The Bible

John 20:19-31 : Christ Appears to the Disciples in an Upper Room, and Doubting Thomas

Study the Inner Meaning

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 96, 2397, 2628, 2724, 2798, 2921, 3006, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 12, 81, 343, 520, 618, 839, 962

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 32, 120

Divine Love and Wisdom 383

Divine Providence 230, 324

The Lord 19, 20, 35, 41, 51

Faith 10

Heaven and Hell 287, 461

True Christian Religion 140, 146, 153, 188, 298, 303, 337, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 286


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 53, 102, 130, 183, 254, 365, 419, ...

Canons of the New Church 39, 43

Divine Wisdom 6

Miracles and Signs 18

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 5, 14, 64

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 43:23

Numbers 6:26

Psalms 22:17, 84:4

Word/Phrase Explanations

Evening
Since the light and warmth of the sun represent the Lord’s wisdom and love, it makes sense that evening, a time when the light and...

the first
'Resurrection' signifies salvation and eternal life. 'The first,' mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 6, does not mean a first resurrection, but the essence and primary part...

first
Why would it be insulting for a man to refer to his married partner as his “first wife”? Because it implies there will be a...

day of
'Day of vengeance' signifies a state of damnation.

Week
'A week' signifies state, and 'the seventh week,' a holy state. The ancients understood 'a week' to mean any period divided into seven, whether days,...

doors
In a general sense, doors in the Bible represent the initial desires for good and concepts of truth that introduce people to new levels of...

shut
There are only a couple of references in the Writings to "close" used as a verb, and both stem from Amos 9:11, which talks about...

disciples
When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

fear
Fear of the unknown and fear of change are both common ideas, and together cover a broad spectrum of the fears we tend to have...

jews
It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

came
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

midst
The "midst" of something in the Bible represents the thing that is most central and most important to the spiritual state being described, the motivation...

saith
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

peace
In ordinary life, we tend to think of "peace" as essentially "a lack of conflict." As a nation, if we're not at war, it's a...

hands
Scientists believe that one of the most crucial developments in the evolution of humans was bipedalism – walking on two legs. That left our hands...

Side
'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

Glad
To make glad signifies influx and reception from joy of heart.

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

send
'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

holy
The Bible describes many things as being holy, or sacred. The Ark of the Covenant is one very holy object. The inmost chamber of the...

sins
'Bound up transgressions,' as in Lamentations 1:14, stands for falsities coming up towards interior or rational things.

remit
'To forgive seven times' signifies forgiving at all times.

retain
'To hold fast' signifies permanence in a state of good of love and faith up to the visitation.

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

twelve
'Twelve' and 'twenty-four' signify everything, and refer to truths.

called
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

see
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

hand
In Genesis 27:22, 'voice' relates to truth, and 'hand,' to good.

Put
'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

believe
The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

eight
According to Swedenborg, the number eight represents something that is complete within itself, in every respect. Two reasons are offered for this. First, eight is...

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

reach
The hand in the Bible represents power, which is easy to understand, so to reach out or stretch out the hand means to exercise power,...

my lord
Characters in the Bible will often address others using the term “my lord,” and it seems to be no more than an expression of respect....

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

blessed
The Lord is perfect love expressed as perfect wisdom. He created us so that He could love us, could give us love and wisdom of...

many
Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

signs
The Bible often speaks of signs and miracles as things that convinced people of the Lord's leading. Swedenborg divides the two, identifying "signs" as things...

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

Book
(Rev. 10:9.) "And I went unto the angel, saying, give me the little book," signifies the faculty of perceiving the quality of the Word from...

