After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Verses 1-47. -
1. Christ proved, by signs and wonders and testimonies, to be Source of life. Verses 1-9. -
(1) A sign on a paralyzed body and an unsusceptible soul. Verse 1. - The journey to Jerusalem is said to have taken place at the time of "a feast," or "the feast of the Jews." After these things (μετα ταῦτα). Suggesting a number of events, not necessarily connected with each other. (For the latter idea of a period expressed by μετα τοῦτο see John 2:12 and John 11:7, 11; for μετα ταῦτα, see John 6:1 and John 21:1. etc.) There was the feast of the Jews. Now, "the feast" of the Jews could hardly be any other than the second Passover, while John 6:4 would indicate a third. "The feast" referred to in John 4:45 undoubtedly means the first Passover. "A feast" would leave the question open, though by no means excluding positively the second Passover, as the anarthrousness of the word might be chosen with a view to call special attention to it. However, the indefinite ἑορτη has been identified by commentators with every feast in the calendar, so there can be no final settlement of the problem. If the feast be the Passover, then our Lord's ministry lasted a little more than three years. If not, it must be one or other of the feasts that elapsed between the Passovers of ch. 2 and ch. 6 Edersheim, with many others, refuses to accept any chronological hint in John 4:35, and therefore throws the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee a few weeks after the first Passover, in the early summer, and supposes that Jesus returned to the unnamed feast in the autumn. Several critics say of John 4:35, one part of the sentence must be parabolical and the other literal, and that the disciples might be anticipating a spiritual harvest after four months, and Jesus drew from the physically ripening corn fields his comparison. This seems to me entirely contrary to our Lord's ordinary method; and that the disciples were in too carnal a mood to be credited with an anticipation of spiritual results in Samaria at all. Those who think that John 4:35 does give a hint of four months preceding harvest, place the journey between the middle of December and the middle of January. To my mind there is consequently no difficulty in imagining that when those four months should have been spent, and before the regular calling and appointment of the twelve apostles, our Lord should have gone up to the feast - one of the feasts which did summon the adult men to the metropolis. This is the view of Irenaeus, Luther, Cretins, Lampe, Neander, Hengstenberg, Conder, and many others. Wieseler, Hug, Meyer Lance, Godet, Weiss, Farrar, Watkins, think that the Feast of Purim, celebrated on the 15th of Adar (or March) (2 Macc. 15:36), in commemoration of the deliverance of the people from the evil intention of Haman (Esther 9:21, etc.), was that national fast and feast which Jesus thus honoured. Purim was not one of the divinely appointed festivals, but it is also stated that the Lord undoubtedly attended one of the national and recently appointed festivals, that of Dedication (John 10:22). The more serious objection is that it could, if desired, have been celebrated quite as well in Galilee as in Jerusalem, and that the method of celebration seemed contrary to the whole spirit of the Master, and the whole tone of the discourse which followed. It is said that part of the ritual of the feast was the free and frequent gifts made spontaneously by one to another. Westcott prefers the autumn Feast of Trumpets as more suitable on several grounds than the Passover,
(1) because of the absence of the article, - this, however, is very problematical (see Tischendorf, 8th edit.);
(2) because when at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) the incident described in ch. 5 is still in lively recollection;
(3) because the great events of the Feast of Trumpets, the commemoration of the Creation and the Law giving, correspond with the theme of the Lord's great discourse. The fact that this particular miracle on the sabbath should be referred to a few mouths later in Jerusalem, on Christ's third appearance there, is not improbable, if we bear in mind that Judaean emissaries in Galilee had been bitterly assailing Jesus, on the ground of his persistent determination to heal sickness and hopeless maladies on the sabbath day. This Jerusalem "sign," and the claim he made on the ground of it, had roused the cry, and was still the matter of contention. The claims of the Purim feast turn principally on the fact that, since it occurred, about a month before the Passover, on the 14th or 15th of Adar, this visit might have taken place in the course of the four months referred to in John 4:35, and therefore between the sojourn in Samaria and the Passover of John 6:4, which Jesus diet not attend. Dr. Moulton (assuming the anarthrous form of the ἑορτη) thinks that the feast is left undetermined because there was nothing in it typical of our Lord's work, and fulfilled in his Person. Such a position renders the visit itself strange and apparently unealled for. These long gaps, silences, during which there is no record of event or discourse, constitute a leading feature of the gospel history, and indeed of most of the history of both Old and New Testaments. To my mind there is advantage rather than otherwise in supposing more time than a few months to have been consumed in the Galilaean ministry described in Mark 2 and 3 Tregelles and the Revisers, with Westcott and Hort, have relegated the δευτεροπρωτω of Luke 6:1 to the margin, but; Tischendorf (8th edit.) and Canon Cooke, etc., retain the remarkable expression, on the overwhelming evidence of a host of authorities. If it stand, which we believe it must, then during the Galilaean ministry, and in the interval which preceded the Passover mentioned in ch. 6:4, there is a reference to the proximity of a previous Passover and a previous harvest; the Galilaean opposition to Christ on this question of ritual being at its very height. If so, the feast must have been the Passover. The question cannot be finally settled, and commentators are in hopeless conflict with one another. It must be admitted that the majority of modern critics assume the Feast of Purim to be that intended, and thereby reduce the length of our Lord's ministry from Cana to Calvary to two short years. And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. This was before the formal call of the twelve apostles, and there is no proof that he was accompanied by his disciples. Many of the commentators (and see Weiss, 'Life of Christ,' vol. 2:321) urge that not even John himself was present on the occasion, from the absence of lifelike touches and particularity of incident. There is, however, much detail in the first fifteen verses. The great discourse that follows is not broken into dramatic dialogue, and does certainly present more of the biographer's subjective treatment than other portions of the narrative. It is more conceivable, however, that John did, on grounds mentioned by Caspari (see Introduction), accompany his Lord, and learned, by what he heard of these great words, and by subsequent converse with Jesus, the burden of the mighty revelation. Thoma sets to work in the most dogmatic way, and Weiss with a perfectly different spirit, to demonstrate the identity of the narrative which follows, with the famous story of the cure of the paralytic "borne of four" which occurs in the synoptic narrative. Thoma goes further, and imagines that the supposed healing of the paralytics by both Peter and Paul are also here idealized.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
Verse 2. - Now there is in Jerusalem. A phrase denoting intimate acquaintance with the topography of the city, and the present tense suggests either a hint of a ruin yet existing after the fall of Jerusalem, or it may betray the fact that the evangelist wrote down at the very time some details of the incident which formed the occasion of the following discourse, and never, in his later editing of the document, omitted or altered the form of his sentence. At the sheep (market) or (gate) a pool, surnamed in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes or porches. The adjective προβατικῇ requires some substantive to be introduced, and since there is no reference to any sheep market in the Old Testament, little justification can be found for the gloss contained in the Authorized Version. There was a "sheep gate" mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1, 32 and Nehemiah 12:39. There is no reason against this method of supplying the sense, except this, that there is no other instance of the word πύλη, or "gate," being omitted after this fashion. The "sheep gate" stood next. in Nehemiah's recital, to the "fish gate," and it was built by the priests. The old "sheep gate" is now known by the name of St. Stephen's Gate, to the north of the Haram es-Sherif, or temple area from which the path leads down into the valley of the Kedron, and if "gate" be the proper term to add to προβατικη and we have its site fixed by the modern St. Stephen's Gate, then we must look for the pool surnamed Bethesda in that vicinity. Eusebius and Jerome speak of a piscina probatica as visible in their day, but do not determine its site. Robinson ('Bib. Researches,' 1, p. 489) did not accept the identification of the sheep gate with St. Stephen's Gate, and places the former more to the south, and nearer to what is now called the Fountain of the Virgin. This fountain, on Robinson's visit, displayed some curious phenomena of periodical and intermittent ebullition, receiving a supply of water from another source. It was found by Robinson to be connected by a tunnel with the fountain of Siloam, and the relations of these wells have been quite recently submitted to fresh examination ('Palestine Expl. Soc. Rep.,' Oct. 1883). Robinson identified this pool with "Solomon's Pool" of Josephus and "King's Pool" of Nehemiah, and thought it might be the original pool of Bethesda. Neander and Tholuck incline to agree with him. The observations of Robinson have been confirmed by Tobler, and at least show that what certainly happens now in some of these fountains may have been phenomena constantly expected at some other fountain bearing the name now before us, on the northeastern side of the Haram area. Within the (sheep gate) St. Stephen's Gate the traditional site of Bethesda is pointed out. The modern name is Birket lsrael, and this tank, from the accumulation of rubbish, does not now show its original extent; neither does it now hold water, but receives the drainage of neighbouring houses (Colonel Wilson in 'Plot. Palestine,' vol. 1, pp. 66, 106-109). A church, near that of St. Anne, was built by the Crusaders over a well, in this immediate vicinity - a spot which was supposed to be the site of the angelic disturbance. Colonel Wilson prefers this traditional site to that fixed upon by Robinson. So also Sir G. Grove, in Smith's 'Bible Dict.' The five porches, or porticoes, may have been a columnar structure of pentagonal form, which sheltered the sick and the impotent folk. At present no indubitable relic of this building has been discovered. Alford (7th edit.) quotes a letter which makes it probable that Siloam was Bethesda, and the remains of four columns in the east wall of that pool, with four others in the centre, show that a structure with five openings or porches might easily have been erected there. Bethesda, which is said to be the Hebrew (that is, Aramaic) surname of the pool, is very doubtful. Probably this is the correct form of the text, though there are many variants, such as Bethzatha, in א, 33, Tischendorf (8th edit.); Bethsaida, in some versions and Tertullian. It seems generally allowed that its significance (בֵּית חֶסְדָּא) is "house of grace or mercy," and that it derived its reference from the dispensation there of God's providential gifts. The healing virtue of waters charged with iron and carbonic acid and other gas is too well known to need reference, and the remarkable cures derived from their use may account forevery part of the statement which was here written by John. Eusebius speaks of these waters as "reddened," so he thought, with the blood of sacrifices, but tar more probably by chatybeate earth.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
Verses 3, 4. - In these (porches) lay a multitude of sick folk, blind, lame, withered, [waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel went down season by season into the pool, and troubled the waters: he then that first stepped in after the troubling of the water became whole of whatsoever disease he had]. The interesting gloss discussed below conveys the idea of magical cure, without moral significance, and attributes such cure to angelic ministry. This is the natural and popular explanation of the Bethesda healings, and would easily occur to a copyist who has not taken pains to use New Testament diction. Wunsche quotes from 'Chullin,' fol. 105, b, a testimony that "deadly qualities of water were attributed to demons, and healing ones to the angels." The crowds which gather in all countries round medicinal and intermittent springs are still unable to explain their curative quality by scientific analogies; and there is nothing more likely to have suggested itself to the mind of a copyist than the intervention of an angel. The absence from Scripture elsewhere of non-moral miracles is powerful internal reason for the lack of authenticity for the poetic gloss. The text. when deprived of this dubious gloss, loses all character that is inconsistent with the authenticity of the narrative. The close of ver. 3, "waiting for the moving of the waters," is far better attested than ver. 4, and, moreover, is consistent with John's manner, and with well ascertained matters of fact; and the clause would give authentic ground for the gloss that fellows. Hoffmann and Hengstenberg defend the passage, and believe that the angel at "the waters" in the Apocalypse betrays the same hand. But there can be no fair comparison between an historical fact and a symbolical figure.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
Verse 5. - And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. He had not lost all his powers - he crawled probably from some near home to the healing well; but for thirty-eight years be had been dragging out his impotent existence. The length implies the inveteracy of the disease. Hengstenberg, Wordsworth, Westcott (in part), imply a marked correspondence between these thirty-eight years and the similar period of time during which Israel was compelled to wander in the wilderness. It is not said how long the man had lain in the five porches waiting listlessly for healing, but that the malady was of old standing, and to all human appearance incurable. Thoma finds allegorical meaning in "Bethesda" - a synonym of the metropolls, and keeps up a series of comparisons with Acts 3.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
Verse 6. - When Jesus saw him lying there, and perceived (came to know by his searching glance and intuitive knowledge of the history of others) that he had during a long time already been (in that condition, or in sickness,) said unto him - spontaneously, in the royalty of his benefactions, not demanding from the man even the faith to be healed, and dealing with him almost as he did with the dead - Wilt thou be made whole? The leper came beseeching him, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." The leper was quite sure of his own intense desire for cleansing, and all he questioned was the will, not the power, of Jesus. The admission of the power was a tacit cry for healing. The questioning of Jesus on this occasion involved an offer of mercy. "Dost thou veritably wish for health and strength?" The question implies a doubt. The man may have got so accustomed to his life of indolence and mendicancy as to regard deliverance from his apparent wretchedness, with all consequent responsibilities of work and energy and self-dependence, as a doubtful blessing. He whined out, with professional drawl, his oft-told story, reflecting very much upon his lovelessness and quarrelsomeness, and ugly temper. There are many who are not anxious for salvation, with all the demands it makes upon the life, with its summons to self-sacrifice and the repression of self-indulgence. There are many religious impostors who prefer tearing open their spiritual wounds to the first passerby, and hugging their grievance, to being made into robust men upon whom the burden of responsibility will immediately fall. In this case the sign of his palsied nature was written upon his face, and was probably known to every passerby.
