BEDE; Devout women not only on the day of preparation, but also when the sabbath was passed, that is, at sun-set, as soon as the liberty of working returned, bought spices that they might come and anoint the body of Jesus, as Mark testifies. Still as long as night time restrained them, they came not to the sepulcher. And therefore it is said, On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, &c. One of the Sabbath, or the first of the Sabbath, is the first day from the Sabbath; which Christians are wont to call “the Lord s day”, because of our Lord’s resurrection. But by the women coming to the sepulcher very early in the morning, is manifested their great zeal and fervent love of seeking and finding the Lord.
AMBROSE; Now this place has caused great perplexity to many, because while St. Luke says, Very early in the morning, Matthew says that it was in the evening of the sabbath that the women came to the sepulcher. But you may suppose that the Evangelists spoke of different occasions, so as to understand both different parties of women, and different appearances. Because however it was written, that in the evening of the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, our Lord rose, we must so take it, as that neither on the morning of the Lord’s day, which is the first after the sabbath, nor on the sabbath, the resurrection should be thought to have taken place. For how are the three days fulfilled; Not then as the day grew towards evening, but in the evening of the night He rose. Lastly, in the Greek it is “late;” but late signifies both the hour at the end of the day, and the slowness of any thing; as we say, “I have been lately told.” Late then is also the dead of the night. And thus also the women had the opportunity of coming to the sepulcher when the guards were asleep. And that you may know it was in the night time, some of the women are ignorant of it. They know who watch night and day, they know not who have gone back. According to John, one Mary Magdalene knows not, for the same person could not first know and then afterwards be ignorant. Therefore if there are several Marys, perhaps also there are several Mary Magdalenes, since the former is the name of a person, the second is derived from a place.
AUG. Or Matthew by the first part of the night, which is the evening, wished to represent the night itself, at the end of which night they came to the sepulcher, and for this reason, because they had been now preparing since the evening, and it was lawful to bring spices because the sabbath was over.
EUSEB. The Instrument of the Word lay dead, but a great stone enclosed the sepulcher, as if death had led Him captive. But three days had not yet elapsed, when life again puts itself forth after a sufficient proof of death, as it follows, And they found the stone rolled away.
THEOPHYL. An angel had rolled it away, as Matthew declares.
CHRYS. But the stone was rolled away after the resurrection, on account of the women, that they might believe that the Lord had risen again, seeing indeed the grave without the body. Hence it follows, And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus
CYRIL; When then they found not the body of Christ which was risen, they were distracted by various thoughts, and for their love of Christ and the tender care they had shown Him, were thought worthy of the vision of angels. For it follows, And it came to pass as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.
EUSEB. The messengers of the health-bearing resurrection and their shining garments stand for tokens of pleasantness and rejoicing. For Moses preparing plagues against the Egyptians, perceived an angel in the flame of fire. But not such were those who appeared to the women at the sepulcher, but calm and joyful as became them to be seen in the kingdom and joy of the Lord. And as at the Passion the sun was darkened, holding forth signs of sorrow and woe to the crucifiers of our Lord, so the angels, heralds of life and resurrection, marked by their white garments the character of the health-bearing feast day.
AMBROSE; But how is it that Mark has mentioned one young man sitting in white garments, and Matthew one, but John and Luke relate that there were seen two angels sitting in white garments.
AUG. We may understand that one Angel was seen by the women, as both Mark and Matthew say, so as supposing them to have entered into the sepulcher, that is, into a certain space which was fenced off by a kind of wall in front of the stone sepulcher; and that there they saw an Angel sitting on the right hand, which Mark says, but that afterwards when they looked into the place where our Lord was lying, they saw within two other Angels standing, (as Luke says,) who spoke to encourage their minds, and build up their faith. Hence it follows, And as they were afraid,.
BEDE; The holy women, when the Angels stood beside them, are reported not to have fallen to the ground, but to have bowed their faces to the earth; nor do we read that any of the saints, at the time of our Lord’s resurrection, worshipped with prostration to the ground either our Lord Himself, or the Angels who appeared to them. Hence has arisen the ecclesiastical custom, either in memory of our Lord’s resurrection, or in the hope of our own, of praying on every Lord’s day, and through the whole season of Pentecost, not with bended knees, but with our faces bowed to the earth. But not in the sepulcher, which is the place of the dead, was He to be sought, who rose from the dead to life. And therefore it is added, They said to them, that is, the Angels to the women, Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. On the third day then, as He Himself foretold to the women, together with the rest of His disciples, He celebrated the triumph of His resurrection.
Hence it follows, Remember how he spoke to you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again, &c. For on the day of the preparation at the ninth hour giving up the ghost, buried in the evening, early on the morning of the first day of the week He rose again.
ATHAN. He might indeed at once have raised His body from the dead. But some one would have said that He was never dead, or that death plainly had never existed in Him. And perhaps if the resurrection of our Lord had been delayed beyond the third day, the glory of incorruption had been concealed. In order therefore to show His body to be dead, He suffered the interval of one day, and on the third day manifested His body to be without corruption.
BEDE; One day and two nights also He lay in the sepulcher, because He joined the light of His single death to the darkness of our double death.
CYRIL; Now the women, when they had received the sayings of the Angels, hastened to tell them to the disciples; as it follows,And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. For woman who was once the minister of death, is now the first to receive and tell the awful mystery of the resurrection. The female race has obtained therefore both deliverance from reproach, and the withdrawal of the curse.
BEDE; According to the mystical meaning, by the women coming early in the morning to the sepulcher, we have an example given us, that having cast away the darkness of our vices, we should come to the Body of the Lord. For that sepulcher also bore the figure of the Altar of the Lord, wherein herein the mysteries of Christ’s Body, not in silk or purple cloth, but in pure white linen, like that in which Joseph wrapped it, ought to be consecrated, that as He offered up to death for us the true substance of His earthly nature, so we also in commemoration of Him should place on the Altar the flax, pure from the plant of the earth, and white, and in many ways refined by a kind of crushing to death. But the spices which the women bring, signify the odor of virtue, and the sweetness of prayers by which we ought to approach the Altar. The rolling back of the stone alludes to the unclosing of the Sacraments which were concealed by the veil of the letter of the law which was written on stone, the covering of which being taken away, the dead body of the Lord is not found, but the living body is preached; for although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. But as when the Body of our Lord lay in the sepulcher, Angels are said to have stood by, so also at the time of consecration are they to be believed to stand by the mysteries of Christ. Let us then after the example of the devout women, whenever we approach the heavenly mysteries because of the presence of the Angels, or from reverence to the Sacred Offering, with all humility, bow our faces to the earth, recollecting that we are but dust and ashes.
We now come to the closing scene of our redemption. For the lively assurance of our reconciliation with God arises from Christ having come from hell as the conqueror of death, in order to show that he had the power of a new life at his disposal. Justly, therefore, does Paul say that there will be no gospel, and that the hope of salvation will be vain and fruitless, unless we believe that Christ is risen from the dead,(1Co_15:14.) For then did Christ obtain righteousness for us, and open up our entrance into heaven; and, in short, then was our adoption ratified, when Christ, by rising from the dead, exerted the power of his Spirit, and proved himself to be the Son of God. No though he manifested his resurrection in a different manner from what the sense of our flesh would have desired, still the method of which he approved ought to be regarded by us also as the best. he went out of the grave without a witness, that the emptiness of the place might be the earliest indication; next, he chose to have it announced to the women by the angels that he was alive; and shortly afterwards he appeared to the women, and, finally, to the apostles, and on various occasions.
Thus he gradually brought his followers, according to their capacity, to a larger measure of knowledge. He began with the women, and not only presented himself to be seen by them, but even gave them a commission to announce the gospel to the apostles, so as to become their instructors. This was intended, first, to chastise the indifference of the apostles, who were like persons half-dead with fear, while the women ran with alacrity to the sepulcher, and likewise obtained no ordinary reward. For though their design to anoint Christ, as if Ire were still dead, was not free from blame, still he forgave their weakness, and bestowed on them distinguished honor, by taking away from men the apostolic office, and committing it to them for a short time. In this manner also he exhibited an instance of what Paul tells us, that he chooses those things which are foolish and weak in the world to abase the loftiness of the flesh. And never shall we be duly prepared to learn this article of our faith in any other manner than by laying aside all pride, and submitting to receive the testimony of the women. Not that our faith ought to be confined within such narrow limits, but because the Lord, in order to make trial of our faith, determines that we shall become fools, before he admits us to a more ample knowledge of his mysteries.
