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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter we have an account of our Lord’s Resurrection, and the announcement of it by two angels to the pious women that came to the sepulchre, who in turn announce it to others (1–12). Our Lord’s apparition to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and the conversation that mutually took place (13–35). His apparition to the twelve Apostles assembled together, and His discourse relative to the truth of His Resurrection and the reality of His person (36–43). His commission to them to preach the Gospel (44–48). His promise to send down the Holy Ghost (49). His Ascension 50–53).

1–12. For a full account of the order in which things occurred, in connexion with the visits of the holy women, and their announcement to the Apostles and disciples—the apparitions of Angels, and of our Lord Himself—the visit of the Apostles to the tomb (see Commentary, Matthew 28:3–8; Mark 16:9–13).

1. “Now upon the first day of the week.” With us, Sunday, or the Lord’s day, Dies Dominica, on account of our Lord having risen from the dead on this day. “Very early in the morning.” The Greek conveys, “at deep, or early dawn,” before daylight actually appeared. The women came to the sepulchre for the purpose of embalming our Lord’s body, with the spices they had prepared. In the ordinary Greek, the words are added, “and certain others with them.” These words are wanting in the best MSS., among others, the Vatican MS. They were very probably introduced from verse 10, where this is said of Mary Magdalen, Joanna, &c.; and also to make the passage harmonize with Mark 16:1. There were, doubtless, other women besides these. But these are mentioned as the more prominent among them. Hence, in Matthew 28, Mary Magdalen and the other Mary alone are mentioned for the same reason, and John 20:1, Magdalen alone.

2. “The stone.” St. Luke said nothing hitherto in his narrative of a “stone” having been rolled to the mouth of the sepulchre. It is stated (Matthew 27:60). In Mark (16:4) it is said to be “very great.” This stone was rolled back by the Angel of the Lord, who sat on it (Matthew 28:2).

3. “And going in,” at the invitation and under the guidance of the angel, whom they found sitting on the stone which he had rolled back (Matthew 28:6). St. Luke omits all mention of the appearance, in the first place, of one angel.

“They found not,” &c. They saw the place perfectly empty. St. Luke makes no mention of the angel that spoke to them outside, as in Matthew (28:2–6).

4. “As they were astonished in their mind at this.” The Greek for “astonished,” conveys doubt, hesitation. After leaving the monument, they were thrown into consternation and perplexity of mind on account of the vision of angels, the removal of the stone, and the absence of our Lord’s body, not being able to comprehend what it all meant.

“Two men,” angels in human form, “in shining apparel.” This indicates their heavenly origin. Perplexed at what they saw, and seemingly not paying sufficient attention to the testimony of one angel who had conducted them to the tomb; two other angels—the number of witnesses required in law—appeared outside, to dissipate their doubts and fears, regarding the taking away of our Lord’s body. No wonder the glorious sepulchre of the Son of God should be filled with angels in honour of their Lord and Master. Hence, two others appeared to Magdalen, one sitting at the head, another at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid (John 20:12).

5. Terrified at this new miraculous apparation, and not daring to look at the dazzling appearance of the angels, they “bowed down their countenance towards the ground,” partly from a feeling of fear, and partly from a feeling of modesty, as the angels appeared in the form of young men. No doubt, they acted similarly in regard to the angel that first appeared to them, although this is omitted by St. Matthew.

“They said,” probably one of the two, with the concurrence of the other. As they did not seem to have attached due weight to the words of the one angel who had already addressed them in the blandest manner, and as they still seemed in doubt as to what had become of our Lord’s body, these angels, therefore, addressed them in a form somewhat more stern, “Why seek you”—why persevere in seeking—“the living with the dead?” Why seek among the dead Him who is essential life? “The living”—τον ζωντα—the living one—“the resurrection and the life”—the Source of life in all that live—(Apoc. 1:18).

6. “Remember how He spoke to you.” Our Lord had told His disciples and the holy women, among the rest, while in Galilee, before He came to Judea, that after having suffered death, He would rise again.

“Yet in Galilee,” whence the holy women came with our Redeemer to Jerusalem (23:55). St. Luke here records what is not mentioned by the other Gospel writers, that when our Lord told His disciples of His death and resurrection, the women were amongst His hearers on that occasion, and they remembered His words, but, like His other followers, they did not fully understand them at the time.

9. This was the first return of the holy women, when they hastened to announce to the Apostles and the disciples what they saw and heard. They said nothing about it on the way. This is the same announcement referred to by St. John (21:2), who only mentions Magdalen, because she was the most prominent among the women. He does not, however, assert that she alone came, nor does he deny that others were with her, which is stated here (v. 10), any more than he asserts that she made the announcement to Peter and John only, or deny that the announcement was made to all the Apostles, as is stated here, “and the rest,” viz., disciples. They observed a profound silence, in regard to externs, on their return, probably for very prudential reasons (Mark 16:8).

10. “Joanna,” the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward (8:2).

“Other women.” St. Mark (16:1), says, Salome, the wife of Zebedee, was one of these (Matthew 27:56). These holy women followed our Lord from Galilee, accompanied Him on His journey, and ministered to His wants, as was usual among the Jews (1 Cor. 9:5).

