After having read this
chapter of John, we should immediately add Hebrews 13:20:
"Now the God of peace, who brought again from the
dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the
eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect
in every good work to do his will, working in you that
which is well-pleasing in his sight, though Jesus
We are nearly at the
end of this record, and therefore we would expect to find
its message and content embodied in some kind of
definite, inclusive summary. And so it is.
In accordance with
prophecy, the Shepherd has been smitten and the sheep
have been scattered (Zechariah 13:7). That scattering
meant that they had been "offended." "All
ye shall be offended in me this night" (Matthew
26:31). The offense, or stumbling, was due to a false
expectation, a wrong basis of hope.
This was mainly the
expectation and hope of something temporal, earthly,
tangible, in which they would have personal interest and
That was all shattered
and lay in ruins. The "sheep" presented a sorry
picture while He lay in the tomb!
But the Great Shepherd
has returned, and in this chapter we see Him
reconstituting everything on the eternal basis.
First He moves hither and thither, regathering to Himself
the scattered and bewildered sheep.
Then He takes pains to
reassure them that it is He Himself who is alive. But,
while the same, there is a difference; a constitutional
change, in which there is a combination of reality and
mystery; a new kind of Man; humanity, but not as we know
long - forty days - to establish His identity, to leave
them in no doubt as to His reality; and yet to leave the
indelible impression of His otherness.
All this undoubtedly
was meant to give meaning to the Church of which they
were the nucleus. This chapter is a beautiful and
concrete presentation of what the Church is in principle,
according to God's mind.
The Church - Transition from the Natural to the
The Church is the
aggregate of those -
(a) who have been
completely disillusioned as to this world and as to any
hope for it as it is: who have come to an end of all
selfish and personal ambitions and interests in the
Kingdom of God: who have known that disintegration in
themselves which comes from trusting in their own
(b) who have been
gathered up and integrated upon a completely other basis
- a spiritual and heavenly one.
The Church - A Witness to the Resurrection
The Church is an exclusive
witness to the Resurrection of Christ in its own
experience, and in its very constitution. He confined,
and always does confine, the revelation of Himself as the
risen Lord to the "heirs of salvation"; it is
never given to the world in general.
The Church is
constituted a spiritually corporate company or
"Body," a heavenly people (by His ascending to
the Father as Head, verse 17) - very real but yet
inscrutable. There is reality and mystery in the true
Church. This mystery or inscrutability is its strength.
Remove it and seek to be popular, and you destroy its
authority. This is not mystery in the sense of being
"mysterious," abstruse, occult, and so on, but
possessing a power, a vitality, an endurance, a wisdom, a
life, which is not of this creation but of another.
The Church - Peace Through His Blood
The Church is
constituted upon the basis of the peace which was made by
the blood of His Cross (verses 19,21,26; Col. 1:20).
"The God of peace... brought... from the dead the
great shepherd... by the blood of the eternal
That title "the
God of peace" is used by Paul in relation to the
whole matter of righteousness upon which justification
rests (Rom. 15:33, 16:20). In the same great argument he
speaks of the Church in its corporate oneness (12:4,5).
The very existence of the Church demands this great value
and effect of the blood. It rests upon an eternal
covenant, made and sealed thereby. There is no Church of
God apart from that which He purchased with His own blood
(Acts 20:28). His Church rests upon His peace - the peace
of reconciliation. There should be no conflict or
controversy between the Church and God, or God and the
Church. The Church should always mean the place of peace
for all its members. So the repeated announcement of
peace by our Lord in this chapter carries with it the
great and fundamental work of His Cross, and is not just
a nice word to allay fears and agitation at His
appearances. It links back with chapter 14.
The Church and the Government of the Holy Spirit
Then the risen Lord
establishes the fact that the Holy Spirit will be the
governing reality in the Church for this age (verse 22).
"breathing" on them was a symbolic act.
Firstly it symbolized a
new creation, the "one new man," indwelt and
energized by a new life, the life peculiar to this
resurrection body - "raised together with Him."
Then it was a prospective securing unto the great
receiving. If the real "receiving" of the Holy
Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost as recorded in
Acts 1:8, then this of which we read here was not an
actual receiving, but rather a potential or prospective
appointment which in due course would carry with it the
authority of verse 23.
The main point is that
the Church, the New Creation, the Body of Christ, is
indwelt, energized, actuated and endowed by the Holy
Spirit. This is not an official, but a spiritual thing.
It is not ecclesiastical, political, or traditional, but
vital, dynamic, and of a nature, not a system.
The Church - Fellowship Through Faith
The section which
brings Thomas so much into view sets forth the fact that
the fullness of blessing by fellowship with the risen
Lord is only, but surely, on the basis of faith. It is
possible to be in and of the Church, where the fullness
of Christ is to be found, and yet to be almost like an
outsider. It is possible to be doctrinally or
positionally of the Body corporate, and yet for all
practical purposes, enjoyment and blessedness to be like
an isolated and unrelated unit going a lonely way.
This is the lot of all
doubters who have a question.
Faith brings into
fellowship, life, experience, and worship!
The Church - A Family
Finally. The most
beautiful character of the Church, which lifts it out of
all cold formalism, legalistic death and stiffness, and
mere ecclesiasticism, is indicated by the family terms
here used - "Father," "brethren"
(verse 17). Here again we are taken to the letter to the
Hebrews, 2:11-13,17; 3:1.
The Church is a family.
"The last Adam" is "a life-giving
Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45). He begets sons and
daughters through the travail of his soul" (Isaiah
He makes His
"brethren" the "congregation" in the
midst of which He "sings" (Heb. 2:12).
All this leads to the
testimony to His Divine Person. The main evidence of His
being "the Christ, the Son of God" (verses
30,31) is found in His significant (or "sign")
acts in the Church, i.e. the mighty effects of His death