John 20 : 1-31 KJV
1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
19 ¶ Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
24 ¶ But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 ¶ And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
30 ¶ And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
The Life of Christ – Written by Frederick W. Farrar – Originally published in 1874.
“Necesse est pauca dicamus de Christo ut Deo.” 455 – TERT. Apolog. 21.
AT the moment when Christ died, nothing could have seemed more abjectly weak, more pitifully hopeless, more absolutely doomed to scorn, and extinction, and despair, than the Church which he had founded. It numbered but a handful of weak followers, of which the boldest had denied his Lord with blasphemy, and the most devoted had forsaken Him and fled. They were poor, they were ignorant, they were hopeless. They could not claim a single synagogue or a single sword. If they spoke their own language, it bewrayed them by its mongrel dialect; if they spoke the current Greek, it was despised as a miserable patois. So feeble were they and insignificant, that it would have looked like foolish partiality to prophesy for them the limited existence of a Galilæan sect. How was it that these dull and ignorant men, with their cross of wood, triumphed over the deadly fascinations of sensual mythologies, conquered kings and their armies, and overcame the world ?
What was it that thus caused strength to be made perfect out of abject weakness? There is one, and one only possible answer – the resurrection from the dead. All this vast revolution was due to the power of Christ’s resurrection. “If we measure what seemed to be the hopeless ignominy of the catastrophe by which His work was ended, and the Divine prerogatives which are claimed for Him, not in spite of, but in consequence of that suffering and shame, we shall feel the utter hopelessness of reconciling the fact, and that triumphant deduction from it, without some intervening fact as certain as Christ’s passion, and glorious enough to transfigure its sorrow.”
The sun was now on the edge of the horizon, and the Sabbath day was near. And “that Sabbath day was a high day,” a Sabbath of peculiar splendor and solemnity, because it was at once a Sabbath and a Passover. The Jews had taken every precaution to prevent the ceremonial pollution of a day so sacred, and were anxious that immediately after the death of the victims had been secured, their bodies should be taken from the cross. About the sepulture they did not trouble themselves, leaving it to the chance good offices of friends and relatives to huddle the malefactors into their nameless graves. The dead body of Jesus was left hanging till the last, because a person who could not easily be slighted had gone to obtain leave from Pilate to dispose of it as he wished.
This was Joseph of Arimathæa, a rich man, of high character and blameless life, and a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin. Although timidity of disposition, or weakness of faith, had hitherto prevented him from openly declaring his belief in Jesus, yet he had abstained from sharing in the vote of the Sanhedrin, or countenancing their crime. And now sorrow and indignation inspired him with courage. Since it was too late to declare his sympathy for Jesus as a living Prophet, he would at least give a sign of his devotion to Him as the martyred victim of a wicked conspiracy. Flinging secrecy and caution to the winds, he no sooner saw that the cross on Golgotha now bore a lifeless burden, than he went to Pilate on the very evening of the crucifixion, and begged that the dead body might be given him. Although the Romans left their crucified slaves to be devoured by dogs and ravens, Pilate had no difficulty in sanctioning the more humane and reverent custom of the Jews, which required, even in extreme cases, the burial of the dead. He was, however, amazed at the speediness with which death had supervened, and sending for the centurion, asked whether it had taken place sufficiently long to distinguish it from a faint or swoon. On ascertaining that such was the fact, he at once assigned the body, doubtless with some real satisfaction, to the care of this “honorable councillor.” Without wasting a moment, Joseph purchased a long piece of fine linen, and took the body from its cross. Meanwhile the force of his example had helped to waken a kindred feeling in the soul of the candid but fearful Nicodemus. If, as seems extremely probable, he be identical with the Nakdimon Ben Gorion of the Talmud, he was a man of enormous wealth; and however much he had held back during the life of Jesus, now, on the evening of His death, his heart was filled with a gush of compassion and remorse, and he hurried to His cross and burial with an offering of truly royal munificence. The faith which had once required the curtain of darkness, can now venture at least into the light of sunset, and brightened finally into noon day confidence. Thanks to this glow of kindling sorrow and compassion in the hearts of these two noble and wealthy disciples, He who died as a malefactor, was buried as a king. “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.” The fine linen (sindon) which Joseph had purchased was richly spread with the hundred litras of myrrh and perfumed aloe – wood which Nicodemus had brought, and the lacerated body — whose divinely — human spirit was now in the calm of its sabbath rest in the Paradise of God was thus carried to its loved and peaceful grave.