11. “Idle tales”—λῆρος—babbling, silly talk—“and they believed them not,” on which account, our Lord afterwards upbraided them with their incredulity (Mark 16:14). They considered, that owing to the infirmity of the female character, these took mere spectral illusions and phantoms for realities. Our Lord allowed His Apostles, as well as the pious women, to be slow in believing, in order that the faith in His resurrection might be strengthened by more numerous proofs, “Sic eorum infirmitas nostra facta est firmitas”—St. Gregory (See Mark 16:10, 11).

12. “Then arose Peter,” &c. This is manifestly the visit described by St. John (20:3–10); from which it appears, although not mentioned here by St. Luke, that John accompanied Peter, and that being younger and more active, he outran Peter, and arrived first at the sepulchre, but did not go in; whereas, Peter not only “stooped down,” as described here, but actually went into the sepulchre, and then John also, who on arriving, only stooped down and looked in, followed Peter into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths, and the napkin that bound our Lord’s head, “lying in a place by itself” (John 20:7, 8).

“And departed,” returned back to Jerusalem. The women also returned a second time. It was at this latter return our Lord appeared to them (Matthew 28:9).

13. “And behold,” conveying, that the following was a sudden and unexpected manifestation.

“Two of them,” generally supposed to refer to two of the seventy-two disciples. Our Lord had several followers besides the seventy-two, of whom some, like Nicodemus, who came to Him by night, did not publicly profess their adherence and attachment to Him. That these two were of the seventy-two, is the more common opinion of the Fathers. That they were not of the Apostles, is clear from verse 33, where it is said, “they found the eleven gathered together.”

“Went the same day,” Easter Day, on which our Lord had risen.

“To a town.” St. Mark (16:12) has, “into the country.” The common opinion is, that St. Luke here, and St. Mark, refer to the same occurrence, which is fully detailed by St. Luke alone. The objection to this opinion, derived from the assertion of St. Mark, that those to whom they announced it, “did not believe;” whereas, St. Luke (v. 34) would seem to say the contrary, is of no weight; since it might be said that among those, of whom St. Mark speaks, some did not believe, while others did, and among the letter were the Apostles.

“Sixty furlongs,” or about seven and a half miles “from Jerusalem.” “Named Emmaus.” After the total subjugation of the Jews, it was called Nicopolis, as we are informed by Sozomen (Lib. 5, Hist. c. 21); St. Jerome (ad Eustoch. de Epitaph. Paulæ Ep. 27).

14. The occurrences which took place in regard to our Lord, viz., His sufferings, death, and the announcement made by the holy women on that morning, formed the subject of their conversation.

15. “And it came to pass,” seemingly by mere chance, so far as it concerned them, but not so, as regarded our Lord, by whom it was deliberately arranged beforehand.

“Talked and reasoned with themselves,” talked over the events that occurred, “and reasoned” about the conclusions to be deduced, as to whether He had really risen, as He had promised, and the consequences of His having risen or not risen, &c.

“Jesus Himself also”—the very person of whom they were speaking. This is the force of “also,” unexpectedly, His approach being unobserved till He actually joined them as a fellow-traveller, journeying the same way; thus illustrating His promise, as Ven. Bede, in hoc loco, observes—that “where two or three are assembled in His name, He is in the midst of them.”

16. “But their eyes were held,” &c. Our Lord did not wish to be recognised by them. St. Mark (16:12), says, “He appeared in a different shape.” Both may have happened. Whilst remaining substantially the same as He had been before in His mortal form, His glorious and immortal body presented in some features a different appearance, owing to the natural qualities of a glorified body, from what it had before presented, just as shall be the case with our bodies after the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:41, 42); and, as happened to our Lord Himself after His resurrection, when Magdalen took Him for the gardener, and the Apostles for a Spirit (v. 37), although it is not said that in either case their eyes were held. His glorious body may have assumed the appearance of a stranger travelling homewards. The eyes of the disciples were held so as not to recognize Him in His altered and glorified shape. So were their ears also in regard to His voice, which probably was changed as well as His outward appearance. Our Lord held their eyes by a supernatural influence, so that although seen, He might not be recognized by them, in order that their faith and testimony might be more firm, when after laying bare the wounds of unbelief, a suitable remedy might be more effectually and more abidingly applied—“ut ulcus suum (dubitationis et tristitiæ) discipuli aperirent ct pharmacum susciperent”—(Theophylact).

17. “What are those discourses that you hold one with another?” The Greek for “hold,” conveys the idea of lossing backwards and forwards like a ball. Hence, it means, to interchange.

“And are sad,” show a sad and mournful countenance. Our Lord Himself well knew the subject of their conversation, and the cause of their sorrow—He may also have on His near approach, overheard what they were speaking about. He wishes, however, to ascertain it from themselves, in order to apply the remedy, of which their own admissions would be naturally suggestive. In some MSS.—the Vatican among the rest—after, “as you walk,” are inserted the words, “they stood still,”—εσταθησαν—“sad in countenance.”

18. “Cleophas,” probably, a native of Emmaus, as is inferred from the pressing invitation given to our Redeemer to receive hospitality from him (v. 29).

“Art thou only a stranger?” &c., that is, art thou the only stranger among the crowd of strangers, that came to Jerusalem on the occasion of the great Paschal solemnity, that is ignorant of these things, of which we are speaking? They took Him for one of the strangers who came to celebrate the Pasch at Jerusalem. “And hast not known,” &c. “And,” has the meaning of “who, knoweth not,” &c. “Only,” or rather “alone,” directly affects the verb, “knowest not,” in the meaning of the passage. These disciples are so full of their subject, that they can think of nothing else, and cannot conceive, how it could be supposed, that there was any thing else to engage the attention of any one in Jerusalem, save the great events they were discoursing about. Beelen (Gramm. Græcit, § 3) observes, that the finite verb, παροικεις, is put for παροικων, and one sentence expressed by two, connected by και, συ μονος παροικων Ιερουσαλημ, ουκ εγνως.

