The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.


Division 3. (John 18 ― 21.)

The Perfected Offering and the Resurrection of the Life.

We have reached now the third division of the Gospel, in which we see the perfected offering, and that resurrection from the dead which is its manifest acceptance. John gives, as has been already said, the burnt-offering aspect of the Lord's work, which would alone suit the view of His Person as the Only-begotten of the Father. "Lo, I come to do Thy will" is here the characteristic; and as the Mighty Worker He carries it to completion. As the free-will sacrifice He freely lays down His life. Throughout it reads like a triumphal progress. There is no agony in the Garden, no cloud upon the Cross. He testifies Himself that the work is finished; and this is confirmed by the threefold witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. The resurrection of the Lord is, as we might expect, more fully opened up in its consequences for us than in the other Gospels.

Subdivision 1. (John 18 ― 19:16.)

Sovereign Lord and Willing Offering.

In the first subdivision His sovereignty is shown over all circumstances, which makes Him, therefore, the free and willing Offering that He is. There is the complete fulfilment of His own words: "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it again; this commandment have I received of My Father." How perfectly the freedom and the constraint unite together here!

Section 1. (John 18:1-11.)

Obedient to the Father's will.

The first section beautifully exhibits both characters. He goes over the "black" winter-torrent Kedron, so significant of the "brook in the way" of which He had to drink, in order that He might with His work accomplished "lift up the head." For the refreshment that He procured for others was that which was His own; and it broke out of the dark abyss of suffering which was now before Him. Over Kedron, then, He passes to the garden, carrying with Him His disciples; He was carrying them indeed, though by a way they knew not, to the paradise of God.

But He is clearly going forward with perfect knowledge of all, on His own part: Judas, we are significantly told here, knew the place as one of frequent resort by the Lord with His disciples. He is not shunning but seeking now the "oil-press" of sorrow. Eternal joy is to be the sure result.

How pitiful, in view of this, the array mustered to take the One who comes forward to meet it! "Whom seek ye?" He asks; and when He tells them, He is the One they are seeking, as if fulfilling the divine decree as to that supreme Name of Jesus, they all go backward and fall to the ground. Then, being warned, He gives them leave, if still they will, to take Him; but with the stipulation (blessed Shepherd of the sheep!) that they must let His followers go. And they let them go! even though Peter, out of harmony with His Lord's mind as so frequently he is, uses his sword against them! What of them all? Alas, the poor tools of their own enemy! will He contend with souls that He has made? No, all is settled for Him entirely apart from any thought of them or of their master: He does not speak in John of the twelve legions of angels ready to take the place of the twelve, — twelve now no more! — who are soon to forsake Him. The. Son is in the presence of the Father only; and "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" is His unanswerable, all-sufficient argument.

Section 2. (John 18:12-27.)

The deceit of an enemy and the denial of a friend.

They bind Him who is bound already, the meek Lamb of sacrifice; and now we have a scene how different in the high priest's court. The questioning before Annas is only given by John; who on the other hand does not relate, though he implies, the trial before Caiaphas. As father-in-law of the latter, and one who had been at a former time, high priest himself, he may have been, as Lange suggests, regarded by the Jews as still the true one; his relationship to the present one giving him his opportunity also to affect a position which he could not openly take. The Romans set up one after another as it pleased them, — a thing rightly enough offensive to the upholders of the law, and which seems to appear as this in the remark twice made, that Caiaphas was the high priest for that year (ver. 13; John 11:49). The two seem to have occupied even the same house. Caiaphas, we are reminded, was the man who had given counsel to the Jews as to the expediency of one man dying for the people, which God overruled to be a prophecy of a Saviour, but which showed him as a judge prepared with his verdict. Arenas is as much allied to him in spirit as in flesh. His whole aim here is to ensnare the Lord with questions as to His disciples and His doctrine, for which Christ refers him to what He had taught everywhere with the greatest publicity. It was for His accusers to make their charges, and prove them against Him. To the one who smites Him for want of reverence for the high priest He only replies with a quiet remonstrance.

Annas is baffled, though not turned from his malignity, and sends Him bound to Caiaphas; of the trial before whom the evangelist takes no further notice. It was a trial scarcely in form, and, as we have seen, decided before it was commenced. It is left a blank, as in fact was that of Annas.

With Peter's denial we are sadly familiar, and John appears to add nothing to it; but he himself, though unnamed, surprises us with the quiet boldness of faith and love which carry him through untouched and unquestioned, where the apparently bolder disciple breaks down so helplessly. He is known to the high priest, and to the keeper of the gate, and known as a follower of Christ too, as her question to Peter shows, "Art thou also one of this man's disciples?" Afterwards we shall find him in the same open way with the mother of Jesus at the cross, and obtaining a precious recognition, and a precious charge, from the dying Saviour: and through all he is untouched and unquestioned. Blessed it is to see him who speaks so of love an example of it: unquestioned by men, he is unquestioned also by the Lord: there is plainly no need of it; and happy is he who is in such a case. Let us seek for nearer acquaintance, and we shall be truer to Him; here is the soil in which faith rooting itself will grow vigorously. Let us get nearer to His heart, that we may be qualified to walk evenly and undisturbed through the world's allurements and its threats alike, armed against each by the secrets learned there.

Section 3. (John 18:28 — 19:16.)

Hearts made manifest.

1. In the third section the Lord answers for Himself before Pilate; and this is proportionately much dwelt upon, and particulars given which we do not find elsewhere. It is evident that what we are shown is the searching out of the Roman's conscience in the light of the Presence before which he stands. Judge and accused change places; and, hard as the governor may be — a man stained with many crimes, he yet compares favorably with Israel's leaders, blinded and darkened with the light they have shut out. That Pilate shrank, though vainly, from what the insane fury of the Jews forced upon him is plain in all the Gospels; but John shows us the under-workings of a convicted soul, as no other does, and the Lord's compassionate faithfulness towards the, miserable victim of his own self-treachery. Hearts are made manifest all through, and the Light shines upon all the clouds that would obscure it. Even the refusal of the people to take the matter into their own hands, when Pilate would put it in them, only works, as is noted, for the fulfilment of the word of Jesus. Crucifixion was not a Jewish punishment. The "hanging upon a tree" was with them after death, and not a mode of inflicting this: but with death all was ended for the Lord; and the rich man's sepulchre begins His vindication.