Close by the place of crucifixion – if not an actual part of it — was a garden belonging to Joseph of Arimathæa, and in its enclosure he had caused a new tomb to be hewn for himself out of the solid rock, that he might be buried in the near precincts of the Holy City. The tomb had never been used, but, in spite of the awful sacredness which the Jews attached to their rock – hewn sepulchres, and the sensitive scrupulosity with which they shrank from all contact with a corpse, Joseph never hesitated to give up for the body of Jesus the last home which he had designed for his own use. But the preparations had to be hurried, because when the sun had set the Sabbath would have begun. All that they could do, therefore, was to wash the corpse, to lay it amid the spices, to wrap the head in a white napkin, to roll the fine linen round and round the wounded limbs, and to lay the body reverently in the rocky niche. Then, with the united toil of several men, they rolled a gólal, or great stone, to the horizontal aperture; and scarcely had they accomplished this when, as the sun sank behind the hills of Jerusalem, the new Sabbath dawned.
Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, had seated themselves in the garden to mark well the place of sepulture, and other Galilæan women had also noticed the spot, and had hurried home to prepare fresh spices and ointments before the Sabbath began, that they might hasten back early on the morning of Sunday, and complete that embalming of the body, which Joseph and Nicodemus had only hastily begun. They spent in quiet that miserable Sabbath, which, for the broken hearts of all who loved Jesus, was a Sabbath of anguish and despair.
But the enemies of Christ were not so inactive. The awful misgiving of guilty consciences was not removed even by His death upon the cross. They recalled, with dreadful reminiscence, the rumored prophecies of His resurrection – the sign of the prophet Jonah, which He had said would alone be given them — the great utterance about the destroyed Temple, which He would in three days raise up; and these intimations, which were but dim to a crushed and wavering faith, were read, like fiery letters upon the wall, by the illuminating glare of an uneasy guilt. Pretending, therefore, to be afraid lest His body should be stolen by His disciples for purposes of imposture, they begged that, until the third day, the tomb might be securely guarded. Pilate gave them a brief and haughty permission to do anything they liked; for — apparently in the evening, when the great Paschal Sabbath was over — they sent their guard to seal the golal, and to watch the sepulchre.
Night passed, and before the faint streak of dawn began to silver the darkness of that first great Easterday, the passionate love of those women, who had lingered latest by the cross, made them also the earliest at the tomb. Carrying with them their precious spices, but knowing nothing of the watch or seal, they anxiously inquired among themselves, as they groped their way with sad and timid steps through the glimmering darkness, “Who should roll away for them the great stone which closed the sepulchre?” The two Marys were foremost of this little devoted band, and after them came Salome and Joanna. They found their difficulty solved for them. It became known then, or afterwards, that some dazzling angelic vision in white robes had terrified the keepers of the tomb, and had rolled the stone from the tomb amid the shocks of earthquake. And as they came to the tomb, there they too saw angels in white apparel, who bade them hasten back to the Apostles, and tell them and especially Peter – that Christ, according to His own word, had risen from the dead, and would go before them, like a shepherd, into their own beloved and native Galilee. They hurried back in a tumult of rapture and alarm, telling no one except the disciples; and even to the disciples their words sounded like an idle tale. But Mary of Magdala, who seems to have received a separate and special intimation, hastened at once to Peter and John. No sooner had they received this startling news than they rose to see with their own eyes what had happened. John outstripped in speed his elder companion, and arriving first, stooped down, and gazed in silent wonder into that open grave. The grave was empty, and the linen cerements were lying neatly folded each in its proper place. Then Peter came up, and with his usual impetuosity, heedless of ceremonial pollution, and of every consideration but his love and his astonishment, plunged into the sepulchre. John followed him, and saw, and believed; and the two Apostles took back the undoubted certainty to their wondering brethren. In spite of fear, and anxiety, and that dull intelligence which, by their own confession, was so slow to realize the truths they had been taught, there dawned upon them, even then, the trembling hope, which was so rapidly to become the absolute conviction, that Christ had risen indeed. That on that morning the grave of Christ was untenanted — that His body had not been removed by His enemies that its absence caused to His disciples the profoundest amazement, not unmingled, in the breasts of some of them, with sorrow and alarm — that they subsequently became convinced, by repeated proofs, that He had indeed risen from the dead — that for the truth of this belief they were ready at all times themselves to die that the belief effected a profound and total change in their character, making the timid courageous, and the weak irresistible that they were incapable of a conscious falsehood, and that, even if it had not been so, a conscious falsehood could never have had power to convince the disbelief and regenerate the morality of the world that on this belief of the resurrection were built the still universal observance of the first day of the week, and the entire foundations of the Christian Church – these, at any rate, are facts which even scepticism itself, if it desires to be candid, can hardly fail, however reluctantly and slowly, to admit.