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Verse 7. - The sick (impotent) man answered him: Sir, I have no man, when the water has been troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. This implies that some special advantage accompanied the troubling of the water. The sudden escape of the medicinal gas may have soon subsided, and, with it, the special virtue of the well. The difficulty which the sick man found in reaching the point of disturbance may be accounted for in many ways. The steps which led into the water; the weakness of the sufferer, which made it an impossible task without help; the eagerness at many other impotent folk to take advantage of the supposed cure, jostling one another with selfish haste; or the absence of any personal friend to fight his battle for him, and cast him (βάλῃ) with the required plunge into water. The last point may be explained on the supposition that he was a comparative stranger in Jerusalem, and had made no friends; or by another, which several other allusions justify, viz. that he was a man who, from some reason or other, could neither make nor retain friendship. The melancholy recital of his frequent disappointment is given with an air of mendicant resignation - a kind of morbid satisfaction with his lot. The phrase, "while I am coming, another," etc., implies that he could move, if slowly, without help. The moroseness of self-dependence characterizes some sufferers, who rather glory in isolation than lament it. Still, the words express the hopelessness of thousands who, for lack of human help, are jostled out of life, peace, and salvation.
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Verse 8. - Jesus smith to him, Rise, take up thy bed (κράββατόν σου) - thy mattress or pallet; the word is said to be of Macedonian origin, it is Latinized in the Vulgate into grabbatus, and is not unfrequently found in the New Testament (Mark 2:4, 9; Mark 6:55; Acts 5:15; Acts 9:33); the ordinary Greek word σκίμπους σκιμπόδον - and walk. These are in part the identical words which Jesus addressed to the paralytic (Mark 2:9). He did not touch him or use any other means than his own life-giving word to confer the cure. He put forth, in royal might and spontaneous unsolicited exertion, the miraculous force. The energy of the Lord's will mastered the palsied will of the sick man, and infused into him the lacking energy. Archdeacon Watkins supposes that the man did possess incipient and recipient faith, moved by the generous tenderness and sympathetic interest of the Stranger in his ease. The very striking fact mentioned in the synoptic cure of the paralytic, viz. that he was borne into the presence of Jesus by four friends, ought to have prevented Thoma's caricature of criticism, which makes this narrative a mere idealization of that.
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
Verse 9a. - And immediately the man became whole (well, sound in health), and took up his bed, and walked. This act of obedience was an act of faith, as in every other miracle upon paralyzed nerves and frames. The imagery of the sign explains the rationale of faith. The impotent man, the paralytic, and the man with withered hand, were severally called by Christ to do that which without Divine aid seemed and was impossible. The spiritual quickening of the mind was communicated to the ordinary physical volition, and the bare act was a method by which the palsied sufferer took hold of God's strength. Faith always lays hold thus of power to do the impossible. The words and the result are similar to those adopted on the cure of the paralytic. This is another instance of the identity of the Christ of John and of the synoptists. The various efforts of Strauss, Baur, and Weiss to identify this miracle with that wrought on the paralytic is, however, in defiance of every condition of time, place, character, and consequences. The energy of faith and love which led the Galilaean sufferer to secure the services of four stalwart friends, not only to carry him, but to make strenuous efforts to bring him into the presence of Jesus, contrasts powerfully with the loneliness and friendlessness of the impotent man; and the method adopted by the Lord to convey his grace, and the discussion that followed on that occasion touching the power of the Son of man to forgive sins, all suggest profoundly different circumstances. Nothing but the claim of the critic to be entirely superior to the document he is interpreting can account for so wild a conjecture.
The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
Verses 9b-16. -
(2) The outbreak of hostility due to the breach of the sabbatic law. Verse 9b. - Now it was the sabbath on that day. The form of the expression implies that it was one of the festival sabbaths rather than the weekly sabbath. These days, however, received the same reverence, and were observed with nearly the same rites and restrictions, as the ordinary sabbaths. This statement is the keynote of the great discourse which fellows, and it is made to prepare the way for the subsequent incidents. The Jews; i.e. the authorities, either the rabbis or Sanhedrists who were present in the crowd which gathered round the pool of Bethesda, or filled the neighbouring courts, are to be distinguished from "the multitude," or from the people generally. The designation evidently means the leading folk, the social censors, the hierarchy, who very soon displayed in marked fashion their jealousy and hatred of Jesus. The Jews therefore said to the man who had been healed, It is sabbath, and it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. Judging by the letter of the Law (Exodus 20:10 and Exodus 35:3), and by the precedents of Scripture (Numbers 15:32-35), and by the special injunctions of the prophets (Jeremiah 17:21-23; Nehemiah 13:15, etc.), the man was infringing a positive command. Rabbinism had indeed declared that, in cases affecting life and health, the law of the sabbath was legitimately held in abeyance; but this relaxation was so hedged about with restrictions that the poor man and the layman were unable to apply the rules. The rabbinic interpretations of the sabbatic law concerning burden bearing were so intricate and sophistical that the entire majesty of the law, and the merciful intent of the prohibition, were concealed and vitiated. Apart from these complications, the man was prima facie disobeying the letter of the law. 'Shabbath,' fol. 6, a, declares that if unwittingly a burden was carried on the sabbath, the transgressor was bound to bring a sin offering; if with knowledge, he must be stoned.
He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
Verse 11. - And he answered them, He that made me whole, that very same man (ἐκεῖνος,, "even he;" cf. for this use of the pronoun, John 1:18, 33; John 14:21, 26, etc.) said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. This was justification for him. The Prophet-like Healer must know what was right, and upon his shoulders the responsibility must rest. There was a rabbinic saying, which the cured man may or may not have heard, that conferred a dispensing power upon a prophet; but the marl could not have known with any certainty that such was Christ's official character. It is, moreover, clear that he did not know at this moment either the face, the voice, or the name. Meyer hears a ring of defiance in these words. The other hints we obtain touching the man's character do not sustain such an idea.
Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
Verse 12. - [Then] they asked him, Who is the man (contemptuous use of ἄνθρωπος, as distinct from God's great messengers, or the legislators and prophets of the olden time, who have laid down the eternal Law of God) that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed], and walk? "The Jews" here ignore the work of healing and mercy, and seek to fasten a charge of overt criminality against some person unknown. A technical offence has been clone against the honour of their sacred place. The work of healing is an insignificant compensation for such a disgrace. They would be even with the heretical healer. Saving men by questionable methods is not to be endured. "Who is the man?" "Men and women lying in moral helplessness, not helped by God's priests and rulers, are now standing and moving in the strength their new Teacher has given. They cannot deny it; but can they prevent it? The rabbinic precept which he has crossed shall be applied to stamp out his work and kill him" (Watkins).
And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
Verse 13. - Now he that was healed - in this place ὁ ἰαθεὶς takes the place of τεθεραπευμένος of ver. 10. The fundamental idea in the verb θεραπεύω to render kindly and useful, even noble, service to another - to do the work and act the part of a θεράπων. The ministry rendered may be that of a δοῦλος or ὑπηρέτης, a θάλπων or ἰατρὸς. The "service" successfully rendered by a physician is more often expressed by ἰάομαι, which has no other meaning than restoration to health, and its use here may imply this positive fact (see the use of both words in Matthew 8:7, 8) - knew not who it was (was at that time and for a while ignorant of the person of his Healer): for Jesus withdrew - after the healing. Ἐκνεύω is "to nod or bend the head and avoid a blow," but comes to mean "withdraw" or "retire." Some have supposed that, like ἐκνέω,, to "escape by swimming from a danger," ἐξένευσε means here "stealthily escaped" - a sense that it has in Eur., 'Hipp.,' 470, and elsewhere; but (as Grimm says) Jesus did not withdraw to avoid a danger which had not yet proclaimed itself, but to evade the acclamation of the multitude (see also Lange) - a crowd being in the place where the miracle had been wrought.