19. Our Lord, without denying that He knew all the events, designedly conceals all cognizance of them, and, in order to ascertain from their own admission the thoughts of their minds, the weakness of their faith and their hesitancy, which He meant to remedy, asks, “what things?” What are the things you refer to as having happened? They reply, the things that happened, “concerning Jesus of Nazareth,” &c.

The disciples here refrain from expressing their belief in our Lord’s Divinity, if they had such belief, not knowing the stranger with whom they were conversing. It might be perilous to express such faith, on account of the persecution they might suffer from the Jews (Ven. Bede). Or, it may be, that being in a state of doubt and perplexity on account of recent events, they knew not what to call our Lord, beyond what was almost universally believed regarding Him, viz., that He was a distinguished Prophet, who, with miraculous wonders, united a doctrine all heavenly “before God” (Acts 2:22), “and all the people,” God and man testifying to His merits. The power and sanctity of God were wonderfully displayed in Him, and the whole people, the envious Pharisees excepted, always revered Him as a Prophet. They then convey to this stranger, that such a man should rather be treated with honour, than be ignominiously put to death.

20. “And crucified Him,” by the hands of the Romans, to whom they delivered Him for this purpose (see Acts 2:36; 4:10). The disciples prudently refrain from expressing their own convictions regarding the injustice of the treatment He received, as they were speaking to an unknown stranger, who might denounce them to the Jewish authorities.

21. “We hoped that it was He who should have redeemed Israel”—the promised, long-expected Messiah, who would rescue the Jewish people from the odious yoke of the Romans. But, now recent events have considerably perplexed us, and served to lessen this hope. The disciples shared in the common error of their countrymen, who imagined that the Messiah would effect the temporal deliverance of the Jews. Even up to His ascension, they expected this (Acts 1:8). In this verse, is shown the perplexity or fluctuation between hope and fear, under which the disciples were now labouring.

“And besides all this,” besides the perplexity caused by His death and ignominious sufferings, our embarrassment and want of confidence and belief regarding Him, are still more increased, when we remember—what was calculated to raise our hopes still higher—that He promised to rise again on the third day, and now, “to-day is the third day since these things happened,” that is, since His betrayal and death; and still, there is no clear evidence of His having risen. Even if the disciples remembered our Lord’s promise, they did not clearly understand what it meant. The disciples probably remembered the promise and prediction regarding His resurrection on the third day, as is conveyed in the above explanation, but in their confusion and perplexity, they omit all allusion to such promise, and express themselves in an incoherent form, or, it may be, they purposely suppressed any distinct allusion to this prediction, when addressing a stranger whom they knew not, lest they might expose themselves to ridicule, for their credulity in attending to a promise, in which they were apparently disappointed.

22. And even to add to our perplexity, and cause us to linger still between hope and doubt, “certain women also of our company, affrighted us,” threw us into an ecstasy, or threw us into amazement—such is the force of the Greek verb.

24. “And some of our people.” Hence, more than one went, more than Peter (v. 12); John also is included, so that there is reference here to the visit made by Peter and John. (John 20:3, &c.) “But Him they found not.” Hence, between the disappearance of the body, and their ignorance as to where He is, our doubts and perplexity are further increased.

25. Hitherto, our Lord had patiently heard them out, and having fully ascertained from themselves the spiritual malady of religious doubt and hesitation, they were suffering from, He now prudently applies the proper remedy. “O foolish”—the Greek word, ανοητοι, means devoid of mind or intelligence—“and slow of heart to believe in all things,” or, to believe all things—“the prophets have spoken.” “All things.” They believed and fully appreciated what the prophets had said regarding the glories of the future Messiah; but the other things, that regarded His humiliations and sufferings, they were slow to believe, and could not be brought to comprehend.

26. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” “Ought not.” Looking to the predictions of the prophets, to His own voluntary, free action, arranging all beforehand, and to the decree of God, ordaining that His Son should redeem mankind, by His voluntary sufferings and ignominious death, it was necessary He should suffer. There was nothing about which the prophets and the Books of Moses were more explicit than regarding the sufferings and humiliations of the Messiah, therefore called “the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Hence, our Lord shows the disciples that the very thing that weakened their faith and made them lose all hope—for by saying, “we hoped,” they insinuate that such hope was lost at present—should be the very thing to increase their faith, and confirm their hope. For if He did not suffer, He would not be the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke.

“And so,” through the predicted ordeal of sufferings, and no other way—this being an indispensable condition—“enter into His glory,” viz., the glory of His resurrection, ascension—the exalted name He received in reward for His humiliation (Philip. 2:6). “His glory”—“His,” singly merited by Him—“His,” by the preordinating decrees of God (Heb. 2:9). This is His ordination regarding all His followers, “per multas tribulationes,” &c. (Acts 14, &c.)

27. “Moses.” The Books of Moses, “and the writings of the prophets,” “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning Him.” Commencing with the very beginning of Sacred Scripture, the Books of Moses, He fully explained the texts that chiefly regarded Him, and also the types that foreshadowed Him, the Brazen Serpent, the Paschal Lamb, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the rest which are found in the several books of Sacred Scriptures regarding Him.