Might
'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

christ
Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

son
Marriages in the Bible represent the union we all can have between the desire for good and the understanding of truth (or an understanding of...

son of god
Swedeborg offers different angles on the phrase "the Son of God," sometimes saying that it refers to the "divine human" and sometimes saying it refers...

life
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

name
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Compare the Easter Story in 4 Gospels
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Crucifixion Prophecies Fulfilled
Jesus could have saved Himself from the cross, but then He would not have been able to show us with the great miracle of His resurrection that the death of the body is not the end of life. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 3, for ages 8-9.
Religion Lesson | Ages 8 - 9

 Death and Resurrection
There is an old saying that no one can get out of this world alive! We must all die, and, sad as that eventuality may seem at the time, the only way we can make sense of it is by believing the Lord's words: those who believe in Him can never die. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Easter
Article | Ages over 18

 Easter Diorama
Color and assemble a diorama showing Mary looking into the tomb and seeing the two angels. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Easter Morning
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Easter Morning
The story of Easter morning teaches that the Lord Jesus, who came to earth and touched us with His great love and wisdom, is more than a man. He is our God.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Easter Representation
Make a miniature garden scene to illustrate the Easter story in the gospel of John.
Project | Ages over 7

 Family Worship: Mary Magdalene Sees the Lord
Read the story in the gospel of John (20:1-16) about Mary Magdalene seeing the Lord. Use the discussion questions to talk about this story. 
Religion Lesson | All Ages

 Finding the Lord
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 For Reflection: Doubting Thomas
Think about the development of your faith and how it might relate to the disciple, Thomas.
Activity | Ages over 15

 For Reflection: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages over 15

 Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the Garden
A picture of Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Lord, with native spring plants of the Holy Land 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Jesus' Final Words
After the crucifixion Jesus appeared to His disciples, offering reassurance of His continued presence and commissioning them to love and follow Him.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Jesus' Words on the Cross
Jesus made seven statements from the cross. Discover how New Church teachings give insight into Jesus' message.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Looking into the Tomb
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary Magdalene and the Risen Lord
This talk focuses on Mary Magdalene being the first person to see the Risen Lord in the garden on Easter morning. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Mary Magdalene in the Garden
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Mary Magdalene Sees the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Peace Be with You
Heavenly peace transcends every idea of earthly happiness.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Adults: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Teens: Joy Comes in the Morning
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 Questions Asked by God
Article | Ages over 15

 Quotes: I Am with You Always
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Joy Comes in the Morning
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Rabboni
An in-depth look at the internal meaning or representation of Mary Magdalene and her recognition of the Risen Lord. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Remembering the Lord’s Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Resurrection and Glorification
When Jesus rose He left the tomb empty. Through overcoming temptations He had glorified His body, or made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Easter Story in John
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Easter Surprise
Surprise! Surprise! The Lord was alive and standing in front of Mary.
Story | Ages 4 - 6

 The First Easter
On the morning of the first easter, the Lord showed us that life goes on forever and that we never really die. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Introductory Level, for ages 5-6.
Religion Lesson | Ages 5 - 6

 The Joy of Seeing the Risen Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord and Mary
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to His Disciples
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to the Disciples
Color the picture of the disciples and then insert the Lord through a slit in the page into their midst.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Appears to the Disciples
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord as Comforter
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord's Message to Thomas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Miracle of Easter
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Prince of Peace
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Resurrection
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Resurrection
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Resurrection (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Resurrection (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Resurrection (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 There You Will See Him
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Uses of Doubt
Doubt is not a weakness or failure of faith. It is a powerful tool in the Lord's hands.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Thomas
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 Victory!
What was the purpose of - the Lord's resurrection from the dead by His own power - the greatest of all miracles? What was the Divine Plan and what is the promised victory for our own lives? 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

Commentary

Two Meetings in Jerusalem after the Resurrection

By Joe David

The risen Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room. 22.4.2010: Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Emilio Romagna, Italy.

Late on the first Easter Sunday, after the Lord had risen from the sepulcher, ten of the disciples gathered for the evening in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem (John 20). They were afraid and probably confused. Since their leader had been crucified by the Roman power, as organized by their own Jewish leaders, they feared that now his followers might also be hunted down and punished. They closed and locked the doors. Were any of the women there? The story does not say, but Peter and John were, who saw and talked with the angels that morning, and the stories of the women were known. Some time must have been spent wondering and perhaps arguing - was He really alive? How could they know it was really Him? This kind of thing, coming back to life after you’re dead, this doesn’t happen in this real world, there must be some mistake!

