THIS ACCOUNT presents our Lord in the character of the Son of God. Matthew portrays Him as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham. Luke impresses us with His humanity, Mark with His service, but here we rise above these lesser glories, and learn of His divine relationship. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke are each in accord with the truth they teach, Mark needs none for the Servant, but John unveils Him as the Word before His advent in fleshly form.
The keynote is struck in the first sentence. He is the Word, the Expression, the Logos. God is revealing Himself here through the medium of sound. He appeals to human ears. While this is a higher method than an appeal to power or acts, it is a much lower means than that used in this day of grace, for to us He is presented as the Image of God. He appeals to our spiritual sight.
A comparison of John's ministry and Paul's for the nations is suggested by the name given to John. In recognition of His tempestuous character, the Lord calls him a "son of thunder".
Paul's first meeting with the Lord was like the lightning. The light of a flash travels about a million times as fast as the thunderclap which it occasions, and perhaps a billion times as far. No sound reaches us except from earth and even then, at no great distance. We can see stars so far from us that no human speech can more than suggest their remoteness.
So then, John presents the Son of God as the Word, in His relation to the earth. Paul also presents Him as the Son of His love, but rather in relation to the celestial universe. And, high as the spiritual flights of the beloved disciple, the apostle of the nations reveals a transcendent realm of truth to which John was a stranger. He was a minister of the Circumcision, and such blessing as he doles out to the nations is entirely dependent on Israel's prior bliss. Paul bases all his blessing for the nations on Israel's previous apostasy. It is a notable fact that this account was not written until after the apostolic ministry had closed. Possibly none of the other apostles even saw it. They never used it in the period comprised by the Acts. Paul never read it. He was able to fulfill the most marvelous of all ministries without a single glance into this narrative. Indeed, his later ministries were not concerned with Christ after the flesh and it would have had but little appeal to him so far as its proclamation was concerned. Being, then, given after all present need for it was past, it undoubtedly is intended for the Israel of the future, especially in the millennia! era. Unlike the other accounts, it suggests Christ's rejection at its commencement, and soon unveils a preview of the marriage of the Lambkin which takes place during the thousand years, and gives a series of seven signs, all of which find their fulfillment in the day of Jehovah.
The seven signs are specially designed to support the central thought that He is the incarnate Word. Unlike the accounts elsewhere, there is no personal contact, or action. He speaks and it is done.
His word has power because of what He is. The water blushed into wine at the word of Him Who was the true Vine (15:1). He not only said "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life" (14:6), but could tell the courtier, "Go. Your son is living" (4:50). He is the Door (10:7) through which the impotent man was saved. He is the Bread (6:35) that fed the five thousand (6:5-14). As the Good Shepherd (10:11) He seeks His sheep in the storm (6:18). As the Light (9:5) He opens the blind man's eyes (9:7). As the Resurrection and the Life (11:25) He rouses Lazarus (11) from the tomb. It is the word of "I AM" which displays its potency in the seven signs of this evangel. Briefly, the words of Christ are substantiated by a divine sign language which only those who knew the Word of God could understand.
As God always was, there is no absolute beginning brought before us in the Scriptures. Both here and in Gen.11 the article the is lacking in the originals, showing that it refers to the commencement of the subject in hand. In Genesis, it is the beginning of creation. Here it is the beginning of revelation. The phrase might be rendered idiomatically, "To begin with".
The Logos, or Saying, or Expression, or Word, brings before us the revelation of God through sound, which appeals to the ears of His creatures. It is inferior to and in contrast with the revelation in which Christ is presented to sight, as the Image of God. Paul was saved by a sight of His transcendent glory. John was called by His word. Sound is slow and confined to the earth. Sight is swift and searches the heavens. This suggests the limited sphere of John's ministry.
"With" suggests two Greek words neither of which is used here. hence for accuracy's sake it is best to translate literally "toward". "With God" has no cogency in this connection. "Toward" indicates that the revealed Word pointed the creature in the direction of God. Take every "thus saith the Lord" in the Hebrew Scriptures and they all point us to God, and reveal some attribute of the divine character.
It is impossible for the mind to entertain the two thoughts that the Word was toward (or with) God, and the Word was God. Nothing which is toward (or with) an object can actually be that object. The difficulty lies in the difference between English and Greek idiom. "Was" and "is" are usually omitted in Greek, unless they are used in a figurative sense. Thus "This is my body" does not mean that the bread of the communion actually is the Lord's body but represents it. As the bread stands for the Lord's body, so the Word took the place of God. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures spoke: it was an oral revelation. He was revealed as Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai, etc., by means of utterances which came to the fathers through the prophets. while His essence was concealed. As at Sinai, His voice was heard, but He was hid.
3 Tyndale, the first translator of our English Bible, used the pronoun "it" in referring to the Word, nor did he ever change it in his revisions.
3 Being is based on the Word of God; creation is connected with Christ as the Image of God (Col. 1:15-17). The reason of all existence is evident. It provides a field for God's self-revelation. Sounds without ears are nothing and sights without eyes are vain. God wishes to be known: hence the need of creatures and a medium of revelation which is also the means of creation.
4 The Word of God is presented as the channel of life in both the physical (Gen.1:11,20,24,27) and spiritual spheres (Ps.119:25); as well as a light in the prevailing darkness (Ps.119:105). Yet even the nation to whom the Word of God came remained in dense darkness.
6 The opening paragraph is a summary of the Hebrew revelation. The law and the prophets were until John. He, too, belonged to that period, and concluded the testimony to the Coming One.
13 An ancient reading, preserved by some of the early Fathers, is exceedingly apt and suggestive. It has "Who was begotten" and refers this statement to the incarnation of the Word, rather than to the spiritual birth of believers.
14 The pre-existence of Christ is clearly implied in the statement that the Word became flesh. The Word had not assumed a human form before; now It becomes a human being. In this way, grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. The divine expressions of the Hebrew Scriptures now converge in the Man. His previous place is further confirmed by John, when he insists that He was before him, though, as to flesh, He was after him.
18 The various theophanies of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Isaiah saw (Isa.6:1), were not actual discoveries of the Deity, but sights of messengers through whom God communicated with mankind in the past (Hb.2:2).
19 The Jews did well in sending priests to John. But the priests had no sense of sin, so do not inquire about a sacrifice, but whether he is the ruler or prophet for whom they are looking.
Government and education are still the panaceas proposed by the majority of priest-craft. But John wisely withdraws himself from their notice, and as the Voice, heralds the coming of the Messiah Himself.
21-34 Compare Mt. 3:3-17; Mk. 1:2-11; Lu.3:4-22, 29-36.
29 First John points out God's Lamb for the sinner, then for the saint. No other animal was so freely used in the sacrifices of the Mosaic ritual. Not only was a lamb slain at the passover (Ex.13:3), but it might be used as a sin offering (Lev .4:32) or a guilt offering (Lev.5:6) and was prescribed for the cleansing of a leper (Lev.14:12). But never, as here, did it take away the sin of the whole world. But it was not slain for sin only, but for worship and communion. Every morning and every evening witnessed the smoke of an ascending offering (Lev .29:38). It was used as a peace offering (Ex.3:7). Besides this it was offered with the wave offering (Lev.23:11), a symbol of the resurrection. Thus on seven different occasions, a lamb was used to depict the sacrificial work of the Messiah. Indeed, His ministry of approximately four years may well be viewed as the antitype of the four days during which the Passover lamb was kept before it could be offered (Ex.12:6). During this period He displayed His marvelous perfections to the world. Not a blemish was found in Him. No wonder that the disciples, when they found the true Lamb of God, left John, and followed Him!
40 The call of Simon Peter is worthy of careful consideration, as it is undoubtedly an index of his ministry. It is especially instructive when viewed in contrast with the call of Paul. He was introduced to Messiah by a blood relation. Hence he, in turn, proclaims Christ to the Circumcision. Paul met Christ Himself come down from heaven, outside the land, hence he goes to the Uncircumcision with a heavenly message. Peter was a disciple of John, who was eager to welcome the Messiah. Paul was His most malignant enemy. Hence Paul preaches an evangel of undiluted transcendent grace, such as Peter himself never even apprehended.
42 The contrast between Paul and Peter is further emphasized by their names. Simon, or Simeon, is Hebrew for "hear", or "hearken". He hearkened to the Word incarnate, and became His disciple. "Saul" suggests the disobedience of Israel's first king, and the words of Samuel, "Behold, to hearken is better than sacrifice! To attend than the fat of rams" (1 Sam.15:22). Simon was saved by sound. Saul was saved by sight. One was rewarded for his obedience, the other was favored because of his disobedience. One is the leading exponent of God's mercy to Israel, the other of God's transcendent and gratuitous grace to the nations.
Both were given new names to accord with the character of their commissions. Simon was called Cephas or Peter, meaning "rock", because he was to be used as a foundation. Saul was called Paul, because his ministry filled the "interval" between the repudiation of Israel in the past and their reception in the future.
44 This is the western Bethsaida.
46 A devout Jew had good cause to question whether the Messiah should come out of Nazareth, unless he knew that He had been born in Bethlehem and His parents had gone there as a refuge from Herod's successor (Mt.2:22). Moreover, though there was a spoken prophecy that He should be called a Nazarene (Mt.2:23), the name does not occur even once in the Hebrew Scriptures, or in the Talmud. "The Nazarene" was a term of reproach, and was used only by those who wished to insult Him.
47 Nathanael (gift of God) is a delightful type of the faithful in Israel. His position "under the fig tree" suggests those who longed for Messiah's kingdom and were looking for redemption in Israel, knowing from the Scriptures that the time spoken of by Daniel drew near. Nathanael heard His proclamation and acknowledged His right to the throne, and His higher glories as the Son of God. To such, He promises a place in the coming kingdom. The opened heaven is a millennial picture, when all like Nathanael will enjoy the blessedness of heaven and earth united under the rule of their Messiah.
1 Cana, in Hebrew, means "acquire". The marriage feast is a sign of the time when the Son acquires the kingdom, and as the bridegroom is elated over the bride, so will He be elated over Israel (Isa. 62:3,5). So long as they trust in the law, which was graven on stone, they will be in want of the wine which gladdens the heart of God and mortals (Jud.9:13). When they are restored to Jehovah, He will write His laws on their hearts. This is the new covenant He will make with them in that day (Jer.31:31-33). Then He will perform the much greater miracle of turning right into rejoicing and justice into joy. The power to transmute water into wine was the sign that He is competent to fill their hearts with the joy and gladness which can come only with the kingdom. He is the true Vine.
Hence He is the Messiah. In general, it reveals the principle that God has the best still in reserve for His creatures, and that their lack is a lesson to lead them into an appreciation of His goodness. Men put their best forward at first, but God leaves His for the last. His saints will be satisfied but never satiated with Him Who is the never-failing source of joy. The best is always on before. Yet the poor wine serves its purpose to commend the good.
13 As the Passover was at hand, and every Jewish family was preparing for it by banishing all leaven from their houses (Ex.12:15 ), the Lord went up to His Father's house to cleanse it from the leaven of covetousness (1 Co.5:10). Little did the priests dream that the dreaded leaven was in the most sacred place in all the land! While the meanest house was being cleansed of literal leaven, the priests actually allowed spiritual leaven in the courts of Jehovah. More than this, covetousness is idolatry (Col.3:5 ). They boasted that they abhorred all idolatry, and here we find it in the very house of God! No wonder, when the Lord went up to Jerusalem, He found it necessary to cleanse His Father's house in preparation for the coming Passover. He drove out the beasts with a small whip, and ordered the culprits out of the temple precincts. Idolatry and leaven should find no harbor in the house of His Father!
18 The Jews ask for a sign. But if they have become so dense that they utterly fail to read the significance of His act in cleansing the temple of its spiritual leaven, how can they understand when He reveals its end? Priesthood had apostatized, sacrifice had failed, the temple was doomed. Hence He points them away from the type to the Antitype. The temple was defiled, but He was holy. God had deserted it, but now He dwelt in His Son. The sacrifices were of no avail, they only wearied Jehovah. Then it was that He came to do God's will (Heb.10:5-10). They would shudder at the thought of razing Herod's temple. They would never be guilty of such an awful crime against God! Yet their very zeal for Jehovah led them to destroy the true temple, His body. Mere religion, even if it is divine, only darkens the mind and hardens the heart. Forms are futile; it is the spirit that gives life. The very priests are ignorant of sacrifice. They not only defile the literal temple with leaven, but are absolutely blind to the true temple of God when He appears in their midst. Even when He speaks of it they fail to find the force of the figure.
24 Our Lord's intimate insight into humanity is fully illustrated in this very evangel. No matter of what class or spiritual condition, all hearts were open to His gaze. He discovered the spjritual ignorance of Nicodemus, the teacher in Israel (3:10), yet recognized in Peter, the fellaheen fisherman, a spiritual (14:2) and a fond and faithful friend (21:17). Guileless Nathanael is amazed at His acumen (1:47), while Judas' treachery was ever before Him from the very first (13:11). The woman of Samaria concluded that He knew all her past (4:17), and the impotent man at Bethesda found that He fully understood his former failure (5:6). The applause of the crowd did not blind Him to the motive which prompted it. He knew that they had no hunger for spiritual food. He is aware of all things (21:17). Our character, our conduct, our condition, our inmost motives are transparent to His view. No wonder He did not entrust Himself to faith secured by signs!
1 We have found an unholy temple, an unspiritual priesthood, and now we are introduced to an ignorant teacher! Intense application to a single textbook for a whole life had not taught him the elements of the truth! Nicodemus, however, was impressed with the Lord's works, little as he understood His words. Like the rest, he takes literally what is figurative. He should have known from Ezekiel, the prophet, that Israel could not enter the kingdom without a new spirit (Eze.36:26). Spiritual regeneration, the one imperative condition, apart from which the kingdom cannot be entered, is utterly beyond his erudition. All that he considered vital was physical relationship with the favored nation.
The Lord did not give out regeneration as good news, but as bad news. This is not the gospel, even for the Circumcision. The evangel is always concerned with God and His Christ, never with man and his needs or efforts. Of the latter nothing good can be said, no evangel can be formulated. The new birth is not an evangel in any sense. It makes a demand he has no means of meeting.
For one like Nicodemus, expecting to enter the kingdom by physical generation, it would be quite a blow to demand spiritual regeneration. Men are utterly helpless in regard to their physical generation. They can do no more to accomplish their spiritual regeneration. It is the sovereign work of God's spirit.
Searching as the figure is, it does not probe nearly so deeply into human helplessness as the truth for the present economy of God's grace. Now, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Co.5:17). In spirit, we skip the era of the kingdom, the renascence, and enter the new creation, over a thousand years later. A new birth will fit them for a life on earth during the millennial eon. The new creation fits us for our celestial destiny. They will receive a rejuvenation of the faculties, we will be changed at the resurrection, and receive powers and capacities far beyond our present possibilities. Regeneration keeps company with repentance and baptism. The new creation accompanies the dispensation of the conciliation (2 Co.5:18).
