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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Thomas Goodwin :: The Heart of Christ

Thomas Goodwin :: Part 1b

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THE HEART OF CHRIST IN HEAVEN
TOWARDS SINNERS ON EARTH
PART 1b

Demonstrations from Passages and Expressions after His Resurrection

II. These demonstrations have been taken from his carriage and sermon before his death, even at his first breaking of his mind unto his disciples concerning his departure from them. Let us now take a view of our Saviour in his behavior after his resurrection; whence a further indicium of his heart, how it would stand towards sinners when he should be in heaven, may be taken, and his love demonstrated. For his resurrection was the first step unto his glory, and indeed an entrance into it; when he laid down his body, he laid down all earthly weakness, and passions of flesh and blood. “It was sown,” as ours is, “in weakness;” but with raising of it up again, he took on him the dispositions and qualifications of an immortal and glorious body, “it was raised in power.” And “the days of his flesh,” or frail estate, as the author to the Hebrews by way of distinction speaks, were past and over at his resurrection; and the garment of his body was new dyed, and endowed with new qualities; and thereby it was made of a stuff fit to bear and sustain heaven’s glory; and therefore, what now his heart upon his first rising shall appear to be towards us, will be a certain demonstration, what it will continue to be in heaven. And to illustrate this the more, consider, that if ever there were a trial taken, whether his love to sinners would continue or not, it was then at his resurrection; for all his disciples (especially Peter) had carried themselves the most unworthily towards him, in that interim, that could be; and this then when he was performing the greatest act of love towards them, namely, dying for them, that ever was shown by any. And by the way, so God often orders it, that when he is in hand with the greatest mercies for us, and bringing about our greatest good, then we are most of all sinning against him; which he does, to magnify his love the more. You know how they all forsook him, and in the midst of his agony in the garden, in which he desired their company merely for a relief unto his saddened spirit, they slept, and lay like so many blocks utterly senseless of his griefs, which had they any friendly sympathy of, they could never have done; “Could you not watch with me one hour?” Then you know how foully Peter denied him with oaths and curses; and after that, when he was laid in the grave, they are giving up all their faith in him; “We trusted it should have been he,” say two of them, “that should have redeemed Israel.” They question whether he was the Messiah or not, Luke 24:21.

Now when Christ came first out of the other world, from the dead, clothed with that heart and body which he was to wear in heaven, what message sends he first to them? We would all think, that as they would not know him in his sufferings, so he would now be as strange to them in his glory; or at least, his first words shall be to berate them for their faithlessness and falsehood. But here is no such matter; for John 20:17, his first word concerning them is, “Go tell my brethren.” You read elsewhere, how that it is made a great point of love and condescending in Christ so to entitle them; Hebrews 2:11, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren;” surely his brethren had been ashamed of him. Now for him to call them so when he was first entering into his glory, argues the more of the love in him towards them. He carries it as Joseph did in the height of his advancement, when he first broke his mind to his brethren; “I am Joseph your brother,” says he, Genesis 45:4. So Christ says here, ‘tell them you have seen Jesus their brother; I own them as brethren still.’ This was his first compellation; but what was the message that he would first have delivered unto them? “That I,” says he, “ascend to my Father, and your Father.” A more friendly speech by far, and arguing infinite more love than that of Joseph’s did (though that was full of bowels [compassionate feelings-ED.]), for Joseph after he had told them he was their brother, adds, “whom you sold into Egypt;” he minds them of their unkindness; but not so Christ, not a word of that; he minds them not of what they had done against him. Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ’s carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, “your sins will he remember no more.” Yea further, you may observe that he minds them, not so much of what he had been doing for them. He says not, ‘tell them I have been dying for them,’ or, ‘that they little think what I have suffered for them;’ not a word of that either; but still his heart and his care is upon doing more: he looks not backward to what is passed, but forgets his sufferings, as “a woman her travail, for joy that a man-child is born.” Having now dispatched that great work on earth for them, he hastens to heaven as fast as he can to do another. And though he knew he had business yet to do upon earth, that would hold him forty days longer, yet to show that his heart was longing, and eagerly desirous to be at work for them in heaven, he speaks in the present tense, and tells them, “I ascend;” and he expresses his joy to be, not only that he goes to “his Father,” but also that he goes to “their Father,” to be an advocate with him for them, of which I spoke before. And is indeed Jesus our brother alive? And does he call us brethren? And does he talk thus lovingly of us? Whose heart would not this overcome?

