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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    JOHN 20

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    CHAPTER XX.

    Mary Magdalene, coming early to the sepulchre, finds it empty, and runs and tells Peter, 1, 2. Peter and John run to the tomb, and find all as Mary had reported, 3-10. Mary sees a vision of angels in the tomb, 11-13. Jesus himself appears to her, and sends her with a message to the disciples, 14-18. He appears to the disciples, gives the fullest proof of the reality of his resurrection, and communicates to them a measure of the Holy Spirit, 19-23. The determined incredulity of Thomas, 24, 25. Eight days after, Jesus appears again to the disciples, Thomas being present, to whom he gives the proofs he had desired, 26, 27. Thomas is convinced, and makes a noble confession, 28. Our Lord's reflections on his case, 29. Various signs done by Christ, not circumstantially related, 30. Why others are recorded, 31.

    NOTES ON CHAP. XX.

    All that John relates concerning the resurrection of our Lord he has collected partly from the account given by Mary Magdalene, and partly from his own observations. From Mary he derived the information given, ver. 1, 2, and from ver. 11- 18. From his own actual knowledge, what he relates, chap. iii. 3-10, 19-29, and the whole of chap. xxi. 1-25. It is supposed that he details the account given by Mary, without altering any circumstance, and without either addition or retrenchment. See Rosenmuller.

    Verse 1. "The first day of the week" - On what we call Sunday morning, the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. As Christ had been buried in haste, these holy women had bought aromatics, Mark xvi. 1; Luke xxiv. 1, to embalm him afresh, and in a more complete manner than it could have been done by Joseph and Nicodemus. John only mentions Mary of Magdala, because he appears to wish to give a more detailed history of her conduct than of any of the rest; but the other evangelists speak of three persons who went together to the tomb, viz. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome: Matt. xxviii. 1; Mark xvi. 1.

    Verse 2. "Then she runneth" - This was after the women had seen the angels, who said he was risen from the dead, Luke xxiv. 4. She told, not only Peter and John, but the other apostles also, Matt. xxviii. 8; but only the two disciples above mentioned went to the tomb to see whether what she had said was true.

    "They have taken away the Lord" - She mentions nothing of what the angels had said, in her hurry and confusion; she speaks things only by halves; and probably the vision of angels might have appeared to her only as an illusion of her own fancy, and not to be any farther regarded.

    Verse 4. "Outrun Peter" - Not because he had a greater desire to see into the truth of these things; but because he was younger, and lighter of foot.

    Verse 5. "Went he not in." - Why? Because he was fully satisfied that the body was not there. But why did he not seize upon the linen clothes, and keep them as a most precious relic? Because he had too much religion and too much sense; and the time of superstition and nonsense was not yet arrived, in which bits of rotten wood, rags of rotten cloth, decayed bones (to whom originally belonging no one knows) and bramble bushes, should become objects of religious adoration.

    Verse 6. "Seeth the linen clothes lie" - qewpei: from qeaomai, to behold, and oraw, to see-to look steadily at any thing, so as to discover what it is, and to be satisfied with viewing it.

    Verse 7. "Wrapped together in a place by itself." - The providence of God ordered these very little matters, so that they became the fullest proofs against the lie of the chief priests, that the body had been stolen away by the disciples. If the body had been stolen away, those who took it would not have stopped to strip the clothes from it, and to wrap them up, and lay them by in separate places.

    Verse 8. "That other disciple" - John.

    "Saw" - That the body was not there.

    "And believed." - That it had been taken away, as Mary had said; but he did not believe that he was risen from the dead. See what follows.

    Verse 9. "They knew not the scripture" - Viz. Psa. xvi. 9, 10: Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell-lwal ypn bz[t al yk ki lo taazob naphshi l'sheol-For thou wilt not abandon my life to the grave, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. It was certainly a reproach to the disciples that they had not understood this prophecy, when our Lord had given them often the most direct information concerning it. Christ had referred to the history of Jonah, Matt. xii. 40, which was at once the type and the proof of his own resurrection. However, this ingenuous confession of John, in a matter so dishonourable to himself, is a full proof of his sincerity, and of the truth of his narration.

    Verse 10. "Unto their own home." - Either to their own houses, if they still had any; or to those of their friends, or to those where they had a hired lodging, and where they met together for religious purposes. See ver. 19.

    Verse 11. "But Mary stood without" - She remained some time after Peter and John had returned to their own homes.

    Verse 12. "Seeth two angels" - See on ver. 6. She knew these to be angels by their white and glistening robes. Matthew and Mark mention but one angel-probably that one only that spoke, chap. xx. 13.