So far as regards the narrative, Matthew says only that the two Marys came to see the sepulcher; Mark adds a third, Salome, and says that they bought spices to anoint the body; and from Luke we infer, that not two or three only, but many women came. But we know that it is customary with the sacred writers, when speaking of a great number, to name but a few of them. It may also be conjectured with probability, that Mary Magdalene, with another companion—whether she was sent before, or ran forward of her own accord arrived at the grave before the rest of the women. And this appears to be conveyed by the words of Matthew, that those two women came for the purpose of seeing; for without seeing Christ:, they had no means of anointing him. He says nothing, in the meantime, about the purpose which they had formed of doing honor to him; for the principal object which he had in view was, to testify of the resurrection.
But it may be asked, how could this zeal of the women, which was mixed with superstition, be acceptable to God? I have no doubt, that the custom of anointing the dead, which they had borrowed from the Fathers, was applied by them to its proper object, which was, to draw consolation, amidst the mourning of death, from the hope of the life to come. I readily acknowledge that they sinned in not immediately raising their minds to that prediction which they had heard from the lips of their Master, when he foretold that he would rise again on the third day. But as they retain the general principle of the final resurrection, that defect is forgiven, which would justly have vitiated, as the phrase is, the whole of the action. Thus God frequently accepts, with fatherly kindness, the works of the saints, which, without pardon, not only would not have pleased him, but would even have been justly rejected with shame and punishment. It is, therefore, an astonishing display of the goodness of Christ, that he kindly and generously presents himself alive to the women, who did him wrong in seeking him among the dead. Now if he did not permit them to come in vain to his grave, we may conclude with certainty, that those who now aspire to him by faith will not be disappointed; for the distance of places does not prevent believers from enjoying him who fills heaven and earth by the power of his Spirit.
Bringing the spices – To embalm the body of our Lord: but Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had done this before the body was laid in the tomb. See Joh_19:39, Joh_19:40. But there was a second embalming found necessary: the first must have been hastily and imperfectly performed; the spices now brought by the women were intended to complete the preceding operation.
And certain others with them – This clause is wanting in BCL, two others; Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, and in all the Itala except two. Dionysius Alexandrinus, and Eusebius also omit it. The omission is approved by Mill, Bengel, Wetstein, Griesbach, and others. Bishop Pearce thinks it should be left out for the following reasons:
1. “They who came to the sepulchre, as is here said, being the same with those who, in Luk_23:55, are called the women which came with him from Galilee, there was no room for Luke (I think) to add as here, and some others came with them; because the words in Luk_23:55, to which these refer, include all that can be supposed to be designed by the words in question.
2. Luke has named no particular woman here, and therefore he could not add and some others, etc., these words necessarily requiring that the names of the women should have preceded, as is the case in Luk_24:10, where, when Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Joanna, had been named, it is very rightly added, and other women that were with them.”
In the end of the sabbath – The word “end” here means the same as “after” the Sabbath – that is, after the Sabbath was fully completed or finished, and may be expressed in this manner: “In the night following the Sabbath, for the Sabbath closed at sunset, as it began to dawn,” etc.
As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week – The word “dawn” is not of necessity in the original. The word there properly means as the first day “approached,” or drew on, without specifying the precise time. Mark says Mar_16:1-2 that it was after “the sabbath was past, and very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun” – that is, not that the sun “was risen,” but that it was about to rise, or at the early break of day. Luke says Luk_24:1 that it was “very early in the morning;” in the Greek text, “deep twilight,” or when there was scarcely any light. John Joh_20:1 says it was “very early, while it was yet dark” – that is, it was not yet full daylight, or the sun had not yet risen. The time when they came, therefore, was at the break of day, when the sun was about to rise, but while it was yet so dark as to render objects obscure, or not distinctly visible.
The first day of the week – The day which is observed by Christians as the Sabbath. The Jews observed the seventh day of the week, or our Saturday. During that day our Saviour was in the grave. As he rose on the morning of the first day, that day has always been observed in commemoration of so glorious an event.
Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – From Mary Magdalene Christ had cast out seven devils. Grateful for his great mercy, she was one of his firmest and most faithful followers, and was first at the sepulchre, and was first permitted to see her risen Lord. The “other Mary” was not the mother of Jesus, but the mother of James and Joses (Mark). Mark says that “Salome” attended them. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. From Luke Luk_24:10 it appears that Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward (see Luk_8:3), was with them. These four women, Mark says Mar_16:1, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint him. They had prepared a part of them on the evening before the Sabbath, Luk_23:56. They now, according to Mark, completed the preparation and bought more; or the meaning in Mark may be merely that, “having bought” sweet spices, without specifying the time when, they came now to embalm him. John mentions only Mary Magdalene. He does this, probably, because his object was to give a particular account of her interview with the risen Saviour. There is no contradiction among the evangelists; for while one mentions only the names of a part of those who were there, he does not deny that “others” were present also. It is an old maxim, that “he who mentions a few does not deny that there are more.”
To see the sepulchre – To see whether was as it had been left on the evening when he was laid there. To see if the stone was still there, by which they would know that he had not been removed. Mark and Luke say that the design of their coming was to anoint him with the sweet spices which they had prepared. Matthew does not mention that, but he does not “deny” that that was the ultimate design of their coming. It is not improbable that they might have known the manner in which he was buried, with a large quantity of myrrh and aloes; but that was done in haste – it was done by depositing the myrrh and aloes, without mixture or preparation, in the grave-clothes. They came that they might embalm his body more deliberately, or at least that they might “anoint the bandages” and complete the work of embalming.
At early dawn (orthrou batheos). Genitive of time. Literally, at deep dawn. The adjective bathus (deep) was often used of time. This very idiom occurs in Aristophanes, Plato, et cetera. Joh_20:1 adds “while it was yet dark.” That is, when they started, for the sun was risen when they arrived (Mar_16:2).
Which they had prepared (ha hetoimasan). Mar_16:1 notes that they bought other spices after the sabbath was over besides those which they already had (Luk_23:56).
They found the stone rolled away – An angel from God had done this before they reached the tomb, Mat_28:2 : On this case we cannot help remarking, that, when persons have strong confidence in God, obstacles do not hinder them from undertaking whatever they have reason to believe he requires; and the removal of them they leave to him: and what is the consequence? They go on their way comfortably, and all difficulties vanish before them.
Probably when they entered in they saw no angels, for one may reasonably suppose, that if they had they would hardly have adventured to enter in; but at their coming out, being satisfied that the body was not there, the angels made themselves visible to them; for it followeth, (see Luk_24:4-8).
The raiment and the countenance of the angel, too, might be said to be rays by which the splendor of Godhead was diffused, so as to enable them to perceive that it was not a mortal man that stood near them, having the face of a man. For though dazzling light, or the whiteness of snow, is nothing in comparison of the boundless glory of God, but rather, if we wish to know him aright, we ought not to imagine to ourselves any color; yet when he makes known by outward signs that he is present, he invites us to him, as far as our weakness can endure. Still we ought to know that the visible signs of his presence are exhibited to us, that our minds may conceive of him as invisible; and that, under bodily forms, we obtain a taste of his spiritual essence, that we may seek him spiritually. Yet it cannot be doubted that, together with outward signs, there was an inward power, which engraved on the hearts of the women an impression of Deity. For though at first they were struck with amazement, yet it will appear, from what follows, that they gathered courage, and were gradually instructed in such a manner, that they perceived the hand of God to be present.
Our three Evangelists, from a desire of brevity, leave out what is more fully related by John, (Joh_20:1 ) which, we know, is not unusual with them. There is also this difference, that Matthew and Mark mention but one angel, while John and Luke speak of two. But this apparent contradiction also is easily removed; for we know how frequently in Scripture instances occur of that figure of speech by which a part is taken for the whole. There were two angels, therefore, who appeared first to Mary, and afterwards to her other companions; but as the attention of the women was chiefly directed to the angel who spoke, Matthew and Mark have satisfied themselves with relating his message. Besides, when Matthew says that the angel sat on a stone, there is in his words (ὕστερον πρότερον), an inversion of the order of events; or, at least, that order was disregarded by him; for the angel did not immediately appear, but while the women were held in suspense and anxiety by an event so strange and astonishing.
Mat 28:2 An angel of the Lord had rolled away the stone and sat upon it – St. Luke and St. John speak of two angels that appeared: but it seems as if only one of them had appeared sitting on the stone without the sepulchre, and then going into it, was seen with another angel, sitting, one where the head, the other where the feet of the body had lain.
