AUG. What Mark says, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun, does not contradict John’s words, when it was yet dark. At the dawn of day, there are yet remains of darkness, which disappear as the light breaks in. We must not understand Mark’s words, Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun, to mean that the sun was above the horizon, but rather what we ourselves ordinarily mean by the phrase, when we want any thing to be done very early, we say at the rising of the sun, i.e. some time before the sun is risen.
AUG. Now took place what Matthew only relates, the earthquake, and rolling away of the stone, and fight of the guards.
CHRYS. Our Lord rose while the stone and seal were still on the sepulcher. But as it was necessary that others should be certified of this, the sepulcher is opened after the resurrection, and so the fact confirmed. This it was which roused Mary. For when she saw the stone taken away, she entered not nor looked in, but ran to the disciples with all the speed of love. But as yet she knew nothing for certain about the resurrection, but thought that His body had been carried off.
1.Now, on the first day of the week.As the resurrection of Christ is the most important article of our faith, and without it the hope of eternal life is extinguished, for this reason the Evangelists are the more careful to prove it, as John here collects many proofs, in order to assure us that Christ is risen from the dead. It may be thought strange, however, that he does not produce more competent witnesses; for he begins with a woman; but thus the saying is fulfilled, that
God chooseth what is weak, and foolish, and contemptible in the world, that he may bring to nought the wisdom, and excellence, and glory, of the flesh,
There certainly was nothing more of earthly grandeur in the disciples than in the women who followed Christ; but as Christ was pleased to reckon them the principal witnesses of his resurrection, on this single ground their testimony is entitled to the greatest deference, and is not liable to any objection. As to the priests, and scribes, and the whole people, and even Pilate, nothing but gross and wilful blindness prevented them from firmly believing that Christ was risen. All of them, therefore, deserved that seeing they should not see; yet Christ revealed himself to the little flock.
Before proceeding farther, however, it is necessary to show how the Evangelists agree with each other; for, at first sight, there appears to be some contradiction in their words. John mentions but one woman, Mary Magdalene; Mat_28:1 mentions two, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary; Mar_16:1 mentions three, Mary Magdalene, and Mary (the mother) of James, and Salome; Luk_24:10 does not fix the number, but only relates that women came, who had followed Christ from Galilee. But the difficulty is easily solved in this manner. As Matthew inserts the names of two women who were best known, and had the highest reputation among the disciples, so John satisfies himself with mentioning the name of MaryMagdalene alone, but yet does not exclude the others; and, indeed, it is evident, from viewing his words in their connection, that she was not alone, for, shortly afterwards, Mary Magdalene says, in the plural number, WE know not where they have laid him. Although, therefore, John says nothing about her companions, yet the other Evangelists, who relate that there were many along with her, say nothing that is contradicted by John’s narrative.
The discrepancy as to the time may be easily solved. When John says that they came before daybreak, we must understand, that they had set out on their journey during the darkness of the night; that, before they came to the sepulcher, the day had dawned; and that in the evening, after sunset, when the Sabbath was ended, they had bought the spices; and thus the narrative of the other Evangelists must be reconciled.
It may be thought that there is another appearance of contradiction in its being stated by John, that Mary spoke to none but himself and Peter, while Luk_24:10 relates, that she came to the eleven Apostles, and that her words appeared to them to be idle tales. But this is easily explained, for John intentionally passed by the rest of the Apostles, because it was only himself and Peter that came to the sepulcher. As to Luke mentioning Peter alone, it is for the same reason as we have just now assigned in reference to Mary Megdalene and the rest of the women. It is also probable, that the other nine disciples were restrained by fear, lest they should be too easily observed if they went in a body. Nor is this inconsistent with what Luke appears to suggest, that they despised Mary’s words; for immediately afterwards he adds, that Peter ran, (Luk_24:12.) He therefore means simply that, when they first heard it, they appeared to be astonished, but that at length Peter took courage, and followed her for the purpose of seeing.
When Luke relates that Christ appeared to Mary before that she had informed the disciples that the grave was empty, the order of the narrative is inverted. This is evident from the context, for he adds what, John tells us, happened before she saw Jesus; nor is there any thing strange in this, for the Hebrew writers frequently relate first what is later in the order of time.
On the first day of the week;or, literally, on the first day of the Sabbaths. The Evangelists do not relate when or how Christ rose; for it was enough for them to explain at what time, and to what persons, his resurrection was made known. John therefore says, that Mary came on the first day of the Sabbaths. Literally, the words may be rendered, on One (μιᾷ)day of the Sabbaths; but it is customary with the Hebrews to use the word אהד(ehad)one, instead of first,because in reckoning we begin with one. Now as every seventh day was dedicated to rest, they called the whole week a Sabbath conferring this honor on the sacredness of the day, that the rest of the time was named from it. The women, therefore, came to the sepulcher on the day after the Sabbath, having on the same day (but after sunset) bought spices; and afterwards went out of the city secretly, and during the darkness of the night, as people are wont to do when they are afraid. Now, it was the first day of the Sabbaths, with respect to the following Sabbath, because it was the commencement of the week, of which the Sabbath was the close.
The first day of the week – On what we call Sunday morning, the morning after the Jewish Sabbath. As Christ had been buried in haste, these holy women had bought aromatics, Mar_16:1; Luk_24:1, to embalm him afresh, and in a more complete manner than it could have been done by Joseph and Nicodemus. John only mentions Mary of Magdala, because he appears to wish to give a more detailed history of her conduct than of any of the rest; but the other evangelists speak of three persons who went together to the tomb, viz. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome: Mat_28:1; Mar_16:1.
First day of the week (τη μια των σαββάατον)
The Hebrew idiom, day one of the week. See on Luk_4:31; see on Act_20:7.
Matthew says, as it began to dawn; Mark, when the sun was risen; Luke, very early in the morning, or at deep dawn; see on Luk_24:1.
Taken away (ηρμένον εκ)
Lifted out of. All the Synoptists have rolled.
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.
AUG. This is the way in which he usually mentions himself. Jesus loved all, but him in an especial and familiar way. And says to them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him.
GREG. She puts the part for the whole; she had come only to seek for the body of our Lord, and now she laments that our Lord, the whole of Him, is taken away.
AUG. Some of the Greek copies have, taken away my Lord, which is more expressive of love, and of the feeling of an handmaiden. But only a few have this reading.
CHRYS. The Evangelist does not deprive the woman of this praise, nor leaves out from shame, that they had the news first from her. As soon as they hear it, they hasten to the sepulcher.
Then she runneth – This was after the women had seen the angels, who said he was risen from the dead, Luk_24:4. She told, not only Peter and John, but the other apostles also, Mat_28:8; but only the two disciples above mentioned went to the tomb to see whether what she had said was true.
They have taken away the Lord – She mentions nothing of what the angels had said, in her hurry and confusion; she speaks things only by halves; and probably the vision of angels might have appeared to her only as an illusion of her own fancy, and not to be any farther regarded.
Runneth (trechei). Vivid dramatic present indicative of trecho. John deals only with Mary Magdalene. She left the tomb at once before the rest and without seeing the angels as told in the Synoptics (Mar_16:2-8; Mat_28:5-8; Luk_24:1-8). Luke (Luk_24:9-12) does not distinguish between the separate report of Mary Magdalene and that of the other women.
To Simon Peter (pros Simona Petron). Full name as usual in John and back with John and the other disciples. The association of Peter and the other disciple in John 18-21 is like that between Peter and John in Acts 1-5.
Loved (ephilei). Imperfect of phileo for which see Joh_5:20; Joh_11:3 and for distinction from agapao see Joh_11:5; Joh_13:23; Joh_21:7, Joh_21:15, Joh_21:17.
They have taken away (eran). First aorist active indicative of airo, indefinite plural.
We know not (ouk oidamen). Mary associates the other women with her in her ignorance. For ethekan (have laid) see Joh_19:42. Mary fears a grave robbery. She has no idea of the resurrection of Jesus.
GREG. But Peter and John before the others, for they loved most; Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher.
THEOPHYL. But how came they to the sepulcher, while the soldiers were guarding it? an easy question to answer. After our Lord’s resurrection and the earthquake, and the appearance of the angel at the sepulcher, the guards withdrew, and told the Pharisees what had happened.
AUG. After saying, came to the sepulcher he goes back and tells us how they came: So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher; meaning himself, but he always speaks of himself, as if he were speaking of another person.