    "One at the head, and the other at the feet" - So were the cherubim placed at each end of the mercy-seat: Exod. xxv. 18, 19. Lightfoot.

    Verse 13. "They have taken away my Lord" - It was conjectured, on chap. xix. 42, that the body of our Lord was only put here for the time being, that, after the Sabbath, they might carry it to a more proper place. Mary seems to refer to this: They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. This removal she probably attributed to some of our Lord's disciples, or to some of his friends.

    Verse 14. "She turned herself back" - Or, estrafh eiv ta opisw, she was turned back, i.e. to go again with the other women to Jerusalem, who had already departed; but she had not as yet gone so far as to be out of the garden.

    "Knew not that it was Jesus" - John has here omitted what the angels said to the women, about Christ's being risen; probably because it was so particularly related by the other evangelists: Matthew xxviii. 5-7; Mark xvi. 6, 7; Luke xxiv. 5-7. Mary was so absorbed in grief that she paid but little attention to the person of our Lord, and therefore did not at first discern it to be him; nor could she imagine such an appearance possible, as she had no conception of his resurrection from the dead. She was therefore every way unprepared to recognize the person of our Lord.

    Verse 15. "Supposing him to be the gardener" - khpourov, the inspector or overseer of the garden, from khpov, a garden, and ourov, an inspector-the person who had the charge of the workmen, and the care of the produce of the garden; and who rendered account to the owner.

    "And I will take him away" - How true is the proverb, Love feels no load! Jesus was in the prime of life when he was crucified, and had a hundred pounds weight of spices added to his body; and yet Mary thinks of nothing less than carrying him away with her, if she can but find where he is laid!

    Verse 16. "Mary." - This word was no doubt spoken with uncommon emphasis; and the usual sound of Christ's voice accompanied it, so as immediately to prove that it must be Jesus. What transports of joy must have filled this woman's heart! Let it be remarked that Mary Magdalene sought Jesus more fervently, and continued more affectionately attached to him than any of the rest: therefore to her first, Jesus is pleased to show himself, and she is made the first herald of the Gospel of a risen saviour.

    After Mary's exclamation of Rabboni, and its interpretation by the evangelist, one MS., the later Syriac, Syriac Hieros., and three copies of the Itala, add kai prosedramen ayasqai autou, And she ran to embrace, or cling to him. Then our Lord's words come in with the reason for them.

    Verse 17. "Touch me not" - mh mou aptou, Cling not to me. aptomai has this sense in Job xxxi. 7, where the Septuagint use it for the Hebrew qbd dabak, which signifies to cleave, cling, stick, or be glued to. From Matt. xxviii. 9, it appears that some of the women held him by the feet and worshipped him. This probably Mary did; and our Lord seems to have spoken to her to this effect: "Spend no longer time with me now: I am not going immediately to heaven-you will have several opportunities of seeing me again: but go and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to ascend to my Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore, let them take courage."

    Verse 18. "Told the disciples-that he had spoken these things" - St. Mark says, Mark xvi. 11, that the afflicted apostles could not believe what she had said. They seem to have considered it as an effect of her troubled imagination.

    Verse 19. "The doors were shut-for fear of the Jews" - We do not find that the Jews designed to molest the disciples: that word of authority which Christ spoke, chap. xviii. 8, Let these go away-had prevented the Jews from offering them any injury; but, as they had proceeded so far as to put Christ to death, the faith of the disciples not being very strong, they were led to think that they should be the next victims if found. Some think, therefore, that they had the doors not only shut, but barricadoed: nevertheless Jesus came in, the doors being shut, i.e. while they continued shut. But how? By his almighty power: and farther we know not. Yet it is quite possible that no miraculous influence is here intended. The doors might be shut for fear of the Jews; and Jesus might open them, and enter in the ordinary way. Where there is no need for a miracle, a miracle is never wrought. See on ver. 30.

    The evangelist has omitted the appearing of our Lord to the other women who came from the tomb, Matt. xxviii. 9, and that to the two disciples who were going to Emmaus, Luke xxiv. 13, &c., which all happened in the course of this same day.

    Peace be unto you.] His usual salutation and benediction. May every blessing of heaven and earth which you need be granted unto you!

    Verse 20. "He showed unto them his hands and his side." - So it appears that his body bore the marks of the nails and the spear; and these marks were preserved that the disciples might be the more fully convinced of the reality of his resurrection.

    Verse 21. "Even so send I you." - As I was sent to proclaim the truth of the Most High, and to convert sinners to God, I send you for the very same purpose, clothed with the very same authority, and influenced by the very same Spirit.

