Chapter 16 | Table
of Contents | Appendix 1
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
'ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD:
HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN'
(St. Matthew 28:1-10; St. Mark 16:1-11;
St. Luke 24:1-12; St. John 20:1-18; St. Matthew 28:11-15; St.
Mark 16:12,13; St. Luke 24:13-35; 1 Cor. 15:5; St. Mark
16:14; St. Luke 24:36-43; St. John 20:19-25; St. John 20:26-29; St.
Matthew 28:16; St. John 21:1-24; St. Matthew 28:17-20; St.
Mark 16:15-28; 1 Cor. 15:6; St. Luke 24:44-53; St. Mark 16:19,20; Acts 1:3-12.)
GREY dawn was streaking the sky, when they who had so lovingly
watched Him to His Burying were making their lonely way to the rock-hewn Tomb
in the Garden.1
Considerable as are the difficulties of exactly harmonising the details in the
various narratives - if, indeed, importance attaches to such attempts - we are
thankful to know that any hesitation only attaches to the arrangement of minute
and not to the great facts of the case. And even these minute details would, as
we shall have occasion to show, be harmonious, if only we knew all the
must remain uncertain, however important, whether the oye sabbatwn refers to Saturday evening or early Sunday
reader who is desirous of comparing the different views about these seeming or
real small discrepancies is referred to the various Commentaries. On the
strictly orthodox side the most elaborate and learned attempt at concilliation
is that by Mr. McClellan (New Test., Harmony of the Four Gospels, pp.
508-538), although his ultimate scheme of arrangement seems to me too
The difference, if such it may be called, in the names of the
women, who at early morn went to the Tomb, scarce requires elaborate
discussion. It may have been, that there were two parties, starting from
different places to meet at the Tomb, and that this also accounts for the
slight difference in the details of what they saw and heard at the Grave. At
any rate, the mention of the two Marys and Joanna is supplemented in St. Luke3
by that of the 'other women with them,' while, if St. John speaks only of Mary
report to Peter and John: 'We know not where they have laid Him,' implies, that
she had not gone alone to the Tomb. It was the first day of the week5
- according to Jewish reckoning the third day from His Death.6
The narrative leaves the impression that the Sabbath's rest had delayed their
visit to the Tomb; but it is at least a curious coincidence that the relatives
and friends of the deceased were in the habit of going to the grave up to the
third day (when presumably corruption was supposed to begin), so as to make
sure that those laid there were really dead.7
Commenting on this, that Abraham described Mount Moriah on the third day,8
the Rabbis insist on the importance of 'the third day' in various events
connected with Israel, and specially speak of it in connection with the
resurrection of the dead, referring in proof to Hos. vi. 2.9
In another place, appealing to the same prophetic saying, they infer from Gen.
xlii. 7, that God never leaves the just more than three days in anguish.10
In mourning also the third day formed a sort of period, because it was thought
that the soul hovered round the body till the third day, when it finally parted
from its tabernacle.11
Luke xxiv. 10.
John xx. 1.
5. miasabbatwn, an expression which
exactly answers to the Rabbinic tb#b rx).
Semach. viii. p. 29 d.
R. 56, ed, Warsh. p. 102 b, top of page.
K. 28 b; Ber. R. 100.
Although these things are here mentioned, we need scarcely say
that no such thoughts were present with the holy mourners who, in the grey of
went to the Tomb. Whether or not there were two groups of women who started
from different places to meet at the Tomb, the most prominent figure among them
was Mary Magdalene13
- as prominent among the pious women as Peter was among the Apostles. She seems
to have reached the Grave,14
and, seeing the great stone that had covered its entrance rolled away, hastily
judged that the Body of the Lord had been removed. Without waiting for further
inquiry, she ran back to inform Peter and John of the fact. The Evangelist here
explains, that there had been a great earthquake, and that the Angel of the
Lord, to human sight as lightning and in brilliant white garment, had rolled
back the stone, and sat upon it, when the guard, affrighted by what they heard
and saw, and especially by the look and attitude of heavenly power in the
Angel, had been seized with mortal faintness. Remembering the events connected
with the Crucifixion, which had no doubt been talked about among the soldiery,
and bearing in mind the impression of such a sight on such minds, we could
readily understand the effect on the two sentries who that long night had kept
guard over the solitary Tomb. The event itself (we mean: as regards the rolling
away of the stone), we suppose to have taken place after the Resurrection of
Christ, in the early dawn, while the holy women were on their way to the Tomb.
The earth-quake cannot have been one in the ordinary sense, but a shaking of
the place, when the Lord of Life burst the gates of Hades to re-tenant His
Glorified Body, and the lightning-like Angel descended from heaven to roll away
the stone. To have left it there, when the Tomb was empty, would have implied
what was no longer true. But there is a sublime irony in the contrast between
man's elaborate precautions and the ease with which the Divine Hand can sweep
them aside, and which, as throughout the history of Christ and of His Church,
recalls the prophetic declaration: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh
cannot believe that St. Matthew xxvii. 1 refers to a visit of the two Marys on
the Saturday evening, nor St. Mark xvi. 1 to a purchasing at that time of
accounts imply, that the women knew nothing of the sealing of the stone and of
the guard set over the Tomb. This nay be held as evidence, that St. Matthew
could have not meant that the two Marys had visited the grave on the previous
evening (xxviii. 1). In such case they must have seen the guard. Nor could the
women in that case have wondered who roll away the stone for them.
cannot believe that St. Matthew xxvii. 1 refers to a visit of the two Marys on
the Saturday evening, nor St. Mark xvi. 1 to a purchasing at that time of
While the Magdalene hastened, probably by another road, to the abode
of Peter and John, the other women also had reached the Tomb, either in one
party, or, it may be, in two companies. They had wondered and feared how they
could accomplish their pious purpose - for, who would roll away the stone for
them? But, as often, the difficulty apprehended no longer existed. Perhaps they
thought that the now absent Mary Magdalene had obtained help for this. At any
rate, they now entered the vestibule of the Sepulchre. Here the appearance of
the Angel filled them with fear. But the heavenly Messenger bade them dismiss
apprehension; he told them that Christ was not there, nor yet any longer dead,
but risen, as indeed, He had foretold in Galilee to His disciples; finally, he
bade them hasten with the announcements to the disciples, and with this
message, that, as Christ had directed them before, they were to meet Him in
Galilee. It was not only that this connected, so to speak, the wondrous present
with the familiar past, and helped them to realise that it was their very Master;
nor yet that in the retirement, quiet, and security of Galilee, there would be
best opportunity for fullest manifestation, as to the five hundred, and for
final conversation and instruction. But the main reason, and that which
explains the otherwise strange, almost exclusive, prominence given at such a
moment to the direction to meet Him in Galilee, has already been indicated in a
With the scattering of the Eleven in Gethsemane on the night of Christ's
betrayal, the Apostolic College was temporarily broken up. They continued,
indeed, still to meet together as individual disciples, but the bond of the
Apostolate was for the moment, dissolved. And the Apostolic circle was to be
reformed, and the Apostolic Commission renewed and enlarged, in Galilee; not,
indeed, by its Lake, where only seven of the Eleven seem to have been present,16
but on the mountain where He had directed them to meet Him.17
Thus was the end to be like the beginning. Where He had first called, and
directed them for their work, there would He again call them, give fullest
directions, and bestow new and amplest powers. His appearances in Jerusalem
were intended to prepare them for all this, to assure them completely and
joyously of the fact of His Resurrection - the full teaching of which would be
given in Galilee. And when the women, perplexed and scarcely conscious, obeyed
the command to go in and examine for themselves the now empty niche in the
Tomb, they saw two Angels18
- probably as the Magdalene afterwards saw them - one at the head, the other at
the feet, where the Body of Jesus had lain. They waited no longer, but
hastened, without speaking to anyone, to carry to the disciples the tidings of
which they could not even yet grasp the full import.19
this Book, ch. xii.
