Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 33: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MARK 16:13,14; LUKE 24:31-40
13. And they went away and told it to the rest, but neither did they believe them. 14. Afterwards he appeared to the eleven while they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw him after he was risen.
31. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; 317 and he vanished from their eyes. 318 32. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked to us on the road, and opened to us the Scriptures? 33. And they arose in the same hour, 319 and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven assembled, and those who were with them, 34. Saying, The Lord is actually risen, and hath appeared to Simon. 35. Then they related what had taken place on the road, and how he had been recognized by them in the breaking of bread. 36. And while they were speaking these things, Jesus stood in the midst of them, and said to them, Peace be to you. 37. But they were terrified and affrighted, and thought that they saw a spirit. 38. And he said to them, Why are you troubled, and why do 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 you see me have. 40. And having said these things, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Luke 24:31. And their eyes were opened. By these words, we are taught that there was not in Christ any metamorphosis, or variety of forms, by which he might impose on the eyes of men, (as the poets feign their Proteus,) but that, on the contrary, the eyes of beholders were mistaken, because they were covered; just as, shortly afterwards, he vanished from the eyes of those very persons, not because his body was in itself invisible, but because God, by withdrawing their rigor, blunted their acuteness. Nor ought we to wonder that Christ, as soon as he was recognized, immediately disappeared; for it was not advantageous that they should any longer behold him, lest, as they were naturally too much addicted to the earth, they might desire again to bring him back to an earthly life. So far, then, as it was necessary to assure them of his resurrection, he made himself visible to them; but by the sudden departure, he taught them that they must seek him elsewhere than in the world, because the completion of the new life was his ascension to heaven.
32. Did not our heart burn within us? Their recognition of Christ led the disciples to a lively perception of the secret and hidden grace of the Spirit, which he had formerly bestowed upon them. For God sometimes works in his people in such a manner, that for a time they are not aware of the power of the Spirit, (of which, however, they are not destitute,) or, at least, that they do not perceive it distinctly, but only feel it by a secret movement. Thus the disciples had formerly indeed felt an ardor, which they now remember, but which they had not then observed: now that Christ has made himself known to them, they at length begin to consider the grace which they had formerly, as it were, swallowed without tasting it, and perceive that they were stupid. For they accuse themselves of indifference, as if they had said, “How did it happen that we did not recognize him while he was talking? for when he penetrated into our hearts, we ought to have perceived who he was.” But they conclude that he is Christ, not simply from the bare sign that his word was efficacious to inflame their hearts, but because they ascribe to him the honor which belongs to him, that when he speaks with the mouth, he likewise inflames their hearts inwardly by the warmth of his Spirit. Paul, indeed, boasts that the ministration of the Spirit was given to him, (2Co 3:8;) and Scripture frequently adorns the ministers of the word with such titles as the following; that they convert the hearts, enlighten the understandings, and renew men so as to become pure and holy sacrifices; but then it is not to show what they do by their own power, but rather what the Lord accomplishes by means of them. But both belong equally to Christ alone, to pronounce the outward voice, and to form the hearts efficaciously to the obedience of faith.
It cannot be doubted that he then engraved an uncommon Mark on the hearts of these two men, that they might at length perceive that in speaking he had breathed into them a divine warmth. For though the word of the Lord is always fire, yet a fiery rigor was at that time manifested in a peculiar and unusual, manner in the discourse of Christ, and was intended to be an evident proof of his divine power; for it is he alone who baptizeth in the Holy Ghost and in fire, (Lu 3:16.) Yet let us remember that it is the proper fruit of heavenly doctrine, whoever may be the minister of it, to kindle the fire of the Spirit in the hearts of men, to purify and cleanse the affections of the flesh, or rather to burn them up, and to kindle a truly fervent love of God; and by its flame, as it were, to carry away men entirely to heaven.
33. And they arose in the same hour. 320 The circumstance of the time, and the distance of the places, show with what ardor those two men turned to convey the intelligence to their fellow-disciples. As they entered a lodging towards evening, it is probable that the Lord had not made himself known to them before night came on. To perform a journey of three hours in the dead of night was exceedingly inconvenient; yet they rise that very instant, and return in haste to Jerusalem. And, indeed, if they had only gone thither next day, their tardiness might have exposed them to suspicion; but as they chose rather to deprive themselves of the repose of the night than to allow the slightest delay in making the apostles partakers of their joy, the very haste gave additional credit to their narrative. Now whenLuke says that they arose in the same hour, 321 it is probable that they came to the disciples about midnight. But, according to the testimony of the same Luke, the disciples were at that time conversing together; and hence we learn their anxiety, and industry, and ardor, in spending almost the whole night without sleep, and unceasingly making inquiries at each other, until the resurrection of Christ was ascertained by a multitude of testimonies.