But as yet no eye had seen Him; and to Mary of Magdala — to her who loved most because she had been forgiven most, and out of whose soul, now ardent as flame and clear as crystal, He had cast seven devils — was this glorious honor first vouchsafed. Even the vision of angels had not soothed the passion of agitation and alarm which she experienced when, returning once more to the tomb, she found that it was no longer possible for her to pay the last offices of devotion and tenderness to the crucified body of her Lord. From her impassioned soul not even the white-robed visions and angel voices could expel the anguish which she experienced in the one haunting thought, “They have taken away my Lord out of the sepulchre, and I know not where they have laid Him.” With her whole heart absorbed in this thought she turned away — and lo! Jesus Himself standing before her. It was Jesus, but not as she had known Him. There was something spiritual, something not of earth, in that risen and glorified body. Some accident of dress, or appearance, made her fancy that it was the keeper of the garden, and in the eager hope that he can explain to her the secret of that empty and angel – haunted grave, she exclaims to Him in an agony of appeal – turning her head aside as she addressed Him, perhaps that she might hide her streaming tears- “Oh, sir, if you took Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will take Him.”
Jesus saith to her, ” Mary! ”
That one word, in those awful yet tender tones of voice, at once penetrated to her heart. Turning towards Him, trying apparently to clasp His feet or the hem of His garment, she cried to Him in her native Aramaic, “Rabboni!” “Oh, my Master!” and then remained speechless with her transport. Jesus Himself gently checked the passion of her enthusiasm. “Cling not to Me,” He exclaimed, ” for not yet have I ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” Awe-struck, she hastened to obey. She repeated to them that solemn message – and through all future ages has thrilled that first utterance, which made on the minds of those who heard it so indelible an impression – “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”
2. Nor was her testimony unsupported. Jesus met the other women also, and said to them, “All hail!” Terror mingled with their emotion, as they clasped His feet. “Fear not,” He said to them; “go, bid My brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”
It was useless for the guards to stay beside an empty grave. With fear for the consequences, and horror at all that they had seen, they fled to the members of the Sanhedrin who had given them their secret commission. To these hardened hearts belief and investigation were alike out of the question. Their only refuge seemed to be in lies. They instantly tried to hush up the whole matter. They suggested to the soldiers that they must have slept, and that while they did so the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. But such a tale was too infamous for credence, and too ridiculous for publicity. If it became known, nothing could have saved these soldiers, supposing them to have been Romans, from disgrace and execution. The Sadducees therefore bribed the men to consult their common interests by burying the whole matter in secrecy and silence. It was only gradually and later, and to the initiated, that the base calumny was spread. Within six weeks of the resurrection, that great event was the unshaken faith of every Christian; within a few years of the event the palpable historic proofs of it and the numerous testimonies of its reality strengthened by a memorable vision vouchsafed to himself — had won assent from the acute and noble intellect of a young Pharisaic zealot and persecutor whose name was Saul. But it was only in posthumous and subterranean whispers that the dark falsehood was disseminated which was intended to counteract this over whelming evidence. St. Matthew says that when he wrote his Gospel it was still commonly bruited among the Jews. It continued to be received among them for centuries, and is one of the blaspheming follies which was repeated and amplified twelve centuries afterwards in the Toldóth Jeshu.