14 Nicodemus chose the cover of night, to save his reputation; for he was a proud Pharisee who would not care to have his name coupled with Christ's. How it must have humbled him to be compared with the serpent-bitten Israelites of the wilderness! Scholar that he was, he could not understand regeneration, but the most foolish could look away from themselves to the serpent and find life. This he undoubtedly did, for later he ventured to speak in Christ's behalf (7:50) and he came openly in the daytime to bring spices for His burial (19:39).
16 This gives us, not the measure, but the character of God's love-not "so", but "thus". Nor is it a thing of the past-"loved". The gift of His Only Begotten is an expression of His timeless love. Whenever man's love is mentioned it is circumscribed in time and extent. But God's love knows no bounds except those it imposes on itself. The character of the God Nicodemus knew confined Him within Israel's narrow pale, and represented Him as a Lawgiver, demanding, and giving only as a reward. Now His love breaks through the narrow confines of the favored nation and shows Him a munificent Giver, imparting eonian life to all who believe. This evangel is especially adapted to the coming eon, when Israel is once more the channel of blessing to the nations. Good as it is, it falls far below the outflow of favor for the present economy. Now we have not only eonian life, but justification and reconciliation. Now God's love urges Him to actually beseech His enemies to be conciliated to Him. Grace will flow out through Israel to the nations in the regeneration. Now it overflows to the nations in far more lavish measure. Compare the grace here revealed with that displayed in Romans and especially Ephesians. Life alone is promised here; there we have righteousness and peace and exaltation to celestial honors far beyond the range of the fullest interpretation of this passage.
17 While it was not the mission of Christ to condemn, yet, being the Light, He exposed the darkness. The priests and Pharisees were judged by their hatred of the Light.
25 Ceremonial cleansing is the true definition of baptism, Before this, baptisms were a common feature of the Jewish ceremonial system, but were usually connected with the temple and the laver and were done by the person himself. John was called "the baptist" because he introduced the new method of doing it for others, This created a new unity. All baptized by John were distinguished from the rest of the nation by their cleansing. Now, however, the Lord's disciples baptize and John's disciples are going to Him, thus forming a new group and threatening to absorb John's disciples. So John defines his relation to Christ. He is simply a forerunner. He is glad to have his disciples leave him for the Messiah, his Master.
29 Christ is the Bridegroom. The baptized Israelites are the bride, John the baptist is the friend. Israel of old was the wife of Jehovah, having been espoused to Him in the wilderness (Jer.2:2;31:32). She treacherously departed from Him (Eze.16:3,15,59,60). He divorced her (Jer.3:8-6). Though the law does not allow it (Deut.24:1-4), yet He will invite her back again (Jer.3:1-14). She will yet marry Him under the new covenant (Jer.31:31-37). Meanwhile, He has pledged Himself to keep her for Himself (Hos.3:5). Babylon is the false bride, for it will be an imitation of the true. The new Jerusalem, containing the twelve tribes of Israel, will be the bride of the Lambkin (Un.21:2-9). The nations are outside (Un.21:24). So far as we are aware, marriage is confined to the earth. It is not a figure of heavenly realities, but of earthly bliss. It is for the faithful in Israel. We have a nearer and dearer place, as members of Christ's body. So close are we that He cannot hate us, but nourishes and cherishes us as we do the members of our own body (Eph.5:29).
31 John the baptist was of the earth like other men: the Lord came from above.
36 This must be left to the time in which John was speaking, God is conciliated now, since Christ has died and Israel has been set aside, so that His indignation is not against the stubborn now. He is beseeching all to be conciliated (2Co.5:19).
4 He must come through Samaria. This is the compulsion of grace, for Samaria had small claim upon His consideration. The seventeenth of second Kings shows us what a mongrel race they were, and how incurably idolatrous. They never had conformed to the divine ritual. The Jews had no intercourse with them. We do not wonder, then, that the Lord meets an outcast woman at Jacob's spring. Nicodemus was too proud to visit the Lord during daylight. The woman was too shamed to visit the spring in the evening, when all other women came. So she endures the heat of the midday sun to avoid their insults. Nicodemus offered the Lord no refreshment. The woman thought she could give Him none. But it is from sinners, not the self-righteous, that God derives joy.
This scene suggests a marvelous thought. The Lord first presents His need, and then hers. This is the true order. It is God Who is thirsty, first of all. He needs and desires the affectionate fellowship of His creatures. He would not condescend to make His desires known to a haughty Pharisee, but to the humiliated outcast He does not hesitate, even though it was considered a disgrace to talk to a woman in such circumstances.
11 Like Nicodemus, she fails to fathom the figure of speech. As physical life is dependent on water, so spiritual life is sustained by the Spirit and word of God. We are so accustomed to a plentiful supply of water that the force of the figure is largely lost with us. In the arid East, the thirsty traveler knows something of the delight of a drink of pure water. There the professional water seller carries a porous clay jar, which keeps the water cool by evaporation, and two tinkling cups, in which he serves it to customers, as he goes along shouting (Isa.55:1). A spring was a prized possession. They often cost enormous labor, and were very deep. A whole town depended on this spring for its very life.
But a physical figure of spiritual realities always falls short. Jacob's spring was a deep well. There was no windlass or bucket. Travelers were expected to carry their own long leather buckets. But the Lord and His disciples were not equipped with comforts. This was well, for it gave Him a good excuse to break the stringent etiquette which forbade a man speaking to a strange woman.
How different is the spirit He imparts! It is an artesian spring welling up and overflowing with blessing to all around. No need to draw, or a bucket to lift a scant supply! No need to walk a long distance with huge water jars! The spirit is within and becomes a stream surging forth to others.
19 The ancient controversy between Jerusalem and Samaria was most bitter in connection with the proper place of worship. Of course, Jerusalem was right and Samaria was wrong, for God had chosen the city of David for His dwelling place. Yet now we are confronted with the strange contradiction that, whereas He found idolatry in the temple at Jerusalem, He finds true adoration in Samaria! We would go to the magnificent ritual at Jerusalem to find pure worship. We would go to the rebellious unauthorized shrine at Samaria for idolatry. Not so He.
The same is true of our Lord's message. We would have demanded a new birth from the moral outcast and discussed the nature of God and worship with the religious Jew. But He, with wisdom from above, insists on regeneration when dealing with the respectable religionist, and reveals His spiritual secrets to the moral leper of Samaria.
24 True worship is not a matter of place or of ritual, but must correspond with its Object, Who is spirit. In the present era of grace, we worship Him wherever and whenever we please, and He deigns to dwell in us. Heartfelt adoration is hindered by forms and set ceremonies. Prayer that flows forth freely; praise that pours forth spontaneously; beseeching that breaks the bands of convention and precedent, mean more to God than petitions repeated like a prayer wheel and supported by custom or habit. The religious "exercises" of Christendom are like the sacrifices of old, which He could not bear. Let us not draw near with our lips when our hearts are far from Him.
27 In the stringent etiquette of the East it was not proper for a man to speak to a woman. Only such an excuse as a drink of water made it possible for Him to address her at all.
28 The fruitfulness of God's grace shines forth in this narrative. Her need was great and it became the measure of her satisfaction. Nicodemus knew little lack and did not feel constrained to tell his joy to his friends and neighbors. We know of none who were reached through his efforts. But this poor woman is so filled with joy that she forgets how her message reflects on her own sad life. Here was a Man Who knew all her sordid past, and yet she did not shun Him! His grace had captured her heart and filled it overfull. She must share her joy with others. Her fervor was infectious. The men of the city did not murmur at the morals of the messenger, but marveled at her message. She did not ask them to believe her, but constrained them to come and hear Him. Such are the blessed results when grace grows in the fertile field of sin.
31 Perhaps the most notable result of this marvelous meeting was the satisfaction which it brought to Christ. And this is still more marvelous when we reflect that it is the indirect result of the most sordid of sins. Throughout His ministry, He emphasized the fact that sinners were a necessary complement to His message of love and grace, but this seems to be all unheeded in this self-righteous generation. Sin is a necessary factor in the revelation of God to man and indirectly essential to the satisfaction of His love. Love cannot be lavished on those who are deserving. But to be undeserving presupposes sin and all its train of evils.
There can be no Saviour without a sinner, no Healer apart from sickness, no Justifier where there is no unrighteousness, no Reconciler unless first there be enmity. Let us enjoy the great satisfaction of knowing that the evil influences in the world are not merely beneath the control of God so that they cannot get beyond bounds but their limited exercise provides the most potent ingredient, not only in the ultimate bliss of His creatures, but in that of the Creator.
46 The first sign, at Cana, signifies the blessing of Israel in the kingdom. This, the second sign, is also at Cana, hence is also concerned with the coming kingdom. The wine prefigured the joy of the favored nation. This second sign foreshadows the healing of that nation. The effect of human government is aptly figured by a burning fever. Never was this more evident than after the great European conflict. The delirium, the weakness, the oppression, the dread of death, possesses the nations. It will be far worse at the time of the end. It will not be cured by human medicaments, but by the coming of Christ. The seventh hour is suggestive of the seventh seal, and the seventh trumpet which proclaims that the world kingdom became our Lord's and His Christ's. . . (Un.11:15). Christ is the Way and the Truth and the Life. He will assuage the pain and unrest which possesses Israel today. He will change their feverish delirium into a quiet, restful peace.
49 "Lord, descend! " is the only cure for the earth's political ills. The resort to arms has not healed but rather aggravated the sores which caused it. Instead of being the last war, it seems to be the seed of further conflict. Even if the war weary world should patch up a truce, it would not last. There is no other cure but "Lord, descend!"
This sign does not signify blessing to the nations now, during Israel's defection. At present, the fever of the nations continues unabated and all our blessings are spiritual and celestial. The fact that the courtier was connected with the king, suggests that the rule of Israel over the nations is in view, and that they are included in the blessing. The Lord does not visit the son, but heals him at a distance. So He will deal with the nations in the millennial era. When He comes for us we are snatched away to meet Him in the air and enter His very presence, and remain with Him, and share His heavenly rule for the eons. The nations on earth in that day will not be so highly blessed.
52 Yesterday, that is, before sunset of the same day.
1 The third sign brings before us another picture of Israel before and after His advent. They are not only joyless, but weak, infirm through the flesh (Ro.8:3), unable to put into practice the precepts of that holy law which had been given to them. They cannot walk in the commandments. The occasional presence of a prophet sent from God stirred them up and recalled them to righteousness. But it had been a long time since a prophet had risen in Israel and they became almost hopeless of such help. They lay in the portico, outside. Christ is the Door.
Here we have Israel under the old covenant, which they are powerless to fulfill. Their infirmity followed the breaking of its precepts (14). It was given to teach them the excessive sinfulness of sin, and, by transforming sin into transgression, show them their utter helplessness to fulfill His will apart from His enabling grace.
The sign signifies that none other than Messiah had given strength to the infirm man, even as He will do for the whole nation when He confirms a new covenant with them, in the days of His coming. Then, like the infirm man, they will have a due sense of their own impotence, and will be looking for someone outside of themselves to introduce them into the sphere of God's healing power. But, as it will be in the future, His Word will be sufficient to turn their weakness into strength. He will put His law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts. . . He will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more (Jer.31:33-34).
2 "Bethesda", in Hebrew, signifies "House of Kindness," an apt designation. Israel abode under the law of Moses, with its five books.
In that day, instead of ineffectual efforts to fulfill the law, and being dispersed among the nations for their failure, He will gather them together from the peoples, and gather them from all of the lands in which they have been scattered and give them the land of Israel. And He will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. He will take away their stony heart and give them a heart of flesh, to walk in His statutes (Eze.11:17-20).
10 The day on which the cure was effected indicates that its fulfillment will find place in that great sabbatism that remains for God's people of the Circumcision (Heb.4:9). As a pallet was a mere bundle of bedding, the only burden which the Lord put upon the man who had been infirm was the means of rest. The Jews had no rest in their spirits even on the sabbath. So we have the astonishing absurdity of Jews striving to take away the means of rest on the plea that it was work! They, rather, were breaking the sabbath. They did not hesitate to try to kill Him, no matter what the day might be. This is one of the delusions which blinds all who seek to keep the law. They do not allow themselves real rest even on the sabbath, and those who are burdened with the rest of God are deemed lawbreakers. All rest for man can only be based on God's work.
18 The charge of equality with God brings out a clear statement of the relationship of the Son to the Father. Of Himself, the Son is unable to do anything. He does not claim divine power independent of the Father. Neither does He claim to exercise His own will. That is God's prerogative (30). As He has neither the ability nor the will of the Father, the charge of making Himself equal with God was false. Nevertheless, because He did not exercise His own will and because He did nothing except by the power and sanction of the Father, and was sent and commissioned by Him, He is entitled to all the honor due to the Father, for only thus can the Father receive the homage of His creatures. The healing of the impotent man was done by the power and will of the Father.
If it was a desecration of the sabbath, then the Father was responsible.
How few today really enter into God's rest! His grace and love are bartered for so much faithfulness or service. Instead of the exultant consciousness of His settled smile, there is a constant striving to do something to appease His wrath or fulfill His imaginary demands. God will not have our hands without our hearts. He does not want us to work for Him. He wishes to work through us.
20 The Father's fondness for the Son is one of the most intimate and delightful revelations of Holy Writ. The fondness is not the love which flows out to those least deserving it, but the affection founded on the fellowship of purpose and of work, and agreeable association. It is liking rather than love. It is the great Master Workman initiating His Associate into His great designs.
21 To appreciate fully the greatness of the work of the Son we must grasp the fact that He is more than the Resurrection. He is the Resurrection and the Life (11:25). Great as resurrection is, vivification far surpasses it. Resurrection is for the dead. Vivification is for the living or those who have been raised (11:26). Resurrection imparts physical life, subject to decay and death. Vivification is the life abundant. Those who have it do not die for the eons. All who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, yet for some, it will be a resurrection of judgment, for others it will be a resurrection of life. As all resurrection implies life in its ordinary sense, the resurrection of life must impart life in a superlative sense.
22 Judgment is not, in itself, condemnation. It consists in setting things to rights. It is the prerogative of the Son to correct all wrongs, whether done to God or man. He is the Supreme Arbiter and Adjudicator of the universe. All men must submit their cases to His decision. Hence the honors due to God are accorded Him. As the accredited representative of the Father all affronts He receives are affronts to the Father Who sends Him.
24 Belief is followed by eonian life or vivification. For such there is no judgment possible, for they receive much more than is right in the gift of life for the eons.
25 This is vivification, for only those who hear shall live. It is for those who believe. It will be fulfilled in the former resurrection (Un.20:6).
28 This is resurrection, for all hear His voice. Both believers and unbelievers are included. This will be fulfilled at the great white throne judgment (Un.20:12).
31 The usual rendering, "If I bear witness of Myself My witness is not true", is not true! The Lord Himself insisted, on another occasion, that His testimony concerning Himself was true. "And if I should be testifying concerning Myself, true is My testimony. .." (Jn.8:14). He was not like other men who need references from others to establish the truth of their own account of themselves. Though John the baptist had come for the very purpose of bearing witness to the Coming One, yet He is not dependent on any human testimony whatever.
