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Patristic Commentary

Overview: John records that it was evening, which indeed was the case for minds darkened with grief (Peter Chrysologus). But Jesus does not delay in comforting his disciples with his presence (Chrysostom). He appeared through doors chat were locked, which shows the extent of the disciples' terror, their fear having caused them to lock not only their house but also their hearts (Peter Chrysologus). And yet, Christ still appears among the disciples through those locked doors, giving us a foretaste of what our resurrected bodies will be like (Augustine). He entered through those closed doors with the same body that entered through the closed door of the Virgin's womb (gregory the great). What happened with Christ's body after the resurrection is

no more amazing than what happened in the miracles he did before the resurrection, such as walking on the water (Caesarius).

Jesus stands among them as true God (Gregory of Nyssa) with death's power banished from his body (Cyril). In his greeting of peace he breathes into them a tranquility as well as a sharing in the Holy Spirit (Maximus). The peace he gave was himself, since his presence always brings tranquility of soul (Cyril). He shows them his hands and his side, demonstrating that what has occurred is a true, bodily resurrection (Irenaeus). When Jesus showed the disciples the scars from his wounds, he proved to us all that the resurrected body is the same body that had died (Theodoret), although now glorified (Jerome). The wounds that brought us healing also heal unbelieving hearts (Leo). Jesus proved he was both human and divine after the resurrection (Leo). Jesus' earlier prophecy chat no one would cake their joy away1 is now fulfilled in his presence among them (Chrysostom).

 
20:19a Evening of the First Day and Locked Doors
 

An evening more by grief than by time.

Peter Chrysologus: It was evening more by grief than by time. It was evening for minds darkened by the somber cloud of grief and sadness because although the report of the resurrection had given the slight glimmer of twilight, neverthe less the Lord had not yet shone through with his light in all its brilliance. sermon 84.2.

 

Jesus does not delay.

Chrysostom: It was likely that when the disciples heard these things from Mary they would either not believe the woman—or if they did believe her, they would be sad that he had not considered them worthy of such a vision even though he promised to meet them in Galilee. Since this was so, he did not let a single day pass so that they might not dwell on this and become distracted. Rather, he brought them to a state of longing by their knowledge that he was risen and by what they heard from the woman. And when they were thirsting to see him and were greatly afraid (which especially made their yearning greater), he then, when it was evening, presented himself before them. And he did so in a very marvelous way. And why did he appear in the "evening"? Because that was probably when they would be especially fearful. Homilies on the gospel of John 86.2.

 

Doors and Hearts Are Locked.

Peter Chrysologus: The extent of their terror and the disquiet caused by such an atrocity had simultaneously locked the house and the hearts of the disciples4 and had so completely prevented light from having any access that for their senses, overwhelmed more and more by grief, the murkiness of night increased and became more pervasive, No darkness of night can be compared with the gloom of grief and fear because they are incapable of being tempered by any light of either consolation or counsel. sermon 84.2.

 

The state of our resurrected bodies.

Augustine: But since you have repeatedly asked me what I thought about the resurrection of bodies and the future functions of the members in that incorruptibility and immortality, listen briefly to what could with the Lord's help be further discussed. We must hold most firmly that point on which the statement of the holy Scripture is truthful and clear, namely, that these visible and earthly bodies that are now called natural will be spiritual in the resurrection of the faithful and righteous. But I do not know how the character of a spiritual body, unknown as it is to us, can be either comprehended or taught. Certainly there will be no corruption in them, and for this reason they will not then need this corruptible food char they now need. They will, nonetheless, be able to take and really consume such food, not our of need. Otherwise, the Lord would not have taken food after his resurrection. And he offered us an example of bodily resurrection so that the apostle says of him, "If the dead will not rise, neither has Christ risen." When he appeared with all the members of his body and used their functions, he also displayed the places of his wounds. I have always taken these as scars, not as actual wounds, and saw them as the result of his power, not of some necessity. He revealed the ease of this power, especially when he either showed himself in another form or appeared as his real self to the disciples gathered in the house when the doors were closed. letter 95.7.

 

Incorruptible but touchable.

Gregory the great: The Lord's body that made its entrance to the disciples through closed doors was the same as that which issued before the eyes of people from the Virgin's closed womb at his birth. Is it surprising if he who was now going to live forever made his entrance through closed doors after his resurrection, who on his coming in order to die made his appearance from the unopened womb of a virgin? But because the faith of those who beheld it wavered concerning the body they could see, he showed them at once his hands and his side, offering them the body that he brought in through the closed doors to touch. By this action he revealed two wonderful, and according to human reason quite contradictory, things. He showed them that after his resurrection his body was both incorruptible and yet could be touched.... By showing us that it is incorruptible, he would urge us on toward our reward, and by offering it as touchable he would dispose us toward faith. He manifested himself as both incorruptible and touchable to show us that his body after his resurrection was of the same nature as ours but of a different sort of glory. forty gospel homilies 26.

 

Resurrection was one more miracle.

Caesarius of Arles: You ask me and say, If he entered through closed doors, where is the bulk of his body? And I reply, If he walked on the sea, where was the weight of his body? But he [walked on the sea] as the Lord. Did he, then, because he arose, cease to be the Lord? What about the fact that he also made Peter walk upon the sea?11 What divinity could do in the one, faith fulfilled in the other. Christ was able to do it, and Peter could because Christ willed it. Therefore, when you begin to examine the reasonableness of miracles by your human senses, fear that you may lose your faith. Do you not know that nothing is impossible for God? So when anyone tells you, If he entered through closed doors there was no body, answer him on the contrary, No, if he was touched there was body, and if he ate there was a body. The one thing he did by a miracle, the other by nature. sermon 175.2.

