This chapter gives some of the leading facts that followed the resurrection of Christ, and the relationships that the faithful were brought into. Further, it gives a picture of all God’s ways up to the manifestation of Christ to the Jewish remnant before the millennium.
Mary comes first while it was still dark. “She is alone in her love; the very strength of her affection isolates her,” to quote another. She tells Peter and John. They come, and on the basis of visible proofs, they believe. It was not a spiritual understanding of the thoughts of God by means of his word; they saw and believed. There was nothing in this that gathered the disciples.
There are four scenes that are so instructive here.
Peter and John are really believers, but they do not see in Christ the centre of the thoughts of God’s for His glory, for the world or for souls. He is not the centre of their affections. They find that He is risen, but they can do without Him. They go home. Self and home are sufficient for them.
Mary Magdalene is ignorant – still not understanding the fact of the resurrection from among the dead - but Christ means everything to her. Without Him she has nothing. The Lord answers her affections. Where there is heart for Christ, I am sure that He gives the needed understanding in due time.
She is not even afraid of the angels. She takes no special note of them. Her mind is occupied with her absent Lord. She speaks to the “gardener” as though he should know whom she is speaking about. Where have you placed Him? She wants to take Him away. Speaking practically, how could one woman do that? Such is her affection that such difficulties are nothing. But the Lord is the Good Shepherd who calls His sheep by name - see chapter 10. When He uses her name, she recognizes Him and calls Him Rabboni – my Teacher.
He would not let her touch him because He had taken a new position in resurrection. Perhaps she would have taken hold of His feet and done homage as the women did in Matthew. He is not going to establish the kingdom in Israel at that point in time. He is introducing them to a far greater status. Now that redemption is accomplished, believers have a part with Him, as cleansed, given new life and adopted. He gives her instruction as to that new position – not now to dwell among His Jewish people on earth, but that He must ascend to His Father and that the disciples were now His brethren and placed in the same position as He with His God and Father. The title of ‘brethren’ could not be used by Him until after His death and resurrection. “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”. Before this work of redemption, He spoke to them as friends, but not brethren. Now He was able to speak of them as brethren. See also Hebrews 2:11-13, “For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, etc.”
Thirdly, the above message gathers the disciples together. Then Jesus gives them His peace and sends them forth. The breath of life – Christ who is a quickening Spirit, imparts spiritual life to them. It is not the gift of the Spirit sent down from heaven, although it is no doubt a figure of that.
In fact the whole scene is a figure of the church position: the saints gathered by the testimony of Christ risen and going to the Father; the Holy Spirit bestowed on them as a consequence of Christ glorified; believers are recognized individually as children of God and in the same position before the Father as Christ; the church founded this way gathered to Christ and in the enjoyment of peace; the church also is to be a witness to the world of the remission of sins, and the administration of this given to it.
...To explain this ‘administration’, the retaining and remission of sins - there is a perfect
...example in the Corinthians Epistles. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul instructs them to remove
...the wicked man – the church had to “retain” or mark the sin publicly and heaven would
...concur or ‘retain’ – see also Matthew 18 where the word “bind” is used. When the man
...was repentant, Paul instructed them to forgive him in 2 Corinthians 2:6-8, to remit his
...sin; he was to be received again into fellowship. This is not a matter of eternal security
...but that of maintaining holy order in the church. The case of Ananias and Sapphira in
...Acts 5:1-10 is another example of sins “retained”.
Thomas believes and acknowledges that Jesus is his Lord and God when he is shown incontestable evidence. He truly believes for himself. He missed the messages of the value of the Lord’s work and of the relationship with His Father that the Lord brings His own. He has peace, but has missed the opening up of the true position of the church.
Thomas represents the faithful Jewish remnant in the last days, who will believe when they see - “they will look on him whom they pierced”. To this day the Jews refuse to accept the good news of the risen Christ. The place of sonship is not known. They will acknowledge Him as their Lord and their God.
Like Thomas, Israel will know the peace that follows belief in the work of the cross and of the person of Christ. But the Lord shows that their blessing will be inferior to that of the church. – “Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed they who have not seen and have believed”, John 20:29. The reference to “after eight days” has meaning. The Holy Spirit does not add words to pad out a story. In Scripture it seems to refer to a full period of time - in this case a new dispensation, a new era - the beginning of the millennial (1,000 year) reign of Christ. In Luke 9:27, when the Lord promised that some of them would not taste death until they had seen the kingdom of God, it was “about eight days” later that they saw his kingdom glory displayed on the Mount of Transfiguration, a scene that was a token or an exhibition of the coming millennial kingdom.
MM 8 February 2008