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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.
An angel descended from heaven, removed the stone and then sat on it (Matt 28:2)
As they approach, they are questioning among themselves how they are going to remove the great stone blocking the entrance. It would be a large flat, round stone like a wheel that was rolled in a groove and dropped into a small depression in front of the entrance.
It seemed to be a very serious obstacle, but as so often happens, when they reached the spot they found the obstacle had been removed, the worry needless, the problem nonexistent.*
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple [John], 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.
Mary Magdalene has run away to tell Peter and John of the strange new development. Did it mean a last bitter, mocking disappointment, or dared they permit their crushed hearts to court further pain by opening them up to a ray of hope? *
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
According to John, Mary Magdalene -- before the angels revealed themselves -- seems to have run immediately to tell Peter and John that the tomb had been opened.
(We cannot help but wonder why these two disciples did not accompany the women in the first place, especially in view of the problem of moving the stone. Why did the women go alone? What were the disciples doing? What was their state of mind?)
Perhaps the circumstances are purposely designed to make us think deeply upon the state of mind of Jesus' followers during this terrible period.
They had not only suddenly lost -- under violent, tragic circumstances -- the one who was the focus of their deepest love and devotion. This would be of itself a terrible shock.
But their whole world had been shattered. They had left ALL and followed him. They had put all their faith and hope -- all their very life -- on and in him -- all their dreams for future, eternal divine blessing. Everything of them and in them was bound up in him, whom they had regarded as the very Son of God.
For over three years they had enjoyed to the full his wonderful, sustaining presence, seen his countless miracles and manifestations of power, seen him put the nation's rulers to helpless confusion and humiliated silence time and again, while all the people thronged him and marvelled at him.
Then suddenly it all collapsed. Suddenly everything went dark, and began to violently close in on them. In a brief, terrible, unprepared-for fifteen hours, he was seized, abused, mocked, humiliated, and destroyed. And the whole weight of the long-infuriated and now triumphantly-revengeful wrath of the rulers would be turned against them -- his closest followers.
We remember that when Jesus revealed himself to them they were assembled trembling, behind locked doors,"for fear of the Jews." Surely everything indicated that they had good reason to fear.
But the fear would not be the major aspect of their condition. The major aspect would be shock, terrible shock at the loss of their beloved Master, and the end of all they had built upon him.
Why was such a trial permitted? Why were their understandings previously veiled so they should not be ready?
The simple answer is: It was necessary. They had to be tried, torn, twisted, crushed to the utmost.
All of us, in our own small way, have experienced the transforming power of a great emotional shock. It searches the soul, it opens up the mind to its foundations, it rearranges all the courses of nature and sets things going in an entirely different direction. It is hard, but it is wholesome. It shakes out the dross from the mind, and makes men bigger and better.
From this time forward, these are all different men. It is as if they have passed through a violent metamorphosis, and henceforth are an entirely new type of creature. The old man died, and the new man found his strength. Henceforth, they stand fearlessly before the rulers. Henceforth, they go fearlessly to prison and to death.
The double shock of Death and Resurrection appears to have been the divine means for effecting this transformation -- this sudden growth from children to men.
Let us learn the lesson well, that we may yield ourselves completely to the Divine Hand and in the fierce crucible of sorrow, find the glories of spirit birth. *
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
At long last, in the fulness of times, the grave was to be conquered. A path never before opened up was to be trod -- a path of hope right through the hitherto hopeless valley of the shadow of death, and out the other side.
No man had passed this way before.
True, there had been typical raisings from the dead before in manifestation and shadow of what was to come, but never a resurrection that shattered the power of the grave and cast off its shackles forever. Never man had passed this way before -- no man had ever lain in this tomb -- this glorious gateway from death to life.
Bro Growcott - Woman, Why Weepest Thou
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Mary was the first to whom he spoke in the hour of Resurrection and Life -- the first name he uttered beyond the grave.
How little we know of Mary! Her name occurs twelve times -- eleven times in connection with the events of the crucifixion and only once anywhere else. That one place is Luke 8:2, where we are told she was among those who went about with Jesus on his journeys, and ministered to him. We are told there, too, that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary -- that is, he had cured her of some terrible and overwhelming infirmity.
Bro Growcott - Woman, Why Weepest Thou
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.
In the evening of that same day, the Lord suffered himself to be freely handled by the disciples. Consequently, there must have been a removal of the cause which led him to prevent Mary from touching him. He said to Mary he had not ascended to the Father. He must have made this ascent in the interim: but in what did the ascent consist?
It cannot have been ascent in space, because in less than half-an-hour, it had been performed, for he was embraced by the feet within that time by the group of women to whom the angels had appeared during Mary's absence. What other ascent could he have made? The Father is everywhere present.
To rise from the low nature of the earthy to the high nature of the divine, is to ascend to the Father.
This ascent he must have performed after seeing Mary. The need for it will appear if we realise that he had emerged from the tomb a natural man, or body of life, according to the nature of Abraham and David. This had to be "changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," from the natural to the spiritual, as in the case of his brethren, who are to be developed after the pattern of his example. Until this change had taken place, he was in the defilement which contact with death imparted to everything for those under the law of Moses. Mary was under this law; and therefore until the Lord was cleansed by change, there was a reason why she should not touch him.
After resurrection is ascension; but not necessarily instantaneously after. This is evident from the example given in the case of the Lord Jesus. He first came out of the sepulchre; and then, after a certain interval, "ascended to the Father;" an ascent which is not to be confounded with his assumption from the Mount of Olives, forty-three days after his crucifixion (John xx. 17; Acts i. 11).