The credibility of Christ's account concerning Himself may be tested in two ways, by His acts and by His fulfillment of the Scriptures. John the baptist did no signs or miracles, but He did many, every one of which was an attestation to His messianic claims. The sign under discussion is an example of this. The correspondence between the thirty-eight years of Israel's wanderings after the spying out of the land and the length of time the infirm man had suffered implies that the One Who can bring Israel into the kingdom is present. The very point to which they objected-healing on the Sabbath–should have spoken in His favor, for when Israel is healed it will be the great millennial sabbatism for them.
39 The Jews prided themselves greatly on being the depository of the oracles of God, and on knowing His will. How could they fail to see in Him the long promised Messiah? Does it not seem strange that He should ask them to search the Scriptures. They did search them to disprove His claims (7:52), but their search was neither accurate nor honest. Instead of finding that Isaiah (9:1-2) foretold His ministry in Galilee, they were offended at it and used it against Him. They searched and found that Christ should be born in Bethlehem, and inferred without reason that that should be His home as well. We, as well as they, need to search and believe accurately, honestly, and wholeheartedly if we are to enjoy the fullness there is in the Scriptures.
41 Who else could say this? The true servant of God may be known by this mark. Is he seeking to please men or God? Popularity is often a mark of apostasy.
1-13 Compare Mt.14:13-21; Mk.6:31.44; Lu.9:10-17.
1 This is the fourth sign in this account. The first figured Israel's joy in the coming kingdom (2:1), the second the healing of the nations (4:46). The third showed the source of its power (5:2). The fourth deals with its sustenance. Christ is the Life of the world. He is the true Bread. Mankind is figured by the five thousand, hungry and far from food. The spiritual famine will become so acute that what might suffice for five is all there is for five thousand. Even the great literal famine of the end time does not approach this (Un.6:6). Then food will be eight times its normal price. Here the lack, is a thousand fold. What does this signify?
We know that man shall not be living on bread alone, but on every declaration going out through God's mouth (Mt.4:4). The coming eon will be a time of plenty (Amos 9:13), but the life of the world is not sustained by the stomach, but by the head and heart. It comes from the knowledge of God. In the day when Jehovah shall acquire the remnant of His people, the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea (Isa.11:9-11). Such was the spiritual dearth in the nation when our Lord came the first time that their spiritual sustenance was but a thousandth part of what it should be and what it will be when Messiah comes. The feeding of the multitude is a sign of His presence.
A comparison of this sign with the feeding of the four thousand is startling and instructive (Mt.15:32-38; Mk.8:1-9). God's provision comes in inverse ratio to human help. When seven loaves and some fishes were used to feed four thousand they gathered seven hampers full of fragments. Surely when only five loaves and two fishes are distributed among five thousand the remnants will be scarce! Not so! For, after feeding the larger number with the smaller provision, there is a larger surplus left. Seven loaves among four thousand left seven hampers. Twelve large panniers remained after the five thousand were fed with only five loaves. And, while the hampers were full, the panniers were packed, crammed to their utmost. It is evident that, the less there is of human help, the greater is His grace. This principle applies to His dealings with Israel and the world at the coming of Christ. The spiritual plenty of that day will not be approached gradually by natural development, by character building and education, but by a miraculous diffusion and multiplication of the knowledge of God. In its personal application, we may deduce that the possession of natural talents is not essential to God's operations. He prefers a famine, where He can furnish food, to a feast where His hand is not needed and His heart is unheeded. He can use the humblest means and mediums to accomplish His miracles.
15 Exactly a year later (12:12-16) He presented Himself to them as their King. This effort to make Him King was premature and arose from the fact that they had not comprehended the significance of the sign. They had not been filled with the knowledge of God, the true sustenance, but with perishable provisions. His kingdom is not food and drink (Ro.14:17). It will not be established by human hands, but by divine power. It will not be set up in man's day, but in Jehovah's day. Most significantly He retires into a mountain alone and His disciples descend to the sea. So He later ascended to His heavenly throne, while His followers were dispersed among the nations.
16-21 Compare Mt.14:22-33; Mk.6:45-52.
16 The parallel is continued. Israel is now in darkness, tossed about by the raging sea of the nations, which has been stirred up by the spiritual forces of wickedness who rule the world during the absence of the Messiah. The Jews will be scattered among the nations and hated and persecuted with the utmost cruelty and injustice and inhumanity. It is evident to all who have studied their history that there must be some cause which cannot be seen. Just as the wind lashed the waves of Galilee into a fury and threatened to drown the fearful disciples so malignant spirit forces are at work, stirring up hatred to the Jews, for they know God's purpose concerning the nation, and resent it, and would prevent it if they could. For this reason, men persecute the Jews without reason, and both men and demons carry out the doom they decreed for themselves when they cried that His blood be on them and on their children (Mt.27:25).
But when Christ comes He will still the wind and the waves and bring them to their desired haven. He will bind Satan (Un.20:2) and judge the nations (Mt.25:31-46), and establish the kingdom (Un.11:15). Then, and not till then, will His word be fully fulfilled, "It is I, be not afraid! " This is the fifth sign.
26 The miracle of feeding the five thousand brought the Lord to the highest pitch of His popularity. Up to this time, He had not been despised and rejected. The turning point came when He filled them with food, and they were too blind to see its signiflcance. Now that He explains this to them, they stop following Him.
He is not flattered by the large following which flocks after Him, and does not hesitate to offend them by disclosing their own hearts to them. They came to be filled with food and cared nothing for the spiritual sustenance for which it stood. They wanted food and needed faith. Instead of reading this sign and recognizing the Messiah, the Son of God, they actually asked Him for a sign! He had just given them that. They further display their blindness by reminding Him of the manna which God gave their forefathers in the wilderness (Ex.16; Ps.78:23-25). The true Manna was with them and they ask Him for a sign such as Moses gave! He Himself was all that the manna signified.
28 After being fed gratuitously, and having heard that God would give them the true bread, we would expect them to see that God had not put a price on His presents. But, instead of this, like Jacob their forefather, they try to strike a bargain with God. Blind pride demands that they do something. Thus today, though man is taught in all spheres how dependent he is on what God does, the moment he gets into the presence of God, it is "what must I do?" Faith, not deeds, is what God demands.
34 Eating to supply the demands of physical hunger and thirst is but a symbol of the spiritual satisfaction apart from which life is debased to mere existence. Desires and aspirations for spiritual sustenance can never be finally filled apart from the One Who came down from heaven. It is only as we have every heart hunger satisfied in Him that we cease to feel the pangs of famine. It is only as we find all our spiritual aspirations realized in God's Son that our thirst is assuaged. How slow we are to learn that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of God's mouth! It is because Christ is set forth as the Word in this evangel that so much is made of eating and drinking.
37 How marvelously serene and sure are God's operations! The Jews may murmur and misunderstand Him, but how could they do otherwise? There was nothing in Him to attract them to Him. He is not moved by their murmurs, but tells them plainly that God alone, in His sovereign pleasure, picks out those who come to Him. They are a gift from the Father to the Son. Such not only desire to come to Him, but cannot fail to reach Him, and when they find Him, He counts them as precious presents from His Father, prized much for themselves but most for the Giver. Nothing can possibly arise to estrange Him from them. They are not only His for life, but He will rob death itself to restore them to Him in the resurrection.
40 That the life here bestowed on the believer is not everlasting is clear from the context, for it is not continuous, but waits until the resurrection. Those who received this life died. Their life lasted only a few years. But they will be raised to live for the eons. The life is eonian, not everlasting.
41 The great truth which begins and pervades John's account, that the Lord was the Logos, the spiritual reality of which the manna was only a type. The manna in the wilderness could only satisfy their temporal, bodily hunger, whereas His words would bring them spiritual satisfaction at all times and all places.
45 See Isa.54:13; Jer.31:34.
47 This passage should be studied carefully in order to correct the erroneous impression that believers have "eternal" or "everlasting" life. Eternal may be applied only to that which had no beginning and will have no end. No one but God has eternal life. Everlasting should be used only of that which continues without intermission endlessly. Not a single one of the Lord's personal followers is alive today. None of them received "everlasting" life. They are dead. If everlasting life permits of interruption by death now, why not in the resurrection also? All of these expressions denote definite periods of time, measured by eons, or ages. Eonian life begins in the next eon.
Now it is evident that the Lord had no thought of a life lasting forever. In that case, how could He be raising him in the last day? The life here spoken of was to be bestowed in resurrection. There could be no resurrection apart from a previous death. In short, our Lord spoke in such a way that we are sure that "everlasting" life, so-called, does not commence until He calls His own from the grave.
As this life has a definite beginning, it also has an end. But as the end does not come until death is abolished, it changes from "eonian" life into actual never-ending life. This will be the portion of all. It is not the special privilege of the believer. The peculiar kind of life promised to faith begins at Christ's presence, when those who are His will be vivified, and continues through the last two eons, embracing the millennium and the succeeding eon in the new earth, until the eons end, and the last enemy, death, is abolished. Hence the life received in vivification is actually "everlasting," though never so called in the Word of God.
54 The term "masticate" is not the usual word for "eat", and presents some difficulty in translation, for English usage prefers the broader term "eat" in such passages as this. It means to chew, gnaw, hence suggests the only process in digestion which is voluntary. It represents the actual appropriation of the life of Christ as our own.
56 Just as Nicodemus failed to see the figure when our Lord spoke to him about the new birth, so now His followers fail to understand when He speaks of feeding on His flesh and blood. There is a subtle irony here, for their religion was primarily a fleshly one. Their title to blessing from Messiah was based entirely on their blood relationship to Him. In that case, if He is to give Himself to them, He must give His physical flesh and actual blood. They can see how preposterous such an idea is, but do not discern how it cuts from beneath them the whole foundation of blessing through a physical channel. They should have seen that life divine is not transmitted by flesh but by spirit. Not material forms, but spiritual realities count with a God Who is spirit. His thoughts, as conveyed to them by the Lord's declarations, are the vital principle from which all life and felicity flow.
70 Peter and the rest of the apostles probably had the impression that they had chosen Christ, and in this crisis, they seem to be confirming their choice of Him. With this background, how strange to hear Him reverse their thoughts and emphatically affirm His choice of them! On another occasion, He asserted that they had not chosen Him. He reserves the right to choose His own. A realization of this principle gives strength and stability to vacillating mortals, who look within and find no soundness, and look without on turmoil and strife, and fear for the future of which they know nothing. To be chosen by One Who has power to keep and knows all gives satisfaction and rest. It is infinitely more precious to be His choice than to have the questionable satisfaction of feeling that we were free to choose Him. If we were, we would have chosen another. There is none that seeketh after God.
70 Judas was one of "the elect". The Lord "elected" or chose him while fully aware of his future. It was not Judas who chose Christ and then went back on Him. Indeed, he greatly regretted his action and publicly repudiated it. This Peter did not do. He did not betray his Lord until Satan entered into him.
2 There were seven sacred festivals in Israel: the Passover, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Blowing of Trumpets, Day of Propitiation, Tabernacles, and Ingathering. The latter two were both held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, so that both are referred to here as "Tabernacles". These festivals were typical of God's great dealings with His beloved people Israel. The Passover sets before us the death of God's Lamb. Hence Christ could not be killed at the festival of Tabernacles, for it was not the proper time. Firstfruits typifies His resurrection. Pentecost, fifty days afterward, foreshadowed the world so called in the book of Acts. Blowing of Trumpets and the Day of Propitiation will have their antitypes in the dread judgment period before the thousand years. Tabernacles and Ingathering are the happy harvest festivals, picturing their fullness of blessing in the millennial kingdom.
See Lev.23; Nu.28:16; 29; Deut.16; Neh.8:13-18; Zech.14:16-19.
This was one of the three times in each year that all the males in Israel were required to appear in the temple in Jerusalem. They were to bring a gift on each occasion. This suggests the three great gifts of God for Israel. At the festival of unleavened bread, He gave Himself as the Passover Lamb.
At the festival of Pentecost, He gave the holy Spirit. At the future festival of Tabernacles, He will give them the bountiful harvest of His millennial reign. See Deut.16:15-16.
6 With the foregoing in view, the action of our Lord is full of meaning. It was not the Passover, hence He could not go up openly and invite death. The time for that had not yet been fulfilled. Still, in obedience to the law, and as a private Israelite, He must go, for in Him must both the letter and the spirit of the law be fulfilled.
It is significant that, while we often read of the Passover, only this once is the festival of Tabernacles brought before us, and now He refuses to go. There is no true Tabernacle festival for Israel until after the true Passover has been slain and all the other feasts have had their fulfillment. In all His acts He was consciously in line with God's revelation.
16 Here we have the test of a true teacher. The greatest of all Teachers could easily have formulated a philosophy of His own before which all the wisdom of the ages would sink into insignificance. He could have eclipsed Socrates and Plato, discounted Confucius, silenced all the sages. Yet He did not originate a single doctrine, formulate a single principle, invent a single saying of His own. Though the embodiment of truth, He did not claim to be its source, but only its channel.
"My teaching is not Mine, but His Who sends Me" is the disclaimer of the only One Who ever was qualified to teach the truth. It is the highest achievement of the truth seeker to discover that there is no truth outside of God, and originality is inevitably false unless it conforms with truth already immanent in God-which destroys its originality. Truth is one. Its source is God. Its expression is found in Him Who is the Word of God. Happy is the teacher who distrusts his own thoughts, and discards his own theories, and seeks to submerge his own personality by a constant and continuous contact with the living oracles of God! "My teaching is not Mine" will not be a reluctant, humiliating admission, but an exultant and eager desire to give God the glory for truth beyond our powers of apprehension and utterly foreign to our native faculties.
19 Sinning men are the same today as ever. The truth is always the signal for strife. This is especially so among those who consider themselves the sole depository of truth. We need not suppose that these Jews had a bad conscience in seeking to kill One Who seemed to be undermining their religion. We know that Saul of Tarsus opposed Him conscientiously. So today, Christendom still crucifies the truth, while loud in its professions of loyalty to the Bible. Indeed, so thoroughly has error saturated the atmosphere that it is practically impossible for anyone to view the truth except through the haze of error with which each is surrounded. Only continual contact with God's Word will avail us. Only a close acquaintance with the facts of the originals will save us from the prevailing apostasy.
28 Perhaps nowhere is the utter futility of human efforts to frustrate God's plans so evident as in this scene. It was God's definite counsel that they should slay Him. This they were all too eager to do. But the feast of Tabernacles was not the fit time for His sacrifice. So He boldly enters the sanctuary, the stronghold of His enemies. The Pharisees send deputies to arrest Him, but they simply do not do it, being restrained by an irresistible reluctance which they could not account for themselves. Like Daniel, He was in the lions' den, but God had shut the lions' mouths.
God uses human wrath for His own ends and restrains its activities to accord with His purpose. He has all his enemies on a leash beyond which they cannot range. Satan himself is limited, and allowed to do only that which will eventuate in good. So it proved in the case of Job, and who can doubt that his case was typical?
33 When the deputies come to arrest Him, He is not disturbed, but calmly gives an outline of what will happen to Him in the future. It was still six months until the Passover, and He knew they could not arrest Him till then. So He says "Still a little time am I with you." Nor does He acknowledge that they will be successful in taking Him then, for it is His permission, not their power, that accomplishes it. So He simply says "and I am going away to Him Who sends Me."