Luk 24:4 And it came to pass as they were much perplexed thereabout,…. About the body of Christ, and its being gone, what should become of it, whither it was removed, and by what means, and by whom; whether by a friend, or foe, for they had no thought, nor expectation of a resurrection;
behold, two men stood by them in shining garments; who were angels in the form of men; and as these were the first witnesses of Christs resurrection, there were two of them; for by the mouth of two or three witnesses every thing is established. Matthew and Mark take notice but of one; but John makes mention of two, as here, seen by Mary Magdalene, though in a different posture; they were sitting, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain; but when the rest of the women came, they were risen up, and stood close by them, on a sudden, at an unawares, being arrayed in white raiment, as white as snow, as a token of their purity and innocence, and as bringers of good tidings; and as joining in the triumph of their Lord’s resurrection: their garments were bright and glittering like lightning, to set forth the glory and majesty of these celestial spirits, and that they might be known to be what they were.
While they were perplexed thereabout (en toi aporeisthai autas peri toutou). Luke’s common Hebraistic idiom, en with the articular infinitive (present passive aporeisthai from aporeo, to lose one’s way) and the accusative of general reference.
Two men (andres duo). Men, not women. Mar_16:5 speaks of a young man (neaniskon) while Mat_28:5 has “an angel.” We need not try to reconcile these varying accounts which agree in the main thing. The angel looked like a man and some remembered two. In Luk_24:23 Cleopas and his companion call them “angels.”
Stood by (epestesan). Second aorist active indicative of ephistemi. This common verb usually means to step up suddenly, to burst upon one.
In dazzling apparel (en estheti astraptousei). This is the correct text. This common simplex verb occurs only twice in the N.T., here and Luk_17:24 (the Transfiguration). It has the same root as astrape (lightning). The “men” had the garments of “angels.”
Why seek ye the living among the dead? – This was a common form of speech among the Jews, and seems to be applied to those who were foolishly, impertinently, or absurdly employed. As places of burial were unclean, it was not reasonable to suppose that the living should frequent them; or that if any was missing he was likely to be found in such places.
And the angel answered and said … – This was not on the outside of the tomb, for Matthew does not say that the angel appeared to the “women” there, but only to the keepers. Mark says, “entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment” Mar_16:5. Luke says Luk_24:3, “they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus; and as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” Seeing the stone rolled away and the sepulchre open, they of course anxiously entered into it, to see if the body was there. They did not find it, and there they saw the vision of the angels, who gave them information respecting his resurrection. Infidels have objected that there are three inconsistencies in the accounts by Mark and Luke:
1. that Mark says the angel was sitting, and Luke says they were standing. Answer: The word in Luke does not of necessity mean that they “stood,” but only that they were “present.” Or it may be that the one that Mark mentions was sitting when they entered, and then arose.
2. It is objected that Luke mentions two, but Mark and Matthew one. Answer: Mark mentions the one who spoke; for it cannot be supposed they both spake the same thing. He does not deny that another was present with him. Luke affirms that there was. This way of speaking is not unfrequent. Thus, Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac who was cured at Gadara. Matthew mentions two. In like manner Mark and Luke speak of only one blind man who was cured at Jericho, while from Matthew it is certain that two were. The fact that but one is mentioned, where it is not denied that there were others, does not prove that there could not be others.
3. Matthew calls this an “angel.” Mark and Luke say “a man.” Answer: Angels, in the Scriptures, from “appearing” in the form of human beings, are often called as they “appear,” and are mentioned as men. See Gen_18:2, Gen_18:16, Gen_18:22; Gen_19:1, Gen_19:5. “Fear not ye.” That is, “Be not agitated, or troubled, that you do not find the body of the Saviour. I know that ye seek him, and are troubled that he is removed; but you need not fear that he has been stolen. You will see him again in Galilee.”
Luk 24:6 Remember how he spake to you, saying, The Son of man must be delivered – This is only a repetition of the words which our Lord had spoken to them before his passion But it is observable, he never styles himself the Son of man after his resurrection.
Sinful men – Or heathens, ανθρωπων αμαρτωλων, i.e. the Romans, by whom only he could be put to death; for the Jews themselves acknowledged that this power was now vested in the hands of the Roman governor alone. See Joh_19:15.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Saying, etc. — How remarkable it is to hear angels quoting a whole sentence of Christ’s to the disciples, mentioning where it was uttered, and wondering it was not fresh in their memory, as doubtless it was in theirs! (1Ti_3:16, “seen of angels,” and 1Pe_1:12).
And they remembered his words; by which we are taught that, though they had made little proficiency in the doctrine of Christ, still it was not lost, but was choked up, until in due time it yielded fruit.
They remembered his words – Even the simple recollection of the words of Christ becomes often a source of comfort and support to those who are distressed or tempted: for his words are the words of eternal life.
CHRYS. The report of Christ’s resurrection being published every where by the Apostles, and while the anxiety of the disciples was easily awakened to see Christ, He that was so much desired comes, and is revealed to them that were seeking and expecting Him. Nor in a doubtful manner, but with the clearest evidence, He presents Himself, as it is said, And as they thus spoke, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them.
AUG. This manifestation of our Lord after His resurrection, John also relates. But when John says that the Apostle Thomas was not with the rest, while according to Luke, the two disciples on their return to Jerusalem found the eleven gathered together, we must understand undoubtedly that Thomas departed from them, before our Lord appeared to them as they spoke these things. For Luke gives occasion in his narrative, that it may be understood that Thomas first went out from them when the rest were saying these things, and that our Lord entered afterwards. Unless some one should say that the eleven were not those who were then called Apostles, but that these were eleven disciples out of the large number of disciples. But since Luke has added, And those that were with them, he has surely made it sufficiently evident that those called the eleven were the same as those who were called Apostles, with whom the rest were.
But let us see what mystery it was for the sake of which, according to Matthew and Mark, our Lord when He rose again gave the following command, I will go before ore you into Galilee, there shall you see me. Which although it was accomplished, yet it was not till after many other things had happened, whereas it was so commanded, that it might be expected that it would have taken place alone, or at least before other things.
AMBROSE; Therefore I think it most natural that our Lord indeed instructed His disciples, that they should see Him in Galilee, but that He first presents Himself as they remained still in the assembly through fear.
GREEK EX. Nor was it a violation of His promise, but rather a mercifully hastened fulfillment on account of the cowardice of the disciples.
AMBROSE; But afterwards when their hearts were strengthened, the eleven set out for Galilee. Or there is no difficulty in supposing that they should be reported to have been fewer in the assembly, and a larger number on the mountain.
EUSEB. For the two Evangelists, that is, Luke and John, write that He appeared to the eleven alone in Jerusalem, but those two disciples told not only the eleven, but all the disciples and brethren, that both the angel and the Savior had commanded them to hasten to Galilee; of whom also Paul made mention, saying, Afterwards he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once. But the truer explanation is, that at first indeed while they remained in secret at Jerusalem, He appeared once or twice for their comfort, but that in Galilee not in the assembly, or once or twice, but with great power, He made a manifestation of Himself, strewing Himself living to them after His Passion with many signs, as Luke testifies in the Acts.
AUG. But that which was said by the Angel, that is the Lord, must be taken prophetically, for by the word Galilee according to its meaning of transmigration, it is to be understood that they were about to pass over from the people of Israel to the Gentiles, to whom the Apostles preaching would not entrust the Gospel, unless the Lord Himself should prepare His way in the hearts of men. And this is what is meant by, He shall go before you into Galilee, there shall you see him. But according to the interpretation of Galilee, by which it means “manifestation,” we must understand that He will be revealed no more in the form of a servant, but in that form in which He is equal to the Father, which He has promised to His elect. That manifestation will be as it were the true Galilee, when we shall see Him as He is. This will also be that far more blessed transmigration from the world to eternity, from whence though coming to us He did not depart, and to which going before us He has not deserted us.
THEOPHYL. The Lord then standing in the midst of the disciples, first with His accustomed salutation of “peace,” allays their restlessness, showing that He is the same Master who delighted in the word wherewith He also fortified them, when He sent them to preach. Hence it follows, And he said to them, Peace be to you; I am he, fear not.
GREG. NAZ. Let us then reverence the gift of peace, which Christ when He departed hence left to us. Peace both in name and reality is sweet, which also we have heard to be of God, as it is said, The peace of God; and that God is of it, as He is our peace. Peace is a blessing commended by all, but observed by few. What then is the cause? Perhaps the desire of dominion or riches, or the envy or hatred of our neighbor, or some one of those vices into which we see men fall who know not God. For peace is peculiarly of God, who binds all things together in one, to whom nothing so much belongs as the unity of nature, and a peaceful condition. It is borrowed indeed by angels and divine powers, which are peacefully disposed towards God and one another. It is diffused through the whole creation, whose glory is tranquillity. But in us it abides in our souls indeed by the following and imparting of the virtues, in our bodies by the harmony of our members and organs, of which the one is called beauty, the other health.
BEDE; The disciples had known Christ to be really man, having been so long a time with Him; but after that He was dead, they do not believe that the real flesh could rise again from the grave on the third day. They think then that they see the spirit which He gave up at His passion. Therefore it follows, But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. This mistake of the Apostles was the heresy of the Manicheans.