28. “The town” of Emmaus, “whither they were going”—“and He made as though He would go farther.” Although He wished to remain and reveal Himself, still in order to give them an opportunity of pressing Him to partake of their hospitality, and thus render them worthy of hearing more of His heavenly doctrines, He acted as if He meant to proceed farther. He only showed by act what He meant to do; He meant to go farther, if they did not press Him to remain. There is nothing, therefore, savouring of a practical falsehood in seeming to do what. He was about doing. His action, when seeming to proceed, was equivalent to the question, “shall we now part?” There was no more in this than in His appearing in the form of a stranger travelling homewards, and His apparent motion forwards was only carrying out this notion; or in His assuming the form of the gardener, when He first appeared to Magdalen. Although He knew, as God, they would press Him to remain; still, acting as man, He made an experiment of their hospitable feelings towards Him, whom they regarded as a stranger.

29. “They constrained Him, saying,” &c. They eagerly pressed Him, whose society and words had caused them such pleasure. “Because it is towards evening.” The sun had already passed the meridian. Some hours of day, however, still remained. For they returned that very day to Jerusalem, and announced to the Apostles, that they saw the Lord (v. 33). It is supposed by many that Cleophas lived at Emmaus, and entertained our Lord at his house, which, St. Jerome says (Ep. 27 Epis. ad Paulam, c. 3), our Lord made into a church, from which it is inferred, that St. Jerome held that our Lord administered the blessed Eucharist on this occasion. Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, there is a church.

30. It is a subject of dispute among Commentators whether our Lord celebrated the blessed Eucharist on this occasion, or not. Some who hold the affirmative (St. Augustine, Sermo. 140, de Tempore; St. Jerome, Ep. 27; Theophylact, Bede, A. Lapide, Maldonatus, &c.), prove their view: first, from the words used here, “took bread,” “blessed,” “broke,” “gave to them,” which, being precisely the same as those in which the institution of the Eucharist is described (Matthew 26:26), would imply that the same thing took place in both cases. Again, the words of the disciples (v. 35), “the breaking of bread,” are the terms in which the blessed Eucharist was designated in the days of the Apostles (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16; panis quem frangimus); 2nd, from the effect produced. “This breaking of bread” had the miraculous effect of opening the eyes of the disciples, so as to know our Lord. It was, therefore, a very solemn, religious act. These disciples, probably, having heard from the Apostles of the ceremony observed by our Lord at the last supper, seeing it repeated here, and remembering His words a year before this (John 6), when He spoke of Himself as the Bread that came down from heaven—the Bread that gave life to the world—at once, owing to the miraculous effect of the Eucharist, recognised Him in this adorable mystery of His love; 3rd, the blessing here is different from the ordinary blessing at meals, for it was given, not at the commencement, but at the end of supper, “cum cænasset,” for our Lord immediately after vanished.

These Commentators, therefore, hold that our Lord gave Himself to these two disciples under one species, in the form of bread only, as we have no account of the chalice, our Lord having suddenly disappeared on being recognised in the breaking of bread. Others, however (Jansenius, Estius, Calmet), are of a different opinion, whilst Bellarmine, Natalis, Alexander, &c., give no positive opinion on the subject either way.

31. “Their eyes were opened.” The following words explain what this means, not that they were blind before, but that some veil, some obstacle, supernaturally impeded their clear vision, so that they could not see Him. Hence, it is added, “and they knew Him.” This was the miraculous effect of “the breaking of the bread,” as they themselves afterwards explain (v. 35). They were opened in the same way as were those of our fallen first parents (Genesis 3), of Agar (Genesis 21:19).

“And He vanished out of their sight.” He rendered Himself invisible to them, by an effect of His Divine power, and passed away from them, after He had shown Himself visibly to them in His glorious body, and after He had been recognised by them. This circumstance of suddenly rendering Himself invisible and disappearing, was of itself calculated to confirm their faith and belief that it was Christ, and Christ only, they saw.

32. “Was not our heart burning,” &c. These words are understood by some to mean, that they reproached themselves for not having known Him before, owing to the fire which His conversation kindled in their hearts. Others understand the words to be confirmatory of their assured recognition of our Lord, just seen by them, as if to say, surely it must be He, for we could not account otherwise for the burning heat we felt during the entire time He was expounding the Scriptures, and conversing with us on the way. The effect of God’s Word properly received is, to enlighten us and inflame us with Divine love, “ignitum eloquium tuum vehementer.” (Psalm 118:140; Proverbs 30:5; Deut. 32:2; Luke 12:42; Ezechiel 1:13, &c.) No wonder that the pious reading of, and meditation on, the Word of God, should stimulate and inflame us to advance more and more in the road of perfection. If it fail, the fault is entirely our own.

33. “The same hour,” without a moment’s delay. Although now it was “towards evening,” &c., they rose up, at once, from table, in their anxiety to impart to the Apostles and other disciples the glad tidings regarding our Lord’s resurrection and appearance to themselves. Probably, they meant before this occurrence to spend the night at Emmaus; but now, they make no delay in returning in haste to Jerusalem.

“The eleven.” It is thus the Apostolic College is styled subsequent to our Lord’s death. Thomas was absent on this occasion (v. 36), hic, when the two approached, and being incredulous, left before our Lord spoke to the eleven (John 20:19–24). It may be, Thomas was present. “And those that were with them,” viz., the holy women and the other disciples—our Lord’s disciples of either sex—who then stopped at Jerusalem, and were assembled together in the same house with the Apostles, conversing about the wonderful manifestations both to the women and Peter regarding His resurrection.

