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37. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen, rather, “ were seeing,” a spirit.
. The apostles, being Jews, had the common errors and prejudices of their countrymen, of which number this was one, that the souls of the dead did sometimes wander abroad, covered with the same corporeal form, although wholly unsubstantial, which they had while living. Of their entertaining this opinion we have already seen a proof in Matthew, xiv. 26, where we find them terrified with seeing Jesus walking upon the water, because they supposed that he had been a spirit, or ghost; and we have a fresh instance of it upon the present occasion, when they suppose that the appears ance of Jesus was a ghost; an idea which they were probably more ready to embrace, on account of the sudden and unexpected manner in which he appeared among them. . 38. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts, such mistaken thoughts, arise in your hearts?
39. Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself, handle me, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40. And when he had thus spoken he showed them his hands and his feet. · There were three things by which Christ proposed to prove that he was no apparition; the sight, the touch and his eating meat. The two first are mentioned in the preceding verses: for he desired them to look attentively at him, and particularly at the prints of the nails in his hands and his feet, which had still left scars where the wounds had been, and proved him to have been lately crucified; and likewise to feel and handle him, to satisfy themselves that he was a substantial body, and not an airy substance, as a spirit was supposed to be. This language of Christ gives no countenance to the popular error respecting the existence or nature of what are called spirits, or ghosts: but le reasons with his apostles upon their own principles, and proves to them that, according to their own conceptions, he could not be a spirit, since he had flesh and bones. He next suggests to them a third test, by which they might remove their uncertainty whether he was a real person or a phantom, by asking for some meat, and eating it in their presence.
41. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered,
This reason assigned for the doubts of the disciples, is very natural and just: for what men ardently wish for they are readily disposed to believe. Prudent men, therefore, when they hear good news, are disposed to receive it with caution, fearing that their judgment may be biassed by their wishes. This was the state of mind of these disciples at this time; the resurrection of their master from the dead they felt to be so extraordinary an event, that they were afraid to trust the evidence of their senses upon the subject, and suspended their judgment.
He said unto them, Have ye here any meat ?
42. And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish and of an honey-comb;
43. And he took it, and did eat before them.
It is observable that John the evangelist connects these circumstances with the appearance of Christ to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias, which is probably the proper place for them; whereas Luke connects
them with his first appearance to the eleven; on the first day of the week.
44. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning me.
45. Then opened he their under: standing, by explanation and not miraculously, thất they might understand the scriptures.
He performed the saře office for the eleven which he had the same evening performed for the two who went to Emmaus, and which the one needed as well as the other: for although he had often foretold his own death, and reminded them of what was said up: on the subject in the scriptures, yet they never ex: pected such an event.
46. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day,
Although the death of Christ is clearly foretold in the Old Testament, yet I do not recollect any pas. sage wherein the time that he should continue in the grave' is mentioned. Christ himself, however, frequently declared that he must lie dead three days.
47. And that repentance and re's mission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
The doctrine of the remission of sins upon repentance and reformation, was a doctrine taught by allthe prophets, from the time of Noah, who was a preacher of righteousness before the flood, to that of Jesus Christ; and indeed must necessarily be the daca trine of all those who call upon men to forsake their sins : for without hope of pardon there can be no inducement to repent; but new proofs of the mercy of God, new arguments and motives to forsake sin, are offered by the gospel, and a new class of people are to be invited to accept of the divine mercy, even the whole Gentile world. The message of the apostles is therefore very properly described as the preaching of repentance and remission of sins to all nations, in the name, or under the authority, of Christ. For this purpose they were to begin at Jerusalem, as Christ began his ministry in Galilee.
48. And ye are witnesses of these
Tliat is, of my death and resurrection ; the subjects upon which he had before been speaking. .
49. And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. .
Here he plainly refers to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are called the promise of the Father, because they had been promised to the Son by him. They are thus described by Jesus in the evan. gelist John, xv. 26, “ But when the Comforter," or the advocate, “ is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." "In both passages' we see how careful Christ was to inform his disciples that the extraordinary powers which he was about to communicate caine from God.
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50. And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lift up his hands and blessed them, besought the divine blessing for them.
51. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was taken from them, and received up into heaven.
The ascension of Christ seems to be here connected with his appearance to his disciples on the day of his resurrection; whereas this same writer, in another book, (Acts i. 3.) tells us that an interval of forty days passed between one event and the other.
52. And they worshipped him,
They prostrated themselves upon the, ground before him, in token of great reverence, as it was usual to do to prophets and other great personages.
· And returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
53. And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
The former sorrow and dejection of the disciples proceeded from the apprehended loss of their master, and their not understanding the designs of Providence; now, when they are explained to them by Jesus himself, they appear to display the greatest wisdom and goodness, and fill their minds with the highest admiration and gratitude; and although Jesus is taken from them, they are assured that he is alive, and that he will continue to live in a state of great honor and revard, till they shall be permitted to join him.