34. Saying, The Lord is actually risen. By these words Luke means that those persons who had brought to the apostles joyful intelligence to confirm their minds, were informed by the disciples respecting another appearance. Nor can it be doubled that this mutual confirmation was the reward which God bestowed on them for their holy diligence. By a comparison of the time, we may conclude that Peter, after having returned from the sepulcher, was in a state of great perplexity and uncertainty, until Christ showed himself to him, and that, on the very day that he had visited the sepulcher, he obtained his wish. Hence arose that mutual congratulation among the eleven, that there was now no reason to doubt, because the Lord had appeared to Simon.
But this appears to disagree with the words of Mark, who says, that the eleven did not even believe those two persons; for how could it be that those who were already certain now rejected additional witnesses, and remained in their former hesitation? By saying that he is actually risen, they acknowledge that the matter is beyond all doubt. First, I reply, that the general phrase contains a synecdoche; for some were harder or less ready to believe, and Thomas was more obstinate than all the rest, (Joh 20:25.) Secondly, We may easily infer that they were convinced in the same way as usually happens to persons who are astonished, and who do not consider the matter calmly; and we know that such persons are continually falling into various doubts. However that may be, it is evident from Luke, that the greater part of them, in the midst of that overpowering amazement, not, only embraced willingly what was told them, but contended with their own distrust; for by the word actually they cut off all ground for doubt. And yet we shall soon afterwards see that, a second and a third time, in consequence of their astonishment, they fell back into their former doubts.
36. Jesus himself stood in the midst of them. While the Evangelist John copiously details the same narrative, (Joh 20:19,) he differs from Luke in some circumstances. Mark, too, differs somewhat in his brief statement. As to John, since he only collects what Luke omitted, both may be easily reconciled. There is no contradiction about the substance of the fact; unless some person were to raise a debate about the time: for it is there said that Jesus entered in the evening, while it is evident, from the thread of the narrative, that he appeared at a late hour in the night, when the disciples had returned from Emmaus. But I do not think it right to insist precisely on the hour of the evening. On the contrary, we may easily and properly extend to a late hour of the night what is here said, and understand it to mean that Christ came to them after the evening, when the apostles had shut the doors, and kept themselves concealed within the house. In short, John does not describe the very commencement of the night, but simply means that, when the day was past, and after sunset, and even at the dead hour of night, Christ came to the disciples contrary to their expectation.
Still there arises here another question, since Mark and Luke relate that the eleven were assembled, when Christ appeared to them; and John says that Thomas was then absent, (Joh 20:24.) But there is no absurdity in saying that the number — the eleven — is here put for the apostles themselves, though one of their company was absent. We have lately stated—and the fact makes it evident—that John enters into the details with greater distinctness, because it was his design to relate what the others had omitted. Besides, it is beyond a doubt that the three Evangelists relate the same narrative; since John expressly says that it was only twice that Christ appeared to his disciples at Jerusalem, before they went to Galilee; for he says that he appeared to them the third time at the sea of Tiberias, (Joh 21:1) He had already described two appearances of our Lord, one which took place on the day after his resurrection, (Joh 20:19,) and the other which followed eight days afterwards, (Joh 20:26) though, were any one to choose rather to explain the second appearance to be that which is found in the Gospel by Mark, I should not greatly object.
I now return to the words of Luke. He does not, indeed, say that Christ, by his divine power, opened for himself the doors which were shut, (Joh 20:26;) but something of this sort is indirectly suggested by the phrase which he employs, Jesus stood. For how could our Lord suddenly, during the night, stand in the midst of them, if he had not entered in a miraculous manner? The same form of salutation is employed by both, Peace be to you; by which the Hebrews mean, that for the person whom they address they wish happiness and prosperity.
37. And they were terrified and affrighted. John does not mention this terror; but as he also says that Christ showed his hands and sides to the disciples, we may conjecture that some circumstance had been omitted by him. Nor is it at all unusual with the Evangelists, when they aim at brevity, to glance only at a part of the facts. From Luke, too, we learn that the terror excited in them by the strangeness of the spectacle was such, that they dare not trust their eyes. But a little ago, they had come to the conclusion that the Lord was risen, (verse 34,) and had spoken of it unhesitatingly as a matter fully ascertained; and now, when they behold him with their eyes, their senses are struck with astonishment, so that they think he is a spirit. Though this error, which arose from weakness, was not free from blame, still they did not so far forget themselves as to be afraid of enchantments. But though they did not think that they are imposed upon, still they are more inclined to believe that an image of the resurrection is exhibited to them in vision by the Spirit, than that Christ himself, who lately died on the cross, is alive and present. So then they did not suspect that this was a vision intended to deceive them, as if it had been an idle phantom, but, seized with fear, they thought only that there was exhibited to them in spirit what was actually placed before their eyes.
38. Why are you troubled? By these words they are exhorted to lay aside terror, and regain the possession of their minds, that, having returned to the rigor of their senses, they may judge of a matter which is fully ascertained; for so long as men are seized with perturbation, they are blind amidst the clearest light. In order, therefore, that the disciples may obtain undoubted information, they are enjoined to weigh the matter with calmness and composure.