34. “Saying,” that is, the eleven, and the others, first informed the two disciples, who imagined they were the first to announce the glad tidings of our Lord’s resurrection, so that when the two announced the apparition vouchsafed to themselves, they had nothing new to impart, that the others had not already known.

“The Lord is risen indeed,” that is, truly and undoubtedly.

“And hath appeared to Simon.” It would seem that our Lord appeared to Peter first, before He manifested Himself to any other man, out of regard for his ardent love, to console him for his fall—as He appeared first to the fallen, loving Magdalen before other women—and as a privilege intended for the head of His Church (1 Cor. 15:5). When He appeared to Peter we cannot ascertain. But it is commonly believed He appeared to him, before He appeared to the two disciples referred to here. It would seem the Apostles and disciples placed more reliance on the declaration of Peter than they did on that of the women; although still some among them doubted (Mark 16:13).

35. After hearing from the assembled Apostles and disciples of our Lord’s apparition, the two disciples relate in turn what occurred to themselves on the road and at table, and furnished further evidence, to an audience already prepared to believe, of the truth of our Lord’s resurrection.

36. Whilst the two disciples were engaged in relating all in connexion with our Lord’s apparition at Emmaus, as in the preceding verse, “Jesus stood in the midst of them,” without any previous notice or intimation, in a way conspicuous to all assembled, “the eleven, and those that were with them” (v. 33). In virtue of the glorious gift of subtilty, passing into the apartment, the doors remaining closed, “He came and stood in the midst of them;” He came from without, “the doors were shut.” There is clearly question of the same apparition here, and John 20:19. St. Luke mentions some circumstances omitted by John; whilst John, in turn, states circumstances omitted by Luke.

“And saith to them: Peace be to you.” Addressed to them the form of salutation which among the Jews was expressive of all good things; as much as to say: My advent is pacific; I mean to impart to you abundance of benedictions, as a friend and benefactor, by no means, an enemy.

“It is I,” your Divine indulgent Master, who so often rescued you from dangers and difficulties. “It is I,” whose well-known form, and familiar tone of voice, you can easily recognise. “It is I,” whose ignominious death you have lately bewailed; but who, now rising from the dead, wishes to console you, by the announcement of His glorious Resurrection.

“Fear not;” therefore, when you know who I am, My sudden and unexpected visit, in My glorified state, at this late hour, need cause no alarm.

37. “Troubled and frightened” at our Lord’s apparition, suddenly and unexpectedly, at that late hour of the night, while the doors remained closed, they imagined, owing to these fears, “that they saw a spirit,” or, it was rather, the idea of a spectre or spirit from the other world appearing among them, that caused their trouble and fright. Men naturally feel terror at any supernatural apparition, at any intercourse with the beings of the invisible world. The disciples, therefore, fearing the object they saw might have assumed our Lord’s body and appearance, be it angel, or demon, were thrown into fright and confusion, by the suddenness of His appearance in a way peculiar to a spirit, leaving the doors still closed.

38. “Why do thoughts,” anxious, strange, perplexing thoughts, regarding the reality of My presence, as to whether you see a real body or a spirit, “arise in your hearts”—occupy your minds and hearts? Our Lord, in this, shows them He knows their very interior, the very thoughts that agitate them.

39. Not only does He give a proof of the truth of His resurrection, by showing Himself to be the Searcher of hearts; but He also adds further evidence to confirm their faith and dispel their fears. If the sight of My well-known form, and the familiar tones of My voice, do not convince you, look at My hands and feet, and—what is a still stronger proof of the reality of My body—handle them; feel and touch My real, solid flesh; feel the traces of my wounds in those hands and feet that were nailed to the cross.

“For a spirit,” coming back from the other world, as you suppose Me to be, “hath not flesh and bones.” St. Augustine (Lib. de Cura pro Mortuis, c. x., xi., xvi., xvii.), says, it would be temerity to deny that spirits, viz., angels, demons, souls of the departed, sometimes appear. This seemed to be the impression of the Jews. Our Redeemer rather confirms that tradition here; or, at least, He strongly countenances it. These occurrences are, no doubt, rare, nor can we suppose that, without some grave reason connected with the departed soul or its surviving friends, the Almighty would suspend or change the established laws of nature.

40. “He showed them His hands and feet,” retaining the traces of the wounds. Whether they touched them, as He invited them to do, is not stated here, any more than in John 20:27, regarding Thomas, who is generally supposed to have felt them, and then exclaimed (v. 28), “My Lord and my God.” It is likely the disciples did touch Him, and to this, St. John (1 Ep. 1:1), refers, “quod manus nostræ contrectaverunt de verbo vitæ,” &c. This opinion derives confirmation from this verse. Our Lord wished them to touch Him, as a further proof of His reality, not only to them, but to all nations, to whom they were to preach the Gospel to the end of time. St. Jerome, however, is of a contrary opinion (Ep. Adversus Errores), and maintains, they did not touch Him. Therefore, it is, he says, our Lord called for food (v. 41). This testimony of the senses, although, of itself, only a morally convincing argument would, conjointly with all the circumstances, viz., the miracles of our Lord, the prophecies regarding the Resurrection, and considering His object in exhibiting His hands and feet, namely, to prove the Divinity of the Messiah, &c., furnish an undoubted argument (St. Thomas, 3 p., q. 55, Art. 6). “Wherefore, the language, figure, shape, countenance, wounds, touch of our Lord, His eating and drinking, His conversation, assertions, predictions, miracles, the testimony of angels, the oracles of prophets, all these conjointly, most assuredly demonstrated our Lord’s Resurrection” (A. Lapide).