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Verse 14. - After these things (see ver. 1). Westcott thinks that a looser connection between the foregoing and subsequent events is denoted by μετὰ ταῦτα than by the expression μετὰ τοῦτο.. Consequently, the persecution referred to in the remainder of the chapter may have occurred several days after the foregoing conversation. Jesus found him in the temple. Some have inferred from this, the recognition by the healed man of the hand of God in his cure, and his desire to express his gratitude in the house of God by some appropriate conduct or service; and, granting this explanation, much charm is observable in the tact that Jesus found him. and found him there. The Lord's habit of visiting the temple, and the penetrating glance which he casts over all the frequenters of his Father's house might then fairly be deduced from the passage; but the motive of the man is quite conjectural. From the words of Jesus one might as reasonably suppose that the man was treading at the time on dangerous moral ground, making some kind of gain from his notoriety. The healing was, at least, imperfect until the man had learned its spiritual significance. Every gift of God is doubled in value when its source is recognized. God's signature on his own mercies gives them their true meaning. Christ found the healed man in the precincts of the temple, whether his motive was pure or mixed in going thither. And he said unto him, Beheld, thou art made whole (hast become sound and healthy throughout thy physical system; cf. for the form of this description of his case, the query, ver. 6): no longer continue to sin. The form of the sentence points to something special and persistent in this man's habits, rather than to the general corruption of human nature. Christ's penetrating glance discovered all the hidden misery and bleeding wound and putrefying sore of the man's soul. Apart from the obliteration of the consequences of his bad life, and without a clean and free condition of things, the future would have proved hopeless, and deliverance from the yoke of fear and concupiscence impossible; but now this new chance is given. He was made whole, born again physically. As Naaman's flesh became like that of a little child, so this man - once bent, crippled, distorted by his self-indulgence, and now made whole - is to "sin no longer." It would not be reasonable to conclude from this that Christ's doctrine, like that of Job's friends, involved the indissoluble connection of sin with sickness, or made the amount of pain in any case the criterion of individual sin. Our Lord repudiates this position in John 9:3 and in Luke 13:1-5; but special calamities have unquestionably followed wrong doing, and can, in many instances, be referred to obvious transgressions, to specific acts, or inveterate habits. The man's own conscience would respond to the charge. Jesus added: Lest a worse thing befall thee. There is, then, something worse than thirty-eight years of apparently hopeless wretchedness! Jesus said, even as reported by the apostle of love, the most terrible things that ever fell from human lips. The "sin no longer" makes it seem as though man's will could accomplish much (cf. Isaiah 1:16, "Cease," etc.), and as though all the future of our life were, so far as human responsibility goes, dependent upon ourselves. We are to act as if it were. Let it be noticed that he who said, "Sin no more," said, "Rise up, take thy bed, and walk." Three things, which appeared utterly beyond the power of the impotent man, were, nevertheless, done by him through the grace of Christ, which he then and there appropriated.
The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
Verses 15, 16. - The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole. Therefore the Jews persecuted Jesus, (and sought to slay him ), because he was doing these things on the sabbath. The motive of the man may have been one of gratitude, or may have arisen from a sense of duty, seeing that he had not answered the question of the Jews, and had been himself charged with doing the unlawful thing (Weiss). He may have sought to win from his interlocutors some reverence for his Healer; but everything points the other way. He was a loveless being; he seems to have been nettled by the charge and warning he had just received, and went with the name of his Benefactor on his lips to those who in his hearing had already condemned the Saviour's conduct. The connection is close between the two facts, viz. the man's eager implication of his Healer in the responsibility of his own act, which was said by "the Jews" to be unlawful; and the course of cruel persecution and deadly hate which was there and then inaugurated against the Saviour of the world. The sixteenth verse represents a course of conduct on the part of the Jews which led to open conflict with the dominant party. Christ's view of the sabbath lay, indeed, in the heart of the old Law, and was even recognized by some of the wisest and noblest spirits of Judaism; but it ran counter to the current traditionary interpretation, and cut as with a sharp sabre through the knots and entanglement of the schools. It was the unpardonable sin that ideas and rules which sustained and fed the authority of the hierarchical party should be swept away as valueless and perilous accumulations, and as fungoid encrustations upon the Law of Moses. Weiss justly remarks that there is no colour for the charge that the fourth evangelist antedated the sabbath controversy, for Mark (Mark 3:6) shows that it had already commenced in Galilee. In John 4:1-3 we see that the Pharisaic party distrusted Jesus; here we see that the authorities are in arms against him.
And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
Verses 17, 18. -
(a) The claim of special relation with the Father. Verse 17. - But Jesus answered them (ἀπεκρίνατο; here and ver. 19 are the only places where the author uses this aorist, My Father worketh hitherto; i.e. until now; has not, has never, ceased from working. Some critics, eager for disparaging comment, have said "this is point blank denial of the sabbath rest of the Creator as exhibited in Genesis 1, 2, and Exodus 20. But, on the contrary, it is the true exposition of those grand utterances. God through his Logos, the Father through his Son, did bring his strictly creative works to an end with the six days; but then he entered on the seventh day, the rest of his preserving, protective, reproductive energy; then he began to pursue his redeeming and quickening operations in all regions of his dominion. My Father worketh, energizes, until now. His "rest" is an infinite activity of wisdom and power, of righteousness and mercy. The true sabbath is this rest of God. Man has to enter into this rest, and cooperate with and utterly abandon himself to the will of God. Sabbath keeping is the great symbol of such entire satisfaction with God. The activities from which man has to cease on the holy day are man's own, man's self-centred labours; but he, too, may combine the highest activity with profound repose. "My Father worketh until now, and I work - I, who am his Instrument, his Word, his Manifestation, his Messenger, abstaining from all mere self-originated, self-poised, self-centering toil, I work with him for him. I work obviously and visibly that you may see for yourselves what he has ever been doing silently and unobserved." Philo had said ('Leg. All.,' 1:3) "that God never ceases to create, nor takes a holiday from his works;" and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews
(4) had grasped, as an echo of Christ's own teaching, the perpetuity of Divine rest through all the ages of work; but the naked thought here soars far above them both. The dawning of every clay, the opening of the flowers, the flowing of the rivers, the sustenance of vegetable, animal, and human life, reveal through every moment of the agelong sabbath rest, and on every sabbath day, his intense and constant activity.
Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
Verse 18. - On this account (the διὰ τοῦτο is still further defined by the ὅτι) therefore the Jews were seeking the more (μᾶλλον, i.e. more than they had sought before he made use of this sublime expression) to slay him, because not only in their opinion, though very falsely, he was violating (i.e. dissolving the authority of) the sabbath. Jesus was actually placing the sabbatic law where it has remained ever since, giving it sanctions, beauty, and hold on conscience it had never known before. He was abrogating the petty restrictions and abolishing the unspiritual somnolence by which it had been characterized and misunderstood. But there was another and more staggering charge which they were not at that moment able to condone. They sought the more to slay him because he was calling God his own (ἴδον) Father, making himself equal to, on a level with, God. He did use the phrase, "my Father," with a marked emphasis. He did not say, "our Father, or your Father;" he assumed a unique relation to the Father. The inmost centre of the Divine consciousness in him thrilled through the human. Though he did not wear now the "form of God," but the "form of the Servant," yet the Servant knew that he was Son and Lord of all. The Divine Personality which had always wrought out the eternal counsels of the Father's will was working now on identical and parallel lines in the human sphere. There were senses in which the Lord Jesus was the own and only begotten Son of God. This was a hard saying. This placing of himself on a level with God was the blasphemy which the Jews resented. Jesus knew what he said, and saw the impression his words produced, and took no steps to correct it. Two classes of result naturally followed. Some said, "He blasphemeth," "He hath a devil," and the high priest subsequently, in reply to a similar utterance of the Lord, rent his clothes; but other some felt concerning him that the relation between him and the Father was, so far as they knew, absolutely unique. The author of this Gospel exclaimed, "He who 'was with God and was God' has been manifested in the flesh, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father."
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
Verses 19-29. -
(b) Christ vindicated his equality with the Father. Verse 19, 20a. -
(a) He declares himself to be "the Son Verse 19. - Jesus therefore answered and said to them; i.e. replied to their secret thoughts, and to the sentiments of animosity and hostility which they did not conceal. He spake in language of extraordinary solemnity and august claim. The Verily, verily, with which he prefaced the opening sentence, and which he repeated (cf. vers. 24, 25, as in John 3:3 and elsewhere) on subsequent occasions, denoted the high ground of authoritative revelation on which he took his stand. He proceeded, without a break or interruption, to assert, on the authority of his own consciousness, the true relation subsisting between the Son and the Father - the deep, eternal, sacred link between them; in essence and in affection, in work and function; and gave several illustrations of these matters, the verification of which was not beyond the capacity of his hearers. These he made the basis of the argument of ver. 23, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." What did he wish "the Jews" to understand by "the Son"? Did he identify himself with the Son of whom he here speaks? Surely this is unquestionably the case, for the "answer" here given is one addressed to those who were seeking to slay him because he claimed for himself that God was "his own Father." He had said," My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He justified the true reverence he felt for the Father when using this language, by describing in various ways the functions, privileges, and work of "the Son." Is "the Son," however, here the Eternal Son, the Logos, before and independently of his incarnation? and are the doctrines here announced an appeal to a pre-existing belief in such a sonship on the part of his enemies, so that he is dealing, at least from vers. 19-23, with the internal relations of the Godhead? The references to the recent ἔργον, and the moral effects which are to be produced upon his hearers by further activity, make this view doubtful. Does he here speak simply of "the Son of man" in his purely dependent, servile capacity, and earthly manifestation? (Watkins). We think not; for the deeds and functions of "the Son" are here so lofty and far reaching that this interpretation is inadmissible. Therefore we conclude, with Meyer and others, that by "the Son" he did mean "the whole subject, the God-Man, the incarnate Logos, in whom the self-determination of action independently of the Father cannot find place." This view of "the Son" involves the continuity of the Logos-consciousness, and not its obliteration; nor is this (as Reuss urges, and even Godet appears in part to concede) incompatible with the Logos-doctrine of the prologue. The Son is not able to do anything from himself, in the great work of healing, life giving, and redemption, except that which he seeth the Father doing. The Logos made flesh, the Son who has taken humanity up into his own eternal being, is ever in full contemplation of the Father's activity. He is in intimate and continuous and affectionate relations with the Father, who in this capacity has sent his Son to be the world's Saviour. He sees the Father's healing grace and omnipresent energy and ceaseless activity in regions where "the Jews" fail to discern them. The incarnate Son does not set up a rival throne or authority. He moves, lives, has his being, from the Father and not from himself.
For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
Verse 20. - For - the Lord introduces a reason, states a fact, which is calculated to make this vision of the Father's activity apprehensible to his hearers - the Father loveth (φιλεῖ expresses strong personal, natural affection, amat rather than the ἀγαπα or diligit of many other passages. See notes, John 21:15 and John 3:35) the Son, and he loveth him to such an extent that he showeth him, making it therefore possible for him "to see" - all things that himself doeth. The Son has been from eternity and is now, notwithstanding his incarnate lowliness, the continuous Spectator of all the Father's doing in all hearts and lives, in all places of his dominion. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee." So stupendous a claim was never exceeded or transcended. "All things that himself doeth," shown and visible to One walking this world. The mind either rebels against or succumbs before such sublime and all-embracing knowledge. No neutrality is possible. If these were his words, then there is justification for the generalizations of the prologue. Verses 20b-29. -
(b) The greater works. Verse 20b. - And greater works than these works of healing will he show him. Here the term ἔργα is used for the first time in this Gospel. It becomes the recognized phrase by which Christ describes what the world regards as "signs and wonders," "miracles" of power or grace; but it actually connotes the simple activity of God, the normal operation of his hand. Greater manifestations than physical quickening or revival namely, the mighty changes of thought and life, the gifts of grace and peace, eternal life itself, are evermore proceeding. The Father will so show them that the Son will see and do them, and so bring them by revelation to your consciousness that ye may marvel. Christ will not say here that ye may believe, but that ye may look on confounded and astonished. This was the first effect of Christ's work - Christ's revelation of the Father's heart, Christ's demonstration of the Father's nearness and character. Westcott quotes the apocryphal saying of our Lord preserved by Clement of Alexandria, 'Str.,' 2:9. 45, "He that wonders shall reign, and he that reigns shall rest." The wonders of grace will never be exhausted. New combinations, new transformations, new discoveries, new insight into the eternal love, will be effected by him whom God hath sent, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world (but see ver. 28).
For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
Verses 21-26. - Greater works:
(1) the resurrection of the dead. Verse 21. - For (γὰρ introduces an illustration, a proof of the previous assertion. viz. that the eternal love of the Son would issue in such new marvels) as the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. This is the most exhaustive expression of the Father's love and revelation to the Son. This thing the Son sees, and this same thing he will do, whether these Jews attempt to put any arrest upon his will or not. The majority of commentators regard vers. 21-27 as descriptive of the moral and spiritual resurrection of dead souls, and hold that a transition is made in vers. 28, 29 to the resurrection of dead bodies and the final consummation. There are some, however, who regard the whole passage - even vers. 28, 29 - as referring, with the previous verses, to moral resurrection, although the words, "in their tombs" (μνημείοις) are there added to give distinctness and explicitness to that future resurrection; and though "now is" of ver. 25 is not there predicated or repeated. Others (with many of the older expositors) refer the entire passage to the final resurrection, which, however, is incompatible with ver. 20 and with the "now is" of ver. 25. Others, again, see in ver. 21, in ἐγείρει and ζωοποιεῖ,, the whole process of resurrection and renewal, both physical and moral, bodily and spiritual. They suppose that in ver. 25 Christ refers first to the spiritual renovation, to be affirmed and consummated in the universal resurrection and judgment of the last day. The generality of the terms ἐγείρει and ζωοποιει, attributed to the Father, makes it possible that the Lord was referring to the numerous events of uplifting from the pit, from the lowest sheol, which formed the staple religious nutrition of the Jewish race. The history of Divine revelation is one lengthened series of interpositions and deliverances, of resurrections of the people of Israel, and of the theocracy from bondage, exile, and spiritual and civil death, and of references to the wonderful transformations of saints and prophets and kings from the depths of despair to the light of life and Divine favour. Ezekiel (37) had likened the most memorable of these resurrections to the uprising of a huge army from a valley of vision, strown with the dry bones of both houses of Israel. "So also," says Jesus, "the Son quiekeneth." including under this term, it may be, the physical healing which is often the precursor and condition of spiritual awakening and moral health and vigour. The Son, the incarnate Logos, revealing himself on earth, both as Logos and Son of man, is now quickening after the same fashion whom he will. The will of Christ is in such entire harmony with the Father's will that there is no rivalry here. The will of the Son is in spontaneous accord with the Divine purpose of resurrection and quickening. He is already doing thus here on earth, as the great organ of the Father, that which makes his will the revelation of the Father. There is no arbitrary decree, such as Calvin found here, nor such as Roues insists upon. The emphasis is simply upon the subject of the verb θέλει; and we have in the expression a vindication of the nineteenth verse, "The Son doeth that which he sees the Father doing." His own θέλημα being the origin and revealed centre on earth of Divine manifestations.
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
Verse 22. - That οὕς θέλει is the point of connection with what follows, and that the Son quickeneth whom he willeth, is more clear, seeing that (γὰρ) the Father even judges no man; judges no man apart from the Son. "Pater non judicat solus nec sine filio, judicat tamen (ver. 45; Acts 17:31; Romans 3:6)" (Bengel). The word κρίνει does not mean exclusively either "condemn" or "acquit," but the exercise of judicial functions which will either acquit or condemn. As in John 3:17, the "condemnation" is rather inferred than asserted. Moreover, we are there told that the Son was not sent into the world for the purpose of judgment, but for the larger purposes of salvation, and "to give eternal life." Nevertheless, "life" to some is judgment to others, and judgment even unto death is the obverse of the gift of life when the conditions of life are not found, in John 1:39 Christ declares that one solemn consequence of his coming was εἰς κρίμα, "unto judgment" - to reveal the final decisions of the Judge. How, then, shall we reconcile these apparently incongruous statements? Judgment unquestionably results from the rejection of the proffer of mercy. The judgment rests on those who say, "We see." Their sin remaineth. Those who are not willing to be made whole remain unhealed. Those who love darkness rather than light abide in the darkness. This is the judgment, but this judicial process was (not the end, but) the consequence of his mission. The Father's ordinary providence, which is always passing judgment upon the lives of men, is now placed in the hands of "the Son." Howbeit he hath given the whole judgment - i.e. the judgment in all its parts - to the Son. He has made the entire juridical process which brings to light the essential tendencies of human hearts, issue from the reception given by man to the Son. The whole question of right against wrong, of life versus death, acquittal against condemnation, is determined by the attitude of men towards the Son. In many passages this plenipotentiary endowment of "the Son" with functions, powers, authorities, is expressed by this same word (δέδωκε), "he hath given" (ver. 36; John 3:35; John 6:37, 39; John 10:29; John 17:2, 4). Meyer limits the meaning of κρίνει to "condemnation," and Slier includes in it the separation of sin from the life of believers; but surely the judgment of the world is effected by the light that shines upon it, and the essence of the judgment (κρίσις) is the discrimination which infailibly follows the revelation of the Father through the Son.
That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
Verse 23. - The purpose of the entire commission of judgment to the Son, a bestowment which illustrates the quickening results that he (who does the will of the Father) wills to effect, is now gathered to a lofty climax, abundantly vindicating the right he had claimed to call God his own Father. It is as follows, in order that all may honour the Son. Τιμῶσιν, not προσκυνῶσιν ("honour," not "worship"), is the word used; but seeing that the identical sentiment of reverence due to the Supreme Being, to the Father, is that which is here said to be due to the Son, and is here declared to be the reason why all judgment is entrusted to the issues of his will, - we are at a loss to know how loftier attributes could be ascribed to the Son. It is surprising that Weiss should declare it "impossible to find any statements here as to the metaphysical unity and equality of the Son and the Father, although current apologetics believe it has succeeded in doing so" ('Life of Christ,' vol. 2:326, note). Luthardt asks, "What other form of τιμη than that which calls him 'Lord and God' shall belief now assume, than that which the Christian Church cherishes toward Jesus?" Thoma points to Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:11-13, and other great parallels in the New Testament. We gladly accept them, not as proof that the Johannist framed Christ's discourse from them, but as proof that the ideas of St. Paul were not originated by him. but came from the direct assertions of Christ, of which we have the historic trace.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Verse 24. - In this verse the discourse turns from the relations between the Father and the Son, to deal with the relations of the living Christ (the "I," who is speaking throughout) with men. In vers. 21-23, indeed Vers. 19-23, the Lord had been speaking prominently of the ideal sonship, of "the Son" on the Divine side of his consciousness. The use of the first person, which is here resumed, calls more express attention to the consciousness of his human manifestation, which again reaches its climax in ver. 27. Verily, verily, I say unto you - I, whose voice you now hear, whom you are misunderstanding, rejecting, and seeking to slay. I say with most solemn emphasis - He that heareth my word - this term, ἀκούειν, suggests moral as well as physical hearing, and means whosoever allows my thought to penetrate his nature, hears and understands, hears and acts accordingly (cf. Matthew 11:1 πιστεύειν 5; 13:9, 18; Revelation 2:7, 17; Revelation 3:22) - and further believeth him that sent me; believeth i.e. that he has borne and is continually bearing true witness concerning me. There is a different meaning conveyed by πιστεύειν, with the simple dative, and πιστεύειν εἰς τινα, or ἐπὶ τινι, or ἐπὶ τινα, and again ἐν τινι; these prepositions convey a gradually deepening sense of intercommnnion and dependence; the simple accusative is found in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ellicott on 1 Timothy 1:16). To believe on a person, or in one, conveys a different idea from believing that person with regard to any special assertion he may make. Here the belief of God has emphatic reference to the testimony the Father is bearing to the claims of Jesus. Such a hearer, such a believer, hath eternal life; even here he has entered into the "eternal now;" on earth he is in possession of the blessed consummation. Such belief in words authenticated by the Father's commission is eternal life (cf. John 17:3). It lifts a man out of the reach of corruption and condemnation, it ushers him into eternity, it is an eternal blessedness in itself; and he cometh not to judgment, but has passed from the death, into the life. He is already translated from the death state to the renewed, quickened state. The decision and discrimination between him and the world have taken place. The judgment is over, the books are closed, the condemnation is no longer possible. He will not perish, he has eternal life. "The believer is tree from the judgment which executes itself in the exclusion inflicted on the unbeliever, by the revelation of Jesus as the Light, because he is already in possession of the saving blessing" (Luthardt). Judgment, being completed, does not require repetition" (Godet). "When that confidence in Christ has illumined the heart wherein we recognize that we have been verily accepted, listened to, ruled, and defended by God, peace follows, and high joyfulness, which is the realization of eternal life, and which covers the sins that erewhile had clung to our weakness" (Melancthon). In this life of faith "we taste the powers of the world to come," "our citizenship is in heaven." "This eternal life is a veritable resurrection of the dead" (Augustine).
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
Verse 25. - Once more the solemn asseveration, Verily, verily, I say unto you, is repeated, when our Lord still further emphasized the authority of his own word, the Father's confirmation of its accuracy, and the Divine signature and testimony to its power. The hour is coming, and now is. There will be more wonderful attestations to the truth than any which as yet have broken the silence of the grave. Not only will the physically dead rise from their bier or their grave in the fulness and strength of resume, life, but the spiritually dead in vast multitudes will pass from death into eternal life, will know that the bitterness of death is over, and that there shall be no more condemnation for them. The Holy Spirit was, when Jesus spake, about to convict the world of sin, and to unveil the glory of Christ to the eye of faith. Pentecost would confirm the word of Jesus, for the Spirit will bear witness to the reality of the risen Lord. But whereas that hour was only "coming," that marvellous day had yet to dawn upon the world, Jesus added it now is - while I am speaking the reality of this vast spiritual change is taking place. There are proofs enough already. "Now," already, at this very moment, the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. The spiritually dead shall be disturbed in their slumber and roused from their indifference, be made to know that the summons of supreme power and authority is addressed to them. Emphasis is laid upon the Divine force which is at work upon heart and conscience. "The Son of God," not "a son of man" merely, is uttering his voice. And they that have heard - accepted the summons, "heard the word," and believed, not merely him that sent me (the teaching of ver. 24), but that he who has been sent is none other than the "Son of God" - these, said Christ, shall live. The form of the expression ἀκούσαντες can only designate those who give ear, and by this the literal resurrection of all the dead is excluded. The teaching of this verse reasserts the teaching of ver. 24, and adds to it, and clothes the truth in the imagery of the general resurrection. The awful suggestion is involved that many of these dead ones will hear the voice of the Son of God, and not give heed to it. Hengstenberg endeavours to overthrow this general interpretation of the verse, making it equivalent to vers. 27, 28 rather than an expansion of ver. 24. The "now is," according to him, covers the whole period to the second advent, and the future ἀκούσονται points to a future epoch in the ὥρα. But the emphatic omission of the νῦν ἔστι in the later and more explicit statement is against such a view, and the ἀκούσονται is best explained by its adaptation to the whole clause. "The hour is coming" as well as "now is." The ζήσονται "shall live," rather than shall be "made alive," is far more applicable to the resurrection of dead souls than of defunct bodies. It is equivalent to "have eternal life" of the previous verses.
For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
Verse 26. - This verse, introduced by γὰρ, shows that the statement about to follow will sustain some portion of the previous one. Which portion? As it seems to me, the coming clause justifies the alteration of the term "the Son" into "the Son of God;" and declares, more fully than any other passage in the New Testament, the lofty and unique character of the Sonship which he claimed. For even as the Father hath life in himself - the sublime assumption of the self-existence and eternal being of the Father, the absolute Possessor of life per se, the Source ultimate and efficient of all that is connoted by life, the eternal Fountain of life - in like manner also he gave to the Son to have Life in himself. "He generated," as Augustine has it, "such a Son who should have life in himself, not as a participator in life, but one who should be as he himself is - Life itself." It is the bona fide expression of community of nature, attribute, quality, and possession of Godhead. In virtue of this utterance, the evangelist, learning from the consciousness of Christ through long years of meditation, under the power of the Spirit, eventually formulated the doctrine of the prologue, "In him was life." "The Son," or the God-Man, is, so far as this Sonship is concerned, the veritable Son of God with such a fulness of life power and such a fountain of life flowing from him, that his voice is the voice of the Eternal Son. This is the primary meaning, though since the Lord returned to his use of the word "the Son," and since the word "gave" is also employed to denote the stupendous conception, there is also involved in it the declaration that the God-Man, seeing he is both Son of God and Son of man, is endowed with all the functions of both. In his incarnation he has not lost the infinite fulness of life giving power. "He quickeneth whom he will," having life in himself. His voice is the voice of the Son of God. The glory of the Word who became flesh was the glory of the Only Begotten. The part which this great passage took in the Arian controversy is well known (see Athanasius, 'Discourses against Arians,' 3:3, translated by J.H. Newman). Archdeacon Watkins emphasizes the position that the Lord here speaks of "life in himself," which was given to the Son (God-Man) in virtue of, and as the reward of his sacrificial work. He points to Philippians 2:6, etc. But Jesus here speaks of a gift already made.
And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Verses 27-29. -
(2) Second "greater work" - judgment of the world. Verse 27. - And he gave him (i.e. the Son, the God-Man) authority to execute judgment, because he is Son of man. He has vindicated his power to confer life upon the dead by asserting the possession by "the Son" of the Divine Sonship. He now adds, so far as the relation to man is concerned, his fitness and authority to administer justice, to preside over the entire juridical process, to lift the scales, to determine the destiny of the human race. The fitness is seen in this, that he, "the Son," is "the Son of man." The one term, "THE SON," entirely covers the twofold Sonship. The proof of his humanity is assumed to be complete. The fact of it is the ground that he who knows what is in man should be the Judge of men. By personal experience of man's temptations and frailties; by knowing every palliation of our sins, every extenuation of our failures, every aggravation of our weakness; by gazing through human eyes with human consciousness upon our mysterious destiny, he is competent to judge; whereas by being Son of God as well as Son of man, he is entrusted with power to execute the judgment of the Eternal. The principle involved is based upon perfect justice. The honour thus conferred on the God-Man is infinite, the consolation thus held out to man unspeakable. We are being judged by Christ, not by impersonal law. The entire incidence upon every individual of the Law is in the hands of the Redeemer. The Saviour, the Life-giver, the Voice which quickens the dead, assigns the judgment. We must be careful, in any inference we draw from this grand utterance, to avoid all suspicion of schism or rivalry between the Father and the Son. The Son is not more merciful than the Father. For the Father of the Old Testament pitieth his children, and knoweth their frame (Psalm 103:13, 14), and the Father of Jesus Christ loves the world, and counts the very hairs of our heads. The Son will not exercise this judgment with less regard to the claims of eternal justice than the Father; but his knowledge of humanity is, by the nature of the case, a guarantee of such application of the justice of God to the case of every individual, that man's knowledge of himself will be able personally to justify and verify it. The Divine judgment will go forth from the heart of man himself.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
Verses 28, 29. - It is impossible not to draw a distinction between the theme of these verses and that of vers. 24, 25. The Lord announces an event which is in the future altogether. The "and now is," which characterized the first resurrection of which he spoke, is here omitted. The description of the subjects of the resurrection as those "in their graves," contradistinguishes them from "the dead" of ver. 25 - a phrase which will suffer several interpretations. The universality of the summons, and the impossibility of neglecting it or ignoring it, form another marked contrast to the resurrection already referred to. Marvel not at this! At what? Clearly at the entire statement that the resurrection of dead souls will be the undoubted issue of accepting Christ's word and identifying it with the word of God. Marvel not that the judgment of the world is entrusted to "the Son," because he is both Son of man as well as Son of God. "Marvel not" is a relative word. It means obviously that there is a greater marvel still in store. Because the hour is coming; always coming, though it seemeth long - coming swiftly, measured on the great clock face of the universe. Geological time, astronomical aeons, should before this have rebuked our impertinence about the delays of God, and our shallow criticism of the fulness of the times. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." As compared with geological annals, still less with God's eternities, it is only the day before yesterday when Adam fell; it is only yesterday that Jesus died and rose again, and tomorrow that he will come in his glory. The hour is coming when all who are in the graves shall hear his voice. The same voice that wakes the spiritually dead shall pierce the clods, shall find the buried dead, shall bring once more into the world of the visible and tangible the long forgotten lived. Every solitary life lives with him and before him. The organic clothing of the spirit, which goes on, as St. Paul suggests (2 Corinthians 5:1) from the death of the physical body till the coming of the Son of God with glory, does not render this statement more difficult, but more comprehensible. As far as this world is concerned, those who are clothed upon with the house not made with hands - those who are with Christ, are to all appearance dead, and in their "graves," in their memorial places; but they will all hear the voice of the Son, and they will come, forth; they that have done good things, to the resurrection of life; they that have practised evil things, to the resurrection of judgment. They will come forth from these hiding places of fading memories. Even tombs of prophets and kings are themselves buried, covered by the graves of the many generations that have followed. The grave hidden will come forth into what we call the reality, visibility, tangibility, of things. The hour is coming on apace when Death himself shall be dead, and the mystery of time be finished. They that rise will divide themselves into two classes. The anastasis will have two forms. There is a "resurrection of life" and a "resurrection of judgment." Those who have indeed passed from spiritual death to life will not come into "judgment" (not κρίμα or κατάκριμα, but κρίσις) when their anastasis is complete, their judgment is over, their life is secure. When those who have not heard the voice of the Son of God, have not come to the light, who are not of God nor of the truth - men who have deliberately practised "evil things" without compunction or amendment, - when these are called from their tombs, from their shadowy hiding places, into the presence of him who executes judgment, it will be to undergo the (κρίσις) judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). We must, indeed, all be made manifest before the judgment throne of Christ, to receive the consequences of "the doing of well" and "the practice of evil." The issue of the one is life, and of the other is judgment. The suggestion seems to be that such judgment may issue unfavourably, but the thought is centred upon the process of the judgment. The effort of Reuss and others to draw a marked distinction between the eschatology of the synoptists and of John fails. Christ does not represent the spiritual resurrection as "greater work" than the physical resurrection. On the contrary, white he speaks of the marvelling of his hearers at his claim to quicken the spiritually dead, yet the ground of their marvel is emphatically arrested (see ver. 28) until they should recognize to the full the fact that, as Son of God and Son of man, he would call all the dead from their graves. Thoma finds admirable justification for this representation by the Johannist of the Messianic Judge, alike in the Book of Daniel, in the synoptic Gospels, in the Pauline Epistles, and Apocalypse!