2. Before Pilate the Lord answers at once, when He is questioned, that He is King of the Jews. But He asks, Is this his own question? — has he personal interest in it? Of Messiah he must have heard, and of all the hopes that were connected with it; more surely still, of a reign of righteousness and truth to replace the long oppression, and bring peace at last to a weary, if not sin-weary world. Was the intervention of God anything, — even an alarm perhaps, to one of the world's rulers? But Pilate puts off the question as a mere Jewish one: let him look at how his own case stands as a man accused by his own people; what reason had they? The Lord answers him, but keeps His steady pressure upon the conscience, already uneasy, of the real criminal before Him the real Judge. He lets Pilate know that His Kingdom is not of this world, — has not its origin or nature from the world: else would, He not have been left, unarmed and without a struggle, to the merciless hands that had been laid upon Him. Had His followers, — out of all the crowds that had gathered round Him, — been organized into such a force as would be needed for the establishment of a kingdom such as Rome could fear or take into account? His Kingdom plainly was not like one of these.

But then He really was a King? the Roman questioned. And the Lord answers that indeed He is a King: that His birth and coming into the world (and here a gleam of His divine nature flashes out) was to bear witness to the truth. Truth, in a false and hollow world, to establish this was the purpose of His life and mission. By this would He establish also His kingdom over the hearts and minds-of men. Truth is one, decisive, imperial: he that would learn it must be subject" to it. And here Christ drops a word for the conscience of His hearer, "Every one who is of the truth heareth My voice."

Pilate answers like the sceptical Roman that he is, "What is truth?" Alas, their Pantheon of captured gods had had bitter fruit in their rough conquerors. They had learned to believe in gods no more, save in him who had over-topped them all, their emperor; and in him the farce was but too transparent. And yet here was a word to get behind even such defences: for, if he knew not what was truth, he could know, at least, whether he was "of" it. And, if to be true were needful for such knowledge, was the lack of this, perhaps, what made truth appear such an unattainable thing?

3. Something, at least, makes Pilate uneasy; he stays for no answer, but goes off to the multitude, to declare that he can find no fault with Jesus. His business was, in that case, only to release Him; but he seeks compromise with his conscience, instead of yielding to it, and, in what seems to him a way of escape from a difficult situation, puts the whole matter into the people's hands. Thus he makes it almost impossible to return to the path of righteousness from which he has departed, and proclaims himself openly as not of the truth.

But the people reveal themselves in a worse fashion still, and do what even a Pilate believes impossible. It is this impossibility upon which he reckons, only to find that he has shut for himself the door of escape which he had hoped to find. They immediately avail themselves of the opportunity to show their preference of a robber and murderer to their own glorious King. We have noticed elsewhere how strangely yet significantly this name Bar-Abbas, "son of the father," comes in here. It was the Son of the Father, just as that, — whom they were refusing now; but of what father was this lawless one the son? A shadow it is, surely, of their awful apostasy to come, when they will receive him who comes in his own name, true child of the rebel and "murderer from the beginning" of whom the Lord had warned some before, in words which had cut deep into those who heard them, that they were the spiritual children. The works of their father they were indeed now doing.

Pilate, now in their hands, gives up Jesus to be scourged; hoping, however, as it would seem, by this according to his former proposal (Luke 23:22), to appease the people, that he might then release Him. In every compromise of this sort he only and miserably fails. John does not dwell upon all this: he mentions the scourging, the crown of thorns, the mockery of the purple robe; but these very briefly. By all this, Pilate vainly endeavors to awaken sympathy in behalf of the One whom again, to his own condemnation, he declares to be without fault. We may be sure, from his known character, he would have gladly found what would have justified him in pursuing with good will the course upon which he was now being urged unwillingly. Yet he emphatically reiterates that he finds no fault in Him. Israel it is who hound Him to the death; crying out what death, — the most cruel and ignominious one, — they have chosen for Him. "Take ye Him and crucify Him," Pilate answers" for I find no fault in Him." Then they bring out their real accusation: "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God." He must die, because He is what He is, and affirms it. He must die for the grace which has made Him become Man!

4. But Pilate is stricken again by such an accusation: for the legends of heathen superstition are revived at the suggestion, and he remembers, no doubt, that gods and sons of the gods had visited men, according to current beliefs, which he had perhaps too rashly discredited. Did He not carry Himself as if indeed divine? And there were other influences, as the dream of his wife, to make him tremble. He calls Him once more before him, and with an unaccustomed awe upon his spirit, asks Him, "Who art Thou?" He is not a weak man (save as the slave of his own lusts is weak); he is not easily moved to pity; nor is it pity now. He had mingled the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices, and could have trampled these Jews down now remorselessly, had he not been in hands for the moment stronger than his own. So the Lord plainly and compassionately tells him now. He would have had no authority at all against Him, had it not been given him from above. God, (though moved in a way far different from men,) God had delivered Him up; and, alas! the Jew had found in this his opportunity, misconceive it as he might, to pour out the enmity of his heart upon the very One of whom all the ages prophesied, and whom he had been prepared by the voice of heaven's messengers continuously uttered to expect. The Jew had then, indeed, a greater sin than Pilate's: the actual traitor was but the representative of his nation then.

5. Pilate is shaken more than ever by the Lord's words, and again seeks to release Him; but he is not master of himself, and cannot be of others. The Jews know the man, and know their opportunity, and bring to bear upon him an argument that makes him plastic in their hands at once. God is a possibility indeed, but Rome is a certainty, and nearer at hand. "If thou let this Man go," they cry, "thou art not Caesar's friend; every one that maketh himself a king declareth against Caesar."

"Pilate's playing with the situation," observes Lange, "is now past; now the situation plays with him. First he said — not asked, — What is truth? Now his frightened heart, to which the emperor's favor is the supreme law of life, says, What is justice?" He takes his place on the judgment-seat, therefore, and with what seems something between a taunt and a faint, final plea, says to the Jews, "Behold your King!" But they are only stung to madness: "Away! away with Him!" they cry, "Crucify Him!" "Shall I crucify your King?" he asks again; and now they are made in divine government to pass upon themselves the judgment under which they have ever since been lying: the chief priests answer, "We have no king but Caesar."

It was not the verdict of the Jews alone, and they have not suffered alone. The whole world has been lying under the yoke which they have preferred to the easy yoke of Christ. They have often got very tired of Caesar, — true; and, as we see by their fitful movements every now and then, would fain be rid of him. They are always crying, "Give us better government;" but all they can do is, with doubtful betterment, to divide him up into many little Caesars; better, as they think, because weaker, and with divided interests, so that the balance of power may secure the even weights of justice. That is still an experiment, some think; but this chronic war is never peace, not can be; and the reason is, men have refused the Prince of peace. Modify it, rename it, disguise it, as you please, the reign of Caesar is the only alternative.

The struggle on Pilate's part is ended; he consents to the people's verdict; the Lord of life is adjudged to death, — to the death of the Cross.

Subdivision 2. (John 19:16-42.)

Humbling Himself to the cross.

