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John F MacArthurIn the UK, polls have showed that Britons, particularly younger ones, have no intention of working.

The latest Government findings came out on January 22, 2023. The BBC reported (emphases mine):

Most of the 2.7 million “inactive” people under 25 are students, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The majority of them don’t want a job.

This was also true in 2021, as CityAM informed us:

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows of the 13m Brits who are not looking for work, over half said they were doing so because they did not want to work.

In 2015, a student posted the following message on The Student Room forum. Granted, she sees the possibility of owning her own small business but only just:

I’m 22 now and it’s slowly dawned on me that I have no intention of working/having a career. I find most work boring and I am simply not inspired by the rat race. I think I want to be a small business owner and a stay at home mother.

It seems with feminism most women just aren’t looking to go down the ‘small job, husband and babies’ route anymore. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to work…at all ?

Maybe a small online store or something and a husband and kids. Nothing more (?)

Anyone else ?

The benefits balloon stretches back at least to 2013, possibly earlier. On April 24 that year, the Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, the then-Secretary of State for Welfare and Pensions said:

Around 1 million people have been stuck on a working-age benefit for at least three out of the past four years, despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work.

Ten years on, The Spectator reports that real figures show that five million Britons are receiving out-of-work benefits. Their figures have been disputed, but in November 2022, the magazine’s editor Fraser Nelson explained how the data were put together. For now, this is the message:

How can 20 per cent of people in our great cities be on benefits at a time of mass migration and record vacancies? It’s perhaps the most important question in politics right now, but it’s not being given any scrutiny because the real figures lie behind a fog of data

Every month, an official unemployment figure is put out on a press release – and news organisations are primed to cover it. It’s normally about 1.2 million looking for work: the problem, of course, is so few Brits are actually doing so

The true benefits figure is not to be found on a press release, but buried in a password-protected DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] database with a six-month time lag …

The five million figure ‘seems to be incorrect,’ Full Fact said in their email to us. ‘According to the most recent statistics, there are around 1.5 million people claiming out-of-work benefits.’ But the real figure is more than three times higher – but rather than reply to them, I thought I’d write this blog for anyone interested …

DWP data is now on Stat-Xplore, a versatile open data tool. The password bit is deceptive: you can bypass by clicking ‘Guest log in’ to find an Aladdin’s Cave of data. Look at the dataset ‘Benefit Combinations – Data from February 2019‘. Click Table 5, then click ‘Open table’ to get the numbers …

Nelson has posted graphs and a map to illustrate his figure of five million.

He concludes:

To fail to match up 1.2 million vacancies with at least some of those on out-of-work benefits is not just an economic failure but a moral one. But to solve a problem, you need to recognise a problem. Officially counting all five million people on out-of-work benefits would be a good way to start.

Living a life of idleness, however, is nothing new.

St Paul grappled with the same problem two millennia ago when he planted a church in Thessalonika (present day Saloniki).

The following passage, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, is one example of his command to work:

Warning Against Idleness

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.[d]

John MacArthur explains why we must work in ‘Work: A Noble Christian Duty, Part 3’, from July 19, 1992.

There were reasons why some in the congregation were not prepared to work:

As we have said in the past … they perhaps have been influenced by some of the Jewish background of the scribes who thought that anything other than studying the law was an unworthy way to spend your life They surely were affected by the general Greek attitude that work was demeaning and sordid and base and low and belonged only to slaves and not to freemen

And they probably had had those predispositions somewhat exaggerated by virtue of the fact that someone had come along and told them that they were already in the day of the Lord and the return of Christ was imminent and there probably wasn’t much use in doing anything other than evangelizing and studying the Word of God.  And so they had given themselves to that happily because of their disdain for work anyway.  Problem was, at least long term, if you can call several months long term for the Thessalonians in that Paul had dealt with it when he was there.  Several months later, when he wrote them the first letter, he dealt with it, and here he is writing a second letter and dealing with it a third time.  They didn’t want to work.  It was beneath them. 

Homer, the famous Greek writer, had said that the gods hated man.  And the way they demonstrated their hatred was to invent work and punish men by making them work This kind of philosophy being existent in that time, it found its way into the lives of those people and thus, when they became converted, it found its way into the church.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t change everything immediately.  We will always have residuals of our past, and we will always to one degree or another be affected by our culture.  And so here in this church in which so many good things had happened, a genuine conversion, a genuine godliness, they were not slack in spiritual service, they had a work of faith and a labor of love, and they did it with patience and endurance because they hoped in the return of Christ.  They worked hard at ministry, but they didn’t want to do the jobs that they had to do in the world, at least some of them

And so Paul was dealing with a church that had its spiritual life on target and was doing well, excelling spiritually, but they had this one problem that dominates the church in terms of its conduct, and that was that there were people there who didn’t work.  They then became a burden on everybody else, and it wasn’t that they couldn’t work, it wasn’t that they had a physical disability, it wasn’t that there wasn’t a job available, they refused to work, seeing it as beneath them or not a priority for those engaged in kingdom enterprises. 

MacArthur cites American statistics on work from 1980 to 1991:

I suppose 25 years ago, a situation like this would have struggled to be relevant in our time then because America was a hard-working country 25 years ago In fact, the American work ethic has always been hailed as sort of the supreme work ethic of the industrialized world.  We have always sort of set the pace for productivity and enterprise – up until more recent years, that is.  Last year, Charles Colson and Jack Eckerd, who heads the Eckerd Company, which operates drug stores in other parts of America, they wrote a book and the title of their book is Why America Doesn’t Work.  Now, that’s really a new thought, a new concept for our culture, for our society.  The subtitle is, “How the decline of the work ethic is hurting your family and future.”  The future of America is changing dramatically.  There are other nations that are putting us to shame in terms of work habits and a work ethic. 

In their book, they point out that we have in America declining rates of productivity, the loss of competitive position in some world markets, and workers who aren’t working And they concluded it is a bleak picture.  And I suppose they ask the right question, the question we would all ask at that point:  What has happened to the industry and productivity that made this country the marvel of the world at one time? …

We have an ethical malaise all the way from the jet set corporate leaders down to the person working at the bench.  The whole concept of work has so dramatically changed, it no longer has a transcendent motive.  There’s no longer something beyond me to make me perform at a certain level.  Thus, the meaning of work has been sapped from everybody from the top to the bottom, to some degreeObviously, some people still work harder than others. 

A 1980 Gallup Poll conducted for the Chamber of Commerce found that people still believed in work-ethic values, 1980, they still believed.  That’s over ten years ago.  Eighty-eight percent said working hard and doing their best on the job was personally important.  But were they doing it?  They said they believed it, it was still sort of in the air in 1980, but were people working hard?  1982 survey came along.  In that survey, it was reported that only 16 percent said they were doing the best job they could at work.  Eighty-four percent admitted they weren’t working hard – 84 percent.  So you can see they were still holding on to a residual ethic that didn’t translate into how they functioned, which meant that it was somebody else’s transcendent value, somebody else’s ethical value imposed on them externally but not truly believed. 

Working hard, they said, was important but they weren’t doing it, so how important was it?  Eighty-four percent also said they would work harder if they could gain something from it.  And now you can see that the ethic is not transcendent, the ethic is utilitarian.  It’s all tied in to what I get out of it, what’s in it for me.  And that’s part of the cynicism of our society.  That’s part of the direct consequence of the 60s’ moral revolution, which is a rejection of transcendent values. 

God is not an issue in anything.  He is not an issue in the way I conduct my sexual life, He is not an issue in my marriage, He is not an issue at my job, He is not an issue in education, He is not an issue anywhere.  God is not an issue; therefore, there is no value beyond myself.  So whatever is enough to get me what I want is enough.  It is a kind of societal economic atheism In fact, psychologist Robert Bellah calls it radical individualism Surveying 200 middle-class Americans, this UCLA professor discovered that people seek personal advancement from work, personal development from marriage, and personal fulfillment from church.  Everything, he says, their perspective on family, church, community, and work is utilitarian.  It is measured by what they can get out of it, and concern for others is only secondary. 

Down to specifics, James Sheehy, an executive with a computer firm in the upper echelons of the work strata, saw first-hand how this kind of utilitarian value was affecting work He wanted a better understanding of the expectations and psyche of younger employees.  Looking at what the future held, what kind of people were going to come up in this generation to work in his company?  What would they be like?  So he decided the best way to find out was to spend his vacation taking a job in a fast-food restaurant He wrote most of his coworkers were from upper income families, they didn’t need to work but they wanted extra spending money.  He watched and listened as his coworkers displayed poor work habits and contempt for customers.  His conclusion was, “We have a new generation of workers whose habits and experiences will plague future employers for years.” 

He writes, “Along with their get-away-with-what-you-can attitude and indifference to the quality of performance, their basic work ethic was dominated by a type of gamesmanship that revolved around taking out of the system or milking the place dry.  Theft, skimming, and baiting management were rampant and skill levels surprisingly low.  The workers saw long hours and hard work as counter-productive.  ‘You only put in time for the big score,’ one said.”  After recounting his experience, Sheehy concluded, “Get ready, America.  There’s more of this to come from the workforce of tomorrow.” 