He ascended to the Father before he was "taken up." The ascent was a necessary preparation for the taking up of the resurrected body; for a body such as he had, when he forbid Mary to touch him, was unfit for translation through the higher regions of our atmosphere, and the airless ethereal beyond. It was necessary that he should be "in spirit" and so become spirit, that he might be with the Father.
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.
A Special and private interview
On the first day of the creation-week God said, "Let there be light, and there was light;" so on the first day of the week "THE TRUE LIGHT" came forth from the darkness of the tomb "like dew from the womb of the morning."
This event constituted the day after the sabbath, or eighth day, the day of the Lord's resurrection; and therefore styled by His disciples "THE LORD'S DAY."
It is a day to be much remembered by them, because it assures them of their justification "in Him," of their own resurrection to life, and of the certainty of His ruling or "judging the world in righteousness" as Yahweh's king, when they also shall reign with Him as kings and priests of God (Rom. 4:25; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:14-20; Acts 17:31; Rev. 5:9-10).
This day is also notable on account of the special interviews which occurred between Jesus and His disciples after His resurrection (John 20:19-26). He ascended to heaven on this day, even the forty-third from His crucifixion; and seven days after, that is the fiftieth, being that Lord's day styled "the day of Pentecost," the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles, and the gospel of the kingdom preached for the first time in His name.
Elpis Israel 2.1.
He left the tomb, and "was refreshed." Having "spoiled the principalities and the powers" constituted by the handwriting, He made the spoliation manifest, "triumphing over them in Himself that is, in His resurrection; thus, for ever delivering men from the bondage of the law, which Peter says, "was a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10). With the abolition of the Mosaic handwriting the obligation to keep the seventh day as a rule of spiritual life was cancelled as a matter of course.
Elpis Israel 1.2.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the holy spirit:
When the breath of a man from the tomb is holy spirit, that man must have been corporeally quickened, or have become spirit...
Now some time in the interval between the dawn and the evening of the resurrection day, the cause for the interdict, " Touch me not," must have been removed ; in other words, the ascent from the lower nature, begotten to incipient life in the tomb, to the Father, " who is Spirit " (John iv. 24), must then have taken place.
This transition from the one nature to the other, when the fulness of the time is come, is " in the twinkling of an eye " : which instantaneous operation of Almighty power constitutes the putting on of incorruptibility and deathlessness; and confers upon the quickened being a life independent of the natural laws, by which " death is swallowed up in victory."
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.
What stronger proof can we need of the substantial and tangible nature of the Spiritual body? It is the animal body purified, not evaporated into gas, or vapour.
It is a bloodless body; for in the case of Jesus He had poured out His blood upon the cross. The life of the animal body is in the blood; but not so that of the Spiritual body: the life of this resides in that mighty power which suspends "the earth upon nothing," and is diffused through the immensity of space.
Elpis Israel 2.1
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
"My Lord and my God!"
The view held by the apostles respecting Jesus could only have been one that was in accordance with the teaching of Jesus concerning himself. He asked the question of them,
"But whom think ye that I am?"
and Peter replied,
"Thou art the Christ (anointed), the Son of the living God."
Here was made a marked distinction between Christ and the Deity, which was evidently recognised by the apostles. If Peter had been an "orthodox" professor of the present day, his answer would have been quite different. He would have said, in addition to the answer he gave, "begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made," and a lot more of such rubbish as is taught in the Church of England Prayer Book.
But this is not the light in which the apostles regarded the Saviour, because it is not the light in which they were taught to regard him. He himself had disclaimed the ascription due to God alone. Jesus was not the Father; but though not the Increate himself (a fact which Jesus always takes pains to enforce), yet in a very well understood sense, he was God.
In John x. 31, it states that the Jews took up stones to stone him: Jesus asked them why they did so; they replied,
"Because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."
We find the answer in John v. 18-Because he called himself the Son of God; one member of a Royal house in general estimation to the present day, sharing the honour and glory of the whole of it in common with the Head of the family himself. How did Jesus defend himself from this charge? By declaring that he was really the Almighty? and vindicating his claim by some terrible act of vengeance upon his accusers? No; he clears himself by an argument which excludes the Trinitarian view of the matter. He contends that he was as much entitled to the name of God as some of the Jewish fathers, who had received that name.
"Is it not written in your law, 'I said ye are gods?'" (Psalms lxxxii. 6). If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken, say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent unto the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God?
By this answer he shewed his right to the title "God;" and Thomas, who no doubt was present on this occasion, was only giving expression to the view inculcated by this argument, when he found by the resurrection of Jesus, that he was really the Son and the sent of God, at a time when the apostles had almost, if not quite, begun to doubt it, in consequence of his unexpected death. He gave fervent expression to his revived faith, in the exclamation to the Saviour,
"My Lord and my God!"
Bro J Butler
- Ambassador of the Coming Age, Aug 1868
Personal love towards Christ can only be generated by contact with the personal manifestation of him which we have in the apostolic writings. It is thus that all love comes by knowledge and acquaintance of the things or persons to be loved. The means of acquaintance in this case are wonderfully ample. How full, in the biographic sense, is the exhibition of Christ in the gospels.
No one spoken of in the Scriptures receives the prominence that Christ receives. We have very little concerning even Moses in the personal sense. He appears merely as the medium and instrument of the divine commands. The prophets, as persons, are scarcely visible in their communications. Of the apostles, we get but a very casual glimpse in their relations with Christ; but Christ stands before us in prolonged and full drawn brightness, with many details of word, and work and gesture.
We are permitted to make his full acquaintance, though nothing is said of the colour of his hair, the contour or complexion of his face, the measure of his stature, or other such immaterial particulars. We hear his voice, and see his demeanour and discern his spirit. The contemplation leads us to exclaim, with Thomas, "my Lord and my God."
Bro Roberts - Knowledge, Love, Obedience