34 The statement "where I am, there you cannot be coming" cannot be taken as their everlasting reprobation, for He uses the very same words to His disciples on a later occasion (13:33). Indeed, the form of the verb is the present active "be coming", not the indefinite "come". Even the unbeliever enters the presence of Christ in the resurrection of judgment.
35 The Jews, in our Lord's day, were scattered all over the known earth, but were especially numerous in Egypt. Alexandria rivalled Jerusalem as a center of Jewry, but its culture was strongly Greek.
37 This last day concluded the cycle of yearly festivals and was a fitting time to foretell the fullness of spiritual blessing which it prefigured.
41 Ever since the days of Moses the nation of Israel has been waiting for the Prophet Who was to be like him, and lead the nation out of worse than Egyptian bondage into the heritage of the kingdom. Those who knew Him for that promised Prophet little realized that, as Moses was rejected by his brethren when he first came to deliver them, so the great Antitype of Moses must also be rejected by them.
A prophet, in the Scriptures, is not primarily one who predicts the future, but one who has a message from God. It is a well-nigh universal rule that God's message and its bearer must first be refused. Indeed, the "Prophet like Moses" must follow the footsteps of the type, and, in his first efforts to save His people He must be opposed by the people themselves. This shows us that we must not lay too much stress on human "responsibility" (a term unknown to the Scriptures), for, if the Jews had received the Lord, He would not have been the true Prophet. They were obliged to reject Him!
41 "Galilee of the nations" and especially the town of Nazareth, were held in contempt by pious Jews. The term "Nazarene" is a term of reproach, never used by His friends. From it could come no Christ. Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, the city of King David, and as they should have known, the birthplace of his greater Son. Let us never be guilty of calling Him a Nazarene, and thus class ourselves with His worst enemies and murderers.
46 Throughout this account it is the incarnate Word which is before us. The testimony of the deputies is a notable tribute to the supernal nature of that which came from His lips. How lame their excuse must have seemed to the hard-hearted Pharisees! Why do they not arrest Him? Why do they not do the duty assigned them? "No man ever speaks thus!" Not His superb looks, or august appearance, but His utterances arrest them, and all power to perform their part vanishes.
50 Nicodemus, the half-hearted disciple' is afraid to champion His cause boldly, so he seeks to hinder them in their lawless act. But such a weak supporter is soon silenced, and by the very law to which he appealed.
53 to 8:11 As this passage is not contained in any of the three manuscripts on which the Concordant Version is based, it was not included in our Greek text. Two leaves of Alexandrinus are lost at this point, but a careful calculation of the number of lines shows that the lost leaves did not contain this story. Besides, the evidence of ancient versions and other manuscripts is so much against its retention in the text that no editor gives it a place, unless within brackets.
Nevertheless, the story is so fully In harmony with the grace of Christ that we question whether it could have any other source. Hence we are constrained to class it among the many things which He did of which there is no inspired record.
The Greek text of John 7:53-8:11, together with an English sublinear, is available from the publishers on request. A literal translation follows :
[And they went each to his home.
Yet Jesus went to the mount of Olives.
Now early He again came along into the sanctuary, and the entire people came to Him. And, being seated, He taught them. Now the scribes and Pharisees are leading a woman who has been overtaken in adultery, and, standing her in the midst, they are saying to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been overtaken and detected committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses directs us that such are to be stoned. You then, what are you saying?" Now this they said to try Him, that they may have something to accuse Him of.
Now Jesus, stooping down, wrote down something with a finger in the earth. Now as they persisted asking Him, He unbends and said to them, "Let the sinless one of you first cast a stone at her. And, again stooping down, He wrote in the earth. Now those hearing it came out one by one, beginning with the elders, to the last. And Jesus was left alone, the woman also being in the midst. Now, unbending, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" Now she said, "No one, Lord!" Now Jesus said, "Neither am I condemning you! Go! From now on by no means any longer be sinning."]
12-29 Nothing would so swiftly and surely prove the undoing of an impostor as the claim that he always pleases God. Of all living, only One has been able to stand such a severe test. In the mouth of anyone else, the claim to perfect obedience would sound preposterous. The very assumption itself would be displeasing to God and derided by men. It would be a proof of spiritual pride. But in His mouth, it was perfectly natural. Instead of taking exception to it they seemed struck by the fact and what it involved, and, as a result, believed on Him.
This is one of the glories of Christ which makes Him a solitary figure in the annals of mankind. There have been philosophers and good men, but the best have not been flawless. Indeed, they do not dare to claim absolute perfection. Yet we see this apparently humble peasant of Palestine challenging a hostile world to discover in His acts a single word or work which does not glorify God and benefit man. Whoever should dare to criticize Him condemns himself.
44 All sin, in the Scriptures, seems to be traced back to the Adversary or Satan. Adam sinned at his suggestion. He is the father of all that is false. Being a creature of God, it has been a perplexing problem to account for him without incriminating God Himself. It is usual to insist that he was created perfect and, at a later stage, fell into sin. But this is no real relief. The impulse to sin, in that case, came from without instead of within, and it, in turn, demands an explanation. The Adversary sinned from the beginning. He was a murderer from the beginning. The Scriptures plainly teach that he was created an Adversary and a Satan.
The solution of the ultimate source of sin lies in its nature. Sin is essentially a mistake. It means to miss the mark, to fall short of a given standard. With this definition in mind, it is easy to see how God could create a creature to sin, if that were necessary to the fulfillment of His purpose. He would not be making any mistake in doing this. He would not sin. On the contrary, if He created Satan perfect, and had no intention or desire that he should sin, then God did make a mistake. The sinfulness of Satan is the strongest evidence of the sinlessness of God.
The essence of God is love. It demands exercise. God must be made known. He will be a Saviour; His purpose demands the presence of sin. He makes a medium–the Adversary–to inject the virus into creation. He rescues His creatures and gains their affection. He banishes sin. Sin is His servant. He will justify all sin when He has made it a means of bringing His creatures into heart intimacy with Himself.
46 What a challenge to the self-righteous Jews! They claimed a sinless God for a father, yet hated His sinless Son. Without any pretentious effort whatever, He calmly went His way without making a single misstep!
57 The Jews seemed to be utterly unconscious of the great spiritual truths connected with Abraham's family. They claimed physical descent from him, without realizing that Ishmael had the same right. He was the son of Abram's flesh–and unbelief. They were Ishmaelites, slaves of sin in spite of their noble father. They knew nothing of the faith of Abraham which produced Isaac after the flesh was as good as dead. They failed to see the significance of Abraham's harsh measures with Ishmael. Were he to visit them he would cast them out, just as he had the slave girl Hagar and her son.
58 The Word was in the beginning with God, long before Abraham was born. All came into being through it, and apart from it not even one thing came into being, including Abraham himself. Such was His glory before He became flesh. Then no human could see Him and live (Ex.33:20). It was not until "the last of these days" that God spoke in His Son (Hebrews 12), that is, after He had emptied Himself to be in the likeness of humanity (Phil.2:7). In those days He used messengers of inferior rank in communicating with mankind. Two of these visited Abraham just before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The Jews could not understand how One so glorious could condescend to take human form.
1 The sixth sign brings before us Israel's blindness, and the opening of their eyes when they recognize Him as the One Whom God has commissioned, at His return. It anticipates the crisis of His ministry, which was fast approaching, when He quoted the words of Isaiah, "He hath blinded their eyes, . . . that they should not see with their eyes. . ." (12:40). The interest is centered in two distinct thoughts, the reason for his blindness, and the means of its removal.
Why was this man born blind? The Jews took it for granted, as many do today, that all evil comes from sin, and that everyone is responsible for his own condition. This is absolutely false. Evil and sin are not outside of God's plan. They are essential to the highest happiness of the creature and the greatest glory of the Creator. This man's case was a concrete example. His healing was not because he was blind, but he was blind in order that he might recover sight, and thus God's acts may be manifested and God Himself may become known. This is true of all evil and all sin. God has introduced it into the world in order that He may display His attributes in coping with it and in removing it when its mission has been accomplished. The experience of evil and sin is transient; the memory of it will never pass away, but will always remain as the essential background apart from which God's goodness and grace never could be revealed. God's heart would always remain hidden apart from evil and sin.
If this man's blindness had never been removed it would have revealed God's impotence and hate. So, if evil and sin are eternal, they will throw their darkest shadow upon the character and feelings of God, and thus defeat the very object for which they exist. But they are not eternal. Sin will be repudiated at the conclusion of the eons (Heb.9:26). Only in this way can the works of God be manifested. It is useless for us to blame our parents for our sin, for they also inherited it. Even Adam could point to Eve and Eve to the serpent. We should rather thank God for it, and rejoice in the glory that it brings to God.
4 Adam in innocence knew no good. He could not appreciate what God had done for him. The only way he could know of good was to eat of the tree, which, however, also gave the knowledge of evil. The knowledge of good and of evil are inseparable.
The blind man represents Israel. Why were they blind? Paul tells us in the eleventh of Romans. God locks all up together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all (Ro.11:32). Because they were blinded they refused their Messiah and thus made it possible for God to pour out the riches of His grace on the nations. Their blindness makes it possible for Him to save them with a great salvation when He once again takes them to Himself, and thus He engages their affections. Those who see, revile Him. The blind man worships Him.
6 Before healing the blind man He increases his blindness by covering his eyes with mud. What does this mean? It corresponds with His treatment of Israel. He finds the nation blind, but instead of healing them then, He fulfills the saying of Isaiah, "He has blinded their eyes and callouses their heart, lest they may be perceiving with their eyes, and should be apprehending with their heart and turn about, and I should be healing them" (12:40). Siloam means "commissioned". He continually referred to Himself as the One Whom God had sent. When the Lord appears in glory, then they will wash in Siloam and see Him Who has been commissioned by God for their blessing. The blind man's spiritual recovery corresponded to his physical healing, for he said. "Except this Man were from God, He could not be doing anything" (33).
13 The Pharisees were the blindest of the blind. Though the most zealous and religious of all the Jewish sects, their self-confidence and hypocrisy made them the bitterest enemies of Christ and the truth. They claimed to be the spiritual leaders of the nation, hence receive the greater judgment. They boasted that they were not blind like the rest so that their sin remained. The disciples were confident that either the blind man or his parents had sinned; the Lord shows them that the Pharisees are the real sinners. This they soon demonstrate by their attempt to prove that His gracious act was not in accord with God's holy law. They had corrupted the law by their tradition.
16 It is notable how many of our Lord's recorded signs were done on the sabbath. Doubtless, this indicates the fact that their antitype is to be found in the sabbatism which comes at His epiphany. When man ceases work, then is the time for God to act. Man's struggles hinder His operations and obscure the glory which invests His deeds. How blind the Pharisees were to this great truth is apparent from the fact that some of them actually insisted that the Lord Himself was the sinner! How far astray are all of man's perceptions! The disciples supposed it must be the blind man or his parents, the Pharisees fasten guilt on the Lord, but only He sees the truth, that the religious, self-righteous Pharisees are blind sinners above all the rest.
24 The double testimony given to the Pharisees may be a premonition of the second witness to the truth which was given to the nation, as recorded in the book of Acts. There also they give Moses and the law a place above our Lord and His apostles, who were "unlettered and plain men" (Acts 4:13), not fit to teach scholars like themselves! But what the blind man lacked in scholarship he more than made up in common sense and spiritual discernment. He is amazed at their ignorance!
34 "They cast him out." This was most dreaded among the Jews, for it meant social as well as religious ostracism. How painful it is, even now, to be cast out of religious organizations, for it has all the semblance of being cast off by God Himself. But today, even as it was then, it usually is a token of divine favor such as the Philippians enjoyed (Phil.1:29), and leads to a more intimate and precious acquaintance with our Saviour. Indeed, we should deem it an exalted privilege to suffer for and with Christ and His truth. There is no higher token of His regard or surer way to His reward than association with Him in His rejection.
38 Salvation, whether from physical or spiritual blindness, or lameness or any disability, is not an end in itself. It is largely futile if it fails to lead to a close acquaintance with God through His Christ. His grace captivates our hearts. The harsh measures of men only show His love in a better light. So, when the man who had been blind was cast out he was immediately taken in and was introduced to the One Who had restored his sight. Nor is this all. Once he knows Him, his heart goes out in adoration, and God gets the worship He craves. This is the true end and consummation of all evil and all blessing. How blessed that he had been born blind! What a pity that the Pharisees had not also been blind! Yet when they are recovered from their spiritual blindness, they also will bow their hearts and worship the One Who opens their blind eyes.
1 The Eastern sheepfold was an enclosure surrounded by a wall of rough jagged stones, skillfully piled, without mortar, about three feet wide at the base, tapering to one foot at the top, and from four to eight feet high. A narrow opening in this wall formed the entrance. There was no movable gate or door, but the shepherd blocked up the entrance at night with his body and so was himself the door. To be safe from wild beasts at night the sheep must come in between his outstretched limbs.
The sheep runs were usually in wild, unfrequented spots, infested by bold Bedouin robbers and by wild beasts, such as the jackal, the hyena, the bear, the leopard, and the lion. David battled with a lion and a bear while he kept the sheep of his father (1 Sa.17:36). For this purpose the shepherd had a stout oak club (A. V. "rod") about two feet long, with a large knob on one end studded with heavy iron nails.
The other end had a noose for his wrist to help him hold it, or for fastening to his leather girdle when not in use. The shepherd had this club and a crook (rod and staff), one for the sheep's enemies, the other for the sheep themselves. With one he led them, with the other he defended them, even at the risk of his life.
The Psalmist insists that "We (Israel) are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand" (Ps. 95:7. See also Ps. 7:41, 77:20, 78:52, 70, 79:13, 80:1). Isaiah foretells the time when He shall feed His flock as a Shepherd (Isa.40:11). Jeremiah pronounces a woe on the spiritual shepherds in Israel and predicts their return out of the countries whither He had driven them (Jer.23:1-4). Ezekiel speaks at length of the nation under this figure (Eze.34:1-24). Now our Lord takes up the same metaphor and announces Himself as the true Shepherd of Israel.
This figure is carried through the Circumcision epistles. Peter is especially commissioned to feed His sheep (21:16) and exhorts his readers to do the same. This figure is never used of the nations in the present economy of grace, except in the faded metaphor "pastors". It is a figure peculiarly adapted to the kingdom, for the true King is a shepherd, as David was. Instead of His people guarding and gorging Him, He feeds and defends them. Our translators have actually rendered the verb "rule" on four occasions (Mt.2:6; Un.2:27, 12:5, 19:15). The nations, as such, are figured by wild beasts, such as a lion, a leopard, or a bear. Our relation to Christ is far more intimate than even the tender Eastern shepherd toward His sheep, for He is our Head, and we are members of His body. The actual body of Christ is the only living form from earth in the heavens and it is the picture of our celestial place and dignity, as well as our vital contact with our Head.
3 John the baptist was the doorkeeper who opened the door to the true Shepherd. Many another has come claiming to be Israel's shepherd, but they did not come in God's appointed way.
4 The Eastern shepherd never drives his sheep. He calls them. They will not follow a strange voice.
11 In His humiliation He was the ideal Shepherd defending His sheep. In His exaltation, He is the great Shepherd, feeding them (Heb.13:20).
