Studies in the Gospel of Christ according to John, 7
THE LIGHT SHINES
Abd al-Masih and Colleagues
(John 18:15 - 21:25)
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061 Ė Version 16.2.2004
English Title: The Light Shines in the Darkness, 7 - John 18:15 - 21:25
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2.† Jesus questioned before Annas and Peter's threefold denial (John 18:15Ė21)
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus, 16 while Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The maid who kept the door said to Peter, "Are not you also one of his main disciples?" He said, "I am not." 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
John and Peter followed Jesus by night at a distance. Since John was related to the High Priest, he was able to enter into the court of the priests freely. Peter was unable to do so, because the door was guarded by servants.
John felt the turmoil in Peterís heart, standing in the darkness by the door. Wanting to help him, John spoke for him with the maid keeping the door. She was not wholly convinced and queried Peter, "Are you not also one of that personís disciple?" He replied, "Not I", and he behaved as if he knew nothing, and had no part in the matter, after which he tried to warm himself by the fire, as it was cold.
19 The high priest then questioned about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said". 22 When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" 23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
The preliminary investigation was not about Jesusí guilt, his personality and the claims he made. It was about his disciples and the method of his teaching. At that time, there were many secret societies. The investigators wanted to find out speedily, whether there was a danger of unrest on the part of his followers, so that they might quell any revolt.
Jesus denied the existence of any such society, rather they knew that he taught openly during the day in synagogues, and in the temple itself, where many came to hear. If the leaders had wished to know him honestly, they could have resorted to his venues and heard the details of his sayings and his call. In this way Jesus responded to the old high priest without fear. All of a sudden, one of the servants, anxious to curry favor with the high priest, struck Jesus. Jesus did not hit back or show anger. At the same time he did not minimize the gravity of the crime, but challenged the felon to state the reason for the injury. Since Jesus was innocent, the servant needed to apologize and show repentance.
This challenge was indirectly addressed to Annas, for he was responsible for the servantís behavior. He had permitted the offense. This kind of charge is made today against anyone who strikes another without just cause, or permits his followers to intimidate the innocent. Our Lord loves those of little account and says, "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me".
After Annas had noticed that Jesus did not submit to his threats, but rather stood as himself the judge and questioned him about truth and justice, he sent Jesus to his son-in-law Caiaphas, the wily fox, to be rid of that problem.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, "Are not you also one of his disciples?" He denied it and said, "I am not". 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" 27 Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.
Caiaphas questioned Jesus regarding his disciples. Two of them were standing in the courtyard, but did not confess to being the Lordís followers. Peter in the light of the flames appeared to be foreign, and the servants had their doubts as to his links with Jesus. Again Peter answered tritely, "No, No".
One of those who suspected him made such an accusation. So all glared at him, and he became heated, especially when one of the servants said, "I know you; I saw you in the garden". Danger reached a climax, for the speaker was a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut. John does not detail the curses Peter uttered or his denial of Jesus, but he verifies Peterís cowardly conduct, unworthy of the leading apostle.
The cock-crow was like a bugle sound of judgment in Peterís ears. Jesus had not found any disciple willing to follow even to death. All of them either fled, sinned, lied or denied him. Nor does John tell us of Peterís tears or repentance, but John highlights the peril of denying our Lord. The cock crew three times to alarm Peter. God grant us a cock to crow every time we lie or fear to confess our Lord. The Spirit of truth wishes to descend on us. Ask Jesus for a truthful tongue and upright heart and a sound mind.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you, because you are Truth, Patience and Majesty. Forgive us all manner of lies and exaggeration. You bore the bonds of mankind, bind us by your Spirit, so that our tongues may not utter lies any more. Root us in your truth, and teach us to witness in your name, humbly, wisely and resolutely.
QUESTION 111: What was the relationship between Jesus and Peter during the interrogation before Annas?
3.† The civil trial before the Roman governor
†††† (John 18:28 Ė 19:16)
a)† The charge against Christ's royal claims (John 18:28-38)
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the Praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" 30 They answered him, "If this man were not an evil-doer, we would not have handed him over". 31 Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." 32 This was to fulfill the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.
Some Jews thought of killing Jesus as early as when he cured the paralytic at Bethesda (5:18), whereas the majority of the Jewish leaders secretly decided that he must die after the raising of Lazarus (11:46).
On Thursday night two important sittings of the Council were arranged, not mentioned by John (Matthew 26:57-67 and 27:1). These Jewish details were of little concern to Greek readers, but John did stress the unjust sentence on Jesus, passed by the representative of Roman justice, Pilate, in the military barracks overlooking the temple. He alone had the right to execute or exonerate.
Those Jews who had recognized their Lord, drew back for fear of pollution, should they enter a Gentile residence. They wished to preserve their ritual holiness, to participate in the Paschal Lamb with their kin, whereas they slew the true Lamb of God.
During this crucial period, when Jesus was arrested, radical changes took place in Pilateís life. One of his colleagues, a Roman general, was dismissed by Caesar for planning a rebellion. This general was anti-Jewish, and the plot was uncovered by Jews. As a result Pilateís authority was weakened unlike his previous contempt for them and his harsh treatment of them.
After the Jews had brought Jesus to Pilate, the governor went out to them quickly to enquire about their demands. He did not spend much time discussing but understood the gist of their complaints. Pilateís attitude to Jesus was expressed by a wry smile Ė a king without arms or troops, entering Jerusalem on an ass was no danger to Rome. But he agreed to the Jewish demands, giving way to their insistence. He had already placed an officer at their disposal with his company, to help in Jesusí arrest. The operation worked: The prisoner was there at his mercy. Yet Pilate asked, "What is he guilty of doing?".
The Jewish elders implicitly declared: You know what we said about him earlier. This man is a political criminal with rebellious aims. We need not add more. We have not come for a visit officially representing the Jewish people. We have come to demand his death, so that the people may not be stirred up.
Pilate knew about Jewish whims and prejudices, and knew the charge had to do with their law, and their expectation of a powerful Messiah. Jesus had said and done nothing criminal in Roman law. So again, he delivered Jesus to them, asking them to judge him according to their own law.
At that time, the Jews had no right to stone those who transgressed the Law. They aimed at humiliating Jesus by a public trial at the hands of the Romans, who were regarded as unclean. So the harshest penalties inflicted on slaves and felons would fall on him Ė to be lifted onto the "cursed tree". This would imply that Jesus was not the Son of God, the Strong and Righteous One, but rather he was weak and a blasphemer. Caiaphas meant him to die on the cross at the hands of the Romans to prove he was no Messiah, but an usurper and deceiver.
33 Pilate entered the Praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from this world.
The soldiers placed Jesus inside the barracks. When Pilate had heard the accusations of the Jews, he also wanted to hear Jesusí defense directly by mouth. Pilate did not trust the utterances of the Jews, but to proceed legally he asked Christ, "Are you the King of the Jews? I have seen other Messiahs armed to the teeth, with black beards and glaring eyes. You are not a fighter or a terrorist. You seem to be a miserable person, meek and humble, how can you aspire to Kingship? A king requires authority, power and ruthlessness."
Jesus felt that Pilate doubted his claim to kingship and asked, "Did your troops tell you that my disciples fought with them by night, or did your informers hear me making political speeches, or is your question based on Jewish lies alone? A governor should not listen to false charges."
Pilate replied angrily, "Am I a Jew?" As if to say, "I will not stoop to the level of those stubborn bigots, arguing about the points of religion night and day."
So Pilate admitted that it was not he who had arrested Jesus, but the Jewish people, their leaders and the nationalist. Then, he asked briefly, "What did you do? I need an answer from you to confront those who accuse you. Speak, or you will be beaten; tell the whole truth."
At this, Jesus confessed the whole truth in a way that he rarely did with his disciples. He said, "Godís Kingdom is his alone, not built on tribute or weapons or jobs to exploit others." Christís kingdom shall not pass away as others. Jesus taught his followers not to strike with swords, or fire bullets or throw bombs. His Kingdom differs totally from all the Kingdoms on earth.
37 Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?". After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, "I find no crime in him."
Pilate did not grasp the sense of Jesusí claim, but he realized that the accused confessed he was King without clarifying the import of that kingship. Jesus responded with, "You have perceived my secret and understood my words. A king is the owner and master of his kingdom; my kingdom is not of this world that is full of lies and deceits, because I am the King of Truth."
Then Jesus testified that his birth from Mary the Virgin was not the beginning of his existence, but that he came into our world from the Beyond. He was begotten of the Father before the ages. He knows divine truths. Jesus, witnesses to the Truth of God. As the eternally begotten he is the faithful witness. But Pilate laughed and asked, "What is truth?" The Governor had seen so much hypocrisy and treachery that he lost his faith in truth. But Jesus the faithful witness to heavenly truths stood firm and reveals to us his Fatherís name.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are my King; I belong to you. Make me a slave of your gentleness; hold me firm in your truth.
QUESTION 112: How and in what sense is Jesus a King?
b) The choice between Jesus and Barabbas (John 18:39-40)
39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. Will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?" 40 They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!". Now Barabbas was a robber.
Pilate felt convinced that Jesus was truthful and posed no danger. He went out to the Jews who were waiting in the court, and publicly witnessed to the innocence of the accused. All four gospels confirm that Jesus was sinless according to religious law as well as the civil statutes. He could not as the governor pin any blame on Jesus. So the agent of the civil authority admitted Jesusí innocence.
Pilate wished to rid himself of this strange person, but was also anxious to please the Jews. He suggested releasing the prisoner on the basis of a custom which allowed one of the convicts to be pardoned on the Feast day. He tried to placate the high priest by calling Jesus king of the Jews in derision. If Pilate had released him, Jesus would lose his popular appeal (so Pilate argued), since he could not free his people from the yoke of Rome.
However, priests and people went mad at the title "King of the Jews". They had expected a military hero, a man dominant and severe. So they chose Barabbas the felon; preferring a man of sin to Godís holy One.