John xxi. 2.
Matt. xxviii. 16.
may, however, have been that the appearance of the one Angel was to one company
of women, that of two Angels to another.
I would speak very diffidently on the subject, it seems to me as if the
Evangelist had compresses the whole of that morning's event into one narrative:
'The Women at the Sepulchre.' It is this compression which gives the appearance
of more events than really took place, owing to the appearance of being divided
into scenes, and the circumstance that the different writers give prominence to
different persons or else to different details in what is really one scene.
Nay, I am disposed - though again with great diffidence - to regard the
appearance of Jesus 'to the women' (St. Matt. xxviii. 9) as the same with that
to Mary Magdalene, recorded in St. John xx. 11-17, and referred to in St. Mark
xvi. 9 - the more so as the words in St. Matt. xxviii. 9 'as they went to tell
His disciples' are spurious, being probably intended for harmonious purposes.
But, while suggesting this view, I would by no means maintain it as one certain
to my own mind, although it would simplify details otherwise very intricate.
2. But whatever unclearness of detail may rest on the
narratives of the Synoptists, owing to their great compression, all is distinct
when we follow the steps of the Magdalene, as these traced in the Fourth
Gospel. Hastening from the Tomb, she ran to the lodging of Peter and to that of
John - the repetition of the preposition 'to' probably marking, that the two
occupied different, although perhaps closely adjoining, quarters.20
Her startling tidings induced them to go at once - 'and they went towards the
sepulchre.' 'But they began to run, the two together' - probably so soon as
they were outside the town and near 'the Garden.' John, as the younger, outran
the Sepulchre first, and stooping down, 'he seeth' (blepei) the linen clothes, but, from his position, not
the napkin which lay apart by itself. If reverence and awe prevented John from
entering the Sepulchre, his impulsive companion, who arrived immediately after
him, thought of nothing else than the immediate and full clearing up of the
mystery. As he entered the sepulchre, he 'steadfastly (intently) beholds' (qewrei) in one place the linen swathes
that had bound about His Head. There was no sign of haste, but all was orderly,
leaving the impression of One Who had leisurely divested Himself of what no
longer befitted Him. Soon 'the other disciples' followed Peter. The effect of
what he saw was, that he now believed in his heart that the Master was risen -
for till then they had not yet derived from Holy Scripture the knowledge that
He must rise again. And this also is most instructive. It was not the belief previously
derived from Scripture, that the Christ was to rise from the Dead,
which led to expectancy of it, but the evidence that He had risen which led
them to the knowledge of what Scripture taught on the subject.
may be regarded as a specimen of what one might designate as the imputation of
sinister motives to the Evangelists, when the most 'advanced' negative
criticism describes this 'legend' as implying the contest between Jewish and
Gentile Christianity (Peter and John) in which the younger gains the race!
Similarly, we are informed that the penitent on the Cross is intended to
indicate the Gentiles, the impenitent the Jews! But no language can be to
strong to repudiate the imputation, that so many parts of the Gospels were
intended as covert attacks by certain tendencies in the early Church against
others - the Petrine and Jacobine against the Johannine and Pauline directions.
3. Yet whatever light had risen in the inmost sanctuary of
John's heart, he spake not his thoughts to the Magdalene, whether she had
reached the Sepulchre ere the two left it, or met them by the way. The two
Apostles returned to their home, either feeling that nothing more could be
learned at the Tomb, or to wait for further teaching and guidance. Or it might
even have been partly due to a desire not to draw needless attention to the
empty Tomb. But the love of the Magdalene could not rest satisfied, while doubt
hung over the fate of His Sacred Body. It must be remembered that she knew only
of the empty Tomb. For a time she gave away the agony of her sorrow; then, as
she wiped away her tears, she stopped to take one more look into the Tomb,
which she thought empty, when, as she 'intently gazed' (qewrei), the Tomb seemed no longer empty. At the head and
feet, where the Sacred Body had lain, were seated two Angels in white. Their
question, so deeply true from their knowledge that Christ had risen: 'Woman,
why weepest thou?' seems to have come upon the Magdalene with such overpowering
suddenness, that, without being able to realise - perhaps in the semi-gloom -
who it was that had asked it, she spake, bent only on obtaining the information
she sought: 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not22
where they have laid Him.' So is it often with us, that, weeping, we ask the
question of doubt or fear, which, if we only knew, would never have risen to
our lips; nay, that heaven's own 'Why?' fails to impress us, even when the
Voice of its Messengers would gently recall us from the error of our
Meyer contends that the plural in St. John xx. 2, 'We know not where
they have laid Him,' does not refer to the presence of other women with the
Magdalene, but is a general expression for: We, all His followers, have no
knowledge of it - he must have overlooked that, when alone, she repeats the
same words in ver. 13, but markedly uses the singular number: 'I know
But already another was to given to the Magdalene. As she
spake, she became conscious of another Presence close to her. Quickly turning
round, 'she gazed' (qewrei) on
One Whom she recognised not, but regarded as the gardener, from His presence
there and from His question: 'Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?' The
hope, that she might now learn what she sought, gave wings to her words -
intensity and pathos. If the supposed gardener had borne to another place the
Sacred Body, she would take It away, if she only knew where It was laid. This
depth and agony of love, which made the Magdalene forget even the restraints of
a Jewish woman's intercourse with a stranger, was the key that opened the Lips of
Jesus. A moment's pause, and He spake her name in those well-remembered
accents, that had first unbound her from sevenfold demoniac power and called
her into a new life. It was as another unbinding, another call into a new life.
She had not known His appearance, just as the others did not know at first, so
unlike, and yet so like, was the glorified Body to that which they had known.