16 The dispersion, outside the land, was reached by Peter (1 Pet.1:1 ), in his two epistles.
22 The Dedications must refer to the rededication of the temple, after three years' profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes, in the days of Judas Maccabeus, for Solomon's temple was dedicated in the seventh month, which was about the autumnal equinox, Zerubbabel's temple was dedicated in the twelfth month, the beginning of spring, but Judas Maccabeus held his dedication for eight days, beginning on the twenty-fifth day of the seventh month--in the midst of winter. Besides, neither Solomon nor Zerubbabel made it an annual celebration. Josephus tells about it in his Antiquities, book XII, chapter 7. He takes his account from the first book of Maccabees, IV, 36-59, and the second book, X,5-8.
This festival was not of divine appointment, and mars the great series of seven festivals which are a prophetic forecast of Israel's history. These are in two groups, one of which has been fulfilled, and one still future. The Passover, Unleavened, Firstfruit, and Pentecost are history now. Trumpets, Propitiation, and Tabernacles will be fulfilled when Israel is again in God's reckoning. After the millennium, which is the antitype of Tabernacles, there will not be a rededication of the temple. On the contrary, the temple and its worship will be superseded by reconciliation where no ritual is needed.
22 The Dedications was a sentimental, human anniversary, which never would have been instituted had the people not been blind to the marvelous meaning of Jehovah's perfect series of festivals. It is usually called the feast of Lights. Such it was to the blind man! But to the Jews as a nation, this light-human amendment of the law and the ritual-was darkness, and how great was their darkness! If our faith is in man and his works, how futile it is!
The many church festivals of today are like the Dedications, without foundation in truth, however, they may appeal to religious sentiment. God's festivals were filled with spiritual significance and force, which now demands the non-observance of days and set seasons.
34 The term "gods" is translated "judges" in Ex.21:6, 22:8-9, where it refers to men. But our Lord does not appeal to this, but to Psalm 82:6 where the context clearly excludes men. The mighty spiritual powers of the past who overrule the affairs of mankind are called sons by God Himself. Even Satan is called a son of God (Job1:6). He is called the god of this eon (2 Co.4:4). Now if God said to these subjectors, "Gods are you," notwithstanding the fact that they failed to right the wrongs of earth, how much rather shall He have called Him God Who shall dispossess them? To Him God says (Psa.82:8) :
Rise, O God! Judge the earth,
For Thou shalt be allotted all nations.
He had been undoing the deeds of these sons of God and doing all that was foretold of Him before their very eyes. And yet they thought they were not blind!
1 The rousing of Lazarus from among the dead is the seventh and last sign in John's account. Each succeeding sign finds the nation on a lower level. At the marriage feast of Cana, they lacked the joy and gladness of the kingdom; the infirm man at Bethesda's pool lacked power; the disciples on the sea, tossed by the tempest, lacked peace; the blind man lacked sight; but Lazarus lacked life. The apostasy of the nation had developed to such a degree that death was the fittest symbol to describe them.
This is the condition of Israel in the latter days, as the prophet Ezekiel saw them in the valley of dry bones (Eze.37:3). The question is asked, "Shall these bones live?" And the bones are roused from death and enter the land of Israel.
4 The cause of Lazarus' infirmity was not sin, as in the case of the man at Bethesda. It was the necessary prelude to the manifestation of His glory. Indeed, the Lord deliberately delayed His departure in order that he should die. So He deals with Israel. Their great cry is "Till when ?" ( Isa. 6:11 ). Their restoration to life is postponed until they are beyond all hope, until their resurrection, spiritually as well as physically, is manifestly the work of the Lord.
9 The day, in the East, begins with sunrise and ends with sunset. It is always divided into twelve hours. In summer these are longer than in winter. As the sun is nearly always shining anyone can tell the time of day by merely glancing at his shadow.
11 Repose is the favorite figure of death in the Scriptures. Only four times is it used of the actual repose of sleep (Mt.27:52, 28:13; Lu.22:45; Ac.12:6). Fourteen times is it found in its figurative sense (Jn.11:11-12; Ac.7:60, 13:36; 1 Co.7:39; 11:30, 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Th.4:13, 14, 15; 2 Pt.3:4). It is used of both believers and unbelievers (1 Co.7:39). It likens death to that beneficial aspect of sleep which restores us to physical vigor and vitality. Death itself is an enemy, so we must look to the resurrection as the true inspiration for this figure. This is beautifully pictured in the case of Lazarus. Had he actually found repose in sleep he would doubtless have recovered. But his death amounted to no more than this after the Lord has restored his life by resurrection.
Of his experience in death, we are told nothing, for this figure precludes the thought. Normal sleep is itself without sensation, and "the repose of sleep" is unbroken oblivion until the awakening.
15 We know that the Lord was fond of Lazarus (3). How strange, then, to hear Him say "Lazarus died. And I am rejoicing. . ."! We might have said, "I am sorrowing." It is our privilege, also, to look about us on all the distress and disaster and death and rejoice, not in the calamities themselves, but in the glory which will accrue to God when He deals with them. It is only as we see God's beneficent purpose in our trials that we can really endure them with joyfulness.
17 The four days may suggest the time during which the nation lies lifeless, before the resurrection of the day of the Lord. First, they were under the law, and this dealt out death. Then came the personal ministry of Messiah which showed them to be but a corrupt corpse. The rejection of the apostolic testimony in the Acts leaves them still worse. They become most offensive in the day of wrath.
25 The striking phrase "and the Life" is the clue to the great truth here unfolded by our Lord. To His assertion that "Your brother will be rising" Martha assents, for she knew that all would rise "at the last day". But this falls far short of the truth. There are two resurrections. One He called "the resurrection of life:' the other "the resurrection of judgment" (5:29). As resurrection necessarily implies life, it will be seen that the word "life" is used in an intensified sense. The "resurrection of life" imparts eonian life, while the resurrection of judgment leads to eonian death.
Our Lord is seeking to comfort Martha by that best of all consolations, the vivification of all His own at His presence, long before "the last day:' at the very commencement of the millennial eon. Seventy-five days after His glorious epiphany He will rouse the saints in Israel and commence their righteous reign over the earth. "Happy and holy is he who is having part in the former resurrection: over these, the second death has no jurisdiction, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will be reigning with Him the thousand years" (Un.20:6).
The saints of this present economy of transcendent grace will be given life even before this, as explained in 1 Th.4:13-18; 1 Co.15:51-55; Eph.1:12; Phil.3:20. The presence, or parousia, of Christ, spreads over a period of time, in which all His own are called out of death to eonian life. Only three resurrections lead to immortality. First, that of Christ Himself, second, that at His future "presence" including those who are His, and, lastly, all mankind, at the consummation, when all will be made alive (1 Co.15:22-28). This great truth is the only real comfort in the presence of bereavement. Christ never stood in the presence of death without vanquishing it. He is the Life! Since this life beyond the reach of death is imparted only on these three occasions, it follows that every other resurrection is not a "resurrection of life". Those raised in the past and those at the great white throne are still subject to death. They are not made immortal until the consummation, when death is abolished, and life is the portion of all.
35 What tender compassion His tears reveal! He could deliberately remain away so that Lazarus should die and by his death prepare for the revelation of God's glory in his resurrection. He could comfort the sisters with the great truth that He is the Life. But with Him, truth was not the stern, heartless dogma that overrides all natural feelings and condemns all sorrow as unbelief. His heart was moved with pity and compassion and He stops to mingle His tears with theirs ere He wipes them away by His marvelous miracle. So we, too, are not charged by the apostle to refrain from all sorrow as sinful, but not to sorrow as others who have no blessed expectation to anticipate (1Th. 4:13).
We have here a touching example of the experience recorded by the apostle Paul: ''as sorrowing, yet ever rejoicing" (2Co.6:10). Or, in our Lord's case, we should reverse it, for He rejoiced first of all, yet felt for His friends who had not His faith. It is a mistake to suppose that confidence in the ultimate benefits of sorrow will put us out of sympathy with it. It is intended to stir our emotions. It is designed to touch us to tears. Otherwise, it would fail to accomplish the object for which it exists. Our sorrows and heartaches are nonetheless real because we know their glorious outcome. All their ultimate value lies in their contrast with the tearless felicity for which they are a preparation.
39 Of the three who were raised from the dead by our Lord, Jairus' daughter had scarcely started to go to corruption (Mk.5:35-42), the widow of Nain's son was on the way to his burial (Lu.7:11-16), but Lazarus had been dead long enough to be offensive to smell and to sight. No wonder Martha objected. Who wishes to see the gruesome spectacle of a corrupting corpse? How their hearts must have marveled at His words "you should be seeing the glory of God." The glory of God in such ghastly association! Yet such is the only place its full effulgence can be manifested. This is one of many examples which are given us in the Scriptures, which illustrate the essential and beneficial function of evil in the universe. It reveals God. All those deepest and most precious excellences which spring from love would be buried within His breast, unknown and unappreciated, if evil did not force it to the front. If Lazarus had not died, we would not have known of Christ's compassion and His tears. Even Mary had not learned this lesson yet, though she had sat at His feet and listened to His teachings. His heart was most touched by her complaint "Lord, if Thou wert here, my brother would not have died!" Did she know that He had delayed His coming?
It is the great problem that baffles men today put into a simple simile. Why does God allow evil? Why does He not hasten to remove it? All that is needed is His presence. But He delays. His delay confirms the great truth that evil, as well as good, is from Him (Is.45:7). It is the necessary foil for the display of His glory. It is the essential ingredient of future bliss. Good cannot be known and appreciated except in the presence of evil. It needs a dead, loathsome, fetid corpse to flash forth the effulgent love of God.
49 The high priest's prophecy is another clear indication of the overruling and sovereign power of God. His enemies fulfill His will even when they are most opposed to His plans and purpose, as they see it. The very arrogance of the chief priest reacts on himself. Not only the Sanhedrin, whom he accused of crass ignorance, but he also was unaware of the great truth which his lips uttered. How pitiable is man's "free will" in the hands of such a God! Man is utterly at the mercy of his heredity and environment, and these are beyond his control. God alone decides the factors of which our lives are composed and hence He is the final Arbiter of our deeds and destiny. Once we know Him we would not have it otherwise.
53 How vivid are the contrasts in this account! Christ has proclaimed Himself as the Life, both by word and by deed. From that day, then, they plan that they may kill Him. They deliberately decide to murder the One Who not only has life in Himself, but Who is to give life to all mankind!
55 "The Lord's Passover" (Ex.12:27) has become "the Passover of the Jews"! The Lamb was not there.
1-8 Compare Mt.26:6-13; Mk.14:3-9.
1 We are now treated to a beautifully symbolic picture of the three-fold phase of resurrection life. The saints shall serve Him as Martha did. They shall share with Him, as Lazarus. They shall worship Him, like Mary. In these degenerate days, we have forgotten that there is need of one thing, and that is not service or sacrifice, but of sitting at the feet of our Lord and hearing His Word. Service has its place, but it is not, as Martha thought, the great need. God can get servants. He has many much more powerful than we are. He can make the very elements do His bidding. He is looking for worship, and true worship comes only from the heart attuned to His grace. Martha served, as she always did, though she had learned not to be worried by its details. Mary no longer sits at His feet but worships there, and "wastes" a woman's prized possession on them, and wipes them with a woman's glory. It is the most exalted act of any of His disciples. Like us, they were usually after blessing for themselves, instead of seeking to give Him what His heart craves. It is not what we get but what we give to God that fulfils the purpose for which He formed and favored us. Let us become so enamored of His excellencies that we, too, shall waste our most precious possessions in worship at His feet. Nothing is too good for Him! Nothing is lost that serves to express our adoration, nothing is wasted that conveys our love.
But worshipful response is impossible apart from the preparation of heart which comes only to those who search the treasures of His Word. The discoveries of His wisdom and grace alone can constrain the heart to the impulsive and uncalculated displays of lavish affection which are His delight. One heart, responding to His love, is better than all the service and ceremony of a myriad of slaves driven by fear or favor.
3 The term "ointment" is now used especially for fatty or fixed oils, of heavy consistency, but the perfumes used in the Orient are essential oils, or attars. This seems the only satisfactory English term for the precious perfume used by Mary.
7 While facing the terrible ordeal of death our Lord found no fellowship with His disciples in the sorrows before Him. Like Peter, they could not entertain such a thought. But it seems that Mary alone, of all His friends, had learned to believe His words. She looked forward to His death and the tomb. Is it any wonder that she is first at the tomb on the resurrection morning and first to speak to the risen Christ?
12-19 Compare Mt.21:4-11; Mk.11:7-10. Lu.19:35-40.
13 See Ps. 118:25-26.
15 See Zech.9:9.
21 Perhaps the surest index of the spiritual state and experience of believers is the way in which they use the name and titles of our Lord. The prevalent use of His personal name is shocking to the spiritual ear. Only His enemies and those unacquainted with Him, as these Greeks, addressed Him or spoke of Him familiarly by the name given Him at His birth. Those who knew Him and had learned to love Him always gave Him a title suited to the occasion. He was Teacher to His disciples, Adept, or Doctor, in reference to His wisdom, Lord or Master to His slaves, and Christ or Messiah to His loyal subjects. To them, He was Jesus the Christ, in humiliation. To us, He is Christ Jesus, in glory. Surely it is a small thing for us to speak of Him as He deserves! Let us not degrade His high dignity by using His human name without at least one of the titles of His glory.
23 It seems that here we have a preview of the coming kingdom. He enters Jerusalem in triumph exactly, to a day, as foretold by Daniel the prophet (Dan.9:25). The indignant Pharisees acknowledge that the world went after Him, and even the Greeks seek His acquaintance, as the nations will come up to Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom.
There is no intimation that the curiosity of the Greeks was satisfied. In the kingdom, they will have their place, but before that, immediately athwart His path, is the death that will open the way for the blessing of all. The Greeks must wait until the grain of wheat has died.
24 The millennial vision fades away and gives place to the black shadows of Golgotha. The King has come, but they do not know Him. The kingdom proclamation is withdrawn. Death looms large ahead. The Wheat kernel must die. Only in resurrection can be realized the close unity with His own which He craved.
25 We fail to feel the force of this if we confound the soul with life. We could hardly say, in verse 27, "Now is My life disturbed," yet it is the very same word. The soul has to do with sensation. Some forms of life, as plants, have no soul, or sensation. He who is fond of his soul will shrink from discomfort and suffering. He will not endure the affliction which precedes the kingdom. He will lose the joy and blessedness of the reward. He who hates his soul will not allow any sorrow to stand between him and faithfulness to God.
27 The Lord Himself is the first to hate His own soul. His darkest hour has come. Shall He shrink from its horrors? No! Let God's name be glorified whatever the bitter cost! The rendering "life", in place of "soul", fails to give the true thought. A man may love life, yet hate his soul. Those who fear persecution and distress for Christ's sake are fond of their souls, and they will forfeit the very ease and delight which they crave, when the kingdom comes.
