Turn in your Bibles to the twentieth chapter of John. We come to a most beautiful and most wonderful lesson this morning. We've been learning so many good things in the gospel of John and I know you don't remember all of them because this is our eighty-fifth or so message from John. But that's why we meet together every week, you see, because the Bible says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We need to be together to stimulate each other to godliness every week. In fact, more often than that. The early church knew how important it was so they got together every day. But as we've gone through John, we have constantly had our focus placed upon the person of Jesus Christ passage after passage after passage dealing with His marvelous person.
And this morning we come to a thrilling passage where we see Jesus after His resurrection confronting those who love Him. And we cannot help but feel as they feel and sense something of the thrill and something of the joy and something of the love that pervades these three scenes.
Now by way of introduction, let me just say that Jesus has, as we begin this passage, risen from the dead. Peter and John have seen the empty tomb. He has done what He said He would do, He has conquered death. That is established. Before the sun of the world ever rose on the third day, the Son of righteousness had already arisen with healing in His wings. The bridegroom has already gone forth out of His chamber. The one whose heal was bruised by the serpent has through death become the destroyer of death and him who had the power of death. And the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming. The stone rolled away which had been sealed and guarded by the Roman soldiers. The tomb empty. The grave clothes lying as they had been wound about His body undisturbed and the linen cloth in the place by itself. The testimony of angels corroborating the fact that He is risen.
And all of this would have been enough evidence to prove that Jesus was really alive again, but he adds the coup de grace. He adds the evidence that is beyond doubt, irrefutable and that is the evidence of a personal, bodily, literal face-to-face confrontation with human beings. As we come to these verses we find the greatest proof of the resurrected Christ is that He appears in person to His own. Now the only way that the critics can explain away this particular problem is, where do you get Jesus? If He was dead, how do you get Him alive again?
They say, "Well number one, it's possible that He only reappeared spiritually in their minds, they conjured it up. They so desperately wanted Jesus alive from the dead that they manufactured a resurrection." And we'll see how that theory doesn't even deserve mention as we go through this.
The other theory is that He wasn't dead. That's called the swoon theory, that what happened was that Jesus on the cross went into a semi-coma and when they put Him in the grave, the cool air in the grave, the spices revived His senses, He woke up, stood up, pushed the stone away and walked out. The problem with that is that there is monumental proof that Jesus was really dead. The Roman soldiers who crucified people frequently, as many as thirty thousand around the time of Jesus had been crucified, knew when somebody was dead and when He wasn't, and they did not break the legs of Jesus because they recognized that He was already dead. Not only that, the sphere thrust into His side manifest His death because the blood and the water that came out were the indications of a ruptured heart. Joseph and Nicodemus who took His body off the cross and cared for it knew He was dead. The women who anointed His body and wrapped His body knew He was dead. There's no question about the fact that Jesus was dead. But it's no question about the fact either that Jesus by the time we come to John chapter 20 is now alive again, that He has in fact physically and literally and bodily resurrected from the grave, just as He said He would.
In Mark chapter 14 verse 28 we read these words, "But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee," and there Jesus is predicting His resurrection. In John chapter 2 He astounded those who were about Him by saying, "Destroy this temple and in three days I'll raise it up." And, of course, they were thinking He was talking about the temple built in Jerusalem. "And the Jews said, 'Forty-six years was this temple in building, and you're going to raise it up in three days?" Another classic illustration of their inability to understand spiritual truth. Verse 21, "But He spoke of the temple of His body." So Jesus had promised that He would rise from the dead and in fact He did it. And now to announce and authenticate His resurrection, putting the four gospel accounts together, we find that Jesus appeared no less than eleven times to no less than 500 different people. Now I dare say you need a lot fewer witnesses than that to corroborate any evidence in a court...500 testimonies to the risen Christ. In a court case if you have two, you have sufficient.
Now it's interesting also that when Jesus appears in all of these eleven that we know about, He appears only to His own. He never appears to unbelievers. He never appears to the scribes and Pharisees and says, "Ha, I told you, here I am, you didn't believe." He never does that. He appears only to those who are His own. And many critics of the Scripture have said, "If Jesus really arose, then He would definitely have appeared to the skeptics not the believers." But let's face it, the believers were the skeptics. And the idea that they manufactured a resurrection is ridiculous because in all of the appearances of Jesus, they never expected Him to arise. Even Peter and John had acknowledged, as we saw last time, the fact in verse 9 that they knew not the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead. Not knowing and not believing that He would rise, they would therefore not manufacture a resurrection. They were shocked whenever He appeared and they doubted that it was for real. They even thought they saw a ghost.
But you say, "Why didn't He appear to the scribes? Why didn't He land in downtown Jerusalem and say...Here I am, everybody, now try this on for size? This is fulfilled prophecy." The answer may be simple. There are several suggestions. Number one, Jesus was through with Israel. You know that, don't you? By this time He had long since postponed the Kingdom for Israel. Jesus was through in the purest sense dealing with them. Since Matthew 12 He had turned and begun to call His church, so there would not be any national issue with Israel. Secondly, Jesus Christ never took the route of miracles as the only way to communicate who He was. What I mean by that is this, Jesus' plan for all of the ages of the church was that you and I and the men and women like us would be His witnesses, not that He would make personal, spectacular, supernatural appearances to every unbeliever to prove Himself. But rather than that, He would confirm the faith of those who already believed in Him and then they in turn would go out empowered by the Spirit of God to bring men to repentance and to announce the gospel of the resurrection. So Jesus' method was never to go personally to all the unbelievers to convince them. And He would have had to do that, it wouldn't have done any good to appear to three or four of the Pharisees, none of the other Pharisees would have believed it. If He had appeared to one unbeliever, He would have had to go around appearing to all of them to convince all of them. So rather than that, He appeared to those who were His own, then energized them with the Spirit of God and sent them out to tell and proclaim the gospel of the resurrection with all of the evidence right there. Much more strategic for Jesus to appear to His own.