Doesn’t sound too good if you happen to be an employer, does it?  A recent Harris Poll showed 63 percent of workers believe people don’t work as hard as they used to.  Seventy-eight percent say workers take less pride in their work.  Sixty-nine percent think the workmanship they produce is inferior, and 73 percent believe workers are less motivated and that the whole trend is worsening and the numbers are going up

Imagine. If people felt that way in the 1980s, and it is probable that Britons also did at the time, we are now into a second generation of people who don’t care about work, with a third generation on the way.

MacArthur says:

The more and more people demand recreation and idle time, the more corrupt they will become.  The two go hand-in-hand.  An escalating pornographic, sinful, wicked culture is sped on, the slide is greased, by a shrinking commitment to work.  And we fill up all that time with things that feed the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. 

He lays out why work is a God-given command:

Now, our society may not have a choice but they have to accept this, but as Christians, we can’t accept this.  The Christian faith does not accept a utilitarian work ethic.  The Christian view of work is transcendent.  That is, it escapes me and my world and directs its attention toward God

First, work is a command from God.  Six days shall you labor.  God commands us to work.  Secondly, work is a model established by God for it was God who worked for six days and then rested on the seventh, and God, of course, is the worker who continually sustains the universe Man, being created in the image of God, then, is created as a worker.  Thirdly, work is a part of the creation mandate.  In other words, what I mean by that is it is the role of man.  Stars shine, suns shine, moons shine, on the earth plants grow, animals do what they’re supposed to do, rocks do what they’re to do, mountains do what they’re to do, water does what it’s to do, clouds do what they’re to do, and we do what we’re to do.  As Psalm 104 says, all of creation moves in a normal course and part of it is man rises, goes to work until the setting of the sun.  It is creation mandate.  It is how we contribute to the processes of life in God’s wondrous creation. 

Work is a command.  Work is established as a model by God.  Work is part of the natural creation.  Fourthly, work is a gift from God.  It is a gift from God.  It is a gift through which we glorify Him and the wonder of His creation as we produce things, putting on display the genius of God who created us, in all of our abilities.  It is a means by which we can glorify our Creator.  Just as the beast of the field gives me honor, as Isaiah said, and just as the heavens declare the glory of God by what they do, and we sit in awe of them, so man declares the glory of God, the wonder of His creative genius by doing what he has been given the ability to do.  Work is a gift from God, not only to glorify Him but to give meaning to life.  Work is a gift from God to give us something to do, which avoids the idleness that leads to sin

Work is a gift from God also to provide for needs.  Work is a gift from God so that we can serve each other.  And lastly, in the Christian work ethic, work is to be done as if the boss was the Lord Himself.  It says in Colossians chapter 3 and Ephesians 6 that we’re to work as unto the Lord and not men. 

So the Christian faith does not sanctify the kind of attitude we’re seeing in our own country toward work.  In fact, as I said, 25 years ago, this message may have seemed a bit obscure when America was working productively.  Now it seems to be rather on target for we are suffering today with some of the things that Paul faced in the Thessalonian church But as Christians, we have to establish the standard

I often watch BBC Parliament, not because I love MPs or the Lords, but in order to gain a better insight in to what they are doing to us, the British people.

The number of Opposition — Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP — MPs who complain that the Conservative government isn’t giving enough handouts, when clearly it is, as we can see from the aforementioned statistics, is mind-numbing.

Moving to MacArthur’s and his congregation’s personal experience, and still tied in to that, this is what happens when work is suggested:

It is an aberrant unbeliever that doesn’t work.  The tragedy of those people, the real tragedy, is that they are so deep in sin and so deep particularly in the sin of drunkenness and irresponsibility and immorality that they have put themselves in the position they’re in And I again say I’m not talking about people who are genuinely in despair, and I’ve seen those people all around the world.  But there is a mass of people who shouldn’t eat because they will not work. 

We see them here at the church They come by and they want money and they want food and we suggest work and they leave.  I was told today by one of the gentlemen in our church, serves with the police department, that they will hold a sign – they’ve tracked them – they will hold a sign, “I need work, homeless, need work,” and recently in one of the shopping centers just a couple of days ago they were tracking to find out what was going on None of them got jobs but they were averaging $15.00 an hour in donations One policeman told me he went by and offered a lady a sandwich purchased at a fast food place and she said, “What’s this?” and he said, “Well, it says ‘homeless and hungry,’ so I’m just giving you this to eat.”  She put it in a bag and he said to her, “Well, aren’t you hungry?”  She said, “I’ll eat it when I get home.” 

So you need to be careful about that.  Sometimes the car is parked around the block and the stash is growing in the back of the car.  Just have to be careful because there are people who don’t work because they won’t work, not because they can’t work.  And if you don’t work and won’t work, then you don’t eat, that’s what the Bible says.  There needs to be an opportunity for you to earn your own food and you need to take that opportunity, and again I want to say this:  It may be that in some cultures there is not enough work to go around and that a person couldn’t do enough work to really make the whole living, then in generosity and charity and love, we make up the lack, but we don’t feed the indolence

Even our blessed Jesus encountered a crowd of this type. After He had fed the Five Thousand, they returned the next day for another miraculous meal. They became angry when He refused them and said that He was the bread of life, which is infintely more important, then and now. John 6 has the story.

MacArthur interprets the episode:

Jesus, you remember, in John chapter 6, fed the multitude and it was a large crowd.  We talk about feeding the 5,000 but it says 5,000 men, so wherever there are 5,000 men, there have to be 5,000 women, at least, and throw in a few thousand mother-in-laws and grandmas, sisters and aunts, and throw in 15,000 kids, at least, and you’ve got a crowd somewhere between 20 and 50 thousand It could have been a massive crowd and Jesus fed them all.  You remember He had those five little cakes, five loaves, they’re actually little barley cakes, and two pickled fish and He just created food.  And I’ll promise you, it was the best lunch they’d ever had because it bypassed the world …

Now, do you realize when He said no to breakfast, I really believe that their anger was turned on Him because in an agrarian society like that, they had to work with the sweat of their brow to produce their own food They didn’t go down to some market and flip out food stamps or a check or a credit card or whatever it is, they didn’t go to a fast food restaurant.  If they didn’t work that day, they didn’t have the food to eat.  And not only a matter of preparation, but a matter of provision.  And so when Jesus – when they saw Jesus make food, they thought they had just found the Messiah who would bring the ultimate and eternal welfare state.  “We don’t even need food stamps, just show up and He passes it out.  And you don’t even have to get in line to collect it, they serve it.”  And when time for breakfast came, they were there and he left, and I think their anger and hostility turned on Him because they knew then what He could do but He refused to do it He could have done it for us as well, but He knows the value and the benefit and the purpose of work.

Concluding on Paul’s message to the Thessalonians, MacArthur says:

So here were these Thessalonians and they wouldn’t work.  And so he says if they don’t work, don’t let them eat.  That will help them get the message.  That’s survival. 

In our world, able-bodied people, believers or not, should be made to feel guilty for depending on the taxpayer for their daily bread. As The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson said above, it is a moral issue.

Whether we like it or not, work is the order of the day. We must provide for ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

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The Second Sunday after Epiphany is January 15, 2023.

Readings for Year A can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 1:29-42

1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

1:30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’

1:31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

1:32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.

1:33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

1:34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

1:35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,

1:36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

1:37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

1:38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

1:39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

1:41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).

1:42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The events in today’s reading took place after the Baptism of the Lord, the reading from Matthew 3:13-17 that we had last week.

John the Baptist referred to this in verses 32 and 33, stating that the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) rested upon Jesus after He was baptised, after which came a voice from Heaven (Matthew 3:16-17):

3:16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

After His baptism Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, during which time He was tempted by the devil. Then He returned twice to see John.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

As soon as ever Christ was baptized he was immediately hurried into the wilderness, to be tempted; and there he was forty days. During his absence John had continued to bear testimony to him, and to tell the people of him; but now at last he sees Jesus coming to him, returning from the wilderness of temptation. As soon as that conflict was over Christ immediately returned to John, who was preaching and baptizing Now here are two testimonies borne by John to Christ, but those two agree in one.

Henry explains that Jesus was tempted for our sakes:

Now Christ was tempted for example and encouragement to us; and this teaches us, 1. That the hardships of a tempted state should engage us to keep close to ordinances; to go into the sanctuary of God, Ps 73 17. Our combats with Satan should oblige us to keep close to the communion of saints: two are better than one. 2. That the honours of a victorious state must not set us above ordinances. Christ had triumphed over Satan, and been attended by angels, and yet, after all, he returns to the place where John was preaching and baptizing. As long as we are on this side heaven, whatever extraordinary visits of divine grace we may have here at any time, we must still keep close to the ordinary means of grace and comfort, and walk with God in them.

In the preceding passage — John 1:19-28 — John the Baptist told the Jewish leaders that he is not the Messiah. These are the final verses from that section:

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with[e] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

That Bethany, incidentally, is not the town where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived but another place, a desolate one, by the same name.