Then two of the followers, not of the twelve, but the two that had gone to the village of Emmaus, came in, excited and bursting with their news. They had seen Him! They had walked with Him for seven miles and He had told them wondrous things! They had only recognized Him when He broke bread and ate with them. "Don’t doubt us, it really was Jesus!"

And then as they all talked and argued, there He was, standing with them in the room. "Peace be unto you," He said, and He showed them His hands and feet and His side, where he was wounded. He calmed them, and told them that just as he had come down to mankind, so they must go out and teach to all people all the true things that He had taught in the years He was with them.

It was these truths about how to live one’s life that were saving, not the disciples themselves. These saving truths have the power to remit or retain sins, because they were from the Lord, the disciples only transmitted them from the Lord to those who would listen and take them to heart. Then He breathed on them - representing His holy spirit - so that they would not only want to pass these truths on to people, but would also be given the words to say whenever the times came. And then He was gone again.

Thomas was not there that night. We don’t know why. And Thomas, when he heard the story, just could not swallow it. "Except I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe", he said. (John 20:25.)

The next verse tells us that the next Sunday they gathered again, and that Thomas was present this time. As before, the Lord was suddenly there, saying again, "Peace be unto you", and then directly to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger… and reach hither thy hand… and be not faithless but believing". Now Thomas's response was, "my Lord and my God". It seems as if the Lord came this time just to convince Thomas, because it was Thomas who needed Him.

I think He does work this way. I am reminded of another story, from the gospel of Mark (Mark 9:17-27) where a father comes to Jesus with a young son who is possessed by a devil, and asks Jesus to cure him, and is asked in turn: "Do you believe I can do this?" In Mark 9:24 the father responds. Crying out, he said with tears, "I believe, help thou my unbelief."

I think many people have this conflict between lingering doubts and a desire to have the doubts taken away. If we carry on and make our decisions in life as if the doubts were indeed gone, then indeed they will lose their strength and actually will be gone.

These are the only details given of these two meetings in Jerusalem. Chronologically the next post-Easter stories are the ones that take place in Galilee.

John does go on to say at the end of his gospel "...many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God...." (John 20:30-31). Perhaps there were more post-Easter stories that weren't written down, but the ones we do have are strong. For the disciples who were involved, there was an unstoppable impact from the life and teachings of the Lord, and His crucifixion, and physical death, and now - in these stories - His resurrection. Hearing the Lord's charges to them, these Galilean fishermen and their colleagues launch out into the wide world, and work to achieve the Great Commission, enduring hardships and persecution, and succeeding - probably beyond their wildest dreams!

Commentary

Touch Me Not...

By Rev. Peter M. Buss Sr.

Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him, on Easter morning, after she recognizes him.

"Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father" John 20:17.

Mary Magdalene had more reason than almost anyone else to mourn the death of the Lord. He had cast seven devils out of her, so she owed her sanity, her humanity to Him. But she had watched Him die on the cross. He was gone, and His healing power would be known no more. All that was left for her was to mourn His past greatness. Her unspeakable joy when she became the first person in all the world to know the great message of Christianity has resonated through the ages. What must she have felt that first Easter morning!

Yet into this moment the Lord injected a strange note. In her joy she must have embraced Him, for He cautioned her, saying, "Do not touch Me (cling to Me) for I am not yet ascended to My Father." It seems a strange thing to say to one whose joy was so full; yet the Lord, who is infinitely kind, spoke what was needed. She still did not know Him. She had thought He was someone who could die, but He did not know death. She had thought evil people could hurt Him, but He had transcended all evil. She had thought of Him as her Master, a great teacher and leader, but He was Her God.

"I am not yet ascended to My Father." But He was! He had glorified His Human on Good Friday, and now He was one with the Father. So why did He say that? The point is that in her mind He was not yet ascended to the Father. She thought of Him as less than God. If she was to be conjoined to Him, she had to lift up her thought about Him.

This same idea is contained in other words of the Lord, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32). We have to elevate Him in our minds above an earthly idea: we must acknowledge Him as God if we are to let Him draw us up to Himself.