3.Peter therefore went forth.There being so little faith, or rather almost no faith, both in the disciples and in the women, it is astonishing that they had so great zeal; and, indeed, it is not possible that religious feelings led them to seek Christ. Some seed of faith, therefore, remained in their hearts, but quenched for a time, so that they were not aware of having what they had. Thus the Spirit of God often works in the elect in a secret manner. In short, we must believe that there was some concealed root, from which we see fruit produced. Though this feeling of piety, which they possessed, was confused, and was accompanied by much superstition, still I give to it — though inaccurately — the name of faith, because it was only by the doctrine of the Gospel that it was produced, and it had no tendency but towards Christ. From this seed there at length sprang a true and sincere faith, which, leaving the sepulcher, ascended to the heavenly glory of Christ.
When Scripture speaks of the feeble beginnings of faith, it says that Christ is born in us, and that we, on the other hand, are born in him; but the disciples must be placed almost below infancy, for they are ignorant of the resurrection of Christ, but yet the Lord nourishes them as a mother nourishes the child that is contained in her womb. Formerly they resembled children, and had made a little progress, but the death of Christ had rendered them so weak, that they must be again begotten and formed, as Paul says of the Galatians, My little children, of whom I Travail In Birth again until Christ Be Formed in you, (Gal_4:19.)
When we find that Peter, though he made less haste, is the first to enter into the sepulcher, let us learn from it that many persons have more given to them in the end than appears at the beginning. And, indeed, we sometimes see many, who were full of fervour at the commencement, give way when they come to the conflict; while others, who appeared to be slow and indolent, assume new courage when danger is at hand.
Came to (ήρχοντο εις)
Wrong. The tense is the imperfect; they were coming. Rev., they went toward.
Outrun Peter – Not because he had a greater desire to see into the truth of these things; but because he was younger, and lighter of foot.
They both (hoi duo). “The two” (Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved).
Ran together (etrechon homou). Imperfect active of trecho. It was a race in eagerness to reach the tomb of Jesus.
Outran Peter (proedramen tacheion tou Petrou). Second aorist active indicative of protrecho, old verb, in N.T. only here and Luk_19:4, to run on before (ahead). “He ran ahead more swiftly (see Joh_13:27) than Peter” (ablative case after comparative adverb tacheion, Koiné for older thasson).
First (protos). Predicative nominative (not adverb proton) and superlative used where only two involved. John won the race.
5.And seeth the linen clothes lying. The linen clothes might be regarded as the spoils, intended to lead to the belief of Christ’s resurrection; for it was not probable that his body had been stripped naked, in order that it might be removed to another place. This would not have been done by a friend, nor even by an enemy.
Ver. 5.—And he stooping down, to look into the tomb, saw the linen clothes with which the Body of Christ had been wrapped. Yet went he not in, paying deference to Peter, as his senior and more worthy, says Lyranus, or else hindered by fear, or seized with a kind of sacred dread at the Body of Christ which was buried there.
Went he not in – Why? Because he was fully satisfied that the body was not there. But why did he not seize upon the linen clothes, and keep them as a most precious relic? Because he had too much religion and too much sense; and the time of superstition and nonsense was not yet arrived, in which bits of rotten wood, rags of rotten cloth, decayed bones (to whom originally belonging no one knows) and bramble bushes, should become objects of religious adoration.
Stooping and looking in (parakupsas). Originally to stoop and look, but in the lxx (Gen 26:8; Judges 5:28; 1Kings 6:4, etc.) and the papyri rather just to peep in and so Field (Ot. Norv.) urges here. See also Joh_20:11; Luk_24:12 (the verse bracketed by Westcott and Hort). For othonia (linen cloth) see Joh_19:40.
Lying (keimena). Present middle participle of keimai, predicative accusative. John notices this fact at once. If the body had been removed, these clothes would have gone also. John’s timid nature made him pause (yet, mentoi, however).
Ver. 6.—Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre. Peter (says S. Chrysostom) entered with ardour, and carefully inspected everything. For the soldiers who guarded the tomb, when they saw the angel and the earthquake, ran away through fear. See also S. Jerome, Quæst. vi. ad Hedib. And seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin which was about His head (covering His face, as is generally done to the dead, for the sake of seemliness), not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. “This,” says S. Chrysostom, “was a sign of His Resurrection, for if they had removed the body they would not have stripped it, and if they had stolen it, they would not have been so careful to fold up the napkin, and put it aside by itself; for John had said before that He was buried with myrrh, which makes linen clothes cling close to the body, so that no one would be deceived by those who said that It was stolen away; for what thief would trouble himself so much about an unnecessary matter?”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
seeth the linen clothes lie — lying.
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes — not loosely, as if hastily thrown down, and indicative of a hurried and disorderly removal.
but wrapped — folded.
together in a place by itself — showing with what grand tranquillity “the Living One” had walked forth from “the dead” (Luk_24:5). “Doubtless the two attendant angels (Joh_20:12) did this service for the Rising One, the one disposing of the linen clothes, the other of the napkin” [Bengel].
Entered and beholdeth (eiselthen kai theorei). Aorist active and present active indicative. Peter impulsively went on in and beholds (theorei, vivid term again, but of careful notice, theoreo, not a mere glance blepo such as John gave in Joh_20:5).
7.And the napkin which was about his head.When the Evangelist says, that a napkin was wrapped about his head, this refutes the falsehood of the Papists, who pretend that the whole body was sewed up in one linen garment, which they hold out to the wretched populace, calling it “the holy winding-sheet.” I say nothing about their gross ignorance of the Latin language, which led them to suppose that the word napkin— denoting what was used for wiping the sweat from the face, such as a handkerchief — signified a covering for the whole body; nor do I say any thing about their impudence in boasting that they have this very napkin in five or six different places. But this gross falsehood is intolerable, because it openly contradicts the evangelical history. To this is added a fabulous miracle, which they have contrived, to this effect, that the likeness of Christ’s body continued to be visible in the linen cloth. I appeal to you, if such a miracle had been wrought, would nothing have been said about it by the Evangelist, who is so careful to relate events which were not of so great importance? Let us be satisfied with this simple view of the matter, that Christ, by laying aside the tokens of death, intended to testify that he had clothed himself with a blessed and immortal life.
CHRYS. On coming he sees the linen clothes set aside: And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying. But he makes no further search: yet went he not in.
Peter on the other hand, being of a more fervid temper, pursued the search, and examined every thing: Then comes Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and sees the linen clothes lie,
and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Which circumstances were proof of His resurrection. For had they carried Him away, they would not have stripped Him; nor, if any had stolen Him, would they have taken the trouble to wrap up the napkin, and put it in a place by itself, apart from the linen clothes; but would have taken away the body as it was. John mentioned the myrrh first of all, for this reason, i.e. to show you that He could not have been stolen away. For myrrh would make the linen adhere to the body, and so caused trouble to the thieves, and they would never have been so senseless as to have taken this unnecessary pains about the matter.
After Peter however, John entered: Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.
AUG. i.e. That Jesus had risen again, some think: Ah, but what follows contradicts this notion. He saw the sepulcher empty, and believed what the woman had said: For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. If he did not yet know that He must rise again from the dead, he could not believe that He had risen. They had heard as much indeed from our Lord, and very openly, but they were so accustomed to hear parables from Him, that they tool; this for a parable, and thought He meant something else.
THEOPHYL. Or thus: Peter is practical and prompt, John contemplative and intelligent, and learned in divine things. Now the contemplative man is generally beforehand in knowledge and intelligence, but the practical by his fervor and activity gets the advance of the other’s perception, and sees first into the divine mystery.
8.And he saw and believed.It is a poor exposition which some give of these words, that John believed what he had heard Mary say, namely, that Christ’s body had been carried away; for there is no passage in which the word believe bears this meaning, especially when it is used simply and without any addition. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact, that Peter and John return home, while they are still in doubt and perplexity; for in some passages John had employed this phraseology, when lie intended to describe the increase of faith. Besides, Luk_24:12 relates that Peter wondered at seeing the sepulcher in such good order; meaning by this, that Peter thought of something greater and loftier than what Mary had told him.
That other disciple – John.
Saw – That the body was not there.
And believed – That it had been taken away, as Mary had said; but he did not believe that he was risen from the dead. See what follows.
Then therefore (tote oun). After Peter in time and influenced by the boldness of Peter.
And he saw and believed (kai eiden kai episteusen). Both aorist active indicative (second and first). Peter saw more after he entered than John did in his first glance, but John saw into the meaning of it all better than Peter. Peter had more sight, John more insight. John was the first to believe that Jesus was risen from the tomb even before he saw him. According to Luk_24:12Peter went away “wondering” still. The Sinaitic Syriac and 69 and 124 wrongly read here “they believed.” John was evidently proud to be able to record this great moment when he believed without seeing in contrast to Thomas (Joh_20:29). Peter and John did not see the angels.