But she could not mistake the Voice, especially when It spake to her, and spake
her name. So do we also often fail to recognise the Lord when He comes to us
'in another form'23
than we had known. But we cannot fail to recognise Him when He speaks to us and
speaks our name.
Mark xvi. 12.
Perhaps we may here be allowed to pause, and, from the
nonrecognition of the Risen Lord till He spoke, ask this question: With what
body shall we rise? Like or unlike the past? Assuredly, most like. Our
bodies will then be true; for the soul will body itself forth according
to its past history - not only impress itself, as now on the features,
but express itself - so that a man may be known by what he is, and as
what he is. Thus, in this respect also, has the Resurrection a moral aspect,
and is the completion of the history of mankind and of each man. And the Christ
also must have borne in His glorified Body all that He was, all that even His
most intimate disciples had not known nor understood while He was with them,
which they now failed to recognise, but knew at once when He spake to them.
It was precisely this which now prompted the action of the
Magdalene - prompted also, and explains, the answer of the Lord. As in her name
she recognised His Name, the rush of old feeling came over her, and with the
- my Master - she would fain have grasped Him. Was it the unconscious impulse
to take hold on the precious treasure which she had thought for ever lost; the
unconscious attempt to make sure that it was not merely an apparition of Jesus
from heaven, but the real Christ in His corporeity on earth; or a gesture of
generation, the beginning of such acts of worship as her heart prompted?
Probably all these; and yet probably she was not at the moment distinctly
conscious of either or of any of these feelings. But to them all there was one
answer, and in it a higher direction, given by the words of the Lord: 'Touch Me
not, for I am not yet ascended to the Father.' Not the Jesus appearing from
heaven - for He had not yet ascended to the Father; not the former intercourse,
not the former homage and worship. There was yet a future of completion before
Him in the Ascension, of which Mary knew not. Between that future of completion
and the past of work, the present was a gap - belonging partly to the past and
partly to the future. The past could not be recalled, the future could not be
anticipated. The present was of reassurance, of consolation, of preparation, of
teaching. Let the Magdalene go and tell His 'brethren' of the Ascension. So
would she best and most truly tell them that she had seen Him; so also would
they best learn how the Resurrection linked the past of His Work of love for
them to the future: 'I ascend unto My Father, and your Father, and to my God,
and your God.' Thus, the fullest teaching of the past, the clearest
manifestation of the present, and the brightest teaching of the future - all as
gathered up in the Resurrection - came to the Apostles through the mouth of
love of her out of whom He had cast seven devils.
may represent the Galilean form of the expression, and, if so, would be
all the more evidential.
4. Yet another scene on that Easter morning does St. Matthew
relate, in explanation of how the well-known Jewish Calumny had arisen that the
disciples had stolen away the Body of Jesus. He tells, how the guard had
reported to the chief priests what had happened, and how they had turn had
bribed the guard to spread this rumor, at the same time promising that if the
fictitious account of their having slept while the disciples robbed the
Sepulchre should reach Pilate, they would intercede on their behalf. Whatever
else may be said, we know that from the time of Justin Martyr2526
this has been the Jewish explanation.27
Of late, however, it has, among thoughtful Jewish writers, given place to the
so-called 'Vision-hypothesis,' to which full reference has already been made.
c. Tryph. xvii.; cviii.
its coarsest form it is told in the so-called Toldoth Jeshu, which may
be seen at the end of Wagenseil's Tela Ignea Satanæ.
Grätz, and most of the modern writers.
5. It was the early afternoon of that spring-day perhaps soon
after the early meal, when two men from that circle of disciples left the City.
Their narrative affords deeply interesting glimpses into the circle of the
Church in those first days. The impression conveyed to us is of utter
bewilderment, in which only some things stood out unshaken and firm: love to
the Person of Jesus; love among the brethren; mutual confidence and fellowship;
together with a dim hope of something yet to come - if not Christ in His
Kingdom, yet some manifestation of, or approach to it. The Apostolic College
seems broken up into units; even the two chief Apostles, Peter and John, are
only 'certain of them that were with us.' And no wonder; for they are no longer
'Apostles' - sent out. Who is to send them forth? Not a dead Christ! And what
would be their commission, and to whom and whither? And above all rested a
cloud of utter uncertainty and perplexity. Jesus was a Prophet mighty in
word and deed before God and all the people. But their rulers had crucified
Him. What was to be their new relation to Jesus; what to their rulers? And what
of the great hope of the Kingdom, which they had connected with Him?
Thus they were unclear on that very Easter Day even as to His
Mission and Work: unclear as to the past, the present, and the future. What
need for the Resurrection, and for the teaching which the Risen One alone could
bring! These two men had on that very day been in communication with Peter and
John. And it leaves on us the impression, that, amidst the general confusion,
all had brought such tidings as they, or had come to hear them, and had tried
but failed, to put it all into order or to see light around it. 'The women' had
come to tell of the empty Tomb and of their vision of Angels, who said that He
was alive. But as yet the Apostles had no explanation to offer. Peter and John
had gone to see for themselves. They had brought back confirmation of the
report that the Tomb was empty, but they had seen neither Angels nor Him Whom
they were said to have declared alive. And, although the two had evidently left
the circle of the disciples, if not Jerusalem, before the Magdalene came, yet
we know that even her account did not carry conviction to the minds of those
that heard it.28
Mark xvi. 11.
Of the two, who
on that early spring afternoon left the City in company, we know that one bore
the name of Cleopas.29
The other, unnamed, has for that very reason, and because the narrative of that
work bears in its vividness the character of personal recollection, been
identified with St. Luke himself. If so, then, as has been finely remarked,30
each of the Gospels would, like a picture, bear in some dim corner the
indication of its author: the first, that of the 'publican;' that by St. Mark,
that of the young man, who, in the night of the Betrayal, had fled from his
captors; that of St. Luke in the Companion of Cleopas; and that of St. John, in
the disciple whom Jesus loved. Uncertainty, almost equal to that about the
second traveller to Emmaus, rests on the identification of that place.31
But such great probability attaches, if not to the exact spot, yet to the
locality, or rather the valley, that we may in imagination follow the two
companies on their road.
may be either a form of Alphæus, or of Cleopatros.
less than four localities have been identified with Emmaus. But some
preliminary difficulties must be cleared. The name Emmaus is spelt in different
ways in the Tulmud (comp. Neubauer, Geogr. d. Talm. p. 100, Note 3). Josephus
(War iv. 1. 3; Ant. xviii. 2. 3) explains the meaning of the name as 'warm
baths,' or thermal springs. We will not complicate the question by discussing
the derivation of Emmaus. In another place (War vii. 6. 6) Josephus
speaks of Vespasian having settled in an Emmaus, sixty furlongs from Jerusalem,
a colony of soldiers. There can be little doubt that the Emmaus of St. Luke and
that of Josephus are identical. Lastly, we read in Mishnah (Sukk. iv. 5)
of a Motsa whence they fetched the willow branches with which the altar
was decorated at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Talmud explains this Moza as
Kolonieh, which again is identified by Christian writers with Vespasian's
colony of Roman soldiers (Caspari, Chronol Geogr. Einl. p. 207; Quart.
