“For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
Then the disciples went away again unto their own home,” John 20:9-10.
I read those verses this morning as part of my daily Bible reading. As ever, I discovered out of its “treasure things new and old,” Matthew 13:52.
It is always comes as a rebuke to my soul when I see something that I never saw before for I should have seen it were not my eyes so blind!
How when we read our Bibles we need to pray as did David: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” Psalm 119:18. We may have such a text as this framed and hung on our wall but how we need to continually pray these words when we read God’s Word, for our eyes are by nature shut tight and blind to the wonders of God’s Word.
Returning to John 20, verses 9 and 10,
1. WE ARE REMINDED THAT SUCH BLINDNESS OF MIND IS COMMON TO MEN.
That John and Peter should not understand the significance of the empty tomb is most amazing, considering their times of instruction under the Lord’s tutelage. Yet let us learn the lesson that even the greatest of God’s servants, no matter how well instructed they may be, oftentimes fail to grasp the truth of God.
In Mark 8:31, we read these words: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” The reaction of Peter, and I am sure his was but a reflection of the feelings of all the disciples, is recorded for us to see. “And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him,” verse 32. Such a response is most startling to us as we read this passage with our present-day understanding of the cross and the fulfilment of the Saviour’s Words. Yet please bear in mind that there are many words spoken to us by the Lord in the Bible which, like His words to these disciples, are of matters which lie in the future and there is manifested amongst God’s people a spirit regarding such scriptures as wrong and rebukable as that of Peter!
The matters relating to the end times which are revealed in Holy Scripture, when preached as literal accounts of the things which will take place at the end of this age, such an understanding is so often treated with open contempt by those who really are of the same spirit as was manifested by Peter upon hearing the Saviour speak of His suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.
What the Lord said was so far outside the mindset of Peter and what it was he thought should happen to the Messiah, that he treated with contempt the words of the Saviour. The phrase, “Peter took him”, depicts Peter taking the Saviour aside as one would an erring and foolish child. His rebuking of the Saviour means he charged the Saviour with error. The seriousness of what Peter did is seen in that the same word (rebuked) is used in verse 33 to express the Saviour’s response to Peter’s rejection of His words and his most presumptuous rebuking of the Lord. Calling Peter ‘Satan’ indicated the spirit of Peter’s words. Many believers still speak as Satan for in like manner with Peter they reject the plain words of God.
Shut eyes can lead us into great error and sin. To attempt to walk abroad with our eyes closed we readily realise would soon lead to disaster. Likewise to attempt to understand God’s Word with shut eyes would lead us into the same error as Peter. This event has not been recorded in God’s Word to shame Peter but to teach us to avoid Peter’s folly and yet how many blunder unheedingly into the same folly!
2. IT IS TO BE NOTED THAT THIS BLINDNESS ROBBED THEM OF THE JOY THAT THEY SHOULD RIGHTLY HAVE EXPERIENCED.
“Then the disciples went away again . . . . ,” verse 10.
The empty tomb announced Christ’s victory over the devil and all his allies! It proclaimed the glorious outworking of God’s eternal purpose to save His elect people through the atoning death of His Son! The empty tomb declared deliverance of believers from the power of sin and death. The Lord Jesus had thus delivered “them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Hebrews 2:15.
Yet, Peter and John were blind to these glorious truths and in darkness of mind and soul, turned their back upon the evidence of this sublime and spectacular victory by their Saviour over all His foes!
Were they not robbed of the joy, the peace, the jubilation that such an event should have brought to them? Yes, they were and it is still the same today. Many in the Church of God are robbed of the joy and blessing set forth by the Lord regarding His victorious return to this earth and when at such a time, “The kingdoms of this world . . . become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever,” Revelation 11:15. That will be a day of victory over the devil and his agents, the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all their supporters. It will be a day of deliverance from blindness and tribulation for His ancient people of Israel. It will be a day when the dead saints of God will be released from the grave and those saints who are alive on that day, from the corruptions of the flesh. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 15:52-57.
Yes, such a prospect should cause us to rejoice in the spirit in which we will most wonderfully rejoice in that day.
But sadly, just as John and Peter were robbed, by their lack of understanding and faith, of the triumph that the empty tomb proclaimed, so many saints today are shut out of the thrilling joy that a simple acceptance of what the Saviour says regarding His return would bring.
Instead, a multiplicity of man’s Bible-rejecting notions have robbed many of that joy. There is amongst such no spirit of watching for the Saviour’s return as there was in the early church. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13. Such was Paul’s spirit. His eyes were open to the approach of that event, even though he knew back when he wrote these words that many things were to take place before that wonderful appearing of Christ. He knew the things that were to take place and informed the church of them. See 2 Thessalonians 2:11-17 (note verse 5); 1 Timothy 4:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5. We could add to these verses not only the Saviour’s own words and those of His apostles but also of the Old Testament prophets who were granted an understanding of the ‘last things’. “Whom (the Saviour) the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began,” Acts 3:21.
Such a knowledge is the mainstay of the people of God in the last times, just as was what the Lord told the disciples regarding His death and resurrection intended to uphold amidst the trials that surrounded His death at the cross. Yet unbelief robbed them of the joy which sprang from His resurrection and so it is with many today regarding the return of the Saviour and the soul thrilling revelations given us of the days leading up to that event and the event itself.
How we need our eyes opened!
3. NOTE WHERE UNBELIEF TOOK JOHN AND PETER.
“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home,” verse 10. The word ‘home’ carries the meaning of ‘their own things’. It reminds us of Peter’s disappointed declaration. “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing,” John 21:3. Fruitlessness and failure are the result of blindness to the meaning of the empty tomb and the fulfilment of God’s Word.
They went home again to the mundane activities of that place from which the Lord had called them some years before. “And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.” Mark 1:19-20. This was a period of ‘going back’ in the lives of the disciples.
What brooding emptiness must have filled their hearts as they turned their back on the empty tomb and trudged home, and in truth abandoned their calling in dejection. Such a spirit was very obviously manifested in the demeanour of two others trudging homeward. “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?” Luke 24:13-17.
Is this not the blindness and the spirit that is upon many of God’s people today? The increasing wickedness of this world, the religious abominations wrought in the name of God, the wars and rumours of war and the slaughter and cruelty linked to such. Little is known of the meaning of these things. In fact, we ought to read of such with a spirit of forthright condemnation but also with a recognition of the joyful prospect that such events declare. But unbelief causes us to dwell in a ‘home’ that is dismal and dark.
The Lord Jesus spoke of the horrendous events which would come at the close of this age. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,” Luke 21:25-28.
The ‘things’ which distressed the nations and caused perplexity and fear amongst men should actually cause a joyful lifting up of the eyes of believers for they herald the drawing nigh of our redemption and the return in glory of the Saviour! They say that the darkest hour is before the dawn. Ought we not to rejoice in the deepening darkness of all around for it is the harbinger of the dawn of the day of the Lord.
I say again, as unbelief robbed Peter and John of the joyful significance of the empty tomb, so a misunderstanding, a rejection through unbelief of the prophecies relating to the end times and the return of Christ, will rob any afflicted by such unbelief, of that wonderful anticipation of victory which the events, which distress unbelieving mankind, ought to convey to us.
It was unbelief that was at the core of the blindness of all the disciples following the resurrection. Heed these Scriptures.
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not,” Mark 16:9-11.
“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,” Luke 24:25-27.
Christian, pray David’s prayer and seek an opening of your eyes to all that is in His Word, especially those wonderful predictions He has given us for our comfort of the events in the days leading up to His return.
The Lord bless you all richly.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
March 30th 2022