What was true of Mary was true also of the Christian church. It always had trouble seeing that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth. Many good Christians have worshipped Him in their hearts, and learned that great truth in the world to come. But the church itself taught a divided trinity.

And now, today, the Lord has revealed in the Writings for the New Church that He is indeed God. He has ascended to the Father, even as He promised, and we can worship Him, and touch Him. For He came down to earth so that we could touch Him - that is, be conjoined with Him and feel His healing power. We might say, therefore, that today this promise has been fulfilled. "I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God." We believe that the Writings for the New Church were given so that people may see that the Lord is the one God. This is the cornerstone of our faith. "The Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages."

But that is only partly true. The story of Easter is not only a record of past events. It tells of the future for all people. In the spiritual sense of the Word, each of us goes through the spiritual journey of these stories, and Mary's experience is ours as well. For those who believe in the Writings, this spiritual story must also be told.

Mary was a good woman. Seven devils had been cast out of her, representing the Lord's power over evil in us. She was, however, deeply despairing because of the Lord's crucifixion. It seemed that her religion was dead, because its inspired leader was dead.

Each of us will face great challenges to our faith at times. The Lord Himself will seem to be gone from us. Our faith will seem to be bowed by the trials of life. And who is the Lord? Where is He found? Today, with us, He comes through the pages of His Word - through the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Writings. For it is there that we know Him, there that we feel His qualities. We know His mercy from the Word. We know His compassion, His love, His pity. He shows us the nature of His power. He tells us what He thinks, what His laws are, what the conditions under which we reach heaven. In the revelation of the beauties of heaven are found His love for us, and in the realities of hell His pity and His provision for those who do not want Him.

Because we have the Word the Lord can be felt in our hearts as a presence. Without that knowledge, we will not feel Him. He will be there, but a very distant presence.

In times of distress it feels that He is dead to us. His Word has proved powerless, the forces of evil have prevailed. As the passers by mocked Jesus on the cross, so it seems that harsh reality mocks our faith. Mary Magdalene was at Calgary. She saw His death - or so she thought.

Early in the morning she came to the sepulchre. Easter morning represents a new state, in which the Lord is about to show Himself. But she did not find Him. Why not? The spiritual reason is that often we see the Word wrongly. She expected to see Him lying dead - or sealed off by a great stone We too, if we think in a limited way of the power of the Lord's Word, almost expect to see that its power is dead to us, because that is what we have experienced.

All of a sudden He was there! He stood, and asked her the same question the angels had asked, nd added another: "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" What beautiful questions, at the moment when her sorrow was about to end, her search to be over! The Lord calls to us in His Word when we are in despair, when things seem hard, when we can't seem to love beautiful ideals any longer. "Why do you weep?" "Whom do you seek?"

She thought He was the gardener. The Writings do not give the internal sense of these words, but a garden signifies intelligence in the Word.

Sometimes we think of the Writings as a gardener. They are wonderful books, which give us insights. As a gardener tends plants and trees, so the Writings help lovely ideals to grow and thrive in our minds. As the gardener weeds and protects the plants, so the Writings show us how to overcome evils so that we may follow our ideals.

But a gardener is a mortal human being! Mary was not seeing clearly! It was the Lord God of heaven and earth who stood before her. So she asked Him for limited help. Please take me where He is so that I may grieve over Him.

If we think of the Writings as the works of a gardener, they cannot help us through the desperate moments of our lives. Their ideas are wonderful, but when our faith dies, the best they can do is help us to grieve. This is a very real temptation in all of us - even with those who say that they believe with all their hearts that the Writings for the New Church are the Lord's Word. Part of them still thinks of them as a set of lovely ideas, and fears that maybe they are too good to be true. Such a faith is fine when things go well, but it is not equal to the trials of life.

Then came the miracle. Jesus spoke her name. "Mary!" What a change came about in the way she thought of Him, as she looked at Him anew, and found her faith, and her Lord, alive. Yet even then she did not see. She called Him Master, and embraced Him, and He gently cautioned her.

In the dawn of a new morning, we find that the Writings can answer the problems of life. They don't die. They have power over all evil. This dawning faith is the joy of which the Lord spoke when He said, "You now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you" (John 16:22). How eagerly we embrace that new-found faith. How gratefully we accept that the Word can solve our problems.