AMBROSE; But persuaded by the example of their virtues, we can not believe that Peter and John could have doubted. Why then does Luke relate them to have been affrighted. First of all because the declaration of the greater part includes the opinion of the few. Secondly, because although Peter believed in the resurrection, yet he might be amazed when the doors being closed Jesus suddenly presents Himself with his body.
THEOPHYL. Because by the word of peace the agitation in the minds of the Apostles was not allayed, He shows by another token that He is the Son of God, in that He knew the secrets of their hearts; for it follows, And he said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
BEDE; What thoughts indeed but such as were false and dangerous. For Christ had lost the fruit of His passion, had He not been the Truth of the resurrection; just as if a good husbandmen should say, What I have planted there, I shall find, that is, the faith which descends into the heart, because it is from above. But those thoughts did not descend from above, but ascended from below into the heart like worthless plants.
CYRIL; Here then was a most evident sign that He whom they now see was none other but the same whom they had seen dead on the cross, and lain in the sepulcher, who knew every thing that was in man.
AMBROSE; Let us then consider how it happens that the Apostles according to John believed and rejoiced, according to Luke are reproved as unbelieving. John indeed seems to me, as being an Apostle, to have treated of greater and higher things; Luke of those which relate and are close akin to human. The one follows an historic course, the other is content with an abridgment, because it could not be doubted of him, who gives his testimony concerning those things at which he was himself present. And therefore we deem both true. For although at first Luke says that they did not believe, yet he explains that they afterwards did believe.
CYRIL; Now our Lord testifying that death was overcome, and human nature had now in Christ put on incorruption, first shows them His hands and His feet, and the print of the nails; as it follows, Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
THEOPHYL. But He adds also another proof, namely, the handling of His hands and feet, when He says, Handle me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see me have. As if to say, You think me a spirit, that is to say, a ghost, as many of the dead are wont to be seen about their graves. But know you that a spirit has neither flesh nor bones, but I have flesh and bones.
AMBROSE; Our Lord said this in order to afford us an image of our resurrection. For that which is handled is the body. But in our bodies we shall rise again. But the former is more subtle, the latter more carnal, as being still mixed up with the qualities of earthly corruption. Not then by His incorporeal nature, but by the quality of His bodily resurrection, Christ passed through the shut doors.
GREG. For in that glory of the resurrection our body will not be incapable of handling, and more subtle than the winds and the air, (as Eutychius said,) but while it is subtle indeed through the effect of spiritual power, it will be also capable of handling through the power of nature. It follows, And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet, on which indeed were clearly marked the prints of the nails. But according to John, He also showed them His side which had been pierced with the spear, that by manifesting the scar of His wounds He might heal the wound of their doubtfulness. But from this place the Gentiles are fond of raising up a calumny, as if He was not able to cure the wound inflicted on Him. To whom we must answer, that it is not probable that He who is proved to have done the greater should be unable to do the less. But for the sake of His sure purpose, He who destroyed death would not blot out the signs of death. First indeed, that He might thereby build up His disciples in the faith of His resurrection. Secondly, that supplicating the Father for us, He might always show forth what kind of death He endured for many. Thirdly, that He might point out to those redeemed by His death, by setting before them the signs of that death, how mercifully they have been succored. Lastly, that He might declare in the judgment how justly the wicked are condemned.
CYRIL; The Lord had shown His disciples His hands and His feet, that He might certify to them that the same body which had suffered rose again. But to confirm them still more, He asked for something to eat.
GREG. NYSS. By the command of the law indeed the Passover was eaten with bitter herbs, because the bitterness of bondage still remained, but after the resurrection the food is sweetened with a honeycomb; as it follows, And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and a honeycomb.
BEDE; To convey therefore the truth of His resurrection, He condescends not only to be touched by His disciples, but to eat with them, that they might not suspect that His appearance was not actual, but only imaginary. Hence it follows, And when he had eaten before them, he took the remnant, and gave to them. He ate indeed by His power, not from necessity. The thirsty earth absorbs water in one way, the burning sun in another way, the one from want, the other from power.
GREEK EX. But some one will say, If we allow that our Lord ate after His resurrection, let us also grant that all men will after the resurrection take the nourishment of food. But these things which for a certain purpose are done by our Savior, are not the rule and measure of nature, since in other things He has purposed differently. For He will raise our bodies, not defective but perfect and incorrupt, who yet left on His own body the prints which the nails had made, and the wound in His side, in order to show that the nature of His body remained the same after the resurrection, and that He was not changed into another substance.
BEDE; He ate therefore after the resurrection, not as needing food, nor as signifying that the resurrection which we are expecting will need food; but that He might thereby build up the nature of a rising body. But mystically, the broiled fish of which Christ ate signifies the sufferings of Christ. For He having condescended to lie in the waters of the human race, was willing to be taken by the hook of our death, and was as it were burnt up by anguish at the time of His Passion. But the honeycomb was present to us at the resurrection. By the honeycomb He wished to represent to us the two natures of His person. For the honeycomb is of wax, but the honey in the wax is the Divine nature in the human.
THEOPHYL. The things eaten seem also to contain another mystery. For in that He ate part of a broiled fish, He signifies that having burnt by the fire of His own divinity our nature swimming in the sea of this life, and dried up the moisture which it had contracted from the waves, He made it divine food; and that which was before abominable He prepared to be a sweet offering to God, which the honeycomb signifies. Or by the broiled fish He signifies the active life, drying up the moisture with the coals of labor, but by the honeycomb, the contemplative life on account of the sweetness of the oracles of God.
36.Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. While the Evangelist John copiously details the same narrative, (Joh_20:19,) he differs from Luke in some circumstances. Mark, too, differs somewhat in his brief statement. As to John, since he only collects what Luke omitted, both may be easily reconciled. There is no contradiction about the substance of the fact; unless some person were to raise a debate about the time: for it is there said that Jesus entered in the evening, while it is evident, from the thread of the narrative, that he appeared at a late hour in the night, when the disciples had returned from Emmaus. But I do not think it right to insist precisely on the hour of the evening. On the contrary, we may easily and properly extend to a late hour of the night what is here said, and understand it to mean that Christ came to them after the evening, when the apostles had shut the doors, and kept themselves concealed within the house. In short, John does not describe the very commencement of the night, but simply means that, when the day was past, and after sunset, and even at the dead hour of night, Christ came to the disciples contrary to their expectation.
Still there arises here another question, since Mark and Luke relate that the eleven were assembled, when Christ appeared to them; and John says that Thomas was then absent, (Joh_20:24.) But there is no absurdity in saying that the number — the eleven— is here put for the apostles themselves, though one of their company was absent. We have lately stated—and the fact makes it evident—that John enters into the details with greater distinctness, because it was his design to relate what the others had omitted. Besides, it is beyond a doubt that the three Evangelists relate the same narrative; since John expressly says that it was only twice that Christ appeared to his disciples at Jerusalem, before they went to Galilee; for he says that he appeared to them the third time at the sea of Tiberias, (Joh_21:1 ) He had already described two appearances of our Lord, one which took place on the day after his resurrection, (Joh_20:19,) and the other which followed eight days afterwards, (Joh_20:26 ) though, were any one to choose rather to explain the second appearance to be that which is found in the Gospel by Mark, I should not greatly object.
I now return to the words of Luke. He does not, indeed, say that Christ, by his divine power, opened for himself the doors which were shut, (Joh_20:26;) but something of this sort is indirectly suggested by the phrase which he employs, Jesus stood. For how could our Lord suddenly, during the night, stand in the midst of them, if he had not entered in a miraculous manner? The same form of salutation is employed by both, Peace be to you; by which the Hebrews mean, that for the person whom they address they wish happiness and prosperity.
And as they thus spake – While the two disciples who were going to Emmaus were conversing about Christ, he joined himself to their company. Now, while they and the apostles are confirming each other in their belief of his resurrection, Jesus comes in, to remove every doubt, and to give them the fullest evidence of it. And it is ever true that, wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst of them.
Peace be unto you – The usual salutation among the Jews. May you prosper in body and soul, and enjoy every heavenly and earthly good! See the notes on Mat_5:9; Mat_10:12.
Luk 24:36 Jesus stood in the midst of them – It was just as easy to his Divine power to open a door undiscernibly, as it was to come in at a door opened by some other hand. Mar_16:14, Mar_16:19; Joh_20:19.
Jesus stood in the midst of them – This was when the apostles were assembled, and when they had closed the doors for fear of the Jews, Joh_20:19. It was this fact, as well as his sudden and unexpected appearance, that alarmed them. The doors were shut, and the suddenness of his appearance led them to suppose they had seen a spirit.