We have come now to the last step in this unequalled humiliation, — to the death of the Cross. We have seen the character of this in this Gospel to be that of the burnt-offering, which emphasizes on the one side His free obedience, on the other, our acceptance in the value of this. Both these will be found accordingly in what is before us now.

Section 1. (John 19:16-30.)

Obedience perfected.

The first section shows us then His obedience unto death completed. John's presentation of all this is unique, both in what he gives and in what he omits. Details are little dwelt upon: a few points are brought into prominence, every one of which has its manifest bearing upon the general presentation. The simplicity and depth that everywhere pervade the Gospel are nowhere more conspicuous than they are here.

1. First, He comes, bearing His cross, to Golgotha, the place of a skull, — the place of the kingdom of death. This is plainly what the world is because of sin, — death being the stamp of the government of God upon it. For this the Lord sought it: here His love to men brought Him; only He could lift this burden from them, and for this He must come Himself under it. Those two others whom we well know, to whom death is clearly such a penalty, are on either side of Him, and He in the midst. Penalty it is He is taking; Himself on the division line between the saved and the unsaved, the Transformer of death into that which effects the transition from penalty to Paradise.

2. He comes thus into death as King, — "King of the Jews," indeed, but which in its full rendering implies so much. It faces the Jew, the Greek, the Roman, affirming to each in his own language, with a positiveness which His enemies vainly strive to set aside, a meaning for each one. Here is indeed God's King, — King in death as in life, — here in a peculiar way affirmed; His Cross henceforth to be the very sign of His power, the sceptre under which they bow, in adoring homage.

3. Now we see what indeed recalls the burnt-offering. This was flayed, that all beneath might be exposed, and its perfection seen. So now they strip the Lord, and expose Him. Here, in this Gospel alone, His seamless robe is spoken of, in figure that robe of righteousness which in Him was indeed seamless, but which now human hands have stripped from off Him, giving Him the malefactor's place instead. But how fully is He displayed by it in a righteousness which glorifies the righteousness of God itself, by penalty owned and taken in grace for others! It is not relaxed or modified, as many would teach, but taken in its full intensity of suffering; which alone would maintain the perfect righteousness of it. But thus He has a righteousness acquired as Man, which as Man He needs not. It is not His personal obedience in life, but in stooping to that which, because of His righteous life, could be no due of His. Thus it remains for the lot (which refers the whole disposal of it to the Lord) to decide whose it shall be. God has decided that it shall belong to the man of faith; and so the best robe in the Father's house is reserved for the returning prodigal; keeping nearer to what is before us here, let us say, to those who pierced His hands and feet, or drove the spear into His blessed side.

4. Amid it all, He has still the human tenderness which shows unchanged the Man Christ Jesus. His mother, standing by His cross, He commends to the care of His beloved disciple, the spiritual link being more than the natural, even while the natural is being recognized. Here, with one exception in the first chapter of Acts, we part with Mary; she is not mentioned in the after-books. In all the doctrine of the epistles she has no place. Blessed among women as she is surely by her connection with the human nature of our Lord, the entire silence of Scripture as to her in that fulness of Christian truth which it was the office of the Spirit of truth to communicate is the decisive overthrow of the whole Babel-structure of Mariolatry which Romanism has built up upon a mere sand-foundation. She remains for us in the word of God, a simple woman rejoicing in God her Saviour, — a stone in the temple to His praise, and with no temple of her own. To use the grace of the Redeemer in taking flesh among us by her means to exalt the mother to the dishonor of Christ her Lord is truly a refined wickedness worthy of the arch-deceiver of mankind.

5. We find now the divine end reached, and as it only could be, by the divine way; the Lord Himself here declares the perfect accomplishment of all that Scripture has foretold, save one thing only, and in death, as in life, Scripture is for Him the authoritative word of the living God. As in the temptation He had refused to minister to His own need, apart from that by every word of which, He declared, man lives, so now, on the same principle, He makes known that need, not that it might be ministered to, but that Scripture might be fulfilled. He does not Himself fulfil it; God can be trusted to take care for that; but He gives utterance to the distress which will as uttered occasion the fulfilment. The terrible thirst of crucifixion is upon Him; but that is not enough to force the parched lips to speech; but it is written, "In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink:" this opens them. He will show Himself, as ever, in active obedience to the will of God, which He came to accomplish. He simply says, "I thirst:" and by the unsympathetic hands of those around His cross, the vinegar is tendered, and the prophecy fulfilled.

All is finished: and His own lips declare it. The very smallness, apparently, of this last matter cared for is absolute proof that no scripture whatever could be left as of no importance. The entire body of Old Testament prophecy is confirmed and certified with all the weight of Christ's authority. He had said before, "Scripture cannot be broken:" and we know exactly what for Him was "Scripture." Here, amid the intense sufferings of the cross, we see how completely He owned and was guided by it. That will of God which He came to do was here marked out for Him. The Law was in His heart; and in the very replacing of the Old Testament sacrifices by His one supreme sacrifice, (of which the psalm referred to speaks,) every part of this was honored and upheld. The Antitype necessarily confirmed the type He was displacing, and we have seen this in all the detail given us in the Gospels.

It is to His sacrificial work that the Lord undoubtedly has reference here. All scripture as to Himself was certainly not yet fulfilled; but the work of propitiation was accomplished, His words, of course, anticipating (as we have seen to be so much the character of the Gospel of John) the death which was now just before Him. The cup of wrath was, in fact, already drained, as the comparison of Mark and Luke fully assures us. The awful cry of forsaken sorrow which we find in the former has been already exchanged for the cry of "Father," with which the enjoyment of all that this endeared relationship implies has returned also. Death remains yet, before full atonement is completed; for death and judgment are the double penalty upon man. Death, however, is governmental, not the necessary expression of divine holiness as against sin. Men may, therefore, die in the full favor of God; while the wrath of God would be impossible to be felt by one enjoying it. Death and the cup of wrath were both taken by the Lord; the latter first, — death following to complete the work; and thus now, at the moment of death, the Victor's cry, "It is finished." (See Introduction pp. 26-28.)

So He delivers up His spirit to the Father. We do not find Him, as in Luke, actually saying, "Father;" and this would seem more suited an utterance in the Gospel of the Manhood, than here, where (though not exclusively) the Only-begotten is set before us. Yet it is, as we know, to the Father that He commends it. Here He does not commend it, but delivers it up; He has power over it, as mere man has not; and the expression is stronger in this respect than that in Matthew, where the proper rendering is that "He dismissed" it. The expression in each Gospel is in the most perfect accordance with the character of each.

Section 2. (John 19:31-42.)

The Witness of Salvation.