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
Verses 30-40. -
(c) The witness borne to these claims. Verse 30. - The Lord, still preserving the consciousness of his own ego, continues to speak through human lips to human ears. He deprecates the criticism, "Who and what canst thou be, that thou shouldst execute judgment, or bring us to thy bar, or compel us to come from our hidden places to thy judgment seat?" It is not as mere man that he will judge the world; God will judge through trim. Moreover, the equality of "life" and "honour" and "authority" that he has with the Father, as the veritable Son of God, is nevertheless a life derived, a being generated, an honour given. He here opens up on this basis a new class of instruction, and proceeds to explain the threefold nature of the testimony borne to his present claim to be the Representative and coAgent of the Father. He goes back in these words to the great text of the discourse, viz. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (ver. 19). I (the ἐγώ is very emphatic, the individual standing before them associates himself, and is identified, with the one Being who, as Son of God and Son of man, has done, is doing, and will yet do, wonderful things) - I can of mine own self, from any separate or self-originating source in myself, apart from the Father, do nothing. He subsequently said to his disciples, "Without me ye can do nothing." He claims a higher source than himself for all his own power (δύναμις). When referring to the same subject (vers. 19, 20), he drew his illustration from the sense of sight. The Father "shews" to him, and he "sees" all things that the Father doeth. Here he adds, with special reference to the last and consummating manifestation of relation with the Father, As I hear, I judge: and my judgment of men is righteous; because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me. Christ refers to his judgments of absolution or condemnation upon things or men, positively declaring them to be either right or wrong; e.g. he claimed the power to say, "Thy sins be forgiven;" "The faith hath saved thee;" "It is better for this man that he had never been born;" "Come unto me;" "Depart from me;" "I never knew you." These and all his other judgments on scribes and Pharisees, on devils and hypocrites, on Pilate and Herod, on Jerusalem and the world, are revelations of the Father's mind - are in themselves just judgments, absolutely free from any selfhood, from any reflex influence or reaction from men to himself. They are the true and infallible expression of the Divine will. Because of the entire conformity of his will and himself to the Divine will, the judgment must correspond to that which is, in its very nature, right and true. If this be so, we can scarcely refrain from asking, "Wherein, then, lies the consolation and encouragement derivable from the fact that the execution of judgment is placed for man's sake in the hands of the Son of man?" It lies here, that the Incarnation is perfect; that the manhood has not obliterated the Divinity, nor the Godhead absorbed the manhood, of the Christ. The human consciousness of the Son becomes the basis for the Father's judgment, which is uttered thus absolutely and finally through human lips. It is impossible to imagine thoughts like these arising in the mind of some thinker of the second century. Great as the prologue to this Gospel unquestionably is, this unveiling of the heart of the Son of God incarnate is immeasurably greater. The consciousness of Christ is unique. Neither legend nor imagination, to say nothing of history, has ever transcended it. Here, too, the enormous difference between the Johannine Christ and the Philonic Logos comes into startling prominence.
If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
Verse 31. - At this point the Lord proceeds to meet the clamour which most probably arose, the doubt and questioning which broke the silence with which his solemn defence had been received. We can hear between the lines the cries of an excited crowd, declaring that these words are simply his own. Such testimony as this to himself must be sustained and sanctioned. Why and how can this Teacher take such ground as to assert about himself what no prophet, no rabbi, no chief priest of the people, not even the greatest man of men, Moses himself, had ever dared to claim? Christ admits that such assumptions as these need justification and approval over and above his ipse dixit. The words that follow are startling: If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. At first sight this is in direct contradiction to John 8:14, where, in reply to the Pharisees' "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself; thy witness is nor true," he replied, "Though I bear witness of myself, my witness is true; because I know whence I came, and whither I go." The absolute unison with the Father, which he was not only conscious of, but had also revealed to the Pharisees, lifted his own word to the grandeur of a word of God. The Divine beamed through the human, the infinite through the finite. Here he says, "If I bear - if I and I alone were bearing witness to myself," then - supposing a case, which, as a matter of fact, is impossible - "my witness is not true." If he were acting alone, which is an inconceivable supposition, seeing that in the depths of his consciousness he knew that he was one with the Father, then for his human nature to break away thus from the Father and disdain his testimony would nullify and falsify his witness. He is not bearing witness alone.
There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.
Verses 32, 37, 38. -
(a) The witness of the Father. Verse 32. - It is another that witnesseth concerning me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth concerning me is true. It is a mistake, with Ewald, De Wette, and many others, to suppose that this refers to the testimony of John the Baptist. By Augustine, Hengstenberg, Luthardt, Godet, Meyer, etc., it has been perceived that the "other" (ἄλλος) refers to the Father. Jesus expressly declines to receive John's testimony as his justification or sufficient vindication, and he contrasts it with the higher confirmation which in three distinct ways is already and continuously vouchsafed to him. The present tense, μαρτυρεῖ, is in striking contrast to the testimony of John already silenced by imprisonment or death. The methods of this testimony are subsequently analyzed and described. The Father's witness includes -
Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.
Verses 33-35. -
(b) The temporary witness of John. Verse 33. - Ye have sent to John, and he hath borne witness to the truth. The sending to John was probably a reference to the official transaction described in John 1:19. This is not the "other" whom he referred to, for in the next clause he made solemn disclaimer of resting his claim upon John or upon any individual man. The witness of the forerunner was a true one. The function of the prophet is to bear witness to the Light, to strip off the veils which hide it, to call attention to its most solemn realities, to quicken vision, to stimulate conscience, to disturb apathy, to discern the coming and prepare the way of the Lord (see John 1:4, 5, notes), He was not the Light; but he did call attention to a testimony immeasurably more precious than any word proceeding merely from human lips. The testimonies of John, both before and after he came into contact with Christ, were very wonderful and were adapted to exert and did produce a deep impression upon the people for a time; but by themselves they would not have given sufficient ratification to the Lord's words. We may welcome still all Johannine, ministerial testamonies to the Lord. but the power of God himself must assert itself to the inner consciousness bet, re any man receives the gospel. No mere human testimony to such claims as these rises to the dignity of the occasion. Unless the Father's witness can be discerned, supreme, convincing, and final, John's witness would be insufficient. It may arrest attention, it may impress the apathetic, it may overawe the gainsayers; but it is not final, nor does it leave the hearers without excuse. All the rhetoric, all the threatening, all the irony, of Elijah would have failed if the fire of the Lord had not fallen to consume the sacrifice.
But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.
Verse 34. - But I for my part receive not the witness which affirms my Sonship from a man; or, yet the witness which I receive is not from man. Some have given the stronger meaning of "take hold," or "snatch," or "strive after," to λαμβάνω. But this is unnecessary, for emphasis is laid on the article, "the witness," which is real, infallible, convincing, commanding, must come from the highest source of all. Yet, though Christ cannot depend upon John's testimony, it ought to have had weight with his hearers. It called them to repentance, to holy living, to faith in the Coming One. It discounted their pride in Abrahamic birth, and their false notions of race purity; it made personal and individual that which had been looked at as a national monopoly of privilege. Nay, more, it had testified that he was the "Lamb of God" and the "Son of God" and the "Bridegroom of the Church." Therefore he continued: Howbeit, these things I say - I call attention to the sum total of his message, the testimony he bore to truth - that ye may be saved; for all that John said was true. "John did no miracle: but all things that he said concerning Jesus were true" (John 10:41; see notes). If the Jews had accepted the testimony of John, they wound not now be cherishing angry and rebellious thought, and have been so blinded to the truth and reality of things.
He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
Verse 35. - He was the lamp (λύχνος, not φῶς) that burneth and shineth. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (John 1:8). The glory of his appearance was a derived or kindled illumination (cf. Matthew 6:22; 2 Peter 1:19). (It is not against this inference that in Revelation 21:23 the Lamb is the Lamp of the New Jerusalem.) The household lamp or torch, when kindled, burns with more or less brilliance, but burns itself out, exhausts itself. One may walk in the light of it, see the way one should take, discharge duties that would otherwise be impossible, avoid perils that might without the lamp prove disastrous or destructive; but the capacity of the torch is soon reduced to a minimum. Bengel, Stier, Alford, think that the celebrated passage in Ecclus. 48:1 may be referred to: "Then stood up Elijah the prophet like as a fire, and his word burned as a lamp." This is not impossible, though it would stand alone as a distinct reference in the Gospels to any apocryphal book. Lunge has given a long series of the lamp and fire symbols of the Old Testament; the group of events in which the Lord appeared in flames of fire and clouds of glory, from Exodus 3 to Malachi 3:2, affirming John to be "the flame signal of Messiah, the last Old Testament form of the pillar of fire and candlestick of the temple, therefore the lamp at once flaming and shining." More than this, and more to the point, we find that, under the figure of lamps of fire, the messengers of God, the activities of the Church, here repeatedly set forth (cf. Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 25:1-8; Revelation 1:20; Philippians 2:15). John was the burning lamp, not the archetypal Light. Ye desired for a season to rejoice in his light. Many interpretations have been suggested, such as the exultation of a wedding party in the brief light of the torch bearer, announcing the approach of the bridegroom; or the dancing of ephemerides in the glitter of a lamp. The metaphor is lost in the solemn memory of the high gratification for a season which the populations of Judaea, Galilee, and the wilderness had manifested on the apparition of the great prophet. The universal acclaim soon subsided. The leaders of the people fell back when they heard John's call to repentance. Publicans and harlots pressed into the kingdom before the scribes and Pharisees. "The generation of vipers" did to John "whatsoever they listed." The secular power hushed his voice and crushed the man. "For a season" only did they listen to his word or respond to his challenge. His great testimony, though given to him by God, and by no means proceeding from his mere human consciousness, had been in the main unheeded. Wunsche quotes from 'Sota,' fol. 21, a, "Rabbi Menahem said that Solomon (Proverbs 6:23) compares 'prayer' with 'lamp,' and 'teaching' with 'light,' because the one flashes for the twinkling of an eye, comforts in the moment during which it shines; while the other, like the shining of the sun, burns evermore, and leads to eternal rest."