9.For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.They had often heard from the mouth of Christ what they now saw with their eyes, but this flowed from their hearts. Being now warned by the sight of a strange spectacle, they begin to think of Christ as having something Divine, though they are still far from having a clear and accurate knowledge of him. John, therefore, accuses himself, when he acknowledges that the first time that he believed was, when he beheld the proofs of Christ’s resurrection.
Besides, he represents more strongly his own guilt and that of his brethren, by adding, that they not only had forgotten the words of Christ, but that they did not believe the Scriptures; for to this ignorance he ascribes the deficiency of their faith. Hence, too, we may draw a useful instruction, that we ought, to ascribe it to our carelessness, when we are ignorant of what we ought to know about Christ, because we have not profited as we ought to have done by the Scriptures, which clearly reveal the excellence of Christ.
Not to go farther for an instance of this, it may be thought that the resurrection of Christ is taught in them obscurely, and only under figures; but the attentive reader will find abundantly clear testimonies. Paul proves (Act_13:34 ) that Christ must have risen from the dead, because God declares by the prophet Isaiah, (Isa_55:3 ) that, under his reign, the mercy promised to David would be sure. An unskilful person might imagine that what Paul quotes is not at all to the purpose; but they who believe the principles of fkith, and are well acquainted with the Scriptures, have no difficulty in perceiving the force of this argument; for, in order theft Christ may secure to us for ever the grace of God, Christ himself; must live for ever.
There are many passages of the same kind, which it is not, now necessary to collect. Let us therefore rest satisfied with the three following. It is written,
Thou wilt not permit thy Holy One to see corruption, (Psa_16:10.)
Peter and Paul explain this prediction as referring to Christ, (Act_2:27, and Act_13:35,) and justly; for there is not one of all the sons of Adam who is not of himself liable to corruption. Consequently, the immortality of Christ is there declared. It is likewise beyond all doubt that the following passage refers to Christ, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool, (Psa_110:1.)
Now, death will not be destroyed till the last day. The kingdom is titan given to Christ till the end of the world, and this kingdom cannot exist without his life. But Isaiah speaks more clearly than all the rest when, after having foretold the death of Christ, he immediately adds, that it impossible to declare his age, (Isa_53:8.) In short we ought to believe that the doctrine of Scripture is so full and complete in every respect that whatever is defective in our faith ought justly to be attributed to ignorance of the Scriptures.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For as yet they knew — that is, understood.
not the scripture that he must rise again from the dead — In other words, they believed in His resurrection at first, not because they were prepared by Scripture to expect it; but facts carried resistless conviction of it in the first instance to their minds, and furnished a key to the Scripture predictions of it.
The scripture – See Luk_24:26, Luk_24:46. The sense or meaning of the various predictions that foretold his death, as, for example, Psa_2:7, compare Act_13:33; Psa_16:9-10, compare Act_2:25-32; Psa_110:1, compare Act_2:34-35.
For (gar). Explanatory use of gar.
The Scripture (ten graphen). Probably Psa_16:10. Jesus had repeatedly foretold his resurrection, but that was all forgotten in the great sorrow on their hearts. Only the chief priests and Pharisees recalled the words of Jesus (Mat_27:62.).
Must (dei). For this use of dei concerning Christ’s death and resurrection see Mar_8:31; Mat_26:54; Luk_9:22; Luk_17:25; Luk_22:37; Luk_24:7, Luk_24:26, Luk_24:44; Joh_3:14; Joh_12:34; Act_1:16. Jesus had put emphasis on both the fact and the necessity of his resurrection which the disciples slowly perceived.
10.Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.It is possible that their minds were still in a state of doubt and uncertainty, when they returned home; for, though John says that they believed, yet their faith was not strong, but was only some confused remembrance of the miracle and resembled a trance, until it was more fully confirmed; and indeed, a strong faith could not be produced merely by the sight which they had beheld. Besides, Christ did not present himself to their view, until they had been more fully awakened from their carnal stupidity. They had indeed given a praise worthy demonstration of their zeal, in hastening to the sepulcher; yet Christ hid himself from them, because they sought him with too great superstition.
Unto their own home – Either to their own houses, if they still had any; or to those of their friends, or to those where they had a hired lodging, and where they met together for religious purposes. See Joh_20:19.
Unto their own home (pros hautous). “To themselves.” Luke (Luk_24:12) has pros hauton about Peter (“to his home”). This use of the reflective pronoun for home (literally, “to themselves”), like the French chez eux, occurs in Josephus (Ant. VII. 4, 6). John had taken the mother of Jesus to his home (Joh_19:27) and so he now hurried home to tell her the glorious news as he believed.
GREG. Mary Magdalene, who had been the sinner in the city, and who had washed out the spots of her sins by her tears, whose soul burned with love, did not retire from the sepulcher when the others did: Then the disciples went away again to their own home.
AUG. i.e. To the place where they were lodging, and from which they had ran to the sepulcher. But though the men returned, the stronger love of the woman fixed her to the spot. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping.
AUG. i.e. Outside of the place where the stone sepulcher was, but yet within the garden.
CHRYS. Be not astonished that Mary wept for love at the sepulcher, and Peter did not; for the female sex is naturally tender, and inclined to weep.
AUG. The eyes then which had sought our Lord, and found Him not, now wept without interruption; more for grief that our Lord had been removed, than for His death upon the cross. For now even all memorial of Him was taken away.
AUG. She then saw, with the other women, the Angel sitting on the right, on the stone which had been rolled away from the sepulcher, at whose words it was that she looked into the sepulcher.
CHRYS. The sight of the sepulcher itself was some consolation. Nay, behold her, to console herself still more, stooping down, to see the very place where the body lay: And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher.
GREG. For to have looked once is not enough for love. Love makes one desire to look over and over again.
AUG. In her too great grief she could believe neither her own eyes, nor the disciples. Or was it a divine impulse which caused her to look in?
11.But Mary stood at the sepulcher without.The Evangelist now begins to describe the manner in which Christ appeared both to the women and to the disciples, to testify his resurrection. Though he mentions but one woman, Mary, yet I think it is probable that the other women were also along with her; for it is not reasonable to suppose, as some have done, that the women fainted through fear. Those writers wish to avoid a contradiction, but I have already shown that no such contradiction exists.
As to the women remaining at the sepulchre, while the disciples return to the city, they are not entitled to great accommodation on this account; for the disciples carry with them consolation and joy, but the women torment themselves by idle and useless weeping. In short, it is superstition alone, accompanied by carnal feelings, that keeps them near the sepulchre
CHRYS. As her understanding was not so raised as to be able to gather from the napkins the fact of the resurrection, she is given the sight of Angels in bright apparel, who soothe her sorrow
AUG. But why did one sit at the head, the other at the feet? To signify that the glad tidings of Christ’s Gospel was to be delivered from the head to the feet, from the beginning to the end. The Greek word Angel means one who delivers news.
GREG. The Angel sits at the head when the Apostles preach that in the beginning was the Word: he sits, as it were, at the feet, when it is said, The Word was made flesh. By the two Angels too we may understand the two testaments; both of which proclaim alike the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord. The Old seems to sit at the head, the New at the feet.
12.And seeth two angels.What an amazing forbearance displayed by our Lord, in bearing with so many faults in Mary and her companions! For it is no small honor which he confers on them by sending his angels, and, at length, making himself known to them, which he had not done to the apostles. Though the apostles and the women were afflicted with the same disease, yet the stupidity of the apostles was less excusable, because they had profited so little by the valuable and careful instruction which they had received. One purpose, certainly, which Christ had in view in selecting the women, to make the first manifestation of himself to them, was, to fill the apostles with shame.
In white garments.Whether Mary knew them to be angels, or thought that they were men, is uncertain. We know that white garments were an emblem of the heavenly glory; as we find that Christ was clothed in white garments, when he was transfigured on the mountain, and showed his glorious majesty to his three apostles, (Mat_17:2.) Luke relates that the angel who appeared to Cornelius stood before him In Bright Clothing, (Act_10:30.) Nor do I deny that linen garments were commonly used by the inhabitants of Eastern countries; but by the dress of the angels God pointed out something remarkable and uncommon, and put marks on them, as it were, that they might be distinguished from men. Besides, Mat_28:3 compares the countenance of the angel, who conversed with the women, to lightning. And yet it is possible that their fear arose solely from their minds being struck with admiration, for it appears that they stood astonished.
Again, whenever we read that the angels appeared in the visible form of men and clothed with garments, this was done on account of the ignorance of men. For my part, I have no doubt that they sometimes were clothed with real bodies; but whether or not those two angels had merely the appearance of bodies, would be a useless inquiry, and I shall therefore leave it undetermined. To me it is enough that the Lord gave them a human shape, that the women might see and hear them, while the magnificent and uncommon dress which they wore distinguished them from the ordinary rank of men, and pointed out something divine and heavenly.