Peace be unto you – This was a form of salutation among the Hebrews denoting a wish of peace and prosperity. See Gen_43:23. It was especially appropriate for Jesus, as he had said before his death that he left “his peace” with them as their inheritance Joh_14:27, and as they were now alarmed and fearful at their state, and trembling for fear of the Jews, Joh_20:19.
37.And they were terrified and affrighted. John does not mention this terror; but as he also says that Christ showed his hands and sides to the disciples, we may conjecture that some circumstance had been omitted by him. Nor is it at all unusual with the Evangelists, when they aim at brevity, to glance only at a part of the facts. From Luke, too, we learn that the terror excited in them by the strangeness of the spectacle was such, that they dare not trust their eyes. But a little ago, they had come to the conclusion that the Lord was risen, (verse 34,) and had spoken of it unhesitatingly as a matter fully ascertained; and now, when they behold him with their eyes, their senses are struck with astonishment, so that they think he is a spirit. Though this error, which arose from weakness, was not free from blame, still they did not so far forget themselves as to be afraid of enchantments. But though they did not think that they are imposed upon, still they are more inclined to believe that an image of the resurrection is exhibited to them in vision by the Spirit, than that Christ himself, who lately died on the cross, is alive and present. So then they did not suspect that this was a vision intended to deceive them, as if it had been an idle phantom, but, seized with fear, they thought only that there was exhibited to them in spirit what was actually placed before their eyes.
And supposed that they had seen a spirit – But if there be no such thing as a disembodied spirit, would not our Lord have shown them their error? Instead of this, he confirms them in their opinion, by saying, A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me have, Luk_24:39; therefore he says, handle me and see me. They probably imagined that it was the soul only of our blessed Lord which they saw; but they were soon fully convinced of the identity of his person, and the reality of his resurrection; for,
1. They saw his body.
2. They heard him speak.
3. They handled him.
4. They saw him eat a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb, which they gave him.
In these things it was impossible for them to have been deceived.
38.Why are you troubled? By these words they are exhorted to lay aside terror, and regain the possession of their minds, that, having returned to the rigor of their senses, they may judge of a matter which is fully ascertained; for so long as men are seized with perturbation, they are blind amidst the clearest light. In order, therefore, that the disciples may obtain undoubted information, they are enjoined to weigh the matter with calmness and composure.
And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? In this second clause, Christ reproves another fault, which is, that by the variety of their thoughts they throw difficulties in their own way. By saying that thoughts arise, he means that the knowledge of the truth is choked in them in such a manner, that seeing they do not see, (Mat_13:14;) for they do not restrain their wicked imaginations, but, on the contrary, by giving them free scope, they permit them to gain the superiority. And certainly we find it to be too true, that as, when the sky has been clear in the morning, clouds afterwards arise to darken the clear light of the sun; so when we allow our reasonings to arise with excessive freedom in opposition to the word of God, what formerly appeared clear to us is withdrawn from our eyes. We have a right, indeed, when any appearance of absurdity presents itself, to inquire by weighing the arguments on both sides; and, indeed, so long as matters are doubtful, our minds must inevitably be driven about in every direction: but we must observe sobriety and moderation, lest the flesh exalt itself more highly than it ought, and throw out its thoughts far and wide against heaven.
Why are ye troubled? – Why are you alarmed or frightened?
And why do thoughts … – The word “thoughts” here means “doubts” or suspicions. It is used in this sense also in 1Ti_2:8. The doubts which they had were whether he was the Christ. He reproves them for doubting this; for,
1. The Scriptures had foretold his death;
2. He had himself repeatedly done it; and,
3. They had now the testimony of Peter that he had seen Jesus alive, and of the angels that he was risen. After all this evidence, Jesus reproves them for doubting whether he was truly the Messiah.
39.Look at my hands and my feet. He calls upon their bodily senses as witnesses, that they may not suppose that a shadow is exhibited to them instead of a body. And, first, he distinguishes between a corporeal man and a spirit; as if he had said, “Sight and touch will prove that I am a real man, who have formerly conversed with you; for I am clothed with that flesh which was crucified, and which still bears the marks of it.” Again, when Christ declares that his body may be touched, and that it has solid bones, this passage is justly and appropriately adduced by those who adhere to us, for the purpose of refuting the gross error about the transubstantiation of bread into the body, or about the local presence of the body, which men foolishly imagine to exist in the Holy Supper. For they would have us to believe that the body of Christ is in a place where no Mark of a body can be seen; and in this way it will follow that it has changed its nature, so that it has ceased to be what it was, and from which Christ proves it to be a real body. If it be objected, on the other hand, that his side was then pierced, and that his feet and hands were pierced and wounded by the nails, but that now Christ is in heaven without any vestige of wound or injury, it is easy to dispose of this objection; for the present question is not merely in what form Christ appeared, but what he declares as to the real nature of his flesh. Now he pronounces it to be, as it were, a distinguishing character of his body, that he may be handled, and therefore differs from a spirit. We must therefore hold that the distinction between flesh and spirit, which the words of Christ authorize us to regard as perpetual, exists in the present day.
As to the wounds, we ought to look upon this as a proof by which it was intended to prove to us all, that Christ rose rather for us them for himself; since, after having vanquished death, and obtained a blessed and heavenly immortality, yet, on our account, he continued for a time to bear some remaining marks of the cross. It certainly was an astonishing act of condescension towards the disciples, that he chose rather to want something that was necessary to render perfect the glory of the resurrection, than to deprive their faith of such a support. But it was a foolish and an old wife’s dream, to imagine that he will still continue to bear the marks of the wounds, when he shall come to judge the world.
Behold my hands … – Jesus proceeds to give them evidence that he was truly the same person that had been crucified. He first showed them his hands and his feet – still, pierced, and with the wounds made by the nails still open. Compare Joh_20:27. He told them to handle him and see him. He ate before them. All this was to satisfy them that he was not, as they supposed, a spirit. Nor could better evidence have been given. He appealed to their senses, and performed acts which a disembodied spirit could not do.
Handle me – Or touch me; feel of me. Compare Joh_20:27.
And see – Be convinced, for you could not thus handle a spirit. The object here was to convince them that his body had really come to life.
For a spirit … – He appeals here to what they well knew; and this implies that the spirit may exist separate from the body. That was the view of the apostles, and our Saviour distinctly countenances that belief.
Myself (autos). Jesus is patient with his proof. They were convinced before he came into the room, but that psychological shock had unnerved them all.
Handle (pselaphesate). This very word is used in 1Jo_1:1 as proof of the actual human body of Jesus. It is an old verb for touching with the hand.
Flesh and bones (sarka kai ostea). At least this proves that he is not just a ghost and that Jesus had a real human body against the Docetic Gnostics who denied it. But clearly we are not to understand that our resurrection bodies will have “flesh and bones.” Jesus was in a transition state and had not yet been glorified. The mystery remains unsolved, but it was proof to the disciples of the identity of the Risen Christ with Jesus of Nazareth.
But while they yet believed not for joy. This passage shows also that they were not purposely incredulous, like persons who deliberately resolve not to believe; but while their will led them to believe eagerly, they were held bound by the vehemence of their feelings, so that they could not rest satisfied. For certainly the joy which Luke mentions arose from nothing but faith; and yet it hindered their faith from gaining the victory. Let us therefore observe with what suspicion we ought to regard the vehemence of our feelings, which, though it may have good beginnings, hurries us out of the right path. We are also reminded how earnestly we ought to struggle against every thing that retards faith, since the joy which sprung up in the minds of the apostles from the presence of Christ was the cause of their unbelief.
Luk 24:41 While they believed not for joy – They did in some sense believe: otherwise they would not have rejoiced. But their excess of joy prevented a clear, rational belief.
Believed not for joy – Their joy was so great, and his appearance was so sudden and unexpected, that they were bewildered, and still sought more evidence of the truth of what they “wished” to believe. This is nature. We have similar expressions in our language. “The news is too good to be true;” or, “I cannot believe it; it is too much for me.”
Any meat – This word does not mean “meat” in our sense of it, but in the old English sense, denoting “anything to eat.”
A piece of broiled fish (ichthuos optou meros). Optos is a verbal from optao, to cook, to roast, to broil. Common word, but only here in the N.T. The best old documents omit “and a honeycomb” (kai apo melissiou keriou).