Not only was the Council antagonistic to Jesus, but it was also the populace who scorned him. Do you then stand alongside truth, meek and unarmed, or are you like the legalist who relies on violence and deceit, leaving aside both mercy and truth?
c) The flogging of Jesus before his accusers (John 19:1-5)
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands.
It was incumbent on Pilate to set Jesus free, and arrest his accusers. This would not do, rather he twisted the facts and searched for a compromise. So he ordered Jesus to be flogged. Such a punishment was terrifying and exhausting. The lashes carried bits of bone and led that cut into the skin. When the soldiers roughly manhandled Jesus they tied him to a pillar with bared back and rained blows on his body. His skin and flesh were torn, in unutterable pain. Many thus tortured died in the process. Our innocent Lord suffered much in body and soul.
Then the soldiers, to keep up the mockery, took the lacerated body of Jesus. These soldiers lived in fear of Jewish terrorists, not daring to march out at night. This then was their chance to avenge themselves by torturing someone called the king of the Jews. On him was poured all the malice they felt towards this restless people. One of them ran and plucked a branch from a thorn bush, making it into a crown to place on Christís brow. The pressure of this crown of thorns made the blood gush out. Others came with worn clothes that belonged to the officer, and wrapped it around him. The blood mixed with the purple dye, till Jesus seemed to be covered in gore. Added to this, he was kicked and punched brutally. Some bowed before him, as if preparing him for coronation. The likelihood that these imperial troops represented various European nations means that many of the worldís tribes shared in this mockery and blasphemy directed at the Lamb of God.
4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him." 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the Man!"
Pilate looked up Jesusí file and found he was innocent. For the third time he went out to the Jewish leaders and witnessed again, "I find no fault in him." Eventually, he tried to bring them together face to face, to uncover deceit and display the truth.
He brought out Jesus with all the signs of blows and tears on him and blood flowing profusely, and the crown of thorns on his brow. On his shoulders was the robe of purple, drenched with blood.
Can you conceive the picture of Godís Lamb bearing the worldís sin? His abasement was elevation, for his matchless love appears in his patience. He stood before those who represented East and West, mocking him, ill-treated and crowned with thorns. All the crowns of the world with their glittering gems are of no value compared with his thorny crown with the blood that atones for all sin.
Though Pilate was the roughest of men prior to this, he was moved by this picture. There was no trace of hatred on Jesusí face, or a curse on his lips. He prayed silently to his Father, blessed his foes and bore the sins of those who reviled him. The governor uttered the striking words, "Behold, the Man!" He felt the majesty and dignity of this man. As if he meant to say of Christ, "This is the unique man who bears the image of God." His mercy radiated, even at the hour of mortal danger; his holiness shone out in weakness and his marred body. He was not suffering for his own misdeeds, but for my sin and yours, and the guilt of mankind.
d) Pilate awed by Christ's divine nature (John 19:6-12)
6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!". Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him." 7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God."
Long were the hours of torture, and many of the multitude descended on the governorís gate. The Jewish leadership were unwilling to soften their attitude or relent, but had agreed to demand Jesusí death at once, with shouts and mighty tumult. Those who inclined to be lenient were cowed into despondency and assumed that God had forsaken Jesus. He did not provide them with a miracle of rescue, so the demands for execution grew louder, and Pilate was expected to pass the harshest sentence of all. Thus, they excommunicated him and delivered him to the depths of shame.
At the time, Pilate was specially wary of any signs of unrest, yet unwilling to kill someone illegally. So he said to the Jews, "Take and crucify him, even though I am convinced of his innocence" Ė a third occasion of his admission that Jesus was guiltless. With this, Pilate judged his own self to be guilty, not having the right to flog an innocent capture.
The Jews were aware that Roman Law forbade their killing anyone, and Pilate might turn on them if they did so, despite his reassuring words. Jewish law had no provision for crucifixion, but only for stoning. Jesus had "blasphemed" and so deserved to be stoned.
The Jewish elders knew, that if claims to Christís divine Sonship were right, they should have bowed down to him. The crucifixion would "prove" that he was not divine with all the torture that he had suffered. They would thus be justified by his dying, not by atoning blood, but by mere crucifixion that met with Godís approval.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for your pains and torture, you bore our stripes. We praise you for your patience, love and majesty. You are our King. Help us to obey you; teach us to bless our enemies and show mercy to the hateful. We praise you that your blood cleanses our guilt. O Son of God, we are yours. Ground us in your holiness, to walk in mercy, thankful for your sorrows.
QUESTION 113: What do we learn from the picture of Jesus beaten, wearing purple and a crown of thorns?
8 When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; 9 he entered the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?", but Jesus gave no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" 11 Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who has delivered me to you has the greater sin."
Pilate was uncertain as to Jesusí personality. His uprightness, purity and love were not lost on the governor. So when he learned that Jesus was regarded not just as king but also as Godís Son he was alarmed. Romans and Greeks imagined the heavens to teem with spirits and godlings, who could sometimes become incarnate and move amongst men. He became apprehensive, thinking, "Is he likely to be a god in manís form?" So he asked, "Where are you from?"
Jesus did not seize this opportunity to escape punishment, but stayed silent. This silence is suggestive. God does not answer questions that have to do with logic, or mere curiosity, but reveals Himself to the believer who confides in Him. He differs totally from Graeco-Roman conceptions of Him, no one is like Him. At this silence, Pilate was angry and asked, "Do you not want to talk to me? I have the power to kill or release you, you are in my power. Your enemies demand your crucifixion. I alone can save you or hang you."
Jesus would have responded, "True, you have the power. My Father gave you that power. You are not important in yourself. Your futility will appear soon in an unjust sentence. My Father in heaven is omnipotent, and I too. There is no authority on earth, except by His permission." This permissive will often result in destruction as with Pilate, who had been gifted with power by divine permission. God controls history, but allows people a share in responsibility for their deeds. You are accountable for your dealings with others.
Jesus said to Pilate, "You have sinned gravely, but you are not alone in guilt. All are caught in the meshes of sins. You do not want to crucify me, but your cowardice and fear of Caiaphas makes you condemn me." The high priest was guilty of a greater sin, for he wanted to crucify Jesus because of jealousy and hatred. As he held high office, he needed to show pity for felons to reconcile them with God. But he was subject to evil spirits, he loathed Jesus to the point of murder.
e) Pilate's unjust sentence on Jesus (Jesus 19 :12-16)
12 Upon this, Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesarís friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar."
Pilate wished Jesusí release, because the prisoner had acknowledged his authority. Even though Christís majesty, piety set bounds to that power. Jesus did not threaten Pilate, but rebuked him mildly. He made a distinction between Pilateís sin and Caiaphasí crime. Jesus did not threaten Pilate, but rebuked him mildly. He made a distinction between Pilateís sin and Caiaphasí crime. Jesus was the judge of the one trying him, and tried to draw him towards the divine realities.
When the Jewish priests noticed the change of heart in Pilate, they switched the discussion to politics. Their charge that Jesus was claiming divinity was useless in a Roman court. So they threatened to expose the governor as disloyal to Caesar, if he would not kill Jesus.
"The friend of Caesar" meant a favorite of the Emperor. This title was accorded to his envoys and imperial relatives. Pilateís wife may have been one of these relatives. Since Tiberius Caesar trusted no one and was of pessimistic nature, he was inclined to doubt the sincerity of his delegates. He constantly expected rebellions led by one or other of them. Anyone who accused Caesarís friend and substantiated the charge could bring about the downfall of the accused, who could be exiled.
Had the Jewish leaders written to Rome that Pilate had set "The King of the Jews" free, despite their own charge of rebellion, it would mean he was gathering Caesarís foes round him. Consequently, Pilateís position was shaky. He was unwilling to give up his position for Jesus, even if truth was on Jesusí side. This threat broke down his resistance, and he prepared to pass official judgment to condemn Jesus. He fell back on formalities to clear his person of Christís blood. He appeared to have passed a fair judgment, but in his heart of hearts he knew he had been grossly unjust.
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" 15 They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." 16a Then he handed him over to them to be crucifiedÖ
Pilate was scornful of the Messianic hope held by Jews, and mocked their defiance of Rome and said, "You have accused Jesus who claimed kingship! Take up your powerless kingdom! You are like him, not deserving any attention!"
The Jews understood the point of this mockery, which turned their complaint against Jesus into contempt of his accusers. They cried together, "Take him to the cross, to shame, he is accursed! Crucify him!"
Brother, those who cried were pious according to their law, but had become blind, unable to recognize love incarnate and divine condescension, as well as Godís holiness fulfilled in Jesus. They hated him and wanted to do away with him. Neither bigotry, nor zeal will draw people to God; only love manifested in Jesus will open our eyes to his mercy and sacrifice.
Pilate vented his scorn on the furious Jews, and again called Jesus "King", bringing out the evidence that all the populace were resolved to kill Jesus. Pilate tried to find an excuse for his accusing conscience, but the howling mob was one in their aim to crucify Jesus. The voice of the people is not the voice of God, because they err often in their ambitions, and worldly drives, and Satan exploits these failings.
The priests were indignant at Pilateís repeated mockery. They rejoined with a surprising declaration, "We have no king but Caesar." This in itself was hypocrisy. The priestly family feared the Messianic movements, as well as hating Herod the puppet king. They preferred Caesar, the guardian of Greek culture, with law and order in the land. They thus betrayed the Old Testament prophecies and all Messianic expectations. The Father of lies inspires his children. However, Jesus alone in the Court stood by the truth, hearing Godís voice in his conscience and holding fast to his integrity.
Eventually, Pilate passed the harsh sentence, driven by egoism, malice and deceit. The Son of God kept silence, relying on the guidance of his Father, who had allowed the governor to crucify his Son. By this unjust sentence, Jesus completed the reconciliation between God and Man. The evil spirits imagined they had won, but it was Godís plans that had become fulfilled, despite the deceitful machinations of the forces of hell.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we bow to you; you are the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Grant us a merciful, truthful and upright heart. Help us not to use others as means for our benefits, and enable us to prefer death to deceit and compromise with evil.
QUESTION 114: Why did Pilate pass judgment on Jesus?