In the second section we have immediate witness to the salvation wrought; not the witness of men, as in the centurion in the other Gospels, but that of the divine word, that is, God's own testimony. This is what best suits John, as should be evident; the witness of the Spirit also being given in a special way: the Spirit, the water, and the blood unite together to declare that God hath given us eternal life: and this life is in His Son."

1. First, we have the testimony of His perfect righteousness: He is the One fulfilling absolutely the Psalmist's words as to the righteous (Ps. 34:20), that Jehovah "keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." The shield thrown over Him is made more manifest by the commandment given as to those crucified here, that their legs should be broken, and they should be taken away. This is carried out as to the two malefactors; but with the Lord, His work accomplished, men have no more power over Him; there must be now no marring of even the outward form that has enshrined the symmetry of the spirit within. But this connects also with the paschal ordinance concerning the lamb, that "they shall not break a bone of it." Here the rough, untutored hands of lawless men religiously respect the legal ordinance, and declare the Christ they know not the Fulfiller of this redemption type. It is a testimony to His Person, as the next to come before us is a testimony to His work. It is the unblemished lamb that can alone be offered, and therefore the order is perfect here as elsewhere.

2. That which is bidden is not done; while that which is not bidden is done: for all is under higher government than man's. The word of God rules everywhere among and by means of those ignorant and those hostile. The thrust of the soldier's spear certifies the death so necessary to us against all docetism, while the act of hatred brings forth the answer of divine love, — the certification of redemption wrought. Out of Christ, as the riven Rock, flow the streams of spiritual healing; not water alone, as the apostle comments for us, but water and blood. The miraculous nature of the flow is clear from the way that it is insisted on, — the positive truth of it reiterated, the observation of the beloved disciple certified to us in his epistle afterwards as the witness of the Spirit of God. We want, therefore, no naturalistic explanations of a divine work on our behalf, "that ye might believe." Cleansing as well as expiation for men requires the death of Christ. The fulness of spiritual meaning we must seek where the apostle develops it, in his first epistle.

Israel are yet to look upon Him whom they have pierced, as the evangelist reminds us; and then a fountain will be opened to them for sin and for uncleanness. When they find the rift in the Rock, they will find the stream that flows from it: for them as for us, out of the heart of Christ.

3. No wonder that His body is wrapped in the spices now. Soon to rise, as He is, yet His death abides ever in the remembrance of His own in sweet and sacred significance. Blessed it is to see the timid becoming bold under its influence. Nicodemus is here with his hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, to rival Joseph in his testimony of honor and affection for Him who has transformed death by His subjection to it. Only John mentions the great amount of spices, and that it is a garden in which is sown this seed of immortal life. While He is in the tomb, the Jews have their "preparation day," and a mockery of sabbath-rest. Of the reality of rest that has been wrought out for them, they are ignorant altogether.

Subdivision 3. (John 20, 21.)

The Apocalypse of Resurrection.

We may well entitle this last portion of the Gospel "the Apocalypse of Resurrection." No evangelist dwells upon this as John does. And though the cloud of unbelief is seen, which, in fact, clung to the disciples in these days of sorrow, and through which the glory dawning had to make its way, yet we are not allowed to be in the shadow of it, as is so much the case in Luke. We are not left so much at the threshold of the blessing, but conducted in. And thus, as it would seem, John, rather than Peter, is to abide with us, (though not, as the disciples thought, in personal presence, but in the truth committed to him) until the Lord's return.

Section 1. (John 20:1-10.)


The sabbath of the old creation passes in gloom and sorrow; the first day of the new week comes, and with it the First-born from among the dead, the Head of a new creation, abiding in the power of His immortal life. We have nothing of the futile guarding of the tomb, unworthy of record even here. The stone is rolled away; the sepulchre empty! No thought of the truth, however, flashes upon the mind of the early visitor who marks it all only as announcing a new calamity. They have taken her dead Lord out of the sepulchre; still and ever her Lord, though her heart be buried with Him. She runs with her burden of grief to pour it out to those as credulous in unbelief as she is; and Peter and John run back to the tomb, to find in the peace and order there the assurance that the absence of Christ's body from the place where reverent hands had laid it is not the work of man at all, but that He is truly risen from the dead. Scripture doctrine as to it they know of none: — only a resurrection at the last day, which was the orthodox faith that we have heard expressed by Martha. They themselves had questioned, as to what He had said about Himself, "what the rising from the dead should be." Still such a distinct special resurrection was a mystery to them; but the fact they were now convinced of: He was risen. They have thus lost interest in the sepulchre with its shadow, — still perplexed as they may be: — they go home.

But the first day of the week has found significance in a new beginning, beyond death which is the stamp upon the old creation, — the brand upon a fallen world. Man in Him has entered upon a new scene free from this; and they are linked with Him in it, though as yet they may not be able to define the place they have, or the nature of their link with Him. Nor have they as yet seen Him; nor has a word reached them from that unseen region into which He has entered.

Section 2. (John 20:11-18.)

Relationship in the new life.

They go home, cheered though perplexed, to await what needs must follow. But there is one who cannot leave the place where she had last seen (though in what circumstances of distress) her Lord and Saviour. She has followed back to the sepulchre the quicker steps of the two men: coming too late, as it would seem, to learn from them the confidence they had gathered. Her own sight is too much dimmed with irrepressible tears, to gather it where they have done. Of resurrection, save at the far-off end-time, she has no expectation. But her heart clings, with a tenacity that nothing can divert or weaken, even to the Dead, by whose death she is desolate, but who survives in those indestructible memories which support and sadly light her through the gloom. Now she stands weeping outside the sepulchre, and, stooping down, looks into it. Was it a sight to prepare her for what would else have been too overwhelming a joy? Two angels in white are sitting, one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. They sit in peaceful contemplation of the place now vacant, and ask why she should be weeping, and whom she was seeking there. Absorbed with her one object, however, she seems scarcely to recognize the strangeness of the vision, but answers with the same story she had brought to the disciples, that men had taken away her Lord! Then she turns away again on a quest from which the presence of angels cannot distract her, to find, though she knows it not, Jesus Himself before her.

Spite of her ignorance, — spite of the unbelief which was in that ignorance, — Mary it was who was to be the first witness of His resurrection, the first evangelist of the new order of things which is established by it. A woman's heart had anointed Him for His burial; and this He would proclaim wherever the gospel should go out. Now again a woman's heart, more devoted than His foremost disciples, is to carry, in the energy of its new-born gladness, the message that has gladdened it to these, and to become, as it were, the apostle to apostles! How it tells us of the way in which the heart becomes the leader of the mind into the truth of God, and of the displacement of mere officialism in the Christian order.