43.And he took, and ate it in their presence. Here we perceive, on the other hand, how kindly and gently Christ bears with the weakness of his followers, since he does not fail to give them this new support when they are falling. And, indeed, though he has obtained a new and heavenly life, and has no more need of meat and drink than angels have, still he voluntarily condescends to join in the common usages of mortals. During the whole course of his life, he had subjected himself to the necessity of eating and drinking; and now, though relieved from that necessity, he eats for the purpose of convincing his disciples of the certainty of his resurrection. Thus we see how he disregarded himself, and chose always to be devoted to our interests. This is the true and pious meditation on this narrative, in which believers may advantageously rest, dismissing questions of mere curiosity, such as, “Was this corruptible food digested?” “What sort of nourishment did the body of Christ derive from it?” and, “What became of what did not go to nourishment?” As if it had not been in the power of Him who created all things out of nothing to reduce to nothing a small portion of food, whenever he thought fit. As Christ really tasted the fish and the honeycomb, in order to show that he was a man, so we cannot doubt that by his divine power he consumed what was not needed to pass into nourishment. Thus the angels, at the table of Abraham, (Gen_18:1,) having been clothed with real bodies, did actually, I have no doubt, eat and drink; but yet I do not therefore admit that the meat and drink yielded them that refreshment which the weakness of the flesh demands; but as they were clothed with a human form for the sake of Abraham, so the Lord granted this favor to his servant, that those heavenly visitors ate before his tent. Now if we acknowledge that the bodies which they assumed for a time were reduced to nothing after they had discharged their embassy, who will deny that the same thing happened as to the food?
Luk 24:43 He took it and ate before them – Not that he had any need of food; but to give them still farther evidence.
BEDE; But after that He was seen, touched, and had eaten, lest He should seem to have mocked the human senses in any one respect, He had recourse to the Scriptures. And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, when I was yet with you, that is, when I was as yet in the mortal flesh, in which you also are. He indeed was then raised again in the same flesh, but was not in the same mortality with them. And He adds, That all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.
AUG. Let those then who dream that Christ could have done such things by magical arts, and by the same art have consecrated His name to the nations to be converted to Him, consider whether He could by magical arts fill the Prophets with the Divine Spirit before He was born. For neither supposing that He caused Himself to be worshipped when dead, was He a magician before He was born, to whom one nation was as assigned to prophesy His coming.
BEDE; After having presented Himself to be seen with the eye, and handled with hands, and having brought to their minds the Scriptures of the law, He next opened their understanding that they should understand what was read.
THEOPHYL. Otherwise, how would their agitated and perplexed minds have learnt the mystery of Christ. But He taught them by His words; for it follows, And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, that is, by the wood of the Cross.
BEDE; But Christ would have lost the fruit of His Passion had He not been the Truth of the resurrection, therefore it is said, And to rise form the dead. He then after having commended to them the truth of the body, commends the unity of the Church, adding, And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.
EUSEB. For it was said, Ask of me, and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance. But it was necessary that those who were converted from the Gentiles should be purged from a certain stain and defilement through His virtue, being as it were corrupted by the evil of the worship of devils, and as lately converted from an abominable and unchaste life. And therefore He says that it behoves that first repentance should be preached, but next, remission of sins, to all nations. For to those who first showed. repentance for their sins, by His saving grace He granted pardon of their transgression, for whom also He endured death.
BEDE; Not only because to them were entrusted the oracles of God, and theirs is the adoption and the glory, but also that the Gentiles entangled in various errors might by this sign of Divine mercy be chiefly invited to come to hope, seeing that to them even who crucified the Son of God pardon is granted.
CHRYS. Further, lest any should say that abandoning their acquaintances they went to show themselves, (or as it were to vaunt themselves with a kind of pomp,) to strangers therefore first among the very murderers themselves are the signs of the resurrection displayed, in that very city wherein the frantic outrage burst forth. For where the crucifiers themselves are seen to believe, there the resurrection is most of all demonstrated.
EUSEB. But if those things which Christ foretold are already receiving their accomplishment, and His word is perceived by a seeing faith to be living and effectual throughout the whole world; it is time for men not to be unbelieving towards Him who uttered that word. For it is necessary that He should live a divine life, whose living works are shown to be agreeable to His words; and these indeed have been fulfilled by the ministry of the Apostles. Hence He adds, But you are witnesses of these things, &c. that is, of My death and resurrection.
THEOPHYL. Afterwards, lest they should be troubled at the thought, How shall we private individuals give our testimony to the Jews and Gentiles who have killed Thee? He subjoins, And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, &c. which indeed He had promised by the mouth of the prophet Joel, I will pour my Spirit upon all flesh.
CHRYS. But as a general does not permit his soldiers who are about to meet a large number, to go out until they are armed, so also the Lord does not permit His disciples to go forth to the conflict before tile descent of the Spirit. And hence He adds, But tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.
THEOPHYL. That is, not with human but heavenly power. He said not, until you receive, but be endued with, showing the entire protection of the spiritual armor.
CHRYS. But why did not the Spirit come while Christ was present, or immediately on His departure? Because it was fitting that they should become desirous of grace, and then at length receive it. For we are then most awakened towards God, when difficulties press upon us. It was necessary in the mean time that our nature should appear in Heaven, and the covenants be completed, and that then the Spirit should come, and pure joys be experienced. Mark also what a necessity He imposed upon them of being at Jerusalem, in that He promised that the Spirit should there be given them. For lest they should again flee away after His resurrection by this expectation, as it were a chain, He kept them all there together. But He says, until you be endued from on high. He did not express the time when, in order that they may be constantly watchful. But why then marvel that He does not reveal to us our last day, when He would not even make known this day which was close at hand.
GREG. They then are to be warned, whom age or imperfection hinders from the office of preaching, and yet rashness impels, lest while they hastily arrogate to themselves so responsible an office, they should cut themselves off from the way of future amendment. For the Truth Itself which could suddenly strengthen those whom it wished, in order to give an example to those that follow, that imperfect men should not presume to preach, after having fully instructed the disciples concerning the virtue of preaching, commanded them to abide in the city, until they were endued with power from on high. For we abide in a city, when we keep ourselves close within the gates of our minds, lest by speaking we wander beyond them; that when we are perfectly endued with divine power, we may then as it were go out beyond ourselves to instruct others.
AMBROSE; But let us consider how according to John they received the Holy Spirit, while here they are ordered to stay in the city until they should be endued with power from on high. Either He breathed the Holy Spirit into the eleven as being more perfect, and promised to give it to the rest afterwards; or to the same persons He breathed in the one place He promised in the other. Nor does there seem to be any contradiction, since there are diversities of graces. Therefore one operation He breathed into them there, another He promised here. For there the grace of remitting sins was given, which seems to be more confined, and therefore is breathed into them by Christ, that you may believe the Holy Spirit to be of Christ, to be from God. For God alone forgives sins. But Luke describes the pouring, forth of the grace of speaking with tongues.
CHRYS. Or He said, Receive you the Holy Spirit, that He might make them fit to receive it, or indicated as present that which was to come.
AUG. Or the Lord after His resurrection gave the Holy Spirit twice, once on earth, because of the love of our neighbor, and again from heaven, because of the love of God.
44.These are the words. Though it will afterwards appear from Matthew and Mark that a discourse similar to this was delivered in Galilee, yet I think it probable that Luke now relates what happened on the day after his resurrection. For what John says of that day, that he breathed on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, (Joh_20:22 ) agrees with the words of Luke which here immediately follow, that he opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. By these words Christ indirectly reproves their gross and shameful forgetfulness, that, though they had long ago been fully informed of his future resurrection, they were as much astonished as if it had never been mentioned to them. The import of his words is: “Why do you hesitate as if this had been a new and unexpected occurrence, while it is only what I frequently predicted to you? Why do you not rather remember my words? For if hitherto you have reckoned me worthy of credit, this ought to have been known to you from my instructions before it happened.” In short, Christ tacitly complains that his labor has been thrown away on the apostles, since his instruction has been forgotten.
All things which are written concerning me. He now rebukes them more sharply for their slowness, by declaring that he brought forward nothing that was new but that he only reminded them of what had been declared by the Law and the Prophets, with which they ought to have been familiar from their childhood. But though they had been ignorant of the whole doctrine of religion, nothing could have been more unreasonable than not to embrace readily what they knew to have undoubtedly proceeded from God; for it was a principle admitted by the whole nation, that there was no religion but what was contained in the Law and the Prophets. The present division of the Scriptures is more copious than what we find in other passages; for besides the Law and the Prophets, he adds, in the third place, the Psalms, which, though they might with propriety have been reckoned among the Prophets, have, something distinct and peculiar to themselves. Yet the division into two par which we have seen elsewhere, (Luk_16:16; Joh_1:45,) embraces notwithstanding the whole of Scripture.
The law – the prophets – the psalms – This was the Jewish division of the whole old covenant. The Law contained the five books of Moses; the Prophets, the Jews divided into former and latter; they were, according to Josephus, thirteen. “The Psalms included not only the book still so named, but also three other books, Proverbs, Job, and Canticles.