4. The cross and the death of Jesus (John 19:16b-42)
a) Crucifixion and the grave clothes (John 19:16b-22)
16b ... So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
A company of troops was about to leave and crucify two robbers, when Pilate handed them Jesus as a third "felon". The soldiers placed crosses on all three, for each to carry the instrument of death. Christ did not reject the cross, and did not drop the wood along the way. The three passed through the city lanes, until, panting for breath, they reached the north western gate. Then they arrived at a hill known as Golgotha, because it resembled a rocky skull, rising a little above the city walls. The inhabitants were able to view the condemned men hanging on their crosses outside the city.
John does not explain the details of the cross, his pen refusing to record the fearful scene. Men had rejected divine love, and the hatred of hell rested on them. They brutally did away One born of the Spirit, and by their sin the completed sacrifice of Christ which atoned for their sins. He did not bear a golden halo on the tree of shame, but in the depths of his humiliation he revealed his glory through patience, and holy self-denial.
What ignominy that Jesus should hang between two robbers. They were twisting about, cursing as they hung.
The merciful and pure One revealed himself even in the last moment of life as companion to sinners. For this reason the Son of God was born as the Son of Man, so that the wayward children of men should become the justified children of God. He descended to the depths of degradation, so that no one should say that Jesus could not have fallen to his level. Wherever you are and however you may have fallen, Christ can forgive your guilt and wash you and sanctify you to the full.
19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
The soldiers hanged Jesus between two criminals as a sign of mockery for his claim to kingship. Pilate, meanwhile, persisted in ridiculing the Jewish Council who had forced him to sentence Jesus despite his conscience. Above the head of the Crucified, Pilate placed a title repeating the Jewish accusation.
God used this title at the head of the cross to judge the Jews, for Jesus was truly their king. Jesus is genuinely the King, who comes in righteousness, love, meekness and humility. He established heaven on earth. The Jews preferred hell, rejecting their divine King driving him outside their society. He thus became the King of Nations, but do nations accept the crucified King today or do they reject the Lord of love again?
21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, "Do not write, ĎThe King of the Jewsí, but, ĎThis man said, "I am King of the Jews." í " 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."
The chief priests understood the meaning of Pilateís scorn and threat, veiled as it was. They had rejected their King and saw in his weakness the contrary of what Pilate claimed. They hated the Crucified even more.
Pilate felt sure that the title was in accord with Caesarís wishes, so that he wrote it in three languages for all literate folk, citizens and visitors to read and understand that any rebel against Rome would share a like fate. When in 70 AD Jews rebelled against Roman rule, thousands were hanged on crosses round the wall of Jerusalem.
b) Dividing the garments and casting the lots
†††† (John 19:23-24)
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom. 24 So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture, "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."
The four soldiers who crucified Christ had the right to divide his garment. The centurion, however, did not stoop so low as to join them in this degrading task. So the four took away from Jesus the last of his possessions stripping him of dignity. The crucified felons were generally stripped naked further to debase them.
This humiliation proclaimed the majesty of Jesus. His seamless tunic resembled that of the high priest. Jesus himself is the divine High Priest the intercessor for all humanity. For this role he suffered and was tortured.
A thousand years earlier, the Holy Spirit had prophesied details of the crucifixion, and that in Psalm 22 where it is said, "They parted my garments among them", a matter familiar to the soldiers. The Spirit further predicted, that they would cast lots for the clothing. The spirit disclosed the fact of the cross accurately, declaring that Jesusí crucifixion was Godís will in essence. As Jesus had said: No hair of your head will fall without your heavenly Father knowing it. Whoever says that the cross never took place not only denies historic facts, but resists the Spirit of God who predicted this event a millennium earlier. The soldiers behaved in ignorance and in an unfeeling manner at the foot of the cross. They bickered over the remains of the tortured. They were devoid of pity; they never considered that the worldís redeemer was shedding his blood on the cross.
Brother, have you been crucified with Christ, in union with his death? Or do you run after riches and fame? Do you love the Crucified. and have you received divine righteousness and true holiness by his death? Or are you a superficial observer, uncaring as he gazes on the Crucified? The Holy Spirit unites with Godís Son in faith and love, that we might share in his death, burial and sacrificial life.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for bearing the cross. We worship you for your patience, love and blessings. We praise you for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the world. You took away my sin when hanging on the tree of shame, and reconciled mankind to God. You are our redeemer and intercessor.
QUESTION 115: What is the meaning of the title placed over the cross?
c) Christ's word to his mother (John 19:25-27)
24b So the soldiers did this. 25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his motherís sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
John does not record Jesusí first word from the cross, forgiving the whole world. Nor does he mention the continued mockery of the Jews, or Jesusí pardon of the robber at his right hand. These events were already familiar in the church when John wrote.
When the priests left the site of the cross without hearing his supplication and his plea for the Fatherís forgiveness, the crowds also left, rushing to Jerusalem to sacrifice Passover lambs. The time for preparation was short. The religious rulers also went to carry out the ritual for the great national feast. The bugles were sounded from city walls, the lambs slain in the temple, and blood flowed profusely. The temple resounded with praises. Outside Jerusalem hung the holy Lamb of God on the accused tree, forsaken and despised. The pagan Roman guards were guarding the three on crosses.
At that time, some women approached the cross quietly, and stood in silence. The preceding events baffled their minds. The Almighty was hanging over their heads in great pain. Words of comfort were not forthcoming, and hearts could hardly pray. Perhaps some were whispering texts from the Psalms.
Jesus heard the heartfelt cries of his mother, and understood the tears of his beloved disciple John. He did not think so much of his state, despite the approach of his coma. Suddenly they heard his voice, "Woman, behold your Son."
Christís love was to the uttermost, caring for the welfare of his loved ones in the midst of his suffering to ransom the world. What Simeon had predicated for the Virgin was fulfilled, that the sword would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35).
Unable to provide his mother with money or a home, he offered her the love he had poured into his disciples. John had come with Christís mother (Matthew 27:56), yet he does not mention his own name or the Virginís, so as not to detract from the honor due to Christ in this his hour of glory. When he addressed John and committed the mother to his care, then only did the disciple enter himself into the radiance of the cross. He embraced Mary and received her into his home.
The rest of the women witnessed this concern. The Lord had rescued one of them from seven devils. That was Mary Magdalene. She experienced Jesusí victorious might in her soul. She loved her Savior and followed him.
d) The consummation (John 19:28-30)
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scripture), "I thirst." 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop, and held it to his mouth.
John, the evangelist had the gift of saying a great deal in a few words. He tells us nothing about darkness that covered the land, nor do we hear Christís cry of dereliction in Godís wrath over our sins. But we are informed, that at the end of his mortal struggle lasting three hours, he sensed the approach of death. John did not regard death as having swallowed Jesus, but that Jesus had willingly yielded to it. His soul was exhausted in completing the universal work of redemption. Jesus saw the perfect salvation available to all, how his death would free millions of sinners from their guilt and bestow on them the right to come to God. He saw the harvest and the fruit of his death beforehand.
At this point, a sigh escaped his lips, "I thirst." He, who had created the universe and walked on water that was compounded of oxygen and hydrogen, is thirsting. Love incarnate was longing for a Fatherís love, who had hidden His face from His Son. This is a scene of hell, where man thirsts body and soul and cannot find refreshing. Earlier, Christ had mentioned the rich man in hell with a mighty thirst in the infernal fires, who begged Abraham to send Lazarus to put his finger dipped in cold water and soothe his swollen throat. Jesus was a true man, enduring natural thirst, but he did not admit his thirst till the work of salvation was accomplished. Then, the Holy Spirit revealed to him, that his redemptive ministry had been announced a thousand years earlier in Psalm 22:13-18, drinking vinegar was also mentioned in Psalm 69:21. We do not know if the soldiers offered Jesus the drink as pure vinegar or mixed with water, either as contempt or in lament. We know it was not pure water. The man Jesus, who is Godís Son, was at this juncture helpless.
30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished!", and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
After Jesus had tasted the vinegar of wrath, he uttered the word of victory, "It is finished!" A day before this cry of triumph, the Son had asked his Father to glorify him on the cross for our ransom, that the Father, Himself, might be glorified. The Son acknowledged in faith that this prayer would be answered, that he had completed the work the Father had given him (John 17:1,4).
How pure is Jesus on the cross! No word of hatred escaped his lips, nor a sigh for pity or a cry of despair, but he pardoned his foes holding on to Godís love, who seemed like an enemy for our sakes. Jesus knew he had finished the work of redemption, because God made perfect the pioneer of our salvation through suffering. No one can fathom the depths and heights of Trinitarian love, for the Son offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit, without stain, a living sacrifice (Hebrew 9:14).
Since the final cry of Christ on the cross, salvation is complete, not needing to be more perfect. It is not our contributions, our good works, our prayers, our sanctification which bring about our righteousness, or added holiness in our lives. The Son of God has done all this once for all. By his death a new age has dawned and peace reigns, because the Lamb of God slain has reconciled us with the Father in Heaven. Whoever believes is justified. The Epistles are the commentary on the words of Jesus, final and divine, "It is finished!".
Jesus bowed his head, finally, in reverence and majesty. He committed his soul into his Fatherís hands, who loved him ceaselessly. This love drew him to the throne of grace, where he sits today at the right hand of the Father, one with Him.
PRAYER: O Holy Lamb, who has lifted the sin of the world; you are worthy to receive might, riches, wisdom, power, honor, glory, blessing and my life also. Lift my head to look up to you, o Crucified One, seeking pardon from you for all my guilt, and trusting, you will make me holy by your grace and blood.
QUESTION 116: What are Jesusí three words?
e) Piercing Jesus' side (John 19:31-37)
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; 33 but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness Ė his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth Ė that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of him shall be broken." 37 And again another Scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced."
Fanatical about their own Law, the Jews were devoid of humane feelings. The Mosaic statute was that the bodies of those killed be removed by nightfall. So the Jews applied this to the three crucified men. They were loath to look at the ugly scene during their festivities. They asked Pilate to put an end to the three swiftly by breaking their limbs. Crucified men could sometimes survive three days. Nailing hands and feed does not always cause enough blood loss. So the soldiers went on to mutilate the bodies with crushing blows.