And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? In this second clause, Christ reproves another fault, which is, that by the variety of their thoughts they throw difficulties in their own way. By saying that thoughts arise, he means that the knowledge of the truth is choked in them in such a manner, that seeing they do not see, (Mt 13:14;) for they do not restrain their wicked imaginations, but, on the contrary, by giving them free scope, they permit them to gain the superiority. And certainly we find it to be too true, that as, when the sky has been clear in the morning, clouds afterwards arise to darken the clear light of the sun; so when we allow our reasonings to arise with excessive freedom in opposition to the word of God, what formerly appeared clear to us is withdrawn from our eyes. We have a right, indeed, when any appearance of absurdity presents itself, to inquire by weighing the arguments on both sides; and, indeed, so long as matters are doubtful, our minds must inevitably be driven about in every direction: but we must observe sobriety and moderation, lest the flesh exalt itself more highly than it ought, and throw out its thoughts far and wide against heaven.
39. Look at my hands and my feet. He calls upon their bodily senses as witnesses, that they may not suppose that a shadow is exhibited to them instead of a body. And, first, he distinguishes between a corporeal man and a spirit; as if he had said, “Sight and touch will prove that I am a real man, who have formerly conversed with you; for I am clothed with that flesh which was crucified, and which still bears the marks of it.” Again, when Christ declares that his body may be touched, and that it has solid bones, this passage is justly and appropriately adduced by those who adhere to us, for the purpose of refuting the gross error about the transubstantiation of bread into the body, or about the local presence of the body, which men foolishly imagine to exist in the Holy Supper. For they would have us to believe that the body of Christ is in a place where no Mark of a body can be seen; and in this way it will follow that it has changed its nature, so that it has ceased to be what it was, and from which Christ proves it to be a real body. If it be objected, on the other hand, that his side was then pierced, and that his feet and hands were pierced and wounded by the nails, but that now Christ is in heaven without any vestige of wound or injury, it is easy to dispose of this objection; for the present question is not merely in what form Christ appeared, but what he declares as to the real nature of his flesh. Now he pronounces it to be, as it were, a distinguishing character of his body, that he may be handled, and therefore differs from a spirit. We must therefore hold that the distinction between flesh and spirit, which the words of Christ authorize us to regard as perpetual, exists in the present day.
As to the wounds, we ought to look upon this as a proof by which it was intended to prove to us all, that Christ rose rather for us them for himself; since, after having vanquished death, and obtained a blessed and heavenly immortality, yet, on our account, he continued for a time to bear some remaining marks of the cross. It certainly was an astonishing act of condescension towards the disciples, that he chose rather to want something that was necessary to render perfect the glory of the resurrection, than to deprive their faith of such a support. But it was a foolish and an old wife’s dream, to imagine that he will still continue to bear the marks of the wounds, when he shall come to judge the world.
Mark 16:14. Afterwards he appeared to the eleven, while they were sitting. The participle (ἀνακειμένοις) which some have rendered sitting at table, ought, in my opinion, to be simply rendered sitting; and it is not without reason that I take this view of it, if it be agreed that the Evangelist here describes the first appearance; for it would have been an unseasonable hour of supper about midnight. Besides, if the cloth had been laid, 322 this would not have agreed with what Luke shortly afterwards says, that Christ asked if they had anything to eat. Now, to sit is the Hebrew phrase for resting in any place.
And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart. This reproof corresponds more to the first appearance than to the second; for since, the disciples, as John tells us, (Joh 20:20) were glad when they had seen the Lord on the day after the Passover, their unbelief was then rebuked. To restrict these words of Mark to Thomas alone, as some have done, appears to be forced; and, therefore, I prefer to explain them simply as meaning, that when Christ first appeared to the apostles, he reproved them for not believing the testimony of eye-witnesses, who informed them of his resurrection. And yet when he condemns their hardness of heart, it is not solely because they did not give credit to men, but because, after having been convinced by the result, they did not at length embrace the testimony of the Lord. Since, therefore, Peter and Mary, Cleopas and his companion, were not the first witnesses of the resurrection, but only subscribed to the words of Christ, it follows, that the rest of the apostles poured dishonor on the Lord by refusing to believe his words, though they had already been proved by their result. Justly, therefore, are they reproached with hardness of heart, because, in addition to their slowness, there was wicked obstinacy; as if they had intentionally desired to suppress what was evidently true; not that they intended to extinguish the glory of their Master, or to accuse him of falsehood, but because their obstinacy stood in the way, and hindered them from being submissive. In short, he does not here condemn them for voluntary obstinacy, as I have already said, but for blind indifference, which sometimes hardens men that otherwise are not wicked or rebellious.
“Tellement qu’ils le recognurent;” — “in such a manner that they recognized him.”
“Mais il s’esvanouit de devant eux;” — “but he vanished from before them.”
“Au mesme instant;” — “that very instant.”
“Au mesme instant;” — “that very instant.”
“Au mesme instant;” — “that very instant.”
“Si la nappe eust esté mise.”