    Verse 22. "He breathed on them" - Intimating, by this, that they were to be made new men, in order to be properly qualified for the work to which he had called them; for in this breathing he evidently alluded to the first creation of man, when God breathed into him the breath of lives, and he became a living soul: the breath or Spirit of God ( yhla jwr ruach Elohim) being the grand principle and cause of his spiritual and Divine life.

    "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" - From this act of our Lord, the influences of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men have been termed his inspiration; from in, into, and spiro, I breathe. Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith comes accompanied by this Divine breathing; and, without this, there is neither light nor life. Just as Adam was before God breathed the quickening spirit into him, so is every human soul till it receives this inspiration. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt of God, but through this. To every private Christian this is essentially requisite; and no man ever did or ever can preach the Gospel of God, so as to convince and convert sinners, without it. "There are many (says pious Quesnel) who extol the dignity of the apostolic mission, and compare that of bishops and pastors with that of Christ; but with what shame and fear ought they to be filled, if they do but compare the life and deportment of Christ with the lives and conversation of those who glory in being made partakers of his mission. They may depend on it that, if sent at all, they are only sent on the same conditions, and for the same end, namely-to preach the truth, and to establish the kingdom of God, by opposing the corruption of the world; and by acting and suffering to the end, for the advancement of the glory of God. That person is no other than a monster in the Church who, by his sacred office, should be a dispenser of the Spirit, and who, by the corruption of his own heart, and by a disorderly, worldly, voluptuous, and scandalous life, is, at the same time, a member and instrument of the devil."

    Verse 23. "Whose soever sins ye remit" - See the notes on Matt. xvi. 19; xviii. 18. It is certain God alone can forgive sins; and it would not only be blasphemous, but grossly absurd, to say that any creature could remit the guilt of a transgression which had been committed against the Creator. The apostles received from the Lord the doctrine of reconciliation, and the doctrine of condemnation. They who believed on the Son of God, in consequence of their preaching, had their sins remitted; and they who would not believe were declared to lie under condemnation. The reader is desired to consult the note referred to above, where the custom to which our Lord alludes is particularly considered. Dr. Lightfoot supposes that the power of life and death, and the power of delivering over to Satan, which was granted to the apostles, is here referred to. This was a power which the primitive apostles exclusively possessed.

    Verse 24. "Thomas-called Didymus" - See this name explained, chap. xi. 16.

    "Was not with them" - And, by absenting himself from the company of the disciples, he lost this precious opportunity of seeing and hearing Christ; and of receiving (at this time) the inestimable blessing of the Holy Ghost.

    Where two or three are assembled in the name of Christ, he is in the midst of them. Christ had said this before: Thomas should have remembered it, and not have forsaken the company of the disciples. What is the consequence?-His unbelief becomes 1st. Utterly unreasonable. Ten of his brethren witnessed that they had seen Christ, ver. 25; but he rejected their testimony. 2dly. His unbelief became obstinate: he was determined not to believe on any evidence that it might please God to give him: he would believe according to his own prejudices, or not at all. 3dly. His unbelief became presumptuous and insolent: a view of the person of Christ will not suffice: he will not believe that it is he, unless he can put his finger into the holes made by the nails in his Lord's hand, and thrust has hand into the wound made by the spear in his side.

    Thomas had lost much good, and gained much evil, and yet was insensible of his state. Behold the consequences of forsaking the assemblies of God's people! Jesus comes to the meeting-a disciple is found out of his place, who might have been there; and he is not only not blessed, but his heart becomes hardened and darkened through the deceitfulness of sin. It was through God's mere mercy that ever Thomas had another opportunity of being convinced of his error. Reader! take warning.

    Verse 26. "After eight days" - It seems likely that this was precisely on that day se'nnight, on which Christ had appeared to them before; and from this we may learn that this was the weekly meeting of the apostles; and, though Thomas was not found at the former meeting, he was determined not to be absent from this. According to his custom, Jesus came again; for he cannot forget his promise-two or three are assembled in his name; and he has engaged to be among them.

    Verse 27. "Then saith he to Thomas" - Through his infinite compassion, he addressed him in a particular manner; condescending in this case to accommodate himself to the prejudices of an obstinate, though sincere, disciple.

    "Reach hither thy finger, &c." - And it is very probable that Thomas did so; for his unbelief was too deeply rooted to be easily cured.