One at the head, and the other at the feet.One angel only is mentioned by Matthew, (Mat_28:2.) This, however, does not contradict John’s narrative; for both angels did not address Mary at the same time, but only one of them who had a commission to speak. There is no good ground for Augustine’s allegory, that the position of the angels— one at the head, and the other at the feet— pointed out that the Gospel would be preached from the East to the West. It is more worthy of observation, that Christ, by preparatory arrangements of this nature, made a commencement of the glory of his kingdom; for, by the honor which the angels render to the sepulcher, not only is the ignominy of the cross taken away, but the heavenly majesty of Christ shines.
Seeth two angels – See on Joh_20:6 (note). She knew these to be angels by their white and glistening robes. Matthew and Mark mention but one angel – probably that one only that spoke, Joh_20:13.
One at the head, and the other at the feet – So were the cherubim placed at each end of the mercy-seat: Exo_25:18, Exo_25:19. Lightfoot.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain — not merely proclaiming silently the entire charge they had had of the body, of Christ [quoted in Luthardt], but rather, possibly, calling mute attention to the narrow space within which the Lord of glory had contracted Himself; as if they would say, Come, see within what limits, marked off by the interval here between us two, the Lord lay! But she is in tears, and these suit not the scene of so glorious an Exit. They are going to point out to her the incongruity.
AUG. But she, thinking that they wanted to know why she wept, tells them the reason: She says to them, Because they have taken away my Lord. The lifeless body of her Lord, she calls her Lord, putting the part for the whole; just as we confess that Jesus Christ the Son of God was buried, when only His flesh was buried. And I know not where here they hare placed Him: it was a still greater grief, that she did not know where to go to console her grief.
CHRYS. As yet she knew nothing of the resurrection, but thought the body had been taken away.
AUG. Here the Angels must be understood to rise up, for Luke describes them as seen standing.
AUG. The hour was now come, which the Angels announced, when sorrow should be succeeded by joy: And when she had thus said, she turned herself back.
CHRYS. But why, when she is talking to the Angels, and before she has heard any thing from them, does she turn back? It seems to me that while she was speaking, Christ appeared behind her, and that the Angels by their posture, look, and motion, showed that they saw our Lord, and that thus it was that she turned back.
13.Woman, why weepest thou?From the statements of the Evangelists, it may be readily concluded, that the angel held a long conversation; but John gives a brief summary of what was spoken, because this was sufficient for proving the resurrection of Christ. The conversation consists of reproof mingled with comfort. The angel reproves Mary for her excessive weeping, but, at the same time, mingles joy, when he says that there is no reason to weep, since Christ has risen.
They have taken away my Lord – It was conjectured, on Joh_19:42, that the body of our Lord was only put here for the time being, that, after the Sabbath, they might carry it to a more proper place. Mary seems to refer to this: They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. This removal she probably attributed to some of our Lord’s disciples, or to some of his friends.
They have taken away – That is the disciples or friends of Jesus who had laid him there. Perhaps it was understood that the body was deposited there only to remain over the Sabbath, with an intention then of removing it to some other place of burial. Hence, they hastened early in the morning to make preparation, and Mary supposed they had arrived before her and had taken him away.
CHRYS. But why, when she is talking to the Angels, and before she has heard any thing from them, does she turn back? It seems to me that while she was speaking, Christ appeared behind her, and that the Angels by their posture, look, and motion, showed that they saw our Lord, and that thus it was that she turned back.
GREG. We must observe that Mary, who as yet doubted our Lord’s resurrection, turned back to see Jesus. By her doubting she turned her back, as it were, upon our Lord. Yet inasmuch as she loved, she saw Him. She loved and doubted: she saw, and did not recognize Him: And saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
CHRYS. To the Angels He appeared as their Lord but not so to the woman, for the sight coming upon her all at once, would have stupefied her. She was not to be lifted suddenly, but gradually to high things.
14.And seeth Jesus standing It may be asked, Whence arose this mistake, that Mary does not recognize Jesus, with whom she must have been intimately acquainted? Some think that he appeared in a different form, but I think that the fault lay rather in the eyes of the women, as Luke (Luk_24:16 ) says of the two disciples, their eyes were withheld from knowing himWe will not say, therefore, that Christ was continually assuming new shapes, like Proteus but that it is in the power of God, who gave eyes to men, to lessen their sharpness of vision whenever he thinks proper, that seeing they may not see.
In Mary we have an example of the mistakes into which the human mind frequently falls. Though Christ presents himself to our view, yet we imagine that he assumes various shapes, so that our senses conceive of any thing rather than of the true Christ; for not only are our powers of understanding liable to be deceived, but they are also bewitched by the world and by Satan, that they may have no perception of the truth.
She turned herself back – Or, εστραφη εις τα οπισω, she was turned back, i.e. to go again with the other women to Jerusalem, who had already departed; but she had not as yet gone so far as to be out of the garden.
Knew not that it was Jesus – John has here omitted what the angels said to the women, about Christ’s being risen; probably because it was so particularly related by the other evangelists: Mat_28:5-7; Mar_16:6, Mar_16:7; Luk_24:5-7. Mary was so absorbed in grief that she paid but little attention to the person of our Lord, and therefore did not at first discern it to be him; nor could she imagine such an appearance possible, as she had no conception of his resurrection from the dead. She was therefore every way unprepared to recognize the person of our Lord.
Knew not that it was Jesus – She was not expecting to see him. It was yet also twilight, and she could not see distinctly.
GREG. Jesus says to her, Woman, why do you weep? He asks the cause of her grief, to set her longing still more. For the mere mentioning His name whom she sought would inflame her love for Him.
CHRYS. Because He appeared as a common person, she c thought Him the gardener: She, supposing Him to be the gardener, says to Him, Sir, if you have borne Him from here, tell me where you have laid Him, and 1 will take Him away. i.e. If you have taken Him away from fear of the Jews, tell me, and I will take Him again.
THEOPHYL. She was afraid that the Jews might vent their rage even on the lifeless body, and therefore wished to remove it to some secret place.
GREG. Perhaps, however, the woman was right, in believing Jesus to be the gardener. Was not He the spiritual Gardener, who by the power of His love had sown strong seeds of virtue in her breast? But how is it that, as soon as she sees the gardener, as she supposes Him to be, she says without having told Him who it was she was seeking, Sir, if you have borne Him from here? It arises from her love; when one loves a person, one never thinks that any one else can be ignorant of him.
Our Lord, after calling her by the common name of her sex, and not being recognized, calls her by her own name: Jesus says to her, Mary; as if to say, Recognize Him, who recognizes you. Mary, being called by name, recognizes Him; that it was He whom she sought externally, and He who taught her internally to seek. She turned herself, and says to Him, Rabooni; which its to say, Master.
CHRYS. Just as He was sometimes in the midst of the Jews, and they did not know Him till He pleased to make Himself known. But why does she turn herself; when she had turned herself before? It seems to me that when she said, Where you have laid Him, she turned to the Angels, to ask why they were astonished. Then Christ, calling her, discovered Himself by His voice, and made her turn to Him again.
AUG. Or she first turned her body, but thought Him what He was not; now she was turned in heart, and knew who He was. Let no one however blame her, because she called the gardener, Lord, and Jesus, Master. The one was a title of courtesy to a person from whom she was asking a favor; the other of respect to a Teacher from whom she was used to learn to distinguish the divine from the human. The word Lord is used in different senses, when she says, They have taken away my Lord, and when she says, Lord, if you have borne Him away.
Ver. 14.—And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Christ appeared behind the Magdalene, so that the angels who beheld Him rose up and bowed their heads, and exhibited other tokens of reverence and adoration towards Him. And this was why she turned about, viz., to see who it was whom the angels saluted so reverently. So S, Chrysostom (Hom. 85), and the author of the Quæst. ad Antioch (Quest. lxxviii.), [Pseudo-Athanasian]. Some think that Christ made a noise with His feet to attract her attention.
And saw Jesus. “The first to share the joy: as loving more than all.”
And knew not that it was Jesus. As appearing in the form of the gardener. Just as He appeared in the form of a stranger at Emmaus. For glorified bodies can put on any appearance they please, not by changing their own appearance, but by presenting only a refracted appearance to the sight of others. Christ did this, in order that she should not be startled. He appeared to her in consequence of her intense love to Him. But because she did not believe that He was alive, He veiled Himself from her, and presented Himself to her outward sight as the person she fancied Him to be. So S. Gregory (Hom. xxiii.), speaking of the disciples at Emmaus.