John MacArthur says:

Not the Bethany on the eastside of Jerusalem there, but another Bethany. We don’t know where exactly it was; out beyond the Jordan River into the wilderness.

By the end of John 1, John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as Messiah three times, as MacArthur explains:

On day one he says, “He is here.” On day two he says, “Look at Him.” And on day three he says, “Follow Him.” And that would be the message that any preacher would give regarding Christ. He is here, look at Him, see the revelation of who He is and follow Him. And that’s the nature of John’s ministry. So that gives you the overview—three days, three messages.

And interestingly enough, the three messages are given to three groups. On day one it is a hostile delegation from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leading religious council. On day two it is the mass of people that are there. And on day three it is some of John’s own disciples. So three days, three messages to three different groups.

The day after the Sanhedrin questioned John the Baptist, he proclaimed of Jesus, who was approaching him, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ (verse 29).

MacArthur tells us that a public proclamation of the Messiah as ‘the Lamb of God’ would have shocked some in the crowd. Surely, their Messiah would not be a sacrificial Lamb but a powerful king:

That’s not what they expected to hear. Why would the Messiah be a Lamb? Why would…at best, a lamb is impotent, weak, helpless, stupid, dependent, even dirty.

What do you mean the Messiah’s a Lamb? This is shocking, shocking. They would have expected him to say, “Behold your King. Behold the triumphant One. Behold the majestic One. Behold the exalted One. Behold the Ruler. Behold the Anointed One.” But he says, “Behold the lamb of God.” At best, as I said, a lamb is impotent and weak. At worst, a lamb is dead. And lambs were sacrificed all the time. All through the centuries Israel knew about a sacrificial lamb—going all the way back to Abraham and Isaac and God providing a sacrifice for Abraham so he didn’t have to kill his own son. And then back to the Exodus and the Passover Lamb and every Passover after that, and every morning and every evening, there was a morning sacrifice, an evening sacrifice, and lambs were slain as sin offerings over and over and over and over, day after day after day, century after century after century. And they also knew, Isaiah 53, that He was led as a lamb to slaughter. The One who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and the One upon whom the chastening for our peace fell. They knew all of that. They knew about sacrifice. But they didn’t know how it fit because they never saw themselves as a people needing a sacrifice.

In other words, they assumed that the combination of their righteousness and their obedience in offering an animal was enough. But those animals couldn’t take away sin; they could only point to the one sacrifice that would take away sin, that had not yet come until Christ. And because they didn’t recognize their sinfulness, they didn’t recognize they were under judgment, under wrath, needed a sacrifice, and that their Messiah was to be that sacrifice that Isaiah 53 was talking about—their Messiah—they had no concept they needed or that the Messiah would be a lamb. And so Johns says, “Behold the Lamb of God”—the lamb that God has chosen to be the sacrifice.

Every family chose its lamb. Every father chose a lamb. This is the lamb that God has chosen. He’s come to deal with sin at last, to be wounded for our transgressions. He became sin for us who knew no sin. He offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. He bore our sins in His own body. God made Him who knew no sin, sin for us. All those New Testament explanations. The Jews wanted a prophet. The Jews wanted a king. They got a lamb. They wanted a leader; they wanted a monarch. They got a substitute. They wanted an exalted messiah. They received rather a humiliated sacrifice. They wanted one who could kill all their enemies, and they got One whom their enemies killed. But then again, they could never have a king until they had a lamb. And that’s the two comings. There could never be a coming in glory to reign until there’s a coming in humiliation to die.

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What that means is that for the whole world there is only one who can take away sin. For the whole world, there’s only one who can take away sin, and that’s this One who will die as the sacrificial lamb God accepts.

John the Baptist says that Jesus is the man of whom he said ranks ahead of him because He was there before him (verse 30).

Henry points out the word used for ‘man’ in that verse:

John calls Christ a man; after me comes a man—aner, a strong man: like the man, the branch, or the man of God’s right hand.

MacArthur says:

John then adds what he said back in verses 15 and 27, “This is He on behalf of whom I said, after me comes a man who’s higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” And again he says, “Get your attention off me. He came after me in terms of beginning His ministry, but He existed before me. He was born after I was born, and yet He existed before me. Get your eyes on this eternal One. Get your eyes on this exalted One who is of higher rank than I am, the One you don’t know.”

John the Baptist said that he did not know Jesus personally but that he baptised with water so that Jesus might be revealed to Israel (verse 31).

Last week, I quoted MacArthur surmising that the two cousins — John the Baptist and Jesus — might have met once or twice when they were toddlers and perhaps played together during those encounters. Here, John the Gospel writer records John the Baptist as saying he never met Jesus.

In this sermon, MacArthur says that John the Baptist might have known Jesus but would not have recognised Him as the Messiah in their childhood:

You say, “Well weren’t Elizabeth and Mary related?” They were. Elizabeth and Mary were related. “Didn’t Elizabeth and Mary talk?” Sure. Mary knew that she had conceived Jesus as the Son of God without a father, humanly speaking. Elizabeth knew of the miracle of her birth. They were together when both of them were pregnant. They knew; didn’t they talk about that through the years? Wouldn’t have those women told their sons that they were who they were? And wouldn’t John know that Jesus was the Son of God?

Well, the answer is, “Yeah, he would know that because his mother would have told him, and Mary may have told him. And it certainly was known in the family” …

So here John is just admitting that I didn’t recognize Him in the full sense; oida is the Greek verb. I didn’t recognize Him in the full, deep sense. But so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water … Up to that point he’s saying, “I knew Him, but there was no way for me to be certain that this is the Messiah, which by the way, is a footnote, is a clear declaration that Jesus’ humanity was real humanity. There was nothing about seeing the man Jesus that would tell you He was a heavenly person. I didn’t recognize Him. “But He who sent me to baptize in water,” that’s God, “said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’”

Henry says that the two not knowing each other would have worked perfectly for John the Baptist’s prophecy. It was proof that there was no collusion between the two:

He protests against any confederacy or combination with this Jesus: And I knew him not. Though there was some relation between them (Elisabeth was cousin to the virgin Mary), yet there was no acquaintance at all between them; John had no personal knowledge of Jesus till he saw him come to his baptism … There was no correspondence, no interview between them, that the matter might appear to be wholly carried on by the direction and disposal of Heaven, and not by any design or concert of the persons themselves. And as he hereby disowns all collusion, so also all partiality and sinister regard in it; he could not be supposed to favour him as a friend, for there was no friendship or familiarity between them.

As I explained above, John the Baptist testified that the Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus after His baptism (verse 32), signifying that He would baptise in the Holy Spirit Himself (verse 33) and that Jesus is the Son of God (verse 34).

MacArthur sums up those verses as follows:

So on day two we could say this: John says to the crowd, “Look at Him, the Lamb of God who is the Son of God.” That’s John’s ministry. The Lamb of God who is the Son of God. He knows it. He’s heard the voice from heaven of the Father. He’s seen the Spirit coming down and again, as I said, later on he had some doubts, but they were affirmed with the testimony coming back from his disciples when they asked. “Now I know John’s testimony, this is the Son of God.” So you have the finest, the most believable, credible, trustworthy voice in Israel affirming that this is the Lamb of God who is the Son of God.

John tells us that, the next day — the third time Jesus appeared — John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples (verse 35) and exclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God (verse 36). Upon hearing that, the two disciples followed Jesus (verse 37).

This was a private exchange between John the Baptist and his two disciples.

Henry says that John the Baptist was willing — and wanted — to let two of his own followers go to follow Jesus. John the Baptist was also consistent in his message, as God’s ministers for Christ should be:

1. He took every opportunity that offered itself to lead people to Christ: John stood looking upon Jesus as he walked. It should seem, John was now retired from the multitude, and was in close conversation with two of his disciples. Note, Ministers should not only in their public preaching, but in their private converse, witness to Christ, and serve his interests. He saw Jesus walking at some distance, yet did not go to him himself, because he would shun every thing that might give the least colour to suspect a combination. He was looking upon Jesusemblepsas; he looked stedfastly, and fixed his eyes upon him. Those that would lead others to Christ must be diligent and frequent in the contemplation of him themselves. John had seen Christ before, but now looked upon him, 1 John 1 1. 2. He repeated the same testimony which he had given to Christ the day before, though he could have delivered some other great truth concerning him; but thus he would show that he was uniform and constant in his testimony, and consistent with himself. His doctrine was the same in private that it was in public, as Paul’s was, Acts 20 20, 21. It is good to have that repeated which we have heard, Phil 3 1. The doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice for the taking away of the sin of the world ought especially to be insisted upon by all good ministers: Christ, the Lamb of God, Christ and him crucified. 3. He intended this especially for his two disciples that stood with him; he was willing to turn them over to Christ, for to this end he bore witness to Christ in their hearing that they might leave all to follow him, even that they might leave him. He did not reckon that he lost those disciples who went over from him to Christ, any more than the schoolmaster reckons that scholar lost whom he sends to the university. John gathered disciples, not for himself, but for Christ to prepare them for the Lord, Luke 1 17. So far was he from being jealous of Christ’s growing interest, that there was nothing he was more desirous of. Humble generous souls will give others their due praise without fear of diminishing themselves by it. What we have of reputation, as well as of other things, will not be the less for our giving every body his own.