Rep. of the Pal Explor. Fund, July 1881, p. 237 [not without some slight
inaccuracies]). But an examination of the passage in the Mishanah must lead us
to dismiss this part of the theory. No one could imagine that the worshippers
would walk sixty stadia (seven or eight miles) for willow branches to decorate
the altar, while the Mishah, besides, describes this Moza as below, or
south of Jerusalem, whereas the modern Kolonieh (which is identified
with the Colonia of Josephus) is northwest of Jerusalem. No doubt, the
Talmud, knowing that there was an Emmaus which was 'Colonia,' blunderingly
identified with it the Moza of the willow branches. This, however, it seems
lawful to infer from it, that the Emmaus of Josephus bore popularly the
name of Kolonieh. We can now examine the four proposed identifications
of Emmaus. The oldest and the youngest of these may be briefly dismissed. The
most common, perhaps the earliest identification, was with the ancient Nicopolis,
the modern Amwâs, which in Rabbinic writings also bears the name of
Emmaus (Neubauer, u.s.). But this is impossible, as Nicopolis is twenty
miles from Jerusalem. The latest proposed identification is that with Urtas,
to the south of Bethlehem (Mrs. Finn, Quart. Rep. of Pal. Exlor. Fund,
Jan. 1883, p. 53). It is impossible here to enter into the various reasons
urged by the talented and accomplished proposer of this identification. Suffice
it, in refutation, to note, that, admittedly, there were 'no natural hot-baths,' or thermal springs, here, only 'artificial Roman baths,' such as, no
doubt, in many other places, and that 'this Emmaus was Emmaus only at
the particular period when they (St. Luke and Josephus) were writing'
(u.s. p. 62). There now only remain two localities, the modern Kolonieh
and Kubeibeh - for the strange proposed identification by Lieut. Conder
in the Quarterly Rep. of the Pal. Explor. Fund, Oct. 1876 (pp. 172-175) seems
now abandoned even by its author. Kolonieh would, of course, represent
the Colonia of Josephus, according to the Talmud = Emmaus. But
this is only 45 furlongs from Jerusalem. But at the head of the same valley, in
the Wady Buwai, and at a distance of about three miles north, is Kubeibeh, the
Emmaus of the Crusaders, just sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. Between these places
is Beit Mizza, or Hammoza, which I regard as the real Emmaus. It
would be nearly 55 or 'about 60 furlongs' (St. Luke) - sufficiently near to Kolonieh
(Colonia) to account for the name, since the 'colony' would extend up the
valley, and sufficiently near to Kubeibeh to account for the tradition.
The Palestine Exploration Fund has now apparently fixed on Kubeibeh as
the site (see Q. Report, July, 1881, p. 237, and their N. T. map.
We have leave the City by the Western Gate. A rapid progress
for about twenty-five minutes, and we have reached the edge of the plateau. The
blood-strained City, and the cloud-and-gloom-capped trying-place of the
followers of Jesus, are behind us; and with every step forward and upward the
air seems fresher and freer, as if we felt in it the scent of mountains, or
even the far-off breezes of the sea. Other twenty-five or thirty minutes -
perhaps a little more, passing here and there country-houses - and we pause to
look back, now on the wide prospect far as Bethlehem. Again we pursue our way.
We are now getting beyond the dreary, rocky region, and are entering on a
valley. To our right is the pleasant spot that marks the ancient Nephtoah,32
on the border of Judah, now occupied by the village of Lifta. A short
quarter of an hour more, and we have left the well-paved Roman road and are
heading up a lovely valley. The path gently climbs in a north-westerly
direction, with the height on which Emmaus stands prominently before us. About
equidistant are, on the right Lifta, on the left Kolonieh. The roads from these
two, describing almost a semicircle (the one to the north-west, the other to
the north-east), meet about a quarter of a mile to the south of Emmaus
(Hammoza, Beit Mizza). What an oasis this in a region of hills! Among the
course of the stream, which babbles down, and low in the valley is crossed by a
bridge, are scented orange-and lemon-gardens, olive-groves, luscious fruit
trees, pleasant enclosures, shady nooks, bright dwellings, and on the height
lovely Emmaus. A sweet spot to which to wander on that spring afternoon;33
a most suitable place where to meet such companionship, and to find such
teaching, as on that Easter Day.
to this day seems a favourite resort of the inhabitants of Jerusalem for an
afternoon (comp. Conder's Tent-Work in Palestine, i. pp. 25-27).
It may have been where the two roads from Lifta and Kolonieh
meet, that the mysterious Stranger, Whom they knew not, their eyes being
'holden,' joined the two friends. Yet all these six or seven miles34
their converse had been of Him, and even now their flushed faces bore the marks
of sadness35 on
account of those events of which they had been speaking - disappointed hopes,
all the more bitter for the perplexing tidings about the empty Tomb and the
absent Body of the Christ. So is Christ often near to us when our eyes are
holden, and we know Him not; and so do ignorance and unbelief often fill our
hearts with sadness, even when truest joy would most become us. To the question
of the Stranger about the topics of a conversation which had so visibly
they replied in language which shows that they were so absorbed by it
themselves, as scarcely to understand how even a festive pilgrim and stranger
in Jerusalem could have failed to know it, or perceive its supreme importance.
Yet, strangely unsympathetic as from His question He might seem, there was that
in His Appearance which unlocked their inmost hearts. They told Him their
thoughts about this Jesus; how He had showed Himself a prophet mighty in deed
and word before God and all the people;37
then, how their rulers had crucified Him; and, lastly, how fresh perplexity had
come to them from the tidings which the women had brought, and which Peter and
John had so far confirmed, but were unable to explain. Their words were almost
childlike in their simplicity, deeply truthful, and with a pathos and earnest
craving for guidance and comfort that goes straight to the heart. To such souls
it was, that the Risen Saviour would give His first teaching. The very rebuke
with which He opened it must have brought its comfort. We also, in our
weakness, are sometimes sore distrest when we hear what, at the moment, seem to
us insuperable difficulties raised to any of the great of our holy faith; and,
in perhaps equal weakness, feel comforted and strengthened, when some 'great
one' turns them aside, or avows himself in face of them a believing disciple of
Christ. As if man's puny height could reach up to heaven's mysteries, or any
big infant's strength were needed to steady the building which God has reared
on that great Cornerstone! But Christ's rebuke was not of such kind. Their
sorrow arose from their folly in looking only at the things seen, and this,
from their slowness to believe what the prophets had spoken. Had they attended
to this, instead of allowing it all. Did not the Scriptures with one voice
teach this twofold truth about the Messiah, that He was to suffer and to enter
into His glory? Then why wonder - why not rather expect, that He had suffered,
and that Angels had proclaimed Him alive again?