31 .'Now is the judging of this world" suggests that God was, at that time, about to judge mankind. But He did not. Judgment still waits. It is the world that was doing the judging. This is confirmed by the same form of the word in "the judging of Gehenna" (Mt.23:33), "the just judging of God" (2 Th.1:5). See also Un.14:7, 16:7, 18:10, 19:2. The world would hardly judge Satan, so the Chief here spoken of must be Christ Himself. This title is used again in 14:30 and 16:11, where further evidence is given that our Lord is speaking of Himself. The judging is His exaltation on the cross, for it was a reference to the manner of His death. So it was that the throng understood the term. We should not give one of His titles to Satan. Christ is the world's Chief.
37 What better proof could be found that they were walking in darkness than their rejection of the Man of Sorrows? The prophets plainly foretold their action and yet they are too much in the dark to see.
38 Our Lord has now come to that stage of His ministry which was so graphically described by His namesake, Isaiah. His public ministry is at its close. He hides Himself. As the prophet continues (Isa.53:2-3) :
He has no shapeliness or honor,
And, seen by us, He is no sight to be coveted.
He is despised and shunned by men,
A Man of pains and knowing illness,
And, as One concealing His face from
us, He is despised, and we take no account of Him.
39 Outside the Scriptures we hear much of human responsibility, and that those who reject the light deserve the judgment they have invited. This passage makes us pause. These men had heard the most powerful of all preachers and seen the most marvelous of all miracle workers, yet we are distinctly told that they could not believe. The reason given is that the Scriptures must be fulfilled. God's purpose demands a measure of unbelief as well as of faith. He locks up all in stubbornness that He may have mercy on all (Ro.11:32). To damn these men who could not believe with irretrievable and irrecoverable ruin is unthinkable of God.
40 Isaiah's message of doom to Israel is always quoted when their apostasy has passed repair. It divides our Lord's ministry and the accounts given of it into two distinct and different epochs. He begins His proclamation of the kingdom and continues until its rejection. Then, after quoting the sixth of Isaiah, He speaks to His own of His suffering and death. See Mt.13:13-15. In the Pentecostal era, we see the same. The kingdom is proclaimed to the whole nation once again, but when their rejection is irrevocable, Paul quotes from Isaiah and seals their doom for the eon. This rejection is the basis on which the present secret economy of transcendent grace has been established.
1 The path of our Lord as brought before us in John's account may be compared with the path of a priest who comes out of the tabernacle and returns thither within the curtain. We find Him first with God (1:1). Then He is the Light (1:9), reminding us of the seven-branched lampstand. At His baptism (1:29) we see Him at the laver and as the Lamb He is on the brazen altar of sacrifice. Thus He came out from God. Now that He is rejected, He goes back to God. The order is reversed. He bears witness to His death (12:24)–the brazen altar. He washes the disciples' feet (13:5)–the laver. He partakes of the "last supper"–the shewbread. The holy Spirit–the lampstand. Within the curtain in chapter seventeen–the mercy seat. Thus we see how really He came out from God and is going back to God (3). He returns whence He came.
2 This act is characteristic of the Adversary's opposition. He was to "bruise His heel" (Gen.3:15), a special phrase denoting the treachery of one who seems to serve while he plots destruction. The name Jacob, literally "heeler" or supplanter. conveys this same idea of unfair advantage (Gen.25:21-26). The tribe of Dan is "a horned snake in the path to bite the horse's heels" (Gen.49:17). Its treachery excluded it from the list of tribes in the Unveiling (7:4.8).
3 The majesty of humility is seldom so splendidly set forth as in this passage. First, we have His high place in reference to the world. All is in His hands. Then we are told of His relation to God. Did not such dignity and power entitle Him to the highest esteem? Yet, as such, He stoops to the meanest humility.
5 Many features of oriental life are very different from our customs. We remove our hats on entering a house, as a token of respect. In the East, they keep on their turbans, but remove their footgear, leaving it in the small, lower entrance to the reception room (See Ex.3:5; Josh.5:15; Ac.7::33). It is then the duty of the humblest slave in the establishment to wash the feet of the guest, by pouring water over them, and wiping them off with the towel with which he is girded.
6 The most menial service the Lord could perform for them was the washing of their feet. No wonder Peter protested! He has not fully learned the lesson that the Lord is abasing Himself even to death, before His exaltation. He is giving them an example which has had very few followers among His disciples. Those who have aspired to be teachers and masters have not stooped to lowly service, but have held to high honors and dignities. The true slave of Christ, in this day of grace, will emulate the example of our Lord as set forth by Paul in his Philippian epistle. There he traces His descent from the form of God down to the death of the cross. God will see to His exaltation.
It was not only a lesson in humility but a condition of fellowship. Not being under pure grace or having been justified as we are, but having only a probationary pardon, fellowship with Christ depended on continual confession and cleansing (1Jn.1:9). The daily washing of the priest at the laver ( Ex.30:19-21) was absolutely essential to continued communion, but it was not necessary that they be bathed as at their consecration (Ex.29:4).
18-20 Compare Mt.26:20-25; Mk.14:17-21; Lu.22:21-23.
18 See Ps. 41:9.
18 It is very evident that the Lord chose Judas-he was one of "the elect"!–for the purpose of betraying Him. He knew him from the beginning, and now He quotes the prophecy which foretold his act and sets forth most vividly the extreme treachery of it. According to the custom of the Orient, those who partake of food together are enjoined by the most sacred obligations from doing harm to one another. The great depth of Judas' degradation is not in the betrayal alone so much as in his previous privileges and position of trust. It is one of the marvels of our Lord's life that He never "betrayed" Judas to the other disciples. He treated him as the rest, and so successfully concealed his true character from them that, at the very last, they did not guess why he went out, neither did they understand what our Lord said concerning him. His treatment of Judas is worth copying.
26 In the East all eating was done with the fingers, no knives or forks or spoons being used at a meal. In their place, a small three-cornered piece of the thin, hard biscuit, like pancake, which is always served, is used to convey the food to the mouth. This is eaten with the morsel. How surpassingly kind and delicate was this method of indicating His betrayer! Only one would understand. The others would look upon it as a special mark of His favor, for the giving of the morsel was considered the highest mark of respect and honor which a host can show his guest. It is evident that not one of the disciples except John knew what it meant. It was the last loving act of the Lord for Judas, before His betrayal. Who can doubt that His grace will save him yet?
27 Satan entered into Judas. This statement lifts the veil of the invisible powers of darkness and greatly modifies our judgment of Judas. It is evident that the Adversary did not think him capable of committing the capital crime, so forces him forward by actually obsessing him, and controlling his mind and his actions until it had been accomplished. He was not himself when he did it. But later, when he realized what he had done, his heart was filled with bitter regret and he did not hesitate to fling the money he had received into the faces of the chief priests, and acknowledged his terrible trespass.
30 The day of Christ's ministry was done. Now it was night, the time when man does no work, but when the authority of darkness is most active. Not Judas, or the chief priests, or the scribes or Pharisees were the most malignant opponents of Christ. They, like Judas, were but puppets in the hands of His unseen spiritual adversaries. He was the One Who would crush the serpent's head; but He was also the One Whose heel the serpent would bruise. And now was the time. Satan uses all his arts and exerts all his power to crush Him. The cross is not merely the crisis of man's enmity to God. It is the culmination of the enmity of the spirit world as well. It is not confined to earth. It is the moral center of the universe.
34 As our Lord is about to leave His beloved disciples, He compresses His ministry into one new precept-love. That was to be their law and their life and make them a light in the world. This should characterize His saints in this gracious economy in an even greater degree, for we have quaffed far deeper draughts of grace than His disciples ever tasted.
36-38 Compare Mt. 26:33-35; Mk.14:29-31; Lu.22:31-34.
36 Impetuous Peter's heart was in the right place, but it took many bitter trials to teach him the truth concerning Christ and His sufferings and his own cowardice. How graciously the Lord overlooks his failures by immediately following his present inability by a prophecy of his future martyrdom!
It is probably true, as tradition reports, that Peter was crucified, like his Lord. Typically, he represents those in Israel who suffer and die before the kingdom comes, while John stands for those who live through until the kingdom is established.
2 The temple in Jerusalem was the Father's house. In the walls were many abodes for the priests and Levites who officiated in its precincts. There is no hint anywhere in the Scriptures that the disciples go to heaven. A celestial destiny was not revealed until the apostle Paul was in his Roman prison. Then he first made it known in his Ephesian epistle. But it is not for the saints of the Circumcision. All their blessings are heavenly in character and, like the new Jerusalem, come down out of heaven, but they are all enjoyed on earth. Only those in the present secret economy of God's grace are blessed with all spiritual blessings among the celestials. The Circumcision enjoy the days of heaven on earth. Hence Christ comes again and is with them in the kingdom.
7 Christ's usual character in this evangel is the Word of God. Here, however, He gives us a glimpse of Himself as the Image of the Father. No man can see the invisible God. But surely the disciples had seen all the attributes of the Father manifested in Him, as He loved them and led them, taught them and fed them, giving them all the care and keeping of little children. He was not the Father, but the Father was in Him, and could be seen nowhere else. But this glimpse of the Father is (as is fitting in this account) most evident in His words and works. These were not His own, but the Father's.
12 We have here an intimation of the marvelous miracles accomplished by the apostles and others in the Pentecostal period, following His ascension, and also of the still greater marvels which will inaugurate the kingdom in the future. The spiritual blessings of the present are in reality far greater than any of these, but they were not in view at this time, for they were a secret, hidden in God, and could not be even hinted at until Israel's final failure was assured.
14 These words have proved a snare to many. They have requested much in His name which has not come to pass. This seems to reflect on His faithfulness. The difficulty vanishes when we see that this is not for the Uncircumcision (Ro.15:8). Far higher truth is ours. It is set forth in Phil.46. We make our requests known to God with thanksgiving, and leave them with Him to act upon as His love determines, not as we dictate.
16 The Lord Himself was the Consoler of the apostles while He was with them. Now that He was about to leave they would not only need the consolation He had given them, but a special measure to make up for His absence as well. It is most touching to see, as the dark shadows of the cross are crowding His soul, that He is not concerned for His own relief, but for the sorrows of His beloved disciples. The spirit He had promised after His glorification (7:39) was to be a living spring, but, in view of the sorrow so soon to engulf them, it is now called a consoler, for this would be its first function.
It is called "the spirit of truth" in contrast to "the spirit of deception" (1Jn.4:6). The world seeks comfort in its false philosophy but God's saints find consolation in the truth. The spirit of deception is that false flood of spirit force which is sweeping the world on to the worship of the antichrist. The spirit of truth is its opposite.
He told them that the declarations which He spoke are spirit and are life. It is the spirit that vivifies (6:63). Hence we may take it that the impartation of the spirit, after His vivification, when He inflated and said "get holy Spirit! "(20:22), corresponds to the impartation of the breath of the living to Adam (Gen.2:7), so that he became a living soul. In this way, the last Adam showed Himself a life imparting Spirit (1 Co.15:45).
Pentecost was not the reception of holy Spirit to give life, but its baptism for cleansing, its filling for utterance, and its coming on for power.
The reception of holy Spirit was dependent on repentance and baptism in the evangel of the kingdom (Ac.2:38 ). In Samaria, the gift waited on the prayer and imposition of the hands of the apostles (Ac.8:15-17) according to the authority which the Lord conferred on them when it was first given (20:23). In the present economy of transcendent grace it is the portion of all who believe (Eph.1:13 ). It is an earnest of all the spiritual possessions which are ours in Christ Jesus, among the celestials.
28 In the East they do not say, as we do, "I am going", but rather "I am going and returning" when speaking of an ordinary journey. So the Lord assures them that He was not about to leave them permanently, but only for a while.
30 When our Lord spoke of Himself in relation to the world He often used the third person. Witness the Son of Man (9:37). See also 7:18, 9:37. He is the Coming One, for Whom all creation waits. Yet, when He came, the world had nothing at all in Him. It rejected His chieftainship just as Israel also rejected His messiahship and "there is nothing for Him" (Dan.9:26). None of the glories pertaining to Him were allowed by Israel and He will not assume them until He comes again in power and glory as revealed in the Unveiling, when He appears as the White Horse Rider, crowned with many diadems, the King of kings and Lord of lords (Un.19:11-16). He, and not Satan, is the Chief of the world. This title occurs only in this account. See 12:31 and 16:11.
31 What grace is there here! The world judges Him and casts Him out, so He immediately uses their hatred to reveal the love of God to Him and to them. Indeed, here we have love's greatest triumph. Men could not do worse or God better. His love needed their hatred for a foil and makes good use of it to emerge into the open where all the world can see.
1 The fig, the olive, and the vine are used by God to picture the political, the spiritual, and the social blessedness of Israel as a nation. He brought a vine out of Egypt, cast out the nations, and planted it. It filled the land, but was destroyed ( Ps. 80:8-16). The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel (Is.5:7). Jeremiah laments that Jehovah had planted them an excellent local variety, yet they had turned into a foreign vine by their unfaithfulness and their joylessness (Jer.2:21). Jotham, in his parable of the trees, tells us that grape juice gladdens both God and mortals (Jud.9:13). But Hosea cries "Israel is a vacant vine. The fruit is equivalent to it" (Hos.10:1). Israel failed to gladden either God or mortals. Christ came and did both. He is the true Vine. The fruitless branches, those who remained not in Him, are taken away. His own are cleansed by the belief of the truth. All gladness for God or mortals must now come through the Messiah.
5 He now restates the truth as to the vine. Only those with Him are the branches. Israel as a nation has no part in Him.
6 The salvation proclaimed by our Lord and the twelve apostles was probational. There was always the danger of "drifting by" (Heb.2:1). They were His house if they retained the boldness and glorying of the expectation confirmed unto the consummation (Heb.3:6). They could withdraw from the living God (Heb.3:12). Many of those once enlightened fell aside (Heb.6:4-6). Such are those who did not remain in the vine, but withered and were destroyed. We, however, are not in the vine, but members of the body of Christ. And the members of a body cannot be lopped off like the branches of a vine. We are saved by grace, and do not depend on our own abiding, but on His power and love. We are vitally and organically a part of Christ Himself. He would be maimed by the excision of members of His body. How thankful we should be that we are not branches in that vine!
12 As the Lord had explained in His kingdom proclamation, the whole law was included in the one word, love. Love to God and love to man is far more than all the precepts of the law. So, in His final charge, as He is about to give them the greatest example of love the universe has seen or ever will see, in the offering of His soul to God for the sin of the world, He presses home to their hearts the excellent way of love.
Paul, in his appeal to us, the Uncircumcision, lays even greater stress on love. We have no law, no precepts. But love remains, and conduct in accord with love needs no law, but soars far above all its righteous demands.
16 Too often is salvation made a matter of the sinner's choice. This sadly mars the full and clear apprehension of God's love which it is intended to reveal. All active effort in redemption is the outflow of divine love, and is entirely on God's side. All the sinner's activity is a hindrance, He would choose anyone but God. His part is a passive or a negative one.
This basic truth is much more forcibly revealed later on in connection with the call of the nations. We were chosen by God in Christ before the disruption. Sin itself was subsequent to His choice of us. Hence, sin, either past or present, cannot affect God's purpose for us, or our acceptance of His grace. He chooses, He calls, He glorifies. He does not give man his choice or a chance. He has the wisdom and the power to impel men to fall into line with His purpose no matter what their natural inclination may be. All human experience confirms the divine declaration that He it is Who is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil. 213). Man can carry out his own will only so far as it accords with the purpose of God. When men rage against God, He uses their wrath as far as it is useful to His plans. The remainder of their wrath He restrains.