Supposing him to be the gardener – Κηπουρος, the inspector or overseer of the garden, from κηπος, a garden, and ουρος, an inspector – the person who had the charge of the workmen, and the care of the produce of the garden; and who rendered account to the owner.
And I will take him away – How true is the proverb, Love feels no load! Jesus was in the prime of life when he was crucified, and had a hundred pounds weight of spices added to his body; and yet Mary thinks of nothing less than carrying him away with her, if she can but find where he is laid!
Origen wrote a striking Homily, and one full of devout feelings, respecting the Magdalene, in which he says, among other things, “Love made her stand there, and sorrow caused her to weep. She stood and looked around, if perchance she could see Him whom she loved. She wept, as thinking that He whom she was looking for, had been taken away. Her grief was renewed, because at first she sorrowed for Him as dead, and now she was sorrowing for Him as having been taken away. And this last sorrow was the greater because she had no consolation.” And then he proceeds to lay open the sources of her sorrow, saying, “Peter and John were afraid, and therefore did not remain. But Mary feared not, because she felt that there was nothing left for her to fear. She had lost her Master, whom she loved with such singular affection, that she could not love or set her hopes on anything but Him. She had lost the life of her soul, and now she thought it would be better for her to die than to live, for she might perchance thus find Him when dead, whom she could not find while she lived. ‘Love is strong as death.’ What else could death do in her case? She was lifeless, she was insensible: feeling she felt not, seeing she saw not, hearing she heard not. And she was not really there, even where she seemed to be. Her whole thoughts were with her Master, and yet she knew not where He was. I seek not for the angels, who do but increase, and not remove my grief, but I seek my own Lord, and the Lord of angels.” And after a few more bursts of glowing and holy affections, he adds, “I am straitened on every side, I know not what to choose. If I remain by the tomb, I find Him not; if I retire from it, I know not where to go, or where to seek for Him: hapless that I am. To leave the tomb is death to me, to remain by it is irremediable sorrow. But it is better for me to keep watch over His tomb, than to go far away from it. For perhaps when I return, I shall find that He has been taken away, and His sepulchre destroyed. I will therefore remain here and die, that at least I may be buried by the sepulchre of my Lord. Return, my beloved one,—return, the loved one of my vows.” He then adds, “Why, Beloved Master, dost Thou trouble the spirit of this woman? Why dost Thou distress her mind? She depends entirely on Thee, she abides entirely on Thee, she hopes solely on Thee, and utterly despairs of herself. She seeks Thee, as seeking or thinking of no one besides. And perhaps she does not recognise Thee because she is not in her right mind, but quite beside herself for Thy sake. Why then dost Thou say, ‘Why weepest thou-whom seekest thou?'”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him. Because, as Theophylact and Euthymius say, “He was meanly dressed, and because He seemed from His dress to be at home there. She knew that Joseph of Arimathæa did not live there, and supposed that He was the person left in charge of the garden. So F. Lucas. [Pseudo]-Origen proceeds, “0 Mary, if thou art seeking for Jesus, why dost thou not recognise Him? And if thou dost recognise Him, why art thou seeking for Him? Behold Jesus cometh to thee, and He whom thou seekest asketh of thee, ‘Woman, why weepest thou?’ And thou supposest Him to be the gardener, as not knowing Him. For indeed Jesus is also the Gardener, as sowing the good seed in the garden of thy heart, and in the hearts of His faithful servants.” Whence S. Gregory (in loc.), “Is He not the Gardener who planted in her breast, through His love, the flourishing seeds of virtues?”
Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. She does not say “Whom,” but means Jesus, of Whom her heart was full. S. Thomas and others say, that this is the feeling of those who are deeply in love. They suppose that others are thinking about the same person as themselves. Although she might have thought that He knew the answer she had already given to the angels, They have taken away my Lord, &c., as S. Chrysostom seems to indicate. [Pseudo]-Origen remarks, “Such great grief for Thy death had overwhelmed her, that she could not think of Thy resurrection. Joseph placed Thy body in the tomb, and Mary also buried her spirit there, and so indissolubly united it as it were to Thy body, that she could more easily separate her soul from the body which it animated, than she could separate her soul from Thy dead body, for which she was seeking. For the spirit of Mary was more in Thy body than in her own; and in seeking for Thy body she was at the same time seeking for her own spirit, and where she lost Thy body she lost also her own spirit. What wonder then she had no sense, since she had lost her spirit? What wonder if she knew Thee not, as not having the spirit wherewith to know Thee? Give her back then her spirit, I mean Thy body, and she will then regain her senses and abandon her error.”
And I will take Him away—”What if He is in the High Priest’s palace? What if He is in Pilate’s house? Yes, I will take Him away. Love conquers everything. It counts impossibilities as possible, nay, as easy.” So [Pseudo]-Origen and S. Chrysostom. Though S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedib.) regards them as the words of ignorance and want of consideration.
GREG The Evangelist does not add what she did upon recognizing Him, but we know from what our Lord said to her: Jesus says to her, Touch Me not. Mary then had tried to embrace His feet, but was not allowed. Why not? The reason follows: For I am not yet ascended to My Father.
AUG. But if standing upon the earth, He is not touched, how shall He be touched sitting in heaven? And did He not before His ascension offer Himself to the touch of the disciples: Handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones? Who can be so absurd as to suppose that He was willing that disciples should touch Him before He ascended to His Father, and unwilling that women should till after Nay, we read of women after the resurrection, and before He ascended to His Father, touching Him, one of whom was Mary Magdalene herself, according to Matthew. Either then Mary here is a type of the Gentile Church, which did not believe in Christ till after His ascension: or the meaning is that Jesus is to be believed in, i.e. spiritually touched, in no other way, but as being one with the Father. He ascends to the Father mystically, as it were, in the mind of him who has so far advanced as to acknowledge that He is equal to the Father. But how could Mary believe in Him otherwise than carnally, when she wept for Him as a man?
AUG. Touch is as it were the end of knowledge and He was unwilling that a soul intent upon Him should have its end, in thinking Him only what He seemed to be.
CHRYS. Mary wished to be as familiar with Christ now, as she was before His Passion; forgetting, in her joy, that His body was made much more holy by its resurrection. So, Touch Me not, He says, to remind her of this, and make her feel awe in talking with Him. For which reason too He no longer keeps company with His disciples, viz. that they might look upon Him with the greater awe. Again, by saying I have not yet ascended, He shows that He is hastening there. And He who was going to depart and live no more with men, ought not to be regarded with the same feeling that He was before: But go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and you Father; and to My God, and your God.
16.Jesus saith to her, Mary! That Christ allowed Mary, a short time, to fall into a mistake, was useful for confirming her faith; but now, by a single word, he corrects her mistake. He had formerly addressed her, but his discourse seemed to be that of an unknown person; he now assumes the character of the Master, and addresses his disciple by name, as we have formerly seen that the good shepherd calleth to him by name every sheep of his flock, (Joh_10:3.)
That voice of the shepherd, therefore, enters into Mary’s heart, opens her eyes, arouses all her senses, and affects her in such a manner, that she immediately surrenders herself to Christ.
Thus in Mary we have a lively image of our calling; for the only way in which we are admitted to the true knowledge of Christ is, when he first knows us, and then familiarly invites us to himself, not by that ordinary voice which sounds indiscriminately in the ears of all, but by that voice with which he especially calls the sheep which the Father hath given to him. Thus Paul says, After that you have known God, or rather, after that you have been known by him, (Gal_4:9.)
And said to him, Rabboni! The efficacy of the address is evident from this circumstance, that Mary immediately renders to Christ the honor which is due to him; for the word Rabboni is not only respectful, but involves a profession of obedience. Mary therefore declares, that she is a disciple of Christ, and submits to him as her Master. This is a secret and wonderful change effected on the human understanding, when God, enlightening her by his Spirit, renders her clear-sighted, who formerly was slow of apprehension, and, indeed, altogether blind. Besides, the example of Mary ought to serve the purpose of exhortation, that all whom Christ invites to himself may reply to him without delay.
The word Rabboni is Chaldee, though the Chaldeans pronounce it Ribboni; but it is customary to make a change on words, when they are transferred to a foreign tongue. The meaning is the same as if we were to say, My Lord! or, My Master! But in the time of Christ this mode of expression had gained currency, of using Rabbi and Rabboni instead of Master.
Mary – This word was no doubt spoken with uncommon emphasis; and the usual sound of Christ’s voice accompanied it, so as immediately to prove that it must be Jesus. What transports of joy must have filled this woman’s heart! Let it be remarked that Mary Magdalene sought Jesus more fervently, and continued more affectionately attached to him than any of the rest: therefore to her first, Jesus is pleased to show himself, and she is made the first herald of the Gospel of a risen Savior.