So, who were the two disciples from verse 37 who followed Jesus?

Henry says Andrew, based on verses 40 and 41, and says the unidentified disciple could have been John the Gospel writer or Thomas:

Andrew and another with him were the two that John Baptist had directed to Christ, v. 37. Who the other was we are not told; some think that it was Thomas, comparing ch. 21 2; others that it was John himself, the penman of this gospel, whose manner it is industriously to conceal his name, ch. 13 23, and 20 3.

MacArthur is certain that John is the unidentified follower, because he never referred to himself by name. Later on in his Gospel, he wrote of himself as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’:

According to verse 40, one of them is Andrew; one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus was Andrew. Who’s the other one? Well, the writer of the gospel of John is always reluctant to name one of them. Who is it? Himself.

Jesus sensed they were following Him, so He turned and asked them what they were seeking; they responded, addressing him as Rabbi — teacher — and asking Him where He was staying (verse 38).

Henry says they asked that because they did not wish to impose on our Lord’s time, although they did intend to follow Him. He also explains the root of ‘rabbi’:

Their modest enquiry concerning the place of his abode: Rabbi, where dwellest thou? (1.) In calling him Rabbi, they intimated that their design in coming to him was to be taught by him; rabbi signifies a master, a teaching master; the Jews called their doctors, or learned men, rabbies. The word comes from rab, multus or magnus, a rabbi, a great man, and one that, as we say, has much in him. Never was there such a rabbi as our Lord Jesus, such a great one, in whom were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. These came to Christ to be his scholars, so must all those that apply themselves to him. John had told them that he was the Lamb of God; now this Lamb is worthy to take the book and open the seals as a rabbi, Rev 5 9. And, unless we give up ourselves to be ruled and taught by him, he will not take away our sins. (2.) In asking where he dwelt, they intimate a desire to be better acquainted with him. Christ was a stranger in this country, so that they meant where was his inn where he lodged; for there they would attend him at some seasonable time, when he should appoint, to receive instruction from him; they would not press rudely upon him, when it was not proper. Civility and good manners well become those who follow Christ. And, besides, they hoped to have more from him than they could have in a short conference now by the way. They resolved to make a business, not a by-business of conversing with Christ. Those that have had some communion with Christ cannot but desire, [1.] A further communion with him; they follow on to know more of him. [2.] A fixed communion with him; where they may sit down at his feet, and abide by his instructions. It is not enough to take a turn with Christ now and then, but we must lodge with him.

MacArthur picks up on our Lord’s response to the two men:

“How do You know me?” Which is to say, “I don’t know You.” And in that little, small area of Galilee, thirty years Jesus has lived there and they don’t even know who He is, which speaks to the fact that He had done nothing to draw attention to Himself. And He begins now to gather His followers, and John the Baptist fades out of the picture now and makes one small appearance in chapter 3. But now the story turns to Christ and He takes center stage.

He invited the two men, saying ‘Come and see’; they followed and stayed with him that day, by which time it was four o’clock in the afternoon (verse 39).

MacArthur says that they probably stayed the night with Jesus:

So they came and saw where He was staying. We don’t know where that was, out in the desert somewhere, no doubt a humble place where Jesus was staying with some persons who had provided for Him a room or a bed. We know nothing more than that. “And they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” By Jewish reckoning, which begins at 6:00 a.m., that would be four o’clock in the afternoon when they finally go to where Jesus is. So they’re going to stay with Him, stay the day, stay the night. I can imagine if I started a conversation with the Son of God, sleep would be the last thing on my agenda. This must have gone through the night.

One of the two men who immediately followed was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother (verse 40).

MacArthur says that by the time John wrote his Gospel, Peter was well known, more so than his brother:

Verse 40 simply notes that the two of them who had heard John the Baptist speak and followed him, one of them was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew will become known as “Simon Peter’s brother” because Simon Peter is casting a big shadow. And by the time John writes his gospel, which would have been in the nineties, at the end of the first century, Peter would have been well-known and there wasn’t a lot about Andrew. So Andrew would have had to spend his whole life being Simon Peter’s brother. That would be the way he would be introduced.

And yet:

if priority matters, Andrew is the first disciple called. He’s the first disciple called and you have the account of it here. Well, Andrew is called over that night to conviction that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. So he finds, first of all, his own brother Simon, which meant that he must have been around, which meant that he may have been a follower of John the Baptist as well, because, remember, they’re not in Galilee where they live, they’re down in the south, across the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem.

Andrew first found his brother Simon and told him that he and John had found the Messiah, the Anointed (verse 40).

MacArthur explains the importance of the verse:

He finds Simon and he says to him, “We have found the Messiah.” Now that [Messiah] matters a lot to John, which translated into the Greek is “Christ.” “Messiah” is a Hebrew word; “Christ” is a Greek word. It means “the Anointed One.” But this is…John’s point here; here is a first-person, eyewitness account by objective evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. Here is a reliable first-person testimony. “We have found the Messiah.” No equivocation, no hesitation, no doubt, absolute certainty–“We have found the Messiah.” The objective test of scrutiny, examining Jesus, asking Him questions, talking with Him the rest of the day through the night, and this is a joyful proclamation, joy beyond joy–“We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus, Simon Peter. He brought him to Jesus.

That’s how the kingdom advances, isn’t it? One bringing another. And so here comes Andrew dragging Peter to Jesus.

Andrew brought Simon to Jesus who identified him as Simon son of John — or Jona — and stated that he would be called Cephas (pron. ‘KEFF-us’), meaning stone and Peter, the Greek word for stone being petros (verse 41).

We see elsewhere in the New Testament — e.g. Acts and Paul’s letters — where Peter is simply called Cephas with no reference to Simon or Peter.

Henry gives us this analysis of the three names and the honour Jesus did Simon by calling him Cephas:

Observe,

(1.) Christ called him by his name: When Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona. It should seem that Peter was utterly a stranger to Christ, and if so, [1.] It was a proof of Christ’s omniscience that upon the first sight, without any enquiry, he could tell the name both of him and of his father. The Lord knows them that are his, and their whole case. However, [2.] It was an instance of his condescending grace and favour, that he did thus freely and affably call him by his name, though he was of mean extraction, and vir mullius nominis—a man of no name. It was an instance of God’s favour to Moses that he knew him by name, Exod 33 17. Some observe the signification of these names: Simonobedient, Jonaa dove. An obedient dove-like spirit qualifies us to be the disciples of Christ.

(2.) He gave him a new name: Cephas. [1.] His giving him a name intimates Christ’s favour to him. A new name denotes some great dignity, Rev 2 17; Isa 62 2. By this Christ not only wiped off the reproach of his mean and obscure parentage, but adopted him into his family as one of his own. [2.] The name which he gave him bespeaks his fidelity to Christ: Thou shalt be called Cephas (that is Hebrew for a stone), which is by interpretation Peter; so it should be rendered, as Acts 9 36. Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; the former Hebrew, the latter Greek, for a young roe. Peter’s natural temper was stiff, and hardy, and resolute, which I take to be the principal reason why Christ called him Cephas—a stone. When Christ afterwards prayed for him, that his faith might not fail, that so he might be firm to Christ himself, and at the same time bade him strengthen his brethren, and lay out himself for the support of others, then he made him what he here called him, Cephas—a stone. Those that come to Christ must come with a fixed resolution to be firm and constant to him, like a stone, solid and stedfast; and it is by his grace that they are so. His saying, Be thou steady, makes them so.

Henry reminds us that our Lord also gave other Apostles names, honours all but without singular significance:

Now this does no more prove that Peter was the singular or only rock upon which the church is built than the calling of James and John Boanerges proves them the only sons of thunder, or the calling of Joses Barnabas proves him the only son of consolation.

However, MacArthur disagrees and thinks that Jesus singled out Peter for a special place in the Church from that moment:

Jesus looked at Peter and said, “You are Simon son of John,” or Jonah, or Jonas–a lot of ways to transliterate that–“you’re Simon, son of John.” That must have caused Peter a little bit of shock. There’s no indication that He was told that, but then He knows everything. He knows who he is. More than that, He knows who he will become. He says, “you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).” “Cephas” is the Aramaic word, which was the common language they spoke. “Peter” is the Greek form of the word stone, or rock. And our Lord is predicting what Peter will become. It’s going to be a tough journey getting him there, but he will become a rock. He will become a rock. Matthew 16, Jesus looks at him and says, “You are Peter,” you are the stone. But on an even greater rock, the rock of your confession, I’ll build My church. Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God–“on that rock bed [that petra] I will build My kingdom.” But you’re a petros, you’re a stone. In fact, you’re one of the foundation stones Ephesians 2:20 talks about, of the church. The Lord says, “I not only know you, but prophetically I know what you’re going to become. You’re going to be a rock. You’re going to be solid. And he was from the day that the Spirit of God came upon him, and he stood up on the dais, if you will, on the Day of Pentecost and preached Jesus Christ and preached again. And preached through the first twelve chapters of the book of Acts in the foundation years of the church. He was the rock who proclaimed the truth on which the church was built. So Jesus must have startled Peter by knowing who he was and being able to prophesy what he would become.

