Jesus Showing Himself

An address at Windsor, Ontario, Canada, March 10, 1926, on John 20:11-31; 21:1-14

John's Gospel gives to us the resurrection and the results of the resurrection on the very highest possible plane. In each Gospel we see that side of resurrection truth that is in keeping with the character of the Gospel, but John sets the disciples, and us, for they represented the whole Christian company, in an association with Christ, as risen, that the other writers do not give us. It has often been pointed out that on these three occasions in which the Lord showed Himself to His disciples, we have first, a pattern of the assembly — truth specially applicable to the present period of time; then Israel gathered and blessed, as typified in the interview with Thomas; then the gathering of the nations, as seen in the great draught of fishes. I do not for a moment question that that is so, but that is not my line of thought tonight. What I want to press is the way in which Jesus showed Himself to His disciples. It is HIMSELF that I want to bring before you, in the incomparable grace that He manifested here.

In the first instance given to us, we have the Lord Himself in what I might call the most intimate circle — His own circle — the circle of His saints gathered together. His disciples ought to have remembered His word, that on the third day He would rise again from the dead, and they ought to have been assembled outside of the sepulchre to greet Him with songs of triumph, as the Victor from the dead. But their faith had all but failed, and their hopes they thought had been blasted, and they were filled with despair. They were not there, and the Lord had to spend a very busy day seeking them out and restoring their faith and souls in order to gather them together. There was Mary. He had, first of all, to drive the sorrow from her loving, broken heart, to show her that there was no cause for tears, but every cause for laughter and triumph. There was poor, burdened, conscience-stricken Peter. The Lord thought of backsliding Peter, He knew the shame and sorrow that filled him, and graciously He sought him, for He loved him, and He did not want him to be an absentee at the evening's meeting. There were those two who, disconsolate and discouraged, were returning to their home in Emmaus. The Lord took that long journey with them to bring them back to Jerusalem. What a busy day He spent in His loving service! Think of those nail-pierced feet following those wandering disciples until He reached them, and then think of Him speaking to them with such tenderness and patience, coming down to their ignorance and unbelief to remove it all and to make their heavy hearts to burn. The Lord laboured that day for His own; they were His great thought, and His labour was not in vain, they were ready in the evening, and in the evening when they were ready, He was there with them. Think of Him showing Himself like that to His disciples and in showing Himself to them He is showing Himself to us, so that we might know what kind of a Saviour and Lord we have. Do not we dishonour and grieve Him many times by doubting Him? Then we often continue to grieve Him by thinking that our failure is too great for His grace.

They were gathered together in the evening of the day. He had made Mary His messenger. To her He revealed what up to that point had not been revealed to anyone else. He found her without the sepulchre weeping, distressed and desolated at His absence, and to that affectionate heart Jesus revealed Himself. Then He imparted to her the most wonderful message that mortal lips ever carried: "Go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God."

We do not get this in the other Gospels. It is the great revelation that John gives us. The Lord had said before His death: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" There were great things in His heart, but He could not speak of these things until after His death. But now that death had taken place, and resurrection was a fact, He keeps nothing back, He makes haste to tell all that is in His heart. "Except a corn of wheat fall to the ground and die, it abides alone," He had said. If He had not died, He would have been alone for ever — alone as the Object of the Father's love — alone in His Father's bosom. He would have had no companions to share that eternal favour and love with Him. But in resurrection He has brought forth many grains — much fruit. The disciples were the beginning. You and I have come into it. He addresses us and says, "My brethren." That does not mean that He has come down to our level, but that He has brought us up to His. Let no one of us call Him "elder Brother." The only one who is spoken of as "elder brother" in Scripture is the disgruntled and graceless son of Luke 15. We bow down before Him and say, "My Lord and my God," and yet, matchless grace, He is not ashamed to call us "brethren." That is because He has lifted us up to His level and given us His own life and nature. You, young Christian, you have the same life and nature as Christ, the risen Christ. He has imparted this to you. The flesh is still within you. Sin is still within you. But you have got that which neither sin nor death can touch. You have got that which is eternal, for eternal life is yours; it is the life of the risen Christ. This never could have been if He had not borne all the judgment that your old sinful life deserved. It passed under God's unsparing judgment when Jesus died that you might be united to Him in this new life. He looks upon us with infinite tenderness — with infinite love — and He says, "My brethren." That means that His Father is our Father, that His God is our God, as He said, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." This is different from that which we get in Matthew's Gospel, "Our Father which art in Heaven." There "our Father" had to do with our needs in this world. He is caring for us in our earthly circumstances, numbering the very hairs of our head.