1 There is no hatred like religious hatred, no persecution so fierce as that fired by a mistaken zeal for God. Not only were the apostles persecuted in their day, but the truth of God is just as offensive to the recognized heads of Christendom now as it was to the chief priests of Judaism then. Those who boldly defend some doctrine, will just as boldly do their best to denounce and destroy the testimony to a truth of which they are ignorant, or which conflicts with their accepted creed. Happy is that servant of God who bares his brow to the storm in the consciousness that God not only knew and knows of all the opposition to His truth by the religious world, but who realizes that this also is a part of His purpose. Lack of success will not sadden, apparent failure will not make him faint. His only real defeat will follow any attempt to retaliate. Let us never be found on the side of those who persecute. Blessed (not happy!) are the persecuted! Their reward is sure. May His grace enable us to enjoy suffering for Him!
8 The world is to be convicted on three counts by the spirit, now that Christ is absent. His sinless life, His righteousness, His proclamation of the kingdom all cease with His return to His Father. But all are used by the spirit to convict the world. Even the unbeliever is convinced that all have sinned except the Christ of the Scriptures. No other man is acknowledged to have been perfectly just. They assent to the injustice of His judgment.
If we make "the Chief of this world" a title of Satan we involve ourselves in a maze of difficulties. If the world or God had judged Satan, how would that convict the world? And he certainly has not been judged yet. Christ is the great Chief of the world. He was judged and crucified by it. We question whether any sane man, today, will justify its action. The world has been convicted or convinced by the spirit of truth even though it knows it not.
11 The three occurrences of the title "Chief of this world" (12:31, 14:30, 16:11 ) are most difficult and contradictory if assigned to Satan, but clear and consistent if connected with Christ.
12 The words of our Lord preserved for us in the four accounts of His life come very far from giving us all that He had to say. They were sadly limited by the incapacity of His hearers. Even His closest disciples could not understand some of the simplest facts, simply told. They would not listen to the story of His supreme sacrifice. His temporary departure was a puzzle to them. As the great galaxy of truth subsequently revealed depends on His shameful death and glorious exaltation for its very foundation, how could they begin to understand?
Hence it will be seen that the transcendent truths of Scripture should not be sought in the words of our Lord, but in the subsequent utterances of the spirit of truth. Furthermore, much could not be revealed until Israel had once more definitely refused the proclamation of the kingdom by the apostles, as recorded in the book of Acts. This, and the fact that the spirit is given a much larger place in Paul's ministry than ever before, leads us to look in his epistles for the supreme revelation. And a thorough study will convince us that this is so, for he it is who reveals those secrets which enabled him to "complete the word of God" (Col.1:25). He takes us back before Genesis (Eph.1:4), and brings us far beyond the Unveiling (1Co.15:24).
Any system of theology which plays our Lord's words against Paul's, or does not recognize the predominant place of Paul's epistles for the present, is in practical opposition to the plain statement made by our Lord Himself. Much of what our Lord wished to say He has spoken through His apostles, by means of that spirit of truth which would enable them to apprehend what would otherwise be beyond them.
The great apostasy of the present time is largely fortified by the refusal to heed these clear declarations of the Lord Himself. The truth especially given for the nations is ignored and the truth intended only for the Circumcision, more especially that taught by our Lord, is wrested from its place and forced into a position for which it was never intended.
27 There is a common but false feeling that God is a stern Judge but Christ a lenient Saviour. This is very wrong, for Christ is but a reflection of the Father. Christ Himself in His time will be a Judge and deal out justice. But let us not imagine that He came to appease God’s wrath entirely of His own volition. All that He did was in obedience to the will of God and in order to display the heart of God. It is a sure sign of true spiritual progress when we are enabled to look through Christ to the God that He portrays.
28 His miraculous entry into the world is more than matched by His marvelous exit. He alone knew what His childlike words implied: "I am leaving the world and going to the Father:" Little did His disciples dream of the shame and suffering, distress and death that lay upon that appalling path to the Father!
31 Their belief in His return to the Father fled when the hour of His trial arrived. Had they believed they would not have forsaken Him at a time when He needed them most.
32 Compare Mt.26:31; Mk.14:27.
33 "I have conquered the world." Who thinks of the lowly Nazarene as a world conqueror? Who would include Him in such a list? The world would mention Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon. These have written their names in blood on the bar sinister of the world's escutcheon. No one gives them homage now. The sober and sane shudder at their sinful excesses. Christ is the real-world conqueror! He has held the homage of men's hearts and will bend them into perfect acquiescence with the will of God.
3 The knowledge of God is not given as the definition of eonian life, but eonian life is imparted that they may be knowing Him. Eonian life is life during the eons of Christ's reign and glory. Two methods are used by Him to acquaint His saints with Himself. First, they are left to taste the sorrows of sin at a distance from Him. Then, in the eons of the eons, in glorious fellowship with His Son, each high tide of bliss will mark some new discovery of His love, some fresh token of His affection.
4 The charge against all mankind is that all sin and are wanting of the glory of God (Ro.3:23). God guarantees to give glory and honor and incorruption to all who endure in good acts. Our Lord is the only one who can claim the reward. He is the only one who glorified God on the earth. He is the only one who accomplished the work God gave Him. Hence it seems perfectly natural for Him to demand glorification. Yet He does not ask for the glory His work deserves, but the glory which He had before the world is. He leaves His reward with God Himself. The saints will be a precious part of it.
6 Hebrew names were usually most expressive of character, life or ministry. Even we speak of a good or a bad "name", referring rather to character than sound or significance. Among the Jews the name of their God was given the honor due to the deity, hence it was never pronounced. Christ manifested God's name by displaying His attributes in His life and conduct.
It is a precious thought to consider the disciples as a gift from the Father to His Son. As such, He valued them, not for their own sakes alone, but because of the Giver. It is this interweaving of human lives into the affections of God and His Christ which should give us the greatest cause for confidence and comfort. Our little lives are bound up with the love of God for His Son and the Son's response to the Father. As He says (10), all His belong to God, and all God's are His. It is a great thing to have a God. But it is much greater to know ourselves as the valued possession of God and His Beloved.
10 Glory consists in the esteem in which we are held by others. In the world, Christ had no glory then, but in His own, He was esteemed more than ever was the lot of man, and it has come to pass that, even in the world that rejects Him and repudiates His teaching, His name is placed upon the pinnacle of moral glory.
11 It seems evident that, in spirit, the Lord is beyond the cross. There it was that He finished His work (4), and until then He was still in the world.
19 That holiness, or sanctification, Is not essentially a cleansing from sin is evident from this statement, for our Lord would not cleanse Himself from His own sin, for He had none, and He was not cleansed from, but bore, the sins of others. When the priest was consecrated, his hands were filled with the sacrifice. Real holiness consists in a positive occupation with the things of God, rather than a negative absence of sin.
22 The unity existing between the Son and the Father is here defined, for He desires the same oneness for His disciples. It is a unity of spirit and a community of interests which characterized the early disciples. This is the unity which exists between the Son and the Father. There is no thought of identity. How distinct they were in will, which is the vital element in personality, was to be seen a little later, in the garden of Gethsemane, where the will of Christ was not in line with God's. The cross was not His will, but the subordination of it to His Father.
23 It is with awed hearts and unshod feet that we enter into the pure precincts of God's love to His Son. We feel most unworthy to listen to such sacred secrets. Before the disruption, before sin or sorrow or a single sigh had sent its shadows across this scene, God's love for His Son had its birth.
He came into the world, not to win God's love, but in response to it. His whole ministry was an exhibition of it, and an appeal for a suitable response. Now He reveals its fullest force when He declares that God loves them as He loved Him. Few of His followers at that time, or even after the enlightening aid of the spirit that He had promised, entered into the fullness of this marvelous manifestation of God's affections.
1 The visits to this garden seem to have been the only pleasure the Lord allowed Himself during His ministry. In the arid East, a watered garden is a delightful spot in contrast to its surroundings. How sad that this should witness the awful agony, instead of providing rest and refreshment!
1-3 Compare Mt.26:36-50; Mk.14:32-46; Lu.22:39-48.
3 Darkness is the day, for evildoers. The Lord worked in the day. Satan fears the light. Even in the night, they need a squad of soldiers and armed deputies to take a gentle, unarmed Man and His timid disciples. His simple words cast them to the earth. He calmly orders them to leave His disciples alone. It would seem that He was in authority, rather than they.
4 We must look behind the scenes to appreciate the tremendous issues involved in this betrayal. The cohorts of darkness were in command of Satan. The one who had deluded Eve in the garden of Eden was hurting the heel of the woman's Seed. He had managed to enlist mankind against Him. Christ Himself had called the Jews children of their father, the Adversary. Satan had actually obsessed Judas, and in him was present as chief actor and spectator. The Prince of light and the Prince of darkness meet in the treacherous kiss of Judas.
10-14 Compare Mt.26:51-51; Mk.14:47-53; Lu.22:49-54.
10 Impulsive Peter has not yet learned the lesson of the cross, and so he does the very worst possible thing. The difficulty with the Lord's enemies was that they had no ears that heard. What use is it to strike off the very thing they lacked? But the Lord has a heart for His enemies even in this time of His sorest distress. Elsewhere we read that He healed the hurt of the one who came to take His life. What a marvelous hint of the blessings to which His sorrows would give birth!
11 The Lord was aware of His enemies' thoughts. He perceived the opposition of Satan, yet He saw behind it all the will of His Father. The cup He was to drain was a bitter one. He had no wish to drink it. He knew what men would do, but did not blame them for it. He prayed for their forgiveness. He knew the craft of Satan, but He also knew that behind all these was, not only the iron will of a sovereign God, but the loving affection of a Father. He received it all from His hands. He not only bends beneath the stroke, but He leaves it all to the Father's love. He could trust, though He slay Him. His was the faith that never failed.
15-21 Compare Mt.26:58-69; Mk.14:54-65; Lu.22:54-71.
11 We can imagine what a tumult was in the heart of the impetuous, warmhearted, self-confident Peter. He would never disown His Lord! He would suffer anything for His sake! He would not believe the Lord's plain prediction of his faithlessness. He was ready to face torture and death, some great thing which would bring him applause, but he was not ready for a simple question from a mere maid. Perhaps he prided himself on following the Lord into the house, but his pride must have suffered severely as he pondered his craven conduct. He was having a practical experience of what the apostle records concerning those who seek to please God in the flesh–"What I am hating, this am I doing" (Ro.7:15). How many since have found that they, too, were like Peter, strong to will, but unable to carry out the desires of their heart. And the best part of such an experience is that it destroys confidence in the flesh and drives us to the ground of grace, where we receive power and ability to carry out the mind of the spirit.
18 Houses in the cities of Palestine are heated by means of a charcoal brazier. It is a copper stand about two feet high, with a chafing dish on top. This pan is filled with ashes and on this, the charcoal is placed. It is taken outside and lighted and kindled by the breeze or a fan. Then it is brought into the house.
19 Contrast Peter's craven course with the firm fortitude of his Master. The chief priest, the symbol of holiness and truth, masks his diabolical design by a hypocritical inquiry into the Lord's teachings. But the Lord reads his heart and tears off his mask. There was not the slightest weakness or compromise. It never occurred to Him to deny aught of His teaching or to evade the sufferings which threw their gloomy shadows across His path.
24 Annas was made chief priest by Cyrenius but was deposed seven years later. After three others had held the office, his son-in-law, Caiaphas, became chief priest, and he always seems to be reckoned as holding the office with him. Luke tells us that both were chief priests (Lu.3:2). This alone shows how little regard they had for God's law, which prescribed a single succession absolutely independent of human interference. They were false, chosen by ungodly alien enemies, He was the true Priest about to offer up the true Lamb. They were supposed to put away the sin of the people. Instead, they are the instigators of the sin of sins.
25-27 Compare Mt.26:71-75; Mk.14:69-72; Lu.22:58-62.
28-32 Compare Mt.27:1-2; Mk.15:1; Lu.23:1.
28 What insufferable hypocrites they were! Plotting the death of God's holy One, and afraid their bloody feet would be defiled by entering where He was! The law said, "You shall not murder." And their greatest regret was that they could not kill Him themselves! The only accusation they could bring was that they demanded His death.
29 In marked contrast with the high priest is the conduct of Pilate. They were enlightened by the law, but their light had become darkness. He had nothing but the feeble flicker of natural conscience, but he wished to follow it. His first thought, however, was for himself. If possible, he would get out of this dilemma by turning Him over to them. In so doing he would not invite their displeasure and would avoid the immediate responsibility of doing what was undoubtedly an unjust act. But they did not want to try Him. They wanted to murder Him.
33-38 Compare Mt.27:11-14; Mk.15:2-5; Lu.23:2-12.
36 Scripture knows of five "worlds", which correspond to the five eons. Before Christ's kingdom will be set up there must be the great judgments which usher in a new eon and a new world. Had the Jews received Him, humanly speaking, the kingdom would have come, but, since they reject Him, He could say "Now is My kingdom not hence." Ever since the crisis in His ministry when it became evident that the nation would not hear, He had put off the kingdom to a distant time. For some time He had not been proclaiming the kingdom, so that Pilate had no fault to find.
37 Pilate, like many others who have mistaken the Lord's meaning, thought that He denied being a King. Perhaps he thought that He was founding a "spiritual kingdom." But the Lord corrects this false supposition, He solemnly asseverates that He is in very truth a King. This was a very serious matter for Pilate to pass upon, for he was the political head of the people. It is this charge alone that appeals to him, hence he gives our Lord the private investigation noted only in this account. Many zealous impostors arose from time to time among the Jews, proclaiming themselves to be the Messiah, and inciting the Jews to insurrection against the Romans. The real issue between Pilate and our Lord was to settle the question whether He intended to lead an armed resistance to the rule of Rome. In case He did, Pilate perforce must act to suppress the incipient rebellion and to execute the leader. But, as the Lord had no thought of establishing His kingdom in this manner, He convinces Pilate of His innocence in that regard. The other charges were religious and did not interest Pilate, Hence he desired to set Him free.
38-40 Compare Mt.27:15-23; Mk.15:6-15; Lu.23:13-25.
40 The people choose Bar-Abbas, which signifies Son-Father. They preferred a son of their own father, the Adversary, a man who was a robber and a murderer, to the Son of the Father, Who not only brought them an untold wealth of blessing but actually brought the dead to life again. What a contrast between these two, whose names are so similar! The Saviour suffers: the sinner is set free! Bar-Abbas is a type of the great mass who will eventually be saved without faith.
1-3 Compare Mt.27:24-31; Mk.15:15-20.
1 The Roman soldiers mock the Messianic hope of Israel by making Him a mimic monarch. The royal purple and the thorny wreath are accompanied by mocking adulation of His imaginary majesty. Some day that bleeding brow will wear its many diadems. But all the regal rank that these reveal will not endear Him to our hearts like the cruel wreath of thorns. It is the symbol of a power and a glory that compels a willing homage and an adoring loyalty.
