Friday, June 27, 2008

A NEW BEGINNING


The Lord’s Appearing to His Own (John 20:1-23, 1:11)

When I say “His own” we must have a proper understanding of this expression “His own”. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that “His own” should be interpreted as the nation of Israel. For example, we read in John 1:11, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”. This does not refer to the nation of Israel but to all those who were and are “in Christ” from before the foundation of the world.

John 20:1-2
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

John 20:3-4
Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

John 20:5-6
And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

John 20:7-10
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

John 20:11-12
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

John 20:13-14
And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

John 20:15-18
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

John 20:19-23
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. 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. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

That Christ had risen from the grave was evident by the stone that was rolled away, by the empty tomb, by the condition of His grave-clothes, the cocoon which He had left behind, and by the witness of the two angels. But now He also appeared in person to those who were His own. But He does not overwhelm them with a sudden surprise at His glorious reappearance, but He gradually prepared their minds, each one according to their need. It reflects the gentleness of our gentle Shepherd. The first one:

Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, John 20:11-12, Proverbs 8:17, Luke 24:4, Acts 1:10, Exodus 25:19,22)

It was not to the eleven disciples that He first showed Himself, but it was to a woman, the one out of whom He had cast seven devils (Mark 16:9). And to her He revealed Himself as God the Son. We read in,

John 20:11-12
But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

When Mary reported to Peter and John that the stone has been rolled away, Peter and John ran to the tomb, they inspected the grave-clothes and returned to their home. But Mary, not knowing this, returned to the tomb, was desolate and full of sorrow. But soon her sorrow shall be turned to joy. And in her we see the fulfillment of what God wrote in Proverbs 8:17, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me”.

Mary and the other women were first to seek the sepulchre on this resurrection morning, and they were the first to witness the enormous change from the Old Testament economy to the New Testament economy of spiritual things. It was the hinge on which all of human history turned from Old Testament to New Testament history.

And why did the women go to the tomb so early, at the crack of dawn?

It was because they loved Jesus. They wanted to honor Him and worship Him, even when He was dead, even when all they could see was that His mission had failed, and that He was a victim of the envious leaders of the Jews. It is at this point that we wonder at the wisdom of man, why so many put off the seeking of Christ until they are near the end of their life, and then of course they never find Him. For God has given them the desire of their heart to live most of their life in a Christless universe, satisfying only the here and now.

But Mary stood outside the sepulchre weeping, because she did not find the dead body of Jesus. Then she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and she saw to angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet of the cocoon that the Lord Jesus left there. She saw the two angels, but even this was not moving her to believe that something miraculous had taken place. She still wanted the dead body of Jesus. And when we consider the two angels we wonder if these might be the two angels that the other women saw when they came to the tomb. We read in Luke 24:4, “And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments”, who said unto them, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

And when the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, do we not read in Acts 1:10 that there were again two angels in white apparel?

In Exodus 25:19 we have here God’s precise instructions to Moses about the structure of the Ark of the Covenant. The context deals with the design of the mercy seat, which is the lid of the Ark of the Covenant.

And who does that mercy seat represent?

It represents the Lord Jesus Christ who is the mercy seat, or the propitiation for our sins. And then we read that there are two angels at both ends of the mercy seat. We read in Exodus 25:19,
Exodus 25:19
And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.

Even more remarkable is the final word of God which God spake to Moses in verse 22. We read in:

Exodus 25:22
And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.

In other words, Christ is the true meeting place between God and man.

"Woman, Why Weepest Thou?" (John 20:13-14, Psalm 73:25, 2 Corinthians 5:16, Hebrews 13:5)

John 20:13-14
And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

What do we see here?

Mary displays a strange mingling of faith and unbelief, of ignorance and affection. Instead of being awestruck by the sight of these two angels, she answered them as if they were nothing more than men. She was so swallowed up with her grief, so occupied with her thoughts about the body of Christ that she did not pause to look upon these heavenly visitors. She turned herself back, which means she turned herself back from the angels to seek His body! But they had a legitimate question for her: “Woman, why do you weep?” You should have been weeping if Christ’s body would still be there in the sepulchre. For if Christ had not risen from the tomb, then we are still in our sins. For if Christ had not risen from the tomb, it would have meant that He was not successful in paying for our sins the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, which was something that the Devil had hoped for when he entered Judas Iscariot to betray the Lord Jesus to the leaders of the Jews. The Devil did not doubt that Jesus could let Himself be crucified and bleed to death. But in order to atone for our sins the Lord Jesus had to satisfy the righteousness of God, and that implies that the Lord Jesus in His humanity had to endure what we would have to endure if we would have to pay for our sins, and that is an eternity in Hell. If the Lord Jesus, in His humanity, would attempt to pay for all of His elect the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, the Devil hoped that Jesus would be consumed in the process, and thus He would not rise from the dead. And then we would still be in our sins, for our sins would not be fully paid. If only one sin remained in us after the atonement of Christ, we would still go to Hell for that one sin, and all the sufferings of Christ would have been a waste. But wonderfully, Christ did rise from the dead. The tomb is empty. “Mary Magdalene, there is reason for much rejoicing!” But then she turned around and she saw Jesus, but she thought she saw the gardener. Her heart is crying the sentiments of Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee”.

