And after eight days — i.e. after the Passover week was over, during which the disciples were pondering the new revelations of the Easter Day, and becoming more able to understand the meaning of a spiritual presence—to understand what the real "touching" of the risen Lord meant— again his disciples were within the same or a similar abode referred to in John 20:19 . Some have urged that this manifestation occurred in Galilee, whither the disciples had been directed to journey to receive the most convincing proofs of his power and presence. There is no evidence of this at all, and the form of expression corresponds so closely with the description of the conditions of the first meeting, that we cannot accept the suggestion of Olshausen and others. Some have urged that this is the beginning of the celebration of the Resurrection-day—the sanctification of the first day of the week. Such a conclusion cannot be positively asserted. "Eight days" having fully elapsed might bring them to the evening of the second day of the second week. The expression, "seven days," is unquestionably used for a week in the Old Testament, though Luke ( Luke 9:28 ) seems to use the expression, "about eight days," for a well-known division of time, probably "from sabbath to sabbath;" and from the Jewish way of reckoning the beginning of a day on the sunset of the preceding day, we might reckon that, from the middle of the first Sunday to the evening of the second, the period would include parts of eight days. There is nothing, therefore, to prevent the calculation of parts of eight days from the great events of Easter Day as a whole to the evening of the second Sunday. And though, as Meyer says, there is nothing indicative of any consecration of the first day of the week, it is obviously calculated to explain the custom which so rapidly sprang up in the Christian community. Nor is it without interest that John, in the Apocalypse, described himself as receiving his first great vision on "the Lord's day." And Thomas was with them . He had not broken with the disciples, even if he could not accept their unanimous testimony. He was now, at least, sharing their excitement, and perhaps their hope, and many in addition to the eleven disciples were striving to realize with them the new condition of things, even their common relation to an invisible and triumphant Lord. The Gospel of Matthew and the undisputed portion of Mark 16:1-20 . describe no appearance to the apostles in Jerusalem, and consequently the opponents of the Fourth Gospel have commented on the apostles' cowardly flight from Jerusalem, and on the unhistoric character of the two appearances to them in the metropolis. The fact is that there is no indication of flight in the synoptists, and the Fourth Gospel throws light on the return to Galilee in John 21:1-25 .. Matthew gives rather a summary of the appearances of forty days ( Acts 1:3 ), in an event to which probably St. Paul refers ( 1 Corinthians 15:6 ). When the doors had been shut , Jesus cometh, and stood in the midst, and said (once more, as he saw their natural perturbation; for do not men always shrink from manifestation of pure spirit or spiritual body?), Peace be unto you (see notes on verses 19, 20). The repetition of the appearance at a similar hour and place confirmed and intensified their previous experience. If doubts had crept into any minds, the rectification of the first impression would be secured, and a Divine joy once more surcharge their minds.
The second appearance to the disciples.
There was one member of the apostolic band still in doubt and darkness.
I. THE ABSENCE OF THOMAS FROM THE FIRST INTERVIEW WITH THE LORD . "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came."
1. The character of this disciple, as already made known , left him open to profound discouragement at the death of Christ. "Let us also go, that we may die with him" ( John 11:16 ).
2. His temperament would incline him to await in solitude the solution of the mystery of the Passion of Christ.
3. His absence from the first meeting might have cost him dear, even the loss of his faith, but for Christ's mercy. We know not what we lose by absenting ourselves from the fellowship of Christ's friends,
II. THOMAS 'S OBSTINATE UNBELIEF . "When therefore the other disciples said to him, We have seen the Lord, he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
1. Mark the deep interest of the disciples in their skeptical colleague . They were eager to impart to him the gladness of their own satisfied faith.
2. Thomas carries his faith at his fingers' ends , as if he could not believe in a fact amply established by the testimony of worthy brethren. The death of Christ in all its details had made an impression upon his mind so deep that he could not entertain the possibility of life returning to his Lord's body.
III. OUR LORD 'S CONDESCENSION TO THOMAS 'S UNBELIEF . "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy fingers, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing."
1. This interview occurred a week after the first . The disciples did not leave Jerusalem for Galilee till Thomas's scruples were overcome. They could not think of abandoning him to his unreasonable unbelief.
2. It was the urgency of the disciples which, no doubt, secured the presence of Thomas on this occasion.
3. Our Lord offered to Thomas all the evidence he has been demanding for eight days.
IV. THE CONVICTION OF THOMAS . "Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God!" This exclamation implied:
1. The instant dispersion of all his doubts.
2. The rapture of a holy admiration.
3. An act of sincere adoration . Thomas saw in Jesus supreme Deity. it cannot be maintained that it was a mere exclamation addressed to God rather than Christ.
V. OUR LORD 'S PROCLAMATION OF THE HIGHER BLESSEDNESS . "Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
1. It is natural for us to suppose that it would bare been an advantage to us to have seen Christ in the flesh. It was not so, however, to the Jews, Who saw him in the circumstances of his earthly humiliation.
2. Even those believers who saw him in the flesh had to get beyond the evidence of the senses to see his Godhead and authority. It was not this evidence that convinced Thomas. Eyesight showed him only a wounded man, but something more was needed to enable him to see Christ as Lord and God.
3. Our Lord's rebuke of Thomas marks his consideration for the Church of all ages. He seems to say to him, "You think you were doing a right thing in remaining unconvinced till you could receive the fullest evidence of the senses; but what is to become of future generations if the same evidence is to be demanded by them? All future believers must accept the fact of my resurrection upon your testimony."