After Mary’s exclamation of Rabboni, and its interpretation by the evangelist, one MS., the later Syriac, Syriac Hieros., and three copies of the Itala, add και προσεδραμεν ἁψασθαι αυτου, And she ran to embrace, or cling to him. Then our Lord’s words come in with the reason for them.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary – This was spoken, doubtless, in a tone of voice that at once recalled him to her recollection.
Rabboni – This is a Hebrew word denoting, literally, my great master. If was one of the titles given to Jewish teachers. This title was given under three forms:
(a) Rab, or master – the lowest degree of honor.
(b) Rabbi, my master – a title of higher dignity.
(c) Rabboni, my great master the most honorable of all.
This title, among the Jews, was only given to seven persons, all persons of great eminence. As given by Mary to the Saviour, it was at once an expression of her joy, and an acknowledgment of him, as her Lord and Master. It is not improbable that she, filled with joy, was about to cast herself at his feet.
Mary (Mariam). Aramaic form in Aleph B W, though Maria in Joh_19:25. Clearly the old familiar tone of Jesus was in the pronunciation of her name.
Rabboni (Rabbounei). Aramaic again for Didaskale (Teacher), “my Teacher.” In N.T. only here and Mar_10:51 though practically the same as Rabbi. See Joh_11:28 for “the Teacher” (Rabbi). These two simple words tell the great fact that Christ is risen and Mary has seen him. One says little in really great moments.
HILARY. Heretics, among their other impieties, misinterpret these words of our Lord’s, and say, that if His Father is their Father, His God their God, He cannot be God Himself. But though He remained in the form of God, He took upon Him the form of a servant; and Christ says this in the form of a servant to men. And we cannot doubt that in so far as He is man, the Father is His Father in the same sense in which He is of other men, and God His God in like manner. Indeed He begins with saying, Go to My brethren, But God can only have brethren according to the flesh; the Only-Begotten God, being Only-Begotten, is without brethren.
AUG. He does not say, Our Father, but, My Father and your Father: Mine therefore and yours in a different sense; Mine by nature, yours by grace. Nor does He say, Our God, but My God – under Him I am man – and your God; between you and Him I am Mediator.
Ver. 17.—Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father, &c. This is a difficult passage, and the connection between the two parts is even more difficult. (1.) S. Augustine explains the connection thus, “Touch Me not, for as yet thou art not worthy to touch Me; for in thy thoughts regarding Me, I have not as yet ascended to My Father, for as yet thou dost not perfectly believe that I am the Son of God, and that I ascend to My Father.” And S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedibiam) explains it much in the same way. But this is a mystical rather than a literal explanation. As also is that of S. Leontius (Serm. ii. de Ascens.), “I do not wish you to approach Me bodily, or recognise Me with thy bodily senses. I reserve thee for higher things. I am preparing for thee greater things. When I shall have ascended to My Father, then wilt thou touch Me more perfectly and truly, for thou wilt comprehend that which thou touchest not, and believe that which thou seest not.” (2.) S. Cyril (Lib. xii. cap. i.) says, ” He forbade her to touch Him, to signify that no one ought to approach His glorified Body, which was soon to be touched and received in the Eucharist, before receiving the Holy Spirit, which He had not yet sent.” But, on this ground neither would the other women, or Thomas, or the rest have been able to touch Him—which yet they did. (3.) S. Chrysostom (in loc.), Theophylact, and Euthymius say that He forbade her to touch Him, because He wished to be touched with greater reverence than heretofore: since He would not henceforth hold converse with men, but with angels and blessed spirits. But it does not appear that the Magdalene failed in reverence. And after all, what connection has this with the reason given, “I have not yet ascended to My Father”? (4.) [Pseudo]-Justin (Quæst. a Gentibus, propos. xlvii.), and after him Toletus and others, explain it thus: Touch Me not: for I am shortly about to ascend to heaven, and I wish to withdraw you gradually from My accustomed presence. Therefore, says [Pseudo]-Justin, “He did not constantly show Himself to His disciples after His Resurrection, nor yet withdraw Himself entirely from their sight, so that He was seen, and yet not seen.” But this explanation is not clear, and requires many things to be supplied, besides misinterpreting the reason given. (5.) The best explanation is this, “Do not waste any more time in thus touching Me. Go and bear the glad tidings of My Resurrection to My disciples at once. I do not just yet ascend into heaven. You will have ample time before then to touch and converse with Me.” (See Suarez, par. iii. Disput. xlix. § 3, Ribera (in loc.), and others.) Christ afterwards allowed Himself to be touched by her and the other women, because they were then on their way to tell the Apostles that He had risen. (Matt. xxviii. 9.)
1. It is said that Christ when speaking these words touched the forehead of the Magdalene, and that Sylvester Prieras saw those marks when her tomb was opened in 1497 (see Surius, in Vita S. M. Magdalenæ). 2. S. Epiphanius (Her. xxvi) gives a moral reason, viz., that Christ did not wish to be touched by any woman, except in the presence of others; an example followed by SS. Augustine and Ambrose, S. Martin, S. Chrysostom, S. Charles Borromeo, and others. 3. Rupertus gives an allegorical reason. Mary, he says, here represented the Gentile Church which was to come to Christ, not by corporal but by spiritual contact, after His Ascension. See also Chrysostom, Serm. lxxv.
It is most probable, as S. Augustine (de Consen. Evang. iii. 24), Theophylact, and Euthymius (in cap. ult. Matt.), and S. Jerome (Epist. ad Hedibiam, Quæst. v.) say, that Mary hastened away, and came up with the other women who went away with Peter and John, and that she then saw Christ again when He appeared to them all; that she then touched His feet, and adored Him (see Matt. xxviii. 9). But Toletus says it was not so.
Tropologically. Hence learn that it is more acceptable to Christ to comfort those who are in any affliction, than to look only to one’s self. So that when necessity, or piety or charity require it, it is allowable to postpone the Sermon, or even Mass, on a Feast day, for the purpose of aiding the sick and suffering. See notes on Matt. ix. 13.
Symbolically. S. Bernard (Serm. v. in Fest. Omn. Sanct.) says, “This is a word of glory, ‘A wise son is the glory of his father.’ Touch Me not then, says the Glory. Seek not glory as yet, rather avoid it. And touch Me not till we come to the Father, where all our glorying is secure.”
But go to My brethren. He calls them “Brethren” out of His wondrous condescension, being, as He is, not only as God but also as man, the Head and Lord of all. For all men are brethren as descended from Adam, and as the sons of God by grace. But the term properly applies to them as Apostles. And Christ was an Apostle, as being sent by God, and He associated with Him in His office Peter and the rest. The Pontiff calls in like manner the Cardinals and Bishops his brethren, though he is their superior. Christ speaks of them in this way to inspire them with courage, as though He said, Though they have forsaken Me, yet I do not forsake them; and by taking on Me the nature of man on rising again, I will show Myself to be their Brother.
And say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Remind them of what I said to them before My Passion, that after a few days I should ascend to God the Father.
He says, “My Father and your Father,” Mine by nature, yours by grace, as S. Augustine says, to show that they had in common God as their Father. He as His Father by nature, they by adoption. So S.. Ambrose (de Virginitate). Moreover, S. Hilary (de Trinit., Book xi.), “He is His Father, as of all others, in respect of His human nature; and God, as He is the God of all men, in that nature in which He is a servant for God the Only Begotten is without brethren.” But it is simpler to say that He called Him “My Father,” to designate His own Divine Nature, and “My God” to set forth the human nature He had assumed, and that thus He was Very God, and very man. So S. Ambrose (ut supra), referring to Heb_2:11.
It means then, Tell the Apostles to banish their fear and sorrow, for I have risen from the dead, and love them as brethren, and therefore shall soon ascend to heaven, to prepare a place for them, that they may follow Me thither, and that I may send them the Holy Spirit from thence, to make them resolute preachers of My Gospel.
17. Touch me not.This appears not to agree with the narrative of Matthew; for he expressly says, that the women held him By The Feet,and worshipped him, (Mat_28:9.) Now, since he allowed himself to be touched by his disciples, what reason was there for forbidding Mary to touch him? The answer is easy, provided that we remember that the women were not repelled from touching Christ, till their eagerness to touch him had been carried to excess; for, so far as it was necessary for removing doubt, he unquestionably did not forbid them to touch him, but, perceiving that their attention was too much occupied with embracing his feet, he restrained and corrected that immoderate zeal. They fixed their attention on his bodily presence, and did not understand any other way of enjoying his society than by conversing with him on the earth. We ought, therefore, to conclude, that they were not forbidden to touch him, until Christ saw that, by their foolish and unreasonable desire, they wished to keep him in the world.