Yet there is one more step that we must take. "Touch Me not," the Lord said to Mary. The word He used can be translated as "Do not cling to Me." But it is the same word as was used when Jesus touched a leper and cleansed him; or when He touched Peter's wife's mother and the fever left her. The woman who had an issue of blood touched (or clasped) the hem of His garment and was healed; and Jesus touched Jairus's daughter, and she rose from the dead. So also the Lord touched little children, representing His protection of interior states of innocence.

"To touch" means to communicate what is one's own to another, or to receive from someone else; and the Lord's touch communicated His healing power. When He touched people's eyes, this represented His giving insights into the truth; when He touched them to heal them He removed the power of evil from them. But there was a condition: they had to believe in Him.

Now it was true that the woman with the issue of blood, or Jairus or the leper did not believe in a deep sense. The Writings say that they had a simple faith which precedes true faith, and the Lord accepted it as such. But their actions represent faith, and so the Lord's touch could heal them. By contrast, when the disciples' faith was not in the Lord as God, they could not heal. They failed to heal the demoniac boy. Peter had insufficient faith in the Lord's power over the waves, and he began to sink. Only when his sole remaining hope was in the Lord's power was Jesus able to reach out His hand and touch Him and lift him up.

"Touch Me not." The Lord said this to Mary Magdalene to represent to her, and to all future generations that it is not enough to regard Him and His Word as miraculous. He is God, and His Word is altogether Divine. It has power over death, and over all the forces of evil.

"But go to My brethren and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God." We need to lift up our vision of the Lord. Let us take one or two examples. The Lord came to earth to show Himself as Divine Man. He wanted people to be able to understand His qualities. For too long He had been invisible to the sight of frail humankind. He wanted them to know His love, to know His mercy, to sense what His forgiveness was like. He willed that we would see His qualities as the epitome of all that is human.

But our ideas of Him have to be lifted above that sight also. Take His forgiveness. He forgives freely. That is a beautiful idea, and we see that forgiveness clearly in the stories of the New Testament. But the Writings say that the Lord does not forgive as we forgive. When He forgives, he not only takes away our guilt, He takes away the power of evil over us! His forgiveness is so much more than human forgiveness. We need to lift Him up in our thoughts, and sense that amazing forgiveness that can overlook the hurt we do to His beloved children, but which also takes the source of our sin away, if only we cooperate. (That is why so many people refuse forgiveness, because they don't want to lose their evil desires).

Take the Lord's permission. He permits people to do evil. Yet the Writings say that He doesn't permit as we do. When we allow something to happen we agree that it probably ought to happen. The Lord allows evil, not as one who is willing. He doesn't want anyone to suffer. He permits as One who must for the sake of human freedom, and then He bends whatever is permitted towards good. His permission doesn't just let bad things happen, it works through them for the salvation of all.

You see, even when we know that the Lord is our Savior: even when we know that His Word has power over evil, we need to lift it up in our hearts and minds, and see that it is our God. Only then does it truly touch us - that is, conjoin us with our Lord, and heal us.

Are the Writings the work of the Divine Gardener? Do they have lovely ideas, do they weed out our faults and allow our loves to grow and flourish? Yes, surely they do. Are they our Master, able to break through our unhappy states and give us joy, even as Mary felt such great joy on Easter morning? Surely they are. But we are invited to see them as so much more: as the manifestation of our everlasting Father, as the source of all love in our lives, as the way to heaven.

And here is the lovely promise of Easter morning. It was the Lord Himself who led Mary through those three steps. He stood before her, allowing her to think Him the gardener, even as He allows us to see the Writings as the source of beautiful ideals, and little more. He then spoke and let her know who He was. So too He shows us the power of His Word, and through it shows us His presence. But He leads us ever upward when He calls us to see Him as God. "I do ascend to My Father, and your Father, and to My God and your God." It will happen, if we wish Him to touch us with His healing hands. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself." Amen.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 10023; John 20:1-19; True Christian Religion 108, 109)


Translate: