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vinced, was of the greater value. Years afterwards St. Paul appeals to their testimony, for the greater part of them lived to behold the gospel preached far and near, to Jew and Gentile. From St. Paul we also learn, that after this meeting with the five hundred at once,
" then he was
seen of James." * Even as He appeared privately to Peter, so it seems He appeared to James, and the short history we have of this apostle, may give us the reason why He did so. Very soon James should be called upon to give up his life for his faith. The beginning of his ministry was almost the end of it; for the first persecuting act of King Herod when he stretched forth his hands to vex the church, was to kill “ James the brother of John with the sword.”
To console Peter for past grief and to assure him of pardon, Jesus appeared privately to him before any of the apostles; and now to prepare the son of Zebedee for His coming trial, He in like manner appears to him. It was only a little time before this, that bis mother had entreated for him the place of honor nearest the Saviour in His kingdom, and he himself had declared that he was able to drink of the same cup that Jesus drank of. He knew not then the meaning of that which he desired, but it would soon be granted, for he was to be the first of the apostles who should die for the cause of Christ ; therefore of the twelve, he should be the first who should join his Lord in heaven. Perhaps it was to make all this plain to him that Jesus saw James alone; and the fact that it was to him and to Peter, and not to John, the beloved apostle, that He thus spoke in private, is one of the many things which are but slightly touched upon, and yet when observed are full of instruction. They show us how entirely the welfare of others guided our blessed Lord in all that He did. These three, of the twelve, were His more especial friends, admitted at all times, at the most private moments; but of the three, the apostle John was the one who * 1 Corinthians xv. 7.
† Acts xii. I, 2.
seems the dearest to his heart, and that it was so, gives a sacred sanction to our human friendships ; but not to John did Jesus privately appear. He had all the comfort that could be given, by the knowledge of having ministered to his Lord to the last. He had stood at the foot of His cross; he had received His dying charge to watch over His mother, therefore, his need was not like the need of Peter and James. Thus were they preferred before “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Let the grieved in spirit, bowed down by the consciousness of sin, think of this; let the faint-hearted who are afraid of coming evil, think of it,
and take courage.
Amidst the solitudes of Galilee, our Lord appeared again and again to His Apostles. Strange must have been their feelings now in these old familiar scenes, where He had dwelt among them ; where each rock and mountain, the shores of the lake, and the desert-places, were all full of recollections of Him, of the words He had spoken, of the miracles He had wrought. Now that they knew “that He lived and was dead, and that yet He was alive for evermore, and had the keys of hell and of death,”* with what solemn thought must they have visited each place where He had been with them, and striven to fix in their memories each word and look ! From time to time He appeared among them, and taught them still; but the hour of His final departure was at hand, and He gave them the solemn charge which was to be their strength and their guide throughout their ministry.
Verses 18-20. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I
have commanded you : and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
This promise stretches on through the long line of those who carry on the Apostles' work, “even to the end of the world ;” binding, as with a golden chain, all together. Christ holds it in His hand; it has lengthened out through every age ; and it still carries on His blessing. As it began with Him, so with Him it will end, in its more full completion, by His actual presence at His re-appearing. Amidst all discouragements and difficulties, His ministers have this assurance -"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
John xxi. 1–3. “After these things Jesus shewed himself again to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias: and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee.”
The greater number of the Apostles of Christ were fishermen; they maintained themselves and their families by the produce of their fishing; and they, like other men, still wrought for their living. By and bye we shall find St. Paul and his converts working together as tent-makers in order to obtain the necessaries of life, even amidst the continual labours of his position in the church. Most men in some way have to work for their maintenance; and the thought that the Apostles did the same, not only gives a dignity to industrious labour, but takes away the excuse so often falsely made, that it leaves no time for religion. Let each one who reads of this, consider it well for his own particular instruction.
Verses 3, 4. “They (these seven Apostles) went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore : but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.”
It had been evening when they went. When the mists of night cleared away, they saw Jesus standing on the shore; but they knew Him not; they did not even recognize his voice when calling them.
Verses 5—7. “He saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat ? (meaning, have ye caught any fish for food ?) They answered him, No. 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. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.”
Three years before, on this very sea, they had seen the shoals of fish, obedient to their Maker's will, crowd to the place through which Simon's nets had been vainly sweeping. * Now, as then, his boat had been all night upon the lake, and they had caught nothing. Their Lord was no longer with them; but a voice had reached them from the shore, commanding them again to cast their nets. They had obeyed, and lo! it was in a moment filled with such a multitude of fishes that they could not draw it. It needs not now to tell John whose is the form that is standing by the lake, whose the voice that had called to them. The disciple whom Jesus loved, knew Him, and “saith unto Peter, It is the Lord !"
Verse 7. “ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.'
He could not wait till the boat reached the land, but swam to the shore. How different were his feelings now from what they had been when formerly the same miracle had filled hira with such awe, that falling down at the knees of Jesus, he had exclaimed “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !” More deeply and truly now than then, he felt himself to be a sinful man, but he now better understood the character of Christ, and that the more he was a sinner the more closely he must cling to him. • Perfect love had now cast out fear.” Jesus indeed was the “appointed heir of all things, by whom God had made the world, upholding all things by the word of his
* Luke v. 6-10.
power; "* but He was also the merciful and faithful High Priest, who had made reconciliation for the sins of the people, t wbo, “ being touched with the feeling of our infirmities” has made a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in our time of need. The Lord Jesus had appeared to Peter by himself apart from the other apostles, and now his heart so eagerly pressed towards Him that he plunged into the deep to reach Him the
Verses 8–12. “And the other disciples came in a little ship : (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three ; and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.”
No words could more simply yet more forcibly express the mysterious feeling which took possession of the minds of the Apostles when their glorified Lord was with them. They felt the change while yet they felt that it was He Himself.
* Hebrews i. 2, 3; † ii. 17: iv. 15, 16.