In closing, sometimes unbelievers say that if Jesus really is the Son of God, the religious establishment would have fully accepted Him. However, unbelievers do not understand the point of our Lord’s ministry.

Continuing on in John 1, MacArthur points out that Jesus opposed the false religious system of the Jewish hierarchy and chose men who understood His message. They were humble nobodies. This was part of God’s plan:

True Israelites, true Jews, believing Jews knew they were sinners. John’s ministry was a ministry of repentance. His baptism was a baptism of repentance. Now remember, he is confronting a nation of self-righteous people who don’t think they need to repent and don’t think they need a Savior. That would be the dominant view. That was the view of the religious establishment. They were not looking for a lamb, or a sacrifice, or a savior, they were looking for a king. They felt they had already achieved status and acceptance with God by their religiosity and their morality. But John’s message was, you are no better than Gentiles. You are outside a relationship with God, you need to repent and you need to be baptized as an outward expression of the desire for an inward cleansing, like a Gentile who is becoming associated with Jewish religion. In other words, you’re outsiders, you need to repent or the wrath of God is going to fall on you. John preached wrath and he preached repentance, and then he pointed to Christ and said, “This is the Lamb and the sacrifice for your sins.” True Jews understood that. They knew they were sinners. They knew they needed to repent and they knew they needed a sacrifice for their sin. And perhaps these men, this small group of fishermen, even understood the full impact of Isaiah 53. There was coming one who would be wounded for their transgressions, crushed for their iniquities. They would have understood the sacrificial system pointing toward a full and final sacrifice. And when John said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” that may not have registered with the populace, but it registered with those who had a true understanding of the Old Testament and a true admission of their own spiritual and sinful condition.

So here in this section, verses 38 to 51, we meet a little group of Jews who were believers in the Old Testament and had a true interpretation of the Old Testament that had truly changed their lives, represented by the words of our Lord, “Behold”–that’s a shocking realization–“a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit”–a real believer. So here is a little group of believers … –Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael–and John is also originally with Andrew in this. You can add James. You can throw in Thomas. And you have seven Galilean fishermen, seven Galilean fishermen who give testimony ultimately, although Thomas took him a long time till he finally said, “My Lord and my God.” They start out to be the core of the…of the disciples of Jesus, who then become the apostles of Christ, the first great preachers and missionaries of the gospel that start what is still being finished and will be until Jesus comes. It’s an amazing reality how the Lord chooses these insignificant people and He doesn’t have to scour the whole country, He doesn’t have to try to find the best guy in every city or every county. He can take four, five guys who know each other, that live in the same area, make their living the same way–catching fish–and He can turn them into world changers. He can take anybody and do that, and that’s what you see here.

You know, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 said, “Consider your calling, not many noble, not many mighty,” remember that? The Lord has called the base and the lowly and the nothings and the nobodies and the insignificant. And that’s how the gospel gets launched. The seed that’s planted is John the Baptist; he’s like the first testifier to Jesus. And then the next group is this group that’s completely alien to the religious establishment. There’s not a rabbi; there’s not a priest; there’s not a Sadducee; there’s not a Pharisee; there’s not a scribe–no one who is a part of the religious establishment which was apostate. No one is selected, but rather humble, rural fishermen become the first followers of Jesus–the first missionaries, the first preachers, the first witnesses–and they give an amazing testimony. In verse 41, one of them says we found the Messiah. In verse 45, another one says, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote.” And in verse 49, another one says, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” And the reason for the story here is to declare those statements. We have found the Messiah who is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, who is the Son of God and is the King of Israel. This is not their calling to be apostles; that doesn’t happen until a year and a half later. Half way through the ministry of Jesus, these men are identified as part of the twelve apostles. But at the start here, they’re just common, insignificant, uninfluential Galilean fishermen who know each other, who along with James and John all live in the same place and make their living the same way. They may well have worshiped God together in the same synagogue. Amazing. But what they launch will go, and is still going, to the ends of the earth, the ends of the earth.

The truth of the gospel spreads in every generation since the first through humble people, through the unknown, the uninfluential, the powerless, the weak and the meek. That’s how it’s always spread–person to person to person; the kingdom advances one soul at a time, one soul at a time. Sure there are preachers who preach to groups, but the primary way the kingdom moves is from one person to another, to another, to another, and that’s how it all started.

Now the challenge for them was immense, really immense. They were nobodies, absolutely nobodies, as given testimony to the fact that they were declaring Jesus to be the Messiah who Himself appeared to be a nobody, the son of Joseph from Nazareth. And everybody in Judea looked down on Galilee and the people in Galilee looked down on Nazareth. Talk about humble beginnings.

Prestige isn’t everything, and certainly isn’t when it comes to the Gospel.

Everything about Christ’s time on Earth spoke of humility: the Nativity, His exile into Egypt with Mary and Joseph, His humble upbringing, His lack of a home as an adult, His eschewing of any ostentation, all of which led to His humiliating death on the Cross as He assumed our sins in order to reconcile us to God the Father.

Jesus experienced everything that mankind continues to experience throughout history — and more. No one understands us more deeply than He. For that, we should be eternally grateful for our adoption as His own. May we converse with Him more often this year through prayer.

Pentecost Sunday, the Church’s birthday, is on June 5, 2022.

Readings for Year C, along with my other posts about this important Church feast day, can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 14:8-17, (25-27)

14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

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.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

It is serendipitous that a similar message about prayer and divine peace was part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving, held on June 3.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited to read the New Testament lesson, Philippians 4:4-9, which was St Paul’s closing exhortation (encouragement) to the church in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The Gospel reading from John is taken from our Lord’s final discourse to the Apostles at the Last Supper, after Judas had left.

John is the only Gospel writer who told us what Jesus said to the Eleven. John 13-16 and our Lord’s prayers in John 17 are, to me, the most beautiful chapters in the New Testament.

To set the scene, the Apostles were anxious and confused when Jesus told them that He would be leaving them, that He would die imminently and rise again on the third day. Understandably, after three years with Him among them, they did not want to let go of that relationship. Yet, Jesus had to accomplish those things in obedience to God the Father. He also had to ascend to heaven, because that was the only way He could send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, who would then pursue their own powerful ministries in His name.

He had told them about what would happen to Him during His ministry, but they did not understand.

Philip requested that Jesus show them the Father and they would be satisfied (verse 8).

This would appear to be an outrageous request, but Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it has some merit:

In the knowledge of God the understanding rests, and is at the summit of its ambition; in the knowledge of God as our Father the soul is satisfied; a sight of the Father is a heaven upon earth, fills us with joy unspeakable.

Yet:

As Philip speaks it here, it intimates that he was not satisfied with such a discovery of the Father as Christ thought fit to give them, but he would prescribe to him, and press upon him, something further and no less than some visible appearance of the glory of God, like that to Moses (Exodus 33:22), and to the elders of Israel, Exodus 24:9-11. “Let us see the Father with our bodily eyes, as we see thee, and it sufficeth us; we will trouble thee with no more questions, Whither goest thou?And so it manifests not only the weakness of his faith, but his ignorance of the gospel way of manifesting the Father, which is spiritual, and not sensible. Such a sight of God, he thinks, would suffice them, and yet those who did thus see him were not sufficed, but soon corrupted themselves, and made a graven image. Christ’s institutions have provided better for the confirmation of our faith than our own inventions would.

John MacArthur says:

their Christology was accurate, but not complete They didn’t get the whole thing.  And, furthermore, they didn’t understand the relationship between Him and the Holy Spirit.  He had told them that He did what He did by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to blaspheme Him was to blaspheme the Spirit who is doing the work through Him.  But they didn’t fully understand They were a little short on their Trinitarian theology …

I think he’s just saying, “Look, I don’t think we can do this thing by faith I really don’t think we can do this by faith.  God’s going to have to show up.  God is going to have to show up.  You’re handing us off here and we’re used to having You in our grip.”

I doubt that he’s a biblical scholar and that he threw those kind of things at our Lord.  This is just weak faith, and we know they had weak faith because Jesus kept calling them, “Oh, you of little faith.” 

“We want a vision of God.  We want a visible God.  We want a God we can touch, a God we can handle, or we’re going to have trouble believing.”  This is a preview of Thomas:  “If I don’t see, I won’t believe.”

Being omniscient, Jesus knew Philip would say that, but He must have been disappointed all the same.

Jesus replied, saying that, after all the time He was with them, how could they not know that seeing Him was seeing the Father (verse 9).

