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“Then were the disciples glad.”
“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:18-31)
“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” — This was our Lord’s first appearance after his resurrection from the dead (Mark 16:9). Matthew tells of another appearance to the women as they went to tell his disciples (Matthew 28:9-10). Luke and Mark tell us that he appeared to two disciples as they were going to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-34; Mark 16:12-13). These appearances were all on the same day on which he arose. They all took place on Sunday, the first day of the week. The Apostle Paul reports several other appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ during the time between his resurrection and his ascension (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
After our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, the disciples always gathered for worship and the breaking of bread on Sunday, the first day of the week (the day of Christ’s resurrection). It was on this day that the Lord arose; and it was on this day that he first appeared to his disciples. Never again did the disciples observe a legal sabbath. The Gospel Sabbath of faith in Christ began with the resurrection on Sunday morning.
Sunday is not, as many call it, “the Christian Sabbath.” Christ is our Sabbath. We rest in him. Sunday is called “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10); but it is not a sabbath day. After the resurrection of our Lord, the disciples met on Sunday, the first day of the week, for worship, preaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and praise. We do not read anywhere in the New Testament of any congregation of Christians meeting on the Jewish Sabbath or observing any kind of sabbath day. The Apostles preached to the Jews assembled on Saturday; but no record is found of them meeting on Saturday for worship. And there is no record of them ever again observing a legal sabbath day of any kind, to any degree. Our Sabbath is Christ himself (Hebrews 4:3-10). We observe the sabbath spiritually by faith, resting in the Savior. Christ is our Rest, not a day but the Savior himself! All legal sabbath day observance is strictly forbidden in the New Testament (Colossians 2:16-23).
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” — Nothing gladdens the hearts of God’s elect like the manifest presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, bestowing his grace and speaking peace to our hearts. Child of God, as you think about your risen Savior, here are seven things which ought to make your heart glad.
The Peace He Gives
First, we are reminded that the peace Christ gives gladdens the hearts of his people. Twice the Lord Jesus addressed these disciples with the sweet, gentle, gracious words, “Peace be unto you.” He who “spake as never man spake” said nothing without meaning. He spoke to these disciples with special emphasis because of their present state of mind, with special reference to the events of the last few days, and with special reference to their future days. “Peace” and not blame — “peace” and not fault-finding — “peace” and not rebuke — was the first word this little band of believers heard from their Master’s lips after he arose from the tomb.
The Lord Jesus sent Mary to these disciples to prepare them for this most gracious visit; and what a refreshing and soul-satisfying visit it must have been! We hear no upbraiding for their recent desertions, nothing of reproach for their unbelief, no scolding for their failures, but all was mercy, love, and grace!
“Peace on earth” was the song of the heavenly host, when Christ was born. Peace and rest of soul was the general subject he continually preached for three years. Peace, and not riches, was the great legacy he left with the eleven the night before his crucifixion. It was in full keeping with the tenor of all our Lord’s dealings, that, when he came to his disciples after his resurrection, his first word should be “Peace.” It was a word that would soothe and calm their minds.
Peace is the key-note of the Gospel we preach, the Gospel he has sent us to preach: peace with God, peace by the blood of His cross, peace from God, the peace of God, peace between God and man by the precious blood of atonement, and peace between man and man by the gift of his grace. Christ has sent us to preach peace, spread peace, and practice peace.
Any religion, like that of Mahomet, which makes converts with the sword, is not from above, but from beneath. Any religion, like that of Rome, that burns men at the stake, in order to promote its own success, carries with it the stamp of hell and of antichrist. That religion which is the religion of the Prince of Peace is that which preaches, spreads, practices, and promotes peace — real, true peace.
Second, how greatly our hearts are gladdened by those blessed, sweet revelations of our Lord Jesus which assure us of his accomplishments as our Mediator. Can you imagine what that first meeting of the Church after the Lord’s death must have been like? The disciples had heard the reports of the Lord’s resurrection; but they did not believe them (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:11). They must have been terribly confused, very fearful, shamefully unbelieving, yet a little hopeful.
Then the Lord Jesus appeared in their midst and showed them his wounds! Our Lord Jesus very gently and graciously gave his beloved disciples this remarkable, assuring evidence of his resurrection and of their redemption. —— He showed them “his hands and his side.”
Without question, the Savior was, in this action, both identifying himself to them and assuring them that he had really risen from the dead in a real body. He bade them see with their own eyes, that he had a real material body, and that he was not a spirit or a ghost. “Handle me and see,” were his words. “A spirit hath not flesh and bone, as ye see me have,” he said (Luke 24:39). Great indeed was the condescension of our blessed Master in thus coming down to the feeble faith of his disciples!