These all,” says the above author, “contain hymns to God, and rules for the conduct of the lives of men.” Joseph. Cont. App. i. 8. This account is imperfect: the common Jewish division of the writings of the old covenant is the following, and indeed seems to be the same to which our Lord alludes: -
I. The Law, תורה thorah, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
II. The Prophets, נביאים, nabiaim, or teachers, including Joshua, Judges, the two books of Samuel, and the two books of Kings: these were termed the former prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: these were termed the latter prophets.
III. The Hagiographa, (holy writings), כתובים kethuvim, which comprehended the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles. The Jews made anciently only twenty-two books of the whole, to bring them to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet; and this they did by joining Ruth to Judges, making the two books of Samuel only one; and so of Kings and Chronicles; joining the Lamentations to Jeremiah, and making the twelve minor prophets only one book.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
These are the words, etc. — that is, “Now you will understand what seemed so dark to you when I told you about the Son of man being put to death and rising again” (Luk_18:31-34).
while … yet with you — a striking expression, implying that He was now, as the dead and risen Savior, virtually dissevered from this scene of mortality, and from all ordinary intercourse with His mortal disciples.
law … prophets … psalms — the three Jewish divisions of the Old Testament Scriptures.
These are the words – Or this is the “fulfillment” of what I before told you respecting my death. See Luk_18:33; Mar_10:33.
While I was yet with you – Before my death. While I was with you as a teacher and guide.
In the law of Moses – The five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Among the Jews this was the first division of the Old Testament, and was called the “law.”
The prophets – This was the second and largest part of the Hebrew Scriptures. It comprehended the books of Joshua, Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, which were called the “former prophets;” and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve smaller books from Daniel, to Malachi, which were called the “latter prophets.”
The psalms – The word here used probably means what were comprehended under the name of “Hagiographa,” or holy writings. This consisted of the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles. This division of the Old Testament was in use long before the time of Christ, and was what he referred to here; and he meant to say that in “each of” these divisions of the Old Testament there were prophecies respecting himself. The “particular” subject before them was his “resurrection from the dead.” A most striking prediction of this is contained in Psa_16:9-11. Compare it with Act_2:24-32; Act_13:35-37.
45.Then he opened their understanding. As the Lord had formerly discharged the office of Teacher, with little or no improvement on the part of the disciples, he now begins to teach them inwardly by his Spirit; for words are icily wasted on the air, until the minds are enlightened by the gift of understanding. It is true, indeed, that
the word of God is like a lamp, (Psa_119:105;) but it shines in darkness and amidst the blind, until the inward light is given by the Lord, to whom it peculiarly belongs to enlighten the blind,(Psa_146:8.) And hence it is evident how great is the corruption of our nature, since the light of life exhibited to us in the heavenly oracles is of no avail to us. Now if we do not perceive by the understanding what is right, how would the will be sufficient for yielding obedience? We ought, therefore, to acknowledge that we come short in every respect, so that the heavenly doctrine proves to be useful and efficacious to us, only so far as the Spirit both forms our minds to understand it, and our hearts to submit to its yoke; and, therefore, that in order to our being properly qualified for becoming his disciples, we must lay aside all confidence in our own abilities, and seek light from heaven; and, abandoning the foolish opinion of free-will, must give ourselves up to be governed by God. Nor is it without reason that Paul bids men become fools, that they may be wise to God, (1Co_3:18;) for no darkness is more dangerous for quenching the light of the Spirit than reliance on our own sagacity.
That they might understand the Scriptures. Let the reader next observe, that the disciples had not the eyes of their mind opened, so as to comprehend the mysteries of God without any assistance, but so far as they are contained in the Scriptures; and thus was fulfilled what is said, (Psa_119:18,) Enlighten mine eyes, that I may behold the wonders of thy law.
For God does not bestow the Spirit on his people, in order to set aside the use of his word, but rather to render it fruitful. It is highly improper, therefore, in fanatics, under the pretense of revelations, to take upon themselves the liberty of despising the Scriptures; for what we now read in reference to the apostles is daily accomplished by Christ in all his people, namely, that by his Spirit he guides us to understand the Scriptures, and does not hurry us away into the idle raptures of enthusiasm.
But it may be asked, Why did Christ choose to lose his labor, during the entire period of three years, in teaching them, rather than to open their understandings from the very outset? I reply, first, though the fruit of his labor did not immediately appear, still it was not useless; for when the new light was given to them, they likewise perceived the advantage of the former period. For I regard these words as meaning, not only that he opened their understandings, that, in future they might be ready to receive instruction, if any thing were stated to them, but that they might call to remembrance his doctrine, which they had formerly heard without any advantage. Next, let us learn that this ignorance, which lasted during three years, was of great use for informing them that from no other source than from the heavenly light did they obtain their new discernment. Besides, by this fact Christ gave an undoubted proof of his Divinity; for he not only was the minister of the outward voice, which sounded in their ears, but by his hidden power he penetrated into their minds, and thus showed that what, Paul tells us, does not belong to the teachers of the Church is the prerogative of Him alone, (1Co_3:7.) Yet it ought to be observed, that the apostles were not so destitute of the light of understanding as not to hold certain elementary principles; but as it was only a slight taste, it is reckoned to be a commencement of true understanding when the veil is removed, and they behold Christ in the Law and the Prophets.
Then opened he their understanding – Διηνοιξεν, He fully opened. They had a measure of light before, so that they discerned the Scriptures to be the true word of God, and to speak of the Messiah; but they had not light sufficient to enable them to apply these Scriptures to their Lord and Master; but now, by the influence of Christ, they see, not only, the prophecies which pointed out the Messiah, but also the Messiah who was pointed out by these prophecies. The book of God may be received in general as a Divine revelation, but the proper meaning, reference, and application of the Scriptures can only be discerned by the light of Christ. Even the very plain word of God is a dead letter to those who are not enlightened by the grace of Christ; and why? because this word speaks of spiritual and heavenly things; and the carnal mind of man cannot discern them. They who receive not this inward teaching continue dark and dead while they live.
Opened he their understanding – Enabled them fully to comprehend the meaning of the prophecies which foretold his death and resurrection. They had seen him die, they now saw him risen. Their prejudices were now, by his instructions, and by the facts which they could no longer call in question, removed, and they no longer doubted that he was the Messiah, and that all the “facts” in the case which had before confounded them could be easily accounted for. Hence, we may learn:
1. That “facts,” or the farther disclosure of truth, will yet remove the “mysteries” that we now see in religion.
2. That our prejudices and our preconceived opinions are one cause of our seeing so many mysteries in the Bible. If a man is willing to take the plain declarations of the Bible, he will commonly be little perplexed with mysteries.
3. That God only can open the mind so as fully to comprehend the Scriptures. He only can overcome our prejudices, open our hearts, and dispose us to receive the ingrafted word with meekness, and with the simplicity of a child. See Act_16:14; Jam_1:21; Mar_10:15.
4.The design of God’s opening the understanding is that we may be acquainted with the Scriptures. It is not that we may be made wise above what is written, but that we may submit ourselves wholly to the Word of God.
46.And he said to them, Thus it is written. The connection of these words refutes the calumny of those who allege that outward doctrine would be superfluous, if we did not naturally possess some power of understanding. “Why,” say they, “would the Lord speak to the deaf?” But we see that, when the Spirit of Christ, who is the inward Teacher, performs his office, the labor of the minister who speaks is not thrown away; for Christ, after having bestowed on his followers the gift of understanding, instructs them out of the Scriptures with real advantage. With the reprobate, indeed, though the outward word passes away as if it were dead, still it renders them inexcusable.