34. 60 furlongs about = "7" ½ miles.
cannot persuade myself that the right reading of the close of ver. 17 (St. Luke
xxiv.) can be 'And they stood still, looking sad.' Every reader will mark this
as an incongruous, jejune break-up in the vivid narrative, quite unlike the
rest. We can understand the question as in our A.V., but scarcely the
standing-still and looking sad on the question as in the R. V.
this last clause we could hardly understand how a stranger would accost them,
ask the subject of their conversation.
rendering of oV egeneto in ver.
19 as implying: se præstitit, se præbuit, is more correct than
the 'which was' of both the A.V. and R.V.
He spake it, and fresh hope sprang up in their hearts, new
thoughts rose in their minds. Their eager gaze was fastened on Him as He now
opened up, one by one, the Scriptures, from Moses and all the prophets, and in
each well-remembered passage interpreted to them the things concerning Himself.
Oh, that we had been there to hear - though in silence of our hearts also, if
only we crave for it, and if we walk with Him, He sometimes so opens from the
Scriptures - nay, from all the Scriptures, that which comes not to us by
critical study: 'the things concerning Himself.' All too quickly fled the
moments. The brief space was traversed, and the Stranger seemed about to pass
on from Emmaus - not the feigning it, but really: for, the Christ will only
abide with us if our longing and loving constrain Him. But they could not part
with Him. 'They constrained Him.' Love made them ingenious. It was toward
evening; the day was far spent; He must even abide with them. What rush of
thought and feeling comes to us, as we think of it all, and try to realise
time, scenes, circumstances in our experience, that are blessedly akin to it.
The Master allowed Himself to be constrained. He went in to be
their guest, as they thought, for the night. The simple evening-meal was
spread. He sat down with them to the frugal board. And now He was no longer the
Stranger; He was the Master. No one asked, or questioned, as He took the bread
and spake the words of blessing, then, breaking, gave it to them. But that
moment it was, as if an unfelt Hand had been taken from their eyelids, as if
suddenly the film had been cleared from their sight. And as they knew Him, He
vanished from their view - for, that which He had come to do had been done.
They were unspeakably rich and happy now. But, amidst it all, one thing forced
itself ever anew upon them, that, even while their eyes had yet been holden,
their hearts had burned within them, while He spake to them and opened to them
the Scriptures. So, then, they had learned to full the Resurrection-lesson -
not only that He was risen indeed, but that it needed not His seen Bodily
Presence, if only He opened up to the heart and mind all the Scriptures
concerning Himself. And this, concerning those other words about 'holding' and
'touching' Him - about having converse and fellowship with Him as the Risen
One, had been also the lesson taught the Magdalene, when He would not suffer
her loving, worshipful touch, pointing her to the Ascension before Him. This is
the great lesson concerning the Risen One, which the Church fully learned in
the Day of Pentecost.
6. That same afternoon, in circumstances and manner to us
unknown, the Lord had appeared to Peter.38
We may perhaps suggest, that it was after His manifestation at Emmaus.
This would complete the cycle of mercy: first, to the loving sorrow of the
woman; next, to the loving perplexity of the disciples; then, to the anxious
heart of the stricken Peter - last, in the circle of the Apostles, which was
again drawing together around the assured fact of His Resurrection.
Cor. xv. 5.
7. These two in Emmaus could not have kept the good tidings to
themselves. Even if they had not remembered the sorrow and perplexity in which
they had left their fellow-disciples in Jerusalem that forenoon, they could not
have kept it to themselves, could not have remained in Emmaus, but must have
gone to their brethren in the City. So they left the uneaten meal, and hastened
back the road they had travelled with the now well-known Stranger - but, ah,
with what lighter hearts and steps!
They knew well the trysting-place where to find 'the Twelve' -
nay, not the Twelve now, but 'the Eleven' - and even thus their circle was not
complete, for, as already stated, it was broken up, and at least Thomas was not
with the others on that Easter-Evening of the first 'Lord's Day.' But, as St.
Luke is careful to inform us,39
with the others who then associated with them. This is of extreme importance,
as marking that the words which the Risen Christ spake on that occasion were
addressed not to the Apostles as such - a thought forbidden also by the absence
of Thomas - but to the Church, although it may be as personified and
represented by such of the 'Twelve,' or rather 'Eleven,' as were present on the
Luke xxiv. 33.
When the two from Emmanus arrived, they found the little band
as sheep sheltering within the fold from the storm. Whether they apprehended
persecution simply as disciples, or because the tidings of the empty Tomb,
which had reached the authorities, would stir the fears of the Sanhedrists,
special precautions had been taken. The outer and inner doors were shut, alike
to conceal their gathering and to prevent surprise. But those assembled were
now sure of at least one thing. Christ was risen. And when they from
Emmanus told their wondrous story, the others could antiphonally reply by
relating how He had appeared, not only to the Magdalene, but also to Peter. And
still they seem not yet to have understood His Resurrection; to have regarded
it as rather an Ascension to Heaven, from which He had made manifestation, that
as the reappearance of His real, though glorified Corporeity.
They were sitting at meat40
- if we may infer from the notice of St. Mark, and from what happened
immediately afterwards, discussing, not without considerable doubt and
misgiving, the real import of these appearances of Christ. That to the
Magdalene seems to have been put aside - at least, it is not mentioned, and,
even in regard to the others, they seem to have been considered, at any rate by
some, rather as what we might call spectral appearances. But all at once He
stood in the midst of them. The common salutation - on His Lips not common, but
a reality - fell on their hearts at first with terror rather than joy. They had
spoken of spectral appearances, and now they believed they were 'gazing' (qewrein) on 'a spirit.' This the
Saviour first, and once for all, corrected, by the exhibition of the glorified
marks of His Sacred Wounds, and by bidding them handle Him to convince
themselves, that His was a real Body, and what they saw not a disembodied
unbelief of doubt now gave place to the not daring to believe all that it
meant, for very gladness, and for wondering whether there could now be any
longer fellowship or bond between this Risen Christ and them in their bodies.
It was to remove this also, which, though from another aspect, was equally
unbelief, that the Saviour now partook before them of their supper of broiled
holding with them true human fellowship as of old.43
Mark xvi. 14.
cannot understand why Canon Cook ('Speaker's Commentary' ad loc.)
regards St. Luke xxiv. 39 as belonging 'to the appearance on the octave of the
Resurrection.' It appears to me, on the contrary, to be strictly parallel to
St. John xx. 20.
words 'and honeycomb' seem spurious.
seems to me the meaning of His eating; any attempt at explaining, we willingly
forego in our ignorance of the conditions of a glorified body, just as we
refuse to discuss the manner in which He suddenly appeared in the room while
the doors were shut. But I at least cannot believe, that His body was then in a
'transition state,' not perfected not quite glorified till His Ascension.