But her eyes were “holden” supernaturally, like that of the two disciples walking to Emmaus. Moreover, He was to be known no more after the flesh, for we read in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more”.

Now we know Him no more after the flesh, but as the spiritual Head of the new creation, the church, which He has bought with His own blood. He is no longer a man who lived a long long time ago in a land far far away, and who died on a cruel cross, but He is alive, and He is our Bridegroom and we are His Bride. You see, this incident with Mary Magdalene is a striking example of the spiritual experience of many who call themselves Christians. The Lord Jesus said in Hebrews 13:5 "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." And yet many are unconscious of His presence with us. Jesus said to Mary

"Whom Seekest Thou?" (John 20:15-16, Exodus 33:12, Ephesians 1:4, John 10:3-4, Isaiah 43:1)

John 20:15-16
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

His first question was a gentle reproof, and it was the same question that the two angels asked her. “Woman, why weepest thou?” You should be rejoicing instead of weeping. His second question was even more searching.

Who is it you are seeking among the dead?

Have you forgotten my words that I am the Lord of life, and that I am the resurrection and the life, and that I am the one who lays down His life that I might take it up again?

Have you forgotten those words which I have spoken so often in your hearing?

And then Jesus said to her, “Mary”. First when He addressed her as “Woman” He spoke as God addressing His creature. But then when He called her “Mary” He spoke as the Savior addressing one of His dear children. As Savior the Lord Jesus indicated His love as a Shepherd for one of His dear sheep. The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 33:12, “I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight”. In addressing Mary by name Christ gave a beautiful illustration of the principle that He knows our name from before the foundation of the world. The Father has put our names in Christ before He even created the first speck of dust (Ephesians 1:4). The Lord Jesus taught us this many times when He explained that we, who are His chosen ones, are safe and secure in His hands. For example, He said in John 10:3,

John 10:3-4
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

At the time when He leads us out of the world and into His fold, He calls us by name. And then we recognize His voice, for we do not listen to the voice of strangers. We, who are His chosen ones, will not listen to false gospels, for we know instinctively that they are false. We will hear His call, and we shall follow Him alone. God said this already from Old Testament time. We read in Isaiah 43:1,

Isaiah 43:1
But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

Jesus said to her, “Mary”, and immediately her eyes were opened and she recognized her Savior. It shows us once more the power of the Word. And she cried out with joy, “Rabboni!” And let us now look carefully at what is taking place. After Mary’s first response to the person whom she regarded as the gardener, she had turned away from Him, with her attention still toward the empty tomb. But now that He called her by name she turned her back on the tomb and fell at His feet. Let us now apply this principle: It is only as He is known that we are delivered from the power of sin and death. To know Him is life eternal. But we must know Him in person, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Then we read,

"Touch Me Not" (John 20:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:23, Leviticus 23:10-11, Joshua 5:11, Matthew 28:9, 2 Corinthians 5:16, Romans 8:29, Hebrews 2:11)

John 20:17-18
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Mary was at the point of embracing His feet. But the Lord Jesus instantly stopped her. When we read these three words, “Touch Me not”, we understand that these words have a double significance and a double application. First, the Lord said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father”. This is the reason why you should not touch Him, for Christ is fulfilling the role of being the firstborn from the dead. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:23, "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming."

Christ as the firstfruits refers to the typology of Resurrection Sunday we find in the Law of Moses. We will now turn to Leviticus 23:10. This chapter in Leviticus deals with the feast days of the Old Testament ceremonial Law. One of those feasts is the Feast of Firstfruits. And this feast is closely tied to the record we find in Joshua 5:10-11. We read in Leviticus 23:10-11,

Leviticus 23:10-11
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

When ye come into the Promised Land.

When did they enter into the land of Canaan?