Yet, after all, how little had Mary appreciated the One she loved with such heart-felt devotion! and her unbelief it is that, as with those upon the road to Emmaus afterward, holds her eyes when at first she sees the so eagerly desired object. He has to repeat to her the angels' question, why she is weeping, and whom she is seeking there among the dead. Can she indeed be so dull? Can we alas, who have so much less excuse than Mary? How much of our sorrow which seems most to spring from our love of Him, is yet due in fact to our little appreciation of Him? Do we not also seek the Living One as if He were dead, and dishonor Him in our very worship of Him? Thus Mary repeats her wail to her unknown Lord Himself, and can take Him for the gardener, whose Voice had freed her once from the sevenfold power of the enemy which held her. Yet withal what a right she doubts not she has in Him, whom she seems to think the whole world must know at once: "Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away!" But the Good Shepherd calls His sheep by name, and they know His Voice. He recalls her to herself, and so to Himself: "Mary!" and her heart is at rest. "Rabboni," she says; that is, "Teacher!" How blessed to learn, at His feet, like this!

She learns, not only that He is risen, but of a relationship that His resurrection has brought His people into. He is not ashamed to call them "brethren," and in the recognition of that which His work has done for them, and which is theirs in the life they have in Him, He ascends to His Father and their Father, to His God and to theirs. Mary must not, therefore, think to hold Him, as her love would desire; while the purpose of God is revealing itself in fuller and higher blessing than ever known before.

He had never yet called His disciples "brethren;" although this was the fulfilment of what had been prophetically announced long since. The sin-offering psalm (Ps. 22), which so fully depicts the sufferings through which Messiah was to pass, gives us from the lips of the same Sufferer, when delivered, the assurance "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee." We have heard, accordingly, already that declaration of the Father's name, on which, in His final prayer before His betrayal, He so dwells. The relationship to Himself, and so to the Father, which is implied on their part, is only now for the first time explicitly made known. Himself as man the "First-born among many brethren," yet, except the Corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. Thus He is straitened till it be accomplished, and only now can the full reality be told out. As has been often noticed, He cannot, however, put them upon the same level with Himself. He does not say, "Our Father," but "My Father and yours;" He maintains the place which of necessity belongs to Him, while giving them their own upon the basis of this.

Section 3. (John 20:19-23.)

The heavenly company, and their spiritual endowment.

It is practically, therefore, as the First-born among many brethren that Mary's message announces Him. And now we find Him in the midst of the assembly, the blessing still enlarging as He declares it to them. There is nothing indeed about the Church in this Gospel, whether as the House of God or the Body of Christ. In John we have only the Family of God, as far as doctrine goes, the line of truth which is plainly in natural connection with that of eternal life so characteristic of the Gospel. With this is found that of the indwelling Spirit, which gives to the life itself, always belonging to the children of God, its "abundant" blessedness. These are the connected truths all through, which connect with every other. We shall find them in this closing portion as elsewhere.

The evening of the first day of the week is come, and the disciples are gathered together. Let us note that this is either not reckoned in the Jewish manner, or else it is the closing evening of the Jewish day, which was from the decline of the day to sunset. Sunset was thus "between the evenings," which was the time when the passover lamb was offered, as well as the daily evening sacrifice (Ex. 12:6; Ex. 30:8). At this time, then, were the disciples gathered; the doors being shut for fear of the Jews; the world being armed against the Prince of peace. But no shut doors can keep Him from His own; and presently He is among them: "Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." More than words, even of the Son of God, were needed to convey this. His word had created the worlds: but for redemption, He had said Himself, "the Son of man must be lifted up." That divinest work of all had been accomplished, and He can show them still the proofs of it in His hands and side. John says nothing of their unseemly fear, but of the joy into which it passed: "then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord."

And again He says, "Peace be to you," and sends them out into the world, to represent Him in it, as He had been sent into it to represent the Father. They belonged no more to it, as He had said to them before: — no more than He did. The world could not be at peace, nor those whose hearts were in it. They had been delivered from the corruption that was in it through lust, by the knowledge of Himself whom the world had rejected. Their portion was outside of it with Him: and thus they would be competent witnesses of that better part, and for Him who had enriched them with it from His voluntary poverty.

He follows these words with a significant action, breathing into them, and saying, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit;" with regard to which both the words and action have received various interpretation. We must, therefore, examine them with some care, the more because the symbolic action seems undoubtedly to point to something beyond the present capacity of the disciples to understand, — something, therefore, left to come to light afterwards. He does not Himself interpret His action, except the words accompanying are that interpretation. And this they can hardly be, much as they throw light upon it. We are left, therefore, to the natural significance of what is given us, seen in the light of truth revealed elsewhere, remembering that no parable can be authority for doctrine.

After all, the Lord's breathing into them carries us necessarily back to the in-breathing of God into the first man. The very word used here, and which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, is that used in the Septuagint for this primal act, by virtue of which Adam became a living soul. Here then should be a new beginning of life, which, as such, must be from God, but from God incarnate; and with this we are already familiar, as truth that He Himself has taught us, that "as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;" so that, "as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom He will" (John 5:21, 26). The Son is thus a true fountain of life for men, and, as the words declare, a divine life.

We cannot but connect this with a title given to the Lord, though not in John, of "Last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45): "The Last Adam is made a quickening Spirit." The contrast between the first and the Last, which we realize in His present action, is recognized and emphasized here. He is not Himself breathed into, as was the first man, but breathes into others. As the quickening Spirit, He communicates spiritual, divine life, such as we have seen to be the essential element in new birth. He is thus the Author of what is a new creation, higher in character than the old; and this is clearly what is symbolized in His present action.

Its place with reference to His work now finished is just as evident. He has told us already that, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Here, then, is this now from the other side declared. It is not, as sometimes put, a question of union, but of what is more fundamental than this. The fruit of the corn of wheat is that of life communicated, but which passes through what both the Lord and His apostle afterwards call "death" to produce it (John 12:24; 1 Cor. 15:36). It is now, therefore, that He takes openly the place of the Last Adam. Life must come to man out of death, and in no other way; for death is the penalty of sin, and he is a sinner. But thus also, as springing out of this, vicariously endured, it comes accompanied with the efficacy of atonement made: he who receives it "hath eternal life, and doth not come into judgment, but is passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). The fundamental truths of the Gospel of John are thus embodied in this inbreathing by the risen Saviour.

But then it is, necessarily, of something that His disciples have before received that He is speaking to them in it. The giving of life could not actually wait for His resurrection. The Cross, standing amid the ages, looks backward as well as forward. And the Lord, in speaking of His communication of the life in Him, takes care to assure us of this. "The hour is coming," He says, "and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). And when afterwards He speaks of what is (now) characteristic of eternal life, — that they "know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent," He declares at the same time that this knowledge they already had (John 17:6-8). There can be nothing plainer then, than that the Lord is not here communicating to His disciples what they had not received before, but that He is simply putting together in this symbolic manner things that were, in fact, already theirs. Every thing is emerging now from the obscurity of Moses' veil (2 Cor. 3:13) into the open glory of Christ's face unveiled.