    Verse 28. "Thomas answered, &c." - Those who deny the Godhead of Christ would have us to believe that these words are an exclamation of Thomas, made through surprise, and that they were addressed to the Father and not to Christ. Theodoure of Mopsuestia was the first, I believe, who gave the words this turn; and the fifth OEcumenic council, held at Constantinople, anathematized him for it. This was not according to the spirit of the Gospel of God. However, a man must do violence to every rule of construction who can apply the address here to any but Christ. The text is plain: Jesus comes in-sees Thomas, and addresses him; desiring him to come to him, and put his finger into the print of the nails, &c. Thomas, perfectly satisfied of the reality of our Lord's resurrection, says unto him,-MY LORD! and MY GOD! i.e. Thou art indeed the very same person,-my Lord whose disciple I have so long been; and thou art my God, henceforth the object of my religious adoration. Thomas was the first who gave the title of God to Jesus; and, by this glorious confession, made some amends for his former obstinate incredulity. It is worthy of remark, that from this time forward the whole of the disciples treated our Lord with the most supreme respect, never using that familiarity towards him which they had often used before. The resurrection from the dead gave them the fullest proof of the divinity of Christ. And this, indeed, is the use which St. John makes of this manifestation of Christ. See chap. xx. 30, 31. Bishop Pearce says here: "Observe that Thomas calls Jesus his God, and that Jesus does not reprove him for it, though probably it was the first time he was called so." And, I would ask, could Jesus be jealous of the honour of the true God-could he be a prophet-could he be even an honest man, to permit his disciple to indulge in a mistake so monstrous and destructive, if it had been one?

    Verse 29. "Thomas" - This word is omitted by almost every MS., version, and ancient commentator of importance.

    Blessed are they, &c.] Thou hast seen, and therefore thou hast believed, and now thou art blessed; thou art now happy- fully convinced of my resurrection; yet no less blessed shall all those be who believe in my resurrection, without the evidence thou hast had. From this we learn that to believe in Jesus, on the testimony of his apostles, will put a man into the possession of the very same blessedness which they themselves enjoyed. And so has God constituted the whole economy of grace that a believer, at eighteen hundred years' distance from the time of the resurrection, suffers no loss because he has not seen Christ in the flesh.

    The importance and excellence of implicit faith in the testimony of God is thus stated by Rab. Tanchum: "Rab. Simeon ben Lachesh saith, The proselyte is more beloved by the holy blessed God than that whole crowd that stood before Mount Sinai; for unless they had heard the thundering, and seen the flames and lightning, the hills trembling, and the trumpets sounding, they had not received the law. But the proselyte hath seen nothing of all this, and yet he hath come in, devoting himself to the holy blessed God, and hath taken upon him (the yoke of) the kingdom of heaven." Reader! Christ died for thee!-believe, and thou shalt be saved, and become as blessed and as happy as an apostle.

    Verse 30. "Many other signs truly did Jesus, &c." - That is, besides the two mentioned here. ver. 19, 26, viz. Christ's entering into the house in a miraculous manner twice, notwithstanding the doors were fast shut: see on ver. 19. The other miracles which our Lord did, and which are not related here, were such as were necessary to the disciples only, and therefore not revealed to mankind at large. There is nothing in the whole revelation of God but what is for some important purpose, and there is nothing left out that could have been of any real use.

    Verse 31. "That ye might believe" - What is here recorded is to give a full proof of the Divinity of Christ; that he is the promised Messiah; that he really suffered and rose again from the dead; and that through him every believer might have eternal life.

    "Life" - Several MSS., versions, and fathers read eternal life, and this is undoubtedly the meaning of the word, whether the various reading be admitted or not.

    GROTIUS has conjectured that the Gospel, as written by St. John, ended with this chapter, and that the following chapter was added by the Church of Ephesus. This conjecture is supported by nothing in antiquity. It is possible that these two last verses might have formerly been at the conclusion of the last chapter, as they bear a very great similarity to those that are found there; and it is likely that their true place is between the 24th and 25th verses of the succeeding chapter; ; with the latter of which they in every respect correspond, and with it form a proper conclusion to the book. Except this correspondence, there is no authority for changing their present position.

    After reading the Gospel of John, his first Epistle should be next taken up: it is written exactly in the same spirit, and keeps the same object steadily in view. As John's Gospel may be considered a supplement to the other evangelists, so his first Epistle may be considered a supplement and continuation to his own Gospel. In some MSS. the epistles follow this Gospel, not merely because the transcribers wished to have all the works of the same writer together, but because there was such an evident connection between them. The first Epistle is to the Gospel as a pointed and forcible application is to an interesting and impressive sermon.

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