But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
Verse 36. -
(g) The witness of the works. But the witness which I have is greater than [that] of John. The testimony of John was memorable and uoteworthy in many respects. If the people had accepted it, they would have admitted the Divine authority of One who was "mightier" than John. The synoptic Gospels show that Jesus made a similar appeal to the conscience of his critics on a later occasion (Matthew 21:25, and parallels). Though John's baptism was "from heaven," and though John's testimony was "great," yet that which accompanied the ministry of Jesus was "greater" still. The words of John were not merely John's words, or they would have been valueless. Moreover, "the testimony that I have" is in itself convincing; it has a Divine, self-evidencing force, which, added to my word, confirms and establishes my claim. The proof or illustration of this is as follows: For the works which the Father hath given me that I should bring them to completion, the very works, which I am doing, bear witness concerning me, that the Father hath sent me. The works of Christ are his normal activities - the deeds which express the nature and compass of his will, and indicate the qualities of his Person. They would be τέρατα and θαύματα, should any other perform such things or live on such a platform of exalted activity. They are his "works." This term is often used for the special manifestations of his alliance with the supernatural, Divine realm (John 7:3; John 9:3; John 10:25, 32, etc.; John 14:10; 15:24). They are in their fulness and summation the ἔργον of the Lord (John 4:34; John 17:4). They are, moreover, "given" to him to "do" or to "finish." This idea is frequently expressed. "All things are given into his hand" (John 3:35), all judgment is given him to execute (John 5:22, 27). The Father hath given him self-existence (ver. 26; cf. John 17:2, 6, 9, 12, 24; John 18:9). It is impossible to dissociate these "works "from those great miracles which ought to command assent to his claims, even if, alas! his bare words are not sufficiently convincing. John's Gospel makes numerous references to these proofs of the Divine commission, these illustrations as well as evidences of his right to speak. But the "works" are not limited to the miraculous healings, to multiplication of breed and wine, and resurrection from the dead. The whole of his work, from his baptism and temptation to his own resurrection from the dead, was his ἔργον. This was made up of all the self-revelation of his life, of all his consecration and sympathy, of all his character, of all the resuscitation of dead souls, of all the joy he was pouring into broken hearts, and all the life he was evoking in moribund humanity. "These works that I am doing bear witness concerning me, that the Father hath sent me." They are of such a character that he confidently declares about them that they proclaim his Divine commission. The entire work, reaching special expression in certain typical acts and deeds, was greater than the verbal testimony which John bare to his mission. All that John said was true, but Christ's "works" prove it.
And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
Verses 37, 38. - The witness of the Father further elucidated. (See ver. 32.) Verse 37. - And the Father (himself), who sent me. (he) hath borne witness concerning me. If the "himself" be the genuine reading (and it is defended by Godet, M'Clellan, and Meyer), there would seem to be a special or direct and additional form of the Father's testimony. And several ancient and modern critics (Chrysostom, Bengel, Paulus, Godet) have seen in it a reference to the special "voice and shape" which were heard and teen by John and Jesus at the baptism, when heaven was opened, when a voice from heaven proclaimed him to be the well beloved and only begotten Son of God, and when the Spirit of God descended as a dove and abode upon him. This testimony was only given to the world through the consciousness and word of John, who, after receiving it, bore record that this was the Son of God. Meyer and many others, rather following the suggestion of De Wette that the inward drawing of the Father to the Son was that to which the Lord referred, would thus complete the testimony of the "works." This testimony, then, which is cited against the challenge, "Thou bearest witness concerning thyself," would be a purely subjective one. Westcott thinks it refers to the whole of the Old Testament ministry and prophetic and typical anticipation of the Christ, culminating in John the Baptist. This particular series of testimonies is referred to in vers. 39 and 47, etc. Moulton, who rejects the αὐτὸς sees no new, no direct, testimony in addition to that of the works, but the assertion that they are the voice of the Father - in a sense the very form of the Father, for the conviction of those who might if they would come to him. If the αὐτὸς must be retained, I think that we must suppose our Lord referring to the whole of those objective manifestations of the Father's will and mind concerning Christ which were outside of his own act or work; and all that shining through his face, that whispering through his word of what was the eternal Father's face and voice, and plainly distinguished from the work of the Son; e.g. the angels' song, the miraculous providence which protected his childhood, the opening of heaven at his baptism, the Divinity which attended him and which made his ministry so strange and strong an influence. Nor could he who had the whole of his life before him fail to be conscious of further testimonies from heaven and from Providence which, though unrecorded, would continue to set their seal upon his character and work. We must never forget that our Lord himself was a revelation of the Son. But the revelation of the Son in his ἔργα was accompanied throughout with another manifestation - that of the Father. The glory of the Lord shone round about him. Nevertheless, a difficulty is conceded as arising out of the unsusceptibility and limited opportunities of his hearers. Never have ye heard a voice of him, or seen a form of him. These voices and these sounds need opened ears and unsealed eyes. You (says Christ) have not heard that which you might have heard. You have not seen that which you might have seen. On a subsequent occasion he said to one of his disciples, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. How sayest thou, then, Show us the Father?" So that there was, indeed, the condition of adequate revelation of the Father provided for the disciples in the life of Christ, in the ministry of the Son of the Father. Moreover, it far exceeded the vision of God which was granted to patriarchs and prophets under the Old Testament dispensation. Doubtless the voice of Jehovah had been heard (Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 4:12), the face of Jehovah had been seen (Genesis 32:30; Exodus 24:10; Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 5:4, 24). Isaiah saw the glory of the Angel of the Lord (6; cf. John 12:41), and Ezekiel likewise by the river of Chebar (Ezekiel 3:23). Nevertheless, the evangelist, on the credit of the great utterance before us, has laid down, as the very climax of the prologue, "No man hath seen God at any time (πώποτε); the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." This language of the prologue shows that the true revelation of the Father's heart was not even granted to the noblest of the seers and patriarchs. Such manifestations as the visions of the Old Testament saints were not the veritable voice or form of the Father. Should mankind ever obtain vision or audition of the Father, it must be through the presence among them of him who had been forever in the bosom of the Father. Though these captious critics were in a position to have received this revelation of the Highest, they had not done so. "Ye have neither heard a voice of him, nor seen a form of him. You might have seen and heard and handled if you had chosen, but You will not come to me, you will not believe me, you will not yield to my claims as One sent to you from the Father!"
And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
Verse 38. - And further, you have not his Word (ΤΟΝ ΛΟΓΟΝ ΑΥΤΟΥ) abiding in you. The Word of the Father (for the αὐτου refers to the Father), i.e. the full expression of the Father's heart, was sounding through the voice of the Son of God, and might have entered into and become an abiding power in their inmost conscience and their spiritual life; but they had not received the "Word" of the Lord through the "Voice" of the Lord. The reason given is, Because him whom he (the Father) sent, him (this One) ye believe not. In other words, "Your lack of faith in me accounts for your perverse misconception, for your inability to see and hear all that there is of the Father's personal testimony to me." Some suspect a petitio principii in this argument, but the reasoning seems to be this; there is abundant evidence, corroboration, and cooperative glory, affirming the truth of all that Christ has said about himself as the Source of life and Judge of man; but the moral susceptibility of his hearers is paralyzed, and their faith in the most fundamental facts of their own experience is at fault. They seem impervious, not only to Christ's Word, but to the corroborative testimonies themselves.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Verses 39, 40. -
(d) The witness of the Scriptures. Verse 39. - Ye search the Scriptures. A large number of commentators, from Chrysostom and Augustine to Luther, Tholuck, Hengstenberg, M'Clellan, Luthardt, and Ewald, with the Authorized Version, regard this as an imperative command. This is grammatical, and corresponds to the language of Isaiah 34:16; but with Cyril, Bengel, De Wette, Meyer, Godet, Lange, Westcott, Plummer, Watkins, we think the whole context demands the indicative. The second clause, "because in them," etc., follows far more obviously upon an assertion than upon a precept. The "ye will not" that follows is far more in harmony with the indicative than with the supposed command. The Lord says, "You have a third great testimony to my claim, and yet you are not prepared to accept it." Ye search the Scriptures. The verb ἐρεῦναν is used (John 7:52; 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10) for minute, prolonged search. The kind of investigation which the rabbis spent upon the text and letter of the Holy Scriptures is a proverb, and led to the allegorical mystical meanings of the Genesisaras and other Hebrew literature. "Ye search the Scriptures" rather than the living Word, rather than the Divine meaning and message from the living God which they do contain. This is one term out of many which the Lord employed for the sacred literature which was the great heritage of the Hebrew people. Elsewhere he called it "the Law," "the Law and prophets," "Moses and the prophets," "your Law," "the wisdom of God." He admits their study, prolonged and eager, of the sacred writings, and he justifies the ground and motive of such search, viz.: because ye think in them ye have eternal life; or, ye shall have, or shall find, eternal life. Some powerful critics, like Meyer, urge that our Lord agrees so far with the Jews, that he sympathizes with their search, and that censure or ironical language would be inconsistent with the Saviour's reverence for the Scriptures. But the expression is very unusual on that hypothesis, "Ye think [or, 'imagine'] ye have in them," rather than "ye have through them." Surely our Lord is here condemning the superstitious idea that, in the mere possession of the letter, they were possessors of the eternal life; that, apart from the indwelling Word, apart from the heart of the message itself, some magical advantage was springing. Hillel, whoso view of Scripture may be expressed in a saying ('Aboth,' 2:8), "He who has gotten to himself words of the Law hath gotten to himself the life of the world to come," here differs utterly from the Lord, who, on the doctrine of Holy Scripture, takes ground similar to that which he had taken with reference to the temple and the sabbath. It is not the bare possession of the Scriptures, nor the prolonged examination of its mere letter, that is the condition of eternal life. "Search" which is originated and stimulated by a vague idea of the life-giving force of the letter, is illusive. We may think that in them we have eternal life, but our Lord would undeceive us. Moreover, from the depths of his own consciousness and knowledge of his own mission, he adds: And they are they which testify concerning me. This is one of the keynotes of New Testament teaching, viz. Christ's idea of the Old Testament, that it was a sketch or portraiture drawn in successive ages and on various material of himself - that it was an outline of great principles which he was about, not to rub out, but to fill in, not "to destroy, but to fulfil." The histories, the experiences, the ceremonial, the dynasties; the offices, the songs and prayers, the predictive and typical sorrows there depicted, were all prelibations and unconscious prophecies of himself. "They testify concerning me," and, together with my works and with my forerunner and, more than all, with my Father's own voice speaking and my Father's own face shining through all, they complete the manifold testimony to the fact that I have come to do his will, to work with him, to deliver, to restore, to give life, and to execute judgment also, when my hour is come. If this be so, then strange, inconsistent, and tragic is the ultimate issue -
And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
Verse 40. - And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. This fearful conclusion of the whole matter is charged upon the responsibility of man. Doubtless, elsewhere, the will is described as itself made willing by the Divine attraction, by the grace of the Father. "He that hath seen and heard of the Father [seen, i.e. his shape and heard his voice - seen his shape and heard his voice in my ministry and manifestation], cometh unto me." Yet the grace of God working directly on character or indirectly by other revelations, never obliterates the sense of responsibility. The appeal of God is made to the will of man, whether we consciously or unconsciously are made "willing in the day of his power" (cf. John 7:17; John 6:44, 67; John 8:44). The sad tone of this solemn charge corresponds with and does much to explain the pathetic cry, "O Jerusalem... how often would I have gathered thy children... and ye would not!" while the entire passage suggests that this appeal was only one specimen out of many such discourses, one hint of the numerous sayings and self-manifestations, one of many accumulated proofs of his Divine commission, out of which the belief of the evangelists and the invincible assent of the Church arose, that he was indeed "the Word made flesh," "the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
I receive not honour from men.