41. Our Lord addresses another argument to confirm their faith. “Believed not,” applies only to some. Surely, Peter, Magdalen, and the two disciples to whom He appeared, firmly believed; but, others, from the very excess of joy (“for joy,” as in the Greek, is to be joined to “believed not”), and their wonder at the suddenness of the event, were afraid to believe in such joyous tidings, lest in case of possible error, their disappointment and chagrin would be the greater. It was this feeling of wonder, and this excessive sense of joy, that made them not believe with a firm Divine faith, as if they thought it too good to be true—we cannot believe our eyes. The words, “not believing,” do not convey a positive resistance to faith; but a want of firmness in faith, arising, not from obstinacy of will, but from the magnitude of their joy, from the unexpected nature of the occurrence, and from the vehemence of their anxiety, about its truth, as in the case of Jacob, on hearing Joseph was still alive (Genesis 25:26); of Peter liberated from prison (Acts 12:7). Leo (Serm. I. de Assum.). Our Lord permitted all this hesitancy and doubt, in order still to elicit stronger proofs of His resurrection, and thus leave us no grounds for diffidence

He asks, “Have you here anything to eat?” He knew well they had, as they were at their repast (Mark 16:13). Likely, He came in at the close of it, in order not to interrupt them before; since, probably, on His appearance they rose up, out of respect. He asks the question, in order to receive the food from themselves, to eat it in their presence, and thus supply the strongest proof of His being alive, viz., His consuming food. He did the same in the case of the girl whom He raised to life. So did Lazarus, in Bethania (John 11) Our Lord did really eat, not from necessity, but dispensatively; just as He retained the traces of the wounds in His body.

42. This piece of broiled fish and the honey-comb had, probably, remained after the repast. In this description of plain food, we see the simple frugality of the Apostles and the other followers of our Lord.

43. He had eaten “before them,” in their presence, while they looked on. This was a real manducation and reception of food into the stomach without nutrition, which was not needed in a glorified body. It was then consumed by the Divine power, and reduced to nothing. “Futuræ resurrectionis corpus, imperfectæ potestatis erit, si cibos sumere non potuerit, imperfectæ felicitatis, si cibis eguerit” (St. Augustine, Ep. 49, Quæst. 1); and elsewhere he says, “Non enim potestas, sed egestas edendi ac bibendi immortalibus corporibus aufertur” (De Civ. Deis. Lib. 13, c. 22). “Ad exhibendam fidei veritatem in corpore dignatus est etiam non necessitate sed potestate cibum sumere” (St. Augustine, Sermone olim 147, tempore nunc 142, n. 12).

“Taking the remains He gave to them.” He did so, in order to make the fact of His having really eaten more manifest, and also that they might testify that they partook of food in common with Jesus, resuscitated from the dead. Thus were fulfilled the words of St. Peter (Acts 10:41), “Nobis qui manducavimus et bibimus cum illo,” &c. This was the last argument our Lord added to the preceding, to prove the truth of His resurrection. So that the Apostles and disciples after that, joyfully believed, without hesitation, in the truth of His resurrection. No doubt, we find angels eat with Abraham (Genesis 18:9), with Lot (19:5), with Tobias. But, besides that their act of eating could not be regarded as the natural action of living bodies, they did not partake of food, in order to prove to doubting men that they were not spirits, as Jesus asserted regarding Himself.

The words, “He gave them the remains,” are wanting in the extant Greek and Syriac versions. They are found in the Arabian and in the Greek copy, from which our Vulgate was translated. They are also quoted by many ancient writers (see Mills).

44. “And He said to them.” After having abundantly demonstrated from several sources of argument, the truth of His resurrection, He now adduces further proofs, viz.—First, that all they saw happening Him, His sufferings, death, and resurrection, had been often foretold to them by Himself, when He lived continually in their company, during His mortal life; and secondly, they were also predicted of Him in the several oracles of the prophets. “These are the words (or things), which I spoke to you when I was yet with you,” before My death, sojourning commonly with you—I am with you even now; but, My presence now is exceptional; this is not the permanent sojourn of a glorified body. The things He spoke are these, viz.:—“that all things written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, concerning Me, must be fulfilled.” Our Lord, during His mortal sojourn, pointed out the several passages in the Pentateuch, and other books of Scripture, that had reference to the mysteries of His life, death, and glory. We have no full record of His allusion to these books, when instructing them; but these prophecies should be fulfilled. Now, they see them fulfilled in all that happened Him. Now, they have experimental knowledge of their fulfilment. Nothing, therefore, new or unexpected has occurred to cause them surprise, or unsettle their faith. Our Lord refers to the books of the Old Testament, following the division which, according to St. Jerome in his Prologus Galeatus, then obtained among the Jews:—First, “Moses” or the Pentateuch; second, “the Prophets,” the prophetical books (Daniel excepted), including not only the greater and lesser prophets—of the latter, making only one book—but also the historical books—Josue, Judges, Ruth, Kings; thirdly, “the Psalms,” which stands for the Hagiographa, or sacred writings, of which part, the Psalms was the most conspicuous book. This part also included Job, Books of Solomon, Books of Paralipomenon, Daniel, Esdras, Esther (see Dixon, Prolog., vol. 1., p. 60). Some Expositors think the words of this and following verses are by anticipation recorded here by St. Luke, as spoken on Easter Day; whereas, in reality, they could have been spoken only on the Ascension Day, since at the close, our Lord adds, after promising the Holy Spirit, “but stay you in the city,” &c. Now this could not refer to Easter Day; since, as we learn from St. Luke (Acts 1:1–11), and other sources, He appeared often, and ordered them to meet Him in Galilee, when He showed Himself to a large number on a mountain. It may be that our Lord spoke the words of this verse to v. 48, twice, that is, on Easter Day and Ascension Day. For, the words of these verses, 44–46, addressed to the body of the Apostles, are very similar to what is told of the two disciples at Emmaus, vv. 25–27; and, not unlikely, He may have spoken similarly to the assembled Apostles and disciples.