For I am not yet ascended to my Father.We ought to attend to this reason which he adds; for by these words he enjoins the women to restrain their feelings, until he be received into the heavenly glory. In short, he pointed out the design of his resurrection; not such as they had imagined it to be, that, after having returned to life, he should triumph in the world, but rather that, by his ascension to heaven, he should enter into the possession of the kingdom which had been promised to him, and, seated at the right hand of the Father, should govern the Church by the power of his Spirit. The meaning of the words therefore is, that his state of resurrection would not be full and complete, until he should sit down in heaven at the right hand of the Father; and, therefore, that the women did wrong in satisfying themselves with having nothing more than the half of his resurrection, and desiring to enjoy his presence in the world. This doctrine yields two advantages. The first is, that those who are desirous to succeed in seeking Christ must raise their minds upwards; and the second is, that all who endeavor to go to him must rid themselves of the earthly affections of the flesh, as Paul exhorts,
If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God,(Col_3:1.)
But go to my brethren.Some limit the word brethren to the cousins and relatives of Christ, but, in my opinion, improperly; for why should he have sent to them rather than to the disciples? They reply, Because John elsewhere testifies, that His Brethren did not believe in him. (Joh_7:5.)
But I do not think it probable that Christ conferred so great an honor on those who are there mentioned. It must also be admitted, that Mary Magdalene fully obeyed the injunctions of Christ. Now, it immediately follows, that she went to the disciples; from which we conclude, that Christ had spoken of them.
Besides, Christ knew that the disciples, whom those men, by their opinion, treat as separated, were assembled in one place; and it would have been exceedingly absurd that he should pay attention to I know not what sort of persons, and disregard the disciples, who, having been collected into one place, were subjected to a violent conflict between hope and fear. To this it may be added, that Christ appears to have borrowed this expression from Psa_22:22, where we and these words: I will declare thy name to my brethren; for it is beyond all controversy, that this passage contains the fulfillment of that prediction.
I conclude, therefore, that Mary was sent to the disciples in general; and I consider that this was done by way of reproach, because they had been so tardy and sluggish to believe. And, indeed, they deserve not only to have women for their teachers, but even oxen and asses; since the Son of God had been so long and laboriously employed in teaching, and yet they had made so little, or hardly any progress. Yet this is a mild and gentle chastisement, when Christ thus sends his disciples to the school of the women, that by their agency, he may bring them back to himself. Here we behold also the inconceivable kindness of Christ, in choosing and appointing women to be the witnesses of his resurrection to the Apostles; for the commission which is given to them is the only foundation of our salvation, and contains the chief point of heavenly wisdom.
It ought likewise to be observed, however, that this occurrence was extraordinary, and — we might almost say — accidental. They are commanded to make known to the Apostles what they afterwards, in the exercise of the office committed to them, proclaimed to the whole world. But, in executing this injunction, they do not act as if they had been Apostles; and, therefore, it is wrong to frame a law out of this injunction of Christ, and to allow women to perform the office of baptizing. Let us be satisfied with knowing that Christ displayed in them the boundless treasures of his grace, when he once appointed them to be the teachers of the Apostles, and yet did not intend that what was done by a singular privilege should be viewed as an example. This is peculiarly apparent in Mary Magdalene, who had formerly been possessed by seven devils, (Mar_16:9; Luk_8:2;) for it amounted to this, that Christ had brought her out of the lowest hell, that he might raise her above heaven.
If it be objected, that there was no reason why Christ should prefer the women to the Apostles, since they were not less carnal and stupid, I reply, it does not belong to us, but to the Judge, to estimate the difference between the Apostles and the women. But I go farther, and say, that the Apostles deserved to be more severely censured, because they not only had been better instructed than all others, but, after having been appointed to be the teachers of the whole world, and after having been called the light of the world, (Mat_5:14,) and the salt of the earth, (Mat_5:13,) they so basely apostatized. Yet it pleased the Lord, by means of those weak and contemptible vessels, to give a display of his power.
I ascend to my Father.By using the word ascend he confirms the doctrine which I have lately explained; that he rose from the dead, not for the purpose of remaining any longer on the earth, but that he might enter into the heavenly life, and might thus draw believers to heaven along with him. In short, by this term he forbids the Apostles to fix their whole attention on his resurrection viewed simply in itself, but exhorts them to proceed farther, until they come to the spiritual kingdom, to the heavenly glory, to God himself. There is great emphasis, therefore, in this word ascend; for Christ stretches out his hand to his disciples that they may not seek their happiness anywhere else than in heaven; for where our treasure is, there also must our heart be,(Mat_6:21.)
Now, Christ declares, that he ascends on high; and, therefore, we must ascend, if we do not wish to be separated from him.
When he adds, that he ascends To God, he quickly dispels the grief and anxiety which the Apostles might feel on account of his departure; for his meaning is, that he will always be present with his disciples by Divine power. True, the word ascend denotes the distance of places; but though Christ be absent in body, yet, as he is with God, his power, which is everywhere felt, plainly shows his spiritual presence; for why did he ascend to God, but in order that, being seated at God’s right hand, he might reign both in heaven and in earth? In short, by this expression he intended to impress on the minds of his disciples the Divine power of his kingdom, that they might not be grieved on account of his bodily absence.
To my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.The benefit and efficacy of that brotherly union, which has been lately mentioned, is expressed, when Christ declares that we have this in common with himself, that he who is his God and his Father is also our God and our Father. I ascend, says he, to my Father, who is also your Father. In other passages we learn that we are made partakers of all the blessings of Christ; but this is the foundation of the privilege, that he imparts to us the very fountain of blessings. It is, unquestionably, an invaluable blessing, that believers can safely and firmly believe, that He who is the God of Christ is their God, and that He who is the Father of Christ is their Father. Nor have we any reason to fear that this confidence will be charged with rashness, since it is founded on Christ, or that it will be proud boasting, since Christ himself has dictated it to us with his own mouth.
Christ calls Him his God, in so far as, by taking upon him the form of a servant, he humbled himself, (Phi_2:7.)
This is, therefore, peculiar to his human nature, but is applied to his whole person, on account of the unity, because he is both God and Man. As to the second clause, in which he says that he ascends to his Father and our Father, there is also a diversity between him and us; for he is the Son of God by nature, while we are the sons of God only by adoption; but the grace which we obtain through him is so firmly established, that it cannot be shaken by any efforts of the devil, so as to hinder us from always calling him our Father, who hath adopted us through his Only-begotten Son.
Touch me not – Μη μου απτου, Cling not to me. Απτομαι has this sense in Job_31:7, where the Septuagint use it for the Hebrew דבק dabak, which signifies to cleave, cling, stick, or be glued to. From Mat_28:9, it appears that some of the women held him by the feet and worshipped him. This probably Mary did; and our Lord seems to have spoken to her to this effect: “Spend no longer time with me now: I am not going immediately to heaven – you will have several opportunities of seeing me again: but go and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to ascend to my Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore, let them take courage.”
Touch me not … – This passage has given rise to a variety of interpretations. Jesus required Thomas to touch him Joh_20:27, and it has been difficult to ascertain why he forbade this now to Mary. The reason why he directed Thomas to do this was, that he doubted whether he had been restored to life. Mary did not doubt that. The reason why he forbade her to touch him now is to be sought in the circumstances of the case. Mary, filled with joy and gratitude, was about to prostrate herself at his feet, disposed to remain with him, and offer him there her homage as her risen Lord. This is probably included in the word touch in this place; and the language of Jesus may mean this: “Do not approach me now for this purpose. Do not delay here. Other opportunities will yet be afforded to see me. I have not yet ascended – that is, I am not about to ascend immediately, but shall remain yet on earth to afford opportunity to my disciples to enjoy my presence.” From Mat_28:9, it appears that the women, when they met Jesus, held him by the feet and worshipped him. This species of adoration it was probably the intention of Mary to offer, and this, at that time, Jesus forbade, and directed her to go at once and give his disciples notice that he had risen.
My brethren – See Joh_15:15.
My Father and your Father … – Nothing was better fitted to afford them consolation than this assurance that this God was theirs; and that, though he had been slain, they were still indissolubly united in attachment to the same Father and God.
AUG. She then went away from. the sepulcher, i.e. from that part of the garden before the rock which had been hollowed out, and with her the other women. But these, according to Mark, were seized with trembling and amazement, and said nothing to any man: Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
GREG. So the sin of mankind is buried in the very place whence it came forth. For whereas in Paradise the woman gave the man the deadly fruit, a woman from the sepulcher announced life to men; a woman delivers the message of Him who raises us from the dead, as a woman had delivered the words of the serpent who slew us.