The soldiers halted before Jesus, deciding he was already dead. His tender body was weakened by lashes, and his soul in anguish under the weight of our guilt and Godís wrath on the world. Jesus died freely of his own accord to reconcile us to God. Not particularly concerned with religious matters, the Jews were anxious to make sure that Jesus was dead. One of the soldiers took a spear and pierced Christís side near his heart. Water and blood gushed out, proving he had died before the sixth hour of Good Friday.
This event tells the Christian that God is victorious from three aspects. First, the Jews were impelled by Satan to attempt the breaking of Christís bones, that no one might claim that the Crucified was the divine sacrifice. The Passover ritual required that the Lamb be intact with no bones broken (Exodus 12:46). So God preserved His Son even in death, and no one can gainsay his appointment as the Lamb of God.
Secondly, the piercing of Jesusí side by the soldier finds its proof text in Zechariah 12:10. In Zechariah 11:13, the prophet saw that the people of the Old Testament valued their Shepherd at no more then thirty pieces of silver. Despite this derisory amount, God will pour the Spirit of grace and prayer on Davidís house and the people of Jerusalem, so that their eyes might be opened and recognize who the Crucified One is and the identity of his Father. Without this enlightenment they would not know God or His salvation. The Crucified One is the sole means of obtaining Godís Spirit, as we read, "They will gaze upon him whom they pierced".
Thirdly, the disciple who faithfully remained at the cross was an eye-witness to all that happened and was spoken. He did not flee at the sight of the soldiers and did not leave his Lord after that death. He saw the piercing of Jesusí side, and testifies to us of the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we may gain faith in the unity of the Trinity, and eternal life.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, you are Victor over sins, Satan and judgment. You are the living One, King with the Father in the unity of the Spirit.
QUESTION 117: What do we learn from the fact that Christís bones were unbroken?
f) Burial of Jesus (John 19:38-42)
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body.
Not all the seventy members of the Council agreed on the sentence passed against Jesus. It appears from recent archaeological finds that sentence would be passed only if there were at least two dissenting voices. But if all consented on the death sentence, that would mean human prejudice against the accused, and show that the Council had fallen into a miscarriage of justice. On this basis, the trial was repeated and the evidence investigated more carefully. Assuming this rule applied in Jesusí day, it would mean that at least two members opposed the ruling. One was Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple (Matthew 27:57 and Mark 15:43). He was anxious not to lose his seat in the Council, or his influence on the nationís course, thanks to his mature wisdom. Joseph was angry with Caiaphas for his injustice and for running the Council sittings with trickery. Joseph abandoned neutrality and publicly acknowledged his association with Jesus, but this admission came too late, and his testimony was an official rebuttal of the Councilís decision. but the course of events led to the passing of the sentence to crucify Jesus.
After Jesusí death, Joseph went to Pilate (he was entitled to do so). Pilate consented to his request, and gave him permission to take down the body of Jesus from the cross for burial.
Thus, Pilate avenged himself once more on the Jews, who would drag executed criminals to the Hinnom valley to be devoured by jackals, and surrounded by burning rubbish. God saved his Son from such shame. He had finished his vocation as the divine sacrifice on the cross. His heavenly Father led Joseph to bury Jesus in a respectable tomb.
39 Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Suddenly, Nicodemus also stood by the cross. He was the second member to vote against the Council decision. He had earlier tried to nullify the secret judgment passed by the Council against Jesus, and demanded a fairer sitting to verify the facts (7:51). This witness to Jesus arrived, bringing 32 kilograms of precious ointment, as well as grave clothes to wrap round the torn body, and to help Joseph bring down the corpse and bury it after anointing, a procedure followed by the nobility. It was necessary to speed up the burial process, to complete it before the sixth hour of Friday evening, that is when the Sabbath begins, and when all work is banned. Only a short time was left to them.
The Father of our Lord Jesus led these two men to honor his dead Son, that the promise of Isaiah 53:9 might be fulfilled, that he would be buried with the rich and the noble in a decent grave. To carve out such graves from rock was an expensive matter. So there was no better way to honor Jesus than for Joseph to offer him his own tomb near the site of the crucifixion outside the city walls. There they laid the body of Jesus on a slab of rock without a coffin, wrapped in grave clothes, drenched with ointment and perfume brought by Nicodemus.
Truly, Jesus died; his earthly life ended while a young man of thirty three. He was born to die. No greater love is found than for one to lay down his life for his loved ones.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying in our stead. With all believers I love you, because your love saved us from divine wrath and established us in the unity of the Holy Trinity. Receive my life a thanksgiving to you for me to magnify your cross.
QUESTION 118: What does the burial of Jesus teach us?
B -† THE RESURRECTION AND APPEARANCES OF CHRIST (JOHN 20:1 Ė 21:25)
1. Events at the Passover dawn (Easter) (John 20:1-10)
a) Mary Magdalene at the graveside (John 20:1-2)
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
The disciples and the women who followed Jesus were devastated by the happenings of Friday. From a distance, the women watched how Jesus was placed in the tomb. Both the women and the disciples had hurried home, so as not to be blamed for breaking the Sabbath, starting Friday at dusk, round six oíclock.
On that great Sabbath coinciding with the Passover Feast, no one dared go to the tomb. Whereas the multitudes were rejoicing at the thought that God was reconciled with the nation symbolically with lambs slain, Christians were gathered fearfully and tearfully. Their hopes lay buried with their Lordís burial.
On the Sabbath eve, the women did not go out of the city gates, or to buy spices and other items for anointing the body. They waited expectantly for the dawn on Sunday. The evangelist highlights the Magdaleneís visit to the tomb, but there is a hint of the other women companions in Mary Magdaleneís use of the plural "we". Salome, Johnís mother and a few others went out together early on Sunday in tears for the anointing.
It was very early at dawn when they neared, distressed in grief, to the tomb, which they assumed was sealed. Their hopes were shattered, overcast with despair. The light of resurrection had not yet shone on them, and eternal life had not risen over their minds.
On arriving, they were dismayed to see the huge stone, wondering how they would move it from the mouth of the tomb.
The open grave was the first miracle on the day, a witness to our anxieties and unbelief that Christ is able to roll away all stones weighing down our hearts. He who believes finds help in God; faith sees a great future.
John tells us nothing about the angels appearing. Most likely, Mary Magdalene overtook her friends and peered into the tomb. She found no body there. Terrified, she rushed to the disciples. She was sure that the head of the apostolic band had to know of this miracle with the rest of the disciples. When Mary Magdalene reached Peter and his fellow disciple, she burst out with, "The body of Jesus is lost." This is an added crime. This shows that the disciples and she were spiritually blind, because they thought someone had stolen the body. It did not occur to them that the Lord had risen from the dead because he was Lord.
b) Peter and John race to the tomb (John 20:3-10)
3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
This was a race for love. Each of them wanted to be first beside Jesus. Peter, the older one, was panting behind the youthful John, unable to catch up. Both forgot their fear of spies and guards and passed through the city gates. When John reached the tomb, he did not enter, in deep reverence he held back. Looking into the hewn rock of the tomb he saw in the gloom the white grave clothes rolled up and left like the chrysalis vacated by the silk worm. The grave clothes had not dropped, but remained where the body lay. This is the third of the miracles linked with the resurrection. Christ did not tear away the clothes, but climbed out of them. The angels did not move the stone to help Jesus out, but to let the women and disciples in. The Lord passed through rock on his way out.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for rising from the dead. You overcame all evils, and opened the way to God. You are with us in the valley of death and do not forsake us. Your life is ours; your power is made perfect in our weakness. We bow before you and love you, because you have granted all believers a triumphant hope.
QUESTION 119: What are the three lines of evidence for the resurrection of Christ?
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.
John stood outside the tomb awaiting Peterís arrival, a mark of respect for the senior apostle; who would be the first to see the tomb and its vacant state. The youthful John was shaken by what he saw at first glance of the stone rolled away, the tomb open and the body vanished. The grave clothes also were carefully arranged. Thoughts churned in his mind; he prayed asking for light from the Lord as to what may have happened.
Soon Peter was there, entering directly into the open tomb; he perceived that the kerchief that had been on Jesusí face was placed separately on the side. This meant that the body had not been stolen, since his exit had been orderly and calm.
Peter entered as if he was an inspector, but did not grasp the meaning of the obvious signs. John, the mystic, pondered, prayed and sensed hope. When he responded to Peterís call and entered, his soul was illumined and began to believe in Christís resurrection. It was not his meeting with the Risen One that created faith in him, but the empty tomb and the grave clothes neatly folded pointed him to the truth and to faith.
9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus did not remain in the tomb like the rest, philosophers, prophets and sinners in general, but rose leaving death as one would discarded clothes. The Holy One remained sinless. Death had no dominion over him. Godís love never fails.
Christís enemies cannot claim that Jesusí body disintegrated in the tomb, because that was empty. Christ did not flee nor was he abducted, because the chamber of his death was a picture of orderliness. That was witness to John that Jesus had discarded his worldly equipment, not needing it any longer. In the swaddling clothes of the manger he began his lifeís journey, and in the grave-clothes he took his leave. So with the resurrection a new phase of his existence began on a heavenly plane. Even though he still retained his human nature.
These thoughts churned round Johnís mind, as he returned from the open tomb. Yet he did not boast of this experience, he the first to realize the victory of Godís Son in Resurrection, but confessed that he believed in this miracle belatedly, even though it had been made clear in Scripture. His eyes were closed to what he had read about the representative death and victory of the Servant of God in Isaiah 53, nor did he grasp Davidís prophecies on the same theme (Luke 24:44-48; Acts 2:25-32; Psalm 16:8-11).
The morning of the Great Feast witnessed two disciples returning home, troubled yet hopeful, trusting yet questioning and prayers to Jesus, who had left the tomb with his whereabouts unknown.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we offer you heartfelt thanks, for you are Victor in the hearts of your disciples, creating in them a trust in your rising. You have granted us a great hope of eternal life. We worship you, for you are the eternal God, and we become immortal by your grace. Save our friends from dying in their sins and grant them life everlasting by faith in your sacrifice.