4. The higher blessedness is ours ; for we can act in the terms of that faith which "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" ( Hebrews 11:1 ). We are to "walk by faith, not by sight" ( 2 Corinthians 5:7 ).
The unbelief of Thomas.
I. THOMAS AND HIS FELLOW - APOSTLES . When they told Thomas they had seen Jesus, and he refused to believe, they must have been rather staggered at first. They would insist on how they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, and heard him with their own ears; not one of them, but all. They would point out how the sepulcher was empty, and how Jesus had said that it behooved him to be raised from the dead. They might ask whether Thomas imagined that they were all in a conspiracy to play an unseemly practical joke upon him. Yet there was really nothing to complain about in the incredulity of Thomas. Who of them had believed Jesus as he deserved to be believed? Their thoughts had never been really directed towards resurrection. They had been dreaming of individual glory and sell: advancement, and all that tended in a different direction had been unnoticed. We must do them the justice to say that no tone of complaint against Thomas appears. They would be too conscious that with the beam so recently taken out of their own eye, they had no right to declaim against the mote in their brother's eye.
II. THOMAS AND JESUS . What is Jesus to do with Thomas? Is he to remain in this state of emphatic unbelief, with no means taken to help him into faith? Will Jesus make a special appearance, all for Thomas's satisfaction? Surely that can hardly be, but time will tell. A week elapses, and the disciples are gathered again, Thomas being with them. Jesus reappears, just after the former fashion. What, then, will Thomas do? Will he rush to Jesus, confessing and bewailing the wickedness of his unbelief? Jesus removes all difficulty by taking the first step himself. All the apostles need to be taught a lesson. Jesus knows well that faith can never originate in things that can be seen and felt and handled. Such things may help faith, but cannot produce it. The confession of Thomas, prompt and ardent as it seems, counts for little with Jesus. He does not say, "Blessed art thou, Thomas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Thomas had to be both lovingly helped and delicately rebuked.
III. PROBABLE AFTER - EXPERIENCES OF THOMAS . Thomas would meet many of an unbelieving spirit, who could not, just upon his word, accept the resurrection of Jesus. And then Thomas would have to reply, "I once thought as you do; I insisted on seeing the marks of the wounds; and my Master, in his boundless condescension to the infirmities of his servants, let me see what I wanted to see. But, at the same time, he taught me a lesson, in the strength of which I have gone ever since." All the apostles had soon to believe in One whom they could not see. Where he had gone, they knew not; and how he was to communicate with them and they with him, they could not explain; but most assuredly a real and fruitful communication was established. Jesus was not speaking of an impossible blessedness, or dangling the attractions of a dream before the eyes of his disciples. The unseen, and not the seen, is what strengthens faith. What men see is the very thing that makes them unbelievers, confusing them, perplexing them, utterly disabling them from laying hold on anything solid and comforting. If the seen hides the unseen, so that Jesus himself becomes the merest of tames, then there is dreadful misery.—Y.
2. The complete glorification of Jesus in his resurrection. The record pauses for the awful day of that great sabbath, and resumes the marvelous recital when the greatest event in the history of the world is assumed and asserted to have taken place. Heathen and foes admit the fact of the death of Jesus; the evidence is overwhelming, multiform, sufficient to establish itself to the ordinary reason of mankind. It is a matter of indubitable history. The proof was given to all the world; but it is otherwise with the fact of the anastasis of Jesus. That stupendous event was revealed to the eye and mind of faith by a series of communications, which afford to different classes, groups, kinds, and states of mind specimens of the manner and quality of the resurrection-life. "Many infallible proofs" wrought (as St. Luke says, Acts 1:1-26 .) irresistible conviction as to the reality of the Resurrection. The Church of Christ was originated by a faith in this new and transcendental mode of existence. A generation of men passed, scores of communities were called into being throughout Palestine, Phoenicia, Syria, Lybia, Asia Minor, Achaia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Crete, and even in Italy and the capital of the Roman empire, all of them held together by the life-giving conviction of the reality of a world of spiritual body, into which the redeemed enter. Of this reality the resurrection-life of Christ was the type, the proof, the first fruit, and the earnest. This most astounding fact was preached in Galatia and Macedonia, in Corinth and Rome, in Babylon and Alexandria, before one word of the Gospels had been put on parchment. When the preaching of the apostles was reduced to written form, it was not with the idea of recording a fully detailed or easily harmonizable account of the Easter Day, or of providing rational, or juridical, or historic evidence of the method or order of the great events, but rather to provide five independent series of evidences to the revelations which the apostles and apostolic company received of the nature and quality of the new life for humanity which had now begun. Several details of profound interest occur in the synoptic narrative, concerning which John is silent—such e.g. as the rolling of a stone to the door of the sepulcher, the sealing of the stone by the Roman guard, the resurrection-appearances of the saints, the special preparation made by the women for further embalmment on the following days the great earthquake, the two companies of women that resorted to the sepulcher at successive intervals of time, and the different signs and even appearances by which their timorous hope was quickened into an adoring homage and world-compelling faith. Though John does not recite these well-known narratives, he presupposes some of them. Thus
(5) The manifestation made to anxious skepticism, with the blessing on those who have not seen and yet have believed.