaded.

Whatever the case, Matthias remains a popular name in France and Germany.

St Matthias is venerated in Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches, each of which has a different feast day for him.

File:Himmelfahrt Christi.jpgThe feast day of the Ascension of the Lord is Thursday, May 13, 2021.

The painting at left is German, Himmelfahrt Christi (The Ascension of Christ), by Mattheis Störbel. It was painted between 1515 and 1519 and is in the Deutsche Museum Nürnberg. This is likely to be the only depiction of the Ascension showing our Lord’s feet alone. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Relevant posts follow, including the readings:

Readings for Ascension Day (same regardless of Lectionary year)

Ascension Day 2016 (John MacArthur on Acts 1-11)

A Reformed view of the Ascension (Christ as prophet, priest and king)

Acts 1:9-11 on the Ascension (addresses errors of preterism)

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Acts 1:1-11

1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning

1:2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

1:3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;

1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Commentary is from John MacArthur.

The first verse should be no mystery, although I hope that celebrants everywhere explain to their congregations that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts, or Acts of the Apostles.

John MacArthur gives us the details:

Luke is the author of Acts. And Luke was closely associated with the apostles from about the time of Jesus’ death, around 30 A.D. to about 60 or 63 A.D. when evidently he penned this book; and in those intervening 30‑plus years, as Luke travelled in the companionship of the apostles, he penned what was going on …

Now, there are many reasons that Luke wanted to write this, and we could, perhaps, pull out as many reasons as there are truths in the book. It’s important, because it gives us the pattern of the church. It’s important, because it shows us the pattern of world evangelism. It’s important, because there are principles of discipleship. It’s important for a multiplicity of reasons. But in Luke’s own mind, as he is writing, he is directing this book to a particular Roman high official whose name we shall see in a moment; and in writing to this man, he is evidently – as one of his purposes – attempting to commend Christianity to the Roman world.

MacArthur tells us about Theophilus:

Now, if you go back to the beginning of Luke and look at chapter 1, verse 3, Luke addresses this gospel to Theophilus. He says, “To write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.” Luke wrote Luke, the gospel of Luke, to Theophilus, and we know that. Now, here in chapter 1 of Acts, verse 1, he says, “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus,” so we know it’s the same writer

Now, picking just a moment, some thoughts from the name Theophilus, which is a combination of two words meaning beloved of God, or friend of God, or lover of God. Theophilus we know little or nothing about except historically. In the second century, his name appears, and is some indication in the second century sources that he was an influential wealthy official in Antioch. There’s also some indication that Luke was originally from Antioch, and therefore Luke had a knowledge of this man; and perhaps because he was a well‑known physician had some connection with Theophilus.

Undoubtedly, Theophilus had become a believer; and consequently Luke had addressed these particular volumes to Theophilus to give him information, as he states in Luke, concerning Jesus Christ that he might well understand the things in which he had been instructed. So evidently he had come to Christ, and now he needed detail; and perhaps Theophilus was a man who demanded detail. Also the fact that he commends Christianity to the Romans would be in back of his mind as he writes to a Roman like Theophilus.

Now, we may also assume from Luke chapter 1, where he calls him “excellent Theophilus,” that he was a high-ranking Roman official, for the term “excellent” also appears in connection with Festus and Felix who were governors. So it is very likely that this man Theophilus was a very high-ranking Roman official who had come to Christ; and it is this one to whom Luke pens this two-volume set on the work of Jesus Christ, His work on earth and His work through His church, Volume 2. And you’ll notice that this is indicated very simply in verse 1. It says this: “I’m writing to you about all that Jesus” – what’s the next word? – “began, began to do and to teach.” In other words, “I only got it started.” Jesus on earth in the gospel accounts only began to do the work.

Luke writes that his first book — the Gospel — was about the ministry of Jesus up to His ascension to heaven, having given Spirit-inspired instructions to the Apostles, whom He had chosen (verse 2).

Readers of the New Testament know that the Apostles, especially Peter, did not understand the purpose of His ministry very well. Jesus knew that He needed to send them the gifts of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they would not be able to expand the Church.

MacArthur explains Luke’s use of ‘taken up to heaven’, repeated in verses 9 and 11:

Verse 9 emphasized it. It say He was taken up, verse 11 says He was taken up, and verse 22 says He was taken up. And the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something: He was taken up. Physically in His glorified body, Jesus went up into heaven.

… the same Jesus Christ in the same glorified body that was touched by those disciples is sitting at the right hand of the Father, no different than He was when He left …

When He comes back He’ll be the very same that He was when He left. That’s why we can have confidence in what the writer of Hebrews says that we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He knows how we feel, because He’s there even now in a glorified body.

After His resurrection, Jesus continued appearing to the Apostles — eleven in number — teaching them about the kingdom of God (verse 3).

Jesus no longer appeared to everyone, as He had done before He was crucified. He appeared only to His disciples.

Luke says that Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait until God fulfilled His promise (verse 4): a baptism not of water, as in John the Baptist’s time, but of the Holy Spirit (verse 5).

That baptism of the Spirit would be a first. MacArthur explains how the Holy Spirit operated through prophets previously:

in the old economy, the Spirit would come and go according to the need. If you’re going to do a special work, the Spirit would come in, and then when the work was done He would depart.

The Old Testament says the Spirit of God descended upon Elijah then the Spirit of God departed. This is how the Spirit of God worked, never indwelling, but just moving in-and-out for a specific purpose. But the promise now is that the Spirit will come and be in you. That’s John 14:17, one of the really key verses in all the Word of God.