Besides that, the Word of God says so carefully and so accurately in regarding the rich man who went into Hades, and you remember he was tormented in the flame and he asked if he could not go back to tell his brothers. And the Word of God says, "If they do not believe Moses and the prophets, they would not believe though someone was raised...what?...from the dead." If Jesus had appeared to the unbelievers, the evidence of His resurrection would have been lost for they would not have believed it. Their minds were blinded by the god of this world. And so Jesus stays with His own. And He stays with them because they are the key to everything that's going to happen in the years to come. They are the very stage on which the gospel is going to be presented throughout history, and they must be confirmed in faith and they must have confidence in a resurrected living Christ. If they are convinced beyond doubt and if they are energized by the Spirit of God, God will send them out to do the job He wants done. And so in all of His appearances He appears only to His own.
Let me add another thought here. Out of all of these appearances, John only selects three. And John is very, very careful to select what he wants to select. And in this passage, as always with John, he wants to proclaim to us who Jesus is, that He is God. And he also wants to tell us a little bit what God is like. And so he really paints three scenes here, three parts of Christ's appearances to give us special insights into the person of Christ. And they're just powerful and lovely at the same time. John selects three appearances. One, Mary Magdalene. Two, ten disciples. Three, to Thomas. And in each case they are to verify His bodily resurrection and at the same time for a very direct purpose. Not only just to verify resurrection, but John selects three that have very unique and direct purposes, and we're going to see them as we look at them this morning.
The first appearance then is to Mary Magdalene and the purpose of this, not only to show that He was really bodily alive, but to show His faithfulness. Here is a woman, and she's nothing spectacular. I mean, she had been saved out of a life of horrible sin, she was the one of whom Christ cast out seven demons. She was a sorted woman. And she was not an apostle, she has no prime place in the ministry of the ongoing ministry of the church or the apostolate, but He appears to her for the express purpose of showing His personal, loving faithfulness to just one disciple, no matter how insignificant that one disciple may assume he is. And it's a powerful, powerful lesson. And perhaps we would have thought that the first appearance of Jesus would not have been to a scarlet woman like this, but the first appearance would have been to Peter or to John or the apostles and we would have gone from there, you know. And it was unnecessary to appear to these kind of people but not so because Jesus, first of all, is a loving God, is He not? So He picks out the one who perhaps loved Him more dearly and more deeply than any other. And He appears to her to show the personal character of His loving faithfulness. This is the kind of God we have. This is the kind of Christ we have, not one who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities but who in all points tempted like as we are, who gets down and feels what we feel, who loves us on a personal and individual basis. And that's the thrilling thing about knowing Jesus Christ. We're not in a religious system, friends. This is not a system, this is a living, loving relationship with a personal God. And we see that graphically in the encounter with Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
And so he must show in this passage His faithfulness to those who love Him. This is His character. It must be done. And so Mary Magdalene is the first one to see the risen Lord. And it's so important because it shows us that the primary consideration of Jesus was the love and the faithfulness that He owed to His own. Beyond operating the universe and upholding all things, beyond the commission to the disciples, beyond all the other things that He had to take care of before He ascended, the first thing was to show those who loved Him that He also loved them and that He was faithful and that He'd meet them in their need. And He does, indeed He does.
Notice it as we see it in verse 11. "But Mary stood outside of the sepulcher weeping." Now Peter and John were long gone, verse 10 says they went home. Mary hung around. And the Bible says she was weeping and the Greek word is constant, unrestrained sobbing. She was really torn up. She gave her tears full course. Her helpless love was sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. Why? Because Jesus wasn't there. And she couldn't figure out where He was. She wanted Him there even if He was dead, she wanted Him there, just to know He was there. She had the most glorious kind of love and the weakest kind of faith. And the sad part of it is, that her tears were so needless, you see. She had nothing to be crying about. She was like Hagar in Genesis who was standing there by a well and didn't know it. I mean, all that she needed was right there, the risen Christ. But rather than acknowledging that, she is lost in the sorrow of the fact that the best she can do with the whole picture is, somebody stole His body. But don't you see? Jesus wouldn't leave her in this sorrow. He would not because He said He would not in John chapter 16, listen to this, verse 20, "Verily, verily I say unto you, you shall weep and lament but the world shall rejoice...they thought they had gotten rid of Him...and ye shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." And then He says, "You'll be like the woman having a baby, it hurts while you have the baby, but oh when the baby comes, what joy."
Then in verse 22, "I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you." Jesus had said your sorrow will turn to joy and He found the most sorrowing one, used her as a living example of how His love reaches down to turn that sorrow into joy. And so she was crying for something she didn't need to cry about. Aren't we like that? Bishop Ryle(?) said, "Two thirds of the things we fear in life never happen. Two thirds of all our tears are shed needlessly, in vain and thrown away." He's right. And so her tears are the tears of a frustrated heart. She doesn't understand. She just knows He's not there and even dead she wants Him there.
