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called to them, and asked if they had caught any thing? They answered, they had got nothing. He desired them to let down their nets on the right side of the boat. The disciples, imagining that he might be acquainted with the places proper for fishing, did as he directed them, and caught a multitude of fishes. Such marvellous success, after having toiled all the preceding night to no purpose, could not fail to make them form various conjectures about the stranger who had given them the happy advice. Some could not tell who he was; others said he was the Lord. Simon Peter, who was of this latter opinion, entertaining no doubt of it, girt on his fisher's coat, and cast himself into the sea. Wherefore he leaped out hastily, and walked as fast as he could to the land, which was only about sixty paces off.
When the disciples came ashore, they found a fire burning, on which there was a fish broiling. At hand also was some bread. But neither being sufficient for the company, or perhaps to shew them the reality of the miracle, by making them attend to the number and largeness of the fish which they had caught, and to the nets not being broken, Jesus bade them bring some of their own, then invited them to dine, that is, to eat with him.* By this time they were all so fully convinced that it was the Lord, that none of them durst ask who he was. It is not said indeed that Jesus now ate with them ; but his invitation to them implies it. Thus Jesus proved to his disciples anew the reality of his resurrection, not only by eating with them, but by working a miracle like that which, at the beginning of his ministry, had made such an impression upon them as disposed them to be his constant followers. So, when they had dined, Jesus saith to Siinon Peter, “ Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these ?-more than thy brethren apostles love me?” in allusion to the high professions of love and fidelity which Peter had formerly made to him. He
* Him. For the Greek word agisurati, signifies sometimes to take meat in the morning, which is the meaning of it here.
saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Being taught modesty and diffidence by his late fall, Peter would not now compare himself with others, but humbly appealed to his Master's omniscience for the sincerity of his regard to him. Upon this, Jesus first desired him to feed his lambs, that is, to exhort and comfort the young and tender part of the flock, those who were to be converted, Then, to give him an opportunity of renewing his professions," he saith unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? and he said unto him, Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, “ Feed my sheep."* From our Lord's asking Peter if he loved him, before he gave him commission to feed his lambs and his sheep, it is justly inferred, that to render men duly qualified for the ministerial function, they must prefer the interest and honour of Christ to every other consideration whatever. Moreover, the repetition of this commission three times, may have been in allusion to Peter's three denials. In it the Papists would have us to believe, that supreme dominion over the whole church, clergy as well as laity, was granted to Peter. However it has a quite different meaning; for Peter, by his late cowardice and perfidy, having as it were abdicated the apostleship, was hereby no more than formally restored to his office, through the indulgence of his kind and merciful Master.
And now the time approached when Jesus was to shew himself publicly in Galilee. This was the most remarkable of all his appearances. He promised it to the apostles before his death. The angels who attended at his resurrection spake of it to the women who came to the sepulchre, and represented it as promised to them also. I
Sleep. John xxi. 16.
of Death. Matt. xxvi. 32.
Also. Mark xvi. 7.
Nay, Jesus himself, after his resurrection, desired the company of women to tell his brethren to go into Galilee, where they should see him ; as if the appearances he was to make that day, and on the eighth day thereafter, were of small importance in comparison. Moreover, the place where he was to appear in Galilee was mentioned by him. * Whether there were more present at this appearance than the eleven, the evangelist does not say; nevertheless, the circumstances of the case direct us to believe that it had many witnesses. This appearance was known before-hand; the place where it was io happen was pointed out by Jesus himself. The report therefore' of his being to appear must have spread abroad, and brought many to the place at the appointed time. In short, it is reasonable to think that most of the disci. ples now enjoyed the happiness of beholding personally their Master raised from the dead. What confirms this supposition is, that St. Paul says expressly, Jesus, after his resurrection, was seen of above five hundred brethren at one time.