 
Jesus Is truly God.

Gregory of Nyssa: He did not remain in death's power. The wounds that his body had received from the iron of the nails and spear offered no impediment to his rising again. After his resurrection he showed himself whenever he wanted to his disciples. When he wished to be present with them, he was in their midst without being seen, needing no entrance through open doors.... All of these occurrences, and whatever other similar facts we know about his life, require no further argument to show that they are signs of deity and of a sublime and supreme power. the great catechism 32.

 

Death's power. banished from the body.

Cyril of Alexandria: By his unexpected entry through closed doors Christ proved once more that by nature he was God and also that he was none other than the one who had lived among them. By showing his wounded side and the marks of the nails, he convinced us beyond a doubt that he had raised the temple of his body, the very body that had hung on the cross. He restored that body that he had worn, destroying death's power over all flesh, for as God, he was life itself. Why would he need to show them his hands and side if, as some perversely think, he did not rise again bodily? And if the goal was not to have the disciples think about him in this way, why not appear in another form and, disdaining any likeness of the flesh, conjure up other thoughts in their minds? But he obviously thought it was that important to convince them of the resurrection of his body that, even when events would have seemed to call for him to change the mode of his body into some more ineffable and surpassing majesty, he nonetheless resolved in his providence to appear once more as he had been in the past [i.e., in the flesh] so that they might realize he was wearing no other form than the one in which he had suffered crucifixion.

Our eyes could not have endured the glory of his holy body, if he had chosen to reveal it to his disciples before he ascended to the Father. Anyone who reflects on the transfiguration will easily infer this is the case,... since, it says, they could not endure the sight but fell on their faces. Commentary ON THE Gospel of John 12.1.

 
20:l9b Peace Be With You
 

The spirit breathes tranquility.

Maximus the Confessor: Through his greeting of peace he breathes on them and bestows tranquility as well as a sharing in the Holy Spirit. chapters on knowledge 2.46.

 

The Peace of Christ.

Cyril of Alexandria: When Christ greeted his holy disciples with the words "peace be with you," by peace he meant himself, for Christ's presence always brings tranquility of soul. This is the grace Paul desired for believers when he wrote, "The peace of Christ which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds."17 The peace of Christ which passes all understanding is in fact the Spirit of Christ, who fills those who share in him with every blessing, commentary on the gospel of John 12.1.

 
20:20 Jesus' Hands and Side and the Disciples' Rejoicing
 

A true bodily Resurrection.

Irenaeus: As Christ rose in the substance of flesh and pointed out to his disciples the mark of the nails and the opening in his side (now these are the tokens of that flesh that rose from the dead), so "shall he also," it is said, "raise us up by his own power." What, then, are mortal bodies? Can they be souls: Not at all, for souls are incorporeal when compared with mortal bodies.... We must therefore conclude that it is in reference to the flesh that death is mentioned. This [flesh], after the soul's departure, becomes breathless and inanimate and is decomposed gradually into the earth from which it was taken. This, then, is what is mortal. And it is concerning this that [Paul] says, "He shall also enliven your mortal bodies." Against Heresies 5.7.1.

 

The marks of the nails.

Theodoret of Cyr: And so the reason why the Lord stood in the midst of the disciples, even though the doors were closed, after the passion but not before it, was that you might know that your body was sown as a physical body but raised as a spiritual body." But in order that you might not think that what rises is something different, when Thomas did not believe in the resurrection, he shows him the marks of the nails. He shows him the scars of the wounds" He who healed everybody even before the resurrection could have healed himself—especially after the resurrection, could he not? Yes, but through the marks of the nails that he shows he teaches that it is this [body], while through the closed doors by which he enters, he reveals that it is not such a [body as it was]. It was this [body], in order that he might fulfill the goal of the divine plan by raising that which had died, bur it was such a body [as it was], in order that it might not lapse into corruption again and not be subject to death again. dialogue 2.56.

 

A glimpse of glorified resurrected bodies.

Jerome: The substance of our resurrection bodies will certainly be the same as now, though of higher glory. For the Savior after his descent into hell had the same body in which he was crucified. He showed the disciples the marks of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side. Against Jovinianus 1.36.

 

Healing wounds of unbelieving hearts.

Leo the Great: He offers to the doubters' eyes the marks of the cross that remained in his hands and feet and invites them to handle him with careful scrutiny. He does this because the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith but with the most certain conviction they might comprehend that the nature that had been lain in the sepulcher was to sit on God the Father s throne. sermon 73.3.

 

Jesus Is human and divine after the Resurrection.

Leo the Great: He showed the wound in his side, the marks of the nails and all the signs of his quite recent suffering, saying, "See my hands and feet, that it is I. Handle me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and ones, as you see me have,"28 in order that the properties of his divine and human nature might be acknowledged to remain still inseparable. He also did this so that we might know the Word was not different from the flesh so that we can also confess that the one Son of God is both the Word and flesh. letter 28.5.

 

Jesus' prophecy of joy comes true.

Chrysostom: Do you see the words issuing in deeds? For what he said before the crucifixion, that "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you," this he now accomplished in deed. But all these things led them to a most exact faith. For since they had an endless war with the Jews, he continually repeated "Peace be to you," giving them consolation to counterbalance the strife. And so this was the first word that he spoke to them after the resurrection. (Similarly Paul keeps on saying, "Grace be to you and peace."). To the women, however, he gives good news of joy, because they were in sorrow and had received this as the first curse. Therefore he gives good news to each in their own situation: to the men he gave peace because of their war; to the women he gave joy because of their sorrow. Then having put away all painful things, he tells of the victory of the cross, and this was the "peace." homilies on the gospel of John 86.2-3.


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