Now when the Lord goes on to say in plain speech, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," it should be as plain that He is not interpreting the past, but speaking of something they had not yet received. The evangelist, when reporting to us His words at the feast of tabernacles as to the "living water," remarks that "this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive;" and then he adds, "for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Here, as far as words can show it, the same reception of the Spirit is spoken of. But here also a time is given before which the Spirit could not be received. Jesus must be first glorified, says the apostle. If, then, the Lord was not yet glorified at the time in which He uttered the words we are considering, these must still have had a reference to the future: that is, to that Pentecostal gift of the Spirit, to which, perhaps, we should be naturally inclined to refer them.

Now, when we remember the Lord's previous declaration that He must go away to the Father, or else the Advocate would not come to them (John 16:7), there can be no right question that this glorifying of Jesus was His being glorified with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5). The fact, then, that He was upon earth when now speaking to them would be sufficient proof that the reception of the Spirit, of which He was speaking was, in fact, Pentecostal. Yet it has been imagined even that the Lord had already ascended to the Father between the time when He had said to Mary that He had not yet done so and His being here in the midst! For, they say, He forbade Mary to touch Him, because not ascended, while here and elsewhere He freely permits it. But this is simply a misinterpretation of His words to Mary, and His going to the Father is always spoken of as implying His absence from His people during the present time. Such an imaginary ascension, for which not a single direct scripture can be quoted, and which would displace that which is always spoken of as such, cannot possibly, therefore, be maintained.

But, we are told by others, the article should be omitted in the Lord's words here, and therefore they intimate, not the Spirit as personally coming at Pentecost, but a bestowment of spiritual energy simply, which raises the life communicated to its proper resurrection power. We are not yet arrived where this question can be fully discussed, which can only be in Romans, but the lack of scripture for it is the most fatal objection. As to the absence of the article, it is absent also in that which was just now quoted from the seventh chapter, where we must read, according to this, "for Holy Spirit," or, as many read, simply "Spirit was not yet." But this would then deny the possibility of any such bestowment before the Lord's ascension. This would be altogether fatal to any such interpretation. Besides which, the Holy Spirit, (or, if it be preferred, simply Holy Spirit) cannot be shown to be anywhere identified with life, or any degree of it. I am aware that "the Spirit is life" (Rom. 8:10) may be cited against me; but that is plainly the personal Spirit. The only proper force of the words, therefore, is that the Spirit is life potentially, — is the Source of it, — to the children of God. The Spirit does not stand there for the life: nor for any grade or character of life; all the more surely, that it gives it character.

"Receive ye the Holy Spirit," means, then, simply what it says, and cannot be the interpretation of the inbreathing which precedes the words, and which do evidently speak of the giving of life; not, however, of a communication of it there and then, but of one they had already received, and by which they had become a new creation. Creation is not an increase of life, but a beginning of it, as is plain. They had received life, as we have seen, and eternal life. It is now seen as bringing them into new creation, delivering them therefore from the old; and so from sin and judgment, as connected with it. Now they are qualified to receive the Spirit, to be the power indeed of the new life as resurrection life, with the value of Christ's blessed work for God attaching to it.

Sin is thus for them put away: they belong to a Kingdom of life and not of death, and of righteousness as inseparably connected with this. They are to be representatives of this now upon earth, remitting or retaining sins in His Name, and by His authority; not, surely, in relation to heaven and its blessedness, as has been monstrously claimed by the false church; but in relation to the sphere of His earthly interests. This is a seal upon the higher blessing into which He has introduced them; the reception of the Spirit being their qualification for it, and the condition therefore implied that they act in the power of that endowment.

Section 4. (John 20:24-31.)

A glance at the earthly company.

Here then we have the heavenly company: — not exactly the Church; at least, not as the Body of Christ, or the House of God; things which are not in the line of the apostle's teaching. But the Spirit which they are to receive sufficiently marks them out as those who, in fact, belong to that which is the gathering together of the children of God, before scattered abroad (John 11:52). But we have seen also that John cannot forget (or the Spirit of God as speaking through him) that there are promises of blessing for the earth, and therefore to an earthly people, which He will fulfil in their entirety to them. We have had glances at this already, again and again, and now we have another. Thomas, called Didymus, (both names meaning "a twin,") though one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. We may easily believe that the unbelief which he so conspicuously exhibits, may have hindered his being with them at that memorable time. How many glorious opportunities do we not lose from such a cause? Not even the testimony of all the others is sufficient to make him credit so marvellous a tale. Like Israel, he must look upon the Pierced One, or he will not believe. The week passes, therefore, with Thomas unbelieving still; just as the present time with Israel. But on the eighth day, the first of the new week, the disciples are again together, and now Thomas is with them: Jesus comes once more, the doors again being shut, and stands in the midst, and says again, "Peace be unto you." And now Thomas may satisfy himself; but he is broken down in adoring wonder: "My Lord and my God!" he exclaims, as, thank God, at last the nation will; but to find that he has lost, not time alone, but the higher blessing: "Thomas," says the Lord, "because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

The apostle adds here that the object of his writing was to awaken and encourage faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; that thus men might have life in His Name. For this purpose, he had not attempted an impossible relation of all the signs that Jesus had done. These were innumerable: nor is a faith founded merely upon miracles a sufficient faith (John 2:23-25). His aim had been that the divine glory of the Lord should appear; so that His Name — the display of Himself, might prove its power for this, as it alone could do. Acquaintance with the Son of God! Ah, is not this, indeed, the need we have, one and all? is it not here all need shall be supplied?

Section 5. (John 21:1-14.)

Man as man — the Gentile — with God.

After the Jew is brought into blessing and the appearing of the Lord in their behalf, blessing will, as we know, go out to the nations, the judgments that are inflicted upon the world preparing the way for this, as the prophet says, "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). Restored Israel will then be the centre from which living waters will go forth to water the earth; and, as their casting away has been for the reconciling of the world, the receiving of them shall be, in the words of the apostle, "life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15). To this the closing scenes in this Gospel now carry us on, in what has evidently the character of a supplementary part. For, as another has remarked, here "we find ourselves upon the ground of the historic Gospels; that is to say, that the miracle of the draught of fishes identifies itself with the work of Christ on earth, and is in the sphere of His former association with His disciples. It is Galilee, not Bethany. It has not the usual character of the doctrine of this Gospel, which presents the divine Person of Jesus, outside all dispensation, here below; raising our thoughts above all such subjects. Here, at the end of the Gospel, the Evangelist comes for the first time on the ground of the synoptics, of the manifestation and coming fruits of Christ's connection with earth. Thus the application of the passage to this point is not merely an idea which the narrative suggests to the mind, but it rests upon the general teaching of the Word." (Synopsis.)

