The Devotion of John Chapter Twenty (1)

Robert E. Surgenor

John Running - His Concern

The resurrection of Christ was not only a primary theme in apostolic preaching, but it was also the greatest display of the power of God ever manifested. This truth is compressed into one statement made by Paul to the Ephesian Assembly. "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1: 19-20). Consider the words em­ployed in this tremendous statement that are in bold letters. (1) Power. Dunamus means, the ability, might, miraculous power. Inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, Dunamus is where we derive the word dynamite. (2) Working. Energeia means, Energy, effectual working. In the NT, it is used only of superhuman power, whether of God or of the Devil. It is the active manifestation of #3 and #4. (3) Mighty, Ischus means, ability, force, strength, might. Power in possession. (4) Power. The word is kratos, which is the power to complete. The thought of dominion, strength, force. (5) Wrought, which is, energeo, mean­ing, to be effectual in displaying one's activity.

Not only was the resurrection of our Lord an apostolic theme in their preaching and the greatest display of God's power, but it was also the substance for a number of Old Testament shadows. When the ark, built by Noah, rested on Mount Ararat, as the judgment waters subsided, it was on the seventeenth day of the seventh month (Gen. 8:4). That very month (Abib) was changed to the first month when Israel experienced redemption from the bondage of Egypt through the slaying of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:2). It was on the seventeenth of Abib that Christ rose from the dead, a proof that the judgment of God for those who would trust in Him was now past. Another picture of Christ's resurrection is found in Genesis 22, when Isaac was offered up upon an altar and then received in a figure as one that God had raised from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19). In the crossing of the Red Sea, the removal of the ark of the covenant coming up out of Jordan after the children of Israel had passed over into their inheritance, and the prophet Jonah three days and three nights in the fish's belly, are all types of our Lord's death followed by His resurrection.

The resurrection of our Lord has accomplished many things of which we name a few. First of all, it confirmed His ministry. Not only this, His resurrection sealed His work of redemption and provided unmistakable proof of God's acceptance of His redemp­tive work. Regarding our position, His resurrection provides an absolute guarantee of our resurrection and glorification. This pre­cious truth is fully developed in I Corinthians chapter 15.

Thus we see that Christ's resurrection was Planned (Psa. 16: 10); Pictured in types; Predicted by the Lord Himself (Mark 8; Luke 9); Powerful (Eph. 1:19-20); Preeminent (1 Cor. 15); Pur­poseful (I Thess. 4); and Preached (Acts).

There are a number of things to take note of regarding the resurrection scene. The most notable thing is the presence of women; then angels; then male disciples, and finally the keepers. The angels and keepers are not named, but the women and male disciples are. All those mentioned afford us valuable lessons. It is with reverence that we draw near to that sacred scene.

The four gospels certainly do not contradict each other, but rather position us in various viewing stations to behold the after effects of this great event - His resurrection. If we keep in mind the general portrayal of Christ in the four gospels it will help us to understand what I am about to project. In Matthew, we have the King; Mark, the Servant; Luke, the Man; and John, the Son.

Matthew is the only one that mentions the keepers and the earthquake. He portrays them shaking and becoming as dead men at the sight of an angel whose countenance was as lightning and his raiment as white as snow. It is when the King of kings, and Lord of lords returns (Rev. 19), that ungodly men will tremble and quake, when He comes to shake the whole earth and set up His kingdom. The title Pilate wrote was, 'This is Jesus the King of the Jews " (Matt. 27). Then we have the confession of the dying thief, "Lord, remem­ber me when thou comest into (in) thy kingdom" (Luke 23). When that day arrives, "the LORD of hosts ... will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land," He "will shake all nations"...He "will shake the heavens and the earth" (Hag. 2:6,7,21). Also, in no other Gospel do we have such a vivid description of an angel and from whence he came. "The angel of the Lord descended ftom heaven ... His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow" (Matt. 28:2-3). In our Lord's return as King we observe the origin, character, and activity of holy angels. "When the LordJesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire' (2 Thess. 1:7-8).

REGARDING THE ANGELS, it is interesting to notice the account each gospel writer presents to us. Keep in mind, there are no contradictions, just various stations of viewing. In Matthew, the angel of the Lord, having rolled back the stone, is found sitting upon it. He is sitting upon something solid - a great stone. Linking this thought with Matthew's testimony in chapter 16 is interesting. The Lord says, "Upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. " Thank God, the believer is resting upon something solid - Christ the Rock! Peter speaks of Him as a Stone. "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (1 Peter 2:6).

Mark presents the angel differently. "And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted" (16:5). That expression, "The right side,' is found only three times in the New Testament. In Mark's Gospel; and then in Luke 1: 11, "And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense;" Lastly, in John 21:6. "And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. " In Luke's account announcement is being made of a coming prophet who would be the forerunner of Christ a prophet who revealed his servant-like character by exclaiming, 'One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose" (Luke 3:16). In John's account we find men toiling all night without divine commission or guidance. However, the Lord appears on the scene and guides them, resulting in successful labor. The servant, the fisher of men, must experience divine guidance for success in his work of catch­ing men. It may also be observed that in the Gospel of Mark, where our Lord is portrayed as the Servant, we find His hands mentioned more than the other gospels.

Moving on to Luke's account we discover a different account of the angels. We now discover two angels instead of one. "And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments' (24:4). Thus we have the angels associating themselves with mortals, they "stood by them. " In this gospel we have these words, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them' (15:2). The Gospel of the perfect MAN, associating Himself with sinners to win them to Himself. The holy angels "stood by them"!

Considering the Gospel of John, he too brings angels to our view. As Mary Magdalene stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, she saw 'two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body ofjesus had lain" (21:12,13). There is no striving for position on their part. The one at the feet was as content as the one at the head. In our service, godliness never strives for position, but simply fulfills the will of God, whatever that particular field of service from Him may be.

John's view of the angels is far different than the other three gospels. He observes their divine position - one at the head (the beginning) and one at the feet (the end) of the place where the Lord lay. One cannot but consider his pen on the Isle of Patmos, when he wrote of the resurrected and glorified Son of God. He com­mences with, "I am Alpha and Omega, the flrst and the last" (Rev. 1: 11) and concludes with, 1 am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the flrst and the last" (Rev. 22:13). His description is not a mere coincidence, but divinely inspired and linking itself sixty years later, with the positions of the two angels in the vacated tomb. Well may we exclaim like Anne Steele:

Father of mercies in Thy Word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be Thy Name adored
For these celestial lines.
O may these holy pages be
Our ever new delight!
And still new beauties may we see,
And still increasing light.