Then in verse 11 it says, "As she wept she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher and she seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain." She looks in there and here are two angels. Now she didn't recognize that they were angels. In fact, in Mark 16 :5, I think it is, the indication is that they were in the form of a man, Luke 24:4 also says that there were two men. Angels took on the form of young men. And here were two angels in the form of young men sitting at either end of that slab in that little tomb where Jesus had lain. And she sees these two men in there. Now evidently she didn't assume them to be criminals, or anything like that. And yet she had no idea who they were, as is evidenced by her response. Her eyes were blurred with tears. She saw them but didn't see them. But it's kind of an interesting footnote and I want to interject in here because I think it has some important thought for us.
It's very important, I think, that angels are here because angels are always around when God is doing His work and here at the greatest work that God ever did, you'd be sure to find angels, wouldn't you? It would be almost something wrong if they weren't there, and there they are. And the interesting thing about it is that there is one on one end and it makes very clear that that's exactly how they were, one at the head and the other at the feet. And Jesus had been in the middle. Now reading that, that suggests to me something exciting and something thrilling and I want to share it with you this morning. In Exodus chapter 25 God was instructing the people of Israel in the building of the tabernacle to build an Ark of the Covenant. Now the Ark of the Covenant had on top of it had a place called the Mercy Seat. And once a year the high priest would take the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat. And that was where God met man. In other words, by the shedding of blood, the faithful shedding of blood, the act of faith, God met man at the Mercy Seat.
Now let me show you what the Mercy Seat and the Ark were like in Exodus 25:17. "Thou shalt make a Mercy Seat of pure gold, two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof. And a half shall be the length there of and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubim," that's angels, "of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them in the two ends of the Mercy Seat. And make one cherub on the one end, the other cherub on the other end, even of the Mercy Seat shall you make the cherubim thereof." Then listen to verse 22, powerful statement. "And there I will meet with thee."
Where did God meet man throughout the Old Testament? He met man between two angels on the Mercy Seat where the blood was sprinkled. My friends, since Jesus Christ left the tomb, where does God meet men? He meets them between two angels but the Mercy Seat is no longer the Ark of the Covenant, it's the resurrected Christ's tomb. God meets men on the basis of a resurrected living Christ, does He not? There's a new Mercy Seat and nobody needs to go in there and sprinkle any blood anymore because He has once for all accomplished the sacrifice that took care of sin. And she looked in there and she saw a new Mercy Seat. My Jewish readers ought to read that again and see what that is. And there they were.
Well, the angels then spoke. In verse 13 they said unto her, "Woman, what are you crying about?" She didn't understand, see. What are you weeping for? This is not the weeping time is implied. There's nothing to cry about, woman. "Why are you weeping?" These were tears of unbelief. They betrayed a lack of faith. And then she replied to them, "She saith unto them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord.'" Now THE Lord but...what?...my Lord. He belongs to me. "They taken away my Lord and I know not where they've laid Him." Her grief is due to the fact that she doesn't know where the body of Jesus is. Even though she believes Him still to be dead, He is still her Lord and she had come in that morning hour ready to finish the task of anointing His body and she came there to be so disappointed and so frustrated and so panicked and so love lost and alone and lonely, there was no Jesus, no body. So she feels empty and she says, "They've taken away my Lord." And she's weeping and weeping.
I really can't say much for her faith but I can sure say a lot for her love. I pray, God, that I might and that you might have that kind of love, that kind of total devotion to the presence of Christ, that kind of affection that when we're separated from Christ even a little bit results in tears and sobbing. Boy, we just don't know how to love like that. It's so easy for us to get so cold and so indifferent and to stray away from the warmth of a personal experience vital with Jesus Christ and not even care. Some of you people haven't talked to Jesus Christ in a personal intimate way maybe in a long time. Some of you really don't know what it is to experience the fullness of His presence and you don't even seem to mind, that's the sad part. You're not like Mary, you're not sobbing and weeping because He's removed His presence. When you've removed your presence from Him and it doesn't seem to bother you, tragedy. And I'm sure that this kind of affection can set an example for us to be with Him and to desire to be with Him so that if ever we are separated by sin, our hearts are grieved to tears.
Well, no answer comes from the angels. They don't say a thing. And so she turns around and when she turns around, notice verse 14 , "When she had thus said, she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus." Here He is, but she doesn't know it, she looks face-to-face with Jesus and doesn't know it.
You say, "Well, if she knew Him very well, that's a little bit strange." You're right. You say, "How is it that if she knew Him well she didn't see Him?" Well some commentators say, "Well she had her hair in her eyes from crying." Other says, "Well the tears blurred her eyes and she just couldn't recognize Him." Some say, "The lack of faith, she didn't expect Him so she didn't see Him." And very often we can pass someone and not really see them.
I've got a better thought, at least I think it's better. I think there was something different about Jesus. I think there was something about Him that made it impossible for her to recognize Him apart from His disclosure of who He was. You say, "Why do you say that ?" I say that because of Mark 16:12 which says, "He hadhetera morphe. Hetera is the word from which we get heterogeneous which means different, homogeneous means the same. And morphemeans former body. The reason that Jesus was so hard to recognize was that He was in a glorified body, He had another form. He was in a body that was now supernatural. O, a body that could eat fish and honeycomb but it could also pass through a wall. Now I don't know what it was and I'm sure it wasn't a little thing around his head looked like a halo, but I'm sure there was something about the form of Jesus that made it impossible for someone to recognize Him immediately apart from His own disclosure of who He was. And the evidence for that seems to be overwhelming. For example, on the road to Emmaus He walked along with two disciples, did they know who He was? The Bible says He opened their eyes and then they knew. By direct revelation He disclosed Himself to them. Even as far as Matthew 28:17 when they should have known, it says, "And when they saw Him," this is the eleven disciples clear up in Galilee, this is after this occasion we're reading about, "When they saw Him they worshiped Him but some doubted." Another time they saw Him standing on the shore and they weren't too sure who He was. It was only when Jesus Christ revealed Himself by divine revelation to their minds and hearts that they knew who He was. And that's a truism if ever there is. No one any time throughout the history of God's dealing with man can ever know God apart from divine revelation, true?