We find in Joshua 5:10-11 that the children of Israel came into the land shortly before the Passover, and the morning after the Passover they did eat the old corn of the land. Thus, that year the Passover fell on Saturday, and the day after the Passover fell on Sunday. Thus, when Leviticus 23:11 defines this day as “the morrow after the Sabbath”, which is Sunday, we know from Joshua 5:11 that this was the first Sunday after the Passover. That sheaf of the firstfruits that the priest shall wave before the Lord to be accepted by the Lord, represented the Lord Jesus Christ as the firstfruits, as the firstborn from the dead. That is why He said, “touch Me not”, for His plan was to ascend to the Father on that day, and so fulfill the requirement of the Feast of Firstfruits.

Secondly, When we read “Touch Me not”, we do not find this concept in the other three narrative Gospels. In fact, in Matthew 28:9 the women “held Him by the feet and worshipped Him”. What is unique about John’s Gospel is that John portrays Christ as the Son of God. Therefore as the Son of God the members of the new creation, the church, do not know Him after the flesh, but after the spirit, as the One with the Father on high (2 Corinthians 5:16). That is why the Lord Jesus said, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father”. It was the first hint of the new relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom, and Mary as a member of the church, the Bride, linking us with Himself as the Son of God in His Father’s house. It is as if the Lord Jesus said: We are going to be the Bridegroom and the Bride, but touch Me not, or better “cling not to Me in the flesh,” for I must first ascend to the Father to finalize this new spiritual relationship.

Then the Lord said to Mary, “Go to My brethren”. This is the first time that the Lord Jesus addressed the disciples as brethren. And so we see that it is on resurrection-ground that we are related to Christ as “brethren”. What a great blessing that the Father has bestowed upon us that we might be called sons of God. But now that Christ has emerged out of the grave He is called the Firstborn among many brethren, for we read in Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren”. And also we read in Heb 2:11, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren”. And then the Lord Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”.

Can you see the blessing of this statement?

We, the saints, are by amazing grace, brought into the same position with Himself before God His Father.

The Disciples (John 20:19-20, 16:33, Genesis 2:21-22, Romans 5:14, 1 Corinthians 15:45)

John 20:19-20
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. 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.

On this first day of the week the disciples were assembled in separation from the world, and from this point forward to the end of the New Testament Sunday, not Saturday was to be the day set apart for rest from the work and concerns of the world, and for the worship of the Lord. From the beginning the enemies of Christ have opposed and hated these holy exercises. And notice that the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. From the beginning the Jews were the enemies of the Gospel. This does not mean every single Jew, for the first Christians were of Jewish descent. However, the majority of the Jews were in opposition to the Christian Gospel from the beginning. And suddenly Jesus stood in their midst and said, “Peace be unto you”. Look at the love of the Savior for His own. Peter had denied Him, and the others had forsaken Him. Well might He have said, “Shame upon you”. But instead He said, “Peace be unto you”. Having put away their sins, He could now remove their fears. And so will it be when we meet Him face to face. The Prince of Peace shall greet us with the words, “Peace be unto you”. Almost His last words spoken to the disciples was recorded in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace”. And then He showed them His hands and His side. He first had to show them that He bodily had risen from the grave. He was the same person they had known before He was crucified. This was not His glorified body. The Lord Jesus does not walk in heaven with the nail prints in His hands and feet, and with a gash in His side, and neither does Jesus walk in heaven with a two-edged sword protruding out of His mouth. Our glorified bodies will be as different from this earthly body as a seed that goes into the ground and the plant that comes out of the ground.

But why did the Lord show here His side?

Why did He not show the nail prints in His feet?

It was to show us that the basis of the peace that He has made, and which He gives, was His death upon the cross. It was through the piercing of His side that blood and water poured out of Him, which was a symbol of the new birth of the church. The blood of Christ symbolized His complete payment for our sins, and the water symbolized the water of the Gospel that must be preached, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God”.

There is a remarkable analogy between the piercing of the side of Christ, and the creation of the woman out of Adam’s rib. God says in Romans 5:14 that the first Adam was a figure of Him (Christ) that was to come, and in 1 Corinthians 15:45 Christ is called “the last Adam”. We read in Genesis 2:21-22,

Genesis 2:21-22
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
The bride of the first Adam was taken out of his side when he was asleep. The Bride of the Last Adam was taken out of His side when was dead but He still hung on the cross.

Peace Be Unto You (John 20:21, Romans 5:1, Philippians 4:7, John 17:18,20, Nehemiah 8:10)

John 20:21
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

This was no mere repetition. The first time the Lord Jesus said “Peace be unto you” was followed by Him showing His hands and His side. And likewise the next “Peace” statement is explained by the words that follow. The first “Peace” was for their conscience; the second was for their heart. The first “Peace” had to do with their position before God; the second with their condition in the world. The first “Peace” was a peace with God, as in Romans 5:1; the second was the peace of God, as in Philippians 4:7. The Lord Jesus said in His wonderful high-priestly prayer in John 17:18, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”.