Henry reminds us that, early on, Philip said that Jesus was the Messiah:

He reproves him for two things: First, For not improving his acquaintance with Christ, as he might have done, to a clear and distinct knowledge of him: “Hast thou not known me, Philip, whom thou hast followed so long, and conversed with so much?” Philip, the first day he came to him, declared that he knew him to be the Messiah (John 1:45; John 1:45), and yet to this day did not know the Father in him. Many that have good knowledge in the scripture and divine things fall short of the attainments justly expected from them, for want of compounding the ideas they have, and going on to perfection. Many know Christ, who yet do not know what they might know of him, nor see what they should see in him. That which aggravated Philip’s dulness was that he had so long an opportunity of improvement: I have been so long time with thee. Note, The longer we enjoy the means of knowledge and grace, the more inexcusable we are if we be found defective in grace and knowledge. Christ expects that our proficiency should be in some measure according to our standing, that we should not be always babes. Let us thus reason with ourselves: “Have I been so long a hearer of sermons, a student in the scripture, a scholar in the school of Christ, and yet so weak in the knowledge of Christ, and so unskilful in the word of righteousness?Secondly, He reproves him for his infirmity in the prayer made, Show us the Father. Note, Herein appears much of the weakness of Christ’s disciples that they know not what to pray for as they ought (Romans 8:26), but often ask amiss (James 4:3), for that which either is not promised or is already bestowed in the sense of the promise, as here.

Jesus continued, asking Philip whether he believed that He was in God and God in Him; furthermore, what Jesus spoke were not His own words but those of the Father (verse 10).

There we have the importance of faith: believe that Christ is in God and that God is in Christ.

Henry tells us:

In Christ we behold more of the glory of God than Moses did at Mount Horeb.

Jesus repeated the importance of that belief in verse 11, adding that, at the very minimum, we should believe Christ is in God and God is in Him by virtue of His miracles.

Henry makes the following observations:

He doeth the works. Many words of power, and works of mercy, Christ did, and the Father did them in him; and the work of redemption in general was God’s own work

Note, Christ’s miracles are proofs of his divine mission, not only for the conviction of infidels, but for the confirmation of the faith of his own disciples, John 2:11; John 5:36; John 10:37.

Jesus continued impressing the importance of belief, saying that those who believe in Him — meaning the Apostles, in this context — would do works greater than His because He is going to the Father (verse 12).

Jesus was leading into announcing that He would send them the Holy Spirit to enable those great works to happen in order to build the Church.

Henry points out that this is not to belittle our Lord’s miracles at all. In fact, it strengthens them:

This does not weaken the argument Christ had taken from his works, to prove himself one with the Father (that others should do as great works), but rather strengthens it; for the miracles which the apostles wrought were wrought in his name, and by faith in him; and this magnifies his power more than any thing, that he not only wrought miracles himself, but gave power to others to do so too.

Jesus then emphasised the importance of prayer.

He said that He will do whatever is asked in His name, so that the Father is glorified in the Son (verse 13).

That does not include frivolous requests, but those which are worthy, as Henry explains:

Here is, (1.) Humility prescribed: You shall ask. Though they had quitted all for Christ, they could demand nothing of him as a debt, but must be humble supplicants, beg or starve, beg or perish. (2.) Liberty allowed: “Ask any thing, any thing that is good and proper for you; any thing, provided you know what you ask, you may ask; you may ask for assistance in your work, for a mouth and wisdom, for preservation out of the hands of your enemies, for power to work miracles when there is occasion, for the success of the ministry in the conversion of souls; ask to be informed, directed, vindicated.” Occasions vary, but they shall be welcome to the throne of grace upon every occasion.

It is also essential to pray those petitions in His name for the following reasons:

To ask in Christ’s name is, (1.) To plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea. The Old-Testament saints had an eye to this when they prayed for the Lord’s sake (Daniel 9:17), and for the sake of the anointed (Psalms 84:9), but Christ’s mediation is brought to a clearer light by the gospel, and so we are enabled more expressly to ask in his name. When Christ dictated the Lord’s prayer, this was not inserted, because they did not then so fully understand this matter as they did afterwards, when the Spirit was poured out. If we ask in our own name, we cannot expect to speed, for, being strangers, we have no name in heaven; being sinners, we have an ill name there; but Christ’s is a good name, well known in heaven, and very precious. (2.) It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers.

Our Lord said that He will do anything we ask in His name (verse 13).

Some might say that their prayers have not always been answered. Our ways are not the Lord’s. Unfortunately, each of us suffers loss during our lifetimes. Some say that those are our crosses to bear, as hard as that is to hear.

On the other hand, sometimes with relationships that didn’t work or job offers that didn’t materialise, God has a bigger and better plan for us. I can speak to that personally on both those fronts. He has made my life more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. My prayers have been more than answered. So, I would encourage everyone to continue praying. Pray diligently. God will show the way through His Son and the Holy Spirit.

Returning to our text, Jesus said that if the Apostles loved Him, then they would keep His commandments (verse 15).

If they kept those commandments, He would send them another Advocate — the Holy Spirit — to be with them forever (verse 16).

Henry says this means that the triune God will be with us if we obey those commandments:

When Christ has given them precious promises, of the answer of their prayers and the coming of the Comforter, he lays down this as a limitation of the promises, “Provided you keep my commandments, from a principle of love to me.” Christ will not be an advocate for any but those that will be ruled and advised by him as their counsel. Follow the conduct of the Spirit, and you shall have the comfort of the Spirit.

MacArthur reminds us of our Lord’s perfect obedience to His Father:

Go to chapter 15.  John makes another statement that essentially says the same thing.  John 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.”  How do you know that Jesus loved the Father?  How do you know Jesus loved the Father?  Because He what?  He obeyed the FatherThat’s the model; that’s the pattern.  That’s the model.

In chapter 15, He says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave – ” verse 15 “ – doesn’t know what his master is doing; but I’ve called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I’ve made known to you.”  This is Jesus talking about His obedience to the Father:  “I showed you My obedience to the Father.”  That’s the true proof of love.

How serious was it?  Verse 13:  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  He is the model of love.  He loved the Father enough to do the Father’s will, even when it meant laying down His life So a relationship with God basically manifests itself on the basis of love, demonstrated in obedience.

You’ll find the same emphasis made as well, chapter 17, verse 6:  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.  They were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  They have kept Your word.”  This is always going to be John’s standard for manifesting true salvation.

Jesus then said that the world — unbelievers — cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but the Apostles would receive the Spirit because He abided with them and would be in them (verse 17).

MacArthur interprets the verse, using the Greek text:

It’s the word Paraclete That’s the transliteration in English Greek it’s Parakltos.  Kltos is a verb form of a verb kale which means to call, pará  means alongside like parallel – to call somebody alongside That’s what the word means, somebody called alongside.  Very, very general.

Called alongside for what?  For anything and everything that you would need.  Could be an intercessor, could be an advocate, could be a comforter, could be an encourager, could be a teacher, could be somebody to warn you – somebody called alongside, somebody with more wisdom, somebody with more truth, somebody with more power, somebody with more experience, somebody with more knowledge than you have Not somebody less than you, but somebody infinitely more than you on all levels of capability.

That’s the Helper I know in many Bibles it says the Comforter, but that’s such a very small sort of narrow understanding of what the role of the Holy Spirit is Certainly there’s that.  Certainly He’s there to comfort, and doesBut far beyond that, to help at every level where we need help

Állos is used here It means another of the exact same kind; and Jesus uses that:  “I will give you állos Parakltos I will give you another exactly like I am, which is to say that I’m going to send you a Helper exactly like the Helper that I have been,” and that defines for you the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

If verses 25 through 27 look familiar, they were read on the Sixth Sunday of Easter a few weeks ago. You can find the commentary here.

In closing, here are two important lessons for us in our Christian walk.

The first, MacArthur says, is an in-depth knowledge of Scripture. He is not wrong:

Your faith increases proportionately to your understanding of Scripture.  Scripture reveals God; and the more you see God revealed in Scripture, the greater your faith becomes, the stronger it becomes

The second, he says, is having a proper understanding of heaven, not only as a place but also a divine relationship with the Trinity:

Most people, when they think about heaven, they think about it as a place where certain activities take place; and that is true There will be, around the throne of God in heaven, activities.  One of them obviously will be praise, and worship, and adoration.  That will be going on all the time.  There will be in heaven other activities as well.  We will serve the Lord in heaven.  We will serve throughout eternity in ways that are unimaginable to us.

So it is true; heaven is a place, and heaven is a place where there will be activity.  But if that’s all you think about heaven, then you miss the main event, you miss the main point.  Heaven is primarily a fulfilled relationship When you think about heaven, I want you to think about it that way.  It is the full presence of the triune God; the full, glorious presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit We will be in the full, complete, transcendent relationship with the TrinityThat will define our existence.

So primarily – listen – heaven is a relationship It is a relationship.  It is communion.  It is fellowship at its purest and highest level.  That’s what heaven is.

All of our praise is response to the relationship All of our service is in view of the relationship.  We praise because of that relationship.  We serve because of that relationship.

The dominant reality is the relationship We will have a relationship with God that is absolutely perfect and complete, as full and complete as is possible in an eternally perfected human being.  This is what heaven is.  It is a relationship brought to its absolute perfect fulfillment.  It is defined as peace and joy because that is drawn out of that relationship That’s what your inheritance is.  To put it simply, heaven is the presence of the triune God Your inheritance is God; your inheritance is the Son; your inheritance is the Holy Spirit.  The triune God is your inheritance.

