Commentary on John 20:19-20 – Jesus’ appearance to the disciples

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John 20:19-20 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had said this, He showed unto them His Hands and His Side.

On the selfsame day on which He had appeared unto Mary, and discoursed with her, He also showed Himself to the holy disciples, who dreaded the intolerable attacks of the impious Jews, and were, on that account, collected together in a certain house. For it was not likely that they who had been so instructed, and had often been bidden to make haste to escape from the wrath of their would-be murderers, would be found lacking in proper prudence. Christ miraculously appears unto them. For while the doors were shut, as the Apostle says, Christ unexpectedly stood in the midst, by His ineffable Divine power rising superior to the chain of cause and effect, and showing Himself able to dispense with the design and method appropriate to His action. For let no man say, "How did the Lord, Whose Body was of solid Flesh, enter without let or hindrance, though the doors were shut?" but rather let him reflect that the Evangelist is not here speaking of one of ourselves, but rather of Him Who is enthroned by the side of God the Father, and Who easily doth whatsoever He will. For He that was by Nature the true God, was of necessity not subject unto the sequences of cause and effect, as are the creatures that owe their being to Him; but rather does He exercise Lordship over necessity itself, and due and appropriate methods of performance. For how did He make the sea afford a footing unto His Feet, and walk thereon as upon dry land, though we are not so framed that we can tread upon the paths of the sea? And how did He perform the rest of His marvellous works with God-like power? All these things, you will say, surpass man's understanding. Put this miracle of Christ side by side with the rest, and do not, following the opinion of certain men, who, in the folly of their hearts, have been led astray to judge falsely, imagine on account of this very occurrence that Christ rose again without His human Body, wholly bereft thereof, and severed from the Temple that He had taken on Himself. For if thou canst not understand the working of God's ineffable Nature, why dost thou not rather cry out against the infirmity of man's reason —-for that would be the wiser course—-and then silently acquiesce in the limit prescribed to you by the Creator? For in rejecting the conclusion of wisdom, thou doest wrong to the great mystery of the Resurrection, on which all our reliance is fixed. For remember the exclamation of Paul: If the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins. And again: Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that He raised up Christ: Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For what can be raised up save that which is fallen? or what restored to life, save that which is bowed down in death? And how shall we expect to rise again, if so be that Christ raised not up His own Temple, making Himself, for us, the Firstfruits of them which are asleep, and the Firstborn from the dead? Or how shall this mortal put on immortality, if, as some think, it be lost in total annihilation? For how shall it escape this fate if it have no hope of a new life? Do not, then, swerve from orthodoxy in the faith, because a miracle was accomplished; but rather be wise, and add this to the other marvellous works that Christ did.

For observe how, by unexpectedly entering when the doors were shut, Christ showed, once more, that He was by Nature God, and no other than He Who had erewhile dwelt among them; and also, by laying bare the wounded Side of His Body, and by showing the print of the nails, He gave us complete satisfaction that He had raised that Temple of His Body which had hung upon the Cross, and had restored to life that Body which He had worn, thereby subduing death, which is due to all flesh, inasmuch as He was by Nature Life and God. What need, then, was there for Him to show them His Hands and Side, if, as some perversely think, He did not rise again with His Body? And, if He wished His disciples not to entertain this idea concerning Him, why did He not rather appear in another form, and, disdaining the likeness of flesh, conjure up other thoughts in their minds'? But, as it is, He thought it of so great importance that they should be convinced of the  Resurrection of His Body, that, when the time even seemed to call Him to change His Body into some form of ineffable and surpassing Majesty, He resolved in His Providence to appear once more as He had been of old, that He might not be thought to be wearing any other form than that in which also He had suffered crucifixion. For that our eyes could not have endured the glory of the holy Body, if Christ had chosen to reveal it unto the disciples before He ascended to the Father, is easily to be inferred, when we reflect upon His transfiguration on the Mount before the holy disciples. For the blessed Matthew the Evangelist writes, that Jesus took Peter, and James, and John, and went up into the mountain, and was transfigured before them: and His Face did shine as lightning, and His garments became white as snow, and they could not endure the sight, but fell on their faces. Very appropriately, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, as He had not yet transformed the Temple of His Body into its due and proper majesty, still appeared in His original shape, not wishing the belief in the Resurrection to be transferred to another form or body than that which He had received from the Holy Virgin, in which also He was crucified, and died, according to the Scripture, the power of death extending only over Flesh, from which also it was driven forth. For if His Body, after death, did not rise again, what sort of death was vanquished, and in what way was the power of corruption weakened? For it could not be by the death of a single rational being, or soul, or angel, or even the very Word of God. When, then, the power of death has reference only to that which is doomed by nature to corruption, with this it is that the power of the Resurrection is concerned, and with this alone, in order that the dominion of the lord of this world might be taken away. The entry of our Lord through the closed doors must be classed, by men of wisdom, with the other miracles that He wrought. He then greeted His holy disciples. Peace be unto you, He says; meaning by peace, Himself. For while Christ is present among men it follows that the tranquillity of their minds is assured unto them. Paul also declared that this boon is granted to those who believe on Him, when he says: The peace of Christ, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts; meaning by the peace of Christ which passeth all understanding nothing else than His Spirit, of Which if any man partake he shall be filled with everything that is good.

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