It was this lesson of His continuity - in the strictest sense -
with the past, which was required in order that the Church might be, so to
speak, reconstituted now in the Name, Power, and Spirit of the Risen One Who
had lived and died. Once more He spake the 'Peace be unto you!' and now it was
to them not occasion of doubt or fear, but the well-known salutation of their
old Lord and Master. It was followed by the re-gathering and constituting of
the Church as that of Jesus Christ, the Risen One. The Church of the Risen One was
to be the Ambassador of Christ, as He had been the Delegate of the Father. 'The
Apostles were [say rather, 'the Church was'] commissioned to carry on Christ's
work, and not to begin a new one.'44
'As the Father has sent Me [in the past, for His Mission was completed], even
so send45 I you [in
the constant, present, till His coming again].' This marks the threefold
relation of the Church to the Son, to the Father, and to the world, and her
position in it. In the same manner, for the same purpose, nay, so far as
possible, with the same qualification and the same authority as the Father had
sent Christ, does He commission His Church. And so it was that He made it a
very real commission when He breathed on them, not individually but as an
assembly, and said: 'Take ye the46
Holy Ghost;' and this, manifestly not in the absolute sense, since the Holy
Ghost was not yet given,47
but as the connecting link with, and the qualification for, the authority
bestowed on the Church. Or, to set forth another aspect of it by somewhat
inverting the order of the words: Alike the Mission of the Church and her
authority to forgive or retain sins are connected with a personal
qualification: 'Take ye the Holy Ghost;' - in which the word 'take' should also
be marked. This is the authority which the Church possesses, not ex opere
operato, but as not connected with the taking and the indwelling of the
Holy Ghost in the Church.
words in the two clauses are different in regard to the sending of Christ (apestalken me) and in regard to the
Church (pempw umaV). No doubt,
there must be deeper meaning in this distinction, yet both are used alike of
Christ and of the disciples. It may be as Cremer seems to hint (Bibl.
Theol. Lex. of the N.T. p. 529) that apostellw,
from which 'apostle' and 'apostolate' are derived, refers to a mission with a
definite commission, or rather for a definite purpose, while pempw is sending in a general sense.
See the learned and ingenious Note of Canon Westcott (Comm. on St. John,
the original the definite article is omitted. But this, though significant, can
surely not be supposed to prove that the expression is equivalent to 'a gift of
the Holy Ghost.' For, as Meyer has pointed out, the word is used in
other passages without the article, where the Holy Ghost is referred to (comp.
St. John i. 33; vii. 39; Acts i. 2, 5).
alone would suffice to show what misinterpretation is sometimes made, by friend
and foe, of the use of these words in the English Ordinal.
It still remains to explain, so far as we can, these two
points: in what this power of forgiving and retaining sins consists, and in
what manner it resides in the Church. In regard to the former we must first
inquire what idea it would convey to those to whom Christ spake the words. It
has already been explained,48
that the power of 'loosing' and 'binding' referred to the legislative authority
claimed by, and conceded to, the Rabbinic College. Similarly, as previously
stated, that here referred to applied to their juridical or judicial power,
according to which they pronounced a person either, 'Zakkai,' innocent
or 'free;' 'absolved,' 'Patur;' or else 'liable,' 'guilty,' 'Chayyabh'
(whether liable to punishment or sacrifice.) In the true sense, therefore, this
is rather administrative, disciplinary power, 'the power of the keys' - such as
St. Paul would have had the Corinthian Church put in force - the power of
admission and exclusion, of the authoritative declaration of the forgiveness of
sins, in the exercise of which power (as it seems to the present writer) the
authority for the administration of the Holy Sacraments is also involved. And
yet it is not, as is sometimes represented, 'absolution from sin,' which
belongs only to God and to Christ as Head of the Church, but absolution of the
sinner, which He has delegated to His Church: 'Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they
are forgiven.' These words also teach us, that the Rabbis claimed in virtue of
their office, that the Lord bestowed on His Church in virtue of her receiving,
and of the indwelling of, the Holy Ghost.
iii. ch. xxxvii.
In answering the second question proposed, we must bear in mind
one important point. The power of 'binding' and 'loosing' had been primarily
committed to the Apostles,49
and exercised by them in connection with the Church.50
On the other hand, that of forgiving and retaining sins, in the sense
explained, was primarily bestowed on the Church, and excercised by her through
her representatives, the Apostles, and those to whom they committed rule.51
Although, therefore, the Lord on that night committed this power to His Church,
it was in the person of her representatives and rulers. The Apostles alone
could exercise legislative function,52
but the Church, has to the end of time 'the power of the keys.'
Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18.
xv. 22, 23.
Cor. v. 4, 5, 12, 13; 2 Cor. ii. 6, 10.
decrees of the first Councils should be regarded not as legislative, but either
as disciplinary, or else as explanatory of Apostolic teaching and legislation.
8. There had been absent from the circle of disciples on that
Easter-Evening one of the Apostles, Thomas. Even when told of the marvellous
events at that gathering, he refused to believe, unless he had personal and
sensous evidence of the truth of the report. It can scarcely have been, that
Thomas did not believe in the fact that Christ's Body had quitted the Tomb, or
that He had really appeared. But he held fast by what we may term the
Vision-hypothesis, or, in this case, rather the spectral theory. But until this
Apostle also had come to conviction of the Resurrection in the only real sense
- of the identical though glorified Corporeity of the Lord, and hence of the
continuity of the past with the present and future, it was impossible to
re-form the Apostlic Circle, or to renew the Apostolic commission, since its
primal message was testimony concerning the Risen One. This, if we may so
suggest, seems the reason why the Apostles still remain in Jerusalem, instead
of hastening, as directed, to meet the Master in Galilee.