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 that a man only knows Christ by the Spirit of Christ. That's all. No man can say, "Jesus is Lord," except the Spirit of God which is in him does the testifying. And since the Spirit had not yet come to dwell within them, that's one of the reasons I don't believe, we'll see later, that they really received the Spirit now, they could not recognize Christ apart from a revelation directly to them. And so, she didn't know Jesus.
But then He's going to reveal Himself, and this is such a beautiful scene. I wish I could dramatize it somehow. "Jesus saith unto her...in verse 15... 'Woman, why weepest thou?'" That's the very same word the angels said. Did you know that Jesus and His angels are in agreement? Everything in heaven is harmony? Who writes the angels dialogue? The Lord. So He says the same thing, "Woman, why are you crying?" This is not the crying time. This is time for rejoicing. "Whom seekest thou?" And here she is moping and she's looking for the Lord, of course, but she never names who it is, she assumes this individual knows. So she says in verse 15, she supposing Him to be the gardener, isn't that interesting? She thought He was the gardener. Somebody said, I read one commentator some time ago that said, "The reason she thought that was that since Jesus had been buried naked except for a loin cloth, when He came out of the grave He went over and got the gardener's clothes, put them on and therefore she mistook Him for the gardener. Don't you believe it.
Anyway, she thought that He was the gardener, supposing the gardener would come early to tend to the flowers and so forth and so she says unto Him, "Sir, if Thou had borne Him from here, tell me where Thou hast laid Him and I will take Him away." Now that's a nice thought, Mary, but you couldn't handle that body, no way. But, you see, her love is at the point now where it's not rational anyway. I've got a place where I can bury Him. I mean, if you had to have this tomb back so soon and we hurried to get Him in it and He had to be moved, I'll take Him and I'll bury Him. Her zeal for her blessed Lord is beautiful and her love is deep and true and rich and death can't break it. But she doesn't recognize Him and she thinks He's the gardener so overwhelmed with her love.
But then it comes, O marvelous truth. "Jesus saith unto her," one word, in the Greek here's the word, "Miriam," the Aramaic form is Miriam, the Greek is Mary. "Miriam." He spoke to her in her name, in her own original language, the name which her family knew her by, her friends knew her by, the name which He had always used in speaking to her, Miriam. And that's all He had to say. That's all He had to say. She had in the meantime turned toward the tomb and she spun around, whist...just like that. And it says in verse 16, "She turned herself and saith unto Him, 'Rabboni,' which is to say Master." And that's also an Aramaic word and it's used infrequently of men, most frequently to speak of God. Mary is acknowledging much to the joy of John the Apostle that Jesus is God.
You say, "Well how did He know...how did she know Him by just that one word?" Listen, when you love somebody and you hear that somebody speak your name, you know them, don't you? Listen to this, John chapter 10, I love this, "To him the porter openeth," that is to the true shepherd, "and the sheep hear his voice and he calleth his own sheep by...what?...name." Did you know that He knows your name? Not only that, the Lord knows the number of the hairs on your head...for some of you, it's no problem. But anyway, the Lord knows your name. He knows everything about you and He loves you in a personal way. Don't you see that's what John's trying to teach us here, that we have not an indifferent Christ, we have not a coldly, calculating Christ, we have a warm intimate loving Christ? And he says in John 10:3, "His sheep hear His voice, He calleth His sheep by name and He leadeth them out." And it says, "And the sheep follow Him for they know His voice." Verse 27, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they...what?...follow Me." All He had to do was say her name and she knew it. She knew Him.
It reminds me...and then she...of course, the other gospels tell us she falls at her feet...at His feet and she clutches His legs. She's clutching Him, hanging on to Him. And the tears and the thrill, He's alive. Not only have I found Him but here He is standing here alive, is overwhelming and she's just pouring out, gushing with love and she's hanging on as if to say, "Lord, You'll never get out of this grip again, never. I'm not letting go anymore," see. She hangs on Him. It reminds you of the Song of Solomon where the Shulamite woman says in Song of Solomon, "I found him whom my soul loveth, I held him and wouldn't let him go." Well it's the same kind of a thing. So Mary holds on to Jesus and she's hanging on. Sweet love.
But our Lord speaks to her and He says this, and so beautiful, verse 17, "Jesus saith unto her, 'Touch Me not for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say unto them I ascend unto My Father and your Father and to My God and to your God.'"
Now this may appear to be a strange statement because a little later on He did ask Thomas to touch Him? Why does He say "touch Me not"? Well it's another poor translation by the King James. The Greek means, "Don't cling to Me, stop clinging to Me, stop grasping Me tightly," in the imperative. You see, she wants to hang on to His physical presence but it can't be because, you see, He says, "I must ascend to My Father. In other words, He's saying, "Mary, or Miriam, it's not going to be like it was, you know, the former mode of fellowship, Me here in a physical body and us commuting, it won't be that way anymore, I'm going to go to the Father and when I go the Father I'll send the Spirit and at that point I'll not be just with you like I am physically, I'll be...where?...I'll be in you."