3. The third appearance of Jesus was to Peter. The details of it are wholly unknown to us. They may have been of a nature too personal to have been revealed. The fact rests on the express testimony of St. Luke and of St. Paul.
4. On the same day the Lord’s fourth appearance was accompanied with circumstances of the deepest interest. Two of the disciples were on their way to a village named Emmaus, of uncertain site, but about eight miles from Jerusalem, and were discoursing with sad and anxious hearts on the awful incidents of the last two days, when a Stranger joined them, and asked them the cause of their clouded looks and anxious words. They stopped, and looked at this unknown traveller with a dubious and unfriendly glance; and when one of the two, whose name was Cleopas, spoke in reply, there is a touch of surprise and suspicion in the answer which he ventured to give. “Dost thou live alone as a stranger in Jerusalem, and dost thou not know what things happened there in these last days?” “What things?” He asked then. Then they told Him how all their yearning hopes that Jesus had been the great Prophet who should redeem His people had been dashed to the earth, and how all His mighty deeds before God and the people had ended two days back on the shameful cross. They described the feeling of amazement with which, on this the third day, they had heard the women’s rumors of angel visions, and the certain testimony of some of their brethren that the tomb was empty now. “But,” added the speaker with a sigh of incredulity and sorrow – “but Him they saw not.” Then reproaching them with the dulness of their intelligence and their affections, the Stranger showed them how through all the Old Testament from Moses onwards there was one long prophecy of the sufferings no less than of the glory of Christ. In such high converse they drew near to Emmaus, and the Stranger seemed to be going onwards, but they pressed Him to stay, and as they sat down to their simple meal, and He blessed and brake the bread, suddenly their eyes were opened, and in spite of the altered form, they recognized that
He who was with them was the Lord. But even as they recognized Him, He was with them no longer. “Did not our heart burn within us,” they exclaimed to each other, “while He was speaking with us in the way, while He was opening to us the Scriptures?” Rising instantly, they returned to Jerusalem with the strange and joyous tidings. They found no dubious listeners now. They, too, were received with the rapturous affirmation, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon!”
5. Once more, for the fifth time on that eternally memorable Easter day, Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples. Ten of them were sitting together, with doors closed for fear of the Jews. As they exchanged and discussed their happy intelligence, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, with the words, “Peace be with you.” The unwonted aspect of that glorified body – the awful significance of the fact that He had risen from the dead — scared and frightened them. The presence of their Lord was indeed corporeal, but it was changed. They thought that it was a spirit which was standing before them. “Why are ye troubled?” He asked, “and why do anxious doubts rise in your hearts? See my hands and feet, that it is I; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” Even while He spoke He showed them His hands and His side. And then, while joy, amazement, incredulity, were all struggling in their hearts, He asked them if they had there anything to eat; and yet further to assure them, ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence. Then once more He said, “Peace be unto you. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. ” Breathing on them, He said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
6. One only of the Apostles had been absent – Thomas the Twin. His character, as we have seen already, was affectionate, but melancholy. To him the news seemed too good to be true. In vain did the other disciples assure him, “We have seen the Lord.” Happily for us, though less happily for him, he declared with strong asseveration that nothing would convince him, short of actually putting his own finger into the print of the nails, and his hands into His side. A week passed, and the faithfully – recorded doubts of the anxious Apostle remained unsatisfied. On the eighth, or, as we should say, on the seventh day afterwards’– for already the resurrection had made the first day of the week sacred to the hearts of the Apostles, the eleven were again assembled within closed doors. Once more Jesus appeared to them, and after His usual gentle and solemn blessing, called Thomas, and bade him stretch forth his finger, and put it in the print of the nails, and to thrust his hand into the spear-wound of His side, and to be “not faithless, but believing.” “My Lord and my God!” exclaimed the incredulous Apostle, with a burst of conviction. “Because thou hast seen Me,” said Jesus, “thou hast believed; blessed are they who saw not and yet believed.”