A quiet week had passed, during which - and this also may be
for our twofold learning - the Apostles excluded not Thomas,53
nor yet Thomas withdrew from the Apostles. Once more the day of days had come -
the Octave of the Feast. From that Easter-Day onwards the Church must, even
without special institution, have celebrated the weekly-recurring memorial of
His Resurrection, as that when He breathed on the Church the breath of a new
life, and consecrated it to be His Representative. Thus, it was not only the
memorial of His Resurrection, but the birthday of the Church, even as Pentecost was her baptism day. On that Octave, then, the disciples were again
gathered, under circumstances precisely similar to those of Easter, but now
Thomas was also with them. Once more - and it is again specially marked: 'the
doors being shut'54
- the Risen Saviour appeared in the midst of the disciples with the well-known
salutation. He now offered to Thomas the demanded evidence; but it was no
longer either needed or sought. With a full rush of feeling he yielded himself
to the blessed conviction, which once formed, must immediately have passed into
act of adoration: 'My Lord and my God!' The fullest confession this hitherto
made, and which truly embraced the whole outcome of the new conviction
concerning the reality of Christ's Resurrection. We remember how, under similar
circumstances, Nathnael had been the first to utter fullest confession.55
We also remember the analogous reply of the Saviour. As then, so now, He
pointed to the higher: to a faith which was not the outcome of sight, and
therefore limited and bounded by sight, whether of the sense or of perception
by the intellect. As one has finely remarked: 'This last and greatest of the
Beatitudes is the peculiar heritage of the later Church'56
- and thus most aptly comes as the consecration gift of that Church.
must, however, be remembered that Thomas did not deny that Christ was risen -
except as in the peculiar sense of the Resurrection. Had he denied the other,
he would scarcely have continued in the company of the Apostles.
the expression 'for fear of the Jews' no longer occurs. That apprehension had
for the present passed away.
John i. 45-51.
9. The next scene presented to us is once again by the Lake of
Galilee. The manifestation to Thomas, and, with it, the restoration of unity in
the Apostolic Circle, had originally concluded the Gospel of St. John.57
But the report which had spread in the early Church, that Disciple whom Jesus
loved was not to die, led him to add to his Gospel, by way of Appendix, and
account of the events with which this expectancy had connected itself. It is
most instructive to the critic, when challenged at every step to explain why
one or another fact is not mentioned or mentioned only in one Gospel, to find
that, but for the correction of a possible misapprehension in regard to the
aged Apostle, the Fourth Gospel would have contained no reference to the
manifestation of Christ in Galilee, nay, to the presence of the disciples there
before the Ascension. Yet, for all that St. John had it in his mind. And should
we not learn from this, that what appear to us strange omissions, which, when
held by the side of the other Gospel-narratives, seem to involve discrepancies,
may be capable of the most satisfactory explanation, if we only knew all the
John xx. 30, 31.
The history itself sparkles like a gem in its own peculiar
setting. It is of green Galilee, and of the blue Lake, and recalls the early
days and scenes of this history. As St. Matthew has it,58
'the eleven disciples went away into Galilee' - probably immediately after that
Octave of the Easter.59
It can scarcely be doubted, that they made known not only the fact of the
Resurrection, but the trysting which the Risen One had given them - perhaps at
that Mountain where He had spoken His first 'Sermon.' And so it was, that 'some
doubted,'60 and that
He afterwards appeared to the five hundred at once.61
But on that morning there were by the Lake of Tiberias only seven of the
disciples. Five of them only are named. They are those who most closely kept in
company with Him - perhaps also they who lived nearest the Lake.
Matt. xxviii. 16.
account of St. Luke (xxiv. 44-48) is a condensed narrative - without
distinction of time or place - of what occurred during all the forty days.
Matt. xxviii. 17.
Cor. xv. 6.
The scene is introduced by Peter's proposal to go a-fishing. It
seems as if the old habits had come back to them with the old associations.
Peter's companions naturally proposed to join him.62
All that still, clear night they were on the Lake, but caught nothing. Did not
this recall to them for former event, when James and John, and Peter and Andrew
were called to be Apostles, and did it not specially recall to Peter the
searching and sounding of his heart on the morning that followed?63
But so utterly self-unconscious were they, and, let us add, so far is this
history from any trace of legendary design,64
that not the slightest indication of this appears. Early morning was breaking,
and under the rosy glow above the cool shadows were still lying on the pebbly
'beach.' There stood the Figure of One Whom they recognised not - nay, not even
when He spake. Yet His Words were intended to bring them this knowledge. The
direction to cast the net to the right side of the ship brought them, as He had
said, the haul for which they had toiled all night in vain. And more than this:
such a multitude of fishes, enough for 'the disciple whom Jesus loved,' and
whose heart may previously have misgiven him. He whispered it to Peter: 'It is
the Lord, 'and Simon, only reverently gathering about him his fisher's upper
himself into the sea. Yet even so, except to be sooner by the side of Christ,
Peter seems to have gained nothing by his haste. The others, leaving the ship,
and transferring themselves to a small boat, which must have been attached to
it followed, rowing the short distance of about one hundred yards,66
and dragging after them the net, weighted with the fishes.
word 'immediately' in St. John xxi. 3 is spurious.
Luke v. 1, 11.
St John must have been acquainted with this narrative, recorded as it is by all
notice also seems specially indicative that the narrator is himself from the
Lake of Galilee.
They stepped on the beach, hallowed by His Presence, in
silence, as if they had entered Church or Temple. They dared not even dispose
of the netful of fishes which they had dragged on shore, until He directed them
what to do. This only they notice, that some unseen hand had prepared the
morning meal, which, when asked by the Master, they had admitted they had not
of their own. And now Jesus directed them to bring the fish they had caught.
When Peter dragged up the weight net, it was found full of great fishes, not
less than a hundred and fifty-three in number. There is no need to attach any
symbolic import to that number, as the Fathers and later writers have done. We
can quite understand - nay, it seems almost natural, that, in the peculiar
circumstances, they should have counted the large fishes in that miraculous
draught that still left the net unbroken.67
It may have been, that they were told to count the fishes - partly, also, to
show the reality of what had taken place. But on the fire the coals there seems
to have been only one fish, and beside it only one bread.68
To this meal He now bade them, for they seem still to have hung back in
reverent awe, nor durst they ask him, Who He was, well knowing it was the Lord.
This, as St. John notes, was the third appearance of Christ to the disciples as
Westcott gives, from St. Augustine, the points of difference between
this and the miraculous draught of fishes on the former occasion (St. Luke v.).
These are very interesting. Not so the fanciful speculations of the Fathers
about the symbolic meaning of the number 153.
seems implied in the absence of the article in St. John xxi. 9.
John could not have meant His third appearance in general, since himself had recorded
three previous manifestations.
10. And still this morning of blessing was not ended. The
frugal meal was past, with all its significant teaching of just sufficient
provision for His servants, and abundant supply in the unbroken net beside
them. But some special teaching was needed, more even that that to Thomas, for
him whose work was to be so prominent among the Apostles, whose love was so
ardent, and yet in its very ardour so full of danger to himself. For, our
dangers spring not only from deficiency, but it may be from excess of feeling,
when that feeling is not commensurate with inward strength. Had Peter not
confessed, quite honestly, yet, as the event proved, mistakingly, that his love
to Christ would endure even an ordeal that would disperse all the others?70
And had he not, almost immediately afterwards, and though prophetically warned
of it, thrice denied his Lord? Jesus had, indeed, since then appeared specially
to Peter as the Risen One. But this threefold denial still, stood, as it were,
uncancelled before the other disciples, nay, before Peter himself. It was to
this that the threefold question to the Risen Lord now referred. Turning to
Peter, with pointed though most gentle allusion to be danger of self-confidence
- a confidence springing from only a sense of personal affection, even though
genuine - He asked: 'Simon, son of Jona' - as it were with fullest reference to
what he was naturally - 'lovest thou Me more than these?' Peter understood it
all. No longer with confidence in self, avoiding the former reference to the
others, and even with marked choice of a different word to express his
affection71 from that
which the Saviour had used, he replied, appealing rather to his Lord's, than to
his own consciousness: 'Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.' And even
here the answer of Christ is characteristic. it was to set him first the
humblest work, that which needed most tender care and patience: 'Feed [provide
with food] My Lambs.'