Pentecost Sunday is the final day of Eastertide. Next Sunday is Trinity Sunday and the season that follows is that of either Pentecost or Trinity. Catholics call the next few months of Sundays from now until Christ the King Sunday ‘Ordinary Time’. It’s terrible nomenclature, suggesting that we can ignore them. My church uses the season of Trinity, and so do I.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Pentecost, remembering that it is the Church’s birthday.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter is on May 29, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This particular Sunday, which falls between the Ascension and Pentecost, is traditionally known as Exaudi Sunday.

For centuries, a number of theologians deemed it the saddest of the Church year, because Jesus ascended into Heaven and would no longer physically be with His disciples.

I wrote about the history behind Exaudi Sunday several years ago. Here is an excerpt:

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

John 17:20-26

17:20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,

17:21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

17:22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

17:23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

17:24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.

17:26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 17 is comprised of our Lord’s three prayers before His arrest. He prays for God to glorify Him, then prays for His disciples, then — today’s reading — for all believers throughout history into the future.

On Ascension Day, this past Thursday, we heard Luke’s versions of the Ascension. The Gospel reading concluded his Gospel with Jesus blessing the disciples until they could see Him no more, and the Epistle is a fuller account from Acts 1 of that glorious event which meant that He could send the Holy Spirit to them at the first Pentecost.

Luke’s Gospel says that the Apostles rejoiced at the Ascension. They were finally beginning to understand the full import of what Jesus had told them throughout His ministry.

Yet, later on in the ensuing ten days, they might have wondered what would truly happen next. They might also have realised that they would never see Jesus again in their lifetime. Hence, Exaudi Sunday. We cannot know for certain.

As today’s reading opens, Jesus had just finished praying for His disciples. Therefore, He petitions His Father not only on their behalf but also those who will believe in the future through their word (verse 20), meaning those who heard the Apostles preach or read their Gospel accounts.

Matthew Henry’s commentary offers the following analysis:

Note, here, 1. Those, and those only, are interested in the mediation of Christ, that do, or shall, believe in him. This is that by which they are described, and it comprehends all the character and duty of a Christian. They that lived then, saw and believed, but they in after ages have not seen, and yet have believed. 2. It is through the word that souls are brought to believe on Christ, and it is for this end that Christ appointed the scriptures to be written, and a standing ministry to continue in the church, while the church stands, that is, while the world stands, for the raising up of a seed. 3. It is certainly and infallibly known to Christ who shall believe on him. He does not here pray at a venture, upon a contingency depending on the treacherous will of man, which pretends to be free, but by reason of sin is in bondage with its children; no, Christ knew very well whom he prayed for, the matter was reduced to a certainty by the divine prescience and purpose; he knew who were given him, who being ordained to eternal life, were entered in the Lamb’s book, and should undoubtedly believe, Acts 13:48. 4. Jesus Christ intercedes not only for great and eminent believers, but for the meanest and weakest; not for those only that are to be employed in the highest post of trust and honour in his kingdom, but for all, even those that in the eye of the world are inconsiderable. As the divine providence extends itself to the meanest creature, so does the divine grace to the meanest Christian. The good Shepherd has an eye even to the poor of the flock. 5. Jesus Christ in his mediation had an actual regard to those of the chosen remnant that were yet unborn, the people that should be created (Psalms 22:31), the other sheep which he must yet bring. Before they are formed in the womb he knows them (Jeremiah 1:5), and prayers are filed in heaven for them beforehand, by him who declareth the end from the beginning, and calleth things that are not as though they were.

John MacArthur points out:

He doesn’t pray for unbelievers.

Jesus prayed that believers would all be as one, a commingling — a communion — of us with God the Father and God the Son, so that the world will believe that God sent Jesus (verse 21) to redeem us.

This is a prayer of unity, Henry says:

The heart of Christ was much upon this. Some think that the oneness prayed for in John 17:11; John 17:11 has special reference to the disciples as ministers and apostles, that they might be one in their testimony to Christ; and that the harmony of the evangelists, and concurrence of the first preachers of the gospel, are owing to this prayer. Let them be not only of one heart, but of one mouth, speaking the same thing. The unity of the gospel ministers is both the beauty and strength of the gospel interest. But it is certain that the oneness prayed for in John 17:21; John 17:21 respects all believers. It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his, and we may be sure it is an answered prayer–that they all may be one, one in us (John 17:21; John 17:21) …

Jesus expanded on His petition, saying that He has passed on His God-given glory to believers so that they may be one corporate body as are the Father and the Son (verse 22).

He prays that as He and His Father are one, so may we be one also, witnessing to the fact that God sent Him to love us just as much as the Father loves the Son (verse 23).

Henry tells us that this can happen only with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

This is plainly implied in this–that they may be one in us. Union with the Father and Son is obtained and kept up only by the Holy Ghost. He that is joined to the Lord in one spirit,1 Corinthians 6:17. Let them all be stamped with the same image and superscription, and influenced by the same power.

Henry explains what this unity means:

That they all may be one, (1.) In judgment and sentiment; not in every little thing–this is neither possible nor needful, but in the great things of God, and in them, by the virtue of this prayer, they are all agreed–that God’s favour is better than life–that sin is the worst of evils, Christ the best of friends–that there is another life after this, and the like. (2.) In disposition and inclination. All that are sanctified have the same divine nature and image; they have all a new heart, and it is one heart. (3.) They are all one in their designs and aims. Every true Christian, as far as he is so, eyes the glory of God as his highest end, and the glory of heaven as his chief good. (4.) They are all one in their desires and prayers; though they differ in words and the manner of expressions, yet, having received the same spirit of adoption, and observing the same rule, they pray for the same things in effect. (5.) All one in love and affection. Every true Christian has that in him which inclines him to love all true Christians as such. That which Christ here prays for is that communion of saints which we profess to believe; the fellowship which all believers have with God, and their intimate union with all the saints in heaven and earth, 1 John 1:3. But this prayer of Christ will not have its complete answer till all the saints come to heaven, for then, and not till then, they shall be perfect in one, John 17:23; Ephesians 4:13.

Jesus added another petition, asking that those whom the Father has given Him be with Him in Heaven to see His glory, which the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world (verse 24).

MacArthur says:

Here is the ultimate; here is the ultimate: the Son prays for the Father to bring all His chosen sons to glory. Again, Jesus is praying us into heaven. We’re going to heaven; that’s a promise. The reason that promise is fulfilled, the means for that to be fulfilled, is the intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Henry also says that this is the ultimate petition; the first three built up to this culmination:

He had prayed that God would preserve, sanctify, and unite them; and now he prays that he would crown all his gifts with their glorification. In this method we must pray, first for grace, and then for glory (Psalms 84:11); for in this method God gives. Far be it from the only wise God to come under the imputation either of that foolish builder who without a foundation built upon the sand, as he would if he should glorify any whom he has not first sanctified; or of that foolish builder who began to build and was not able to finish, as he would if he should sanctify any, and not glorify them.

Jesus then offered the closing verses of His prayer, first by addressing God as Righteous Father, then appealing on the believers’ behalf by saying that although we have not seen God, we know — unlike the rest of the world — that He sent His Son to us (verse 25).

Henry explains:

(1.) The title he gives to God: O righteous Father. When he prayed that they might be sanctified, he called him holy Father; when he prays that they may be glorified, he calls him righteous Father; for it is a crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge shall give. God’s righteousness was engaged for the giving out of all that good which the Father had promised and the Son had purchased.

(2.) The character he gives of the world that lay in wickedness: The world has not known thee. Note, Ignorance of God overspreads the world of mankind; this is the darkness they sit in. Now this is urged here, [1.] To show that these disciples need the aids of special grace, both because of the necessity of their work–they were to bring a world that knew not God to the knowledge of him; and also, because of the difficulty of their work–they must bring light to those that rebelled against the light; therefore keep them. [2.] To show that they were qualified for further peculiar favours, for they had that knowledge of God which the world had not.

(3.) The plea he insists upon for himself: But I have known thee. Christ knew the Father as no one else ever did; knew upon what grounds he went in his undertaking, knew his Father’s mind in every thing, and therefore, in this prayer, came to him with confidence, as we do to one we know. Christ is here suing out blessings for those that were his; pursuing this petition, when he had said, The world has not known thee, one would expect it should follow, but they have known thee; no, their knowledge was not to be boasted of, but I have known thee, which intimates that there is nothing in us to recommend us to God’s favour, but all our interest in him, and intercourse with him, result from, and depend upon, Christ’s interest and intercourse. We are unworthy, but he is worthy.