But this is something else. It is not a Father's care that is in question. Here no question of need arises, but we are brought into the very relationship with God in which His Son stands, to find our heart's full satisfaction there. The love of the Father is upon us, and not only upon us, but He would have it to be in us — that it might be the deep and continuous experience of our hearts. This wonderful message gathered the disciples together, and there they were in that upper room; the doors shut for fear of the Jews. Despised people they were — "the things that are not." But to them Jesus comes, He Himself stands in the midst. And being there He gives to that company His own dignity. The glory had left the Temple, that magnificent structure was of no account in Heaven's eyes; instead the glory was there in the midst of those Galilean fishermen, they were the companions of the Son of God, and though the world did not see it, those simple fishermen gathered there in the presence of the Lord were greater in the eyes of Heaven than the angels. They were His companions, His brethren. It is upon this plane that the assembly of God stands. When we come together in the truth of the assembly, we do not come as saved sinners exactly, but we come as the brethren of Christ.

What matchless grace, what incomparable love is here — Christ in the midst of His brethren! His love cannot endure any distance; He wants His loved ones near to Him. The story of Joseph and his brethren illustrates it. Often it has moved our hearts. He said to his brethren, "Come near to me." So the Lord stretches out His hands to us as His brethren, and He says, "Come near to Me." And when they came near, Joseph kissed all his brethren, and wept over them. He had no favourites. He treated them all alike. He kissed all his brethren. Then they talked with Him. It seems to me that when we come together and take the Lord's supper together the Lord puts anew the kiss of His love upon us, and makes us thoroughly at home with Him, and we are able to talk with Him. Oh, blessed, wonderful privilege!

He said, "Peace be to you." It was His first word to them. God is not the author of confusion. He is the Author of Peace. If every eye is fixed upon Christ there will not be discord, but peace. Where the presence of Christ is realized, and His supremacy in the midst acknowledged, there will be peace. I would like to press this upon you. He came into the world and the world would not have Him, and Israel rejected His rightful claims as King. He was cast out — cast out of Jerusalem, which was His own city. His rights were utterly denied, but in resurrection life He comes into His own circle. There was a spot where He could be supreme — where His rights were acknowledged. The assembly of God is the place where the rights of Christ are recognized and maintained. If you will show me a company of saints that maintains the rights of Christ, I will show you a company that in character is the assembly of God. The assembly is the spot where His rights are maintained — a circle where He can do exactly as He pleases.

No man says "Lord" truly except by the Spirit of God. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord," we read. It does not say, "When they saw Jesus." Of course the Lord is Jesus, and Jesus is the Lord, but they were glad when they saw the Lord. They recognized His supremacy, and yielded a complete allegiance to Him. Do we recognize His supremacy, not merely in our individual lives, but when we gather together? He is not said to be Lord of His assembly. He is Head of it, but He as Lord in it as 1st Corinthians shows us. I have heard of people talking of their right to do this and that in the meetings, their right to take the Supper, to minister, to do what they please and be there when they please; as though the assembly were a great democracy where every man could do that which is right in his own eyes, or where the will the majority rules. It is not so. It is an autocracy. One mind alone must guide and govern there, and that mind the mind of the Lord. If you talk about your rights in the assembly, you do not know the first thing about it. No one has any rights in the assembly but Christ Himself. Every heart must be subject to Him, and there can be no practical unity in the truth apart from that, no fellowship according to God. There will be unity in heaven, but why? J. N. D.'s beautiful hymn explains it:

"Every knee to Jesus bending,

All the mind in heaven is one."

And in that company of saints, wherever they are, where every knee bends to Jesus, there is one mind now, and that is not the mind of this leading brother or of that influential lady; it is the mind of Christ.