QUESTION 120: In what did John trust while inside the empty tomb?
c) Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."
The two disciples went back after realizing that the tomb was empty. There was no use in staying.
However, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb after telling the disciples that it was empty. She stayed on, even though the two had gone home, because she was not content with the mere fact that the body had vanished. She held on to him, for he was the hope of her strength. Losing sight of the body, her hope melted away. So she wept bitterly.
In the depths of her grief, Jesus sent her two angels who appeared to the other women also. Here she was seeing them sitting by the empty tomb in white raiment lighting the gloom. But they could not comfort her, because only seeing Jesus would do that. Her heart called out, "Where are you, my Lord?"
This silent call is addressed to us. What do we want? Why do we want what we desire? What are our goals? Do we accord with Magdalene and ask for nothing save to see Jesus? Is your heart crying for him to come again?
14 Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus responded to her cry. While others were content to see the empty tomb and hear angels, Mary Magdalene yearned for a vision; He alone. Jesus appeared to her, standing before her, an ordinary man without a halo.
She was deeply troubled, not recognizing Jesusí voice, nor hearing the angels. She wanted to see Jesus, not just to hear his words. Yet she failed to realize his presence at that moment, because the heart that is sorrowful misses Christís presence with us, and fails to hear his gentle words. Thus many who seek God the Creator have not found him, for they loved the seeking or asking rather than the Seeking Shepherd.
But Jesus knew Maryís love, and he broke through the barriers of her anguish with his words of compassion; he called her by name, revealing that he was more than man, and not the gardener. He is the all-knowing, the wise One, the Lord himself. He called Mary just as the Good Shepherd calls his sheep, whom he knows by name, offering life eternal. He who loves Jesus experiences his love and receives forgiveness of sin as the Lord calls him by name, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus now calls you by name. Do you hear his voice, leaving behind all your doubts and sins to come to him?
Mary answered in a word, "Master!". The word Mary used (Rabboni) means one who knows all and is almighty. She has the privilege of being a learner in his school, and he bestows on her his knowledge, strength, protection and life eternal. So her answer resembles the rapture of the waiting Church which after a long expectation will see her Lord coming in the clouds, worship him in submission and praise him with Hallelujahs.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we bow before you for responding to Maryís longings by appearing to her. You comforted her by your presence. Your word is life. Open our ears and hearts to receive your words. Grant us obedience to trust you with joy.
QUESTION 121: Why did Mary not cease to search for the body of the Lord Jesus, until he revealed himself to her, calling her by name?
17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." 18 Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord", and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Mary fell before Jesus in adoration, trying to kiss his feet and touch him, to hold on to him never to leave him. Jesus deterred her from touching, because his love is spiritual. He had granted her his voice and presence, and wished the growth of her faith by union with the Holy Trinity. This he made clear in his farewell discourse to his disciples a little earlier. Neither touching him, or holding on to him will create union with him, rather it is faith in his Spiritual Being which unites to him.
Jesus told her he would not remain on earth after his death; his appearances would be transient, as his final destination is heaven. His aim was ascension and a return to his Father. The way back to God was now open after his self-offering on the cross. This High Priest resolved to offer a Sacrifice in blood to the Holy One. He is saying to Mary, "Do not cling to me, because I am to fulfill all righteousness; I shall intercede for you, and fill you with the Spiritís power."
His words also suggest that he does not belong to her alone, but to all mankind, "Return to the disciples and inform them of my existence, purposes and ascension!"
By means of this message to the disciples through Mary, he comforted them. He called them brothers. By faith we become his brothers and sisters, because of his cross and resurrection and immortal life. He calls us brothers, not just beloved. Salvation is accomplished, and we are established in our rights of adoption. He signed the charter of our divine sonship with his blood.
What is the substance of the message that Mary had to pass on orally to the disciples? First, that he was alive. Her meeting with him was a historic fact. Second, his Father was also ours; with this promise Jesus drew his disciples into the perfect fellowship with God. He did not speak of God distant, mighty and as judge, but a Father loving and near. He was not only Christís Father, but our Father also. He called the Father "my God" as his all in all. He remains faithful with his Father, where the whole creation is separated from God by sin. He is no longer our enemy on account of previous sin, but loves us, who are forgiven by the ransom of the cross. As he dwells in union with his Father, so he wishes us to dwell in the Trinitarian union by the pouring out of his Holy Spirit, for love to flow out of us.
Christ thus put the promise of full fellowship on the lips of the woman who first saw him after his victory over death. She was obedient, she left off the prostration at his feet and ran to witness to the disciples, proclaiming his brotherhood with him and Godís fatherhood in union with us by grace. This message, like a trumpet of rejoicing, fills our sad hearts today. Has that joy of acceptance with God and your reviving reached you? Do you believe Maryís message as the first herald of the news that Christ had risen?
PRAYER: We thank you, Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, present with us, for calling us your brothers. We do not deserve to live in intimate fellowship with you. We thank you for forgiving our sins. Make us apostles of your joy to all who seek you.
QUESTION 122: What is Christís message on the lips of Mary Magdalene to us?
2.† Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room
†††† (John 20:19-23)
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you!".
In a room with locked doors, the disciples were seated, discussing the fearful events that had occurred that Sunday. They knew from Peter and John that the tomb was empty. The women corroborated this with what the angels had said, that he had risen. Mary Magdalene further announced her seeing him. This news came as a shock to Jesusí followers, that the dead one was alive, but had not come to them, the faithful group. But they had been drowsy, when the Lord was arrested; Peter had denied him, and none of them had stood by the Lord at his trials, nor did any of them stand by the cross, except John and the women, or take him down from the cross to anoint him. They were fearful of the Jews, thinking persecution would begin as soon as the feast was over. For these reasons, they locked the doors, and gathered despondently in an inner room.
They felt the womenís reports were idle dreams and told one another, "We followed Jesus, and expected him to triumph, and make us his ministers. Here we are failures; they will pursue us to ruin."
In the midst of such despair, and despite their lack of faith and bitterness, Jesus stood among them. He did not come because of their hope, love and bankruptcy, to have mercy on the wayward and show grace to the faithless.
The silent appearance of Jesus in their midst was a miracle. The dead one appearing alive, the rejected one free. No tomb of rock or gate of steel could prevent his presence among his chosen ones. Here he was among them in the room bodily like other humans, seen, heard and touched. At the same time, he was spirit, able to pierce through walls and doors. His new existence shows us what we shall be, if we abide in him. His resurrection body is our hope.
What a comfort! He that had risen from the dead did not rebuke his disciples for their shortcomings, but greeted them with an Easter greeting, uttering the first words he said to the whole band after the resurrection, "Peace be with you!". This greeting signifies that by his cross, he has reconciled the world to God. Peace began to spread from heaven to earth, and a new age began, offered by Christ to us to accept or reject him. Man is responsible for his salvation. Everyone who repents and believes in Jesus shares in his blessing. He who joins the ranks of the Prince of Peace is justified by his unique sacrifice, as Paul puts it, "Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, Prince of Peace, we bow before you with joy and thanksgiving, for you did not come to us for judgment and punishment, but you came to pour out your grace and save us from despair and unbelief, to grant us your peace and to establish us in reconciliation with God. Your salvation is not the wages of our efforts, but a gift of grace. Teach our friends and foes to realize your gracious purpose; that they may receive you, that these may not persist in enmity with the Holy God.
QUESTION 123: What is the meaning of the first phrase that Jesus uttered to the disciples after the resurrection?
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Christís resurrection is the evidence that reconciliation with God is achieved. God did not leave His Son in the grave, nor did he expel him for our sins which he bore. He accepted the spotless sacrifice, he arose victor over the grave, and lived in perfect harmony with his Father. He, moreover, accepted the cross, not doing other than his Fatherís will. The cross was the purpose of his coming, and it is the means of ransoming the world. So how do some say Jesus did not die on the cross?
Christ showed that he was not a phantom or a hidden spirit. He showed them the nail prints in the palms of his hand. He displayed his side for them to see the mark of the spear that pierced him. They saw the nail-prints and were persuaded that he that was with them was not a strange godling, but the Crucified himself. The Lamb of God is the conqueror. The slain One overcame death.
Little by little, the disciples began to perceive that Jesus was no specter or shadow, but a true person present with them. His new mode of being was the source of their joy. It is to our good that we believe and perceive that Jesus is the living Lord, risen from the dead. We are not orphans deserted. Our Brother in union with his Father and the Holy Spirit rules the universe for ever.
The discipleís joy grew as a result of Christís victory over death. Since then, he became a living hope for us, we who are perishing. The open grave is not our end, but his life is ours. As he who is worthy of glory put it, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he be dead, shall live. And he that lives and believes in me, shall never die."
When the disciples realized that Jesus forgives our sins, they rejoiced all the more. He assures us of atoning for us sins. So we have peace with God through his wounds.
Do you share in their joy at Easter? Do you bow before the Risen One, since he is present, grants you hope and guarantees your pardon? Jesus is alive, and joy is our portion. Therefore, the apostle Paul addresses the Church thus, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near."
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we exult and thank you, for you alone are our hope and have granted us meaning for our lives. Your wounds justify us and your Being gives us life. Let your Kingdom come, and your victory be realized, so that many may rise from death in sins and live to glorify your Resurrection.
QUESTION 124: Why did the disciples rejoice?
21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
When Jesus repeated his "Peace be with you", he did have the atonement of sins and reconciliation in mind, but wished them to become peacemakers to offer full salvation to a vile humanity. On the cross, God forgave all men their sins. This new reality assures pardon for criminals, and the promise of setting aside judgment for believers, and the hope of freedom from perishing. Jesus sent his followers into the world to preach Godís peace to sinners.
All who are saved by Godís grace are changed at heart, and will forgive their enemies, as God forgave them. He will choose to endure unfairness, rather than act unjustly himself. Thus he will spread the aroma of heaven in his own surroundings, as Jesus expressed it, "Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the sons of God." Our aim in evangelism is not to change circumstances or bring superficial peace between nations; rather, we pray for minds to be transformed, and stony hearts changed to tenderness. By such a transformation political changes will occur.