7 It appears on the surface, that Pilate's question, when he heard that the Lord claimed to be the Son of God, was ignored. Not so. Since the Lord was the Son of God it was far beneath His dignity to reply in words; His conduct was far more convincing. Pilate understood His silence far better than any words.
8 The magnificent bearing of Christ before Pilate is without a parallel in the annals of justice. He should have been afraid of the cruel and unscrupulous Roman minion, but it is Pilate who fears. And when the haughty Roman threatens Him He calmly tells him that there is a higher authority.
What a triumphant trust in God sustained Him in all this terrific and heart-rending ordeal! Can we not picture to ourselves the furious, bloodthirsty mob, keeping its distance for hypocritical fear of contamination, yet fouling the very atmosphere with their false and fiendish accusations; the disdainful governor, who has no wish to become involved in their religious controversies, arrogant, yet fearful, strong, yet weakly catering to their unjust demands; and the solitary, self-composed, lowly Man. He was meekly bowing to the will of God; they were ignorantly fulfilling the behest of Satan.
12 Pilate was submitting to what he deemed a political necessity. We must concede that he did all any Roman governor would have done under the circumstances. The Jews could easily have caused trouble at Rome if he should fail to deal summarily with one who was popularly hailed as a political opponent of Caesar.
14 The reading "third" (instead of the usual "sixth") is used on the evidence of the editor of Sinaiticus. Many ingenious explanations have been offered in order to harmonize the sixth hour in this passage with the third hour in Mk.15:25, but none of them are satisfactory. The darkness did not fall until the sixth hour, which is midday, but that came not only after His own crucifixion, and that of the malefactors, but also after the robbers had been impaled.
16-24 Compare Mt.27:24-35; Mk.15:15-24; Lu.23:24-34.
17 Stoning was the mode prescribed by the law of Moses for the death penalty. It was a comparatively swift and painless death, as a single blow on the head would stun the victim into unconsciousness. The Roman cross or stake was far more painful and shameful. The victim was nailed to a single upright stake and left to die, a lingering and humiliating spectacle to all who beheld.
The glamour with which religion seeks to surround the cross is false and misleading. Its only halo is dense darkness, its power weakness, its glory shame.
The shamefulness of crucifixion is the fitting climax to the descent of Christ from the highest glory to the lowest humiliation. Even as He had been far above all, so now it was meet that He should come down to the lowest depths of degradation. It is this aspect of His death which is intended by the term "cross&quoquot; or "pale." This registers, not the fact of His death, but the manner of it. This, in turn, throws a lurid light on the world that had so little respect for the One Who had the highest place in heaven.
But, besides this, the cross is the place of the curse. It was necessary for the sinless One to become sin. It was needful for Him to forsake the place of the blessing for the place of the curse. " Accursed is everyone being hanged on a pole" was a portion of the law which He had never fulfilled. This form of death--crucifixion--robbed Him of His last refuge. God Himself became His enemy, and forsook Him.
23 As our Lord belonged to the lower class, He would doubtless dress accordingly. They wore only five articles of clothing, a long cotton shirt, a girdle, usually of leather or worsted, a turban, sandals; and a tunic over all made of goat's or camel's hair or worsted. The four soldiers could readily divide the first four among themselves, but the fifth, being specially made without a seam, was probably of more value than all the rest together. It would spoil it to divide it, so it was that they were compelled to cast lots and fulfill the Scriptures.
24 See Ps.22:18.
25 Physical relationships are temporary, and will be superseded by spiritual ties. All lasting spiritual bonds are made at the foot of the cross.
28-30 Compare Mt.27:45-51; Mk.15:33-36; Lu.23:46; see Ps. 22:15, 69:21.
28 Perhaps in no other circumstances could we realize the intense passion of Christ for the word of God. His work was accomplished. We may know a little of what He felt from the words of the Psalmist (22:14-15).
I am poured out as water,
And all My bones are dissected.
My heart becomes as wax;
It Is melted In the midst of My bowels.
My vigor Is dry as earthenware,
And My tongue Is clinging to My jaws,
And on the soil of death,
Thou art setting Me as the hearth stones.
Death, at the hands of God, not His enemies, was before Him. Yet one passage of Scripture was not fulfilled. He had done His part, but men had not done theirs. The Psalmist had foretold (69:21):
And they put poison In My repast;
And for My thirst they cause Me to drink vinegar.
So He prompts them, and they fill the sponge and fulfill the passage. Truly, not one letter of the law shall fail till all is fulfilled! If He could drink that bitter draught in the moment of His greatest weakness and deepest despair, that the Scripture may be perfected, what will He do in the day of His power and glory? He will surely see that not a single line of the Scriptures will fail of fulfillment.
30 The death of Christ was not due to the failure of His faculties, or to exhaustion. It was a deliberate act of His will. After having accomplished the work the Father set for Him to do, there was no need of further suffering. So He laid down His soul of His own volition; He gave up His Spirit to God.
31 There were many sabbaths in Israel beside the weekly one. This sabbath was the first day of the festival of Unleavened bread (Lev.23:7). As it introduced the seven day festival when all leaven was excluded from their houses, it was considered a far greater day than a weekly sabbath. It may be that the Spirit of God is hinting also at its real greatness. Leaven is a type of sin. Now the great Sin Offering had been slain, and sin was indeed put away! It was the greatest day in the Jewish calendar.
32 The course of the narrative here clearly shows that there were four others crucified with Christ. There were two malefactors and two robbers. The soldiers crush the legs of two before they come to Christ, so there must have been two on each side. There were no "thieves". One of the malefactors believed on Him.
36 See Nu. 9:12; Ex.12:46; Ps.34:20.
36 With His supernatural vitality He would have remained alive long after the others, and suffered the breaking of His bones if He had not laid down His soul of Himself. It is remarkable that, in all this, there is a divine intelligence behind the ignorance of man. They marred His flesh but did not break His bones. They poured out His blood, but did not mutilate His form. So that, in resurrection, His body is composed of flesh and bones and has no blood. The soul of the flesh is in the blood, but the spirit needs no blood. The wanton hands of His enemies were used to transform His body to the new condition needed in resurrection!
37 See Zech.12:10.
38-42 Compare Mt.27:57-60; Mk.15:42-46; Lu.23:50-54.
38 What a notable change the crucifixion makes in two of the secret disciples of our Lord! Joseph of Arimathea was afraid of the Jews, but now he has the courage to go to Pilate and he takes the body away before the eyes of those he once feared. Nicodemus, also, does not wait till dark to bring the spices for embalming the body. He comes forth in the light of day. It is the cross, the suffering and shame, the agony and the degradation, of the One Who had won their hearts which took their timidity away. And it is still the inspiration for brave deeds and noble acts free from the fear of man.
1 Compare Mt.28:1; Mk.16:1-4; Lu.24:1.
1 "One of the sabbaths" is the true rendering. The usual "first day of the week" is absolutely devoid of scriptural evidence.
2-10 Compare Lu.24:12.
6 There is a blessed contrast between the resurrection of Lazarus and the vivification of our Lord. Lazarus saw corruption. Christ saw none. Lazarus was raised bound foot and hand with grave clothes and his face was covered with a handkerchief. These are the signs of mortality and corruption. These are the symbols of weakness. Our Lord was raised in power. His feet were free, His hands untrammeled, His face uncovered. He had the power to take up His soul again. He had the strength to remove the grave clothes and roll aside the stone. He is not merely the Resurrection, but He is the Life!
8 How tragic is unbelief! Peter and John, His closest companions, refuse to credit His word when He tells them of His sufferings and death and resurrection. Now they had witnessed His shameful death, they had seen His empty tomb, and still they doubt His word!
11 Mary Magdalene, probably from the town of Magdala, had been possessed with seven demons. The Lord healed her and she became part of that elect company of women who dispensed to Him of their possessions (Lu.8:2-3). She seems to have been among the last to leave the tomb, after witnessing where Joseph of Arimathea had laid Him. Along with some of the other women she seems to have been at the tomb very early, in order to complete the preparation of His body for burial.
Peter and John seem to have left her. She does not take a look and leave. She lingers, and her faith is rewarded by the unspeakable boon of being first to behold the risen Christ. Peter and John, when they looked, saw the grave clothes. She saw the messengers, but is not satisfied with anyone but her Lord.
11-18 Compare Mk.16:9-11.
16 What a world of pathos lies within the range of the human voice! There was no need to tell Who He was, once He had caressed her name as He only could intone it. "Miriam!" And immediately she recognizes the voice of her beloved Lord and Teacher. She alone is told of His victorious ascension to the Father, immediately after His resurrection. She carries the glorious news to the rest.
17 In the Scriptures, omissions are often of supreme significance. To accord with the character of the account, this ascension of our Lord is mentioned only here. The other narratives omit it entirely. But it is still more significant to note the silence as to the nature and object of this ascension. The reason is clear. John is not detailing the celestial glories of Christ. That belongs to Paul's later ministry.
The conquest of the cross of Christ is not confined to earth. It places Him at the bead of the whole universe. Messengers and sovereignties and authorities and powers among the celestials are all made subject to the Crucified One. After His resurrection, He was proclaimed throughout the universe as Lord of all. When was this proclamation made? When was His public investiture with the tokens of His universal sovereignty? Surely that could not wait for forty days, until after His public ascension. Doubtless, it was done soon after He delegated Mary to carry the news to His disciples. Then He ascended, and the crucified King of the Jews is acclaimed the Conqueror over all the powers of evil and the universal Suzerain. How little did His disciples dream of His exalted honors!
19-20 Compare Mk.16:14; Lu.24:33-43.
22 Here is where the disciples received the holy Spirit. Pentecost was an enduement with power. Spirit is the vital force in the universe. Adam became a living soul as soon as the breath of God entered his body. So here the breath of Christ imparted the vital spirit which He had promised them after His glorification. Our breath is poisonous, death-dealing. His is vital, life-giving.
23 In the proclamation of the kingdom the disciples certainly were given the right to forgive sins, or the opposite. Though the claims of priestcraft to this power at present are false, this should not blind us to the fact that such authority was given to His disciples by our Lord, and was exercised so long as the kingdom was proclaimed to Israel. This promise should make us hesitate in appropriating all in this account to ourselves, or to claim all its promises as our own.
27 While we hardly care to sympathize with doubting Thomas, yet we feel grateful for the unanswerable evidence his case called forth. The reality of our Lord's resurrection is put beyond all question by his lack of faith. The very body that was marred by the nails and the spear, which saw no corruption, was actually made alive and could be felt and handled, to the satisfaction of one who refused to believe on less evidence.
31 It is evident that the signs in this account are a selection, chosen to give a complete picture of Israel's failure and Israel's Saviour. They are intended to signify to all who have ears to hear that the One Who speaks and acts is no other than the Messiah foretold by the prophets of old, and the further fact that He is also the Son of God. Eonian life is for all who receive this testimony; As we have seen, His present exaltation, while Israel is apostate, is carefully overlooked. Hence we must not expect to find present truth in John's account. He never had a commission for the nations, not even for proselytes, as Peter had. Because his ministry seems especially intended for millennial days, when the nations will be blessed through Israel, his allusions to worldwide blessing are often mistaken for that which has come to us while Israel is apostate.
3 Peter had a commission to fish for men. But he returns to his old trade and takes his companions with him. They toil all night and net nothing. Undoubtedly there is a solemn lesson in obedience here. The path of self-will brings much labor but no results. The path of obedience is fraught with blessing. But there seems a deeper lesson here than this. Peter's failure is a dispensational forecast. Peter and the apostles labor much to proclaim the kingdom during the darkness which has fallen on Israel. But their efforts are unavailing. Israel is not recalled to repentance. But in the morning, when the Lord comes again, the kingdom will once more be proclaimed, Then the results will be miraculous. All Israel will be saved. The miracle will be repeated then, and the net will include the 144,000 as well as a throng innumerable.
There are several methods of fishing from the shore in the daytime. A baited hook was cast by Peter when he got the redemption money for himself and the Lord (Mt.17:27). Simon and Andrew were using a purse net when they were called to become fishers of men (Mk.1:16). A seine or drag net was also used (Mt.13:47). The net here used was a large one let down from a ship. On one occasion, though the net broke, the haul filled two boats overfull (Lu.5:4-6). Boat fishing was done at night. Seines were set and the fishermen, with flares and the beating of old metal pans, drove the fish toward the net. This cannot be done in the daytime. After scouring the waters all night it must have seemed silly to lower the large net. It took faith to do that. And it was nothing less than a miracle that the net was not rent.
11 The night of futile fishing seems to correspond to the time typified in Israel's yearly calendar by the period between the festival of Unleavened Bread and the festival of Trumpets, which was about one hundred and fifty-three days. It may be that the number of fish caught is an allusion to this. The past labors of the twelve apostles seem to have netted nothing, yet when He appears in the future, there will be a rich harvest. At present their ministry is not in force.
12 A whole night of toil did not provide a breakfast for the faithless fishermen. Yet He makes manifest His care and provision by supplying their need. The meal is all ready and cooled. They do not do anything to provide it. This is the gracious rebuke of the Lord to Peter's fishing expedition. We never hear that he went back to fishing again.
15 The rich pathos of this passage will be apparent only if we carefully keep the finer shades of meaning conveyed by the original, as "fond " and "love", "graze" and "shepherd", "lambkins" and "sheep". This is the special commission given to Peter which he fulfills in the writing of his epistles. His humiliating experiences, in disowning the Lord and doubting His care and provision (of which the other apostles were not guilty) has chastened his spirit, so that he no longer boasts of his loyalty, though all the rest prove to be cowards. He knows that he loves his Lord, despite his craven heart, but he refuses to boast that he loves Him more than his fellows. He hides behind a weaker word, denoting the attractive force of friendship. But he does not put himself behind the assertion, but rather appeals to the Lord's omniscience. His humility is rewarded by the charge to provide sustenance for those weak in the faith.
The Lord repeats His question but without any reference to Peter's boast or failure. Peter again refuses to vouch for himself and is given charge of the Lord's flock.
The Lord now descends to Peter's profession of fondness, but questions even that. This touches Peter very sorely, but he refuses to vaunt. He feels full of love to the Lord but he is aware how dismally he had failed but a few days before. So he once more refers the Lord to His own omniscience. He has learned his lesson well. So the Lord commissions him to provide food for the mature saints.
18 Peter had boasted that he would lay down his soul for Him (13:37). It was this that led the Lord to predict that he would disown Him. Now He assures Peter that he will someday fulfill his boast. There is a tradition that Peter was crucified. See 2 Pe.1:14.
20 Now we are given a hint of John's commission. In a veiled way, we are given to understand that John was to remain alive until the Lord's return. This is fulfilled in his vision of the Unveiling. There, in spirit, he sees all the events leading up to the kingdom and the kingdom itself. Truly, in spirit, he remained until the Lord comes.
The thought that John's special ministry, as distinct from Peter's, finds its fullest expression in the future when the kingdom is set up, is further enforced by the fact that we hear nothing of it until after the close of the Pentecostal era. Had it been intended to be used in that day, or in connection with Paul's evangel to the nations, it seems that Peter would have mentioned it. Only in the light of Israel's glorious future, as a blessing to all nations, can we fully appreciate the special message it contains.
25 In the glory we shall know of all His acts. Till then we know of more than we can at present appreciate. May they fill our minds and hearts!
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