Note that when they gathered around Jesus before His return to the Father, the Apostles asked if He was going to restore Israel’s kingdom (verse 6). They were still thinking temporally, not spiritually.

Jesus deflects that by saying that only God the Father knows when He will accomplish His purpose according to His timeline (verse 7).

He then returns to discussing the imminent arrival, ten days hence, of the Holy Spirit which will enable the Apostles to be Christ’s witnesses, not only in the lands nearest to Jerusalem but also ‘to the ends of the earth’ (verse 8).

MacArthur paraphrases that verse:

“Don’t concentrate on when I’m coming; you concentrate on doing the job until I get there.”

He discusses the word ‘witness’ in Greek, from which we get the word ‘martyr’, and applies it to Westerners’ practice of Christianity today:

It’s interesting; the word “witness” here is martures. “Witnesses unto me” is mou martures, “My martyrs, My martyrs.” For some of you maybe it’ll be that. So many Christians died that the word “witness” finally came to mean martyr. So many of them died. Are you willing?

It’s sad; not only are we not willing to die for Jesus, most of us aren’t even willing to live for Him. We haven’t even learned not only what it is to be a dead sacrifice, but we haven’t learned what it is to be a living sacrifice.

Do you know what it is to be a living sacrifice? I think maybe Hosea knew a little bit about it when he said, “I’ll offer God the calves of my lips,” – in other words – “the real me.” I think Abraham knew what it was about when he went to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac would have been a dead sacrifice; Abraham would have been a living one. He was sacrificing all of his dreams, and promises, and everything God had ever given him when he slew that son. But he was willing to do it for God’s sake.

And that’s what a living witness is all about; that’s what a martyr is all about. God doesn’t necessarily want you to die for Him, but He wants you to live for Him as if you couldn’t care less about anything, sacrificing everything you have for His glory: a living witness, a living martyr, a living sacrifice.

As soon as Jesus had spoken about the Apostles’ upcoming mission, He was ‘lifted up’ and a cloud took Him out of their sight (verse 9).

As He ascended — returning home — the Apostles looked upward, when, suddenly, two men in white robes appeared beside them (verse 10).

The two men ask why the Apostles were looking heavenward, then say that Jesus will return to us in the same way that He left (verse 11). What a glorious day that will be.

The rapid growth of the Church was the result of the Holy Spirit entering into the Apostles, then those to whom they preached, not just for a time, but throughout their lives, just as we do:

The early church did it right. They did it from the day of Pentecost for thirty years. And you can follow the church by the blaze of their witness: super-charged with divine power. Witnessing fearlessly to the world, they turned the currents of civilization, they changed the face of the ages for God; and they had no more equipment than you have – none at all.

Admittedly, the Apostles did have particular Spirit-led gifts, such as healing. These were only for the Apostolic Era in order to spread the growth of the Church.

MacArthur’s sermon ends with this:

My grandfather had a poem written in his Bible, and I memorized it; and it goes like this: “When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ and He shows me His plan for me, the plan of my life as it might have been, and I see how I blocked Him here and checked Him there and would not yield my will; will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes, grief though He loves me still? He would have me rich, but I stand there poor, stripped of all but His grace, while memory runs like a haunted thing down a path I can’t retrace. Then my desolate heart will well nigh break with tears I cannot shed. I’ll cover my face with my empty hands, I’ll bow my uncrowned head.” Then this prayer: “O Lord, of the years that are left to me, I give them to Thy hand. Take me, break me, mold me to the pattern that Thou hast planned.”

I don’t know how much time we have, but I know whatever you do for Christ needs to be done today, because Jesus is coming. Christian, do you see it? Chapter 1, verse 1 to 11. You’ve got it all, you’ve got it all. It’s only a question of your will.

There is much for us to contemplate between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday — the Church’s birthday — in ten days’ time.

Below are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 9, 2021.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This is part of the story of the conversion of Cornelius the centurion, who was the first Italian saint. Acts 10 is one of my favourite chapters in the New Testament. Peter has a divine vision. Cornelius has a divine vision. The two men meet, and Cornelius, along with his household, are the first Gentiles to be baptised. You can read all about the visions and encounter here and see Rembrandt’s inspired depiction of Cornelius.

Acts 10:44-48

10:44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.

10:45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,

10:46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,

10:47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

10:48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Psalm

This short, joyful and prophetic Psalm ties in well with the reading above, as verse 9 refers to Gentiles being brought into the Messiah’s kingdom.

Psalm 98

98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.

98:2 The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

98:3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

98:4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

98:5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.

98:6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

98:7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

98:8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy

98:9 at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Epistle

Readings from 1 John continue. There is much to contemplate in these six verses: the light burden of God’s commandments, faith conquering the world (of sin) and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.

1 John 5:1-6

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.

5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

5:3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,

5:4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

5:5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

Gospel

Readings from John’s Gospel continue. This reading picks up from last week’s. Jesus spoke these words at the conclusion of the Last Supper, after He sent Judas away. He wanted to make sure that the Apostles stayed together in faith and love.

John 15:9-17

15:9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

15:11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15:15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

15:16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The Gospel reading is apposite, as Ascension Day is on this coming Thursday. Next Sunday, the one that precedes Pentecost, is traditionally known as Exaudi Sunday, one of sadness and bewilderment for the disciples after Christ ascends to Heaven. They had no idea how powerful the coming of the Holy Spirit would be: how that first Pentecost would change their lives and bring about the birth of the Church.

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