Jesus raised the role of the ministry for his disciples to his standard, "As the Father has sent me, so send I you." So how did God send his Son? First, as a Son, secondly, to proclaim Godís fatherhood, and his holiness by word and deed and in prayer. Thirdly, Jesus was the possessor of Godís word, overflowing with eternal love. In these principles we find the sense and aims of evangelism. By his death, Jesus has made us Godís children, that we may live holy lives, blameless before him in love.
Christians are ambassadors of Christ, justified, sanctified to represent the essence and love of their heavenly Father. This is the substance of their message, that the Father, by the death of Christ, has made them his children. The cross is the condition of their new status, and faith is the way to adoption.
Just as Jesus was born to die a sacrifice, thus too his followers live out the meaning of sacrifice. They do not brag, but regard themselves servants of the Most High and of all people. Their Lord has freed them from their lower selves, to love as he loved.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you, because you called us, we the unworthy, to glorify the Father and your name by our thoughts, words and deeds. Thank you for forgiving our sins. You sanctify us to broadcast your peace to other hearts, that they may become enlightened and live truly. Thank you, o Christ, because you have made us sons of your love, so that we may love and forgive, as you did in mercy.
QUESTION 125: What is strange about the sending out of the disciples?
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Perhaps the disciples were alarmed, when Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, so send I you." They were still in a locked room for fear of the Jews. They found no energy in themselves, but had lately experienced total failure. So Jesus breathed into his disciples, as God had breathed his life-giving spirit into Adam to become a living soul and find strength to live. By this breathing, Jesus demonstrated his role as Creator; he began a new creation in those disciples, and assured them that his Spirit and power with authority would be upon them, enabling them to display the Fatherís image in their lives.
When the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, Christ delegated to them the terms whereby people would have the forgiveness of sins. They were to proclaim pardon to all who accepted those conditions, and declare the withholding of pardon from those who reject such conditions.
They were to announce forgiveness of sins as representing the Lord Christ. On the basis of their confession they would be received in Christís Church.
Jesus gave his disciples authority to proclaim forgiveness, rather than to forgive; God alone does the forgiving (Isaiah 43:25).
Jesus bids you become an ambassador in this evil world, he wants to advance his saving power through you. Do not go out in zeal to speak of your limited abilities, but remain in contact with your Lord, as every ambassador in public life communicates with his King or President to receive instructions and guidance daily, and then to apply them daily. You are not a minor godling acting independently, but you are Lordís slave. He longs to redeem through you. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, but open your minds and consciences, that the Holy Spirit may make you Christís witnesses boldly, yet humbly and wisely.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I am not worthy for you to enter my house; you, however, have spoken and granted me your Holy Spirit, illumining and reviving me. You have sent me to testify on your behalf to mankind. Thank you because your power is made perfect in my weakness. Keep me humble without hypocrisy, cleanse me of all selfish thoughts, that I may be always in line with your will. Then your peace will reach many.
QUESTION 126: Who is the Holy Spirit? What does he do through your witness to Christ?
3.† Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas
†††† (John 20:24-29)
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the prints of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."
Do not think that every critic is opposed to the Holy Spirit; and not everyone who rejects your witness is wayward or perishing. Here John shows that among the many events taking place in the forty days before Christís ascension, there was a peculiar one. This shows how grace creates faith in the human breast, not by works, intellect or logic, but by grace and mercy alone.
Thomas was a pessimist, seeing only the gloomy side of events. He had to probe to the depths of the matter in order to reach the plain truth (John 11:16; 14:5). He was thoughtful, solving issues mentally. He had seen in the death of Christ the loss of meaning in life. He became separated from the circle of disciples, and did not see Jesus that first Sunday, when Jesus appeared in the midst of his followers.
Thomas may have argued that the appearance was just a Satanic delusion Ė that an evil spirit had taken on the form of Christ to lead them astray. No surprise then, that he insisted on foolproof evidence to what had happened, that Jesus had come in person. He would not be convinced unless he felt the marks of the nail-prints. In this way, he bargained with God to believe, wishing to see before trusting.
So he returned to the company of disciples, who were full of joy on account of the appearance of Christ to them. He, however, was sad, saying he wanted to be sure that Jesus had risen.
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!".
A week later, Jesus appeared to his disciples again. They were still afraid and the doors were locked. Christís body, risen from the dead, penetrated indoors noiselessly. He blessed them with his peace, offering pardon to his weak disciples.
Thomas saw his Lord with open eyes in wonder, hearing his voice. Jesus saw them all, his eyes piercing Thomasí doubts with a divine look. He bid shrinking Thomas to touch him, unlike his command to Mary Magdalene, "Touch and feel, I am a genuine person, present among you." Jesus bid him not just to behold the marks of the nails but to "draw near and put your finger in the scars and believe."
He urged his hesitant disciple to overcome all his doubts. Jesus expects complete confidence from us, because he announced his cross, resurrection, session with God and his second coming, all for our benefit. He who denies these truths calls him a liar.
The Lordís loving attitude broke Thomas down, and he whispered (as a summing up of his prayers and meditations) the greatest confession made by man to Jesus, "MY LORD AND MY GOD!". He realized, sadly longing for the truth, that Jesus was not the Son of God independent of his Father, he is Lord himself, having the fullness of deity in a body. God is one, not double. Thomas called Jesus God, and knew that this Holy One would not judge him for his unbelief, but bestow on him the grace of beholding the Lord himself. Thomas also called him Lord, and yielded his past and future wholly into his Saviorís hands, believing firmly what Jesus said in his Farewell Discourse. Brother, what do you say? Do you share in Thomasí confession? Has the Risen One come towards you, so that you are awed by his majesty and have overcome your doubts and obstinacy? Cast yourself on his mercy and confess before him, "My Lord and my God."
PRAYER: We thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, because you did not reject doubting Thomas, but did reveal yourself to him. Accept our lives to be your own, and purge our tongues of all deceit.
QUESTION 127: What does Thomasí confession imply?
29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed, because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."
We do not know whether Thomas touched the wounds of Jesus, or was content to see the scars. He may have been ashamed of his unbelief and lacked the boldness. Jesus called the faith of Thomas a creedal confession on the basis of eye-witness, but the Lord wishes to create a higher level of faith, a trust in him confident in his word without our seeing him personally. He who desires dreams and visions and appearances to confirm his faith is a beginner, not mature and not properly established. Yet, Jesus appeared to his apostles several times to strengthen their faith in critical junctures.
Those who believe without seeing him are blessed by Jesus and find happiness. True faith mobilizes a greater force in us than do visions that are transient. Manís confidence in Godís word honors the invisible Speaker.
Since Christís appearances, evangelists and apostles have taken to preaching to us in gospels and Epistles. Jesusí resurrection is a proclamation to a new age, in which Godís life masters the hearts of believers. Our faith is not mere credence or thought; it is life and an attachment to Christ the Risen One. This is the miracle of our days; millions believe in Jesus without seeing him, because by faith they have experienced the power of eternal life.
Many Christians were to lose their goods, relatives and their lives. They had the truth by way of faith in Christís words, a faith beyond logic. Jesus rewards such faith by his word and the coming of his life into the believer. Our faith embraces all our being, and links us to Jesus our Savior.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are the founder and perfecter of our faith. You love us, and your truth reaches us through your word. I now believe that you will save me and many of my friends, you will revive and establish them in a living faith in your name, that they may have eternal life and great joy.
QUESTION 128: Why does Jesus call Ďblessedí believers who have not seen him?
4. Conclusion of John's gospel (John 20:30-31)
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
At the end of this chapter, we reach the final of what John himself actually wrote. The mystical writer and evangelist announced the rising of Godís light in the darkness that did not perceive it. But to all who received him, he gave the right to become Godís children, those who believe in him. The great evangelist drew us to the depths of divine fellowship in the person of Jesus. He depicted for us the death and rising of Christ, so that we may believe in him and see him living with us.
In sum, the apostle lays down four principles, to make clear to us the gist of his gospel and the aim of his writing.
John did not write volumes to cover all the sayings and doings of Jesus. Otherwise, he would have had to pen several tomes. He selected those signs and discourses that would highlight Jesusí matchless personality. His writing was not at the dictation of the Spirit of God, as if this were an afflatus heard unconsciously. Rather, he was responsible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to select prominent events, and he lovingly portrays the Lamb of God who bears away the sin of the world, a slain victim.
John wrote this gospel for us to discern that the man Jesus of Nazareth plain and despised is Christ the One promised and Godís Son at the same time. With these two titles, he met the longings of Jews during the Old Testament eras. Thereby, he judged his nation that crucified Davidís promised son. The man Jesus confirmed the true Christ as Godís Son. Godís great love and blameless holiness is beyond reproach, or neglect for anyone with goodwill. John glorifies Jesus superbly. His portrait of Jesus for us is incomparable, so that we may realize the love of Godís Son, who became man that we might become the children of God.
John has no wish to create only a creedal acceptance in us, but a bond with Godís Son. As Jesus is Son, God becomes our Father. Since the Lofty One is our Father, he can bring forth many children, filled with his eternal life. The new birth through the blood of Christ and the Spirit in us, that is the goal of Johnís gospel. So, are you born spiritually, or are you still dead in sins? Does Godís life dwell in you, or are you devoid of his Holy Spirit?
The second birth is completed by faith in Godís Son. He who trusts in him receives the divine life. We have this life in a permanent relation with him by faith. He who abides in Jesus, will find that Jesus abides in him. Such a believer will grow in Spirit and in truth, and the fruits of divine life will flourish in him. Eternal life is Godís love impelling us to lead many to faith in Jesus, for them to love and abide in him and he in them always.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gospel as your evangelist John recorded. By way of this unique book we perceive your majesty and truth. We bow to you joyfully, because you have led us to faith in you, and gave us new birth by grace. Fix us in your fellowship, to love you in keeping your commandments. May we witness publicly to your name, that our friends may trust in you and receive abundant life by faith.