45. “He opened their understanding”—enlightened their minds by His grace—“so that they might understand the Scriptures.” We know that the Scriptures contain difficult and obscure passages, which it is not given to all to understand, without God’s heavenly light and grace. Our Lord opened their minds in a degree necessary to understand the Scriptures which He quoted as having reference to Himself, and thus firmly established their faith in all the mysteries regarding Him, as He did already to the two disciples at Emmaus; but, the full enlightenment of their minds in all truth was reserved for Pentecost Day, when the promised Spirit of Truth was to descend on them.

46. Having opened their minds, so as to be enabled to understand Him, then He quoted the several passages which had reference to the four following chief mysteries of His life and death:—First, “Thus, it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer.” Very likely, He said this after quoting the texts of Sacred Scripture and the Scriptural types that regarded His death. It is written in the Psalms, the Prophets—Isaias, Jeremias, &c., that Christ should suffer. Secondly, “and rise again from the dead.” He also quoted the several texts and types in which this article was contained.

47. The third point, which He likely quoted Sacred Scriptures and types to elucidate is, the result of His passion and death, viz., that “penance” and its immediate spiritual effect, “remission of sin,” the end for which Christ suffered and rose again—for “He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification”—should be preached, not to one nation, as hitherto, but to the ends of the earth—“to all nations in His name,” by men acting as the dispensers of His mysteries, and as His legates and ministers. Our Lord places “penance” before “remission of sins,” which is the fruit of penance; without penance sin is not remitted—“nisi pœnitentiam egeritis omnes similiter peribitis.” And, fourthly, that this preaching, in accordance with the decrees of God, should commence with Jerusalem (Isaias 2:3; 4:1; Micheas 4:2). “Beginning,” that is, those who were to act in His name, should begin their preaching in Jerusalem. It was God’s will, that salvation should be first offered to the Jews, and only after them, to the Gentiles. The Greek is in the genitive, αρξαμενων, by those “beginning at Jerusalem.” St. Peter did so (Acts 2:38); the Apostles, even St. Paul, began with the Jews. According to this reading, “beginning” is dependent on and connected with “be preached,” κηρυχθηναι αρξαμενων. The Codex Vat. has, αρξαμενοι. The common reading is αρξαμενον, which is preferred to the others by Beelen, chiefly on account of the preponderance of authorities (Gram. Græcit, § 32, 7). He regards it as a specimen of the accusative absolute, meaning, facto initio a Hierosolymis. He says it is usual with the Greeks to use impersonally in the accusative case, participles of the neuter gender and singular number, as in the present instance.

48. “And you are witnesses of these things.” The present “are” has a future sense, “shall be,” as is said in Acts (1:8), “and you shall be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea,” &c., just as in the words, “and I send the promise,” &c. The word, “send,” means, “shall send.” It may be that “are” has a present signification, as if He said: You have had ocular evidence of these leading events and mysteries connected with Me, so as to be able to preach them with confidence hereafter. They preached what they saw, heard, looked upon, and their hands had handled (1 John 1:1). “Of these things”—of all that is to be preached regarding Me. You shall preach My Passion, Resurrection, penance, remission of sin, in accordance with the prediction of the prophets, through all nations, after having first commenced at Jerusalem.

49. They might allege their own weakness, ignorance, and inability, to enter on so arduous and exalted a mission; our Lord removes these apprehensions, by assuring them, He would fill them with the spirit of power and strength. “And, behold, I send” you on Pentecost Day just at hand, “the promise of My Father.” By Metonomy, the promise is used for the thing promised, viz., the Holy Spirit, whom My Father promised through the prophets, especially Joel, “effundam de Spiritu Meo super omnem carnem,” &c., and whom I promised to send from My Father (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:17). “But, stay you in the city” of Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), where your preaching is to commence, “till you be endued with power from on high,” until the Spirit of fortitude, who shall strengthen you against all temptation and fear, and shall enable you to resist all the powers of earth and hell, descends on you from above. Hence, not from earth is your aid to be derived, but from heaven. The same is called by Gabriel, “virtus altissimi obumbrabit tibi” (1:35). “Endued”—clothed, penetrated, filled, &c.; covered, as with a garment, so that His power alone would be seen in them, and not their own weakness. The compendious narrative given here by St. Luke is more diffusely narrated. (Acts 1:1–10, &c.) Hence, these words were not spoken till after He returned from Galilee, where He showed Himself to a large multitude (Matthew 28:16; 1 Cor. 15:6). For, here He tells them to remain in the city till the descent of the Holy Ghost. From other sources, we learn that He told them to repair to Galilee and meet Him there, which they did (Matthew 28:16). The words from v. 44–49 were spoken shortly before His Ascension, since the promised Spirit was to be sent down “not many days” afterwards, viz., on Pontecost Sunday, which shortly followed Ascension Day. Our Lord had chosen Jerusalem as the place for sending down His Holy Spirit on the Apostles, because it was in Jerusalem He wished to found His Church, which He did on Pentecost Sunday. “De Sion exibit lex et verbum Domini de Jerusalem” (Isaias 2:3). It was there He wished to promulgate the New Law; it was there a greater number of spectators were present to witness the effects of the descent of the Holy Spirit; and as it was there He underwent the greatest humiliation, so there He wished to display His glory and power.