7. The next appearance of the risen Saviour was to seven of the Apostles by the Sea of Galilee — Simon, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two others — not improbably Philip and Andrew who are not named. A pause had occurred in the visits of Jesus, and before they returned to Jerusalem at Pentecost to receive the promised outpouring of the Spirit, Simon said that he should resume for the day his old trade of a fisherman. There was no longer a common purse, and as their means of subsistence were gone, this seemed to be the only obvious way of obtaining an honest maintenance. The others proposed to join him, and they set sail in the evening because night is the best time for fishing. All night they toiled in vain. At early dawn, in the misty twilight, there stood on the shore the figure of One whom they did not recognize. A voice asked them if they had caught anything. “No” was the despondent answer. “Fling your net to the right side of the vessel, and ye shall find.” They made the cast, and instantly were scarcely able to draw the net from the multitude of fishes. The incident awoke, with overwhelming force, the memory of earlier days. “It is the Lord,” whispered John to Peter; and instantly the warm-hearted enthusiast, tightening his fisher’s tunic round his loins, leaped into the sea, to swim across the hundred yards which separated him from Jesus, and cast himself, all wet from the waves, before His feet. More slowly the others followed, dragging the strained but unbroken net, with its 153 fishes. A wood fire was burning on the strand, some bread lay beside it, and some fish were being broiled on the glowing embers. It is a sight which may often be seen to this day by the shores of Galilee. And He who stood beside it bade them bring more fish of those which they had caught. Instantly Simon started up, and helped with his strong arm to drag the net ashore. And He whom they all knew to be the Lord, but whose voice and aspect made their hearts so still with awful reverence that they dared not question Him, bade them “Come and breakfast,” and distributed to them the bread and fish.
The happy meal ended in silence, and then Jesus said to His weak but fond Apostle, “Simon” – ( it was no time as yet to restore to him the name of Peter ) – “Simon, son of Jonas, honorest thou Me more than these?”
“Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
“Feed My little lambs.”
Simon had felt in his inmost heart what was meant by that kind rebuke- “more than these.” It called back to his penitent soul those boastful words, uttered so confidently among his brethren, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. “Failure had taught him humility, and therefore he will neither claim a pre-eminence in affection, nor adopt the word of the Saviour’s question ( ayanas ), which involved deep honor and devotion and esteem; but will substitute for it that weaker word, which yet best expressed the warm human affection of his heart. And the next time the question reminded him less painfully of his old self – confidence, for Jesus said to him only —
” Simon, son of Jonas, honorest thou Me ? ”
Again the Apostle humbly answered in the same words as be fore —
” Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. ”
” Tend my sheep.”
But Simon had thrice denied, and therefore it was fitting that he should thrice confess. Again, after a brief pause, came the question — and this time with the weaker but warmer word which the Apostle himself had chosen —
“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?”
And Simon, deeply humbled and distressed, exclaimed, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou seest that I love Thee.”
“Feed My beloved sheep.” Then very solemnly He added, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast younger thou didst gird thyself, and walk where thou wouldest; but when thou art old thou shalt stretch out thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and shall lead thee where thou willest not. “The Apostle understood Him; he knew that this implied the years of his future service, the pangs of his future martyrdom; but now he was no longer “Simon”, but “Peter” — the heart of rock was in him; he was ready, even to the death, to obey the voice which said to him, “Follow Me.” While the conversation had been taking place he had been walking by the side of Jesus, a few steps in front of his comrades. Looking back he saw John, his only favorite companion, and the disciple whom Jesus loved, slowly following them. Pointing to him, he asked, “Lord, and what shall he do?” The answer checked the spirit of idle curiosity- “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me.” Peter dared ask no more, and the answer — which was intentionally vague — led to the wide misapprehension prevalent in the early Church, that John was not to die until Jesus came. The Apostle quietly corrects the error by quoting the exact words of the risen Christ. The manner of his death we do not know, but we know that he outlived all his brother disciples, and that he survived that terrible overthrow of his nation which, since it rendered impossible a strict obedience to the institutions of the Old Covenant, and opened throughout the world an unimpeded path for the establishment of the New Commandment and the Kingdom not of earth, was — in a sense more true than any other event in human history — a second coming of the Lord.