Verses 41-47. -
(d) The effect of the revelation of the Son upon the Jews. Verses 41, 42. - This appeal to the will of man was apparently entirely misunderstood, and ended for the time in failure. "They would not come." Everything was prepared, but none were ready or willing to accept even so rich a blessing as life itself. This is the refrain of the whole Bible: "Ye will not; .... Ye would not;" "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" "I called, and ye refused;" "I wrote the great things of my Law; ye have counted them as strange things." Our Lord proceeds in the closing words to account in some respects for this unwillingness. I receive not glory from men, but I know you (ἔγνωκα, I have come by experience or intuition to such knowledge of you), that you have not the love of God in you. The love of God is the principle of all obedience; and Christ elsewhere declares it to be the first and great commandment of the Law. But love is the principle of all knowledge. "He that loveth not knoweth not." This principle reaches its fullest expression when we learn the greater truth that "God is love." It is true of all objects of love, the highest kind of knowledge is not possible without love. This is pre-eminently the case when we think of knowing God. Since God is essential Love, without experiencing love we cannot realize that Divine essence. Again, there is an elementary faith that precedes elementary love, but when love is once awakened, faith again deepens, and love grows by what it feeds upon, until the faith becomes vision and the love rapture. But why the opening words, I receive not glory from men? Probably they intimate opposition and questioning to some such effect as this: "Thou hast declared thyself the Giver of life and resurrection, and charged our lack of spiritual life upon our unwillingness to believe these claims and to submit ourselves to these exalted assumptions or to go to thee for life. Thou art eager, after all, for our approval and glory." To this Christ replied, "Glory from men I receive not. It is not for my sake, but for yours, I say, 'Come unto me and live;' but, alas! having searched you through and through, I discern no love, none of the spirit out of which the forces of faith can be evolved. The reason why you are unwilling to come to me for life is that you are measuring me by yourselves, and have not that self-emptying and abnegation and distrust out of which faith and love, love and faith, must ever spring."
But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.
I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.
Verse 43. - I have come in the name (i.e. in the power, with the credentials, with the encompassing revelation) of my Father, and ye receive me not. Your idea of the Father's glory is so profoundly different from the reality, that you do not recognize it when it is offered you and shining over you. Christ did not profess to have come in his own name. He was not a mere evolution of humanity, or of Israel, or of the house of David. He was the Only Begotten of the Father, born from above, sent down from heaven. The language of the world was, "This is not Divine;" "It is too gentle, too gracious, too sympathetic for God!" The religious world listened eagerly for some echo of the trumpet peals of Sinai. It desired a king greater than Solomon, a prophet more terrible than Elijah. When he came with the real glory robes of the love of God, and with the majesty of the Name of the Lord, there was widespread disappointment and cruel rejection of his commission. Should another come in his own (proper, peculiar) name, that is, with no testimony from heaven, seeking "honour (δόξα, glory) from men," creating a sovereignty by enlisting the voices of men, compromising with evil, making no warfare against the power of the world, allowing the legitimacy of the throne of the prince of this world; - should he come in his own name, alas! him (that one) ye will receive. The eagerness on the part of the Jews to find the Messiah has led them to accept in some sort no fewer than sixty-four false Christs (Schudt, 'Judische Merkwurdigkeit,' 6:27-30; Bengel and Meyer). Nor must the Christian Church take the flattering unction that it is free from this charge. The teacher that can utilize to the widest extent the fashionable worldliness, and can mingle the pungent human condiment with the princely food of the King's banqueting house, is he who at the present hour meets with the loudest response and the readiest reception. There is solemn warning here for statesman and author, artist and preacher.
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
Verse 44. - How can ye believe, seeing that ye receive glory one from another, and ye seek not the glory that cometh from the only God? The difficulties of faith in himself multiply as he proceeds. First, he insisted that he had searched their hearts, and found there none of that elementary "love of God" which is the prime condition of knowledge or faith. Then he showed that an appreciation on their part of the type of character antithetic to his own, i.e. of the man who comes in his own name and seeks his glory from men, must blind them to that which is most characteristic of himself. They will receive the prophet, the pseudo-Christ, for the very reason that makes his own mission so unpalatable. He strikes right across their taste, their passion, their prejudice. He now lays down a new or modified statement of one of the prime conditions of spiritual faith. There is a universal desire for δόξα, glory, of some sort. The original meaning of δόξα here almost forces itself into the text. Δόξα "opinion," thought, and the good opinion which one person may entertain with reference to another. The glory of a Greek citizen was the good opinion of his fellow citizens or fellow countrymen. God's "glory" is the universal judgment of all intelligences, including his own concerning himself. The highest "glory" of man is the approval of Almighty God; the "opinion" which is absolutely true and is not mingled or contaminated with any flattering fictions. The minds which deliberately ignore this highest and only true source of glory, and substitute for it the glory of the ignorant plaudits and unreal approval, and unhesitating homage of the clique to which they belong, are m a moral condition incapacitating them to believe in the Christ. How should they? How can they? It is not possible for that man to believe Christ at all whose mind is so befogged, whose moral judgments are so dislocated. "The only God (παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεου), (see John 17:3; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 6:15). The use of this epithet in the Fourth Gospel is of singular value. Moreover, in this very connection the Son is so exalted above the world, and the Father comes so close to man in Christ, that we cannot wonder that Gnosticism and Arianism rapidly evolved a Ditheism of great peril to the conscience. The Lord, notwithstanding the lifting of his humanity to the throne of universal judgment, and the lifting of his Sonship into the bosom of God, on more than one occasion reminds his hearers of the unity, the solity, of Almighty God.
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
Verse 45. - Think not, he added, with one concluding and sweeping exposition of their relation to the old covenant and to himself - Think not, as ye might be disposed to do, that I will accuse you to (before; see Syriac k'dom) the Father (not referring to the judgment day, where he will appear as Judge, but now), as One in intimate and awful relation with the Father, or as One whose words have set up a standard which is much loftier or severer than that which you are prepared to allow. He has charged them already with having missed the deepest teaching of their own Scriptures, with fastening on the letter rather than on the spirit of the Divine Word; that, though the prima article of t heir creed was the doctrine of "the only God," they had no love of God, no appreciation of God as the only Source of worthy glory, and therefore neither faith nor knowledge. They were snapping up worthless pretenders, and drinking the flattery of men rather than the approval of God. They were blind to the glory and deaf to the voice of the Father, and so would not come to him for life. These sad facts need not be, will not be, pressed against them, seeing that there is a primary accusation already laid. He that (or, there is one that) accuseth you, Moses, on whom ye have set your hope (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:10); Moses himself, in that very Law which you are now making the ground of the rejection of my claims - Moses is your accuser; Moses appears against you. "This," says Lange, "is the last and mightiest stroke." "Elenchus maxime aptus ad conclusionem" (Bengel); i.e. "The spirit of Moses is my vindication, the teaching of Moses is typical of mine, the institutions of Moses were symbolic of my coming and work. The predictions of Moses pointed out my coming. The mighty words of Moses will not save you, unless you penetrate to their inner meaning."
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
Verses 46, 47. - For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me. The reason for the previous saying is introduced by γάρ. The form of the conditional sentence shows that the protasis is a supposition of an event contrary to the fact. They were not believing Moses, though they were putting a vain and illusive confidence in him; and hence they were not believing in Christ. Here is the secret of the antagonism to the Lord. A deeper understanding of their own Scripture would involve an acceptance of the claims of Christ. For he wrote of me. The old saying contains Christ's utterance: Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus Testamentum in Novo patet. Reference is made to the great place which Moses gave to the first promise, to the typical deliverances of a fallen world, to the hopes of a redeeming Seed. Christ referred to the Mosaic type involved in the spirit willing to sacrifice the Only Begotten, to the creation of the birthright blessing, the visions of the dying Israel, to the blessings on Judah; to the significance of the Law, of the tabernacle, of the Passover, of the Day of Atonement, of prophet, priest, and king, and the very special prophecy concerning a Prophet like unto himself. More than this, Moses had set forth in the Decalogue the portrait sketch of the perfect Man, of the Divine life which the Lord Jesus proceeded to fill out, to fulfil. He awakened by the Law that sense of sin and sinfulness which the Lord Christ had come to soothe and obliterate. but if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? "They are easier for you to understand; you have them ever on your tongue. If their meaning is missed, the deeper truths of my words will be more inaccessible to you." The antithesis is rather between the "his" and "my" than between the "writings" and "words." "This charge of not believing Moses, addressed to people who were put in a fury by the pretended violation of one of the Mosaic commandments, recalls other words of Jesus (Matthew 23:29-32), 'Ye build the tombs of the prophets, wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are children of them that killed the prophets" (Godet).
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?