So He says, "Don't hang on to Me, I'm not going to stay, I'll only be here forty days and then I must ascend to My Father." And so He says, "Don't hold on to Me," and I'm reminded of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, isn't it 5:16? Where he says this, "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh, yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." In other words, we don't have a fleshly relationship with Christ, we have a spiritual one, don't we? And so He is saying, "Mary, the whole thing is going to be different, there's kind of a new fellowship, a personal communion where I'm going to be inside of you, living in you." Now He says, "I want you to go and tell My brethren this, you tell them this that I have to go to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God, stop clinging to Me, Mary, this is only temporary till I finish what I have to do then I'm going to ascend."
And Christ all along, you know, had promised He would ascend to the Father. In chapter 13, chapter 14 verses 2, 6, 28, chapter 17 verse 11, several places He had said, "When I'm coming back I'm going to My Father." This is just temporary. He merely wanted to appear, set things in order, commission His disciples, then back, send the Holy Spirit to dwell within them.
Now I want you to notice one other thing that He says in verse 17 that I think is very important. He says, "Go to My brethren," underline that because that's a whole new thing. Disciples have been called servants, they have been called friends, they have never been called brothers until now. Here's something exciting, something thrilling, something new. A whole new relationship to Christ, not a servant, not a friend like John 15 where He said, "I used to call you servants, but now I'm calling you friends," He can say here, "I used to call you friends, and now I'm calling you...what?...brothers." You say, "What in the world...how can we ever be brothers with Jesus Christ?" We can be brothers with Jesus Christ because we are by virtue of His death and resurrection and our identification with it, watch this one, we are in Christ. Now I'll explain what I mean by that.
In Hebrews chapter 2 we studied this not too long ago and it says in verse 11 that Christ tasted death for every man, verse 9. And then verse 10, that He brought many sons to glory. And then verse 11, "For both He that sanctifieth," that is He that made holy, that's Christ, "and they who are made holy," that's us, "are all one for which cause He is not ashamed to call them...what?...brothers." In other words, now watch it, because of our faith in Christ we have become brothers with Christ.
You say, "Well I don't understand how that works." I'll try to explain it simply. Christ is the Son of God by perfect righteousness. When you and I receive Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us, true? Thus we become in the eyes of God perfectly righteous. We are in Christ. You say, "But no, we're not as good as Christ." My friend, positionally before God you're as good as Christ. You say, "Oh, that's a heavy thought." You're right, it's also true. You say, "I'm as good as Christ?" Not practically, positionally. Can God take anyone into His presence who isn't totally perfect and holy? No. Then how did you get in there if you weren't totally perfect and holy? You got in there because you are holy. You say, "In what way?" By union with Jesus Christ, His righteousness becomes yours. When you receive Jesus Christ, positionally God looks at you as holy as Jesus. That's a fantastic thought.
You say, "Support it." All right, I will. Romans 8:29, and I'll show you a couple of passages that point this out and then I'm going to draw a conclusion that's exciting. "For whom He did foreknow He did predestinate," this is God, "to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren." Christ is the firstborn among many brethren, all who come to God through Christ are in Christ therefore Christ's righteousness is our righteousness, therefore righteousness speaking, we are equal to Christ in the eyes of God. If we weren't, we wouldn't get in there at all, would we? Can I get into God's presence on my own righteousness? No. People say, "Well, but you can get out on your own unrighteousness." Oh, no don't you believe that. You want to hear something shocking? This will thrill you. Do you know that you're as secure, you are as secure as Christ is, you have as much chance of losing your salvation as Christ does of getting expelled from the Trinity. Did you get that? Because to begin with you're there in Christ, the only way you could ever go is if He goes. And Christians worry about losing their salvation. Don't worry about losing your salvation, worry about honoring the God who gave you such a secure salvation. Live your life out of gratitude, not fear.
Another passage in the same chapter, Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. We have received adoption and we cry Abba, Father," we speak to God like Daddy, PaPa in the Greek. "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit we're the children of God, if children then heirs of God and...what?...joint heirs with Jesus Christ and we'll be glorified together with Him." We are in a union with Christ. Romans 6, "We have been baptized into His death and into His life." We are one with Christ, therefore our position before Go dis in Christ, our righteousness is Christ's, our holiness is Christ's, our security is Christ's. We are totally in Christ and thus can Jesus say, "Now because of My death and because of the fact that I have borne your sin and you have died with Me and risen with Me, I shall now call you not friends, but...what?...brothers...brothers."
There's one other passage that maybe should add to that and that's Galatians 3:26, oh this is good. "For ye are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many as you have been baptized or put into Christ have put on Christ." Therefore when God looks at you, who does He see? He sees Christ. Verse 28, "For ye are all one in Christ Jesus." And God looks at all the body, we're called the body of...what?...of Christ, the church is the body of Christ, our security is based on our identification with Him. All right, so He calls them brethren. Well, that was another sermon. But anyway...
To illustrate this to them He says, "Now I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." Now that sounds like equality, doesn't it? We're brothers. Now that doesn't mean we are Christ in the sense that we become God. It means in the sense of relationship we stand in Christ before God as His own dear children. Right? Doesn't it say that in Ephesians chapter 4?
Well, when Mary got this message, you know, He's alive, and don't hang on to Me, Mary, go tell the brothers, she gets up and goes. Verse 18, "Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples," and it says she said, "I have seen the Lord." Can you imagine? When she burst in to wherever they were, "I have seen the Lord." And then she says that He had spoken these things unto her and she tells them about His ascension, that He's only going to be here a little while. This is a changed girl. Something different. I've seen the Lord. And you want to know something? That's our testimony, isn't it? Our testimony isn't, "Well, I read the Bible and I concur that it is accurate." Our testimony is, "Hey, I've seen the Lord in my life and I want to share Him with you," that's our testimony. That's the message of Christianity, not second-handed theology, but first-hand experience. And so, Jesus appears to Mary because He wants to prove Himself faithful.