Yet, there is more here than a mere proof of our Lord’s bodily resurrection. Showing them his hands and side and feet, our Lord Jesus showed them assuring tokens of redemption with which he entered into heaven as our Representative, tokens of redemption that would everlastingly plead for them in glory.
The Lord had said in his commission to Mary that she should say to his brethren, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God.” By showing them his wounds he said, “In my ascension, these wounds will appear for you. And all the petitions you send to heaven by me, I will put into these pierced hands and present you and your prayers to our Father and our God.”
The primary reason for showing the disciples his wounds was to convince them that he had indeed risen and that the reports given by the women and the two disciples (which they did not believe – Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:11) were true. But the wounds and scars of our Lord Jesus were and forever shall be proof of his great love for those whom he redeemed, and evidence of our full salvation in and by Him (Isaiah 53:4-6).
The disciples rejoiced and were glad when it finally dawned upon them that it was their Lord standing in their midst, that he was alive again and that he had accomplished redemption by the sacrifice of himself. As these disciples were then made glad when they saw the Lord, so we are made glad with every spiritual manifestation of our crucified, risen, ascended, exalted Savoir today as we seek to worship him in private and in our public assemblies of worship with his saints.
Third, I want us to see that we are sent by our Savior into this world, just as He was sent by His Father, for the salvation of his elect (vv. 21-23).
“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
The Lord Jesus has left us here as his witnesses, that we might preach his Gospel to all men, for the salvation of his elect. This is our commission (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 4:13-16). By the preaching of the Gospel, the sins of eternity bound men and women are either remitted or retained (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). How honored and how glad we ought to be to have this trust given to us!
Fourth, if you will look at verses 24 and 25, you will see that when we absent ourselves from the house of God, when we neglect the assembly of God’s saints for worship, we deprive ourselves of great blessings.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Our Lord had appeared to his disciples and convinced them that he had indeed risen from the dead. He had given them the Holy Spirit to empower them for their ministry to the world. But Thomas was not present with them when the Lord appeared.
We do not know where he was or why he was not there, but there is a lesson to be learned from his absence. He missed the joy of seeing the risen Lord. He missed hearing our Lord’s words of peace. And he missed the peace and assurance itself as evidenced by his words in the next verse, “I will not believe.”
The Spirit of God tells us plainly that we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Such neglect leads to spiritual leanness, snares, and temptations, and missed blessings. The house of God, the assembled Church of God for worship, is the place were God our Savior meets with his people and makes himself known (Matthew 18:20). This is the place from which he sends out his Word. Public worship is the most important aspect of every believer’s life (Hebrews 10:23-29).
Fifth, in verses 26-29 we see how gracious and merciful our dear Savior is to his poor, weak, sinful people in the exercise of his indescribable restoring grace.
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The disciples found Thomas and with great joy and assurance of faith told him that they had “seen the Lord.” They not only had the testimony of the women and the angels, but they saw him with their own eyes. Still, Thomas said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas was present at the raising of Lazarus, and had heard Christ himself say that he would rise from the dead, and now had the testimony of his friends that the Lord was risen. Still he did not believe. How great and inexcusable our unbelief is! How stubborn these vile hearts are! Yes, there is in us all “an evil heart of unbelief” that would depart from our God (Hebrews 3:12).
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it!
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!”
Thank God, he overrules our unbelief and is faithful to us when we are unfaithful to him (2 Timothy 2:13). Where sin abounds, his grace much more abounds!
Sixth, our hearts are made glad by every reminder that he who is our Savior is himself our God, as Thomas confessed him to be. What a glorious confession Thomas gave once the Lord Jesus, in his boundless mercy, had granted him restoring grace. — “My Lord and my God!” Blessed be his name, Jesus Christ is God! None but God could redeem us, justify us, make us holy, and bring us to heaven.
Seventh, our hearts ought to be made glad every time we are reminded that all the wonders performed by our Lord Jesus Christ in this world are designed for us, that we might believe (vv. 30-31).
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Everything our great God and Savior does is a wonder. — “Thou art the God that doest wonders” (Psalm 77:14). And he does his wonders for us, for the everlasting salvation of chosen sinners (Romans 8:28). By believing on Christ, and through his blessed name, we have eternal life, access to the throne, and acceptance before God (Acts 2:36; 4:11-12; Romans 3:19-24; 4:22-25; 1 John 5:10-13). — Wondrous grace!