John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 20:12 - 20:12

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 20:12 - 20:12


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12.And seeth two angels. What an amazing forbearance displayed by our Lord, in bearing with so many faults in Mary and her companions! For it is no small honor which he confers on them by sending his angels, and, at length, making himself known to them, which he had not done to the apostles. Though the apostles and the women were afflicted with the same disease, yet the stupidity of the apostles was less excusable, because they had profited so little by the valuable and careful instruction which they had received. One purpose, certainly, which Christ had in view in selecting the women, to make the first manifestation of himself to them, was, to fill the apostles with shame.

In white garments. Whether Mary knew them to be angels, or thought that they were men, is uncertain. We know that white garments were an emblem of the heavenly glory; as we find that Christ was clothed in white garments, when he was transfigured on the mountain, and showed his glorious majesty to his three apostles, (196) (Mat_17:2.) Luke relates that the angel who appeared to Cornelius stood before him In Bright Clothing, (Act_10:30.) Nor do I deny that linen garments were commonly used by the inhabitants of Eastern countries; but by the dress of the angels God pointed out something remarkable and uncommon, and put marks on them, as it were, that they might be distinguished from men. Besides, Mat_28:3 compares the countenance of the angel, who conversed with the women, to lightning. And yet it is possible that their fear arose solely from their minds being struck with admiration, for it appears that they stood astonished.

Again, whenever we read that the angels appeared in the visible form of men and clothed with garments, this was done on account of the ignorance of men. For my part, I have no doubt that they sometimes were clothed with real bodies; but whether or not those two angels had merely the appearance of bodies, would be a useless inquiry, and I shall therefore leave it undetermined. To me it is enough that the Lord gave them a human shape, that the women might see and hear them, while the magnificent and uncommon dress which they wore distinguished them from the ordinary rank of men, and pointed out something divine and heavenly.

One at the head, and the other at the feet. One angel only is mentioned by Matthew, (Mat_28:2.) This, however, does not contradict John’ narrative; for both angels did not address Mary at the same time, but only one of them who had a commission to speak. There is no good ground for Augustine’ allegory, that the position of the angels one at the head, and the other at the feet pointed out that the Gospel would be preached from the East to the West. It is more worthy of observation, that Christ, by preparatory arrangements of this nature, made a commencement of the glory of his kingdom; for, by the honor which the angels render to the sepulcher, not only is the ignominy of the cross taken away, but the heavenly majesty of Christ shines.



(196) “Quand il se transfigura on la montague, e, monstra sa majeste glorieuse a ses trois apostres.”