QUESTION 129: What does John elaborate in the conclusion of his gospel?
5. Jesus appears by the lake (John 21:1-25)
a) The miraculous catch of fishes (John 21:1-14)
1 After this, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
After his resurrection, Jesus enjoined his disciples to go to Galilee, their home district, adjoining Lake Tiberias. He as the Good Shepherd would precede them and meet them there, but his love for them meant that he appeared to them sooner, while they were in Jerusalem to calm their fears. This is when on Sunday evening after the Passover, he saluted them with Peace divine, and sent them to evangelize the world (Mark 16:7; Matthew 28:10).
So, did the disciples, after his commission to catch men, respond to his command? Did the miracle of Resurrection change their thinking, so that they hastened to evangelize the world with the message of eternal life, appearing in him? Sadly, no. They reverted to their old tasks and split up into groups, some alone, others in partnership of fishermen.
One evening, Peter set out to fish, saying to his friends, "I go a fishing." He left them to decide whether or not to follow. They joined him to the shore, embarked on a boat and rowed to the middle of the lake. They cast their net many times, exhausted all night long, but caught nothing. They forgot Jesus saying, "Without me, you can do nothing."
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish.
Jesus did not abandon his disciples, despite their wandering into byways. He stood by the shore awaiting their return. He could have thrown fish into their nets, but he wished to teach them that they could not act on impulse after his great victory, or revert to their ordinary tasks. They had agreed to a covenant with him; he was their partner, but they had forgotten him in the cares and problems of the day and behaved as if he were absent and distant.
He did not address his followers as apostles, but as children or youths. They had forgotten much of what he had told them, nor did they apply his injunctions. Despite this sorry behavior, Jesus humbly refrained from rebuking them, but asked them for some food. They had to confess that they had caught nothing, and that God had not been with them. In short they admitted their mistake.
As day was breaking, Jesus came to them; it was as if new hope was dawning on them. He did not say, "Never mind if you have failed", or "Try again, you may succeed." By a royal command, he said, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." Though they were not far into the lake, but near the shore, where big fish are rare, nevertheless, they heeded this suggestion and cast the net to the right.
Jesus saw the fish in the water, as today he knows where those who are longing for him are to be found. He will send you to such. He does not say, "Catch everyone in your net", but simply, "Cast your Gospel net in the place where I want you, and you will see the workings of my words."
The disciples obeyed this strange order, and yet did not quite recognize Jesus, who seemed an ordinary person. Maybe he was just using a common salutation, but it had a confident tone. So they took courage and cast their nets, though exhausted, and behold, the nets were filled. There are spiritual guides sent by the Lord who fish where he sends them, and their nets are full of fish, so much that they are unable to carry the haul on their own. They need sincere colleagues to help them in love.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, forgive our concern with our livelihoods, more than our desire to win others for you. We thank you for coming to us, even when we have strayed. You lead us to confess our failure. Teach us to obey your word and lead us to those who seek you, and lead them into your Gospel net, that they may become your own for ever.
QUESTION 130: Why was the abundant catch a cause for shame to the disciples?
7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
The evangelist recognized that this huge catch was no coincidence. He was in the boat, and realized that the man on the shore was no other than Jesus, himself. John did not utter the name of Jesus, but reverently said, "It is the Lord!"
This alarmed Peter as he remembered that Christ was teaching a second time a vital lesson through fishing. He went for his clothes and put them on, not wishing to approach his Lord naked. He sprang into the water and swam towards the Lord. Thus he left the boat, his friends and the fresh fish alone. He forgot everything, because his heart singled out Jesus.
John stayed in the boat, even though his love was as sincere as Peterís. So this young man with his colleagues rowed strenuously towards the shore about 100 meters away. Eventually, they reached the shore to look after the large catch of fish.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
When the disciples reached the shore, they saw a charcoal fire with the fish on top. So wherefrom was the fire, the fish and the bread? He called them from a distance of a hundred meters, for they had nothing to eat. On arrival, they found the fish grilled, and he urged them to have a meal. He is Lord and the host at the same time. He kindly gave them a share in preparing the food. He allows us to participate in his work and the produce. Had the disciples not obeyed his advice, they would have caught nothing. But here he is inviting them to take food. Surprisingly, the Lord who needs no earthly food, stoops down to share with them that food, for them to feel his affection.
The number 153 fishes refers, according to ancient tradition, to the number of kinds of fishes known at that time. It is as if Jesus is saying, "Do not fish for just one kind of humans, but come with a selection of all nations." All are bidden to enter Godís life. Just as the net did not break under pressure, so also the Church will not break up or lose the unity of the Holy Spirit, even if some of her members should remain selfish and loveless. The true Church will become his own and vital.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus gathered his disciples round the fire of his love. No one dared speak up, for all knew that this stranger was the Lord himself. They were eager to embrace him, but fear and awe deterred them. Jesus broke the silence and blessed them as he began distributing the food. Thereby he forgave them and renewed them. All disciples live in the pardon of their Lord constantly; without his faithfulness to that covenant, they would perish. They are slow to trust or hope. He did not rebuke them, but strengthened them with his miraculous nourishment. Even so, Jesus and God require you to share the good news despite your sin and slowness of heart. This is the pattern Jesus follows in working miracles after the Resurrection.
b) Peter confirmed in the service of the flock (John 21:15-19)
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
By his word of Peace, Jesus forgave his disciples their sins along with Peterís denial, at his first appearance. But Peterís denial needed special treatment. His kindness appears in the Lordís words, he who tests the hearts. He did not say a word about the denial, to give him scope for self-examination and self-realization. He called Peter by his original name, Simon son of Jonah, for returning to his old ways.
Likewise, Jesus asks you today, "Do you love me? Have you kept my words and trusted my promises? Have you perceived my essence and drawn near? Have you joined my ranks and given up your possessions, time and strength for my sake? Are your thoughts always on me and you have become one with me? Do you honor me with your life?"
Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Peter did not answer, "No, Lord, I am no better than the rest; I have denied you." Peter was still self-confident and answered yes, but limited his love by using the Greek expression for affection, not divine love springing from the Holy Spirit and confident faith.
Peter was not rebuked for his weak love, but was enjoined by the Lord to confirm his love by caring for his followers. Jesus commissioned this faltering disciple again to look after his young ones in the faith. The Lamb of God has purchased lambs of his own. Are you ready to serve such folk, to bear with them, lead them patiently, and await their maturing? Or do you expect more from them than they are able to endure? Or have you left them to move away from the flock and be torn apart? Jesus asked Peter first of all to tend those who are young in faith.
16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
Jesus did not let off Peter lightly as if to say, "Did you not answer me hastily when you said, ĎI love youí? Is not your love human and defective? Is not your love emotional or is it based on sincere goodwill?
The question moved Peterís heart, who humbly replied, "Lord, you know all, you know my limitations and abilities. My love is not hidden from you. I truly love you and am ready to yield my life for you. I have failed and will fail again. But your love has kindled an endless love in me."
Jesus did not deny Peterís claim, but said, "As you love me, love also the mature members of my Church. Their pastoral care is not easy. Many of them are obstinate, backsliding, each going his own way. Do you wish to bear my sheep on your shoulders and be weary? You are responsible for them."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" Peter was grieved, because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
Peter denied his Lord three times, so Jesus knocked on his heartís door three times and thus tested the genuineness of his love. He stressed the need for divine love coming from the Holy Spirit, as Peter was to discover in himself: He did not receive it until the Holy Spirit descended on him at Pentecost. He kept inquiring, "Are you indeed bound to me more than to any human relationship, to the extent that you will offer your life for the worldís salvation?" The third time, Peter answered in sorrow and shame, and added that the Lord knew his heart.
Peter confessed that Jesus was right in predicting his threefold denial beforehand, and that Christ knew everything. So Peter called him the true God, who knows what is in manís innermost being. That is the pastoral vocation, committed to Peter Ė caring for the sheep.
Are you a pastor watching over Godís flock? Do you see the wolves and evil spirits approaching? Remember, we are all sinners, not deserving to be honored with the shepherding of Godís people, except by virtue of the cross. Doubtless, shepherds need more forgiveness daily than the sheep; often they neglect their main responsibility.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Great Shepherd. You called me to be a shepherd, this I do not deserve. I am following you and falter. You have committed the sheep of your loving kindness to me. I commit them to you, beseeching you to tend them, granting them eternal life, keeping them in your hands; so that none might snatch them. Sanctify them and grant us patience, humility, trust, faith and hope to be established in your love. You will not forsake me, but love me to the uttermost.
QUESTION 131: What has impressed you in the conversation between Jesus and Peter?
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."
Jesus understood Peterís, his discipleís, heart as zealous and emotional. We often find this reckless stage in the experience of young men as they first show faith in Christ. As soon as they experience the Holy Spirit, they burst out and rush to save others. But mostly, they serve with mere human enthusiasm, not in the guidance of Jesus, which is gentle, prayerful and cooperative.
However, Jesus prophesied that Peter would outgrow his self-confidence and mature in spirit, surrendering to his Lord, a captive of love, wanting only what Christ wishes.
Peter stayed in Jerusalem, and did not go to the Gentiles. He was beaten and cast into prison several times; on one occasion being released by the Angel of the Lord. He was led by the Holy Spirit to the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, where he discovered that the Holy Spirit could descend on Gentiles, previously regarded unclean. By this step in evangelism, he opened the door for worldwide mission.
After his release from Herodís prison, Peter went round the newly founded Churches, specially after Paul was thrown in prison. Thus, the chief apostle visited Christians of Gentile origin, encouraging them with fatherly messages. Tradition records his death in Rome during the Neronian persecution. Deeming himself unworthy to die crucified like his Lord, he begged them to crucify him upside down, head down. Jesus had alluded to this, when he said, Peter would glorify God in his own death.