(4.) The plea he insists upon for his disciples: And they have known that thou hast sent me; and, [1.] Hereby they are distinguished from the unbelieving world. When multitudes to whom Christ was sent, and his grace offered, would not believe that God had sent him, these knew it, and believed it, and were not ashamed to own it. Note, To know and believe in Jesus Christ, in the midst of a world that persists in ignorance and infidelity, is highly pleasing to God, and shall certainly be crowned with distinguishing glory. Singular faith qualifies for singular favours. [2.] Hereby they are interested in the mediation of Christ, and partake of the benefit of his acquaintance with the Father: “I have known thee, immediately and perfectly; and these, though they have not so known thee, nor were capable of knowing thee so, yet have known that thou hast sent me, have known that which was required of them to know, have known the Creator in the Redeemer.” Knowing Christ as sent of God, they have, in him, known the Father, and are introduced to an acquaintance with him; therefore, “Father, look after them for my sake.”

Jesus closed His prayer by saying that He made His Father’s name known to believers and will continue to do so in order that the love God has shown Him will be in them and Jesus with them (verse 26).

Henry says that Jesus asked for communion between believers and God as well as their union in Him, the Son:

[1.] Communion with God: “Therefore I have given them the knowledge of thy name, of all that whereby thou hast made thyself known, that thy love, even that wherewith thou hast loved me, may be, not only towards them, but in them;that is, First, “Let them have the fruits of that love for their sanctification; let the Spirit of love, with which thou hast filled me, be in them. Christ declares his Father’s name to believers, that with that divine light darted into their minds a divine love may be shed abroad in their hearts, to be in them a commanding constraining principle of holiness, that they may partake of a divine nature. When God’s love to us comes to be in us, it is like the virtue which the loadstone gives the needle, inclining it to move towards the pole; it draws out the soul towards God in pious and devout affections, which are as the spirits of the divine life in the soul. Secondly, “Let them have the taste and relish of that love for their consolation; let them not only be interested in the love of God, by having God’s name declared to them, but, by a further declaration of it, let them have the comfort of that interest; that they may not only know God, but know that they know him, 1 John 2:3. It is the love of God thus shed abroad in the heart that fills it with joy, Romans 5:3; Romans 5:5. This God has provided for, that we may not only be satisfied with his loving kindness, but be satisfied of it; and so may live a life of complacency in God and communion with him; this we must pray for, this we must press after; if we have it, we must thank Christ for it; if we want it, we may thank ourselves.

[2.] Union with Christ in order hereunto: And I in them. There is no getting into the love of God but through Christ, nor can we keep ourselves in that love but by abiding in Christ, that is, having him to abide in us; nor can we have the sense and apprehension of that love but by our experience of the indwelling of Christ, that is, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. It is Christ in us that is the only hope of glory that will not make us ashamed, Colossians 1:27. All our communion with God, the reception of his love to us with our return of love to him again, passes through the hands of the Lord Jesus, and the comfort of it is owing purely to him. Christ had said but a little before, I in them (John 17:23; John 17:23), and here it is repeated (though the sense was complete without it), and the prayer closed with it, to show how much the heart of Christ was sent upon it; all his petitions centre in this, and with this the prayers of Jesus, the Son of David, are ended: “I in them; let me have this, and I desire no more.” It is the glory of the Redeemer to dwell in the redeemed: it is his rest for ever, and he has desired it. Let us therefore make sure our union with Christ, and then take the comfort of his intercession. This prayer had an end, but that he ever lives to make.

MacArthur says that this prayer defines Heaven:

if you want to define heaven, you just got the definition. It’s all glory and all love, all glory and all love. God is love and eternally loved His Son – infinitely loved His Son, intimately loved His Son; and eternally, infinitely, and intimately loves all of His sons, all of us. And His eternal Son wants to bring us all to glory so that we can see the manifestation of how much the Father loves Him, and so that we can also experience it ourselves. God cannot love His Son any more than He does; He cannot love us any more than He does. His mediatorial work, to bring us to glory, is to bring us into that incomprehensible love; and He will get us there.

What a marvellous meditation to contemplate as we near Pentecost Sunday, which is one week away.

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.

330px-john_donne_by_isaac_oliverLast week, I profiled John Donne, who made an incredible personal journey from a handsome rake to devoted husband and father to the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Most of us remember his poetry from English Literature class.

Although digital collections of his sermons exist, only one — and a partial one at that — is in an easily accessed format categorised by Scripture. Thank you, BibleHub.

John’s Gospel has the most detailed account of Jesus’s final teaching at the Last Supper, which we remember on Maundy Thursday.

John Donne was inspired to write an entire sermon on John 14:20 alone. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, let’s look at John 14 in its entirety. Jesus spoke these words while He and the Apostles were in the upper room at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had already left. The Judas referred to in verse 22 is Jude Thaddeus, who wrote the shortest book in the Bible, Jude:

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

John Donne’s sermon on John 14:20 is called ‘Christ’s Legacy’. Most of it follows below:

I. THE LEGACY ITSELF: Knowledge. “Ye shall know.” God delivered the Jews to some extent from ignorance by the law, which was their schoolmaster. But in the gospel we are graduates, and know as a matter of history and experience what was only previously known in prophecy and type, in the manifestation of Christ, and the presence of the Spirit

II. THE TIME WHEN THIS LEGACY ACCRUES TO US. “At that day.”

1. The word itself affords cheerfulness. When God inflicted the greatest plague on Egypt it was at midnight; and when He would intimate both deaths at once He says, “Thou fool, this night,” etc. Against all supply of knowledge He calls him fool; against all sense of comfort in the day He threatens night.

2. It was a certain day: “That” — and soon. For after Christ had made His will at this supper, and given strength to His will by His death, and proved His will by His resurrection, and left the Church possessed of His estate by His ascension, within ten days after that He poured out this legacy of knowledge.

3. On that day the Holy Ghost came as a wind to note a powerful working; filled them, to note the abundance; and gave them utterance, to infer the communication of their knowledge to others. But He was poured forth for the benefit of all. The prophets, high as their calling was, saw nothing without the Spirit; with the Spirit simple man understands the prophets.

III. OUR PORTION IN THIS LEGACY — the measure of the knowledge of those mysteries which we are to receive. When Felix the Manichaean would prove to that was the Holy Spirit who should teach all truth, because Manes [Mani] taught many things of which men were ignorant concerning the frame and nature of the heavens, Augustine answered, “The Holy Ghost makes us Christians, not mathematicians.” This knowledge is to know the end and the way — heaven and Christ. Now, in all our journeys, a moderate pace brings a man most surely to his journey’s end, and so does a sober knowledge in the mysteries of religion. Therefore, the Holy Ghost did not give the apostles all kind of knowledge, but knowledge enough for their present work, and so with us. The points of knowledge necessary for our salvation are three.

1. The mystery of the Trinity. “I am in My Father.” tells us that the principal use of knowledge is to know the Trinity. For to know that there is one God, natural reason serves our turn. But to know that the Son is in the Father I need the Scriptures, and the light of the Holy Spirit on the Scriptures, for Jews and Arians have the Bible too. But consider that Christ says, “ye shall know,” not “ye shall know how”. It is enough for a happy subject to enjoy the sweetness of a peaceable government, though he knows not the ways by which his prince governs, so it is enough for a Christian to enjoy the working of God’s grace, though he inquire not into God’s unrevealed decrees. When the Church asked how the body of Christ was in the sacrament we see what an inconvenient answer it fell upon. Make much of that knowledge with which the Spirit hath trusted you, and believe the rest. No man knows how his soul came into him, yet no man doubts that he has a soul.

2. The mystery of the Incarnation — “Ye in Me.” For since the devil has taken manhood in one lump in Adam, Christ to deliver us as entirely took all mankind upon Him. So that the same pretence that the devil hath against us, “You are mine, for you sinned in Adam,” we have also for our discharge, we are delivered, for we paid our debt in Christ.

3. The assurance of this grows from the third part of our knowledge the mystery of our redemption, in our sanctification. “I in you.” This last is the best. To know that Christ is in the Father may serve me to convince another who denies the Trinity; to know we are in Christ may show that we are more honoured than angels. But what worth is this if I know not that Christ is in me. How then is this? Here the question is lawful, for it has been revealed. It is by our obedience to His inspiration, and by our reverent use of His sacrament, when the Spirit visits us with effectual grace, and Christ marries Himself to our souls.

What stood out for me were four things:

First, Donne clearly understood Paul’s epistles about the shortcomings of the law in the Old Covenant. It could not — and cannot — save. Note that Donne calls the law the Jews’ ‘schoolmaster’. How true.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is available to all, not just a select few. Furthermore, St Augustine said that the primary purpose of the Spirit is to help us to live a Christian life. Donne makes it easy to grasp by saying that the Spirit enables simple man to understand the prophets. One does not need a university degree to understand the Bible.

Thirdly, if the devil tempts us by telling us we are doomed, we should keep in mind that Christ paid our debt in full. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Finally, Christians are not required to understand how the holy mysteries work, only to believe, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, that they exist, e.g. the Triune God, one in three Persons. Donne wisely noted the ancient controversy in the Church that took place over what happens during the consecration of bread and wine, still a contentious subject today.

————————————————

Readings, exegeses and other observations about Wednesday of Holy Week, or Spy Wednesday, as it is traditionally known, follow:

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas: bad hombre)

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