The Single Heart of Grace: John 20, 21

John 20‑21  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
When a person is seen pursuing his way or his purpose, undaunted by resistance on the one hand, unseduced by solicitations on the other, we have a full witness of the singleness and devotedness of his soul to the business he has in hand.
So likewise, when we see him refusing all occasions either to enrich, or to display, or to gratify himself, intent on the good of others, we have a like witness of the singleness and graciousness of his heart.
I judge that the way of the Lord, after His resurrection, as recorded in these chapters, is of this second character. Occasions are used by Him only as serving the blessing and instruction of His saints, though they might naturally and without effort have ministered to Himself in one or other of these different ways.
His first appearing is to Mary. He discovers Himself to her, as she was fondly mistaking Him for the gardener. The moment must have been very grateful to Him. He was in company with something that was as clear to Him as the whole range of creation could afford—the affection and desire of a good soul, of one who, at that moment, as He well knew, was counting His dead body more important to her than all the world beside. He does not, however, take up the occasion in this character at all. He does not indulge Himself through it. He does not linger where affection like this was gratifying His heart. The occasion He uses only for others, and sends the loving Mary away on a mission which was to bear light and joy to the hearts of others.
So, in the next scene, He joins the disciples and shows Himself to them. They are glad—glad with a human or natural joy. They receive Him, as of old, into their midst, and, like Mary, were ready to gratify Him with every token and expression of attachment. But no: He will not meet them in such a place or in such a character. He came not to be indulged in the midst of such affections, pleasant as all that would have been to his heart of love. He at once blesses them, and prepares to make them a blessing to others. He imparts the Holy Ghost to them; and, causing them to know the peaceful fruit of His own accomplished travail, bids them go forth and share it with others.
Just in like spirit He deals with Thomas afterward. The material here was different. Mary's fondness was grateful to Him, but it could not detain Him from His purpose of blessing others; Thomas' slowness must have been contrary to Him, unattractive, uninviting. But neither could this hinder Him from doing the same gracious work. Simply to bless Thomas, He pays the disciples another visit; and when He had accomplished that, He leaves them as before.
A fourth occasion only, and perhaps more illustriously, exhibits the same. The disciples go together to their former fishing. They were on the lake where ofttimes their Master had resorted with them. And they are fishermen again. But Jesus is the same Jesus also. Resurrection has made no difference. He takes them up, as of old, in the midst of their nets and their fishing, and gives them a draft again. And at the end, He pledges them a better service and a richer feast and companionship with Himself in all things.
He waits, however, on His business with wonted singleness of heart. It is not to display, enrich, or indulge Himself that He is now in action. It is for us. For when we find Him here in possession of Peter's heart, when He gets such a piece of property as that (precious to Him as it was, and which He would not have been without for the world) still He uses it for others. “Do you love me, Peter?” “Yes, Lord,” says Peter. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” says Jesus. He uses His possessions for His poor people.
Such are the bright occasions which illustrate singleness of purpose, this devotedness to His business, which marked and animated the mind and path of the Lord in these chapters. How do they convince us that the resurrection had made no change in Him!
But, further, the style of the Spirit in writing is just the same as this style in the Lord's acting. The Spirit might have recorded many and many a thing beside, had the object been to display the Lord. (See chap. xx. 30, 31.) But this was not the object, and therefore this is not done. All that is done is to record what is enough to lead sinners to the faith that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and thus to life through His name.
Blessed testimony! blessed warrant for our souls to trust Him altogether! He goes on with His purpose to bless us, never using a single occasion to either enrich, display, or indulge Himself.
I speak after the manner of men; but in all this I ask, can anything more effectually lead the heart into confidence than this? Is it not true in Him and in us? Do we not see it so? Is not all darkness passing away and the true light of perfect love here shining before us and upon us?