But how did these disciples know it was the Lord? He showed Himself to them. But how? He showed them His hands and His side. That was how they knew Him. He revealed Himself to them in His love, His wonderful love. He had suffered for them, and He bore in His body the marks of His suffering. That was how they knew Him. He exercises His supremacy in the assembly in perfect love. What is it that gives Him the right to be supreme in the midst of His saints? Those pierced hands and the wounded side! He has the right, of course, to be supreme everywhere, for He is the eternal God, but it is those wounded hands and that pierced side that give Him supremacy in His church beyond all question. He is supreme in His love. Did He not say to His disciples, the One who serves most is the one who loves most, and he is the greatest? Ah, He has served us even to death, and His suffering and self-sacrificing love gives Him the supreme place. You may be sure that on that resurrection day, Peter was not looking to John, or John to Peter. Every eye was looking at the Lord, and the disciples were glad, not when they saw Peter restored, but when they saw the Lord. None of them would want to be greater than the other that day. He alone would be great in their eyes.

I pass on to the next showing. Thomas was not with the disciples on the first Lord's Day, but when they came together again, he came with them, but it was with a very unbelieving heart. How will the Lord bring that stubborn, faithless disciple into a right frame of mind? He brings him into contact with His wounded body: "Come hither, Thomas," He says; "reach hither thy hand. Behold the wounds in My hands. Thrust thy hand into My side, and be not faithless but believing." It was as though He said, "Those wounds were for you. Come near to them, Thomas, see what My love has done for you. Do not doubt Me. Do not stand coldly by with heart of stone. I want you near to Me to know what I have suffered for you. Be not faithless but believing." Oh, this has something to say, surely, to each individual heart. If you have become cold — if Divine things have lost their lustre and reality to you — if a distance has come in between you and the Lord, and if you are not as warm as you used to be, what do you need? You need to come afresh into the realization of what Jesus suffered for you. You need to reach forth your hand afresh and be brought again into contact with His wounded hands and His side. Say, "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me," and it will bring you where it brought Thomas — prostrate on his face at his Master's feet. It will make you cry as he cried, "My Lord and my, God!" The Lord bring Himself before every one of us in this tender, blessed way, and show us again the story of His love written upon His blessed body — written in the wounds that He still bears and that He endured for our sakes.

Then we have the third time that He showed Himself, and "on this wise showed He Himself to them." Take notice, that the Spirit of God very specially emphasizes this. The disciples went out fishing without any direction from Him, and they toiled all through those long, weary hours and caught nothing, and when morning began to dawn, Jesus Himself stood upon the shore, and He speaks to them. His gracious voice sounds in their ears. He says, "Children, have you any meat?" "Children!" What does that mean? It meant that He cared for them. Children are dependent upon someone else. Children do not provide their own breakfast, it is there for them when they awake. "Children," He said, "have you any meat?" They. said, "No." He said, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and the disciple whom Jesus loved said, "It is the Lord." They come ashore, awed and abashed. And to their astonishment they find a fire there, a fire lighted by His own hands, and bread and fishes laid thereon, all ready for them. This is how He showed Himself to them. He knew they were cold, so He lighted a fire. He knew they were hungry, so He prepared them a breakfast. He knew they were timid, so He invited them to come and dine. It was as though He said to them, "Why do you doubt Me? I am just what I used to be." Many and many a time He had prepared their breakfast before His death. He arose a great while before it was day to meet their needs, and when they arose, their breakfast was ready for them, for He was among them as their Servant (Luke 22). It was as though He said, "My heart is just the same. I have just the same care for you as ever I had. Death and resurrection have not changed Me." And He showed Himself thus that we might see and know Him. He is the same to us, to you, burdened and troubled believer. Why do you doubt Him? He knows your needs. He knows all the difficulties of the way. Every trial He is acquainted with, and He shows Himself on this wise to you. He is equal to every difficulty. He is alive to every need. Arising up a great while before it is day, He is prepared for your need when it arises. He is up before you, and if you got up hours before you usually do, He would be there! And if your needs began with your waking moment, and were ten thousand times greater than they are, there would still be the grace to meet them. Your need will never get ahead of the Lord and His grace. How blessed it is to see the risen Lord, the Conqueror of death, showing Himself on this wise to His disciples, so that they might henceforth trust Him! That they might say to one another: "These are great difficulties, in which we are, but we must not doubt Him. Do you remember how He lighted the fire, prepared the bread and fish, so that we might be warmed and fed? Do you remember the tender way in which He invited us to sit down, and then served us, our risen Lord? Served us with the pierced hands — gave us the bread and fish, and was our Servant in resurrection just as He was before He died?"

Oh, the Lord grant that, as He shows Himself to us, our hearts may be awakened; that we may be alert that our eyes may see, that our hearts may adore Him; that we may never doubt Him, but that He may be everything to us! The Lord grant it for has Name's sake