Previously, Peter had indicated to Jesus that he was ready to lay down his life for his Lord. Jesus replied, "You cannot follow me now, but you will in the end" (John 13:36). Jesus associated his disciples with his own powers and glory to be one with him and the Father as well as the Holy Spirit. He made them participants in his suffering and death which are the prelude to glory. Glory in the Gospel does not mean radiance or honor in worldly terms, but suffering and the cross for the One who loves us. Peter could not glorify God of his own accord, but Christís blood cleansed him, and the Spiritís power sanctified him, so that he denied himself and lived for his Lord and died to glorify him.
Then, Christ gave Peter a military order, "Follow me!". To the extent that we follow him in life and death, we shall yield the fruits of love and sanctify the name of the merciful Father.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for not rejecting Peter, though he denied you, but you called him to glorify the Holy Trinity in life and death. Take our lives also, and cleanse us to place our will fully under your guidance, to keep your commandments, to love our enemies, and honor you by obedient faith till the end, so that our lives may become praise to your grace.
QUESTION 132: How did Peter glorify God?
c) Future predictions of Jesus (John 21:20-23)
20 Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!"
Peter headed his Masterís call to shepherd his lambs and ewes. Since John was the youngest of the disciples, Peter was anxious to find out Jesusí stand regarding John. Would he send him home on account of his youth, or appoint him a lieutenant in the conflict?
There may have been a trace of envy in Peterís words, because Jesus seemed to prefer John to the others, and loved him more. At the Last Supper, Peter had gestured to John to be the intermediary with the Lord to calm the tense atmosphere and name the traitor.
John was so attached to Jesus that he stood by the cross, risking his life before Christís enemies. He was the first to believe that the Lord had risen, and the first to recognize him during the fishing by the lake. He was already following Jesus, while Peter was being called to follow. His heart was united with Christ. He was the most intimate of the disciples with the Lord.
Perhaps, Peter asked Jesus, if John was to face the same harsh future that had been predicted of him, or if it was to be a singular distinction for him. Jesus replied to the chief apostle that he was not set to lord it over the rest, but to be a brother among equals. It was not his business to be concerned with Johnís destiny, who had direct links with his Lord, whereas Peter was the spokesman of the apostles. John remained silent, supporting by prayer and patience the doctrinal developments in the Church, and influence them in the power of prayer (Acts 3:1; 8:14; Galatians 2:9).
We note from Jesusí prior appointment for Johnís vocation, that it is not important, whether we live long in Christís service or die early for his sake. More vital is our fidelity and obedience continually to him. Jesus does not treat his followers as if they were in one mould, but prepares a special path for each to glorify his Master. We hear nothing of Johnís death; he probably died a natural death.
Jesus bids Peter to look to him alone, and not peep at the other disciples. This means that we ought not to be vexed at the careers of other Christians, but that we strive to know Godís will in our lives, and follow him at once unconditionally. Faithful following is the motto for every Christian.
He also spoke to his disciples about his second coming. That coming is the goal of world history. The thoughts of all the disciples were directed to this future event. With Godís presence among men, the longings of all generations will be fulfilled. Jesus will come in glory. Do you expect him and prepare by prayer, service, sacred songs and your sanctified witness? We shall find in his presence multitudes of believers who followed him directly in faith, and followed no other.
23 The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"
The balance of opinion is that John lived to old age, and he became a symbol in the churches of Messianic expectations. Around him grew a belief that he would not die, until the Lord returned. Paul too expected an early coming of the Lord, and that he might not die but be transformed instantly and be raptured into heaven. John was realistic and pointed out clearly that Christís promise did not mean that John would not die until the heavens would open and the Glorious One would appear. His aim and decisions were not subject to Peterís longings. The Lord remains the Good Shepherd who leads his disciples each in his own specific path.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are the glorious Savior, the faithful Shepherd. Thank you for guiding Peter and John in a way that fitted each of them, that they might glorify you in life and death. Grant us the privilege of following only you. Guide our relatives and friends to that goal of your coming, so that they may prepare with joy for your coming which is at hand.
QUESTION 133: What do Christís final words in this gospel mean?
d) The witness of John and his gospel (John 21:24-25)
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
Here we discover four important truths:
The evangelist was alive when his gospel was published, and well-known among Greek-speaking churches. He remained a disciple of Jesus from the days of the Baptist to Christís ascension to heaven.
John was eye-witness of Jesus Christ. He heard Jesusí words and records them, as he also records the signs. It was not a member of the churches that wrote this gospel, but John himself as the beloved disciple.
Perhaps he was not fluent in Greek, so he dictated his lofty thoughts to one of his own followers who was a gifted linguist. The meanings are clear, and the truths unchanged. Those who circulated the gospel acknowledged with one voice that Johnís witness was wholly reliable. This acknowledgement was seeded, since Johnís gospel differed in substance from the other three gospels. We are glad that this gospel uniquely from the beloved disciple is one of our treasures.
The people who published this gospel unanimously expressed the reality of Christ in their lives, and having received him, they had authority to become the children of God, believing in His name. The Holy Spirit descended on them, lived in them and enabled them to distinguish evil spirits. They recognized the truth from lies and exaggerations, having experienced the Spirit of Comfort to guide them into all truth.
25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Some people find the existence of four gospels a stumbling block. If we include Paulís letters a further gospel (as he expressed it), then we have five, just as the life of a genuine Christian is a gospel in itself. The writer of Johnís gospel confesses that he heard so many of the sayings and doings of Jesus from the disciples, that he was unable to gather them all. The fullness of God dwells in him. Even today he dwells in his Church and guides her as she follows in his footsteps. If we were to try to put down in writing all the works of Jesus risen from the dead up to our day, not all the volumes and tomes would suffice for the purpose. Christians will need eternity to comprehend the height, breadth, depth and length of Christís love at work in the history of mankind.
Our living Lord works through his word as recorded in the New Testament. We regard ourselves blessed, because we hear his voice, grasp his thoughts and follow his call. John depicts the love of Jesus Christ, so that all may confess, "We have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
PRAYER: We thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for inspiring your servant John to write the gospel of your love. You speak to us through his words. We thank you for your compassion, your sayings, deeds, life, death and resurrection. You have revealed the Father to us and forgiven our sins. You have given us new life through your Spirit.
QUESTION 134: To what do those who issued Johnís gospel testify?
QUIZ - 7
Dear reader, send us correct answers to 20 of these 24 questions. If you have also answered the required questions of the previous six booklets of this series, we shall send you a certificate testifying to your diligence in studying the gospel of John.
111. What was the relationship between Jesus and Peter during the interrogation before Annas?
112. How and in what sense is Jesus a King?
113. What do we learn from the picture of Jesus beaten, wearing purple and a crown of thorns?
114. Why did Pilate pass judgment on Jesus?
115. What is the meaning of the title placed over the cross?
116. What are Jesusí three words?
117. What do we learn from the fact that Christís bones were unbroken?
118. What does the burial of Jesus teach us?
119. What are the three lines of evidence for the resurrection of Christ?
120. In what did John trust while inside the empty tomb?
121. Why did Mary not cease to search for the body of the Lord Jesus until he revealed himself to her calling her by name?
122. What is Christís message on the lips of Mary Magdalene to us?
123. What is the meaning of the first phrase that Jesus uttered to the disciples after the resurrection?
124. Why did the disciples rejoice?
125. What is strange about the sending out of the disciples??
126. Who is the Holy Spirit? What does he do through your witness to Christ
127. What does Thomasí confession imply?
128. Why does Jesus call Ďblessedí believers who have not seen him?
129. What does John elaborate in the conclusion of his gospel?
130. Why was the abundant catch a cause for shame to the disciples?
131. What has impressed you in the conversation between Jesus and Peter?
132. How did Peter glorify God?
133. What do Christís final words in this gospel mean?
134. To what do those who issued Johnís gospel testify?
Do not forget to write your name and full address clearly on the quiz sheet, not only on the envelope. Send it to the following address:
P.O. BOX 15755
PITTSBURGH, PA 15244
P.S. If you like to continue studying the Bible with us, we are ready to send you another series of booklets with meditations on another book of the Bible.
CONTENTS - 7
2.†† Jesus questioned before Annas and Peter's
††††† threefold denial (John 18:15Ė21) .................................. †331
3.†† The civil trial before the Roman governor
††††† (John 18:28 Ė 19:16) .................................................. †334
a)† The charge against Christ's royal claims (John 18:28-38) ................ ††334
b)† The choice between Jesus and Barabbas (John 18:39-40) ............... ††337
c)† The flogging of Jesus before his accusers (John 19:1-5) .................. ††338
d)† Pilate awed by Christ's divine nature (John 19:6-12) ........................ ††340
e)† Pilate's unjust sentence on Jesus (Jesus 19 :12-16) ....................... ††342
4.†† The cross and the death of Jesus (John 19:16b-42) ...... †345
a)† Crucifixion and the grave clothes (John 19:16b-22) .......................... ††345
b)† Dividing the garments and casting the lots (John 19:23-24) .............. ††347
c)† Christ's word to his mother (John 19:25-27) .................................... ††348
d)† The consummation (John 19:28-30) ............................................... ††349
e)† Piercing Jesus' side (John 19:31-37) ............................................. ††351
f)†† Burial of Jesus (John 19:38-42) ..................................................... ††353
B - THE RESURRECTION AND APPEARANCES
..... OF CHRIST (JOHN 20:1 Ė 21:25) ..................................... †355
1.†† Events at the Passover dawn (Easter) (John 20:1-10)..... 355
a)† Mary Magdalene at the graveside (John 20:1-2) .............................. ††355
b)† Peter and John race to the tomb (John 20:3-10) ............................. ††357
c)† Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18) ........................ ††359
2.†† Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room
††††† (John 20:19-23) ......................................................... †363
3.†† Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas
††††† (John 20:24-29) ......................................................... †368
4.†† Conclusion of John's gospel (John 20:30-31) ................ †371
5.†† Jesus appears by the lake (John 21:1-25) .................... †373
a)† The miraculous catch of fishes (John 21:1-14) ................................ ††373
b)† Peter confirmed in the service of the flock (John 21:15-19) ............... ††377
c)† Future predictions of Jesus (John 21:20-23) ................................... ††381
d)† The witness of John and his gospel (John 21:24-25) ........................ ††383