The Single Heart of Grace

John 20‑21  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
A Few Thoughts on John 20 and 21
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 reveals Himself to her as she was fondly mistaking Him for the gardener. The moment must have been very gratifying to Him. He was in company with something that was as dear 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. He uses the occasion 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, in 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 causes them to know the peaceful fruit of His own accomplished travail, and bids them go forth and share it with others.
He dealt in the same spirit with Thomas afterward. The material here was different. Mary's fondness was gratifying to Him, but it could not detain Him from His purpose of blessing others; Thomas's 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 paid the disciples another visit; and when He had accomplished that, He left them as before.
A fourth occasion only, and perhaps even more illustriously, exhibits the same. The disciples go together to their former habit of fishing. They were on the lake where their Master had often resorted with them. And they are fishermen again. But Jesus is the same Jesus also. He takes them up, as of old, in the midst of their nets and their fishing, and gives them a draft again. Then, at the end, He pledges them a better service, a richer feast and companionship with Himself in all things.
He waits, however, on His business with singleness of heart. It is not to display, enrich, or gratify Himself that He is now in action. It is for us. For when we find Him here in possession of Peter's heart, He still uses it for others. "He saith unto him... Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" "Yea, 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. And 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 other things if the object had been to display the Lord. See chapter 2:30 and 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 gratify 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?