All right, secondly, and very quickly, we'll see these. He appears secondly to the disciples to send the faithful. First to show Himself faithful, secondly, to send the faithful. Now He's got another purpose in mind in appearing to the ten, Thomas isn't there. Verse 19, "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week," and it's important that the Holy Spirit makes that note because this now changes the economy because from now on believers do not worship God on the Sabbath, they worship on the first day of the week, that's clear throughout the book of Acts, that's clear in Revelation 1:10 when it says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day," John said. This is a new day, we don't worship on Sabbath anymore, that's why we meet on Sunday, the first day of the week. That's our resurrection day and it's the Lord's day and the Spirit makes a point of it right here, the first day of the week.
Now get the picture of the disciples. "When the doors were shut," and the Greek is they were locked and barred. Now they're afraid. "The disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews." They were in there shivering in terror, expecting at any minute the temple police would knock on the door and get them. And this is so good. "Came Jesus and stood in the midst and said unto them, 'Peace be unto you.'" O man, this must have been something. I would love to have loved to have been there. For fear of the Jews they were locked up scared to death, then came Jesus...then came Jesus. Fantastic thought.
How did He get there? Some people say that He climbed through a window. Not too easy in the upper room. Some people said He slipped down from the roof. One commentator said He sneaked in before the door was locked and hid in the corner then revealed Himself. One other writer said the door keeper lied and let Him in. The Bible says He came. You say, "How did He come?" He walked through the wall. You say, "Do you believe that?" I believe that. Listen, if He could ascend out of His grave clothes, what's a wall? If Jesus Christ even in His physical form prior to His resurrection could walk on water, don't you think He could rearrange the molecules to walk through a wall? Did you know that science tells us that most of your body is space. You say, "You don't know my body very well." But it's true, that's true, most of your body is space. I wish mine had more space and a little less whatever it's got. The body is space and imagine you can talk about it scientifically, rearranging the molecules to fit through the molecules of the wall, but that's technical. Let's just say that Jesus walked through the wall. That will tell you something about your body when the Rapture comes because you're going to have a body like unto His glorious body. So whatever He can do, you just read it through and you'll see what you'll be able to do. And so Jesus Christ was just in the midst.
Now they panicked when He arrived. Luke 24 says they were scared to death. They were terrorized and they said, "It's a phantom, it's a ghost." Now this doesn't sound like a lot of disciples who are manufacturing a resurrection, does it? And He came into the room and in verse 20 to show them that He was no phantom, "When He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side, then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."
Now you'll notice that in verse 20...or verse 19, He said, "Peace be unto you," and that's...that's a powerful statement because He had promised them peace in 14:27. He had said, "My peace I give unto you," didn't He? And here He is giving it. And this isn't just, "Hi, how are you? Peace, shalom aleckim(???) like they say in Israel, this is the real stuff, this is the peace with God that He promised to give them. He's saying, "Here I am risen, and you have peace with God," you see. This is real peace, not just a greeting. When He said, "Peace be unto you," He granted them positional peace in a relationship with God. The rebellion is over, the war is over. They're at peace with God through His body. Doesn't it say...Paul wrote to Colossians and said that Christ by His death hath brought peace? And so He did. And so then revealed who He was in verse 10, He shows them His hands and His side.
You say, "Does Christ have the wounds still even in His glorified body?" I believe so. I believe even in Revelation 5:6 the Bible says we see the Lamb who came to open the seals and it says it was a Lamb as though it had been slain. I believe Jesus will have those marks throughout all eternity. That's how we're going to know Him when He comes for us. That's one way. And so they saw Him as their exalted Lord.
Well He came to them because He had a commission for them. It begins in verse 41. He says, "Then said Jesus again to them again, 'Peace be unto you.'" You know, you can't go into the world as an apostle unless you're confident and at peace in your own heart. "Peace be unto you. As My Father hath sent Me, even though send I you." As I'm on a commission from God, you're on a commission from Me, and He's going to send His disciples. Now there were more than just the Apostles here, there were perhaps even the women here and some other disciples. And so Jesus commissions them, "You're going to be My sent ones. You're going to carry the gospel." That's the first phase of the commission. My friends, that's our task. Did you know that? Our task is to carry the gospel to the world. We, the body of Christ, are the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ.
What's your strategy? What's your strategy to carry the gospel? What's your plan of attack? I daresay that many of you in six months haven't shared the gospel with anybody. If that's so, that's a tragedy because you're commissioned from the Lord Himself to be His sent one.
We were at a meeting the other night and Jack Murray quoted a statement by Paul Raider that was interesting. Paul Raider said this, "Christians are like a whole lot of people with colds all sitting around sneezing at each other, but nobody gets it because everybody's got it." And the point is, it's so easy for Christians to revolve in a little Christian cubicle, you know, "Us four, no more, shut the door." And that's how we live and not move out and contact the world as sent ones from Jesus Christ. We are the continuing ministry of Christ. He's proven Himself faithful, now He sends the faithful.
Well you just can't go running out there unless you've got some resources, so He gives them the power in verse 22. "And when He had said this, He breathed," the Greek is "He blew," He just...puff of air...and the "on them" is not in the text, and so, "He blew and said unto them, 'Receive ye the Holy Spirit.'"
Now theologians have had a lot of fun dealing with this verse trying to figure out whether He really gave them the Holy Spirit or not. When He said, "When He blew and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit,'" the text does not say they did. You say, "Well don't you believe right then they received the Holy Spirit?" No, I believe the Bible tells us in Acts chapter 2 that the Holy Spirit came...when? Pentecost. You say, "What's going on here?" I believe this is a pledge on Christ's part that the Spirit will come. You see, if they had received the Holy Spirit, mark it, if they had received the Holy Spirit, in verse 26 after eight days they're still locked in that room, if they had received the Holy Spirit, my friends, they wouldn't have been locked in that room for eight days. No way because Jesus Himself said, "You shall receive power after the Spirit of God has come upon you, you shall be My...what?...witnesses," not huddled up in a room with the door locked eight days later. Not only that, the very indications of chapter 21 of verse 4 that they didn't recognize Him and verse 12 that they didn't recognize Him, show that they didn't have the Spirit for had they had the Spirit He would have shown them Christ. And so this is simply a pledge that they will receive the Holy Spirit, and they did some days hence, did they not? But, you see, by giving this pledge, they would then when they received the Holy Spirit remember that Jesus had commissioned the Holy Spirit Himself personally and that He was the one dispensing to them the Spirit for He said, "When I go to the Father, I will send the Spirit unto you." So He gives that pledge right here.
And may I add? This is a pledge for all believers. Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. Don't you think you ever have to hunt for the Holy Spirit. Christ gave you His Spirit at the point of your salvation. Romans 8:9 says, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." All believers have the Spirit.
Well, then not only does He give them the commission, go to the world with this gospel of the resurrection, here's the power, the power of the Holy Spirit surging through you. When we get to the book of Acts in a few weeks, we'll go into that text. But He gives them a third thought. This is really fantastic. Verse 23, hang on to this one. "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them. And whosoever sins you retain, they are retained." You say that sounds like we can go around saying, "All right, you, you're forgiven." "All right, you, uh-huh." And we can go around saying your's are remitted, your's are retained and we have an arbitrary right to forgive sin. Is that what it's teaching?
Obviously, it can't be teaching that. Mark 2:7 says, "Who can forgive sin but God?" The answer is no one. So it can't mean that. Well, the Roman Catholic Church for years has met...has indicated that this meant that the Apostles were here and they were given the right of absolution. They were given the right to forgive sins. And that in the papal succession, Peter being the Pope and all the Popes after that also have the right of absolution of sins, that the Pope can forgive sins. That doesn't make any sense from any angle, but least of all from a textual angle here because of the fact that it was not just the ten who were here, not just apostles but there were others who were here. The other indication is that there were women here from the other gospels and some other disciples as well. So this was a general thing for the whole church.
You say, "Well then you're saying the whole church has the right to grant absolution." No, that's not what it's saying either. You say, "What is it saying?"
All right, I'll tell you...since you asked. You say, "Well it's obviously saying that you have the right to say someone's sins are forgiven and someone else's aren't." And that is true. You say, "Can I go up to somebody and say, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" The answer: you can, absolutely, yes you can as a believer. Now this may open up a whole new thing for you. You say, "Can I go up to somebody and say, 'Sorry, your sins are not forgiven.'" Yes you can, absolutely. You say, "How can I ever do that?" I'll tell you how.
Ready? To any man who conscious of his sin repents toward God and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can say to that man, "My friend, your sins...what?...are forgiven." To any man who willfully rejects and will not believe and refuses Christ, you can say, "My friend, your sins are retained." You and I have the right to say to a man whether or not God has forgiven his sins or hasn't by the fact of what he has done with Jesus Christ.
Now can you imagine if we didn't have this power? Could you imagine the Lord saying...now you go out there and you preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit...and we go to some guy and say, "Man, here's the gospel," and we fire it away and give him the whole shot and then he prays and he says, "Christ come into my life and I believe." And then he says, "Well did it happen?" And you say, "Well, I don't know...you know, one of these days you'll die, you'll find out." No, you've got to be able to say, "Brother, on the basis that you confess Christ, I say to you your sins by the mouth of God are...what?...forgiven." You have the right to say that, beloved. That's a power, isn't it? What an authority. Can you imagine us going out to witness to a world with no authority to say that they were forgiven or not forgiven? We would be insipid. Nobody would believe anything we said and people would be frustrated to the point of terror. Praise God that Jesus not only told us what to do and gave us the power to do it, but thirdly, He said, "Now you can tell them what's been done."
And so, first of all He comes to show Himself faithful. Secondly, He comes to send the faithful. Thirdly, He comes to secure the faithless, and that's our dear friend, Thomas. And we'll look at him briefly cause our time is gone.
Thomas in verse 24, Thomas is the proverbial pessimist. Doesn't believe anything and thinks the worst is always going to happen, right? Just like you. Just doubts, and doubts and doubts. One time in Matthew...John chapter 11 Jesus said, "I'm going to Jerusalem." And the disciple said, "Lord, you go to Jerusalem and you'll die." And Thomas says, "Well, guys, let's all go and die with Him," see. I mean, always the worst, right? In John chapter 14 Jesus said, "I'm going to go away and I'm going to come and bring you to Myself." And Thomas says, "Ah, we don't know where You're going and we haven't got any idea how to get there." See with Thomas everything is a disaster. And he just doesn't have that solid faith, he's a skeptical guy. And so we come to Thomas. And, you know, the Lord meets him at the point of his faithlessness. That's how the Lord is. Boy, He never forsakes one of His own. Second Timothy 2:13 one of the greatest verses in the Bible says, "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself." Even when your faith runs clear down out of gas, God will meet you at the point of your weak faith and lift you again because He can't deny His own. Here's ole Thomas, he should have known better.
Well, it says in verse 24, "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus...that means twin...was not with them when Jesus came." And that's what he gets for not going to church. Don't you ever forget it. Verse 25, "The other disciple therefore said unto him, 'We have seen the Lord.'" Can you imagine John? "Thomas, Thomas, we have seen the Lord!" You know, and Thomas was "Mister Rain-on-everybody's parade," see. And Thomas says, "Well, except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, put my finger in the print of the nails, thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." Now that's a skeptic...that's a skeptic. I love the fact that the disciples cared about him and went to him. They didn't just write him off, you know, Galatians 6:1 says, "If a brother be taken in a fall, go to him, restore him in love," and they did. He didn't believe.
Jesus comes in verse 26. "After eight days again, His disciples were inside." They're still there. "And Thomas was with them." Now he's there this time. "Then came Jesus, the doors being locked and barred, and stood in the midst and said, 'Peace be unto you.'" Here's Jesus again and again He just came right through the door and the walls and He stands in the middle of the room. Now He's there for one purpose and that's to meet Thomas. You say, "You know, He's so busy, He's got to run the whole universe, what does He care about one weak, faithless disciple? He should have come into that room and said...Shame on you." But He came in and said, "Peace be unto you." Why? Because a loving Christ always meets His own at the point of their faithlessness to bring them to faith. God is like that. He condescends to our needs. Aren't you glad? Aren't you glad when your faith wanes He doesn't browbeat you but He comes and meets you at the weakness of your faith and lifts you up? Aren't you glad His strength meets you in your weakness?
And so He comes to Thomas and in verse 27 He says to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, behold My hands. Come on, Thomas, feel My hands, and reach here your hand and thrust it into My side and be not faithless but believing. Thomas, if you want to set the test up that way, I'll meet you on that ground." I think Thomas was an honest doubter, don't you? Because otherwise Jesus wouldn't have met him. But Thomas was honest and the Bible says if you seek Me with all your heart, you'll...what?...you'll find Me. And if you want to put the test up and it's an honest test, God will meet you there. "If any man wills to do My will," John 7:17, "He shall know the doctrine." And Thomas really wanted to know, that was his test.
But you know something? Thomas was an exaggerator. He wasn't so tough. He wasn't such an empiricist or a pragmatist as he thought he was. He never even followed through with his test. Verse 28, he just saw Jesus, heard Him speak and Thomas answered and said unto Him...what? "My Lord and my God." That's the greatest confession any man will ever make. And some people come along and say, "Well," about Jesus, "He wasn't God." According to that verse there's no question about it. And you notice he doesn't say, "The Lord and the God." He says...what?... "My Lord and my God," and that's a personal relationship and that's the greatest confession any man will ever make. Can you make that confession this morning looking at Jesus? Can you say He's my Lord and my God? Thomas could.
Well, that was quite a confession. You see what Jesus did, He met the faithless and brought them to faith. He'll meet you where you are even as a believer when your faith runs dry. He'll meet you there if it's honest.
Then in verse 29 He lays a principle. "Jesus saith unto him, 'Thomas, because you've seen Me you believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.'" Thomas, it's one thing to believe when you've seen it all. But oh it's greater to believe when you haven't seen anything. And you know, since the time of Thomas there have been hundreds, thousands, literally millions who have believed without ever seeing. And you know something? As a Christian when we mature, we grow from that low faith that must see to that faith that doesn't need to see. You know, that new Christian, that weak faith that always says, "God, can You do something so I can believe you? I mean, God, here's a little thing and if You do this by Tuesday, I'll believe You." We put God in this little box and make Him do these little things to prove Himself. And then all of a sudden you get to that mature kind of faith that says, "Lord, You just do what You want, I believe you already." It's good to believe when you see, it's more mature to believe when you haven't seen. That's what faith is all about. Hebrews chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews said, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things...what?...not seen...not seen."
So, He says, "Thomas, I met you where you were, but it's a lot better to stay up there on the level of believing Me." And what did Paul say in 2 Corinthians 5? He said, "We walk by faith and not by sight." There He is, the resurrected Christ. All the evidence is in. How could you deny that He rose from the grave? He appeared to show His faithfulness, to send the faithful and to secure the faithless. And then John adds this because it's his purpose. Verse 30, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book."
Well, John, why did you put some of them in here? Why did you put all this down about His resurrection? Why do you keep writing all this stuff about Him? Verse 31, "But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have...what?...life through His name." John wants us to believe that Jesus is God in order to have life. John says I want you to see that He's alive. I want you to see that He's the resurrection and the life, that you might believe and that you might have life. Let's pray.
Father, we're so thankful for what You've taught us this morning. God, we're just so thankful for Your sweet love exemplified in what You did for Mary Magdalene. We're so thankful that You love us in the same way and You call us by name. Father, we're so thankful for the fact that You came to see Your disciples and commissioned them and You empowered them with Your Spirit and You gave them the ability and the right to say whether sin was forgiven or not by what a man does with Jesus Christ. Father, such authority has been given unto us. God, help us to use it by going to the world in the power of the Spirit of God and speaking boldly of sin. And then, God, I thank You that You came to Thomas because there are times when my faith runs low and I need You to come to me in the time of my weakness. And like that man of old, I need to say, "Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief." Father, I thank You that You never fail to meet me at the weakness of my faith and bring it to strength. Lord, I'm just so thankful that You're alive today and that You live within me. Father, I just thank You for this gospel of John that was presented to us with all these records given that we might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and in believing we might have life through His name. Lord, I pray that the testimony of John and the Holy Spirit this morning might bring some to saving faith in Christ before they leave this place. We commit this closing time to You that the Spirit of God might lift up Jesus Christ and that all might be drawn to Him in whose name we pray. Amen.
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