But this was but a message sent his disciples, before he met them; let us next observe his carriage and speech at his meeting together. When he came first amongst them, this was his salutation, “Peace be to you,” John 20:19, which he reiterates in John 20:21; and it is all one with that former speech of his used in that his parting sermon, “My peace I leave with you.” After this he “breathes on them,” and conveys the Holy Ghost in a further measure into them, so to give an evidence of what he would do yet more plentifully in heaven; and that the mystery of his breathing on them was to show that this was the utmost expression of his heart, to give them the Spirit, and that it came from the very bottom of it (as a man’s breath does), as well as that the Holy Ghost proceeds from him, as well as from the Father, which was also the meaning of it. And to what end does he give them the Spirit? Not for themselves alone, but that they by the gift and assistance of that Spirit might forgive men’s sins by converting them to him. “Whose sins soever ye remit,”—namely, by your ministry—“they are remitted to them.” His mind, you see, is still upon sinners, and his care for the conversion of their souls. And therefore in another evangelist, namely, Mark, his last words recorded are these: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel unto every creature; and he that believeth shall be saved,” Mark 16:15. And in Luke 24:46-47, his last words on earth there recorded are, “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations,” and adds, “beginning at Jerusalem,” where he had been but a few days before crucified. Of all places, one would have thought he would have excepted that, and have charged them to pass by it; but he bids them begin there. Let them have the first-fruit and benefit by my death, that were the actors in it. And, to that end, he also says, “Behold I send you the promise of my Father,” Luke 24:49. Another time he appears to two of them, and then indeed he berates them, saying, “O ye fools, and slow of heart!” but for what is it, but only because they would not believe on him; for no other sin, not for that they had forsaken him; so it follows, “O ye fools, and slow of heart to believe,” Luke 24:25, and this because he is glad when we believe, as in John 11:16. And after that he appears to all the eleven, and upbraids them, the text says, but with what? With their “unbelief and hardness of heart;” still because they believed not, Mark 16:14. No sin of theirs troubled him but their unbelief, which shows how his heart stands in that he desires nothing more than to have men believe in him; and this now when he is glorified. Afterwards he meets with Thomas, and scarce chides him for his gross unbelief, only tells him, it was well that, “having seen, he believed;” but pronounces them more “blessed, who though they have not seen, yet believe;” and so he is reproved, John 20:29. Another time he shows himself to his disciples, and particularly deals with Peter, but yet tells him not a word of his sins, nor of his forsaking of him, but only goes about to draw from him a testimony of his love to himself; “Peter” (says he), “lovest thou me?” Christ loves to hear that note; full well do those words sound in his ears, when you tell him you love him, though he knows it already; as Peter tells him, “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest I love thee,” John 21:15, and this Christ puts on him three times. And what was Christ’s aim in drawing this acknowledgment of love from Peter to him, that if he loved him as he professed, and would always show it, then to “feed his lambs”? This is the great testimony that he would have Peter to show his love in, when he [Christ] should be in heaven; and this is the last charge he gives him [Peter]. Which, how great a testimony is it, to show how his own heart was affected, and what his greatest care was upon! His heart runs altogether upon his lambs, upon souls to be converted. He had said before, “Sheep I have,” John 10:16, “which are not of this fold, them I must bring in,” and he left his apostles to do it; but this here was a more moving and affectionate expression, for sheep can shift for themselves, but poor little lambs cannot. Therefore Christ says unto Peter, “Feed my lambs,” even as John, to express the more love unto those he writes to and calls them “my little children.” And to what end does the evangelist record these things of him after his resurrection? One of the evangelists that recorded them informs us. In John 20:30, it is said that “Jesus did many other signs,” namely, after his resurrection; for in the midst of the story of those things done after his resurrection he speaks it, “which are not written in this book,” but partly recorded by other evangelists, and partly concealed; “but these things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,” that is so you might come to him as to the Messiah, the Saviour of the world; and therefore, the most of the things recorded tend to show Christ’s heart and carriage towards sinners, that so we might believe on him, and that “believing we might have life through his name.”

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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