And in immediate connection with this He said in John 17:20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”. The Lord Jesus was praying for us who are living 2000 years after the cross. The mission that the Lord Jesus stated in John 20:21 was not limited to that company of 11 disciples. No, the mission He stated was for all the churches, worldwide. And what a great privilege it is to serve Him in this capacity. It is a great and marvellous mission to represent our Savior here below, as He represented the Father. And it is a great blessing that He first said, “Peace be unto you” before He said “I send you”.

Just think of it. The Almighty God gives us peace with everything that we do and say when we talk to others about what the Lord has done for us. All our sins have been paid for. And thus all our actions are already approved by God.

How do you like to work for such a master?

We do not have to worry about our failings in this ministry, for all our failings were also part and parcel of God’s plan. And so we see that peace is the preparation for service. As God said in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the LORD is your strength”. And notice that the Son is now a “Sender”, in equal authority with the Father. And then we read in John 20:22,

"He Breathed on Them" (John 20:22-23, Genesis 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Luke 24:52, Matthew 18:18)

John 20:22-23
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

What is the meaning of this?

The first key to understanding this verse lies in the words, “And when he had said this”, which refers to “so send I you”. The Lord Jesus had entered upon His ministry as one who was anointed by the Holy Spirit. And thus His beloved disciples should also be anointed by the Holy Spirit. The second key is found in the words, “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost”. The Greek word that is used here for “breathed” is found nowhere else in the New Testament. But it is the same word that the Septuagint translators used in translating Genesis 2:7. And there we find:

Genesis 2:7
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

There man’s original creation was completed by this act of God.

Who then can fail to see that here in John 20, on the day of the Savior’s resurrection, the new creation had begun?

It was begun by the Head of the new creation, the last Adam acting as a quickening spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). This giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples was the firstfruits of the resurrection, as well as proof that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father. What a wonderful demonstration of the Savior’s Godhead!

When the Lord Jesus said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit”, we know that the disciples were already born from above. Now they were no more servants, but sons of God. Yet it was only by the Spirit of adoption that they could be made conscious of it or enter into the joy of it. From this moment the Spirit dwelt within them. Their’s was the joy in the Holy Spirit. This change had come over them already 50 days before Pentecost, for we read in Luke 24:52, “And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. What happened at Pentecost was the baptism of power, not the coming of the Spirit to indwell them. And then when we read that the Lord Jesus said in John 20:23, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained”, we must not think that the priests in the Roman church suddenly received power to forgive sins. We must understand this verse in the same manner as we understand Matthew 18:18, where the Lord Jesus said:

Matthew 18:18
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall having been bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall having been loosed in heaven.

This is precisely what the Greek text says in Matthew 18:18. In other words, the prior action occurred in heaven, for it is only God who can forgive sins, and it is only God who can let man retain his sins.

Allow me to summarize the lovely types and figures which the Lord has given us in this passage, and let me do it in 10 easy steps. We have here a wondrous portrayal of the essential features of our faith.

1) After His resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ is known in a new way, no longer after the flesh, but in spirit on high, for He said, “Touch Me not” and “I ascend unto My Father” (John 20:17).

2) We, the saints, are given a new title, for now we are called “brethren” (John 20:17).

3) We, the saints, are told of a new position we have; it is Christ’s position before the Father (John 20:17).

4) We, the saints, occupy a new place; it is apart from the world (John 20:19).

5) We, the saints, are assured of a new blessing; we have peace with God, and we are at peace within ourselves (John 20:19).

6) We, the saints, are given a new privilege; we have the Lord Jesus in our midst (John 20:19).

7) We, the saints, have a new joy, through a vision of the risen Lord whom we love with all our heart (John 20:20).

8) We, the saints, are given a new commission; we are sent into the world by the Son, as He was sent into the world by the Father (John 20:21).

9) We, the saints, are a new creation in our soul, indicated by Christ breathing on His disciples (John 20:22).

10) We, the saints, have a new Indweller; it is God the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). And so, we see here a New Beginning: The Old Testament economy of spiritual things is now definitely replaced by the New Testament economy of spiritual things, and Christianity has now supplanted Judaism. The nation of Israel is no longer a special nation under God, but all nations are now equal before God, until the end of time.

AMEN.

By Alfred Chompff

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