“ After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once ; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”+ For the number of the witnesses mentioned by St. Paul agrees better to the appearance on the mountain in Galilee described by Matthew, than to any other. Galilee hav. ing been the principal scene of Christ's ministry,f the greatest part of his followers lived there ; for which reason he chose to make what may be called his most solemn and public appearance after his resurrection, on a mountain in that country; an appearance to which a ge
• Him. So Matthew informs us, xxviii. 16. " Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” † Asleep. 1 Cor. xv. 6.
Ministry. The greatest part of his followers lived there. To this agrees the particular, mentioned Acts i. 15, namely, that the number of the disciples met at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, about a week after our Lord's ascension, were only one hundred and twenty. In Jerusalem and the country about he had few followe rs, his disciples being mostly Galileans.
neral meeting of all his disciples was summoned, not only by the angels who attended his resurrection, but by our Lord himself the very day on which he arose. Probably at this appearance the apostles received orders to return to Jerusalem. * Besides, he ascended from the mount of Olives, as we shall see immediately. Wherefore, if the orders for the apostles to repair to Jerusalem were not given at this appearance, Jesus must have shewed himself again, which indeed is not impossible; as it is evident from i Cor. xv. 7, that he shewed himself somewhere to the apostle James alone, though none of the evangelists have given the least hint of that appearance. After that (viz. his appearance to the five hundred brethren) he was seen of James. In the college of the apostles there were two persons of this name : one the brother of John, who was killed by Herod, another the brother or cousin of Jesus. Perhaps it was to James the brother of John that our Lord appeared after his resurrection. His being to suffer martyrdom so early, might make this special favour necessary.
Thus Jesus “ shewed himself alive (to the apostles whom he had chosen, and to his other disciples) after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”+ It seems he continued on earth forty days after he arose, and in the several interviews which he had with his disciples during that period, he gave them many infallible proofs of his resurrection, and discoursed to them concerning the new dispensation of religion which he was going to erect in the world by their ministry; and so having accomplished all the purposes of his coming, nothing remained but that he should ascend into heaven in the presence of his apostles. These men were now gone up to Jerusalem to prepare themselves for the feast of Pentecost. Thither Jesus went, and shewed
• Jerusalem. For from Acts i. 3—12, compared with Luke xxiv. 50, it is plain that our Lord's discourses, before his ascension, related Mark xvi. 15, and Luke xxiv. 44, were delivered in or near to the city.
of God. Acts i. 3.
himself to them for the last time. And because they were still in deep dejection on account of the afflictions of his life and the ignominy of his death, he on this memorable occasion introduced that subject; putting them in mind, that during his abode with them in Galilee, he had often told them that all the things written in the law, the prophets, and Psalms, concerning him, were to be fulfilled. By the operation of his Spirit he removed their prejudices, cleared their doubts, enlarged their memories, strengthened their judgments, and enabled them to discern the true meaning of the Scriptures. Having thus qualified them for receiving the truth, he assured them that Moses and the prophets had foretold the Messiah was to suffer in the very manner he had suffered ; that he was to rise from the dead on the third day as he had done ; that repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in his name among all nations, beginning with the Jews, and that the first offers of these blessings were to be made to such of them as dwelt in Jerusalem. Then he told them, that in him they had beheld the exact accomplishment of all the prophecies concerning the sufferings and resurrection of the Messiah, and that they were chosen by God as the witnesses of these things, in order that they might cer. tify them to the world. Withal, to fit them for this great and important work, he told them he would send upon them miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which he called “the promise of the Father,” because God had promised them by the prophets. At the same time he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem till they had received those gifts.
Having thus spoken, he led them out of the town to the mount of Olives; and being come to that part of the mountain which was above Bethany, the apostles, whose minds were still full of a temporal monarchy, asked him if he would now restore the kingdom to Israel. His answer was, “ It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power :" it will not be of any use to you in your work, to know the times or the seasons of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Besides, this is one of the things which the Father has thought fit to conceal from