As in the final parable of the seven in Matt. 13 the net is cast into the waters of the nations, those of the disciples in one way or another most prominently connected with Israel being foremost among the fishers now. Thus Peter, the leading apostle to the circumcision, is conspicuous all through. Next to him, we have Thomas named, and then Nathanael, both typical representatives of Israel in the latter days. The connection of Nathanael with Cana of Galilee, where the water was made wine, is noted also for the first time. Only the sons of Zebedee are named besides. Peter leads, but there is unsuccessful toiling through the night, until with the morning Jesus stands upon the shore. Then at His "Cast the net upon the right side of the ship, and ye shall find," they do find, acting upon His word, a great multitude of fishes. Yet it is noted that the net holds together: "Christ's millennial work is not marred. … That which He performs does not rest on man's responsibility as to its effect here below: the net does not break. Also, when the disciples bring of the fish that they have caught, the Lord has some already there. So shall it be on earth at the end. Before His manifestation He will have prepared a remnant for Himself upon the earth; but after His manifestation He will gather a multitude also from the sea of nations;" which "the sea of Tiberias," bearing the name of the Caesar whom man has chosen for his king, may fitly image.

Peter, prominent all through, not only presents, as already said, the Jewish ministry which will be used in this, but it is to be remarked how in keeping with it is the work of restoration needed in his own soul. He also has denied his Master, as Israel has, and has to be brought back after such terrible failure, yet is put again into the place he might seem irretrievably to have lost.

Thus we see in this section man as man, apart from all covenant privilege, brought to God. Judgment itself will work out the purposes of grace; and thus also will it be seen that grace truly reigns: although that which is for God a "strange work" must still, alas! have its place, as we shall see clearly in the day that comes.

Section 6. (John 21:15-19.)

Peter; the shortened Jewish Ministry.

What follows now to the end of the Gospel takes a different turn. In it we may see, not obscurely, the foreshadow of the passing away of the ministry to the circumcision, Peter being still the representative of this, in contrast with John, who in his covers the whole interval until Christ's return. This requires to be looked into, however, while upon the surface may be seen the instructive history of a soul exercised under the tender but searching eye of Christ, — the exemplification of that process of cleansing to have part with Him, which He Himself has depicted for us under the symbol of feet-washing. This is fully in the line of John's special teaching, and its importance may well claim from us most earnest consideration.

The searching of Peter's soul which comes now before us is not the first step by any means towards his recovery. Evident as this is, it needs to be emphasized because of a very general mistake that is made with regard to it. The Lord's words to him in view of his sin, not yet committed, disclose, on the other hand, that which is the fundamental need of one who has fallen as he had. "I have prayed for thee," says He, "that thy faith fail not." With our hand in His, in the self-distrust which is the fruit of true self-knowledge, we should he surely guided and safely guarded. In Peter we see, at the very time when the Lord's warning words are uttered, the indications of his danger: "Though all should be offended," he says, "yet will I never be offended. I am ready to go with Thee to prison and to death." This is a condition which not only exposes one to fall, but for which the fall itself may be the only remedy. We have to learn that when we are weak only are we strong; and that Christ's strength is made perfect in weakness. Peter's case is a typical one; and thus it is so valuable for us. The Lord Himself, in such a case as this, cannot pray that Peter may not fall, but that he may be "converted" by it, — turned from that dangerous self-confidence to consciousness of his inability to trust himself, even for a moment. Here Satan is foiled and made to serve the purpose of that grace which he hates and resists. He can overpower this self-sufficient Peter; but only to fling him for refuge upon his omnipotent Lord. Just as "the messenger of Satan to buffet" Paul works for what he in no wise desires, to repress the pride so ready to spring up in us, and which the lifting up to the third heaven might tend to foster. Here there had been no fall, and all was overruled for fullest blessing; in Peter's case, on the other hand, Satan's effort would be to assail the fallen disciple with suggestions of a sin too great to be forgiven, — or, at least, for restoration to that eminent place from which it would be torture to remember he had fallen. What he needed to meet this was faith; and this, therefore, the Lord prays might not fail with him.

How careful is He to revive and strengthen in the humbled man the practical confidence so needful! The knowledge of it all given him before-hand, — of the prayer made for him, — of the exhortation addressed to him when restored, to "strengthen his brethren," — all this would be balm indeed for his wounded soul; but even this was not enough for his compassionate Lord. The first message of His resurrection has to be addressed specially "to Peter," (Mark 16:7,) and "to Cephas" himself He appears, before the twelve (1 Cor. 15:5). Thus he will not shrink back when they are all seen together. When we find him now at the sea of Tiberias, it is easy to realize that all this has done its work. Told that it is the Lord who is there upon the shore, he girds on his outer garment, and casts himself into the sea, impatient to meet his Lord. But now it is he is ready, only now, for that so necessary dealing with his conscience, when his heart is fully assured. On the shore a fire of coals is burning, the only other time when we read of such a thing beside being when he had warmed himself at a similar one at that time which he never will forget. Yet it would seem as if Christ had forgotten it. He adds no word, but makes him sit down there in company with Himself and it, — a silent preacher, not the less effectual.

They have dined, and now the living Voice begins. Where does it begin? where the preacher to his conscience left it? No; not a word of this. Nothing is said for a moment about this fall; there is no charge, — scarcely, one would say, a reminder — of what the preacher before had taken for his text. A quiet and a tender question it is now, and from One whose love has been more and more rising upon him, till now it is full day, brightness and warmth together. "Simon, son of Jonas," says the Voice now, with its familiar and yet ever growing fulness of meaning for him, "Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?"

One cannot help but see that the Lord is recalling to Peter, and yet not as if He would recall them, his fervent but boastful words, that, though all should be offended, yet he would not be. He will not charge him with them, but only let him himself recall them in the light of what deeper knowledge he has acquired, that he may now give judgment as to them. But Peter simply declines the comparison. He is content with affirming his love, though not in the terms of the question put: The Lord cannot allow it, therefore, to rest there, but repeats His question in a briefer and more pointed way. Peter again affirms, and again the Lord presses him upon his own chosen ground; and now Peter's heart bursts out: "Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." This threefold repetition connects Peter's boastful affirmation with his repeated denials in the high priest's palace. Root and fruit are connected together, so that he may the better trace that connection, and Peter's answer testifies of the omniscience that has searched him out. "Lord," he says, "Thou knowest all things!" but that only deepens the conviction that while he had signally failed to manifest his love in outward act, yet He who knew all could read it in his heart.