Matt. xxvi. 33; St. John xiii. 37.
asks: agapaV me, and Peter
answers: su oidaV oti flw se.
Yet a second time came the same question, although now without
the reference to the others, and, with the same answer by Peter, the now varied
and enlarged commission: 'Feed [shepherd, poimaine]
My Sheep.' Yet a third time did Jesus repeat the same question, now adopting in
it the very word which Peter had used to express his affection. Peter was
grieved at this threefold repetition. It recalled only too bitterly his
threefold denial. And yet the Lord was not doubtful of Peter's love, for each
time He followed up His question with a fresh Apostle commission; but now that
He put it for the third time, Peter would have the Lord send down the
sounding-line quite into the lowest deep of this heart: 'Lord, Thou knowest all
things - Thou perceivest72
that I love Thee!' And now the Saviour spake it: 'Feed [provide food for] My
sheep.' His Lamb, His Sheep, to be provided for, to be tended as such! And only
love can do such service.
Yes, and Peter did love the Lord Jesus. He had loved Him when
he said it, only too confident in the strength of his feelings, that he would
follow the Master even unto death. And Jesus saw it all - yea, and how this
love of the ardent temperament which had once made him rove at wild liberty,
would give place to patient work of love, and be crowned with that martyrdom
which, when the beloved disciple wrote, was already matter of the past. And the
very manner of death by which he was to glorify God was indicated in the words
As He spake them, He joined the symbolic action to His 'Follow
Me.' This command, and the encourgement of being in death literally made like
Him - following Him - were Peter's best strength. He obeyed; but as he turned
to do so, he saw another following. As St. John himself puts it, it seems
almost to convey that he had longed to share Peter's call, with all that it
implied. For, St. John speaks of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loves, and
he reminds us that in that night of betrayal he had been specially a sharer
with Peter, nay, had spoken what the other had silently asked of him. Was it
impatience, was it a touch of the old Peter, or was it a simple inquiry of
brotherly interest which prompted the question, as he pointed to John: 'Lord - and
this man, what?' Whatever had been the motive, to him, as to us all, when
perplexed about those who seem to follow Christ, we ask it - sometimes in
bigoted narrowness, sometimes in ignorance, folly, or jealousy - is this answer:
'What is that to thee? follow thou Me.' For John also had his life-work for
Christ. It was to 'tarry' while He was coming73
- to tarry those many years in patient labour, while Christ was coming.
Canon Westcott renders the meaning. The 'coming' might refer to the
second Coming, to the destruction of Jerusalem, or even to the firm
establishment of the Church. The tradition that St. John only slept in the
grave at Ephesus is mentioned even by St. Augustine.
But what did it mean? The saying went aboard among the brethren
that John was not to die, but to tarry till Jesus came again to reign, when
death would be swallowed up in victory. But Jesus had not so said, only: 'If I
will that he tarry while I am coming.' What that 'Coming' was, Jesus had not
said, and John knew not. So, then, there are things, and connected with His
Coming, on which Jesus has left the veil, only to be lifted by His own Hand -
which He means us not to know at present, and which we should be content to
leave as He has left them.
11. Beyond this narrative we have only briefest notices: by St.
Paul, of Christ manifesting Himself to James, which probably finally decided
him for Christ, and the Eleven meeting Him at the mountain, where He had
appointed them; by St. Luke, of the teaching in the Scriptures during the forty
days of communication between the Risen Christ and the disciples.
But this twofold testimony comes to us from St. Matthew and St.
Mark, that then the worshipping disciples were once more formed into the
Apostolic Circle - Apostles, now, of the Risen Christ. And this was the warrant of their new commission: 'All power (authority) has been given to Me in heaven
and on earth.' And this was their new commission: 'Go ye, therefore, and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' And this was their work: 'Teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.' And this is His final and sure
promise: 'And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'
12. We are once more in Jerusalem, whither He had bidden them
go to tarry for the fulfilment of the great promise. The Pentecost was drawing
nigh. And on that last day - the day of His Ascension - He led them forth to
the well-remembered Bethany. From where He had made His last triumphal Entry
into Jerusalem before His Crucifixion, would He make His triumphant Entry
visibly into Heaven. Once more would they have asked Him about that which
seemed to them the final consummation - the restoration of the Kingdom to
Israel. But such questions became them not. Theirs was to be work, not rest;
suffering, not triumph. The great promise before them was of spiritual, not
outward, power: of the Holy Ghost - and their call not yet to reign with Him,
but to bear witness for Him. And, as He so spake, He lifted His Hands in
blessing upon them, and, as He was visibly taken up, a cloud received Him. And
still they gazed, with upturned faces, on that luminous cloud which had
received Him, and two Angels spake to them this last message from him, that He
should so come in like manner - as they had beheld Him going into heaven.
And so their last question to Him, ere He had parted from them,
was also answered, and with blessed assurance. Reverently they worshipped Him;
then, with great joy, returned to Jerusalem. So it was all true, all real - and
Christ 'sat down at the Right Hand of God!' Henceforth, neither doubting,
ashamed, nor yet afraid, they 'were continually in the Temple, blessing God,'
'And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and
confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen.'
Amen! It is so. Ring out the bells of heaven; sing forth the
Angelic welcome of worship; carry it to the utmost bound of earth! Shine forth
from Bethany, Thou Sun of Righteousness, and chase away earth's mist and
darkness, for Heaven's golden day has broken!
Easter Morning, 1883. - Our task is ended - and we also
worship and look up. And we go back from this sight into a hostile world, to
love, and to live, and to work for Risen Christ. But as earth's day is growing
dim, and, with earth's gathering darkness, breaks over it heaven's storm, we
ring out - as of old they were wont, from church-tower, to the mariners that
hugged a rock-bound coast - our Easter-bells to guide them who are belated,
over the storm-tossed sea, beyond the breakers, into the desired haven. Ring
out, earth, all thy Easter-chimes; bring you offerings, all ye people; worship
in faith, for -
'This Jesus, When was received up from you into heaven, shall
so come, in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven.' 'Even so, Lord
Jesus, come quickly!'
Chapter 16 | Table
of Contents | Appendix 1