As to the words of Christ, they are founded on this principle: Whatever is written must be fulfilled, for God declared nothing by his prophets but what he will undoubtedly accomplish.” But by these words we are likewise taught what it is that we ought chiefly to learn from the Law and the Prophets; namely, that since Christ is the endand the soul of the law,(Rom_10:4,) whatever we learn without him, and apart from him, is idle and unprofitable. Whoever then desires to make great proficiency in the Scriptures ought always to keep this end in view. Now Christ here places first in order his death and resurrection, and afterwards the fruit which we derive from both. For whence come repentance and forgiveness of sins, but because our old man is crucified with Christ, (Rom_6:6,) that by his grace we may rise to newness of life; and because our sins have been expiated by the sacrifice of his death, our pollution has been washed away by his blood, and we have, obtained righteousness through his resurrection? He teaches, therefore, that in his death and resurrection we ought to seek the cause and grounds of our salvation; because hence arise reconciliation to God, and regeneration to a new and spiritual life. Thus it is expressly stated that neither forgiveness of sins nor repentance can be preached but in his name; for, on the one hand, we have no right to expect the imputation of righteousness, and, on the other hand, we do not obtain self-denial and newness of life, except so far as he is made to us righteousness and sanctification,
47.To all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Christ now discovers clearly what he had formerly concealed—that the grace of the redemption brought by him extends alike to all nations. For though the prophets had frequently predicted the calling of the Gentiles, still it was not revealed in such a manner that the Jews could willingly admit the Gentiles to share with them in the hope of salvation. Till his resurrection, therefore, Christ was not acknowledged to be any thing more than the Redeemer of the chosen people alone; and then, for the first time, was the wall of partition(Eph_2:14 ) thrown down, that they who had been strangers, (Eph_2:19,) and who had formerly been scattered, might be gathered into the fold of the Lord. In the meantime, however, that the covenant of God might not seem to be made void, Christ has assigned to the Jews the first rank, enjoining the apostles to begin at Jerusalem. For since God had peculiarly adopted the posterity of Abraham, they must have been preferred to the rest of the world. This is the privilege of the firstborn which Jeremiah ascribes to them, when Jehovah says, I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is first-born, (Jer_30:9.) This order, too, Paul everywhere observes with the greatest care, telling us that Christ came and proclaimed peace to those who were near, and afterwards to strangers who were at a distance, (Eph_2:17.)
Repentance – See its nature fully explained on Mat_3:1 (note).
Remission of sins – Αφεσιν αμαρτιων, The taking away – removal of sins, in general every thing that relates to the destruction of the power, the pardoning of the guilt, and the purification of the heart from the very nature of sin.
Should be preached in his name – See the office of a proclaimer, herald, or preacher, explained in the note on Mat_3:1 (note), and particularly at the end of that chapter.
In his name – On his authority, and in virtue of the atonement made by him: for on what other ground could the inhabitants of the earth expect remission of sins?
Among all nations – Because God wills the salvation of All; and Jesus Christ by his grace has tasted death for Every man. Heb_2:9.
Beginning at Jerusalem – Making the first overtures of mercy to my murderers! If, then, the sinners of Jerusalem might repent, believe, and be saved, none, on this side hell, need despair.
Repentance – Sorrow for sin and forsaking of it. It was proper that the “necessity” of repentance should be preached among all nations, for all were sinners. See Act_17:30.
Remission of sins – Pardon or forgiveness of sins. It should be proclaimed that all people should repent, and that those who are penitent may be pardoned.
In my name – By my command it should be proclaimed that people should repent, and by my merit that they may be pardoned. Pardon is offered by the authority of Christ to all nations, and this is a sufficient warrant to offer the gospel “to every man.”
Beginning at Jerusalem – This was the dwelling of his murderers, and it shows his readiness to forgive the vilest sinners. It was the holy place of the temple, the habitation of God, the place of the solemnities of the ancient dispensation, and it was proper that pardon should be first proclaimed there. This was done – the gospel was first preached there. See Acts 2. Paul also, in his travels, preached the gospel “first” to the Jews, the ancient people of God, offering them pardon through their own Messiah; and, when “they” rejected it, turned to the Gentiles, Act_13:46.
48.And you are witnesses of those things. He does not yet commission them to preach the gospel, but only reminds them to what service he has appointed them, that they may prepare themselves for it in due time. He holds out this, partly as a consolation to soothe their grief, and partly as a spur to correct their sloth. Conscious of their recent departure from their Master, they must have been in a state of dejection and here, contrary to all expectation, Christ bestows on them incredible honor, enjoining them to publish to the whole world the message of eternal salvation. In this manner he not only restores them to their former condition, but by the extent of this new favor he utterly obliterates the recollection of their heinous crimes; but at the same time, as I have said, he stimulates them, that they may not be so slow and dilatory in reference to the faith of which they were appointed to be preachers.
Ye are witnesses of these things – He gave them a full commission to proclaim these glad tidings of peace and salvation to a lost world. The disciples were witnesses not only that Christ had suffered and rose again from the dead; but also that he opens the understanding by the inspiration of his Spirit, that he gives repentance, that he pardons sin, and purifies from all unrighteousness, and that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto the knowledge of the truth and be saved. And these are the things of which their successors in the Gospel ministry must bear witness. As far as a man steadily and affectionately proclaims these doctrines, so far God will bless his labor to the salvation of those who hear him. But no man can with any propriety bear witness of that grace that saves the soul, whose own soul is not saved by that grace.
49.And, lo, I send. That the apostles may not be terrified by their weakness, he invites them to expect new and extraordinary grace; as if he had said, though you feel yourselves to be unfit for such a charge, there is no reason why you should despond, because I will send you from heaven that power which I know that you do not possess. The more fully to confirm them in this confidence, he mentions that the Father had promised to them the Holy Spirit; for, in order that they might prepare themselves with greater alacrity for the work, God had already encouraged them by his promise, as a remedy for their distrust. Christ now puts himself in the place of the Father, and undertakes to perform the promise; in which he again claims for himself divine power. To invest feeble men with heavenly power, is a part of that glory which God swears that he will not give to another: and, therefore, if it belongs to Christ, it follows that he is that God who formerly spoke by the mouth of the prophet, (Isa_42:8.) And though God promised special grace to the apostles, and Christ bestowed it on them, we ought to hold universally that no mortal is of himself qualified for preaching the gospel, except so far as God clothes him with his Spirit, to supply his nakedness and poverty. And certainly, as it is not in reference to the apostles alone that Paul exclaims, (2Co_2:16,) And who shall be found sufficient for these things? so all whom God raises up to be ministers of the gospel must be endued with the heavenly Spirit; and, therefore, in every part of Scripture he is promised to all the teachers of the Church without exception.
But remain you in the city of Jerusalem. That they may not advance to teach before the proper time, Christ enjoins on them silence and repose, until, sending them out according to his pleasure, he may make a seasonable use of their labors. And this was a useful trial of their obedience, that, after having been endued with the understanding of the Scripture, and after having had the grace of the Spirit breathed on them,(Joh_20:22;) yet because the Lord had forbidden them to speak, they were silent as if they had been dumb. For we know that those who expect to gain applause and admiration from their hearers are very desirous to appear in public. Perhaps, too, by this delay, Christ intended to punish them for indolence, because they did not, in compliance with his injunction, set out immediately, on the same day, for Galilee. However that may be, we are taught by their example, that we ought to attempt nothing but as the Lord calls us to it; and, therefore, though they may possess some ability to teach in public, let men remain in silence and retirement, until the Lord lead them by the hand into the public assembly. When they are commanded to remain at Jerusalem, we must understand this to mean, after they had returned from Galilee. For, as we shortly afterwards learn from Matthew, though he gave them an opportunity of seeing him at Jerusalem, still he did not change his original intention to go to Galilee, (Mat_26:32.) The meaning of the word, therefore, is, that after having given them injunctions at the appointed place, he wishes them to remain silent for a time, until he supplies them with new rigor.
It is questioned by none, but by the promise of the Father our Lord meaneth the promise of the Spirit, as it came down in the days of Pentecost. This effusion of the Spirit was promised under the Old Testament, Isa_44:3 Jer_31:33 Eze_36:27; most eminently, Joe_2:28, the apostle himself interpreting this prophecy, Act_2:16-18. See also Act_1:8, where the fulfilling of this promise of the Father, as it is called Act_1:4, is put before—and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and in Samaria; and is also expounded by, But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Our Lord also had said, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. Joh_14:16. In this text he saith, that he will send him; so also Joh_15:26 Joh_16:7; thereby confirming his disciples in this, that he was equal with the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was sent by the Father and him, yet sent by the Father upon the prayer of the Son, and in his name, Joh_14:16,26. This Holy Spirit is also called, power from on high; the power of the Highest, Luk_1:35. But here the gifts of the Holy Ghost may be understood, as also in Act_1:8, where it is said this power should be received after that the Holy Ghost should come upon them: until this time should come, which was in the days of Pentecost, Act_2:1, the disciples were bound to stay at Jerusalem, which accordingly they did. And we may from hence conclude, that these words of our Saviour were spoken to his disciples after his appearance to them in Galilee, (of which Luke saith nothing), which was the place where (as most think) he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, 1Co_15:6.
The promise of my Father – That is, the Holy Ghost, promised, Joh_15:26. See Act_1:4; Act_2:33.
Until ye be endued with power – The energy of the Holy Ghost was to be communicated to them for three particular purposes.
1. That he might be in them, a sanctifying comforter, fortifying their souls and bringing to their remembrance whatever Jesus had before spoken to them.
2. That their preaching might be accompanied by his demonstration and power to the hearts of their hearers, so that they might believe and be saved.
3. That they might be able to work miracles to confirm their pretensions to a Divine mission, and to establish the truth of the doctrines they preached.