The Lord's questions vary, however, more than we have yet taken into account. In the first two He uses a different word for "love" from that which He uses the third time, but which is that which Peter uses throughout. The latter is the term for affection, ardent and heartfelt, but, it may be, unintelligent and unappreciative also. The former is a love guided and sanctioned by a deliberate judgment. Both terms are used in a bad sense as well as a good, and the more discriminating and deliberate love is, the worse it is, if set upon evil. Yet this intelligent love which can give a reason to itself is otherwise the higher quality. It is the love of the spirit, as Scripture would put it, as Peter's word expresses that of the soul; and although the Father is said in both ways to love the Son, yet when it is said, "God is Love," the word used is necessarily the former.

The Lord then uses this higher term first, and descends afterwards to the lower, thus searching out Peter more and more. In the first place too, He adds, "more than these do," (the other disciples,) but then asks, "Dost thou love Me?" as if He would say, "at all?" And when Peter still urges his, "Thou knowest I have affection for Thee;" He at last takes him up even there, and asks, "Hast thou affection for Me?" Then the disciple's heart gushes out. Even this slighter "affection," alas! might be questioned now: — for had not mere friend braved and done more for friend than he for his Lord and Saviour? Yes, but He who knew all things would not judge him as men might. He dares not now say that he loves more than others — dares profess nothing as to the quality of his love at all: let the Lord judge, who would not too severely; — who has not been driven from him by all that He has seen in him: yet, be it what it may, he has affection.

His self-judgment is complete. Searched out under the divine eye, he is found and owns himself, not better but worse than others, so self-ignorant that he cannot claim quality for his love at all; only something he is conscious of, which even so, in his utter failure to manifest it, omniscience alone might see.

The needed point is reached, the strong man converted to weakness is now fit to strengthen his brethren; and, as Peter descends step by step the ladder of humiliation, step by step the Lord follows him with assurance of the work for which he is destined. "Feed My lambs," He says, "tend My sheep," "feed My sheep." He, the faithful Shepherd, who could give His life for them, could yet confide these sheep, so dear to Him, into the hands of this humbled, ruined man. How sweet and assuring this grace to Simon Peter, as to us all! Now indeed he answers to his name: he is the "hearkener, son of the Dove," and is risen out of the ruin which will yet abide with him in cherished memory for ever. God, who is the God of resurrection, has performed this.

But the Lord does not even stop here. He goes back to that fervent protestation that Peter is ready to follow Him to prison and to death. He has missed his opportunity, but he shall retrieve it yet, and show what divine grace has indeed made Christ to be to him. Sealing it with His strong manner of affirmation, He declares, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldst; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not." "This spake He," says he who had been witness of it, "signifying by what death he should glorify God. And, when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me."

In the strength of nature he had not been competent. Mere flesh and blood will ever fail in the battles of the Lord. Yet He who has enjoined upon us the taking forth the precious from the vile, knows how to discern amid whatever may be mingled with it that which is truly of Him. Peter shall regain his lost opportunity, and yet have the privilege accorded him of dying for his Saviour. As a veteran in such warfare, he shall die upon the battlefield, and follow Christ through the gateway by which He left the conflict for the eternal joy.

It is in the contrast with John which follows we are made to realize that Peter is here also the representative of that ministry to the circumcision which was, as we know, in a principal way committed to him. That ministry ended as a distinct thing with the scattering of the people when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Romans. The times of possible restoration held out to them by the reception of the Crucified One, lengthened out by the longsuffering mercy of God for many years, though more and more realized as hopeless, was then ended in terrible judgment. Henceforth to the end of the times of the Gentiles, as our Lord announced, Jerusalem would be trodden down by them. While it is, of course, true that the gospel goes out to men everywhere, without distinction of persons, and that only "blindness in part" is happened to Israel, the nation as such is for the present set aside. The testimony characteristic of the time of God's longsuffering is therefore set aside also.

Section 7. (John 21:20-25.)

John completing the interval till the coming of Christ.

We come now to the Lord's words as to John, which have for us a deeper concern. Peter, turning about, sees John following; and with a natural, but perhaps too merely human interest, asks, "Lord, and what as to this man?" He answers, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me." This saying, we learn, though put only in the form of a question, was taken by the disciples as intimating that that disciple therefore would not die; but that this was not really what the Lord had said. The apostle who writes this, and of whom it is written, knew apparently no more than the rest: he simply guards against what might be a misconception. That is impossible now; but it leaves the question for us still, what then did the Lord mean? Was it only a rebuke to Peter? Either it is that, or there must be, one would say, some way by which John could live on, other than personally, and which may explain the mysterious words.

It is simple enough to say that John lives on in his writings. But then it might be urged, that is only what all the inspired writers will; still it cannot but come to mind that, in fact, John's writings not only predict circumstantially the Lord's return, but stretch over all the intervening time till then. While he does not take us up into heaven, as Paul does, and show us our place in the glorified Man up there, yet all the more he seems to abide with the people of God on earth until dhrist's return, as a human presence watching and caring for them. John may be thus truly said to be waiting with those on earth for his absent Lord in a way in which we could not speak of any other inspired writer.

Even his epistles declare the last time to be here, and while watching over the development of the life (which is, as we know, his great subject) in babes, young men, and fathers, gives them instruction as to Antichrist. His doctrine, in the Gospel and epistles, is a connecting link between Paul on the one hand, and those who treat of the practical walk, as do the writers of the other General Epistles. But he fills this, as no other, with the personal glory of Christ, the Only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father.

He is thus really a conservative presence: binding Scripture and the brotherhood of Christians also into a unity that is power to "abide," — a favorite word of his, and which the Lord uses as to himself. We need not wonder to read upon his golden belt the words which most of all are fundamental to a unity of life, a living unity, —

Light, and Love!

The apostle closes his Gospel with another reminder of the inadequacy of all human words to tell out His glory, of whom he has been speaking. If it were attempted to tell out all, the world would be unable to contain the books that would be written. It would be an impracticable load to lift, rather than a help to clearer apprehension. How thankful we may be for the moderation that has compressed what would be really blessing to us into such a moderate compass! which yet, as we all must know, develops into whatever largeness we may have capacity for. Our Bibles are thus the same, and quite manageable by any. On the other hand, are we burning to know more? we may go on without any limit, except that which our little faith or heart may impose. May God awaken our hearts to test for themselves the expansive power of Scripture, and whether we can find a limit anywhere! Like the inconceivable immensity of the heavens, ever increasing as the power of vision is lengthened, we go on to find that the further we go only the more does the thought of infinity rise upon us; but this infinity is filled with an Infinite Presence; in every leaf-blade, in every atom, yet transcending all His works; and "to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him."