50. After having remained with them forty days (Acts 1:3, &c.), proving His Resurrection, and instructing them in everything relating to the government of His Church, both as to faith, morals, and discipline, to the end of time, “He led them out from Jerusalem, as far as Bethania” (the eleven and those that were with Him—v. 33). Bethania was about fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem. It lay at the foot of Mount Olivet, on the eastern slope, farthest from Jerusalem. Mount Olivet lay between Bethania and Jerusalem. It was from this place, He proceeded to the scene of His Passion. He was, therefore, determined to proceed from the same place, which, as the native village of Lazarus and Mary, was very dear to Him, to enjoy the glory of His Father. He also wished to convey that in the same place, or in the valley of Josaphat, that lay between Mount Olivet, from which He ascended (Acts 1:11), and Jerusalem, He would display the splendour of His majesty in judging the living and the dead (Acts 1:11; Joel. 3:12; Zacharias 14:3, 4, 5).

“Lifting up His hands,” a ceremony commonly used among the ancients in giving a benediction (Leviticus 9:22). Such was also the usage observed by the Patriarchs (Genesis 27:4; 48:9; 49:1); so, also, by Moses (Exodus 17:11). The same ceremony has been constantly in use in the Christian Church, with the addition of the sign of the cross—partly the source of all blessings—which is surely of Apostolic origin. Nay, some authors—Suarez—St. Jerome (in Isaias 66:19), believe that our Lord Himself, on this occasion, made the sign of the cross in the air, while, with uplifted hands, He blessed His Apostles. What wonder if He did so, since it is most likely He carried into heaven, to plead for us, the very scars of His Passion, which He retained after His resurrection (v. 40). Heb. 9:26.

“He blessed them.” The Patriarchs of old blessed their children when departing from them at death (Genesis 27 and 49), so used the Priests bless the people under the Law of Nature (Genesis 14:19), and the Mosaic Law (Numbers 6:23). Hence, our Lord, Father and Priest of the Church, the Author of the Law of Grace, on leaving the earth, blesses His friends and followers, and gives them an earnest of His heavenly gifts.

51. It was in the act of of blessing them, “He departed from them.” He raised Himself up by His own power, the Apostles looking on, as He gradually ascended, until He vanished. “A cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), “and He was carried up into heaven.”

52. “Adoring,” falling prostrate, and paying Him, as God, supreme worship, the cultus latriæ, due to the sovereign majesty of God only. Hitherto, they had known our Lord in the flesh; and, owing to their familiar intercourse with Him whom they knew to be God, He vouchsafed not to exact, at least, externally, as far as we know, this exhibition of Divine worship; but, now they knew Him no longer in the flesh, but in the spirit (2 Cor. 5:16). Very likely, before this act of prostrate adoration, and while they were gazing on Him ascending, the two men in white garments addressed them (Acts 1:10), and after this testimony, coupled with the evidence of His Divinity afforded in His Ascension, they fell down, and adored Him, sitting at the right hand of His Father.

Having adored, “they went back (from Mount Olivet) to Jerusalem,” not in sadness, but, “with joy,” on seeing this last crowning proof of their Lord’s Divinity, and of the glory in store for Him—whom they so ardently loved—(John 14:28), at His Father’s right hand, and the exaltation of His name, at the sound of which every knee in creation must bend (Philip. 2 &c.), together with the assurance they felt of the fulfilment of His promise, to send them the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to remain with them for ever.

53. “They were always” (i.e.), every day, and often at seasonable times, “in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.” It is generally supposed this refers to the time after the descent of the Holy Ghost, which accords with the account given by St. Luke (Acts 2:46; 5:21, 42) of the occupation of the Apostles after Pentecost, who were described as continually in the Temple, engaged in prayer and preaching Jesus Christ; for, before the descent of the Holy Ghost, in the interval between Ascension and Pentecost, they are represented as withdrawing to an upper room, where they persevered in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, with the women, and the brethren (Acts 1:13, 14). At the same time, the context here would favour the opinion, that even in the interval between Ascension and Pentecost, they frequently visited the Temple, the scene of their Master’s labours at the close of His life—the house of prayer—the house of His Father. Nor is the account left us of their having abode in an upper room, necessarily opposed to this opinion.

“Amen,” for meaning (see Matthew 5:18; 6:13). Here, it is wanting in some of the best MSS.

Ven. Bede observes, that as St. Luke commenced his Gospel with the ministry of the Temple in the Priesthood of Zachary; so, he very appropriately closes it with an account of the ministry of the Apostles, not in the oblation of legal victims, but in the praising and blessing of God.








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