8. It may have been on this occasion that Jesus told His disciples of the mountain in Galilee, where He would meet all who knew and loved Him for the last time. Whether it was Tabor, or the Mountain of Beatitudes, we do not know, but more than five hundred of His disciples collected at the given time with the eleven, and received from Jesus His last commands, to teach and baptize throughout all
nations; and the last promise, that He would be with them always, even to the end of the world. Writing more than twenty years after this time, St. Paul gives us the remarkable testimony, that the greater number of these eye-witnesses of the resurrection were yet alive, and that some only were “fallen asleep.”
9. A ninth appearance of Jesus is unrecorded in the Gospels, and is known to us from a single allusion in St. Paul alone. “I delivered unto you,” he writes to the Corinthians, “that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once: …. after that, He was seen of James; then of all the Apostles. And last of all He appeared to me also, as to the abortive born ( of the Apostolic family ).” Respecting this appearance to James, we know nothing further, unless there be any basis of true tradition in the story preserved to us in the Gospel of the Hebrews. We are there told that James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and the Lord’s brother, had, after the Last Supper, taken a solemn vow that he would neither eat nor drink until he had seen Jesus risen from the dead. Early, therefore, after His resurrection, Jesus, after He had given the sindôn to the servant of the priest, had a table with bread brought out, blessed the bread, and gave it to James, with the words, “Eat thy bread now, my brother, since the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”
10. Forty days had now elapsed since the Crucifixion. During those forty days nine times had He been visibly present to human eyes, and had been touched by human hands. But His body had not been merely the human body, nor liable to merely human laws, nor had He lived during those days the life of men. The time had now come when His earthly presence should be taken away from them for ever, until He returned in glory to judge the world. He met them in Jerusalem, and as He led them with Him towards Bethany, He bade them wait in the Holy City until they had received the promise of the Spirit. He checked their eager inquiry about the times and the seasons, and bade them be His witnesses in all the world. These last farewells must have been uttered in some of the wild secluded upland country that surrounds the little village; and when they were over, He lifted up His hands and blessed them, and, even as He blessed them, was parted from them, and as He passed from before their yearning eyes “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
Between us and His visible presence – between us and that glorified Redeemer who now sitteth at the right hand of God – that cloud still rolls. But the eye of Faith can pierce it; the incense of true prayer can rise above it; through it the dew of blessing can descend. And if He is gone away, yet He has given us in His Holy Spirit a nearer sense of His presence, a closer infolding in the arms of His tenderness, than we could have enjoyed even if we had lived with Him of old in the home of Nazareth, or sailed with Him in the little boat over the crystal waters of Gennesareth. We may be as near to Him at all times and more than all when we kneel down to pray- as the beloved disciple was when he laid his head upon His breast. The word of God is very nigh us, even in our mouths and in our hearts. To ears that have been closed His voice may seem indeed to sound no longer. The loud noises of War may shake the world; the eager calls of Avarice and of Pleasure may drown the gentle utterance which bids us “Follow Me;” after two thousand years of Christianity the incredulous murmurs of an impatient scepticism may make it scarcely possible for Faith to repeat, without insult, the creed which has been the regeneration of the world. Ay, and sadder even than this, every now and then may be heard, even in Christian England, the insolence of some blaspheming tongue which still scoffs at the Son of God as He lies in the agony of the garden, or breathes His last sigh upon the bitter tree. But the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. To all who will listen He still speaks. He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the world, and we have not found His promise fail. It was but for thirty-three short years of a short lifetime that He lived on earth; it was but for three broken and troubled years that He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom; but for ever, even until all the Aeons have been closed, and the earth itself, with the heavens that now are, have passed away, shall every one of His true and faithful children find peace and hope and forgiveness in His name, and that name shall be called Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted,
“GOD WITH US.”