AUG. While she was going with the other women, according to Matthew, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. So we gather that there were two visions of Angels ; and that our Lord too was seen twice once when Mary took Him for the gardener, and again, when He met them by the way, and by this repeating His presence confirmed their faith. And so Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples, not alone, but with the other women whom Luke mentions.
BEDE. Mystically, Mary, which name signifies, mistress, enlightened, enlightener, star of the sea, stands for the Church, which is also Magdalene, i.e. towered, (Magdalene being Greek for tower) as we read in the Psalms, you have been a strong tower for me. In that she announced Christ’s resurrection to the disciples, all, especially those to whom the office of preaching is committed are admonished to be zealous in setting forth to others whatever is revealed from above.
Told the disciples – that he had spoken these things – St. Mark says, Mar_16:11, that the afflicted apostles could not believe what she had said. They seem to have considered it as an effect of her troubled imagination.
Ver. 18.—Mary came and told the disciples, I have seen the Lord, and He has said these things to me. She thus became an apostle and evangelist to the Apostles. And accordingly, when she was driven into exile by the Jews, and arrived at Marseilles, she preached the gospel to the people there. And she fully deserved this honour, by her glowing love to Christ, her faith and constancy, which led her to the sepulchre by herself at early dawn, where she waited patiently till she saw her Jesus.
Harmony of the Accounts of the Resurrection, Appearances, and Ascension of Christ
I. The Resurrection
As much difficulty has been felt in reconciling the accounts of the different evangelists respecting the resurrection of Christ, and as infidels have maintained that they are utterly irreconcilable, it may be proper, in closing the notes on Matthew, to give these accounts at one view. One thing should always be borne in mind by all who read the Gospels, namely, that the sacred narrative of an event is what it is declared to be by all the evangelists. That a thing is omitted by one does not prove that another is false because he has recorded it, for the very object of the different Gospels was to give the testimony of independent witnesses to the great facts of the life and death of Jesus. Nor does it prove that there is a contradiction because one relates facts in a different order from another, for neither of them professes to relate facts in the precise order in which they occurred. The object was to relate the facts themselves. With these principles in view, which are conceded to profane historians always, let us look at the accounts which are presented in the sacred narrative respecting the resurrection, appearance, and ascension of Christ.
1. Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday evening, having been wrapped in linen with myrrh and aloes in a hurried manner, Joh_19:39-40. The women, not apprised of that, or desiring also to testify their regard for him, prepared spices on the same evening to embalm him, Luk_23:56. As it was too late that night to complete the preparation, they deferred it until the first day of the week, resting on the Sabbath, Luk_23:56.
2. On the first day of the week, early, the women completed their preparation, purchased more spices, and properly mixed them to make an unguent to anoint the bandages in which the body was rolled, Mar_16:1. Or this may refer to the purchase which is mentioned by Luke, meaning that they had bought them – that is, on Friday evening.
3. They came to the grave just as the day began to dawn, or just as the light appeared in the east, yet so dark as to render objects indistinct. It was “in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” Mat_28:1. “Very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun,” or as the sun was about to rise, Mar_16:2. “Very early in the morning,” Luk_24:1. “Early, while it was yet dark,” Joh_20:1.
4. Those who came were Mary Magdalene, Mat_28:1; Joh_20:1; Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mat_28:1; Luk_24:10; Mar_15:40; Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and mother of James and John, compare Mat_27:56; Mar_15:40; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, compare Luk_24:10; Luk_8:3; and certain others not specified, Luk_24:1, Luk_24:10.
5. The objects of their coming were:
(1) to see the grave, Mat_28:1.
(2) to embalm him, or to finish embalming him, Mar_16:1; Luk_24:1.
6. While on the way they inquired who should roll away the stone for them, that they might have access to the body of Jesus, Mar_16:3.
7. When they arrived they found that there had been an earthquake or shaking of the tomb, so that the stone was rolled away, Mat_28:2; Mar_16:4.
8. The angel who rolled the stone away had sat down on it, and had appeared to the keepers and frightened them; though he did not appear in this place to the women, but only to the keepers, Mat_28:2-4. At that time, probably our Saviour had risen how long before the women came is not known and cannot be ascertained.
9. When they came there, Mary Magdalene, greatly agitated with the appearance of things, and probably supposing that the body had been stolen, left the other women, and ran to the city, at the distance of half a mile, to inform the disciples, Joh_20:2.
10. While Mary was gone, the others probably looked around the garden in search of the body, and then came and examined the grave to see if it was not there. The tomb was large, and they entered into it. There “the angel spake unto them,” Mat_28:5. “They saw a young man” – that is, an angel in the appearance of a young man – “sitting on the right side,” Mar_16:5. When they entered he was sitting; as they entered he rose and stood, Luk_24:4. Luke adds that there was another with him, Luk_24:4; this other one was not seen when they entered into the grave at the time mentioned by Mark, but was seen when they had fully entered in, as mentioned by Luke.
11. The angel charged them to go and tell the disciples and Peter, Mat_28:7; Mar_16:7; and to assure them that he would see them in Galilee. He also reminded them of what Jesus had said when they were in Galilee, Luk_24:6-7.
12. They went immediately toward the city, yet taking a different way from the one that Mary had taken, or going in such a way that they did not meet her when she was returning from the city with Peter and John, Mat_28:8, Mar_16:8. “They said nothing to any man,” Luk_24:9-10. In Luk_24:10 it is said that it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, that told these things to the disciples. Not that Luke affirms that they were together when they told them, but that the information was given by them, though perhaps at different times.
13. While they were gone Mary Magdalene returned to the grave, following Peter and John, who came running, Joh_20:2-9. They examined the grave, and found that the body was really gone, but as yet they did not know the reason, not having seen the other women to whom the angel had told the cause, and Mary Magdalene having left the women before the angel had spoken to them. As yet, therefore, she was ignorant of the reason of his removal.
14. Peter and John then left the grave, returned to the city, and left Mary alone, Joh_20:10.
15. While Mary was there alone she looked into the grave, and saw two angels, probably the same that had appeared to the other women, Joh_20:11-13.
16. Jesus appeared to Mary while she sat alone at the grave, Joh_20:14-18. Thus, according to Mark Mar_16:9, he appeared to Mary Magdalene “first.”
Mary then went to tell the disciples that she had seen him, but they did not fully believe her, Joh_20:18; Mar_16:10-11.
18. Afterward Jesus appeared to the other women, Mat_28:9; “As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.” This would seem, in Matthew, to be immediately after they left the grave the first time; but many critics observe that the words “to tell his disciples” are missing in many manuscripts, and of doubtful authority. It may be further said that the words “as they were going” might have been rendered “after they were gone.” They do not imply of necessity that the appearance took place immediately, but only after they were gone, without specifying the time. Probably it was not long after he had appeared to Mary Magdalene. They would naturally return to the disciples, and linger around there, that they might ascertain what had become of him, or learn whether he had been seen by anyone. It was, then, probably after they had been away and returned, and after he had been seen by Mary, that they saw him.
II. Appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection
1. To Mary Magdalene, Joh_20:14; Mar_16:9.
2. To the other women, Mat_28:9.
3. To Peter, 1Co_15:5; Luk_24:34.
4. To two disciples as they were going to Emmaus, Mar_16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32.
5. The same day, at evening, to the apostles, in the absence of Thomas, 1Co_15:5; Mar_16:14; Luk_24:36; Joh_20:19, Joh_20:24.
6. To the apostles when Thomas was present, Joh_20:24-29.
7. In Galilee, at the Sea of Tiberias, to Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two others, Joh_21:1-14. This is said to be the third time that he showed himself to the disciples – that is, to the apostles when they were assembled together, Joh_21:14.
8. To the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, Mat_28:16.
9. To more than 500 brethren at once, 1Co_15:6.
10. To James, one of the apostles, 1Co_15:7.
11. To all the apostles assembled together, 1Co_15:7. He was seen by them forty days after he rose – probably conversing with them familiarly.
12. To the apostles at his ascension, Luk_24:50-51; Act_1:9-10.
13. To Paul, 1Co_15:8; Act_9:3-5; Act_22:6-10.
III. The Ascension
1. It was forty days after his resurrection Act_1:3.
2. He ascended from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, Luk_24:50; Act_1:12.
3. It was in the presence of all the apostles, Luk_24:50; Act_1:9-10.
4. He was received into a cloud, and ascended to heaven, Act_1:9, Act_1:11; Luk_24:51; Eph_1:20-22.